Hello all! I hope that you are having a great day and keeping yourself safe and secure, happy and free. Today I want to consider the most overplayed cards in Commander.
I am looking at two classes of cards:
- Cards that have been overplayed against me in real life (or online)
- Cards that are overplayed according to EDHREC.com.
Here are the Top 100 Cards of all time. As you can see, it is divided into three lists - most played in the past week, the past month, and past two years. For today's list we'll be looking at the oldest data point, the past two years. I'll be referring to this list a few times. I also used it to verify that my impressions on this list from real life were backed by numbers. These really are the most overused cards!
How did that happen? In many cases these are cards that have built up a powerful reputation in other formats that doesn't mean as much in Commander. Take Sol Ring. Sol Ring is restricted in Vintage, banned in Legacy, and powerful here. If it weren't as good in EDH as it was in other formats, (and it is so no worries) then it's presence as the most-played card in the game could be questioned. Its not and I think we'll be fine.
Some cards have a big cachet in Commander and they shouldn't. They are in the wrong decks, and overused. You'll see a few popular Commander staples below that I push back against at slots like #5 below.
Ready for our list? Let's do it to it!
Honorable Mention - Sun Titan
Sun Titan is the fifth most-played card in White!
Swords to Plowshares - 57%
Path to Exile - 28%
Smothering Tithe - 28%
Enlightened Tutor - 24%
Sun Titan - 21%
It's incredibly limited - it can only recur a small number of targets, and often is just an overcosted 6/6 with nothing else save vigilance. It's not the biggest body anymore, and its trigger only works in certain builds. How it is the most common White creature in Commander?
Here's a big one for you. Get ready.
What Commander essential utility is run in fewer decks than Sun Titan?
Solemn Simulacrum, with 21%.
On a totally unrelated note, What is the third most-played card in Commander? Cultivate at 51% of decks. If it's Green.... But Kodama's Reach? Drops down to 41%. Why? What deck wants one but not the other?
#10. Swan Song
Let's play a game. What is the most played counterspell in Commander? Counterspell! What's next? Mana Drain? Force of Will? Dissipate or an exile counter? Desertion? The fun Arcane Denial? Nope! Swan freakin' Song is! How is that a thing? Who looks at the limited target range of this, and says, not only do I want to sit on this in my hand when a Negate would work better, but I also want to give my foe a 2/2 Bird to swing back at me. It's the anti-draw-go as it'll give you foe a 20-turn clock to kill you with. Not only is Swan Song the second most-played counter in Blue, but it's also the sixth most-played card. That's crazy!
But it won't be the last counter on my list.
#9. Mortify and Putrefy
Compare them to these removal cards in their colors. Easier to cast. Same converted mana cost at three. Each can target any permanent such as 'walkers, lands, and whichever artifact/enchantment your removal cannot. All they do is leave behind a nice little gift.
You also have better sorcery removal such as Maelstrom Pulse and better exiling removal like Anguished Unmaking that are both more flexible with their answers than Putrefy or Mortify. They don't even exile their target! Want to take out two artifacts or enchantments at instant speed? Crush Contraband! There are way too many Vindicates and Utter Ends for you to still be running these!
#8. Commander's Sphere
Drawing a card when you need to is fine! Commander's Sphere is an adequate take on Manalith, but's there are times when the basic Manalith is actually better, as you can only tap for your color identity rather than any color of mana. That means you cannot use the abilities of cards you copied or stole that need mana not in your color identity.
Here are mana rocks played in smaller numbers than Commander's Sphere:
Coalition Relic can net you 2 mana by storing one. Chromatic Lantern is the best three-drop mana fixer ever printed and has been printed multiple times. Mana Crypt is arguably better than Sol Ring itself. None of these should be outshone by Commander's Sphere, which needs a very specific deck to make it work. And yet...here it is. How does that make sense?
A full 10,000 decks added to the database in the last two years feel that Fact or Fiction somehow adds lesser value than Ponder. That's a lot! Almost a quarter fewer decks run Fact or Fiction than Ponder. Fact or Fiction. The greatest card drawing spell ever printed for Blue! I'm not comparing Ponder to Tidings or Concentrate or something. FOF! The card that led to the powerful term:
How is this card in fewer decks that slow ol' Ponder? Sorcery speed? Digs just three. No card advantage. This is not better than FOF or other card drawing effects and yet is played heavily. You'll never outdraw your foes with a Ponder.
#6. Aether Vial
Aether Vial is exclusively for other formats. Sure, dropping a dork at instant speed helps. Not spending any mana helps. Slipping past a counter shield helps as well. But this is too slow and too unreliable to work in Commander. It's presence in Commander is a relic of its massive power elsewhere in many a format.
Okay, Top Five Time!
#5. Reliquary Tower
There are two scenarios in which this is a good card and you are allowed to run it:
B. Deck Built Around It - A peace loving deck with your own Howling Mine effects? Mass card drawing from your leader Edric, Spymaster of Trest? If your deck has a very specific build that is expecting a big dump of cards in large numbers, then this is very useful!
And that is it. It's not worth the slot in most decks or metagames, and is often a useless colorless mana land. Non-basics that tap for colorless need to be really good to run. Dip into cards like Vesuva, Thespian's Stage, Winding Canyons, and loads more! Not this. Unless one of the two scenarios above fits you.
#4. Oko, Thief of Crowns
After Oko broke Magic recently, it also got played in massive numbers in Commander as well. The problem is that our good Oko, Thief of Crowns isn't nearly as good in a 40-life format. Food tokens are at best meh. The life from them is less important. His +1 is pretty solid but not worth the cost of entry given his heavy play. His -5 to swap a Food Token or something else with a small creature can be okay in the right situation but can often miss. He's flexible but not really something valuable in the Commander world, and he's way too overplayed here. Both of his Throne of Eldraine planeswalker buddies are better for Commander.
#3. Temple of the False God
If your deck isn't built around it, then it's a wasted card. A basic land is often better in decks that run it. The range of decks that actually need it is small. A deck with a combo that needs a land that taps for two colors of mana to combo off? A heavy untapping build that uses several ways to untap a permanent? Otherwise its requirement to need too many lands out to matter makes it horrible. If you wanted to earn its play numbers, if it tapped for one colorless mana normally with the bump at five lands to two, then it would be worth it. But as is? Nope!
#2. Force of Will
Hello, overplayed counter! Again, I think Force of Will's reputation has led to its appearance here. It's not that good here. The problem with this is not the life loss, that's meaningless in a 40-life environment. It's the loss of a card, especially a blue one. Great you've spent two cards to counter one. Whoop de doo. This isn't Vintage where you can cast an Ancestral Recall or something similar to draw up. This isn't Legacy either. You are naturally being outdrawn 1-3 in a four-player game, and you need to draw cards not spend them in a meaningless manner as this. Sure, there might be the occasional deck that swims in cards that can run it, but it's rare. This is not worth the card loss.
To be fair, I do run this in one of my Blue decks. On the other hand, common big-name counters like Mana Drain are fine. Enjoy them!
Now what's my #1 top choice?
#1. Jace, The Mind Sculptor
It's Jace, TMS! Jace doesn't suck in Commander, so it'll be fun to review him. But while he doesn't suck, he's not good enough to matter.
Jace can do four things with three loyalty. He can Brainstorm for 0 loyalty, which is his best ability, although easy to answer and expensive by three additional mana from the classic Brainstorm. By the fourth turn you want to be ding things not finding mana and spells to cast. His +2 to fateseal 1 is his worst ability, but it can help to increase his loyalty, and that's nice. He can bounce a dork, which is often the wrong call in the heavy enters-the-battlefield metagame of Commander! It's not bad though. The -12? It's not really something you'll see.
Result? He's okay! He doesn't suck. But he's not reliable, powerful, or worth running a slot in most builds. There are better card drawing planeswalkers, and better controlling planeswalkers in the format that you can run. Shoot, there are better Jaces than you can run! He's not bad, but he's not worth the play either.
The arguably best planeswalker of all time (I would argue Liliana of the Veil is best and he is second) is another example of reputation leading to more play than he deserves. And the problem is that he's doesn't suck enough not to embarrass you and you feel justified in keeping him around even though there are many better choices out there for the Commander world.
And there you are! What did you think of my list? Anything I missed or you agree with? Just let me know, and you have an awesome day!