Lore Lost to Time: Obscure & Inexpensive Commander Hidden Gems
By: Intrepid_Tautog - 30 May 2020
Tomes of legends litter these library shelves. Overblown, stuffy tales to perk up youthful spirits and inspire grand ambition. They are the brick and mortar of myth, itself. But not all stories are so celebrated.
For every Izzet marvel of weathercraft, at least a dozen penny scrolls make dubious claims about summoning rain. Beside the tale of how an entire continent phased out of reality rests book after book of makeshift protection charms. Maybe half of them actually work? Oh sure, a few great wonders dwell on these shelves. Works of brilliance do find their way through all the dust and mothballs. But good luck getting your hands on them. Those mages whose minds go deeper than their pockets must settle for the rejected pages of makeshift sorcery, the spells that are leftover after the fabled energies are all bought up.
So if you've a tattered robe and empty wallet, yet still yearn to practice the mystical arts, I bid you follow me. We're going on an adventure to scour these halls. Explore pages that have mostly been forgotten. Perhaps find something useful along the way? The arcane ingredients we discover may seem strange, unusual, or less efficient than their more celebrated counterparts. But that obscurity is their edge, the utter lack of notoriety their secret weapon.
When it's a relic, no one ever sees it coming.
Welcome to "Lore Lost to Time", where we'll delve into the more obscure and overlooked Magic cards from days gone by. With so many new products, keeping up with the library becomes increasingly daunting. Newer goodies get all the digital hype one could expect in our internet-savvy age, but what of those gathering dust? What of the cards released before the advent of social media? What hidden games lie undiscovered in the vast history of our game?
That's what this series is all about: Finding the unique, overlooked, obscure, and often inexpensive cards that have the potential. We're an archeologically study digging for hidden gems. A great deal of pre-Modern era sets get overlooked, so we're seeking to change that. What's more, the increase in Commander product has eaten up a lot of deckbuilding space as more and more cards are considered nigh auto-includes. Not only does the obligation to run these cards take away the creative side of deck-building, but because they're so damn sought after, the cards are also ridiculously expensive.
Part of what makes Commander such a beloved format is degree to which you can personalize your deck. With 100 slots to work with, there's a massive canvass to not only construct an effective deck, but also one that speaks to your unique tastes. It's not uncommon for players to outright express themselves via their EDH decks. One end of this spectrum involves 'blinging' out a build with foils, alternate arts, or other shiny things. The other, the one we're interested in, is what I like to call the "Wait, what does that card do, again?" effect.
Lots of oddball enchantments out there.
I truly enjoy playing cards that no one's ever heard of before. The bizarre and mysterious. Cards that opponents have to reach for across the table and reread a few times. Fortunately, because the vast majority of such cards are seldom played, they're often quite budget-friendly!
"What in the heck is that thing?"
"An Enchantress deck's pet."
So let's do some digging and uncover some hidden (and ancient!) Commander gems with which to surprise our opponents.
But first, a few rules:
Rule #1: We're looking for overlooked cards here, so we'll only take into consideration cards that appear in fewer than 500 decks listed on both AetherHub and EDHRec combined, meaning <0.5% of decks registered across both sites contain the card.
Rule #2: Magic is an expensive game. And it's looking to get even moreso with the announcement of additional Secret Liars and Double Masters. So our gems must be inexpensive. Times are tight, and there's little point in uncovering an amazing older card if we can't afford it. And so, no single card can exceed $3 in value.
Rule #3: As mentioned, we're gonna take you back to the past, to play the shitty games tha...sorry, got side-tracked. Damn catchy jingle. But yes, we are going back to the past, specifically pre-Modern era, so all cards discussed will hail from a time pre-O.G. Mirrodin.
With that covered, let's begin!
# Decks Running It: 206
Poor Prophecy gets very little love, having its reputation tarnished by underpowered abilities like "Rhystic" (, ). There's only one card with the ability that sees common play. In fact, it sees a ton of commander play and is the most valuable card in all of Prophecy: . Folks hate the mechanic but love them some . So what differentiates so much from the other Rhystic cards? The same quality that makes good.
Cards like, , and actively punish you if the opponent is able to pay. To the point where they do absolutely nothing. You wasted a card. As such, you're forced to only use these when the window is available. In a 4-player format, you've three opponents, any of which could shut down your spell with spare mana.
and also do nothing when paid for, but they don't go anywhere. Sure, if someone pays the cost, nothing happens. But the "taxation" effect remains, keeping pressure on your opponents and forcing them to conform to the repeated cost. largely has the same understated effect that does: "Spells your opponents control cost 1 more to play".
Of course,is undeniably more powerful than . There's no cost to activate the Enchantment. If someone fails to pay for its trigger, you get a free card and the opponent casts their spell unhindered. You've both benefitted, so there's no bad blood. will outright ruin someone's plan if they don't take it into account. Against a game-winning spell, this move could be a vital. And easy to overlook or forget about. But you've gotta keep the Enchanted land open in order to do it. As such, pairings with cards like Wilderness Reclaimation and the delightful make great pairings. The evil side of me also loves the idea of tapping the Enchanted land to cast a spell while keeping an or in hand to surprise-reactivate it.
# Decks Running It: 66
stats are nothing to write home about, but a built in ? Now's that's a very different story. Right from the get-go, people are gonna raise eyebrows when you play . Land destruction is widely frowned upon in Commander, so if you plan on using this card to ruin everyone's day, expect to become the table's arch enemy. I didn't recommend so you can start blowing up or, may God help you, Karoo lands ( , , etc.).
Targetting these will end relationships.
That's more like it!
Whatdoes offer, and at a surprisingly inexpensive rate, is a form of land policing. Commander is home to a multitude of busted lands, many of which enable their decks to outright win: , , , , etc. Deploying a provides valuable insurance against such cards. Play it early, and your opponents will have to spend removal on a simple 3/3 before they can play their utility-lands.
# Decks Running It: 291
Aside from "sweet artwork", the first impression most people have tois that it's an inferior version of . The Rebirth kills everything and leaves you with a potentially gigantic threat. leaves your opponents with a new set of creatures after the fallout. To make the most out of , don't look at it so much as a sweeper, but rather a form of mass creature-replacement. If is the "go-tall" mass removal spell, is the "go-wide" mass removal spell.
Go Tall vs Go Wide
I'm talking all about quantity, folks. And when you speak of sheer numbers, token decks immediately come to mind. It's funny, mass removal is usually the bane of decks looking to make a ton of creatures. A singlecan undo so much work. But the multiplayer nature of EDH makes sweeper spells an essential part of nearly all decks, so how to balance the goal of crafting an army while keeping one finger on the "launch the nukes" button, just in case? Simple, just replace everything with 1/1 Flyers. A lot of them. Then it's all a matter of making your spirits scary.
effectively reads "All creatures lose all abilities and become 1/1 creatures with flying". If you can arrange it so your army of spirits is bigger or more powerful than your opponents' (which token decks are already good at), then becomes quite powerful. Drop this spell with a or out and watch your opponents squirm!
Set: Mercadian Masques
# Decks Running It: 282
Don't be surprised if quite a few Spellshapers (, , etc.) appear in this series. All of these creatures have smaller, inefficient stats for their mana, but no one's casting them to rumble. The Spellshapers are all about turning dud cards in hand into useful effects. And in the case of , ramping is one of the most useful effects in Commander!
These are literally some player's favorite cards.
can work wonders in multicolor decks, as she can fetch up a land of any basic type and puts it directly into play. Fragile, yes. Slow, sure. But incredibly useful at multiple points in the game. Early on, ensures you've all the colors needed while providing helpful ramp. Later on, her ability to pitch excess lands drawn in order to fetch up fresh basics can provide some hearty deck-thinning. Folks always say deck-thinning from Fetchlands is negliable. And yea, cause' it happens only once per fetchland cracked. recycles every unneeded land draw into another, which will have a meaningful deck-thinning impact after a few activations.
Speaking of Spellshapers...
Set: Mercadian Masques
# Decks Running It: 326
Likebefore it, offers little in the way of stats, but a very powerful built-in, and repeatable, Spellshaper ability. While a Pathfinder will likely see many activations over the course of a game, you may only need to fire off once or twice for the job to be done. A repeatible, flexibly costed source of mass destruction on a cheap body that preys on one of the most common types of permanents in the game? How has this card been overlooked for so long?
I know what you're thinking. You'll only make folks angry.
Like the aforementioned, you'll only make yourself the table's bad guy if you decide to drop early and nuke all the mana rocks. It's not technically land destruction, but still stings the same. And is sure to draw the same ire. But no worries, our oughta have plenty of other targets as the game progresses. Whether he's tearing apart an entire armory's worth of equipment ( , , , etc.), taking apart a combo engine ( , , etc.), or happily dismantling an entire deck (Looking at you, ), can cause tremendous destruction at a very low setup cost. And what's more, flexible destruction, as you're able to control at what cost and below all artifacts get destroyed. This not only offers you some political sway, but can keep your own artifacts save if fashion the blastwave below their mana cost.
also looks like Santa Clause having a nervous breakdown at the North Pole. So yea, there's that.
We'll wrap up on that festive note. Please let me know what you think in the comments and if you've any ideas for future cards you'd like to see discussed. I hope today's adventure was able to spark some ideas for creative and unique Commander applications. And inexpensive ones, at that!
See you next time on "Lore Lost to Time"
Thanks for reading!