The Commander’s Chair #4 – What does that do?

I have been getting an increasing number of requests, from friends, on advice for their Commander decks.  I realized that there were cards that I was regularly using and recommending that I believed were well known among Commander players.  Several of my friends and players I have played against started asking about these cards. I think it might be appropriate to cover some of my favorites, and what I like to use them for.  Maybe they are not as well known as I assumed.


Return to Dust – You can exile one permanent at instant speed or two permanents during your main phase.  Either way, you win.  I haven’t built a white Commander deck without this card in a while.  This is usually the first card I recommend to players with mono-white generals.

Land Tax – If you have heard of this card, you already know how useful it can be.  Aside from the obvious ability to fix your mana base, this can be used to increase the effectiveness of other card draw engines.  It turns Jace, The Mind Sculptor’s Brainstorm ability into an Ancestral Recall.  If you want a slightly cheaper card to go with it, try out Scroll Rack.

Serra Ascendant – I always get the question, “What’s the errata on this card for Commander?”  Like poison, Felidar Sovereign, Rune-Tail Kitsume Ascendant, Magister Sphinx, and Sorin Markov, there has been no ruling that changes the total number.  Feel free to drop a 6/6 lifelink flyer on your first turn.

Humility – This card is an amazing piece of disruption.  I recommend it for token decks and equipment decks. This combines particularly well with Juntu Stakes and Reverence.

Hallowed Burial – This may be the best Wrath of God effect available in commander. It gets rid of generals and indestructible creatures with impunity. It is particularly good against any decks that depend heavily on their general.  Resolving this against a Zur the Enchanter, or similar style deck, will usually end the game.

Oblation – This is an interesting little piece of tech for Commander.  This has the advantage of being able to rid yourself of any permanent, including planeswalkers at instant speed.  With the level of recursion available in commander, putting a permanent into a player’s library is well worth giving them 2 cards.


Hinder – This is my absolute favorite counterspell in Commander.  It can fuel a win condition when you combine it with Tunnel VisionTunnel Vision should be remembered as well, as one of the single best cards for a dredge style Commander deck.

Gather Specimens–I remember using this a ton before Emrakul was banned.  Now, it’s one of my favorite responses to Liliana’s ultimate or Living Death.

Windfall – It’s not quite as good as Wheel of Fortune or Timetwister, but it is close.

Intruder Alarm – In case you are wondering, yes this makes an infinite number of almost any creature, when paired with Splinter Twin or Kiki-Jiki.

Transmute Artifact – This has come up several times recently, and I haven’t been able to convince people to use it.  I swear by this spell.  I use it most often as a double blue Entomb.  The rewording of how the spell works is a little sad.  I used to use it to search for Sundering Titan.  I wouldn’t pay the costs and it would destroy 10 lands for only 2 mana.  It is still great for a minor tinker effect and is superior to Reshape, since the sacrifice and additional mana cost are part of the spells resolution.  This means, if it is countered, you don’t have to sacrifice or pay additional mana.


Avatar of Woe – I don’t play this card as much as I should.  It doesn’t take very long in a multiplayer game for this to only cost 2.  I have seen this combined with Adarkar Valkrie to great effect.  When that combo hit the field with Intruder Alarm, the game was over.

Hellfire – A one way wrath for 5 mana?  I’ll take the damage for that strategic advantage.  Someone must know about this, considering it is worth ~$15.  Plague Wind is also pretty good, but it costs 4 more to cast. Rain of Daggers is this cards bastard cousin.

Skeletal Scrying – This is one of the most mana efficient draw spells around.  The biggest downside is disrupting your own graveyard.  Since the card is so cheap financially, it’s worth giving it a try.

Phthisis – I am not entirely sure how to pronounce this.  But, I know it makes Omnath players cry.

Phyrexian Arena – I think most people have heard of this card.  Just in case you haven’t, this card is a great addition to almost any black Commander deck.  Make sure you have a way to gain back life.  I have seen more than one player die due partially to their own card and mana acceleration.


Word of Seizing – I like most spells with the split second mechanic on them.  This card will turn the tables on anyone using Darksteel Forge to protect their permanents from a board sweeper.

Hammer Mage – Being able to constantly wipe artifacts away is a great way to keep combo players in check.

Kiki Jiki, Mirror Breaker–If you play with Kiki Jiki, you will discover combos you didn’t know exsisted.  He was designed to be abused.  Splinter Twin is another version of this that can also be abused.

Browbeat–If someone casts this against you and you can handle the life loss, take it.  You don’t want to give red players the ability to draw into more powerful cards.

Myojin of Infinite Rage – All of the cards in the Myojin cycle are good.  This one works especially well with Sneak Attack.

Ruination – I don’t think there is a better way to punish someone for spending a ton of money on their mana base.


Rites of Flourishing – So, you get to draw an extra card and play an extra land.  The best part of this group hug style card is the goodwill you will get from your opponents.

Greater Good – In a color that doesn’t have a terribly high amount of card draw, this is a star.  You can sacrifice in response to an effect that will steal or exile your creature.  This will allow you to get the creature back and get one last benefit from a creature before it dies.

Abundance – This card is best used in a “good stuff” style deck.  It keeps you from being either mana flooded or starved.

Ground Seal – This is one of greens best answers to graveyard based decks.  I am a little surprised that it doesn’t see more play in Enchantress sideboards.

Burgeoning – I can’t say enough about this card.  It is my favorite one drop in multiplayer.  I would grab them whenever you get a chance.  This will just get more and more popular.


Rings of Brighthearth – This card has found a way into great many of my Commander decks.  Aside from the ability to create infinite mana with Basalt Monolith, this combines well with any planeswalker.

Thornbite Staff – Along with the previously mentioned Kiki Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Avatar of Woe, this card can turn a game in your favor in a hurry.

Duplicant – This card can go in any deck and kill almost any creature.  Both are good reasons to keep it on your radar.

Clock of Omens – Generally, you will need to be running heavy on the artifacts to gain a great amount of benefit from this card.  It can be used to generate additional mana or control a Winter Orb or Howling Mine.

Crystal shard – There has been a fair bit of confusion with my friends on why I would recommend this card.  This card isn’t very good at bouncing other people’s creatures.  It is great at bouncing your own.  You can make sure you don’t have to cast your general at more that the CMC.  This allows you to recast cards like Duplicant  and Venser, Shaper Savant.

I have only received a few submissions for the Reaper King contest.  The submissions so far have been very good.  I look forward to receiving more deck lists and providing feedback.  If you have any questions about the cards listed here, or have any you think should be discussed, feel free to message me.  Questions and submissions can be submitted to

About SwordsToPlow

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

Posted on April 19, 2011, in The Commander's Chair and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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