Lore Lost to Time Part 5: Obscure & Inexpensive Commander Hidden Gems
By: Intrepid_Tautog - 30 Sep 2020
Every flea-shot alley has one: The poor soul who exists on the slimy fringes of society. Barely hanging on by cracked fingernails. The sort of fella who'd sell out his own mother to pay off a loan. Debt collectors and thumb-breakers haunt them like ghosts bedecked in cheap cologne. But by some streetwise-miracle, these grifters always manage to weasel their way outta trouble. Time and again, until the staggering interest rates begin to paint a picture that can never be paid off.
That's when the Syndicate contacts me.
Never takes long to locate the slimeball. Toss a penny to the right lowlife and they sing like aven. There's not much in the way of loyalty among this sort. Backstabbing as my guild may be, at least they have the courtesy to do it with a bit of sophistication. A knife will, no doubt, find its way into your backside. But only after a tapestry of lies and false alliances have been crafted around it. The Orzhov weave lovely webs, but they're still meant to catch flies. And I suppose that makes me the spider. The final note to the conspiracy. The hand that drops said knife.
I catch up with the lowlife in under forty-eight hours. He's at the gambling tables, trying in desperation to win back a sliver of what's owed. Looks like he's not bathed or changed clothes in weeks. The marks of a man on the run. Doesn't take long before his last cent is wasted and the bouncers escort the now-clearly-broke shell of a human being to the door. The back door. Can't have customers thinking this poor fellow's moneyless fate could be their own, after all.
I'm already waiting in the back alley when the bouncers dump him onto the pavement. Our eyes meet, and his face contorts in the classic manner I've seen countless times before. My work is quick. I see no reason to make it any crueler than it has to be. It's a brutal enough business as it is.The poor fellow barely utters the first word of what I assume to be a plea before the job is done. A silver flash in the dark. And all is quiet once more.
The next several weeks are uneventful. I collect my reward, kick back, and wait for the next bounty to come in. As I sit and enjoy a glass of afternoon wine, I double-take at the sight of a beggar passing by. Our eyes meet long enough for mine to notice his go wide. He swiftly crosses the street and vanishes into a crowd. For a moment, I could've sworn that man was the same one who'd recently met my knife. But that'd be impossible. By this point, his spirit would've been long extracted and put into Orzhov servitude, his dead flesh recycled into thrulls.
I must be seeing things. Perhaps too much wine? No one escapes Orzhov contracts. No one. Least that I know of.
Welcome back, adventurous readers, to another installment of Lore Lost to Time, where we'll dig into the archives of Magic's past and look for Commander treasure. Ironically, treasure that doesn't break the bank. With many a volume to research, the majority of which are caked in dust, the road ahead is murky. Will we find a hidden gem among all the forgotten cards, or have they been lost to time for a reason? Only way to find out is to explore!
Previously, on "Lore Lost to Time"...
For those new to this series, I'd recommend starting off with our previous entries:
So if you're feeling like an archeologist, now's the time to grab that shovel and pick-axe. We're off, once again, into the wilderness! Let see what cool relics we can dig up. Simply refer to the instruction pamphlet provided to you by my lovely assistant and we'll be on our way:
Rule #1: We're looking for overlooked and obscure cards here, so we'll only take into consideration cards that appear in fewer than 500 decks listed on AetherHub and EDHRec, appearing in <0.5% of the decks listed.
Rule #2: Magic is an expensive game. And it's looking to get even more so with the announcement of additional Secret Liars. So our hidden 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 $5 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.
Okay, logistics outta the way. Let's begin!
Let's start things out with our headliner:
Printing(s): Mirage (**Reserved List**)
# Decks Running It: 63
Oddball cards likeare some of my favorites, perfectly capturing a hidden-treasure feel while also being incredible obscure. It's the sort of card that makes people say "Wait, what does that do, again?", which is exactly what we're going for in this series. Finding the underappreciated. So what sort of strange reanimation does this enchantment offer up? Well, it sorta gives you a 'second graveyard' to pull creatures from.
's repeatable-recursion, while expensive to activate, does allow for some fun interactions with sacrifice-happy generals like , , and , all of which can recycle creatures over and over for value. Not only that, but in the case of an expensive Commander like , offers a unique work-around for Commander tax, as you can send destroyed commanders to it rather than the command zone.
In the maindeck, plenty of creatures are also available to jump in and out of the "Purgatory-zone" for value. ETB creatures like, , Abzan Executioner, and all provide repeated removal-potential. Especially potent are Evoke critters like , Revillark, , , and . All of these can be cast 'as spells', then be re-bought with , allowing for a great deal of value from repeated effects.
Unsurprisingly,also pairs well with 'death-matters' cards, fueling sacrifice outlets like , helping drain the opponents out with Syr-Konrad, the Grim, and refilling your hand with , , or .
Lastly, the effect of Purgator is perfectly thematic in that it provides another zone between the graveyard (death) and battlefield (life) allowing your killed creatures to dodge opposing graveyard hate like, , , , and . may not protect the non-creature cards that hit your graveyard, but it'll certainly give your soldiers a second (or third, or forth) chance at a new life.
Card: Reflect Damage
Printing(s): Mirage (**Reserved List**)
# Decks Running It: 121
Boros gets a lot of ire for lacking depth, especially in the realm of Commander. Most strategies consist of attacking. Followed my more attacking. Fun, but quick to grow stale. A lesser-explored area of White/Red that deserves more attention is damage-redirection.is a classic example, alongside fellow cards like , , and . All these cards are tough to see coming and can cause a series turn-around when loads of damage are flying about. And though is the most mana-intensive of the bunch, it's easily the one with the greatest potential to outright kill another player. And without even all that much effort!
For your consideration.
Most cards that redirect damage away from you and your permanents do have the potential to dish out pain, but serve a mostly protective role. Reflect Damage is different. It looks at the source dealing the damage, not what's receiving the damage, and points it right back at its controller. As such, a(the go-to Red Wrath), , or even a humble will often kill their caster outright when you reply with . It's not often that a defensive spell can do duty as a win con!
Wrath's aside,also has a huge advantage against Voltron-esque creatures. Notice the textbox doesn't say "target". Rather "a source of your choice". This means is not blocked in any way by Shroud, Hexproof, or Protection. Once a player has Hexproof on their general, they'll gladly stack loads of counters and equipments aim for the win. And you'll smile and respond by killing them with their own commander (which incidentally, is my favorite way to win).
Synergy-wise,works equally well in decks looking to boost damage as it does in defensive decks. Defensive builds like , and Zedruu, the Greathearted can use mainly as a defensive tool while they set up their master plans. Decks looking to enhance combat via tools like Gisella, Blade of Goldnight, , and Furance of Rath will super-charge their own into a real laserbeam of doom. It's unlikely said laserbeam will be seen coming, either, so have fun killing opponents out of nowhere!
Card: Coastal Wizard
Printing(s): Portal Second Age
# Decks Running It: 13
Coastal Wizard is a quirky card that offers a lot of repeatable bounce in a single package. No question, it's slow as a glacier. Coming from Portal 2, a beginner-level set where "Instant-speed" was in short supply, Coastal Wizard's drawback of only being to bounce itself and another creature during the first half of your turn is a heavy one. But if ever there were a format that allowed enough time and synergy to put this ability to good use, it'd be Commander, so let's explore!
The Wizard tribe offers numerous generals that can make the most of self-bouncing creatures.and both offer synergies with either other Wizards or themselves entering the battlefield multiple times. Plenty of other Wizards bring strong enter-the-battlefield abilities with them: Archeomancer, , Etherium-Horn Sculptor, Dual-Caster Mage, , , , or you can get mean with stuff like and .
This obviously extends well to non-Wizards too, as popular ETB-critters like, , , (people will hate you), Puppeteer-Clique, , or even (people will really hate you) all love to be bounced back to hand and replayed again and again. It may not be as fast as blinking them, but surly ole' will get the job done. I imagine with a lot of cursing and alcohol involved, but he'll still get it done. Dunno, I'm getting a 'burnt-out pirate' sorta vibe from this guy.
's activation timing makes it tricky to use defensively. Unless, that is, you're taking a political and/or proactive approach. A general like will still net you cards if you have your target an opposing threat before it can start attacking. I'd open up the negotiating table to other players and discuss what's most dangerous on-board and thus best to bounce. Sadly, no attacking creatures are getting bounced, so this is more of a "Help me help you" sort of scenario playing out during the first half of your turn. Heavily-equipped, +1/+1 counter-clad, and/or aura-laden Voltron generals better have Hexproof in the mix if Coastal Pirate is around.
Lastly, withcoming from a nigh-ancient set, and the odds of reprint fairly low, especially due to the card's beginner-rules templating. I can't imagine a reprint is on the horizon. As such, I can see the card's price only getting higher over time. If you're interested, now's probably the time to pick one up.
Card: Last Laugh
# Decks Running It: 358
As the lovechild ofand Pestilience, offers repeatable and widespread damage chain-reactions across the board. It's indiscriminate in that way, hitting everyone and everything. Stack up enough damage, and this can easily become a win-con over time, as it triggers on the death of any permanent, not just creatures. But like the previous discussed , also requires at least one body to survive the hysterics in order to stick around. So we've two goals in mind with : Playing hearty creatures that can survive, and making sure enough stuff dies regularly. Black provides plenty of options for both.
Generals like, , and are just a few on-color examples of creatures who'll both regularly survive while simultanously benefitting from multiple triggers. For Voltron-esque generals such as these, has the added bonus of clearing away most potential chump blockers, allowing your newly-grown behemoth of a commander to smash in for the win after all the laughter dies down.
Another strategy that can make full advantage ofare 'removal tribal' and 'group slug' style decks that look to benefit from blowing up the world. In these builds, the repeatable mass-removal potential of can generate some serious advantage when combined with cards like , , , and . These builds will require a bit more work to keep at least one creature alive, so something like , , or should be included. Seeing as you're already looking to destroy everything, you're probably already running some protective effects to keep your own permenants safe from the fallout.
Unsurprisingly,works wonders against token-heavy decks. The more things to kill, the happier the card is. Combining with an Indestructible is very scary, indeed. I'm also a fan of as a way to nullify an opposing commander while preventing an opponent from recasting it from the command zone, and in this case, the Indestructibility synergizes very well with , ensuring the newly-Kafka'd enemy commander shrugs off the damage! Bonus points if you got the literary reference.
Here's hoping you've enjoyed this installment of our crazy series. As always, please feel free to leave questions, comments, and/or recommendations for future cards you'd like to see covered in the comments. Hope you're able to find some hidden treasures for yourselves. Thanks for reading!
See you next time on Lore Lost to Time.
-Matt Lotti, "Intrepid Tautog"-