9 Hidden Gems for the 99 of Your Commander Deck
You know all the rage about top Commanders, and even ran some of the fun ones before. Commanders are naturally one of the most talked about subjects of the format. And with every new expansion set or preconstructed deck release, playgroups start chiming in on which Legendary Creature would make the next hot Commander.
Then the conversation will slowly trickle down to deck building – what cards would you put in the 99? These 99 cards will form the lifeblood of your deck, and in highly tuned decks the same power cards are often found in them. Cyclonic Rift is in every blue deck, and Craterhoof Behemoth is the win condition for most green decks.
So what about the unseen gems, the quiet ones, unknown outliers that don’t see much play in these finely tuned decks? There are over 20,000 cards available for the Commander format and there are bound to be dozens that go unnoticed despite having some strong potential in multiplayer games. Tap & Sac picks out 9 of the coolest, obscure, non-Legendary Creature cards that you’ve not seen anyone play. Perhaps you can be the first?
Telepathy: Mass Surveillance
Let’s look at Telepathy from a numbers perspective. First, it costs only a single blue mana [read: very cheap], and secondly as an Enchantment its effects doesn’t just go away at the end of turn. It pretty much lasts the entire game unless your opponents choose to get rid of it ahead of other more active Enchantments that do some actual damage.
Damage – that’s probably the reason why this card isn’t seen as a threat or even useful in games. All it does is give you information. But in Blue, all that information is what blue players want and need! Imagine knowing exactly which spell you need to counter, and being able to fish out the opponent who has the most dangerous threats in hand.
Perhaps what many players also miss is that this hidden gem’s effect only applies to your opponents! So every player at the table, including you, can see all your opponents’ hands, but none of them can see yours! It’s literally a card with zero drawback and a lot of value packed in it for just 1 Mana.
Argivian Find: Cheapest Artifact/Enchantment Retriever
Since we’re on the topic of 1 Mana spells, how about this hidden gem for white? For just 1 white Mana you can bring back any Artifact or Enchantment to your hand. As an Instant, it’s pretty much a one-time use but this has pretty much the same effect as Enlightened Tutor just that it searches your Graveyard instead of your Library.
These could be important cards such as Sylvan Library or even Sol Ring that were destroyed by your opponent to disrupt your game.
You might say there are better and stronger cards that give the same effects as Argivian Find[/c[ (think [c]Refurbish or Replenish) but one targets Enchantments while the other only hits Artifacts. Both of those alternatives will bring your target back to the Battlefield, so you should weigh the cost between spending 1 Mana to return an Artifact or Enchantment to your hand, or spending more to target only one type.
Earthlink: Wipe all Opponents’ Creatures and Lands
You’d be amazed at what kind of cards are in Magic: the Gathering but have never made an appearance in your life. Earthlink is one such card, unearthing itself from the old Ice Age set back in 1995. It utilises Jund colours (black, red, and green), so it will only fit into very specific decks.
But wouldn’t Earthlink affect your Creatures too and cause you to sacrifice Lands? It would, if you ran any Creatures! You could use this in a Commander deck focused on Planeswalkers such as Lord Windgrace and also stuff it with lots of additional Mana rocks like Thran Turbine so that you always have some Mana available to pay the 2 Mana during your Upkeep.
Without any Creatures of your own, you’ll never have to sacrifice your Lands while your opponents have to contend with keeping their Creatures alive. Throw in some board wipes (plenty in three colours) such as Toxic Deluge, Blasphemous Act or Damnation and you’re pretty set.
Inkshield: Infinite Creature Combo Killer
Many of these precon-only cards are real sleepers, and one of the recent bombs is Inkshield, a black-white Instant that can not only save you from certain death, it can also offer a way to counter attack for the surprise win.
There are so many games where players go on creating an infinite number of Creatures of tokens with Haste and swing in an unstoppable kill. Craterhoof Behemoth is another famous culprit, easily giving Creatures +X/+X with Trample and Haste. Let’s imagine there’s 250 points of combat damage heading your way.
With Inkshield, you’ll be preventing all that damage, saving your life, and creating 250 2/1 Flying tokens – that’s plenty enough to kill 3 opponents when it comes back to your turn! It’s also arguably more effective than our usual favourite board wipe Settle the Wreckage, even though Inkshield costs 5 and you need to be playing black in additional to white. But when you pull this off, it could be the greatest comeback win you’ll ever see.
Frozen Aether: Stax’s Best Friend
If there’s any silver lining with taxes, it’s when you skirt the tax man and let your opponents pay the bill. Frozen Aether works so well in Stax decks because all your opponents’ Lands, Creatures and Artifacts come in tapped, but you get to live on in a tax haven.
Frozen Aether is the blue version of Kismet and it fits more into the colour’s theme and strategy because most stax decks will be playing Stasis and Back to Basics. When their Lands come in Tapped and are unable to untap normally on their turn, the game quickly shifts to your favour, and you’ve become the evil dictator that has suppressed the people’s will. Sounds familiar for blue?
Reconnaissance: Protect Your Attackers from Death
This little Uncommon from Exodus may not look sexy at first, because it can only target attacking Creatures you control, but there are definitely situations where this can be very useful.
For example, for decks that rely on attack triggers such Aurelia, the Warleader or Winota, Joiner of Forces, being able to attack, gain value, and subsequently save your Creatures from certain death is very powerful. Reconnaissance only cost one white Mana, and its ability is free to activate, meaning there’s almost no downside to having this hidden gem included in aggro decks.
Other cards that can make use of Reconnaissance are Cavalcade of Calamity, when you have a whole army of little 1/1s that are unable to punch through the opponent’s defenses. Reconnaissance lets you attack, carry out the damage triggers from Cavalcade, then return those Creatures safely to camp. You even get to untap those Creatures, meaning they can be served as blockers if necessary.
If you aggro deck relies on lots of “attack” triggers and includes the colour white, Reconnaissance is definitely a must-include card.
Supreme Inquisitor: Powerful Library Remover
This is eerily similar to the black version that works with vampires: Captivating Vampire. But at 5 Mana, Supreme Inquisitor is harder to cast and even harder to stay alive at 1/3 stats. But hear us out.
Being able to remove specific cards from an opponent’s Library is incredibly strong, especially if they rely on a few specific cards for their combo to go off. Once you activate this and remove 5 of their top cards from the game, it could easily be game over for them.
Even if they’re not running an infinite combo deck, imagine taking away their biggest threats. For Creatures it could be Craterhoof Behemoth, or maybe it’s a Ugin, The Spirit Dragon Planeswalker or an annoying Enchantment like Omniscience. Every Commander deck is filled with mega threats and the ability to dig through the Library and take anything you want is going to impact the game.
And it’s not particularly difficult to get 5 Wizards to tap, as the Inquisitor can count himself, and there is an immense number of Wizards in blue. With the addition of some recent Creatures with Changeling, finding those 5 Wizards will be even simpler.
Taunting Elf – Making a Path for All
How often have you played games where the board is stalled and overflowing with Creatures? No one can attack another for the win because it will just be one brawl with incalculable losses for all parties involved. Well, leave it up to the most unassuming Creature to draw all the attention to itself and let your other Creatures through.
Although green has a few other cards that do this same effect (think Lure), but none are as cheap or just downright sneaky as Taunting Elf. It’s a 0/1, the weakest of all, and costs a cheap 1 Mana, but it probably has the most important ability on your board right now. If there was a way to give it Indestructible permanently, such as equipping it with Hammer of Nazahn, you can full swing every turn.
Glaring Spotlight – the Greaves and Boots Killer
There’s almost no deck that doesn’t run either Lightning Greaves or Swiftfoot Boots. They are the quintessential Equipment cards in every Commander deck, rubbing shoulders with the ubiquitous Sol Ring and Arcane Signet in the Mana rock category.
When an opponent’s Commander starts to get Hexproof, the game state can go on a downward spiral very quickly as no one is able to directly deal with the Commander unless they have a “board wipe” spell.
The best part about Glaring Spotlight is that it takes Hexproof away from only your opponents’ Creatures. So if you were to have your own Greaves or Boots, it’s totally fine and they will still have Hexproof! Glaring Spotlight is even a colourless Artifact so it can go into any of your Commander decks, provided you’re willing to take one card slot in the 99 to handle a specific scenario.
Considering how many people play Greaves or Boots, it’s almost a given that at least one player will have it out, and that’s when Glaring Spotlight will shine.
No doubt there are way more hidden gems in over 25 years of Magic history – what are your favourites? We also haven’t a red gem to be featured on the list, so if you have any recommendations, do drop us a comment or email at firstname.lastname@example.org!