Flexibility. Flavor. Fun. Frequency. Fpower(or just Power). These are the metrics I use when considering these recommendations. Some cards are nuanced and deck specific, but others are generally strong and simply not seeing enough play. In either case, I present you with February's top 10! Click here for January.
Is Narrow Removal Still Removal?
By the numbers, Isolate is a playable card. EDREC lists ten top 100 permanents Isolate removes. Most of them are Elves except for Sol Ring. But if you check the Top 100 per color, you see plenty of additional one mana targets: four in blue, five in black, six in red, ten in green, and eleven in white. Isolate turns out to be an extremely flexible piece of removal, hitting numerous potential targets, all at the low cost of one mana. It's a little bit like Swords to Plowshares and a little bit like Nature's Claim and can fill in a partial role. For me, the card always has a floor of "I can always kill a Sol Ring at least." Is that enough to justify Isolate in every white deck? No. But if you know your local meta well, consider how many one mana permanents you see. Keep a special eye out for rare but not unheard-of one-mana commanders. This card can definitely be a silver bullet in that case.
Deck Manipulation and Infinite Protection
Soothsaying turns every single leftover mana into a resource, every turn. It works extremely well with untap effects like Wilderness Reclamation so you're getting huge value every turn. Card draw is valuable, but card selection can be almost as important. If you're drawing the wrong cards every turn suddenly card draw isn't so good. Soothsaying guarantees good cards by either digging deep or completely reshuffling your pile. Did I mention it costs only ONE mana to cast? Furthermore, you can protect key cards from mill effects, and the increasingly common exile or cast from library effects of cards like Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and Xanathar, Guild Kingpin. It draws comparisons to Sensei's Divining Top. Top is a strong card and you can definitely consider Soothsaying a worse Top, but, it's a Top that can also be pitched to Force of Will or Force of Negation as needed.
What can I say about Whirlwind Denial except that it's my new favorite counterspell at three mana? I think it's saved more of my games recently than any other card. It's not quite a hard counterspell but paying four extra mana is generally impossible before turn eight. This counters pretty much everything: activated abilities, triggered abilities, and all spells. Oh and for the entire table. You really get to dictate a lot of game situations, including canceling infinite combos at various different steps, denying other players from drawing cards, or activating planeswalkers. This card has essentially replaced Disallow for me and that card makes the top 100 EDHREC list for blue. Give it a shot!
Don't Be Cruel, Be Heartless
I think this card is starting to see an uptick in play. The "drawback" can actually be the primary way to force creatures directly into your graveyard for triggers. It's extremely powerful in a variety of combos but goes perfectly with Acererak the Archlich as your commander. Consider the following engine with Heartless: Acererak+Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder+Bastion of Remembrance becomes pay B: Each opponent loses three life, you gain one life, and venture into the dungeon. Of course, going into the dungeon can generate cards, treasure, and creatures to continue the value. There are a fair number of other cards that can be subsituted for either Endrek or Bastion, or that combine with Acererak and Heartless to generate piles of tokens, damage, mana, etc. Outside of abusing Heartless with Acererak, it's a fairly unique card. There's an Enchantment deck based around Tatsunari, Toad Rider that desperately wants Heartless and there are a variety of graveyard pile decks that Heartless synergizes with perfectly if that's your thing. Clearly, the card has untapped potential and can be used in a variety of creative ways.
The End? Not Yet!
Red has always been a bit of a hard color identity to pin down, besides being the aggressive damage-dealing color. Glorious End is definitely a color defining card. High risk, high reward. You can actually pair it up with other red Time Walk effects like Warrior's Oath and Final Fortune to continue to take turns and dodge losing...until you can't or play a Sundial of the Infinite. The beauty of Glorious End is that you can use it on your opponent's turn to exile anything they are doing. It's not quite a Time Walk in multiplayer but it is effectively a powerful counterspell that can end a variety of situations.
Is putting yourself on a one turn clock worth dictating the flow of the game? Well, was the game effectively ending anyways? If so, why not give yourself and the table one more turn? If you're about to win the next turn it's an obvious home run, but, what if you're playing for points? That elevates the card considerably in my opinion and will win diplomatic points in the future.
Everyone Gets an Untap
Candelabra of Tawnos is a truly impressive card that I am very lucky to own. I'm positive Candelabra would be in a lot of decks if the price tag was not so out of reach for most players. However, there's a Candelabra lite that lives in the bulk bin and is almost as strong if you're playing green! Double activations of utility lands, extra mana from Karoo lands, and Wild Growth are just half the upside. There is also tremendous utility if playing a team-based variant or simply politics. We've all been in a game where someone says "If only I had one more mana, I could have stopped X." Well, the Magus allows you to give another player that one extra mana if you trust them to use it wisely. Of course, this is where the political angle of the Magus comes into play. If you know your fellow players well enough you can aid the weakest player and expect help in return. Keeping the board at parity is in the interest of the playgroup but some groups have a different play ethos. That's fine because you can exploit that as well. Put the player who is ahead even more ahead to focus the table's attention where it ought to be.
Instill Energy is way underplayed. There are a considerable number of green commanders in the top 100 that either want haste, have a tap ability you would like to double activate, or have Enchantment/Aura synergy, or all three. Overall Auras are looked down upon because they open you up to getting two-for-one'd. However, the benefit here is literally double the effect and a turn sooner. In my experience, most groups are not running enough spot removal. When that's the case, this card is pure value for one green mana. It also counters a card I'm going to suggest later in this article. Try it!
Replicate is decent. A Clone effect for three mana is about average. If you have a great enters the battlefield (ETB) trigger, you can get it again and have another body too. The real draw, however, is Repudiate. Two mana to counter an ETB is very nice and the number of things this interacts with is extremely high. Repudiate // Replicate is a very flexible card that can go in a large number of different decks as a replacement for recursion and control effects. If you need to free up a card slot consider turning a counterspell and recursion effect into RR and that card. There is also a lot of tech for things like Lotus Field, where countering your own trigger is massively beneficial. Giving up five percent of power for 100% more flexibility is generally a pretty good trade!
Everyone Loves Artifacts
Arena of Ancients is a colorless answer to a lot of commanders. As previously mentioned sometimes keeping a commander in play but neutralized is a much stronger strategy than sending it back to the command zone. I can definitely see Arena in a Stax-style deck. Outside of using it to keep commanders tapped, there are a large number of legendary creatures seeing play. At best this is a three colorless mana pseudo-boardwipe. At worst? They have a commander with a passive ability that will continue to trigger but at least it's stuck tapped. I mean, who plays Instill Energy?
Zuran Orb deserves a special article all by itself. This was a truly remarkable card when it debuted in Ice Age and it was loved and hated by many. Back then, sacrificing even one land could buy you another turn. In Commander, it is less likely that sacrificing one land will do the trick, but sacrificing a few can let you live to see another draw step. Of course, that is not where the true power of Orb is in 2022. There are so many "when you gain life" triggers printed on cards these days, and primarily white life gain decks are completely viable and budget-friendly. On top of large amounts of life gain triggers, Orb has tremendous synergy with cards like Tithe, Knight of the White Orchid and of course Land Tax to keep a steady stream of lands flowing. Remember, pack more Artifact hate!
Commander in 2022 Is off to A Strong Start!
Have you made a new Commander deck for 2022? I've worked on updating my Norin the Wary, Derevi, Empyrial Tactician and Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist + Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix decks. What decks have you worked on this year? Let me know in the comments!