Commander Cards Under The Radar, July Edition

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It's time for another round-up of Commander cards that are seeing too little play. With just a bit of creativity and some synergy, these cards can perform well above their weight class. Without further ado, let's look at some cards!

A Flood of Blue Cards

I have been a fan of Time Stop since Champions of Kamigawa and Discontinuity is a near strictly better version. While it will get you significantly less table hatred than a Time Walk effect, make no mistake that ending the turn is a powerful ability. There are entire decks dedicated to this concept headed by Obeka, Brute Chronologist. Obeka typically seeks to gain value from playing cards with significant drawbacks and then ending the turn with the drawback on the stack. All the gain none of the pain!

But This Is Not About Obeka

Discontinuity can do that too but it also works in virtually any deck. It is like an exceptionally powerful and versatile Disallow that works on, well, almost anything! It stops can't be countered, storm effects, fizzles many infinites, counters both activated and triggered abilities, stops combat—the list goes on. Six mana is steep for a Aven Fogbringer but Fog is a lot less versatile. Once a game gets down to one versus one then it also transforms into a Time Walk effect. So is it a Fog, a Disallow, or a Time Walk? That's the point; it's all of those cards! Yes, the mana cost is high but the flexibility of the card is higher. Let's talk about diplomacy. What is going to get more table hate? Playing a take an extra turn card *or* skipping only the king's turn? Furthermore, as a sixth or seventh pseudo Time Walk Discontinuity is perfectly serviceable.

Just What Blue Needs, Ramp

At first glance Retraced Image looks pretty bad for a singleton format. Of course, then it hits you. Oh, I can ramp out an extra Island into play on turn one! You don't even need to have an Island in play, anyone else can help you. Yes, this can give blue just a little bit of extra early ramp and that's a significant advantage not to be discounted. Does the power of this card begin and end there? Of course not! Blue is the color of copying creatures and returning things to hands. Image allows you to sometimes get an additional copy of something into play for a mere one blue mana. Pack your deck with meta cards and wait for other players to ramp them out, cheat them out, or otherwise beat you on acceleration and you can match them for one blue. The beauty of a multi-player format like Commander is that you have three other entire decks helping you make Retraced Image do its thing. Now that's just the card by itself. If you add any additional synergy, let's say from Spy Kit, you can see the value. My biggest plays have been Akroma's Memorial and Consecrated Sphinx for one mana.

Speaking About Copying

Mocking Doppelganger is my favorite Clone yet! Flash alone makes this playable. The added goad effect, however, takes the card to the next level. The copied creature and all creatures with the same name are goaded and not just until the end of the turn, either. This card can save you from token hordes, give you a valuable ETB trigger at instant speed, force an opponent to attack into their death, and gives you a valuable creature all for only four mana. At first glance, this does not look like a busted card but I assure you it can be. Just give it a try in one of your games. You'll rate this card a lot higher when you see it in action.

Keep An Eye Out

How much information can you get for only one mana? Sensei's Divining Top is one of the most efficient effects and, in my opinion, Spy Network/card] is really not that far off. Let's take inventory of this card. You get to look at someone's hand. Alright, for one mana that's not great but not bad. You also get to look at the top card of their library. For one mana, not that great. You can look at any face-down creatures that player controls? I thought we were talking about under-appreciated but still useful cards, what gives? Well, then there is the final effect: you can look at and rearrange the top four cards of your own library. For one mana that effect is worth it. However, when you add the bonanza of other effects on top of that, suddenly, you have one of the most efficient information spells in all of Magic. I suggest only, [card]Telepathy equals it for just one blue mana.

But Wait, There's More

Yes, Spy Network gives a lot of information but that is not the only thing it does. It allows you to change your destiny by making intelligent reshuffle decisions, protects against mill effects, and also lets you mess with or help your opponent. Once you know someone has a combo piece, counterspell, or nothing in hand, you get to play the table. Before someone makes a play you disagree with let them know something worse is about to hit the table. Whether true or not it's on your opponent to make the correct play. Does your opponent have a fetch land? You can sometimes mess with them by "telling" them what their top card is. If you keep them guessing you will have a good chance to mess up their rhythm when they draw a land or spell they don't need. But you can also help them by telling them there is a land on top if that's what they do need. Tell the truth 50% of the time so your opponent is always making a coin-flip at best. When you consider that stacking your own top four cards is easily worth one mana you will begin to appreciate the free tempo plays and information advantage from Spy Network.

Hey, There Are Other Colors You Know!

And blue with black is different, right? In any case King Narfi's Betrayal is a thoroughly enjoyable card and shows off my love for theft effects. The great thing about Betrayal, though, is that it needs absolutely nothing else to be an effective card. First, it has the potential to access a minimum of 16 possible targets in a four-player game. It can counter graveyard shenanigans as a nice secondary effect. As a game goes on there will only be more and better targets so you can use this card early or late. You get two turns to pick and cast a mixture of creatures and planeswalkers so balance your mana versus your targets. It's totally possible to cast three creatures at one or two mana each and then one planeswalker for six the following turn. Getting three creatures and one planeswalker out of one theft card is very powerful. Of course, it's possible to brick with this card, and I will certainly tell you when that happens, but it has yet to happen to me. It's another example of a card that scales with the power level of a particular group. If everyone is playing powerful, low-cost, game-ending combo creatures, now you are too.

When A Board Wipe Isn't Good Enough

I will continue to say it. No one is playing enough creature removal, and, no one is playing enough Enchantment removal, either. Out of Time is the best three-mana board wipe ever conceived. It stops everything: Indestructible, Protection, Regeneration, Hexproof, etc. It does not send creatures to the graveyard only to come right back into play or generate graveyard triggers. Because of phasing, you don't even get ETB triggers when the creatures do come back! Realistically a clock of three or more turns is ample time to set up another wipe, proliferate more counters, or otherwise end the game. Most of the time? Everything phased out will stay phased out for the rest of a game or until Out of Time is destroyed.

Name A Color That Needs More Mana? Green!

Much like Culling the Weak, green has Majestic Metamorphosis as an accelerant. While Metamorphosis can only be used for creature spells it can also fix mana. With a very standard opener of creature/rock/ramp, you can quite easily Metamorphosis into eight plus mana on turn four and it's a great card to use with creatures that have an X in their cost. That's the easy explanation of the card. There's a more complicated advantage here and that's the sacrifice effect. Even with 100 cards, it feels like decks are becoming tighter and tighter all the time. The ability to double up on a card as a sacrifice effect while also being ramp is useful in many ways. Commanders can use Metamorphosis as a bad "save" card turning it into "pay one more mana, recast your Commander." The more powerful side of this effect is "pay one more mana, get another enters the battlefield (ETB) trigger for your Commander." So, again, this card is much more versatile than at first glance. It can ramp, it's a sac outlet, it can save (poorly) and it can be used for a cheap second ETB trigger.

There Are Unique Cards And Then There Are Truly Unique Cards

Vines of Vastwood is unlikely to be an unknown card. Vines does just barely squeak into the top 50 green Instants on EDREC, and it used to be significantly more prominent, but other cards have slowly chipped away at its dominance. I bring it up to remind people that Vines is, in my experience, significantly better than many newer cards like Snakeskin Veil, Tamiyo's Safekeeping, or Blossoming Defense. First, Vines will protect your creature from targeted removal for one mana just like many other cards. Second, you have a nice option to kick Vines and give your creature a considerable boost of +4/+4 which is enough to survive a wide variety of board wipes like Toxic Deluge and also works as a combat trick. Third, this effect is not hexproof or shroud so it does not lose to the few cards that remove those abilities. Of course, that leads us to the final and most important reason Vines is just better; you can cast it on your opponent's creatures. You cannot even target other creatures with the other cards mentioned. That means that a Phantasmal Image dies to Vines but not Veil. You can save another player's creature with Vines but not any of the other cards. And last, but certainly not least, you can use Vines to stop your opponent from equipping or enchanting their own creature. Powerful, low cost, and extremely flexible, Vines of Vastwood is too good to be underplayed and forgotten yet is headed that way. Not on my watch I say!

What, No Artifacts?

This card takes a lot of inspiration from Steel Hellkite. While the Hellkite is pure obliteration if it gets through, the Griff's gimmick virtually guarantees it will be unblocked and will do its thing every single turn. It's a perfect diplomacy card. It kills the biggest threat on the board every turn and costs an opponent three life. If players differ on what the biggest threat is just attack the one you agree with more and they will readily accept the damage. A table favorite every time I have played it, the Griff lets you blow up threats while claiming no responsibility. In fact, it promotes a tit-for-tat scenario where you attack Player A, and Player B loses a thing. Now Player B wants to get attacked by it to blow up something of player A's. Meanwhile, you're laughing all the way to the bank. Did I mention it also deals with Enchantments? It's an Artifact and can go in every deck.

Wait A Sec... That's Only Nine!

But you see, you didn't count the Dragons!

I've been experimenting with many of the Adventure Dragons and I'm fairly happy with my results. No, they are not completely busted. They do seem to be extremely decent filler cards, though. Comparing Sapphire Dragon // Psionic Pulse to Negate is not much of a comparison. Negate is miles ahead. However, what about in any flavor of Dragon deck? What about a deck where you need equal amounts of creatures and spells? Maybe you are trying cascade degeneracy? I think that all of these cards are playable as second copies of better spells you are already running and one game in ten the Dragons themselves turn out to be relevant so there's less downside to including them. If you are having trouble filling in a few cards adding more Dragons has never been a bad Magic strategy!

So Many Cards, So Little Deck Space

The room in most decks is definitely at a premium. If you have a great idea of what the local metagame looks like you can make some extremely interesting and informed choices. Outside of that, I find it makes more sense to be flexible so you don't find yourself completely helpless. August is rapidly approaching. What are some cards you feel don't get enough love in your Commander pods? Let me know in the comments.

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Joe Mauri

Joe has been an avid MTG player and collector since the summer of 1994 when he started his collection with a booster box of Revised. Millions of cards later he still enjoys tapping lands and slinging spells at the kitchen table, LGS, or digital Arena. Commander followed by Draft are his favorite formats, but, he absolutely loves tournaments with unique build restrictions and alternate rules. A lover of all things feline, he currently resides with no less than five majestic creatures who are never allowed anywhere near his cards. When not Gathering the Magic, Joe loves streaming a variety of games on Twitch( both card and other.

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