Have you run into a card at your table that’s just overused? Despite the tendency for Commander players and decks to push into a lot of cards, there are
still a lot of cards that are notching way too much play. These overused cards can cause a problem at the kitchen table.
What makes a card overused?
Obviously some of these things will be based on your individual metagame. There may be some cards that you play a lot at your own kitchen table. If your
playgroup eschews countermagic, then you’ll be considerably less likely to find a card like Desertion and Spelljack overused.
On the other hand, if your playgroup is a little heavy on the Spike side, then you may be running cards like Serra Ascendant quite a bit. You may have
decks that are very fast, vicious, and powerful. You can knock someone out with a great deal of alacrity. The cards that are overused for you are going to
be very different than for others.
Let’s take that Spike concept a little further. For example, many casual playgroups abstain from things like Armageddon. Mass land removal is downright
verboten in these circles. You can even see mass removal that hits others worse than yourself like Ruination in a mono-red deck or Global Ruin in a five-
color one. Again, folks with very heavy, hard hitting decks can play a different variety of cards that aren’t common at other tables. And this is okay!
There is often a question about utility cards versus other sorts of cards. Cards like Swords to Plowshares or Sol Ring feel less “overused” to me because
they are simple utility. Compare Sol Ring to Staff of Nin and Lightning Greaves or Vindicate and Utter End to Tooth and Nail and Living Death. There’s a
big difference between Cultivate and Primeval Titan (long since banned).
So what I want to do today is to pore into cards that I find overused with my own playgroups and online, and which I think could benefit with a bit of a
benching for a while. When I have great deck concepts for them, I’ll run these cards too, but only when they fit the deck. When we are running every one of
Commander’s Greatest Hits all of the time things can get a little overly predictable and boring. And in a casual multiplayer format with 100 cards and no
duplicates, then that’s clearly not what Commander is for.
Below we have a dozen-ish cards I still see too frequently. None of them are simple utility spells or cards. Let’s take a look at them!
The Rite is a great card for Commander since it fits into a lot of roles. You can use it on a utility creature, like Solemn Simulacrum, to get some value,
and making another copy of a beater is a great way to add a nice board presence to your team. Then you can kick it out later, and when you do, you can
often seriously blow out some games. The problem is that Rite gets played so often because of how backbreaking the kicker is. It’s like running one of
those mega-expensive mythic sorceries that change the direction of the game completely (Like Clone Legion or Primal Surge). You get that sort of value from
the kicker, but you can often play it early or midgame for strong value too. The result is a card that is too heavily played for my tastes.
Mimic Vat is a perfectly acceptable card for what it does. When something dies, you can imprint it, and then start making tokens that copy your imprinted
dead creature. But it gets really gross really quickly. For example, imagine that you merely copy something like Mulldrifter or Flametongue Kavu. Normally
these are just simple little bodies with useful triggers for when they arrive at the battlefield. Now your Vat puts into play a haste-y Kavu or ‘Drifter,
and then you get the trigger, and it dies at the end of the turn, so you can grab these results over and over again. Because the creatures you see in
Commander are so diverse, you usually see a strong choice for the current board position, and soon enough, you are churning out beaters that win. Remember
that the Vat is both colorless and perfectly flexible without losing its power level, the Mimic Vat tends to see so much play that frankly, I get tired of
it, even in decks where it works with the theme. In a similar way…
I like Deadeye Navigator for general Magic because you can flicker stuff out to keep it alive or turn a chump block into an ongoing presence. But in any
sort of deck with even a minor blinking theme, the Navigator can get downright nasty very quickly, in a very similar way to the Mimic Vat above. It also
breaks open any deck that has a Commander with an enters-the-battlefield trigger built in (ETB) such as Derevi, Empyrial Tactician or Prime Speaker Zegana.
Because of how nasty it can be in massive numbers of decks, the Navigator is a clear violator of my personal “Overused” policy and needs to get a yellow
I like Mind’s Eye because it scales so well to the number of people you are playing against. But simply tapping one mana to copy their draws is downright
obscene. There are tons of other options that I prefer, like Staff of Nin, that don’t draw so much hate and ire. But because it is both colorless and a
tremendous source of card advantage, the Mind’s Eye is in too many decks. When I see a colorless source of card drawing that is in blue decks,
which are supposed to be the color that is best on raw card drawing, then I know that’s its overplayed.
Avacyn is an eight-drop of love and power. You get an 8/8 flyer with vigilance who gives everything indestructible. I have called her the best creature in Magic for multiplayer – so
obviously I think highly of her, and she is one of the best examples of power creep in Magic. She gets tossed into anything simply because of it, and that
begins to feel a little awkward. Not every blue deck wants Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir and not every white deck wants Avacyn. Sure, if you are rocking mass
removal or need a top end defense against mass removal because of how much you committed to a creature-based theme, but otherwise, there are better and
more on-theme things to run. But because she’s everywhere, even when she shouldn’t be, now I have to run junk like Reality Shift to deal with it. And
that’s an unfortunate warping of the multiplayer metagame that she causes single-handedly. I prefer to run indestructible tricks like Boros Charm, Rootborn
Defenses, or Soul of New Phyrexia to Avacyn for those reasons.
I like to win games. I like to win games out of nowhere. Usually, Insurrection plays like Biorhythm. It requires a minimum amount of boardstate to win, but
that’s really easy to get and very common. Biorhythm is banned in formats like our dear Commander, so why is Insurrection allowed to wreak havoc? I totally
agree with Daryl Bockett on this one. This card is
one that is heavily overplayed. (By the way, while I clearly agree with Daryl on Avacyn and Insurrection, I have no problems with the Primordial cycle and
certainly not with Rogue’s Passage and such.)
I don’t have any issues with Consecrated Sphinx’s power level. It can draw you an epic level of cards from a creature-based source and do so without
unsightly lines and wrinkles, like mana payments or tapping. You can swing or hold back as needed, play your cards, and everything else all while netting
that sweet sweet card loving. But I think we are all getting a little tired of seeing it as a collective Commander body. Sure, it’s a creature that can be
easily handled by so many cards that to list them here would take an article all by itself. But that doesn’t stop it from being played and doing its thang.
Folks, I’m just going to enter a little bit of a rant here for a moment. I’m sorry.
Hello back there! Yes you. The mono-black player! How are you doing today? Excellent! Did you know that there are mono-black decks that aren’t
mana-hungry gas-guzzlers? How about you, Mr. Blue-Black player? Did you know that you only have like eight Swamps in this deck anyway?
I honestly don’t know what collective Cubans you have all been smoking, but I find Cabal Coffers in the oddest places. Someone asks me to look through
their mono-black aggro deck and there it is. Here it’s in a Rakdos concoction. Folks, in order to really run Coffers you need three things:
1). You need enough Swamps in your deck to have it make mana.
2). You need something to actually do with that mana.
3). It needs to be worth committing to the cause.
There are a lot of similar adjuncts like Nirkana Revenant and Crypt Ghast. They all suffer from the same issue. Players who think Coffers are so cool that
they are wasting cards or space on them, trying to live the dream. It’s time to move on.
Back before the legends rule was swapped to make it even easier to play, I got why running an Urborg in a non-black deck was a way to destroy the Urborg
someone else was running – although, to be fair, running a Strip Mine just makes more sense there. But even after, I am still running into way too many
decks that aren’t black that are dropping this. Unless you have a swampwalk theme with cards like Anaconda or Zodiac Ox, I’m not sure what you are doing.
I have to admit, this is one I’m guilty of. I toss in Maze of Ith into any deck that I can. I don’t even own a spare copy. All are in some deck or project
(like my Commander Cube). And sometimes it makes sense. If your Commander project involves a weakness to attacks, or if you have few flyers in your green
deck, or if your table is heavy on tricks like shadow or horsemanship, then this makes total sense. Maze of Ith just works, right? But there are lots of
decks that get a Maze of Ith tossed into them for no reason as well. In fact, one could make an argument that pretty much any normal deck is better with
Maze of Ith, and that means you have to deal with an overplayed card.
So let’s talk about the Praetor cycle from New Phyrexia. Some entries in this cycle are perfectly fine by my take (Urabrask the Hidden). You
normally can give red haste, that’s nothing new, and having opposing creatures come into play tapped is only a little irritating; it doesn’t slow people
down massively or anything like that. Of the cycle, it’s the most honest. I also think Sheoldred, Whispering One is perfectly fine for its casting cost –
returning a creature every one of your upkeeps is good but not too much, and forcing others to Diabolic Edict every now and then also fits. I don’t have
any major issues with it at Commander night.
Of the remaining three, Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger begins to get a little dodgy since you are messing with people’s mana. People don’t like that. But by
the time you drop it, hopefully people are prepared for getting some of their mana and lands disrupted. On the other hand, if you ramp it out on turn 3
with something like Natural Order, I may be inclined to begin the punching.
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite is the next level of annoying. The +4/+4 swing you get from your own and their troops is huge, and it’s permanent until the
Cenobite is slain. It’s highly irritating and seen quite frequently as well. It’s a real problem at the kitchen table because white really doesn’t normally
shrink foes, a la Holy Light. That’s more like Massacre and black. And of course, friends don’t let friends play Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur.
So, of the list, Jin is just too rough, and I’ve seen way too many Elesh Norn and Vorinclex recently as well, but your mileage may vary.
There are a lot of great planeswalkers that see a lot of play. I probably run Liliana Vess more than any other planeswalker in my decks. Planeswalkers are
a great addition to decks in multiplayer and Commander because they always have the potential for a long game. Some planeswalkers play almost like a
utility card (Garruk Wildspeaker or Jace, Memory Adept). Since most ‘walkers are limited by color and mechanic, they see a suitable amount of play. But
Karn is different. You can run him in any deck, and you can use him to blow out stuff that colors could not normally handle. He adds in a bit of discard
for white, some enchantment/artifact removal for black and red, and so forth. Because of how powerful he can be, Karn is hugely overplayed right now,
getting dropped all over the game.
And there’s our twelve-ish overused cards!
What’s great is that sometimes cards change. Skullclamp used to get played way too much, but that has largely died down. Now only decks that really benefit
from it (tokens, aggro, and sacrifice themes) are those that truly run it. Darksteel Colossus has been largely benched. While I still run into Bribery a
lot, I haven’t seen an Acquire in ages. Umezawa’s Jitte has been largely absent from games as well. So we have a newer slate of awesome cards dialing it
out here and there, and that helps!
And isn’t it weird that this article doesn’t lead off or need to mention Kokusho, the Evening Star? Man, times have changed!
So why not give some of these cards a break for a while? What are the most overplayed card at your kitchen table or Magic night? What are you sick of