This entry is part 6 of 10 in the series Technology

By Mark Mahler

 mahler, mark - headshot

I hesitate to label anything in EDH – let alone Magic in general – as “best,” as I feel that the word implies a level of competency in this game that I’m sure I don’t possess, but over the next few weeks I want to shine a light on some of them most useful working class heroes of our shared addiction: the commons.

Common's Tower

Believe it or not, I didn’t set out to make this a Pauper-specific column this week, I just happen to have a thing for small utility cards in Commander. They’re not flashy, they’re not pricey, and they’re not likely to turn many heads at your table, but they do their job and they do it well.

It’s tempting to dump all your rares and mythics into a deck and call it a day, but by doing that you overlook a ton of great cards that you might already have lying about in boxes, or in the side bins at your LGS. I want this little mini-series to throw some love to those blue collar cards that might get overshadowed in your average card search.

 

“Staples”

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention these guys, though I think my definition of “staple” in this format is a little different than most. To me, a staple isn’t a card that goes in every deck, but should definitely have a place in your toolbox.

There’s nothing that can be said about these cards that probably hasn’t been said already, so I won’t waste your time with a detailed explanation for each of them. Suffice to say, these are cards that are either so useful that it’s hard to exclude them from your deck (I’m looking at you, Command Tower) or are just so well-rounded that they deliver a solid advantage in a diverse range of scenarios.

 

 

 

Sacrificial Lambs

 

Unbeknownst to most people, the ancient Greeks practiced their own, decidedly unmodern, version of the Birthing Pod deck – just without the “birthing” part.

 

I know, I know, my addiction to Reanimator is showing again.  Fog frog and his little spirit buddy aside, I actually do play most of these cards in non-Reanimator decks and they definitely punch above their weight most of the time.

The key to these little guys is their free (or at least cheap) sacrifice cost for an extremely useful effect. For me, sacrifice effects are all about options: what can I do to mess with my opponent’s game plan at instant speed? Whether it’s dodging bullets or lobbing them at your friends, these cards should help you add some utility to your decklist and some strategic choices to your board state.

 

 

Benevolent Bodyguard

 

This dude is the Clint Eastwood of commons, the Fedaykin of the frontline, the guy who’ll happily dive in front of your commander any day of the week. (My apologies for the seemingly random references. I’ve been consuming a media diet consisting solely of old ‘90s movies and re-readings of the Dune novels lately. A strange melange indeed, I know.)

As with most of these picks, his value to your team increases exponentially if you pair him with a bit of recursion, but you shouldn’t be shy about including him in your roster even if you’re not packing a Reanimation engine. This is EDH, after all, so your playgroup will almost certainly set their Hater-vision sights upon your general at some point during the game.  Wouldn’t it be nice to save him for a change instead of just recasting him?

 

Children of Korlis

 

I remember looking at this card in Gather searches in years past and thinking, “Why would I ever want to play this card?” Then I lost a game to a guy who murdered the entire table with this, Pestilence and Cabal Coffers and I saw the light.  The really nifty thing about this dude lies in his rules text:

The life you gain is based on the total of all changes where your life total went down during the turn, not the net downward change. So if you lose 5 life, gain 3 life, and then lose 2 more life before activating this ability, the ability causes you gain 7 life, not 4.”

Needless to say, this card is well worth a spin in your next Orzhov deck.

 

Spore Frog  & Kami of False Hope

 

Fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog…Oh, did you want to attack me with creatures? Excuse me for a moment while I FOG!

This is not a clever move. People will see this coming a mile away and hate you for it, especially if you pair this with any sort of decent recursion, but you know what? Who cares? Because they’ll never get to attack again until somebody burns their exile removal on your 1/1s, or somebody flips the table after you’ve fogged them out for the tenth turn in a row.  Whichever comes first.

Actually, to step on the Strategy column’s toes for a minute, I’d say these guys do their best work as baits and threats, not as fogs.  If you want to pull a surprise fog off in your game, slot in a copy of Darkness into your deck; if you want to taunt your opponents and force them to react to you instead of you always reacting to them, stick these guys and a Sun Titan into your 99. Now you have time to develop your nefarious schemes while they have to worry about how they’ll ever be able to hit you again.

 

Generator Servant

 

Definitely one of my favorite cards to come out of M15, this guy ramps, hastes, slices, dices, chops–whoops, I think I accidentally channeled some bad late night infomercials there for a moment.  You get the picture, though. In any deck where you need to have your creatures come out fast and hit the ground running, this guy will be your new best friend.

I run him in a Thromok the Insatiable token deck where he’s an all-star, not just for the big Hellion himself, but for all of the sweet backup creatures I have to run once Thromok gets countered, tucked, or otherwise ingloriously swept off the board before he has a chance to connect (let’s just say that whipping out Thromok as your general tends to paint a rather large target on your head).

Personal favorite play: filling my yard with creatures–either through GY hijinks or from sheer attrition on my side of the battlefield–then using the Servant to boost out Kessig Cagebreakers, smashing folks in the face AND giving me a small army of tokens to devour with Thromok on my next turn.

 

Qasali Pridemage

 

I almost threw this card under the “Staples” umbrella, because he’s so ubiquitous in any GW, Bant, or Abzan deck I run across, but I have such a softspot for this little guy that I just had to give him his due here. Plus, he’s a Cat Wizard! Cute & terrifying – what more could you possibly want out of a card.

He’s more useful than the seals, and more recurrable, too, but it’s also worth mentioning that the Exalted bump isn’t completely insignificant in dedicated Voltron builds.

 

Moriok Replica

 

You know what’s cool? Night’s Whisper & Sign in Blood. You know what’s better? That effect at instant speed with a ton of abusable recursion options.  ‘Nuf said.

I’ll be honest, I totally overlooked this card until this past summer when I was building out a Glissa Eggs deck and needed a bit more card draw.  Enter my new BFF.  It helps that I had an even dozen or so of these lying around in boxes of commons from my days as a failed and frustrated Standard player – a truly dark time before I became a convert to the church of EDH.

He also does wonders in a Sharuum deck without being nearly as annoying as practically every other option available in Esper colors.

 

Stinkweed Imp

 

Perhaps not a true sacrificial lamb in the strictest sense, but let’s be honest: this guy’s only function is to get pushed out in front of the bus. An amazing blocker in his own right, this guy can be downright oppressive once you get your dredge engine online (or even just with a little card draw on the side).

If you’ve ever wanted to run any sort of Reanimator deck, I would literally slot this guy in right after Reanimate itself.  It also helps that the new Modern Masters artwork is way cooler than the original mess from Ravnica.

 

Honorable Mentions: Ashnod’s Altar & Carrion Feeder

 

Because sometimes creatures stubbornly refuse to sacrifice themselves. Also, combo shenanigans. (Fun fact: Ashnod’s Altar is one of the few cards in Magic to have been printed at every rarity except Mythic; it’s only a common in Chronicles, though.)

 

That’s a wrap for me this week, folks, but I’ll be back soon with another set of tech picks  for your toolbox.  If you have a favorite common that I overlooked here, feel free to drop it in the comments or drop me a line at mahlerma@gmail.com.

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