The other day on Twitter, someone responded to one of my Tweets by saying something along the lines of: “I didn’t even know about this card. There are just too many cards released these days to keep up.” As a Commander content creator, it’s my job to pore over each release with Commander in mind, and even I miss cards sometimes. But I do my best to alert my Twitter followers to hidden gems and cards they may have overlooked, and twice a year, I’m committed to writing this article to shed some light on the cards that I think aren’t being played as much as they should be.
I scanned through all the new cards released this year so far and drew up a list, and then checked them on EDHREC to see how many potential decks each one is showing up in. The ones that show up in 1% or fewer of decks make my list.
One thing I did notice while scanning through all the cards: while Wizards of the Coast (WotC) is truly releasing a firehose of new cards these days, many of them are very, very niche cards. Even if they miss your radar initially, if you end up searching for cards that fit a particular strategy or creature type, these cards will pop up in your deck database query. These cards didn’t make my list, since my goal here is to highlight cards that you may have missed and might want to put in your decks!
So, let’s dig in!
Before I get to the list, I did want to give a shout-out to Shire Terrace. I’ve long been a fan of the five Panorama cards, such as Bant Panorama, in Commander, and until the Triomes, such as Indatha Triome and Ziatora’s Proving Ground, came out, I long insisted that expensive fetchlands like Misty Rainforest weren’t necessary for having a great manabase and actually preferred running Panoramas instead. They enter the battlefield untapped, supply mana right away, and can cash out later if you need to fix your colors or, more importantly, shuffle your library.
Fetchlands won’t provide you with any mana without activating them and searching up a land, and sometimes you won’t want to shuffle your library until later, for instance, if you know what’s on top of your deck from something like Sylvan Library or Scroll Rack, or perhaps you’ve been scrying with some of the new cards from the Elven Council Tales of Middle-earth Commander deck.
While I’ve been waiting patiently for new Panoramas that will let you search up basic lands for wedge color combinations, such as Forest, Plains, or Swamp, Shire Terrace is here to give us another option. If your build values shuffling your deck when you want, rather than being forced to in order to get the mana, consider running the Panoramas, including the newest one, Shire Terrace!
Okay, the following cards show up in only 1% of decks they could show up in:
If you’ve got three sizeable creatures on the battlefield and need a way to punch through chump blockers, Conclave Sledge-Captain is the Elephant Soldier for the job. What’s even better is that creatures you backup can potentially grow even bigger. This is easily splashable for just one green mana, and scalable in that you can spread around the backup or just make the Captain a 7/7 trample creature on an empty battlefield. As a creature, it can do tricks with blink effects, and if they’re at instant speed, you can even backup an opponent’s creatures that are attacking another opponent. There are a ton of ways to bring creatures back from the graveyard to squeeze even more value, so give this card a second look.
Glimmer Lens is a card that I overlooked too, and after I ran across it while researching this article, I put in an order for a few copies. I feel like this is a no-brainer for any sort of Equipment-matters deck, but also a nice draw engine for any deck that wants to attack early and often, especially with evasive creatures. I could also see slotting this into an artifacts-matter deck that might be a bit light on card draw.
Modal cards like Tranquil Frillback are amazing, and each mode will be exactly what you need sometimes. They even listed the choices in order of most used. Most of the time, you’ll want to destroy an artifact or enchantment; occasionally, you’ll want to exile a graveyard; and rarely, you’ll really need that lifegain. And late-game, you can dump extra mana into potentially using all three. It’s nice the ability triggers by entering the battlefield rather than kicker, so if you blink Frillback or bring it back directly from the graveyard, you can spend extra green mana on the abilities again.
Horn of the Mark
Like Glimmer Lens, Horn of the Mark encourages creature decks that want to attack. And while it doesn’t provide raw card draw, it will usually “draw” the best creature lurking in the top five cards of your library. I really like that this ability isn’t tied to a particular creature type, so it can be played in a bunch of different decks. At just two mana, you can cast this, attack with two or more creatures, and then still have mana up to potentially cast the creature you found with it.
This isn’t the first backup creature on this list, and it won’t be the last! Sun Titan has long been a Commander staple, and while cards added to the format over the years have made Sun Titan “too slow” for more optimized decks, consider Guardian Scalelord a slightly cheaper and more flexible version. Backup on another creature can potentially give it evasion to fly over blockers, immediately bring back a nonland card when it attacks, and then still have a flyer with that ability waiting to start attacking next turn. For just one white mana, it’s easily splashable, and you can easily increase its power with Equipment or Auras to make its attack trigger even better than Sun Titan.
The following cards show up in 0% of decks they could show up in:
Surrak and Goreclaw
If you’re playing a green creature deck that isn’t playing red, haste is hard to come by. When I was building my Bilbo, Birthday Celebrant deck, I was looking for a way to ensure that, if I were to use Bilbo’s activated ability on my turn, I could turn it into a win right away. Sure, Craterhoof Behemoth is the traditional way to end games for green, but I could see situations where I didn’t have all that many creatures on the battlefield when I activate Bilbo (especially since Bilbo himself exiles for the effect), so Craterhoof might only be good enough to kill one or two opponents.
Then I stumbled across Surrak and Goreclaw, which allows all the creature cards that enter the battlefield to have haste and get a little bit bigger. It also gives all your other creatures trample, so if you’ve got a few large creatures that are being stymied by chump blockers, Surrak and Goreclaw can hit the battlefield and let you punch through.
With all the abilities printed on Drifter, it’s easy to overlook that a 2/4 flyer for three mana is a solid rate all on its own! While I tend not to like the control side of blue, I do really like blue creatures that do cool things. Being able to look at the top of your library at any time is remarkably useful, letting you know when you may want to scry or shuffle your library (see my Honorable Mention above). I like that the turn you cast Vesuvan Drifter, if there’s a big creature on top of your library, you don’t need to reveal it right away (unless it’s a creature with haste), and can instead reveal it at the beginning of combat when an opponent may want to attack you. And I love that, whatever it copies, Vesuvan Drifter will still keep its flying ability.
Boromir, Warden of the Tower
I wrote an article that picked the Top 10 cards from The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth, and I picked Boromir, Warden of the Tower as number one. In the month since I wrote this, I’ve only become even more impressed with Boromir. If you want to read the reasons, feel free to check it out here:
So why in the world is Boromir showing up in zero percent of decks? My mind is blown. I have zero clue. But in the meantime, I’m shoving this in a bunch of my decks, and I think you should be too!
If you’re playing a red or black deck that struggles to destroy problematic enchantments or artifacts, or a green deck struggling to destroy problematic creatures, consider Argentum Masticore. A 5/5 with first strike and protection from multicolored is a solid rate for five mana, and if it survives to your turn, you basically get to turn any card in hand into a removal spell that doesn’t cost any mana. If you’re playing a Reanimator or other graveyard strategy, the discard cost becomes a bonus.
Inga and Esika
If you like creature decks, Inga and Esika helps your deck do everything you want to do, and I’d recommend putting this in the 99 of any deck it fits into. Giving all of your creatures vigilance is a huge boon for a deck outside of white, and if you’re playing creatures with flash, you can use your other mana sources on your turn to cast noncreature spells and hold up your creatures to cast your creature spells and occasionally draw an extra card. This card reads as small-ball Commander, but I think it plays surprisingly strong in creature-heavy decks.
Kogla and Yidaro
I have the advantage of being a fan of both Kogla, the Titan Ape and Yidaro, Wandering Monster, so when Kogla and Yidaro came out, I was immediately at attention. Even though Kogla and Yidaro is a legendary creature, you can only unlock its full potential in the 99 of a deck, and it’s definitely worth a slot. Again, its flexibility is key—if you draw it early, you can cycle it away to destroy an artifact or enchantment, shuffle it back into your library, and replace it with a freshly drawn card. Once you have six mana, you can just cast it as a hasty, trampling beater or use it as a removal spell, leaving behind a 7/7 monster to defend you.
Doomskar Warrior is yet another backup creature to make my list, and I find it way too good to see so little play. Its ability to draw the best card out of the top X cards of your library when it deals X damage to an opponent is something I’d consider playing all by itself, but the fact that you can use backup to give that ability to another creature right away just seals the deal. While green has no shortage of solid card draw, it’s useful to have it attached to a creature that encourages attacking and pushing damage through.
It’s easy to overlook just how good this uncommon is, but I am constantly impressed by Barrow-Blade week after week. The ability to turn off abilities from any creature that blocks or is blocked by equipped creature is much better than you think, and since it only costs one mana to cast and one mana to equip, you can easily use it to push past problematic blockers and have it ready to block problematic attackers. Just think about trying to attack a player with a creature that’s indestructible and/or hexproof; the Barrow-Blade wielder doesn’t care! What about a creature with first strike and deathtouch, like Glissa, the Traitor or Thalia and The Gitrog Monster? The Barrow-Blade wielder doesn’t care! Someone attacking you with a gigantic monster with trample? The Barrow-Blade wielder doesn’t care!
Pippin, Guard of the Citadel
Pippin, Guard of the Citadel is another utility creature that I love running in the 99 of a creature deck. If you’re considering running Giver of Runes and Mother of Runes and you have access to blue, I’d recommend also considering Pippin! A 2/2 with vigilance, ward 1, and that activated ability is an incredible rate for just two mana, and I’m shocked that it’s not seeing play in more decks.
What brand new cards from 2023 (so far) do you think are underplayed in Commander?
Talk to Me
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And lastly, I just want to say: let us love each other and stay healthy and happy.
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