This entry is part 5 of 10 in the series Technology

By Mark Mahler

mahler, mark - headshot

Welcome to the weekend, Commander faithful.  The only thing sweeter than getting a few days off from the daily grind is using some of that time to dig through the vast trove of Magic chaff for a few choice gems (or, I suppose, spending time with loved ones and friends, for those of you with “priorities” in life). But enough with the intro–we’ve got tech to talk about! On to round two of “Common Sense”!

 

 

This week, I wanted to highlight two facets of deck construction that no 99 should be without: ramp & card draw. Neither of these lists are meant to be an exhaustive collection of every ramp or draw effect at the Common level, but as budget alternatives for big money cards, sweet Pauper or Peasant tech, or simply easy-to-find utility cards, I hope you’ll be able to pull some useful picks out of here that will help you round out your newest build or maybe try out something a little novel in your favorite general’s arsenal.

 

Ramp

Coiling Oracle

I had to start with everyone’s favorite Snake Elf Druid, both because he neatly encapsulates this week’s topic and because he’s a card-carrying member of two of my favorite tribes in EDH (sorry, druids. Maybe you’ll make the list next year).  You don’t need any top-deck manipulation to get value from his ETB trigger, but this guy (or snake, elf, whatever) does pair pretty well with Sensei’s Divining Top or Mirri’s Guile if you’re looking for maximum return on your two mana investment.

He also does a lot of work in any BUG reanimator deck, which makes sense because he looks like something that got reanimated in a vat full of bugs.

 

Dreamscape Artist

The best, and really only, ramp in blue is still one of my all-time faves.  In this color, it’s an irreplaceable effect that will help you fart out islands like a champ and avoid the Achilles heel of artifact ramp. Another good reason to run this guy is to avoid the huge target that said artifact ramp tends to paint on your face, because unless you’ve previously insulted your opponent’s mother nobody’s really going to point removal at this dude.

 

High Tide

While not technically ramp, this card is still amazing for it’s ability to swing games in your favor and dump fatties on the board like nobody’s business.  I’m still amazed that this didn’t get a reprint in the Commander 2014 blue deck, but then again that list had so much other mana acceleration going for it that it didn’t really need this bump, too.  It’s a shame, because this is easily the best card in Fallen Empires; definitely a low bar, I know, but I still like to give credit where credit’s due.

The Drew Tucker art is also easily the best out of the bunch, making this possibly the only time I’ve sided against Anson Maddocks’ artwork in anything, ever.

 

 

Satyr Wayfinder

If there are two things I love in Commander, it’s dumping stuff in my yard and making my land drops each turn.  This little guy does both, and all for the low, low cost of two mana (if you’re in Standard, he also feeds Delve strategies very nicely, but who wants to play a tired old format like that, amiright?). Not to be overlooked is his ability to grab any land, not just basics, as well.

Tom, William, and I all extolled this card’s virtues on the Born of the Gods set review a few months ago, so I’m not going to retread old ground here, but suffice to say my love affair with this Satyr is still going strong. Please file that last sentence under my growing list of “phrases not to be taken out of context.”

 

Fertilid

Nole’s favorite mustachioed elemental is still one of my all-time best buds in EDH.  What more do you want? He’s got counters, he fetches lands, he’s easily splashable in any multi-color deck…I would say he’s cute, too, but that’s where Nole and I part ways.  It’s kind of like uttering the phrase “cute spider”; I’m sure some people see it, but I’m definitely not one of them.

 

You can put lipstick on a pig and big, doe-like eyes on a spider, but..well, you know the rest.

 

 

 

 

Liliana’s Shade

A lot of folks like to hate on Lily’s Shade–and, granted, a 1/1 for four isn’t really what you want to be doing in EDH–but in the right deck she can be a powerhouse. Abusing ETB triggers in UB or reanimator shenanigans in mono-black are nothing new, but ramping in those colors definitely is and that’s where Ms. Shade comes into play (pardon the pun).  I run her in my Shirei deck, where she’s almost broken, and I used to run her in a Esper Blink deck where she was just as bad, but I had to take that deck apart because, well…it was about as much fun to play against as the name “Esper Blink” implies.

If you’re in need of some extra mana in mono-black, Golgari, Dimir, or even Orzhov colors, with any sort of recursion at all (and let’s face, if you’re in those colors, you’ve got all the recursion you need), you should give this one a try.

 

 

 

Card draw

 

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Sign in Blood & Read the Bones

Choosing between these two is like the Sophie’s Choice of Magic for me in any deck that runs black. OK, that might be slightly hyperbolic, but it’s still a damn hard choice. In mono-black, you’re probably better off with Sign in Blood–it’s the two-for-two special that’s hard to beat as a one-shot refueling effect.

For pretty much anything else, though, I’d go with Read the Bones. Scrying is a powerful and underappreciated effect in Commander, and to Scry 2 for two colorless and one black mana makes this card much more attractive to multicolor decks.

 

 

Altar’s Reap

See above, but this one costs less and makes for a sneaky sac outlet. Generally, I prefer my sacrifice effects on permanents, but there plenty of times when you don’t want to advertise your intentions and Sadistic Hypnotist isn’t exactly the most subtle of creatures.

The quality here really lies in this card’s combination of effects. Yes, there are plenty of better sac outlets or card draw effects in black, but not many sac outlet & card draw effects in black. I wouldn’t advocate sliding this into every deck, but it’s worth a slot in the 99 in developed metagames where your opponents have learned to prioritize the key pieces of your game plan.

 

 

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Footbottom Feast/Gravepurge

I don’t know about you, but my Phyrexian Reclamations don’t stick around very long once the game gets going. Neither do my graveyards, actually, and that’s where these cards start to shine.

If you know that one, or more, of your opponents has an itchy trigger finger and a Relic of Progenitus or a Tormod’s Crypt online, it would behoove you to keep up three mana and save all those creatures you took so much time dumping into your ‘yard.  The best part is that unlike shuffle or single-target effects, you get to dump all of your lovelies right on top of your library, and, as a cherry on top, put one of them right back into your hand, all at instant speed.

If you’ve been getting blown out by graveyard hate lately, you owe it to yourself to give these guys a try.

 

 

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Consult the Necrosages & Wistful Thinking

Versatility is the name of the game here. Most of the time, I’m playing these cards for the discard effect–especially Wistful Thinking–but in a format where every card slot can be an agonizing choice between one effect or another, it’s nice to have the option to do both for the price of one spot in your 99.

 

 

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Keep Watch & Theft of Dreams

Both of these cards might help take some of the sting out of being steamrolled by your opponent’s army of tokens, but their real value comes in when you’re sitting on the sidelines watching one opponent kick your other opponent’s teeth in.  Note that neither of these cards state that the creatures have be aimed in your direction. Are they kinda corner case? Yup. But how often have you seen somebody throw four or more creatures against another player who’s left him/herself wide open in a game of Commander? Now, would you pay three mana to profit off of that corner case? I would.

To be clear, non-conditional card drawing effects, like Concentrate or Divination, are strictly better than these guys in almost every way, but if you’re in the mood to try something new, I think you’ll be pleased with how much value you can pull out of these two cards.

 

 

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Mad Prophet & Rummaging Goblin

In the immortal words of The Cars, these little guys were just what I needed in mono-red when they were printed.  Looter Il-Kor aside (whom I’ll talk about in the next installment), I’ve never been a big fan of looting effects in blue, because blue has about metric shit ton of other ways to draw cards at its disposal. Red, not so much. About 90% of the time when I’m outta gas in mono-red, I’d gladly toss a card away just for the chance to get back in the game and these two give me exactly that.

I still go back and forth as to which one I prefer.  Most of the time, I’ll pay the extra one mana to get a hasty Prophet, but there times (goblin tribal, mostly) that I’d pick the Rummager instead.  Neither is likely to earn the ire of the table either, as there are almost always better removal targets available–such as the other, much more powerful, card drawing artifacts you’re probably also running in mono-red.

 

Faithless Looting

Sometimes you just don’t have time to wait for dudes to tap, especially in mono-red, which is probably the most impatient of all the colors. This thing was my jam back in Standard (which was, coincidentally, the last time I played Standard) and I actually find even more use for it in EDH (at least in mono-red).  If you’ve had your doubts about my picks up ‘til now, this is one that you can definitely run without reservation.

 

 

Oona’s Grace

I’m not gonna lie: on it’s face, this card looks like crap. However, if you think of it not as a three-mana-draw-one effect, but instead as a late game cycling effect when you’re top-decking nothing but lands, it’s value goes up by leaps and bounds. That’s not to say that it’s amazing all of the sudden; I’m just saying that it’s worth your consideration in the right deck.

I’ve been playing around with the Retrace mechanic pretty regularly lately and I’ve been impressed with the results (this probably isn’t news to folks that played during Lorwyn/Shadowmoor blocks, but I was out of the picture then, so I’m still working through the honeymoon phase with it). While I wouldn’t say this is top-tier in that crowd–those honors go to Worm Harvest, Spitting Image and Waves of Aggression–I think you can still get plenty of mileage out of this little instant.

 

And that’s it for me this week, gang. If you all have your own favorite picks at Common, or think I’ve overlooked one in any of these super-arbitrary categories that I’ve lumped them into, feel free to email me at mahlerma@gmail.com.  Until next time–

 

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