The Commander’s Chair #1 – Searching for Treasure

For those who don’t know me, which is probably most of you, my name is Sean.  I have been playing Magic since Shadowmoor.  My biggest tournament accomplishment has been getting 2nd in the Kansas regionals in 2009.  Since then, I have moved back to my home state of California and I haven’t played in any tournaments larger than PTQs or GPTs.  Once I started playing the commander format, I became hooked.  I am now a casual player. I spend most of my time playing the Commander format, either online or in person.

Commander is my favorite format because of the creativity involved.  In a standard 60 card deck, you would play 20—24 lands and 36-40 non-lands.  Most of the cards you play are in playsets.  Most of the time, you are only playing 9-10 different playsets of non-land cards in your deck.  In a commander deck you play 35-40 lands and 60-65 non-lands.  With the singleton nature of the format, that means 60-65 separate non-land cards that you get to choose when deck building.  The inconsistent nature of the format makes it rare to play 2 commander games that are exactly alike and even more rare to find 2 decks that have been built identically.

There is a downside to this variety.  With so many different cards in your deck, you can’t rely on drawing anything but your general.  It could be 5 or 6 games before you ever see a new card that you throw into your deck. Today, I am going to go over what many players do to get around this problem, tutor.  Each color has its own specialty when it comes to searching for cards.  Today I will review some of the better tutors out there, for each color.

White

White is good at searching up equipment and auras.  The other cards that white can search up are rebels, but those aren’t generally good enough to take the time to discuss.  Here are some of my favorite white tutors.

Academy Rector This is one of my favorite creatures when it comes to searching.  I have seen it search up everything from Armored Ascension to Moat.  In a particularly spectacular move, I saw someone block Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre then tutor up Humility to kill Ulamog.  This card is better, in my opinion, than Lost Auramancers. The Auramancers will sacrifice themselves, but it is very easy to shut them down.

Auratouched Mage – This guy is amazing since they printed Eldrazi Conscription.  Basically consider him a 13/13 trample, annihilator 2 for 5W.  Even foil versions of this go for less than 50 cents, so it’s worth trying out.

Enlightened Tutor – This card doesn’t require too much explanation.  You give up a draw to get the tutor effect, so it’s best saved for later in the game.  Searching up a mana accelerating artifact is generally not the best use for this card.

Idyllic Tutor – This has a cheap casting cost, it brings an enchantment right into your hand, and it isn’t limited by only getting an aura.  I suppose if it was an instant it would be better, but I am using a lot of mana outside my main phase playing white.

Stoneforge Mystic, Steelshaper’s Gift, Steelshaper Apprentice, Stonehewer Giant, and Taj-Nar Swordsmith – I am going to combine these four, because they all search up the same targets.  If you are running heavy on equipment, these cards are your all-stars.   Stonehewer Giant is my favorite of the group, he not only continually searches your deck for artifacts like Steelshaper, and he cheats them in like Stoneforge and Swordsmith.  As an added benefit, he also equips.  There is not much more you can ask for.

Three Dreams – This card is another sleeper.  How many cards in Commander can you think of that put three cards of your choice into your hand without a downside?  Remember to check errata on enchantment cards.  Enchant lands and enchant creatures are almost always auras, even if it doesn’t say it on the card.

Blue

Blue’s tutors specialize in getting you artifacts and getting you spells.  As a consequence, blue Commander decks are rarely based around creatures.  Blue decks are usually mono-brown or centered on control magic effects and card draw.  The best tutors will help you follow these plans.

Fabricate – Put any artifact into your hand.  This is blue’s Idyllic Tutor.  This is both efficient and useful.  The only downside is that it isn’t sorcery.

Intuition – This card is both undeniably powerful and undeniably complicated.  If you run this card in your deck, make sure you are running either redundancy or recursion.  You want the three cards you choose to put an opponent in a no-win situation.  As a courtesy to other players, please decide on what you are going to search up before you cast the spell.  Most players hate when you take 5 minutes casting a spell then force them to make a decision.

Acquire, Bribery, and Knowledge Exploitation – Sometimes your friends have better cards than you.  Don’t be embarrassed, it happens to all of us.  All you can do is calm down, breath and then steal their stuff.  Common side effects include: giddiness, board control, and loss of friends.

Long-Term Plans – Combined with Sensei’s Divining Top this is an expensive Vampiric Tutor.  Being able to search for any card is good, especially when you aren’t playing black.

Noble Benefactor This is blues version of Academy Rector.  You give every other player a card, but you are the one playing blue.  Be confident that your card choice will be better that theirs.

Seahunter – I have to toss a few out there that are not obvious.  Seahunter allows you to search your deck for merfolk and put them directly into play.  Magic has printed 133 merfolk cards, not counting changelings.  If you combine this card with Conspiracy you put a card like Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre into play for 3 mana.

Black

Black is the best when it comes to searching for cards.  Its tutor mechanisms have little too no restrictions.  Sometime they cost life, but with the increased life totals in Commander, that cost is reduced as a percentage.  I am going to try and skip the cards that are universally accepted as good for this section.

Bringer of the Black Dawn – What is better than searching your library once? Try searching your deck every turn.  Combine this card with Beacon of Tomorrows to take as many turns as your life will allow.  If you have any out that gains you life, this combo will win you the game.

Demonic Collusion – If you have some good recursion in your deck, and you should since you are playing black, this card is great.  You can pitch cards for Reanimate targets to pay the buy back for this tutor.

Diabolic IntentDemonic Tutor by any other name is Diabolic Intent.  The extra cost of sacrificing a creature is more than worth having a second copy of the best tutor in the game in your deck.

Insidious Dreams – I had not heard of this card, until I saw one of my friends play it against me a couple month ago.  He followed it up with a Skeletal Scrying to put all the cards into his hand.

Liliana Vess – The queen of mean herself.  She can tutor multiple times, disrupt an opponent’s hand, and her ultimate can just win games. One of the Tezzeret’s would have made the list if they had the same lack of restrictions in their tutoring.

Night Dealings – If you haven’t figured it out, I like tutors that allow you to search multiple times.  This enchantment rewards you for smacking down your opponents with allowing you to search your library.

Red

Red is really good at searching for . . . .um, wait, let me think.  That’s right, red isn’t good at searching for cards.  Red does have a few cards that can tutor up tribal based cards.  But, as a whole it is the color that depends the least on searching.  Maybe I should have put these before black, so they wouldn’t seem so bad.

Gamble – This card can tutor up anything.  Sure there is a chance you will be forced to discard it, so make sure you grab something with flashback.  Alternatively you can play Library of Leng and make sure that the card doesn’t go to the graveyard.

Goblin Matron – Without taking into account Conspiracy or changelings, this card has 262 possible targets.  A three cost tutor, with that many targets is very useful.  This card became better when they printed goblin tribal cards that were not creatures.

Godo, Bandit Warlord – This guy is a shining star as red legends go, and he hasn’t been given the attention he deserves.  He tutors up a piece of equipment and puts it into play.  He swings twice a turn, and he can be used as a general.

Moggcatcher Everything I said about Seahunter applies here.  He ends up being even better, since his ability is off color.

Zirilan of the Claw – This is another version of Seahunter, with a twist.  It lets you Sneak Attack with dragons that are in your library.  This card is much better if you have a sacrifice outlet to keep your creature from being removed from the game at the end of turn.

Green

Green is good at searching up creatures and lands.  In my opinion, Green has some of the most powerful tutors in Commander.  We can ignore Worldly Tutor and Sylvan Tutor, even though they are good, because of the massive power level of your other options.

Defense of the Heart – This card can be bad, if you play against people who don’t play any creatures.  Seriously, as soon as an opponent plays 3 creatures put any 2 creatures into play? Yes, I think I will.

Fauna Shaman / Survival of the Fittest – These two cards, particularly Survival, arguably contain the best search mechanic for commander.  I do not remember a game of commander where someone played Survival and didn’t win.

Hibernation’s End – This card is a bit of a sleeper.  If you are playing green, and you have creatures in your deck with a variety of mana costs, this card is a beast.  You put a creature card into play every turn from your deck.  Amazing and underplayed.

Natural Order – Trade an Elf for Progenitus? Don’t mind if I do.  The trade off here is insane.  Even without acceleration, the ability to smash out a fatty on turn four is too much for many decks to handle.

Pattern of Rebirth – This is Natural Order’s forgotten cousin.  It has the added benefits of being used to protect a creature as well as being able to get any color creature.  If you were wondering, if you enchant Kozilek, Butcher of Truth and he gets killed, you can shuffle him back into the deck put him right back out onto the battle field.

Tooth and Nail – I know it’s not a new or different card, but the power of tooth and nail cannot be denied.  Keep in mind that you don’t have to put the two cards you search for into play.  You can search up two cards and put another pair of cards from your hand onto the battlefield.

Artifacts

Artifacts are pretty good at doing everything.  Their biggest problem is being over-costed for what a colored card could do for the same.  Even so, there are some strong search mechanisms that can cover gaps that a color may not be able to.

Citanul Flute – Colors like Blue and White do not have much creature search.  A flute can help in finding the essential creatures that you play.

Kuldotha Forgemaster – The past few weeks I have been trying this guy out. He does not disappoint.  If you play a decent number of artifacts in your deck, this Tinker on legs could be just the thing for you.

Planar Portal – Repeated searches for any card and it can be in any color.  This card keeps finding its way into more and more of my Commander decks.

Gold

Captain Sisay – Repeated searching for any legendary card.  Remember that a card doesn’t have to be a creature to be legendary. Jitte and Gaea’s Cradle are among those on the list of legendary cards she can tutor up.

Conflux – This card continues to impress me.  It pulls five cards from your deck with very few restrictions. It is even more powerful than Three Dreams.

Congregation at Dawn – Everyone I know who plays with this card is happy with it.  It’s one card that acts like playing 3 worldly tutors in a row.

Momir Vig, Simic Visionary – Momir Vig has his own format online and drove of players who use him as a commander.  He is a continual tutor, and that is always dangerous.

Sovereigns of Lost Alara – Do you remember when there was a deck in standard built around this ability?  Well, the ability still works, and it is still good.

There are plenty of other cards to help you search through your deck and grab the cards you want to play.  Hopefully this article will inspire you to include a few of these in your next deck.

Thanks for reading!

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About SwordsToPlow

I like building and tuning decks to make them more fun and more effective.

Posted on March 29, 2011, in Articles, The Commander's Chair and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. I love Commander. It’s my format of choice and I love seeing these “Here are some cool cards for your commander deck!” So this article was hella fun for me.

    I don’t know if you know, but Seahunter is actually part of a weird cycle that includes Skyshroud Poacher, who does the same thing for elves. I personally think that would be more useful, although considering the number of decks that play blue, I have no idea.

    Citanul Flute is a huge favorite of mine for noncreature tutoring decks in my meta. Tuck spells are played constantly, so being able to tutor my general every time it gets tucked is awesome, especially in creature-light decks like my Kemba deck, where a tucked general can be a death sentence.

    And I agree completely on the subject of Hibernation’s end. Totally underplayed, especially by ramp decks that can pay for the cumulative upkeep for a while.

    And while researching my Bosh deck, I came across more decks than you’d think playing Godo. He’s very popular, not necessarily as a general, due to his tutor ability. Although as a general, he’s pretty brutish, since he gets to attack twice each turn, usually carrying a big stick of some variety.

  2. Very nice! I have never heard of Auratouched Mage before so that was a piece of interesting tech – I’ll try it out in my Augustin Commander deck.

    • I am glad you found something you could use. I found out about Auratouched Mage the hard way. It got played against me by a Rafiq deck. It’s even better when it gets double strike and exalted. 😛

  3. I am glad to here you enjoyed the article. Most of my articles are going to be focused around giving people ideas for cards for their commander decks. I am going to try and stay away from the well known cards.

    Skyshroud Poacher and the whole cycle almost made the list. I like them better than the Harbinger cycle from Lorwyn block. The only reason Skyshroud Poacher didn’t make this particular list, was because of how good green is at searching up creatures already. I would still recommend him to anyone playing a Tribal Elf deck.

    I am glad to here that more people are using Godo than I thought. I really like him either as a general or in a Boros deck like Argus Kos or Brion Stoutarm where he can be paired with the white equipment search as well. Also, white gives you access to Mirror Entity; making all of your creatures Samurai and giving everything 2 attacks.

    I would love to see your Bosh list. I haven’t had a chance to play against Bosh since the recent rules change.

    • Here’s my Bosh deck: http://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/bosh-the-conquerer/

      It’s very, very fun. It either wins through smash people with Bosh or throwing things at people. I’ve managed to deal forty damage to three different people with Bosh only.

      Agrus Kos would work really well with Godo, because of Kos’s own ability. You could also play a red black general of some variety and get access to Conspiracy and make people angry at you. Or whatever the r/b/w general and do hilarious things with all of those.

      • This deck looks really fun.
        I would consider running Vicious Shadows, Basalt Monolith and Karn, Silver Golem.
        Vicious Shadows is amazing when you are constantly pitching artifact creatures and it makes people think twice before destroying anything.
        Basalt Monolith + Rings of Brighthearth = Infinite mana.
        Karn let’s all you big artifacts swing, can be used with lattice for LD. He also pairs well with the Vicious Shadows. Lattice + Shadows + Karn = every 1 mana you produce destroys one of their lands and does damage equal to the cards in their hand.

  4. EDH seems like a format that I would love to try and play. Right now I live in the middle of nowhere, but I’m moving back to the big city this summer. As a semi-casual-somewhat competitive player who loves to get creative this sounds like its right up my alley. I’ll be looking forward to learning more about EDH from you.

    • If you want to practice EDH/Commander from the middle of nowhere, MTGO is your best bet. If you ever want to play online, I have a MTGO deck. If you would like any help putting together a cheap list, just let me know.

  5. I’m really looking forward to this article column; there seems to either be a drought of current and articulate writings on EDH/Commander nowadays, or I just really don’t know where to look. I’m quite surprised the “Mothership” itself doesn’t have a more semi-regularly coverage of EDH considering how much secondary business the format has been garnering for the franchise.

    Anyways, a very relevant topic for a first article, for most EDH players I know, tutoring has no shades of gray: either they enjoy that they can have a more consistent play experience via fetching key cards or they dislike the way it slows down the game in its physical form and lowers the fun of variance.

    • Thank you for the feedback!

      I am also surprised the mothership hasn’t started a regular commander article. Maybe they are waiting until they release the new precons this summer to start?

      I have noticed the attitudes for tutoring for EDH are very polarized. There are a few things you can do to help ease the pain of tutoring for those who usually hate it. One of my decks is Arcum, who searches continually, so I was forced to adapt to play at a quicker pace.

      1. Know what you are tutoring for before you search. If you have to read every card in your deck before you can figure out what you want, you are going to drive people crazy.
      2.Shuffle during other people’s turns as often as you can. Unlike competitive play, it’s ok to be shuffling while someone else is playing. Don’t force people to sit there and watch you shuffle when they can be playing.
      3. Shuffle quickly. Just practice shuffling your deck enough that it doesn’t take you very long to shuffle. You don’t need to shuffle it as much as you do before the start of the game each time you search.
      4. Don’t always grab the same cards. A ton of EDH players like the random aspect of EDH. If they see you playing the same 2-3 cards every game, they aren’t having their expectations for having fun met. You can get good cards when you search, just don’t get the same good cards.

      Since I started doing all this, the complaints I have received about tutoring have almost disappeared.

  6. Whoa, I’d never heard of half of those. This will be an interesting series. Zirilan has a cool ability that I’ve never seen before. Maybe good for a Dragon deck?

  1. Pingback: The Commander’s Chair – Farewell to Arms « Red Site Wins

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