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By: Leviathan, Mike Morales
Nov 21 2012 12:02pm
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All right, once again I'm going to go through an old block of cards with an eye toward Commander.  I've done this a couple times before:  You can see Invasion block HERE, Masques block HERE, Rath block HERE, and Mirage block HERE.  (I actually did each of the Urza sets separately when they came out online).  As you can tell I am slowly working my way through all the blocks, and I'm eventually (hopefully) going to catch up to my very first set review, which was Rise of the Eldrazi.  So I have a long way to go still.  And Kamigawa, with all those legends, is gonna suuuuuckkk.

As usual this overview is strictly for Commander purposes.  In addition, I am only looking at cards that had their first printing in this block.  So if you are thinking, "Magnivore was in 9th edition!" when you see it below, I'm covering it because this is the block where it was originally printed.  With legendary creatures I first take a look at them as possible Commanders, then as regular creatures in a deck.  And please, I don't care about Modern or Legacy or whatever.

As you can imagine, the quality of the creatures in this block isn't quite as high as in the current sets.  However there are still a lot of unique effects to be had and some fun beasties to play with.  Due to power creep there are going to be a bunch of cards that are just not quite as good as currently printed stuff but I think that you should look at them to increase the fun levels in your deck, increase the variety of cards that are used, and give you cool points.  Also keep in mind that Torment had a huge emphasis on Black cards.  So you're going to be seeing more Black and Swamp based stuff in here than in a typical set review.  With all that out of the way, let's take a trip down memory lane!


aboshan, cephalid emperor

Aboshan, Cephalid Emperor - There just aren't too many cephalid cards out there that would allow you to really use Aboshan to the fullest as a Commander.  My Gatherer search comes up with 15, and most are pretty bad.  All of that to use a Glare of Subdual effect that isn't quite as effective when you go up against 3 other players.  Of course, you could perform some gymnastics to try and change the creature types of tokens into "cephalid" but I don't think it's worth it.  You do have the possibility of making some sort of flying creature deck or using Mystic Decree while relying on Aboshan's second ability, but there are better ways to go about doing that.  As such, Aboshan doesn't really pass the test as a Commander.

Honestly, I don't think I've even seen this guy get played as a regular creature in a deck.  Since you could throw him into a deck with other colors to make cephalid tokens I guess.  He's not that good but you can gain points for the novelty factor at least.

Ambassador Laquatus - Ok, so there's really one main way to play with this guy as a Commander:  Make infinite mana and mill the entire table.  This actually used to be a valid (although some would say cheap) way to win the game back in the day.  Who the heck usually puts Gaea's Blessing in their deck?  But then the Eldrazi were printed.  Ulamog and Kozilek both give any deck the ability to avoid death by milling.  Since both are commonly played, the "mill the table" possibility is drastically reduced.  Therefore the Ambassador works better if you have a way to abuse a graveyard, either your opponents' or your own.  Unfortunately in mono-Blue, your options are severely limited for graveyard shenanigans.  His attractiveness as a Commander is therefore very limited, especially since the infinite mana goofiness is usually better used on Oona, Queen of the Fae.  You may rarely see people still run this guy though so watch out.

As a regular dude he can do well in a graveyard abuse strategy, maybe even going in a deck with The Mimeoplasm at the helm.  But again, there are usually better options out there.


Atogatog - A long time ago, back in the early days of my column, someone challenged me to make a deck around this guy.  I briefly considered it but I just couldn't really figure out a way to make it work.  There are currently 12 non-changeling Atogs, which is just not enough to really try and abuse this guy.  Sure, he's 5 colors and you can add a bunch of changelings, but if you really want to go that route Reaper King is probably better.  The only time I've seen this guy used is in a 5 color "good stuff" deck, where the Commander didn't really matter.  Even if you did try and use him, the requirements for each of the different Atogs are so different that I think it would be really tough to make a cohesive deck.

He doesn't deserve to be in your deck unless it's a joke deck.  Period.

balthor the defiled

Balthor the Defiled - This version of Balthor is actually pretty good, and every once in a while you'll run into a couple of decks using him and then they disappear.  Balthor is great at providing a limited Living Death effect, one that you specifically can prepare for and hoses all those Bant players.  And since Balthor exiles himself to the Command zone, you can keep using him over and over.  You can either abuse Balthor by dumping stuff into your own graveyard with some dredge effect, or just bring back your stuff after a couple of Wrath effects.  You can fill up your graveyard with an answer using Buried Alive or Entomb as well.  I've often seen him heading a zombie deck.  I've never seen him at the head of a minion deck though.  Hmmm....

As a regular guy in your deck, he can go well in a variety of Rakdos or reanimator decks.  Sure, he gets exiled, but it's great when you get all those guys back directly into play.  If you play with a lot of Wrath effects as well as creatures you should give this guy a shot.

balthor the stout

Balthor the Stout - All right, so technically there are 30 non-changeling barbarians, but man are they bad.  Sure you have Godo, Jeska and Kamahl, plus Lovisa Coldeyes, but the remainder are just crap.  So you can't really give firebreathing to these guys since there just aren't enough playable ones.  You'd think that barbarians would be a pretty represented creature type, but you'd be wrong.  Sad times for living Balthor.

He's not worth putting into your deck as a regular creature.  Sorry.

braids, cabal minion

Braids, Cabal Minion - First off, she is banned as a Commander.  She would be just too mean and unfun to play against otherwise.

But as a regular creature, Braids has a lot going for her.  If you have a way of making tokens, like with Nath of the Gilt-Leaf and other Commanders, she can help deal with problems and slowly whittle away at opponents' resources.  Admittedly I've only used her once in the past, but she does a good job of dealing with those sorcery heavy decks that don't use very many permanents.  Braids acts as a way to get those out of control late game decks under control as well.  There are only so many times that an opponent can sacrifice a land before it becomes problematic.  Just please don't play her in the early game (before turn 8) with Bitterblossom, that's super douchey.

cabal patriarch

Cabal Patriarch - The poor Patriarch is simply outclassed as a Commander by the huge amount of options out there in mono-Black.  He was probably even outclassed at the time he was printed.  He isn't overly large for his casting cost, and the activation costs are exorbitant, requiring lots of mana and resources to temporarily shrink a creature.  It would cost 6 mana just to kill a Lightning Angel!  Plus 2 cards!  That's just silly.  There are so many better options out there from even before he was printed (Volrath the Fallen, Commander Greven il-Vec, even Spirit of the Night) that I just can't imagine this guy being used as a Commander.

I couldn't imagine using him as a regular creature either.  He just doesn't do enough, using up valuable resources for a minimal effect.  I had no idea he even existed prior to writing this article.

chainer, dementia master

Chainer, Dementia Master - This is a guy who I have seen used well as a Commander in the past.  He can grab creatures from any graveyard, which is great.  He pumps them up as well.  So if you combine him with some Damnation effects there should be plenty of creatures for you to choose from.  The side bonus is that if you grab an annoying creature from an opponent's graveyard and Chainer leaves play, that card gets exiled!  It's great for dealing with Seedborn Muses and other annoying stuff.  Good times.

I've rarely seen him used as a regular creature though.  Again, similar to Balthor the Defiled, he's going to be good at reanimating stuff.  I guess the investment of 8 mana and 3 life to get your first dude from a graveyard is kind of high, but it's still not horrible considering he's re-usable.

commander eesha

Commander Eesha - Now I've never seen Eesha used as a Commander, and I'm trying to figure out why.  He has multiple forms of evasion and seems well suited to a Voltron theme, stacking on equipment and enchantments to add to the pounding of an essentially unblockable legend.  I guess part of the problem is that Eesha is typically considered a defensive card.  So no one tries to use him offensively.  As a defensive card there are others that just do more, such as Linvala, Keeper of Silence.  But you can still use him as a wall if  you have a defensive deck.  I think that if his power was a 3, you would see him actually, you know, used as a Commander as his name implies.  And I'm assuming he's male, I could be wrong though.

I have used Eesha in plenty of my decks as a regular creature.  He's very good at being defensive and stopping large attackers, and can get past blockers in a pinch.  I liked using him in decks where fliers matter, like my Radiant, Archangel deck and Isperia the Inscrutable deck.  A card to keep in mind.

jeska, warrior adept

Jeska, Warrior Adept - Another card that I've never seen used as a Commander, but this one is more understandable.  Sure, she has haste and can attack for 3.  But the pinging ability is pretty small.  And the lack of evasion doesn't do her much good either.  I can see her being used with deathtouch equipment like Basilisk Collar along with other pingers like Inferno Titan and Magmatic Force for a theme deck.  I don't know how well this deck would work, but it's a possibility at least.

I don't think you'll ever come up with a situation where you'll think to yourself:  "Self, you know what this deck needs?  Jeska, Warrior Adept!"  I guess I could be wrong though.   

kamahl, pit fighter

Kamahl, Pit Fighter - Now this is more like it!  A 6 mana, 6 power hasty creature!  Plus, he can Lightning Bolt stuff every once in a while.  Pretty cool, right?  Of course, there is the small problem of Kamahl's lack of a butt.  Seriously, they couldn't even give him a 2 on the back end, a la Eron the Relentless?  It's just tough to really get behind a huge dude with a sword who gets killed by a Mesa Pegasus or Weathered Wayfarer.  But, again, you could do a deck like the pinger deck I mentioned with Jeska above.  But why go with Red Kamahl when you could have Rorix Bladewing who is pretty cool?

As a regular creature he's still not all that great.  Unless you pair him with Seedborn Muse he's just not going to make you want to grab him for your deck.  The tiny behind ends up being a huge problem.

lieutenant kirtar

Lieutenant Kirtar - This guy can be used as a limited version of Mangara of Corondor.  The good thing about him is that you don't need to untap him, you just need a little bit of extra mana.  Unfortunately he only hits creatures, but that's not horrible.  And you also can't do the tricks you can with Mangara to get rid of 2 permanents at once.  Mangara is obviously better, but at least with Kirtar you can attack and have an evasive beater if you need it.

Kirtar is actually a guy who should probably see more play in decks with recursion.  You can bring him back with cards like Sun Titan and Emeria, the Sky Ruin, and just keep removing problem creatures when necessary.  The ability to get creatures out of the game for good is not to be underestimated.  The fact that you have to pay mana is annoying, but people are willing to pay 3 mana to use Necrotic Sliver, so it can't be that bad.  Give him a shot and see how it goes.

llawan, cephalid empress

Llawan, Cephalid Empress - Unfortunately Llawan is just too narrow to be used as a Commander.  Blue creatures aren't typically known for their battle prowess, and as such they aren't often in play.  Sure, you can occasionally hose a multi-colored Commander like Rafiq of the Many or Sharuum the Hegemon.  But just as often you'll be sitting at a table with Azusa, Sigarda and Grimgrin.  Then Llawan won't help you nearly as much.  Although you can use Glamerdye, Whim of Volrath or Spectral Shift in the deck to allow you to tailor the deck to your opponents, it seems like a lot of work.  And it doesn't really do a ton versus token creators like Army of the Damned.  It would be interesting to see a dedicated Llawan deck made.  Make sure to include color hosers like Wrath of Marit Lage.

I don't really see Llawan being used as a regular creature in a deck that doesn't rely upon Magical Hack effects to make the deck go.

major teroh

Major Teroh - Sorry, he just shouldn't be used as a Commander.  Without access to Blue's Hacking abilities he doesn't do enough.  Occasionally you'll hose the mono-Black guy, but that's not enough to justify using him.

Same story as a regular creature in your deck.  He also costs a ton for his effect.  The only deck he would go into would be the Whim of Volrath deck previously mentioned, and that sounds lame.  Sorry Major, you're demoted.

pianna, nomad captain

Pianna, Nomad Captain - When I first saw this guy, I thought he was pretty cool.  But how many times have you seen him used as a Commander?  None, right?  Well there's a reason for that.  There are better White creature pumping Commanders out there that don't need to be forced into battle to help your team out (Crovax, Ascendant Hero, I'm looking at you).  The lack of any form of evasion hurts too.  Heck, Soltari Champion is basically a way better version of Pianna, but he isn't legendary.  Poor Pianna.  He's essentially a much weaker Geist of Saint Traft.

Pianna probably shouldn't be used in your deck either.  Unless you're going to make a Nomad deck.  There are actually 29 non-changeling nomads!  Who would have thought?  It'll be horrible, but at least you'll be original.  His art is pretty cool though.

seton, krosan protector

Seton, Krosan Protector - If you haven't seen a Seton deck go off,  you're missing out.  Seton has never been very popular but he is really powerful if left alone.  There are a ton of Green druids out there, and a lot of them are pretty cheap to cast.  So you add Gilt-Leaf Archdruid with Rofellos and Stone-Seeder Hierophant with stuff like Cloudstone Curio and Glimpse of Nature, add Regal Force to fill your hand, Genesis Wave to spill everything onto the table, and Kamahl, Fist of Krosa/Craterhoof Behemoth as finishers.  If it gets going it can spit almost its entire deck onto the table as early as turn 5, probably earlier if you build it right.  Of course, people will get annoyed at you while you're playing by yourself, but it's worth doing at least once.

Seton works much better as a Commander than as a regular creature.  He wants druids, and unless you're playing with a ton of druids he just isn't worth anything.

thriss, nantuko primus

Thriss, Nantuko Primus - Thriss is a poop Commander.  There, I said it.  I thought about using him with untap effects, but that's just useless in a mono-Green deck.  You're guys are going to be huge anyways, why pay 7 mana for a crappy Commander?  He's just not worth it.

I guess he can go into your insect deck?  Or a deck with a tapping and untapping theme?  But he costs 7 mana, and it's really hard to get over the fact that you should expect more from a card that requires so much mana.



ancestor's chosen Ancestor's Chosen - This is one of those cards that people always point to and say "You should play with this card!" And  yet, I don't think I've ever seen him used.  The potential for a full graveyard and some life gain is always nice.  Plus his body isn't small either.  But smart players are using graveyard removal now, and my guess is that he's generally not worth the casting cost to gain something like 7 life.

anger Anger - The first of the Incarnations, if you have Mountains in your deck you should always consider playing Anger.  Giving your team haste is always amazing, especially if you have the ability to put a bunch of creature on the battlefield at once, through the use of cards like Genesis Wave or token creators like Myr Battlesphere.  Pretty much a Commander staple.

ashen firebeast Ashen Firebeast - This is a card that I didn't even know existed until I started putting this article together.  He basically seems like the original Scourge of Kher Ridges.  Yes, the body is big, but he can deal with ground pounders pretty easily in a mono-Red deck.  Plus he's large.  He's not perfect, but you'll get cool points for playing with him.

auramancer Auramancer - Mono-White actually has a lot of recursion abilities, but not many that specifically target enchantments (Nomad Mythmaker is the only other one I can think of off the top of my head).  The ability to grab any enchantment from your graveyard is nice enough that it was included in one of the original online Commander decks.

aven cloudchaser Aven Cloudchaser - Enchantment removal on a stick that flies. 

beloved chaplain Beloved Chaplain - I don't think I've ever seen this guy played, probably due to his small size.  But he's basically a cheaper Commander Eesha, so if you need some defense of have a Voltron strategy going on he can be helpful.

brawn Brawn - If you like playing with huge guys like Kresh the Bloodbraided who don't have any natural evasion, Brawn can make sure your damage gets through.  Although there are other options out there like Kessig Wolf Run, this guy doesn't require mana.

cantivore Cantivore - This is a guy who would be fun in a Uril deck, or even a Bant themed enchantment deck.  Obviously the vigilance he has would make him better in a more defensive oriented deck, but sticking Armored Ascension on him would make him hit hard.  I've never seen him played, so you would get cool points if you do!

centaur rootcaster Centaur Rootcaster - I found this guy when looking through this block and I'm surprised that I've never seen him played.  True, he is small and lacks evasion.  But he basically has One with Nature stuck on him!  Just add some equipment to make sure he gets through, and you will quickly get ahead in the all-important mana race.

cephalid constable Cephalid Constable - One of the few playable squid people, in the right deck this guy can get silly.  If you put him into a Rafiq deck and get him out early you will have some very unhappy opponents.  Remember, double strike and multiple attack steps with this guy are really important.

chlorophant Chlorophant - Another creature that I've never seen played, he seems like he would be good in a deck that cares about counters, such as a Skullbriar deck.  It's really the lack of evasion that hurts him.  If he was more like Primordial Hydra (who is clearly better) you would probably see him more often.

devoted caretaker Devoted Caretaker - Not quite as good as Mother of Runes, there is still a lot of instant and sorcery based removal running around out there.  If you have a Commander that you really want to protect the Caretaker should be considered.

faceless butcher Faceless Butcher - Like Tidehollow Sculler, this guy works best with blink and instant speed sacrifice effects.  He works even better if you have the ability to recur him multiple times.  Exiling opposing creatures is always fun.

filth Filth - Kind of an underused Incarnation.  If you run Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth you should at least consider him.

fledgling dragon Fledgling Dragon - I've run this little guy in my dragon decks in the past, as he was a cheap dragon that would grow into a potent beastie given enough time.  But there are just so many dragons available now.  Plus, when you add the possibility that he's just going to be a little Grizzly Bears he becomes less appealing.

genesis Genesis - Probably the most played Incarnation, this card gives you some late game reach when it's in your graveyard.  If you want to get that Acidic Slime back to blow something up, or just add a threat to the board, this card will do it and do it well.  Pretty much a staple in any creature deck that has Green in it.  You should have a copy if you like creatures.

glory Glory - The forgotten Incarnation, this card used to see a good amount of play.  One of the biggest problems with it that I had in the past is that I would often forget about it.  It didn't provide a static ability, and it doesn't trigger at the beginning of every upkeep like Genesis.  However, for 3 mana you can give your team the ability to slip past defenders for an alpha strike, or to survive being attacked by larger creatures.  In addition, it has a decent sized evasive body.  I really like this card for token decks.

graceful antelope Graceful Antelope - Ok, I know that no one will ever play with this card.  But look at all the cool things it can do!  It has plainswalk!  Awesome!  It can turn specialty lands into Plains and hose them!  Tired of that Academy Ruins, Inkmoth Nexus or Cabal Coffers?  Turn it into a Plains!  I almost played this in my Chorus of the Conclave deck, and I wish I did, actually.

guiltfeeder Guiltfeeder - Another oldie, this guy is evasive and can bring the pain in the late game.  But if someone wipes out graveyards, he turns into 5 mana for 0 power.  The lack of the ability to know exactly what you're going to get is what keeps him on the sidelines.  But with the prevalence of graveyard based decks, I think he deserves a comeback.

gurzigost Gurzigost - Funny card, but not good enough to play with.

iridescent angel Iridescent Angel - Even with the (significant) protection ability, 7 mana for 4 power isn't easy to swallow any more. 

ivy elemental Ivy Elemental - Again, possibly used in a counters matter deck, but when you have Protean Hydra, Feral Hydra and even Krakilin available as better options, he doesn't make the cut.

krosan restorer Krosan Restorer - An underused card.  By herself she's a Deserted Temple.  Once you hit threshold, though, things can get really nutty.  Can you imagine being able to re-use up to 3 different specialty lands?  Gaea's Cradle, Cabal Coffers, and Deserted Temple? I've used her in my Experiment Kraj deck, but she' someone that I want to use again.

laquatus's champion Laquatus's Champion - Esper colors give you plenty of opportunities to blink stuff, and give you lots of fun stuff to blink.  Blinking the Champion here means that you can take off 6 points of life at a time.  Plus, you get a large regenerating creature!  Seems like fun, right?

magnivore Magnivore - This is a guy that I haven't really seen played that often.  It's possible to have this guy be really huge and having haste really can make him a beating out of nowhere.  Of course you could always build decks based around land destruction and other sorceries to make this guy really good, but that doesn't seem like a plan that will win many friends.

master apothecary Master Apothecary - Been a while since I've seen a cleric deck, but this seems like it would fit the theme.

mesmeric fiend Mesmeric Fiend - Another blinking target.

mindslicer Mindslicer - I like this guy in Nath of the Gilt-Leaf decks.  There are also plenty of times where having him out and sacrificing him at the right time means a benefit to you while the rest of the table is hurting.  Of course, lots of people don't like mass discard (see reactions to Myojin of Night's Reach) so you will be targeted for sure.  But if you have a graveyard based deck throwing everything into the 'yard will help you more than others.

mortivore Mortivore - Another guy that used to see a lot of play, poor Mortivore has just been outclassed by power creep.  But with the advent of the numerous graveyard based decks such as The Mimeoplasm and Karador, I think now is a great time for old Morty to make a comeback.  Large creature with cheap regeneration cost?  Yes sir!

mystic enforcer Mystic Enforcer -  Don't think I've ever seen this guy used.  Threshold is just a mechanic that people aren't overly excited about in Commander.  But he has a relevant protection ability even without threshold.  And he's a nomad too!

nantuko cultivator Nantuko Cultivator - Back when Sasaya, Orochi Ascendant was really popular, this guy would be an auto-include.  You get a huge creature and get to draw cards!  Also seen in Azusa decks.

nomad mythmaker Nomad Mythmaker - This guy is often seen in Uril decks, and other non-Bruna (since she doesn't really need Mythmaker's ability) aura based decks.  Recursion is always nice.  Make sure and use the 10th edition art, since the original art pretty much blows.

nullmage advocate Nullmage Advocate - I'm not going to really talk about the Advocates here since their abilities just cost too much.  Sure, there is the possibility of using their abilities in a political fashion, but it's a pretty rare occasion.  This Advocate is probably the only one I would consider using, since having the repeatable ability to Naturalize things isn't bad, and the abilities of the other Advocates are easily replaced with better cards.  Even still, it's rare that I would put this in a deck unless I was running Ebony Owl Netsuke or something silly.

patron wizard Patron Wizard - Playing wizards?  They need their Patron!

phantom centaur Phantom Centaur - Another old card that used to see play, this guy is still good.  He has a relevant protection ability, and if you enchant him or equip him with any sort of toughness provider he basically becomes immune to damage.  The most efficient of the phantom creatures, give the old guy another shot.

phantom nishoba Phantom Nishoba - The big daddy of the phantom creatures, 7/7 lifelink for 7 mana is definitely playable.  Add trample and you have a solid beast.  Yes, you do expect a lot from your cards that cost 7 mana, But if you're running a creature based deck like Mayael the Anima he could be good.  Ok, Mayael is a bad example, but you know what I mean.

psychatog Psychatog - I have seen this guy used in a deck that drew a ton of cards and milled itself at the same time.  Seems really inefficient, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

pulsemage advocate Pulsemage Advocate - 3 cards to destroy a creature is a really steep price.  Oblation gives an opponent only 2 cards, and the creature gets tucked.  I say pass.

sadistic hypnotist Sadistic Hypnotist - An auto include in Nath of the Gilt-Leaf decks, this guy is also good in token based decks such as Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder.  He can also do some damage in decks that have a lot of creatures that can recur themselves, like Bloodghast and Reassembling Skeleton.

shadowmage infiltrator Shadowmage Infiltrator - It's funny how this guy sort of slips below the radar when he's in play.  Due to his evasion lots of people just sort of ignore him.  Then he starts drawing cards, and people think, "Well it's only one card."  But this kind of incremental advantage can add up over time.  Then when you get some equipment on him, he gets scary.

shifty doppelganger Shifty Doppelganger - This guy is super interesting.  Although his ability costs a decent amount, he is good at getting fat into play and hitting stuff.  This works especially well for guys with ETB abilities like Angel of Despair or even Kozilek, Butcher of TruthKederekt Leviathan would be fun too.  Of course, you need to have a decent amount of draw to really get him to work well because without some sort of fat in your hand he's just a 1/1.  But he could be fun.

sutured ghoul Sutured Ghoul - I assume that it's possible to build a version of Cephalid Breakfast but that's super risky.  I vaguely remember seeing someone use this once and I gave him mad props.

sylvan safekeeper Sylvan Safekeeper - If you're running an Azusa deck, or can use Life from the Loam or Crucible of Worlds, or can even lay more than one land a turn with Oracle of Mul Daya or Exploration, the Safekeeper is worth a shot.  Giving your dudes shroud is a very good ability.

terravore Terravore - Obviously this guy works best with land destruction but that doesn't seem like the friendliest way to build a deck.  But if you're running dredge in your deck or a ton of fetch lands he can get big.  Great with Nantuko Cultivator!

valor Valor - Probably the least important of the Incarnations.  I've seen plenty of people use it, but it just doesn't seem that great to me.

vampiric dragon Vampiric Dragon - I used this guy in my Bladewing the Risen deck and he was lots of fun.  Sure, he costs a metric ton to play.  But he can ping things and get larger over time.  Don't forget that if you have extra mana you can ping things that are about to die to give him extra counters.  Fun times!

wayward angel Wayward Angel - I used this angel in my Asmira, Holy Avenger deck.  The deck made a lot of tokens to sacrifice them to various effects.  If you have threshold she's a 7/7 vigilant, trampling flier for 6 mana. All you have to do is feed her to keep her happy!  Even without threshold she's still a 4/4 vigilant flier.

wonder Wonder - A great Incarnation.  It's funny that people really like Wonder, but no one plays with Levitation.  Obviously it's because things in the graveyard are usually safer than those in play, but it's still one of those things that makes you think.

worldgorger dragon Worldgorger Dragon - Obviously this is no longer banned.  But if you play with this guy, you're doing it for only one reason:  to combo the table out.  Please don't be that person.  Seriously.

zombie trailblazer Zombie Trailblazer - An underused zombie, this guy can hose specialty lands as well as colored land that people need to cast their spells given enough zombies.  And there are plenty of ways to make zombie tokens now.

zoologist Zoologist - There are tons of ways to stack the top of your library, from Sylvan Library to Mirri's Guile to Cream of the Crop to Sensei's Divining Top.  And that's just cards available to Green!  If you play with big dudes and like to stack your library you should play with this druid.



animal boneyard Animal Boneyard - I saw someone use this card once, and it just surprised me that it even existed.  It basically can turn your basic land into a Diamond Valley that can tap for mana.  I'm not really sure when you'd want this card over High Market, but it's worth knowing about.

burning sands Burning Sands - A brutal card, but it can really hose token strategies, as well as those strategies that rely upon sacrifices and recursion.

cabal coffers Cabal Coffers - If you've played more than one game of Commander, I'm sure you've seen this card.  Formerly a favorite target of Primeval Titan along with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, it's not quite as easy to put the two together but it's still not hard.  There are plenty of ways to search for lands, including Crop Rotation, Expedition Map and old stand by's like Demonic Tutor.  This card is also good in mono-Black, in case you couldn't figure it out.

catalyst stone Catalyst Stone - There are 114 cards with flashback on them.  The Stone might be useful.

cephalid coliseum Cephalid Coliseum - Good for drawing cards and dumping cards into the yard.  Also good for making opponents draw and discard, like in my old Nicol Bolas deck that ran Underworld Dreams and Megrim.

compulsion Compulsion - This is a solid card in the right deck.  You can cycle through your deck, put stuff in the graveyard to reanimate, throw incarnations in the 'yard.  And it also cycles itself!  Also good in Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind decks and decks that like it when you draw cards or use Psychosis Crawler.

dawn of the dead Dawn of the Dead - This is a solid card that doesn't see enough play mainly because it requires a little bit of set up.  If you run a few sacrifice outlets, like High Market or Greater Good, this can be great.  Losing 1 life a turn is negligible as anyone who runs Phyrexian Arena can tell you.  Great with ETB cards like Rune-Scarred Demon or Massacre Wurm.  Seems perfect for a Golgari deck.

deserted temple Deserted Temple - There are so many uses for this card.  Thawing Glaciers, Gaea's Cradle, Maze of Ith, Cabal Coffers, Minamo, School at Water's Edge.  There are a whole mess of cards that work well with this one.  You should own it.

druid's call Druid's Call - First of all, squirrels!  This will basically make any of your creatures into Saber Ants, but Saber Ants isn't nearly as cool because, you know, no squirrels.  Squirrels!

epic struggle Epic Struggle - As anyone who has ever created a token deck can imagine, it can be pretty easy to get 20 creatures on the board.  That's why I'm surprised that I've never seen this card played.  Sure, it says "I win!" but it's typically not an instant win card since it has to (usually) last at least a full turn.  Still, it seems like someone would have tried to break it with, I dunno, Vedalken Orrery or something.

gravestorm Gravestorm - This is one of those goofy graveyard hate card that is good early game, but not so good late game.  Free card draw is always nice, but I think it's worth adding Nihil Spellbomb, Tormod's Crypt or Relic of Progenitus to your deck to help make sure that you get the most of this card.

ground seal Ground Seal - The good thing about this card is that it replaces itself.  The bad thing is that most graveyard hate nowadays doesn't target specific cards.  Just look at the cards I suggested for Gravestorm.  In addition, it turns off your ability to use Genesis.  I'm not all that high on this card.

holistic wisdom Holistic Wisdom - A forgotten piece of recursion, it works well if you have the ability to draw a bunch of cards.  I'm never a fan of exiling your own cards unless it's desperately necessary, but since this one is repeatable I may have to give it a shot.

hunting grounds Hunting Grounds - One of those rare cards that does nothing unless you have threshold, but once you do have threshold it's a pretty big bomb.  Make sure that you play with bid dudes and Greater Good so that you can keep your hand full.  Or you can even play with something like Crystal Shard to bounce creatures with ETB effects.

karmic justice Karmic Justice - I've been underwhelmed by this card, but that may be just because I primarily play creature based decks.  Obviously it can go into enchantment based decks, but even in those situations, I've found that someone just bites the bullet, plays Austere Command, and expects to get all his lands destroyed.  That player becomes a sacrificial lamb, and that just doesn't seem like the most fun to me.

krosan verge Krosan Verge - If you're playing Selesnya colors, you should include this card.  It doesn't require that you search for basic lands, which means that it can grab Savannah and Mistveil Plains.

malevolent awakening Malevolent Awakening - Another method of recursion probably best put into a deck that has lots of tokens or Bloodghast variety of creatures.  Is it better Phyrexian Reclamation?  Not usually, but it can be in the right deck.

mirari Mirari - This was sort of Riku before Riku was around, but it deserves a look when your deck is based around sorceries and instants.  There are a bunch of Grixis decks that are pretty creature light that could use this artifact.

mirari's wake Mirari's Wake - Not quite the original mana doubler (that would be Mana Flare), the Wake is obviously better.  If you like having tons of mana this is the card for you.  Combine with Mana Reflection for extra shenanigans.

mortal combat Mortal Combat - I'm more of a Street Fighter guy myself.

petrified field Petrified Field - There are plenty of specialty lands that get blown up during the course of play.  I know it can be sad to say bye to your Urborg.  But wait, there's a land specifically made to get lands back from your graveyard!  If you like your special lands you should play this card.

price of glory Price of Glory - Don't like it when Blue mages counter your spells?  Don't want people activating abilities that cost mana when it's not their turn?  Want to keep people honest?  This is a card that will tick people off, but if you're playing the right kind of deck then it should fit in perfectly.   Combine with City of Solitude to really tick people off.  Or double up with War's Toll.

riftstone portal Riftstone Portal - I've never seen this card played, but it should be good, right?

shade's form Shade's Form - I used this card in my Ramses Overdark deck but it's actually good enough to see play otherwise.  You can put it on your creature to make sure to get it back after a Wrath, or put it on an opponent's creature to steal it when it dies.  Nice and versatile.  Obviously better in mono-Black decks, but can also fit into 2 color decks.

solitary confinement Solitary Confinement - It's not hard to set up a situation where you draw an extra card a turn in this format.  Giving yourself shroud and making yourself immune to damage seems like a good deal.  Privileged Position can also make it tough to get through and damage you.

soulcatchers' aerie Soulcatchers' Aerie - Bird decks like bird cards.  Bird.

squirrel nest Squirrel Nest - Squirrels!  The old combo is to use this in conjunction with Earthcraft to make an infinite number of little squirrels.  If you don't want to wait a turn before attacking, add Concordant Crossroads.

standstill Standstill - This is an interesting card that I've seen played in Commander. I've usually seen it in Group Hug decks since it benefits 2 out of your 3 opponents.  It can be a good political card in that people will like when you play it.  Unless they're the ones that break it.  I don't really suggest playing it though.

test of endurance Test of Endurance - It's not that hard to get over 50 life.  Use as a back up to Felidar Sovereign.

web of inertia Web of Inertia - This is a nice little piece of graveyard hate.  Many times graveyards aren't really all that large, which makes losing them an unhappy proposition for many players that know it's a valuable resource.  If you like Propaganda affects you will probably like this card as well.


balancing act Balancing Act - This is a pretty fair version of Balance that can still be broken under the right circumstances, so I'm surprised that I don't see it more.  It is a decent way of keeping those ramp decks like Azusa from going completely bonkers with their lands and keeping everyone on the same level.  I think people should play it more.

buried alive Buried Alive - The classic and so good in so many ways.  Not only can you stack your graveyard for use with Karador, The Mimeoplasm or just make Jarad bigger, you can also set up a sweet Living Death or Twilight's Call!  If your deck has recursion in it and you're playing Black, you should be using this card.

chainer's edict Chainer's Edict - Useful only because of the flashback ability, the fact that it can't target like Terror is super annoying.

chastise Chastise - There are a lot of huge beaters out there, and by using this instant to destroy them when they're attacking you can gain a ton of life.  Obviously not as good as Condemn it can still swing the game.

cultural exchange Cultural Exchange - I tried using this card once, and I just could not get it to work.  Most of the time I really liked my creatures, so exchanging them with someone else never seemed like the right move.  And switching around the creatures of my opponents didn't really do anything.  I dunno, I guess it would be better in a token deck.  Has anyone else had success with this?

decimate Decimate - Seems like this card was made for Commander, although you can sometimes have situations where there is no enchantment in play so you can't cast it.  Still hyper efficient though and one of my favorite cards.

diabolic tutor Diabolic Tutor - If you don't have enough cheap tutor effects, you can always fall back on this one.

entomb Entomb - Just like Buried Alive, but can be done at instant speed and can put any card into the graveyard, not just creatures.  So it can throw an incarnation in there, or a card with flashback.

envelop Envelop - My friend Neo turned me onto this card.  There are plenty of huge sorceries that get played out there (Genesis Wave, Storm Herd, etc.) and if you only have 1 Island untapped people don't expect much from you.  So not only does this take people by surprise, it deals with big problems.

firecat blitz Firecat Blitz - A nice little card to get a lot of hasty guys into play, I used this card to great effect in my Marton Stromgald deck.  The flashback ability is more of a "win now or die trying" sort of effect but it really comes in handy.  Hellrider and Beastmaster Ascension can make all those little kitties hit harder, and if you have a sacrifice ability like Goblin Bombardment you can get extra use out of the tokens before they die at the end of the turn.  An underused card.

innocent blood Innocent Blood - Another card that has fallen out of favor, this is a great way to deal with those voltron Commanders and decks.  There are plenty of games where players only have one or 2 high value creatures out each, and this card can provide great value.  Really good at dealing with indestructible and shroud Commanders like Uril and Avacyn.  Don't forget about it!

insidious dreams Insidious Dreams - First of all, I don't think people realize that this card is an instant!  That makes it tons better than you probably already thought.  Now, this card is particularly good in decks that use their graveyards.  So The Mimeoplasm, Karador, all those guys should really be interested in using this card.  You get to fill up your graveyard and tutor!  I used this card in my Chromium deck that was based around mass reanimation and it was awesome.  Underrated.

keep watch Keep Watch - Another card I don't think I've ever seen used but can be good, similar to Tamiyo, the Moon Sage, Theft of Dreams and Borrowing 100,000 Arrows.  I think it's because the card draw can be inconsistent and because Blue decks are generally not token decks.  But I think that zombie decks using Grimgrin, Corpse-Born as their Commander can really draw a ton with this card.  Plus, at a minimum you can generally draw 2-3 cards with it, which basically makes it a Divination.  But if you go up against tokens it's also great.

kirtar's wrath Kirtar's Wrath - A monetarily cheap Wrath effect, but there are a ton of those available.  If you have a flier deck it can be ok.  I used it in my Radiant, Archangel deck but if I recall correctly I never cast it with threshold.  Oh well.

mind sludge Mind Sludge - Occasionally you'll see this card played in discard decks, but it's also important to realize that it can be good to use in the late game in a mono-Black deck to decimate someone's hand, usually the last person you're up against or the person who has the biggest hand.  Or the biggest threat I guess.  I've seen Mind Twist and Identity Crisis used in the same way.

moment's peace Moment's Peace - Reusable Fog effect.  Still sees occasional use.

morality shift Morality Shift - I would love to see this card used but it seems like the effort doesn't really meet with the benefit.  What would you put in your graveyard?  Sort of like Doomsday in that you have to set up things just right to make it worthwhile.

morningtide Morningtide - Just not as good as Relic of Progenitus.  But worth knowing about. 

mutilate Mutilate - Great for mono-Black decks to deal with indestructible and shroud creatures.  If you like Black, you should own this.

new frontiers New Frontiers - Typically seen in group hug decks to get people going.  Using it offensively means adding Amulet of Vigor so that you can use all those lands on the same turn you get them, or by adding cards like Ankh of Mishra, Zo-zu the Punisher or Tunnel Ignus.  Or Invader Parasite for extra giggles.  Boundless Realms is generally better though.

nostalgic dreams Nostalgic Dreams - Not a bad form of recursion.  Again, good at dumping stuff into the graveyard for recursion purposes.  Good in the right deck (Karador, The Mimeoplasm, etc.).

overrun Overrun - Sometimes the classics are still good.  Great with tokens.

parallel evolution Parallel Evolution - Another token card that I don't really see played.  Sort of like populate for your entire team.  The best part is that it has flashback, so you can use it again later.  Of course, people don't use it because it's useless after someone wipes the board, but if you have a few dudes you can quadruple your team with one card.

plagiarize Plagiarize - There are a ton of times when people draw massive amounts of cards in Commander games, and this can really hose them.  Unfortunately you never know when it will happen.  The inconsistency is the problem with this card.  It if fun to blow people out after a huge Decree of Pain though.

radiate Radiate - This card is supposed to be sooo good, but despite trying to play with it several times I have yet to have it work well at all.  Seems like it would be great when people play cards like Twisted Justice or Swords to Plowshares, but it doesn't always work out.  If you like playing with Fork effects though it would probably do well.

recoup Recoup - The original Past in Flames, this is a seriously good card, especially if you play with a bunch of sorceries.  Grixis based control should like this.

seedtime Seedtime - An extra turn for 2 mana!  Awesome!  There are enough Blue decks out there to make this worth playing.  And just in case you aren't playing against Blue, make sure to run Nostalgic Dreams or Holistic Wisdom so that you can dump this thing.

seize the day Seize the Day - A one shot Aggravated Assault or Waves of Aggression, this is good if you are really dependent on Commander damage.  But World at War and Savage Beating and even Relentless Assault are likely more valuable just because they affect your entire team.  But if your Commander has double strike it's worth considering.

sickening dreams Sickening Dreams - If you can get large hand sizes, then using this to hurt everyone can really be a lot of fun.  I vaguely remember considering this for a deck, but I'm not sure which one it was.  But it's also good at filling your graveyard.  Not quite as good a card as Firestorm for this purpose though.

skeletal scrying Skeletal Scrying - Instant speed card draw is always nice.  I don't really like that you have to get rid of stuff in your graveyard to pull this off though.

spelljack Spelljack - Man this is a fun card.  You can't really mad if your spell gets countered by a 6 mana spell.  And then you can't forget that the originally countered spell can come back at any time.  Used to be used a lot back in the day, but now that things are more efficient I haven't seen it as much.  Still better than Counterlash.

tainted pact Tainted Pact - A Demonic Consultation that cannot miss.  My main problem with this card is that there are already so many different tutors out there, why play with one that has the potential to exile a third or more of your library?  I guess if you are really playing hard core combo you could use this to increase your tutor count, but I honestly think it's just not necessary.

time stretch Time Stretch - The big daddy of extra turn effects.  Lots of Blue decks like to play with this card, and I used to see it a lot in Intet, the Dreamer decks.  Just keep in mind that taking 3 turns in a row is a good way to make a lot of people upset.  No one wants to feel like they aren't involved in a game and it's hard enough to wait for everyone else to finish their turns without having to add in additional ones.  Hopefully if you cast this card you can either 1) win the game or 2) seriously change the games dynamics to make the end of the game imminent.  It still won't make you any friends though.

traumatize Traumatize - The Mimeoplasm likes this card, but I have to say my favorite story is when I used this card while having both Lord of Extinction and Vulturous Zombie in play.  Good times.

upheaval Upheaval - Banned in Commander.  Thank God.

vengeful dreams Vengeful Dreams - Actually a pretty sweet card.  You have the ability to exile multiple creatures with one card, and it's more selective than Terminus or Hallowed Burial.  Of course, it costs more cards, but it's worth it.  And again, good at filling up graveyards.


All right, let's take a look at cards that I would consider Commander staples:

In addition, here are the cards that I don't quite consider staples, but that I still enjoy using and playing with when making decks, or are just solid cards:

And there's a lot more stuff that can be used if you want.  Yup, that's a good amount of stuff.  Please keep in mind cards like Ashen Firebeast and Seize the Day, cards that have more efficient modern analogues but are still interesting to use.  There's no reason to constantly use "the best" or "the most efficient" cards available.  If it were up to me I would make it so that every deck had to have at least one Killer Whale type of card in their list.  But I'm just goofy like that.

Hopefully you guys enjoyed this blast from the past.  There are some interesting cards here that can be good in the right deck, and some cards that I've never seen or have forgotten about.  People like shiny new things so older stuff always gets pushed back.  I'm honestly thinking about making a deck using only pre-Modern cards right now.  That should be fun.

I hope you enjoyed this.  And make sure to point out stuff that I missed in the comments!

Leviathan, aka Tarasco on MTGO
mrmorale32 at yahoo dot com



Great to see you writing by Paul Leicht at Wed, 11/21/2012 - 13:03
Paul Leicht's picture

Great to see you writing again Tarasco! Nice review. I look forward to the next one.

Thanks Paul! Unfortunately I by Leviathan at Wed, 11/21/2012 - 15:26
Leviathan's picture

Thanks Paul! Unfortunately I just don't have the time to consistently write anymore. But I figure I can eventually get through these Overviews since I can do a few cards at a time and spread it out (this article was done over a period of about 3 months).

I always wondered what that by JustSin at Wed, 11/21/2012 - 15:24
JustSin's picture

I always wondered what that squirrel was doing with eye balls...

What is he doing with them? by Leviathan at Wed, 11/21/2012 - 18:22
Leviathan's picture

What is he doing with them? Where does he get them from? Does he keep them in pairs? Is he storing them for winter? Is he part of a mob of squirrels that sell eyeballs in an underground black market to fund their murderous plans? SO MANY QUESTIONS!!!

Vengeful Dreams looks by KaraZorEl at Fri, 11/23/2012 - 17:01
KaraZorEl's picture

Vengeful Dreams looks incredible! Think I'll buy one. :)

Iridescent Angel is really good when you put her with Wild Pair in a Scion deck.

Sickening Dreams is quite by Allen Glitch at Fri, 12/21/2012 - 06:00
Allen Glitch's picture

Sickening Dreams is quite good.I am amazed by the work and phenomenal changes also..

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