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The Commander Box: All That Glitters

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Go ahead. Call me a gold-digger. I have no shame in that, because this week is all about the glittering multicolored goods of Commander and which among them I have queued on deck in the Commander box.

Last week’s clarified re-polling revealed exactly what I expected: Module-based examples—grouping together cards that share a synergistic or redundant focus—won. To handle this here, I’ll be grouping together cards of similar colors that either follow the same goals of play or contribute to the plan of a specific Commander.

If you followed along when I discussed my Cube, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of redundancy. While randomness and “cool stuff” are certainly the paramount focuses for me in Commander, I also like having a little consistency in the mix. My decks should head in the same general direction, even if how I’m getting there is wildly different each time.

To that end, you’ll notice some modules that are solely for redundancy, and others that seem like catch basins for whatever falls through. Good Commander decks mix together both types, encouraging randomness and differentiation without completely losing a focus or objective. Making a Commander buffed and unblockable has the same result as firing off repeated combat steps (you aim to nail an opponent with lethal Commander damage), but the experiences feel very different. I like that.

Discussing how to play Commander is for another time. For now, let’s get started with some colorful wonders! (Note: For simplification of sorting, I’ve documented all of my cards by listing the components of their color identities in the order they appear on the Color Wheel. What this means is that cards like Lightning Angel and The Mimeoplasm are listed as White-Blue-Red and Blue-Black-Green, respectively, rather than the printed mana cost of the card.)

Black-Green

Black and Green pair together famously for graveyard-based recursion and manipulation effects. The component colors are famous for their interactions (Reanimate and Animate Dead, or Regrowth and Eternal Witness, respectively), and that theme continues here. There is also powerful and universal removal provided. Here are some cards I’m packing.

Putrefy, Maelstrom Pulse, and Pernicious DeedThese three are the classic triumvirate for killing things dead. Each can hit an assortment of targets, and they are flexible enough to fight everything from creatures and tokens to artifacts and even planeswalkers. Commanders like Kresh the Bloodbraided and Teneb, the Harvester rely on being able to kill things, and Glissa, the Traitor really enjoys the ability to kill multiple creatures simultaneously.

Spiritmonger and Vulturous ZombieA duo of dangerous sizes, these pack a punch in decks that can kill and keep killing. While some might think them passé, I’m a fan of these “old-school bruisers” at Commander tables. Commanders aiming to fill up graveyards or get into fisticuffs on the battlefield, such as The Mimeoplasm, appreciate guys like these.

NecrogenesisWhile it’s not immediately synergistic with the above cards, it is a fabulous way to get rid of the worst reanimation offenders (Primeval Titan, Kederekt Leviathan, and Sundering Titan, among many more) while providing fuel for sacrifice outlets (Carnage Altar, Goblin Bombardment, Viscera Seer, etc.). Kresh the Bloodbraided and Glissa, the Traitor love this enchantment!

Black-Red

As a pair, Black and Red aren’t the most common of bedfellows (newfound treasures like Olivia Voldaren aside). But, like every color of Magic, there are a few treats I really enjoy playing with.

Backlash, Bituminous Blast, and TerminateThese are some very powerful removal spells that serve many decks well. Terminate is a classic. Bituminous Blast nabs you something for free. Backlash is a bit special, but when you tap your first creature that domes an opponent for 20, you’ll never look back.

Sarkhan the Mad and Cauldron DanceUnlike the obviously useful pieces of removal above, these are the equivalent of utility spells. Sarkhan is a sacrifice outlet for Red Threaten effects. Cauldron Dance actually gets a creature back to cast again, in exchange for dumping something less valuable. Also, it totally messes with combat math!

Black-Red-Green

Going Jund is for the appropriate three-color Commander, which explains the choices.

Broodmate Dragon and Hellkite OverlordWhere there be Kresh, there be Dragons. Whether it’s 8 power for just 6 mana or a trampling face-eater of doom, I always smile when I cast these bad boys. Just watch out for Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund!

Hit // RunIs a wacky split card, but I find the Hit particularly effective after someone throws down a Planar Cleansing or Akroma's Vengeance. Sneaky!

Red-Green

I love Red and Green together. Separate, they have a few holes that make it hard to deal with different card types. Together, they cause all sorts of trouble.

Decimate, Hull Breach, and Artifact MutationThere are a lot of annoying things played in Commander. Artifacts and enchantments can cause all sorts of weird, awkward, and just plain rude situations. Taking care of business is always a good thing. (And copying Decimate with Riku of Two Reflections is absolutely priceless!)

Wilderness Elemental and Burning-Tree ShamanThese are standard hoser cards. Trampling devastation is easy when just about every deck runs plenty of nonbasic lands, and the Shaman keeps some silly combo decks in check by putting a finite cap (in the form of a player’s life total) on some activations. “Fair” Commanders, like Rith, the Awakener, rely on these to be restrictor plates in a world of unlimited broken decks.

Sarkhan Vol and Fires of YavimayaBeing able to generate an instant army for an attack is a powerful attribute. These cards greatly enhance multiple combat steps with Rith or copy shenanigans with Riku.

Blue-Black

Blue and Black both have powerful control suites, so it’s natural that their combination plays well at being in charge of a game.

Twisted Justice and Spinal EmbraceThese are terribly powerful removal spells that can seriously wreck another player’s plan. Justice makes Voltron Commanders (Uril, the Miststalker, Zur the Enchanter, and others) weep in sorrow. Spinal Embrace has been making wicked combat steps happen since the format first evolved. These cards find a comfortable home with Commanders like Merieke Ri Berit.

Blue-Black-Red

Someday, I’ll make a Garza Zol, Plague Queen deck. These cards will almost assuredly make it.

Slave of BolasThey made Spinal Embrace stronger. Imagine that.

Blood TyrantI love to machine-gun down players on consecutive turns. Aiming for an explosive burst to close the game is usually better than grinding everyone else down to a pulp. While this plan is more fragile, it involves imposing infinitely less soul-crushing horror upon opponents whom you probably still want to call friends after the game. Don’t be “that guy” and rain on parades; just drop back into the shotgun and call your shots.

Blue-Green

Many of the Commanders in Blue and Green are quite powerful. Partially, it’s due to Blue and Green being strong colors, but it’s also because the color pair gets very useful utility to work with.

Trygon Predator and Mystic SnakeThese two creatures pair up to fight just about any deck. Mystic Snake is a Counterspell with Grizzly Bears Kicker (that can be copied by Riku for multi-spell shutdowns). Trygon Predator eats delicious Sol Rings and Sword of Feast and Famine all day long.

Aether MutationSometimes, you need to make a few tokens. Sometimes, a few tokens is way less scary than whatever creature an opponent has in play. This is a card purely for the funsies.

Blue-Red

I have a real soft spot for Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind and the much wackier Commanders with Blue and Red in them. My picks here reflect this principle.

Spellbound DragonIt’s card-draw! It’s an angry Dragon! It’s a discard outlet! Sweet, I think!

Prophetic Bolt and Suffocating BlastIf you’re playing these colors, you should be playing these spells. Card filtering is always good, and extra countermagic that comes stapled with a bonus is definitely fine. While you’ll probably need creatures to target, there is usually no shortage of creatures to target in Commander.

Invoke the FiremindI don’t always burn faces, but when I do, I use a spell that can be used for more than burning faces.

White-Black

The classic use of White and Black as a pair is universal destruction. Commander doesn’t disappoint.

Vindicate, Mortify, and Angel of DespairWhile Mortify is less versatile, Vindicate and Angel of Despair are fantastic spells for any Commander deck. The ability to solve almost any issue, even those newfangled planeswalkers, is a welcome relief in an uncertain world. Looping reanimation effects for the Angel, however, is pretty dirty (unless you’re into that kinky sort of thing—see Unburial Rites in Innistrad).

Pyrrhic RevivalMy Commander don’t want none until you got recursion, hon!

White-Green

Because I probably overplay Rhys the Redeemed as a Commander, my section of Green and White cards is a bit overflowing. I’ll just mention the top of the chain and some token-themed goodies.

Knight of the Reliquary, Sterling Grove, Altar of Bone, and Eladamri's CallWhile the Knight and Grove have secondary purposes, they primarily serve the same purpose as the other two mentioned: tutor pieces for the bigger picture. Green and White have a surprising amount of tutors available, and they give Black a real run for its money on creating pure consistency. My Rhys deck was a well-oiled machine, and these are just a few of the lubricants that you can add to other Commanders, such as Teneb, the Harvester and Jenara, Asura of War.

Qasali Pridemage, Aura Shards, and Aura MutationAs with Red and Green above, busting up artifacts and enchantments is something decks “should” be able to do. Green and White are great colors for this anyway, but the three listed here are often worth far more than a Naturalize or Disenchant alone.

Oversoul of Dusk, Glare of Subdual, Gaddock Teeg, Mystic Enforcer, Sabertooth Nishoba, and Privileged PositionThese are, categorically, random hosers that present difficult situations for other decks. The turning off targeting, big spells, or player defenses is something I have started to move away from, but that is certainly a worthwhile consideration when the context is justified. I also like my fatties to be a bit stickier against the decks that hate on them.

Mirari's WakeThis is the original selfish mana-doubler, and, as a bonus, it pumps creatures, too. Jenara, Asura of War and Rhys the Redeemed both absolutely love this enchantment.

Miscellaneous

There are several more cards worth mentioning, but for which the actual color combinations aren’t as common in my deck selection. Here is the dumping ground for random awesome stuff.

Bound // DeterminedThis is one of those wacky cards you leverage to great effect without much fuss. Particularly useful in a heavily multicolor deck, Bound is feel-good recursion, as Commander meant is to be. Determined, however, is more sinister. Afraid your sweet thing won’t fire off? Want to quash the attempt of opponents to dismiss your spell? Determined gets you there and draws you a card to boot.

Crime // PunishmentI used to have a Doran, the Siege Tower Commander deck, but that quickly gave way to Teneb, the Harvester. Both decks loved when this ditty came up. In colors that can destroy so many things so quickly, either option works. Punishment is like a “secret” Pernicious Deed, waiting to be fired off instead of cautioning opponents against adding more to the board. Crime is simply criminal to use. Stealing a dead Mirari's Wake (to add to your own!) or another busted enchantment is often far more powerful than a simple dude. It’s awesome.

Order // ChaosThis split card is ridiculously underplayed. It’s another exile-based removal spell that can also let you simply win the game. No need for convoluted recursion, granting of Protection from colors, or suiting up with excessive Swords; just drop Chaos and kill. Simple, clean, and efficient.

Pure // SimpleThis card is also ridiculously underplayed in Commander. Pure is “the Legend-killer” through and through. Almost every Commander is multicolored, and the ones that aren’t probably rely on at least Equipment to pack a bigger punch. Simple puts a stop to that, as well, by knocking everything from Uril, the Miststalker to Kemba back down to reasonable sizes. It isn’t an instant, but it doesn’t need to be to work.

Azorius GuildmageOf all the guildmages, this one sees Commander tables the most. There are few cards that can repeatedly, and individually, stop activated abilities. This is one of them. As a bonus, it’s a repeatable tapper, too. A control deck, like Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer, always enjoys the little things this guildmage does.

Enigma SphinxDo you like playing a slot machine? What if, when you played, you always won something? Enigma Sphinx is a giant Cascade-generator and a naturally recurring flying body. It’s always a good time for gambling!

Obelisk of AlaraCromat is a catch basin of a Commander deck. Obelisk of Alara is the kitchen sink of artifacts. The similarity, created years apart, is unmistakable.

WargateEvery Bant-colored Commander loves this card. Whether it’s a harder-to-cast Sylvan Scrying, a 4-mana tutor for Sol Ring, a 5-mana tutor for Survival of the Fittest, a 6-mana tutor for a specific Sword, or a 7-mana tutor for Elspeth, Knight-Errant, I’m sure you can find something to do with this.

Lightning AngelSomeday, I will pay good money for someone (probably Eric Klug) to paint a pair of F-14 Tomcats, flying the United States flag as a banner, as the art for this card. Alternatively, a quartet of vulgar-yet-entertaining puppets shouting, “AMERICA!” in a dialogue bubble.

The Rest of the Story

Before you rail in the comments—yes, I know there are even more cards in my spreadsheet. Mentioning every single option would be even more tedious than lists of cards already are. Of course, if you think I should definitely include something, by all means, share! I don’t expect everyone to thoroughly check over my list before making a recommendation.

I’m looking forward to a flurry of posts about cards you love, and I know there will be several new additions, thanks to the experiences that players like you share. So, what are you waiting for? Jump in there and tell me more!

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