This entry is part 3 of 17 in the series Accumulated Knowledge

By SEAN aka SWORDSTOPLOW
When I decided to write an article based on Card Advantage in Commander, I asked if anyone would have a list that I could use as an example. I was emailed a list by Alex Mathew. He volunteered to have critiqued based on card advantage.  I hope this serves as an example of how you can go about going through your own decks.  He is running a Sharuum, The Hegemon list that currently looks like this;

Commander Sorceries Lands
Sharuum, The Hegemon Ancestral Vision Academy Ruins
Austere Command Ancient Den
Creatures Beseech the Queen Ancient Tomb
Copper Gnomes Chainer’s Edict Arcane Sanctum
Draining Whelk Damnation Blinkmoth Nexus
Enigma Sphinx Demonic Tutor Boseiju, Who Shelters All
Ethersworn Adjudicator Fabricate Fetid Heath
Ethersworn Canonist Mind Twist Flooded Strand
Inkwell Leviathan Vindicate Glimmervoid
Magister Sphinx Yawgmoth’s Will Godless Shrine
Master of Etherium Hallowed Fountain
Master Transmuter Enchantments Island
Memnarch Take Possesion Magosi, the Waterveil
Sanctum Gargoyle Phyrexian Arena Marsh Flats
Sen Triplets Minamo, School at Water’s Edge
Sphinx of the Steel Wind Planeswalkers Mishra’s Factory
Sphinx Summoner Jace Beleren Mystic Gate
Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir Tezzeret, the Seeker Plains
Trinket Mage Polluted Delta
Artifacts Reflecting Pool
Instants Cruicible of Worlds Scrubland
Capsize Expedition Map Seat of the Synod
Counterspell Grim Monolith Strip Mine
Cryptic Command Guilded Lotus Sunken Ruins
Enlightened Tutor Khalni Gem Swamp
Fact or Fiction Lightning Greaves Tolaria West
Force of Will Mana Crypt Tolarian Academy
Hinder Mana Vault Tundra
Intuition Mindslaver Underground Sea
Mindbreak Trap Scourglass Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Misdirection Sculpting Steel Urza’s Factory
Momentary Blink Sensei’s Divining Top Vault of Whispers
Mystical Teachings Sol Ring Vesuva
Mystical Tutor Sword of the Meek Wasteland
Opportunity Thopter Foundry Watery Grave
Rewind Time Sieve
Thirst of Knowledge Voltaic Key
Vampiric Tutor

Verdict Key
Auto-Include: I will never take this card out of the deck
Keep: I will keep this in the deck, unless a much better card comes along.
Questionable: I will likely keep this in the deck, but I would prefer a replacement.
Consider Removing: I will remove this card as soon as I get my hands on something I like better.

Commander

Sharuum, The Hegemon- Sharuum is one of the most powerful Commanders out there.  Sharuum generates card advantage any time she comes into play with an artifact in the graveyard.  We will want artifacts that also create card advantage so we can stack bonuses.  Sharuum can effectively turn your graveyard into another place to play your permanents, improving your card advantage tremendously.
Card Advantage: +1 per artifact retrieved
Verdict: Keep

Creatures
Copper Gnomes- Copper Gnomes costs you one card to cast and then cost you one permanent to activate to bring in another permanent.  This means you are spending 2 cards total from your hand to put one permanent into play.  As a result you are actually giving yourself a card disadvantage.
Card Advantage: -1
Verdict: Consider Removing
Possible Replacement: Scarecrone- This is one of my favorite artifact creatures.  The ability to keep bringing back artifact creatures you lose is nice to have when someone tucks your Commander.  Scarecrone nets card advantage on any activation and lets you draw a card in response to it being destroyed.  At the least, Scarecrone breaks even and it can generate a ton of advantage.

Draining Whelk converts a card in your hand into a permanent while denying your opponent use of a card.  In a Commander game, a counter like this is preferable to a spell based counterspells.
Card Advantage: +1
Verdict: Keep

Enigma Sphinx- Permanents and removal that have cascade are always good.  Enigma Sphinx is another reason you want permanent based counterspells over spell based counterspells.  If you cascade into a spell based counterspell, you get +0 card advantage.
Card Advantage: +1
Verdict: Keep

Ethersworn Adjudicator- This is exactly the kind of card you are looking for when building a Commander deck, a big body with a reusable, versatile ability.  Every time you use the ability you are removing an opponent’s card without losing one of your own.  This will net you more and more advantage.
Card Advantage: +1 per activation
Verdict: Keep.

Ethersworn Canonist- Creatures and artifacts are the two permanents that are the easiest to deal with.  More often than not, this card does little more than Duress a removal spell out of someone’s hand.  When the day is over, this is just another creature.
Card Advantage: +0
Verdict: Consider Removing
Possible Replacement: Steel Hellkite- A Pernicious Deedgenerates card advantage.  When you give it the body of a dragon, it gets even better.  Steel Hellkite generate card advantage every time he destroys a permanent.

Inkwell Leviathan- Being immune to spot removal is a nice ability.  Sadly, it does not net any advantage and it will not be winning games all by itself.
Card Advantage: +0
Verdict: Consider Removing
Possible Replacement: Myr Battlesphere– Costs the same as Inkwell and nets +4 card advantage.  Don’t underestimate the utility of having a bunch of little creatures on the board.

Magister Sphinx– This is a strong creature with an incredibly strong ability.  While this does not net any sort of card advantage, it is so powerful it is worth holding in the deck.  The only card that is usually better at this is Sorin Markov, and he can’t be cheated in with Sharuum.
Card Advantage: +0
Verdict: Keep

Master of Etherium- It is big.  It is strong.  It boosts other creatures.  It nets 0 card advantage, so it has to go.
Card Advantage: +0
Verdict: Consider Removing
Possible Replacement: Sharding Sphinx- Turn your artifact creatures into more artifact creatures.  <<Spoiler Alert>> this card can win you the game if you also have Time Sievein play.

Master Transmuter- This one is a little tricky.  In a vacuum it doesn’t give you any card advantage.  However, Commander is not a vacuum. Transmuter will let you take advantage of the enter-the-battlefield triggers of the artifacts in your deck..
Card Advantage: + Variable
Verdict: Keep

Memnarch- Everything I said about Ethersworn Adjudicatoris true with Memnarch, only doubled.  Memnarchgives you +2 card advantages for every permanent you steal.  Even if Memnarchdies or is exiled, you get to keep the card and keep the card advantage.
Card Advantage: +2 per permanent stolen
Verdict: Auto-include

Sanctum Gargoyle– This nets you a body and a card in hand.  It is hard to go wrong with a utility creature like this.
Card Advantage: +1
Verdict: Keep

Sen Triplets- This card is great, as long as you remember to cast their spells.  Similar to Memnarch, every time you cast something from an opponent’s hand you are netting +2 card advantage.  You are slightly more limited to the amount you can steal, but not enough to care.
Card Advantage: +2 per opponent’s card cast
Verdict: Keep

Sphinx of the Steel Wind- This is a very strong creature with great abilities.  Like Master of Etherium,  it just isn’t good enough to make the cut in a deck trying to win through card advantage.
Card Advantage: +0
Verdict: Consider Removing
Possible Replacement: Duplicant- I was surprised that I did not see this in the original list.  Duplicantis good on its own and makes a great partner in crime with Master Transmuter.  You net at least +1 card advantage with Duplicant.

Sphinx Summoner–This card gives you a body in the air plus a card in your hand.  This sphinx may be smaller than the Sphinx of the Steel Wind, but it will make the cut.
Card Advantage: +1
Verdict: Keep

Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir- Teferi is a great way to win (not in this deck) or hate out control decks.  He has good versatility and can be very useful against the right deck.  He is so situational that I would not put him in the maindeck unless you are also maindecking his prison lock combo pieces.
Card Advantage: +0
Verdict: Consider Removing
Possible Replacement: Treasure Mage- I cannot decide which of the mage twins I like more.  Both of them are great in an artifact themed deck.

Trinket Mage: See Sphinx Summoner.  Creatures that tutor up cards are good, play them.
Card Advantage: +1
Verdict: Auto-Include

Instants

Capsize- Repeatable effects are always more powerful than one time use effects.  This is why we see Capsizein almost every blue deck and cards like Boomerangnever make the cut.  Bounce spells don’t net you card advantage, they actually net negative card advantage since you give them a card in hand and lose a card yourself.  Capsizerequires you to hit mutiple lands in a turn or tokens to really start effecting your opponent.  Eventually you can lock someone down with just Capsizeand mana. Cards that win the game on their own don’t need card advantage.
Card Advantage: +0 per use with buyback, -1 for a use without, +1 for each use on a token
Verdict: Keep

Counterspell- Counterspells are an interesting case when it comes to Commander.  In general, I think they are a bad choice.  Without added utility they will only ever net you even card advantage.  This means you have to be very careful when casting them that you hit the right spell from an opponent.
Card Advantage: +0
Verdict: Consider Removing
Possible Replacement: Ertai, Wizard Adept– One nice thing about permanents that can counter multiple spells, is that it forces your opponents to play more cautiously.  Making an opponent not play a spell because they are afraid to get it countered can be even more effective than countering than same spell.

Cryptic Command- This is a very different breed of counterspell.  This one nets you card advantage.  Cryptic Commandis a perfect example of a counterspell built for Commander.  If we have spell based counter spells they need to do something else besides just counter the spell.
Card Advantage: +1
Verdict: Keep

Enlightened Tutor- I hate to bash this style of tutor, since I think tutoring is almost always good.  I generally think this way because I play combos, and tutors act as a second copy of combo pieces.  The tutor cycle with Enlightened, Mystical and Worldly Tutor end up costing you card advantage to put a card on top of your library (remove one from your hand without replacing it).  That means you need to be sure the card you tutor for generates enough card advantage to make up for the loss.
Card Advantage: -1
Verdict: Questionable
Possible Replacement: Artificer’s Intuition- No deck has more fun with this card than Sharuum.  Putting a card in your graveyard can make it easier to cast, and the mana acceleration you tutor up will let you cast your Commander in short order.

Fact or Fiction- This card is always good.  In a deck like Sharuum, that can play cards out of the graveyard, this card is great.  When cards going into your graveyard are considered a resource, Fact or Fictionbecomes absurdly powerful.
Card Advantage: +0-4
Verdict: Keep

Force of Will- If you are playing one on one against a hyper competitive Commander deck this card is just as good as it is in sanctioned, competitive formats.  However, if you are playing in a group game, this card is a disadvantage because it nets you negative cards and the card you exile cannot be returned with Sharuum.
Card Advantage: -1
Verdict: Consider Removing
Replacement Option:  Voidmage Apprentice- One of this decks biggest enemies is Krosan Grip.  This card is your answer.

Hinder- Hinderis another corner case in Commander.  Against 99 cards in somebody’s deck it is just a counterspell.  Against graveyard decks and against Commanders, it is one of the few spells that can get rid of the card advantage generated.
Card Advantage: +0
Verdict: Keep

Intuition- This is a tutor I can get on board with.  You always break even and often win the game because of this card.
Card Advantage: +0-2
Verdict: Keep

Mindbreak Trap- I am on the fence about this one.  On the plus side, it counters uncounterable spells.  On the negative side it needs to hit multiple target to net you positive card advantage.  Since the number of counterspells that have the ability to net advantage are so low, I would likely keep this in.
Card Advantage: +0-Spells on the Stack
Verdict: Questionable.
Possible Replacement: Empress Galina- Gaining control of a permanent your opponent controls is even better than countering it.  Galina is one of my favorite creatures for this because when she dies, you remain in control of the creature.  Most of the blue creatures can only steal one creature at a time and it goes back to your opponent when the creature that stole it dies.

Misdirection- See Force of Will.  This card is slightly better than Force of Will, in that you gain a spell of theirs in the process.  That still only makes it as good as a regular counter spell.
Card Advantage: +0
Verdict: Consider Removing
Replacement Option: WillbenderWillbender gives you a creature in addition to the Swerveeffect so you will still have a permanent in play at the end of the day.  Like Voidmage Apprentice, this card can affect spells with split second.

Momentary Blink- This is cute and has many of the advantages of Master Transmuter, but without the body or the switching ability.  Since it has Flashback, you get to use it twice, which is a big advantage.  It nets negative card advantage unless you can blink something that gives you an advantage when it comes into play.
Card Advantage: -1 after flashback
Verdict: Consider Removing
Replacement Option:  Venser, The Sojourner- It looks like this deck was made before Venser was available.  Plansewalkers always create card advantage and Venser’s blink ability is great in this deck.

Mystical Teachings- Tutors that put cards into your hard = good.  Tutors that put cards into your hands and you can cast again = great.  Just think of this card as 8UB – search your library for two instants.
Card Advantage: +1
Verdict: Keep

Mystical Tutor- See Enlightened Tutor
Card Advantage: -1
Verdict: Questionable
Replacement Option: Knowledge Exploitation- Try to hit the prowl cost on this and then steel a Tooth and Nailfrom a green player.  Casting their Tooth and Nailfor only 4 mana, WINNING!

Opportunity- This is a good card and nets good card advantage. This card is not as good as other instant speed draw spells.
Card Advantage: +3
Replacement Option: Stroke of Genius or Blue Sun’s Zenith – Each of these have the advantage of both having a nearly limitless potential as well as working as a win condition if you have infinite mana.

Rewind- This is a basically free counterspell which means it isn’t terrible.  However, as a counterspell it is only break even for means of card advantage.  You want counterspells that have more utility.
Card Advantage: +0
Verdict: Consider Removing
Possible Replacement: Dismiss- Dismiss costs the same as Rewind and nets you an additional card.

Thirst For Knowledge- In this deck, you should always be discarding an artifact.  This means that you should be netting 2 cards from this every time.  In addition it lets you discard a card to resurrect with Sharuum.
Card Advantage: +2
Verdict: Keep

Vampiric Tutor- The same that rings true for Mystical Tutor and Enlightened Tutor, is true for Vampiric Tutor.
Card Advantage: -1
Verdict: Questionable
Possible Replacement: Liliana Vess– Planeswalkers almost always generate card advantage. This obviously costs more than Vampiric Tutor, but it is much more powerful in the long run.

Sorceries
Ancestral Vision- It is hard to beat up on Ancestral Recall, even if it is a delayed by a few turns.  However, as I mentioned with Oppurtunity, there are just more powerful cards available in Commander.
Card Advantage: +2
Verdict: Consider Removing
Possible Replacement: Consecrated Sphinx- Once again, I think this list has not been updated in awhile.  Consecrated Sphinxis an incredible card and nearly impossible to beat for multiplayer card advantage.

Austere Command- Perfect spell for card advantage. Wrath of Godeffects even the field and almost always generate card advantage.  Selective Wraths are even better.
Card Advantage: +Variable
Verdict: Keep

Beseech the Queen – Tutors that bring the card to your hand are better than those that put them on top of your library.  This is like playing multiple copies of the good cards in your deck.
Card Advantage: +0
Verdict: Keep

Chainer’s Edict- Chainers Edictis one of the best sacrifice spells because of its Flashback ability.  This is one of the few ways to deal with creatures with shroud.
Card Advantage: +1
Verdict: Keep

Damnation- Keeping this wouldn’t be terribly difficult.  However, Damnation is not my personal favorite of the Wrath effects.  There are so many effects like this, that you can be choosy.
Card Advantage: +Variable
Verdict: Questionable
Possible Replacement: Life’s Finale – I am of the opinion  that the more effects a card has, the better.   Life’s Finaleis great for disrupting combo and aggro decks, while performing the same function as Damnation.  If you were willing to go outside the black mana for a WOG, I would go with Hallowed Burialsince it takes care of Commanders and Indestructible creatures.

Demonic Tutor – This is better than Beseech the Queen, and I voted to keep that.
Card Advantage: +0
Verdict: Keep

Fabricate- Good tutor in this deck, almost as good as Demonic.
Card Advantage: +0
Verdict: Keep

Mind Twist- The more you pay, the better the advantage.  Usually I don’t like the discard spells in Commander, but I make an exceptions for those that empty an opponent’s entire hand.
Card Advantage: +0-7
Verdict: Keep

Vindicate- While Vindicate is a versatile piece of removal, it will only ever be a 1-for-1.  This kind of removal may be good for competitive formats, but you need something a bit more powerful when you are playing Commander.
Card Advantage: +0
Verdict: Consider Removing
Possible Replacement: Spine of Ish Sah- When you combine with Master Transmuster, you get a Vindicate a turn for 1 mana.

Yawgmoth’s Will-  Making every card in your graveyard playable can give you can absurd amount of card advantage.  This card is amazing later in the game.  There is a reason this card is restricted or banned in other formats.
Card Advantage: +Cards in Graveyard – 1
Verdict: Keep

Enchantments

Take Possession – In general I like Take Possession since there are very few things that counter it.   Stealing a permanent naturally nets you card advantage.  However, there is so much more you can do and this is not a dedicated control deck that is trying to have as many control magic effects as possible.
Card Advantage: +2
Verdict: Consider Replacing
Possible Replacement:  Blatant Thievery – Why steal one permanent when you can steal a bunch of permanents?

Phyrexian Arena- Drawing an extra card every turn adds up pretty quick.  I like to have more than one of these effects in most decks.
Card Advantage: +1 per turn
Verdict: Keep
Possible Upgrade: Graveborn Muse- Without other zombies this is a Phyrexian Arena on legs.  With any other zombie in play, it is an upgrade.

Planeswalkers
Jace Beleren- See Phyrexian Arena, plus it is a Planeswalker.
Card Advantage: +1 per turn
Verdict: Keep
Possible Upgrade: Jace the Mind Sculptor- I don’t think I really need to explain how good this card is.

Tezzeret, The Seeker– Tezzeret is one of those rare, perfect cards for this deck.  He can tutor, untap artifacts and his ultimate allows you to swing for massive damage.
Card Advantage: +Variable
Verdict: Keep
Possible Upgrade: Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas- I wouldn’t ever remove the Seeker from the deck, but I might add a second Tezzeret if I could find a spot.   You will almost always hit an artifact with this guy so he will be netting you card advantage every turn.

Artifacts
Crucible of Worlds– I have to admit that I include Crucible of Worldsin every Commander deck I build.  I also include fetch lands, Strip Mineand usually Wasteland.  Every time you play a card from your graveyard you net card advantage
Card Advantage: +1 per land from graveyard
Verdict: Keep

Expedition Map- Tolarian Academyis in this deck, and therefore any way to get that land out is good.  Alex is lucky enough to play with people who let him play this land.
Card Advantage: +0
Verdict: Keep

Grim Monolith- Having fast mana is just as important to keeping up with your opponents as card advantage.  While this is not a card that generates advantage, it fills an important utility slot.
Card Advantage: +0
Verdict: Keep

Gilded Lotus- See Grim Monolith
Card Advantage: +0
Verdict: Keep

Khalni Gem- I do not like this card.  You give up two land drops to get it into play, so it slows you down as much as it speeds you up.
Card Advantage: +0
Verdict: Consider Removing
Possible Replacement: Solemn Simulacrum- This card is amazing, as card advantage goes.  +1 Lands, a body and a replacement card when it dies = mana acceleration and +1 card advantage.

Lightning Greaves- Lightning Greavesis good; if you care that your creatures are being targeted.  It doesn’t give you negative card advantage like aura’s do. However, there are pieces of equipment that do net card advantage.
Card Advantage: +0
Verdict: Consider Removing
Possible Replacement: Sword of Fire and Ice, Sword of Feast and Famine, Sword of Light and Shadow, or Umazawe’s Jitte all net you positive card advantage every time you make contact with a player.  However, due to the combo that I will mention later, I would suggest Skullclamp in this equipment slot.  It is easily tutored, and it generated a gross amount of card advantage.

Mana Crypt- If you have this card, play it.  This is equal in power to some of the power nine, even if it costs less money.
Card Advantage: +0
Verdict: Keep

Mana Vault- This card is usually an artifact version of Dark Ritual.  With the few untap effects, as well as Transmuter, you can make great use of this card.
Card Advantage: +0
Verdict: Keep

Mindslaver- This card’s card advantage all depends on what is in your opponents hand and then what you do with it.  Every time I see it played, it gets used multiple times.  I usually see it used to lock someone out of the game permanently. There are several ways in this deck to keep a slaver lock going.
Card Advantage: +Variable
Verdict: Keep

Scourglass- A one sided, reusable WOG is a pretty good card. This will net card advantage every time you get a chance to activate it.
Card Advantage: + Permanents Destroyed
Verdict: Keep

Sculpting Steel- I am slightly confused by the lack of both Disciple of the Vaultand Bitter Ordealwhen this is in the deck.  In any case, this card is a good copy effect, although not the best.
Card Advantage: +/- Artifact Copied
Verdict: Questionable
Possible Upgrade: Phyrexian Metamorph is a strictly better card and should be in the deck before Sculpting Steel.

Sensei’s Divining Top- Everyone who has played Commander should know this card is worth having in almost every deck.  It gives you card advantage by effectively letting you play the top 3 cards of your library.
Card Advantage: +3
Verdict: Keep

Sol Ring – No reason for this not to be in this deck.
Card Advantage: +0
Verdict: Keep

Sword of the Meek, Thopter Foundry, and Time Sieve – I have to mention all three together because they win the game, if you get all of them out.  I am surprised that I do not see Ashnod’s Alter or Krark-Clan Ironworks to generate infinite mana.
Card Advantage: +1 per mana spent
Verdict: Keep

Voltaic Key- It seems like all I am doing is putting popular cards.  Voltaic Key is a fine card, but it is worse than the alternative.
Card Advantage: +0
Verdict: Consider Removing
Possible Replacement: Clock of Omens- Not many people play this card, and I think they do not realize exactly how good this is.  You see the above combo?  This card is another way to let it go infinite.  You create a token.  Then, tap the token and the sword to untap a mana source.  Use the mana to sac the sword.  It comes back attached to an untapped token, untapped.  Repeat as many times as you want.  If you are untapping a mana source that produces 2+, you also get infinite mana.  Even without the combo, it lets you make use of creatures with summoning sickness and artifacts that normally don’t tap for effects.  You can even use Transmuter and Battlesphere to make infinite tokens at instant speed by blinking the Battlesphere and tapping the four myr to untap a blue source and Transmuter.

It has been about 2 years since that night in the Donut Hole.  The thousand of miles between me and my fiancé have disappeared ,and I enjoy many restful nights.   I am still in contact with David and Jarrod (more body builder than mountain-man now).  For as long as I play Magic, I will put the lessons learned to use.  I will always appreciate the wealth of knowledge and the true friends that living in Kansas brought me.

-STP
Swordstoplow@gmail.com

We also called Contested Cliffs Fight Club before it was cool.

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