Unplayable, Unknown or Unaffordable?
While everyone is entitled to an opinion on card power, EDHREC does have quantifiable statistics on submitted decks. It is reasonable to conclude that the more times a card appears in decklists the higher the synergy and general power of the said card. Within the Top 100 All, or a Top 100 category, there are underrated cards. Today though, I'm concentrating on cards that fall completely outside ANY Top 100 list.
Sure, there are dozens of underplayed cards that are great in extremely niche decks. The following list of cards though is a lot more general-purpose. These cards can fit into many different Commander decks. While there are some spicy vintage cards that definitely deserve a shout-out, I understand they are not in everyone's price range. For this list, many of the cards included are budget-friendly!
One final caveat up front: I cheated with my idea of "Ten Cards." In some examples, I'm presenting a few cards that more or less do the same thing and am counting that as one card "idea" or "theme." Variety, right? Without further ado, some spicy Commander cards of days long past and even some brand new ones!
Fast Mana and Faster Mana
Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual and Culling the Weak are all in the Top 100 for black but NOT these cards? Obviously, both Sacrifice and Burnt Offering are exactly the same strength as Culling the Weak if the creature sacrificed is four or more mana. Sacrifice and Burnt Offering both have the advantage of scaling and potentially mana fixing as well. The downside? Decks with lots of tokens and creatures that cost three or less. Do the numbers support the idea that Culling is significantly better and these cards are significantly worse?
Within the Top 48 Black creatures, 25 of them are four mana or higher. More than half of the Rakdos commanders are four mana or higher. 20 out of 48 Top red creatures are four mana or higher. I think, from a numbers standpoint, both of these cards have potential. If you're already playing Culling the Weak, consider adding Sacrifice and/or Burnt Offering as secondary or tertiary copies. If one is good, two is better, right?
There's also the hidden secret mode of these spells which is "one mana, put my creature into the graveyard"; if you don't want your creature to be exiled or otherwise put into a non-graveyard zone these spells do it for effectively free.
Midnight Clock's Older Cousins
Appearing in just two percent and one percent of all decks, respectively, I think that these two artifacts are slowly being forgotten. With both more and more powerful artifacts in print, the value of both of these clocks has only increased. Most Commander decks seem to run at least ten artifacts and, also, newer commander decks all include many artifact tokens.
One thing I have always enjoyed is Clock of Omens turning my non-mana rocks into one half a mana or more. It can also turn your treasure tokens into permanent mana and give artifact creatures the potential for pseudo-vigilance.
More than ever there are always extra artifacts on the board, and, there is always an opportunity to use mana to crack a clue, eat a food, sacrifice a blood or otherwise gain an advantage; these clocks make both happen, virtually for free, multiple times per round.
This is No Mox
It does not matter what kind of deck you are running, it simply gets you one mana further on your next turn. Many times you have extra mana to charge the Amulet and there is no real cost to using it. In decks that are willing to pay a card for one extra mana Amulet is another way to essentially do the same thing. Paying in time is generally looked down upon, but, Search for Tomorrow is in the green Top 100 and that takes an "unplayable" two whole turns and costs a mana.
Both the ceiling and floor for the Amulet are wrong; it is slightly better in any deck than estimated and also way better in decks with significant synergy. Jeweled Amulet is a bad Mox, but, it's a good rock. Try it out!
The First Rule About Symbol
A game-ending card for three mana that generates an insane amount of +1/+1 counters for a paltry amount of life. This card is way underrated at one percent. Just in terms of the current Top Ten Commanders by deck representation, Unspeakable Symbol has tremendous synergy with two of them, Atraxa, Praetors' Voice and Sisay, Weatherlight Captain, and strong synergy with two others, Alela, Artful Provocateur and Lathril, Blade of the Elves, respectively. If your deck seeks to leverage infect, proliferate, lifelink, double strike, commander damage, and of course +1/+1 counters, then this card is a slam dunk.
On top of that, you can put counters on other creatures to control combat, save creatures you want to steal later, or even modulate your life total at will.
I Always Feel Like Somebody Is Watching Me
Imagine if you always had perfect information before making any play. What if I told you that the cost of that would be one blue or even one colorless? That's an unbelievable bargain, right? What if I also said you could add a massively disruptive element into your game by bluffing or by taking away the ability to bluff?
If you're playing blue Telepathy is extremely powerful for just one mana. Once everyone else is busy looking at everyone else's hand you can just quietly play lands, sit back and offer some "helpful" advice. Make sure to announce when you miss a land drop and that you can't make any plays. Quickly pass and move on to the next player; everyone forgets you are even in the game. Think this doesn't happen? Try it.
Glasses of Urza gives you and only you hidden information to do with what you please. Feel free to tell the table exactly what is in someone's hand, or, make stuff up. Definitely tell the blue players that they need to hold up a counterspell for the combo another player has - whether that is true or not.
The Flex Seal of Commander
A long time ago it felt like if you had a counterspell or powerful removal spell up then you were in control of a game. Now? Not so much. Today's cards are incredibly powerful. You need something over the top that assures you are still in control of a game. Sudden Substitution has split second so it's hard to counter which is a huge selling point. Think back to every multiplayer game you have played where someone removed the wrong threat; now YOU can fix it! Is the balance of power in a game shifting drastically the wrong way? Now YOU can fix it!
Flexible and relatively uncounterable; if you have Substitution and mana up YOU are in charge of the game!
Kill All Artifacts
There are six enchantments in the Top 100 cards but there are 24 artifacts. Thus, artifact removal should be prioritized. Green already has Nature's Claim but why not Crumble? As a one-mana removal spell it's just as efficient as Claim and usually gives up less life as well. It can't hit enchantments but so what? Artifacts are six times as numerous, and, green has access to other top cards to deal with the occasional enchantment that gets through. I say in 2022 everyone should get a chicken in every pot and a Crumble for every Sol Ring!
In the same vein, red has tons of artifact removal, sometimes too much. In comes Shenanigans! If you need artifact kill, you have it. If you don't great, you do not have to draw a second, third, or fourth copy of Shatter. Shenanigans gives you all the removal *and* all the choices at the same time.
You're Not Going Anywhere
Darksteel Mutation shows it is better to keep a creature, particularly a commander, in play than remove it and for that reason, it's a Top 100 card for White. Faith's Fetters and Prison Term, however, are reasonable additional copies that force your opponent to answer the aura or kill their own creature. On top of that, unlike Oblivion Ring and Banishing Light opponents will not get another enters the battlefield trigger if they remove these auras.
Humility is in a category all its own for both crazy rules conundrums and raw creature neutralizing power and is vastly underappreciated while also being less expensive monetarily than, say, Jeweled Lotus. The idea of keeping problem cards in play but neutralized is a strong one and Humility does it exceptionally well.
Try Something New in 2022
If you've read my article about the Heart of Commander then I hope you use the New Year as a springboard for trying out new cards, new strategies, and maybe even giving some formerly played cards a second chance.
There are a large number of cards that are nearly as good as many of the much more commonly played cards. In some cases, these other cards solve problems in a different way. Without trying out different ideas a deck can never ascend to its ultimate, perfect form.
Also, there are so many cards I want to share that this may be the list for the month of January. What are your favorite unsung Commander cards? Let me know in the comments!