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Commander Spice: Hidden Gems for Blue Guilds

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I like to look back at some of the older cards in Magic that you may not have heard of but would want to add to your Commander decks. This time around I took a look at some multicolored cards that would fit in your Blue-aligned guild decks. Let's get right to it!

Reparations

Reparations

When looking for an Azorius card1 the first card I considered was Prismatic Boon, but I already mentioned Prismatic Boon when I talked about Hidden Gems for White Guilds, so we'll try another as this guild is deep with old school cards!

Reparations is hardly a bad second choice! For three mana you get an enchantment that gives you a card whenever target opponent successfully casts a spell that targets you or a creature you control, you get to draw a card. Blue draw spells for three mana generally get you two cards. Enchantments that draw cards usually cost some amount of mana every time you draw. This card gives you a card every time you are targeted by that player. Every time that player does a point of damage to one of your creatures, or kills them, or tries to do anything to them, you may draw a card.

When they made the card, they included "may" so if you missed the trigger, well, too bad for you. Nowadays, that just means that someone can't infinitely target your creature and deck you!

I understand that this isn't the best card draw spell, and it is in the color with the best card draw spells. The better way to look at Reparations is not as a way to draw cards, but as a targeting deterrent. Is the Red mage really going to target you for a couple of points of damage if it means you get to draw a card? Is anyone going to kill off a soldier token if you are going to draw a card? When miscellaneous damage that always seems to circle the board comes towards you, will they really do it if it means you get to draw a card?

Reparations also works when you have a friend in the game. Your friend could target your creature to let you draw a card. I wouldn't build my deck around this option since it requires your opponent to cast a spell (targeting with a creature ability doesn't let you draw a card here), but it does offer flexibility to the card.

This is a card that has made sense in a Zur the Enchanter deck for a long time. I also like it with other commanders that are likely to be targeted. Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker becomes a beast as the game goes on. Grand Arbiter Augustin IV is generally miserable and usually targeted as soon as possible. Personally, I want to try it out with Alela, Artful Provocateur. You will be creating 1/1 Faeries and Reparations make it just a little more painful to deal with all of them!

Oh, and speaking of flexibility? Check out the official text of the card. It isn't a target opponent, it is an opponent, and the spell doesn't need to be successfully cast. This means that you don't have to pick one person when you cast Reparations. It works against everyone at the table.

Wood Sage

Wood Sage

Wood Sage is another card that doesn't tend to get a lot of respect because players are reading it backward. When you tap Wood Sage, you name a creature card, then you get to put that creature card in your hand if it is in the top 4 cards. Now, with a deck that is running Blue, it isn't asking a whole lot to know what the top card in your library is. Hell, even Green has plenty of ways to reveal the top card of your library. Considering how easy it is, getting that extra card draw is easy, even when looking at a card that is clearly designed with the four copies of a card in your deck rule in mind.

The key to making Wood Sage a powerhouse for your deck is that last line of text: Put the rest into your graveyard. This card isn't here for you to make silly wild stabs and guessing. This card isn't here to add card draw with a ton of requirements when you are already playing Green and Blue. This card offers to put four cards in your graveyard every turn. Green runs a ton of graveyard recursion and the Wood Sage gives you a ton of options. Card draw in your deck is great, but when you can fill your graveyard, then tutor out of it exactly what you need, Wood Sage is just the cheap enabler you want.

So where does this go? Momir Vig, Simic Visionary would love the card, as you would always know the top card of your library. Wood Sage works well to help fill the graveyard for Muldrotha, the Gravetide. Sidisi, Brood Tyrant loves watching Wood Sage throw creature cards from your graveyard to your library. Really, any card that looks at the graveyard is likely going to love Wood Sage!

Razorfin Hunter Guiding Spirit

Guiding Spirit

So I like to try and give you a card from every guild, but the Izzet Guild just doesn't get the love in older cards beyond the ones that everyone knows. Prophetic Bolt is an older card, but it is hardly a "hidden" gem at this point. When Josh Lee Kwai plays it on Game Knights, the hidden part is long gone.

I looked and found Razorfin Hunter. The Hunter isn't bad, but in the end it is a two mana Tim2. I don't want to suggest that Tim cards are lousy, but they aren't all that spectacular. I love the way they can really mess with combat. You can make friends (and enemies) just by messing in combat that doesn't even involve you! And when you don't see a pressing reason to use it, you can just tap it before your turn starts to take out a 1 toughness creature or do a single point of damage to an opponent.

But I want to bring you cards that can genuinely make a difference in your decks, and Razorfin Hunter just isn't that. So instead I'm circling back to the Azorius Guild and showing off Guiding Spirit!

I am a huge fan of any card that can mess with an opponent's graveyard. Virtually every Commander player runs some way to abuse their graveyard. Most of the time we are dealing with at least one person who is messing with their graveyard on a Muldrotha level. Guiding Spirit helps with that. Most times the player doesn't want that creature card in their library because they are getting it for free out of their graveyard. Forcing them to draw it means they now have to discard it to get it to their graveyard, or actually pay to play it.

When Guiding Spirit was first created, most creatures didn't have enter the battlefield abilities, so putting the creature on top of their library often meant they were getting a dead draw. They were paying for a creature rather than a spell that could really help. This is less so now, when any creature you target from a graveyard likely has some enter the battlefield trigger you aren't thrilled about. However, making them pay for it again is better than letting them get it for free.

There is also the flip side of Guiding Spirit, which is the help. If an "opponent" loses the one creature that was getting through a powerful player's defenses, you can get it back in their hand and help get it back out there as quickly as possible.

The target player in this scenario can also be you! White and Blue tend to have less recursion than other colors, so saving a recently lost creature makes sense. Whether this is something as value driven as bringing a Solemn Simulacrum or your commander back to your hand (avoiding the commander tax), or something as wow driven as bringing Akroma, Angel of Wrath back to hastily crash into an unsuspecting opponent, Guiding Spirit does work.

The especially nice thing about Guiding Spirit is that once people see what it does, they are suddenly nervous about it to a level that goes beyond its worth. If they think you are just going to bring the creature back, they often won't waste the kill spell on the creature. This works for you since you are paying to get it back.

Guiding Spirit works well in most Azorius creature based decks, but will be plenty useful even if you never use it on your own graveyard. If you are looking for a little extra, try it with Daxos of Meletis. Daxos exiles the top card of an opponent's library. You can take the creature off the top of their graveyard and put it on top of their library. This will give you the option of either casting it or preventing them from ever casting it again!

Vile Consumption

Vile Consumption

I saved Dimir for last, just for this card. While it reminds me of Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, it is nowhere near as nasty and won't even cost you a dollar.

Paying one life for a creature every upkeep is annoying early on in Commander, but players will generally pay it for their better creatures. Often in the early game, players will even be happy to have an excuse to sacrifice their creatures to get the full benefit. I'm thinking of the Sakura-Tribe Elders and Solemn Simulacrums of the Magic world.

As the game moves on though, this becomes a misery or a tax that is just impossible to pay. Token armies become just too hard on a life total to keep. Players who have been hit hard early and have a life total under 20 are left to question if it makes sense to save even their biggest creatures.

I like to look at Vile Consumption and ask if I would pay three mana for a card that is going to cost me five or six life and my opponents 24 or more life.

The alternative benefit of the card is the number of creatures that end up in graveyards. You are playing Dimir and are likely getting a benefit to seeing all these creatures in graveyards. I'm willing to pay to keep Lazav, Dimir Mastermind on the battlefield each turn. Are opponents willing to pay to prevent him from becoming a hexproof copy of their creatures? Mimic Vat also loves Vile Consumption for the same reason. And not surprisingly, Vile Consumption goes especially well with Propaganda and other cards that make it taxing to swing at you.

Vile Consumption, much like Guiding Spirit, is a great deterrent as well. It is amazing how averse players are to paying a single life for a creature that will be worth it in the long run. So many players will sit with cards in hand, as they look for a way to destroy the Vile Consumption.

Vile Consumption works with plenty of commanders. Oloro, Ageless Ascetic offers you two life per turn to offset some of the cost to your own creatures. Nicol Bolas, the Ravager becomes Nicol Bolas, the Arisen who can steal creatures out of opponents' graveyards. My personal favorite is Sygg, River Cutthroat. If an opponent chooses to save three of their creatures, Sygg draws you a card! I can see this happening over and over again.

I hope you enjoyed our walk through some of the hidden gems from the early days! There are plenty of wild cards for your Blue guild decks to abuse from early Magic!

Bruce Richard

@manaburned


1 Do any of my friends in Commonwealth countries ever want to spell this "Azorious?" Every single time. It just feels so much better, and honestly, would someone from this blue/white guild spell it Azorious as well? Glorious Azorious! A guild based in law should be using be using spellings from an ancient tome to preserve precedent!

2 "Tim" is a term used by old-school players to describe a creature that taps to do one point of damage to a target. The original "Tim" was Prodigal Sorcerer. The original art for Prodigal Sorcerer has a resemblance to an enchanter played by John Cleese in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The line in the film was, "there are some who call me... Tim."

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