Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
Underdog Cards in Commander Format
With spells from every set available in Magic's EDH format, it's no surprise that many are left under the rug, rarely if ever used in the mode. But some hidden gems deserve more attention than they get, cards often ignored but still with their uses, especially in a format where everything in your deck has to be different.
These guys all have less than 3 out of 5 stars on the MTG database but can still hold their own—here are ten underrated spells for commander in Magic: The Gathering!
10. Nighthaze/Sorcerous Sight
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 1
Both of these cards provide a weak effect, but one with a cantrip, meaning they replace themselves in your hand. Even if the effect isn't great, this is a nice way to fill your graveyard with fodder for escape, spell mastery, or delve abilities.
And the effects can still be useful; Nighthaze gives a creature swampwalk for the turn (making them unblockable if you have "Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth"), while Sight lets you see an opponent's hand.
9. Thought Lash
Thought Lash is a risk to be sure, but one with a high payoff. It needs four mana, and its cumulative upkeep requires you to exile your deck's top card for each age counter on it (which it gains at your upkeep). Plus, when you refuse to pay Lash's price, you exile your entire library!
So...what's the point? Well, Lash lets you instantly exile your deck's top card to prevent the next one damage you would take that turn. Not only does this provide a decent defense, it means you can exile as many cards as you want—perfect when trying to win via the no-library conditions of "Laboratory Maniac" and "Jace, Wielder of Mysteries."
8. Sanctum Plowbeast/Pale Recluse/Valley Rannet
CMC: 6 (2 for landcycling)
If you judge these cards by their appeal as creatures, yea, they're bad; six mana doesn't justify their below-average stats and lack of abilities. But think of the creature component as a bonus, with the main draw being their cycling effects, letting you spend two mana and instantly discard each to search out one of two land types (basic or not) from your deck.
This is a good way to get creatures into the graveyard for revival, and each of the units has a small advantage over the other; Plowbeast also counts as an artifact, Recluse has reach, and Rannet has the highest power of the trio at six.
7. Anoint/Orim's Cure/Sunfire Balm
Each of these white spells is an instant that prevents damage, combat or otherwise. Anoint is the cheapest, preventing three on a creature and offering an optional buyback cost of four to return the spell to your hand.
Cure prevents four damage to any target, and you can cast it for free by tapping an untapped creature you control. For three mana, Balm prevents four damage to anything, but you can (and probably should) instead cycle it for two to prevent one damage and draw a new card. All cheap and instant-speed ways to stave off commander damage or other threats.
Here are even more white tricks to thwart aggression. Both of these cost one and simply prevent one damage to any target while drawing a card, the only difference being that Bandage gives the draw immediately while Heal waits until the next turn's upkeep.
One damage can mean the difference between a creature/planeswalker surviving combat, and even if you don't need the protection, both are still easy ways to rift through your deck and stockpile your graveyard.
5. Altar of the Brood
Because of EDH's increased deck size of 99 cards (plus the commander), milling is admittedly rare in the format. But for those who choose its path, here's a surprisingly underrated spell. Brood is cheap, accepts any mana color, and mills a card from each opponent's deck whenever any other permanent enters your field.
This includes lands, creatures, tokens, anything, meaning Altar can very easily mill over five cards each turn, especially if you're summoning multiple tokens or blinking permanents in and out of exile.
4. Honor-Worn Shaku
Compared to many three-cost mana rocks, Shaku can only provide colorless. That's not great, but you can access the mana immediately, effectively reducing its overall cost to two, and it lets you tap any untapped legendary you control to instantly gain one colorless.
The obvious application is with your commander and other legendary creatures, but don't forget you can also exhaust legendary artifacts, enchantments, and even planeswalkers for surprisingly effective amounts of mana.
Luminesce is a great defense when you're facing the two colors it works against, so save it for your sideboard or when you know what your opponents run. It instantly prevents all damage red and black sources would deal that turn. Unlike green's classic "Fog," this can block non-combat damage as well, and it's best cast after you've declared blockers (who aren't black or red), letting you punish attackers without fear of counterattack.
CMC: 5 (1 with miracle)
Hard-cast, Vanishment is overpriced at five, instantly returning any non-land to the top of its owner's deck. Still, this has its advantages, like killing your target's next draw, working on any non-land permanent, only needing one blue, and resolving at instant speed.
But what makes Vanishment worth a shot is its insanely low miracle price, letting you cast it for just one if it's the first card you drew that turn. Use scrying or sheer luck to nab this bargain, or cards like "Brainstorm" to place prematurely drawn Vanishments on top of your deck. Cheap and effective, Vanishment is also a bargain deal, costing well under a single dollar!
1. Tarnished Citadel
This card has a criminally low rating on the database, only about 2.4 out of 5. Citadel can either tap for one colorless, or one of any color, but colored will hit you for three. In standard or modern, three life is a lot, but with EDH's starting life of 40, you have much more leeway for self-harm.
Many compare Citadel to "City of Brass," which gives any color for one damage. Sure, Citadel hits you for three times as much, but it can avoid damage altogether if you're already color-set, and its ability to give colorless comes in handy with spells like "Kozilek, the Great Distortion."
Building a Budget Commander Deck
Most of today's spells are pretty cheap, another point in their favor, proving that budget decks can hold their own against expensive ones. While you won't find them in every build, they can be surprisingly powerful in the right decks and diversify the game by giving your theme unique cards.
Of course, like with all spells, you'll need commanders with corresponding color identities to run them, but for now, vote for your favorite unappreciated card, and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2020 Jeremy Gill