This entry is part 10 of 10 in the series Technology

by Mark Mahler

mahler, mark - headshot





One of the best things about the holidays is coming home. Knowing that you’ll be accepted there for who you are, no matter how big a screwup you might be during the other 364 days reminds me of why I love Commander so much: because it’s home for all the black sheep, goofy cousins, annoying brother-in-laws, and weird uncles that our cardboard clan has birthed (and subsequently forgotten) over the years.

In keeping with that spirit, I thought I’d assemble a list of misfit cards that don’t seem to fit anywhere else in the Magic universe except tagging alongside these particular commanders. Whether you call it a niche or a nice fit, it’s still good to know that every card has a home somewhere for the holidays.


When I compiled these picks I set out two simple rules:


  1. These cards must perform a distinct function for their generals, either synergizing well with their abilities or otherwise enabling commander-specific shenanigans.
  2. These cards must be nigh-unplayable in any other deck WITHOUT these generals. No good-stuff, auto-includes, etc., allowed.


I may also have spent far too much time messing around with graphics editing software and far too little time helping out my wife with all the prep work for dinner, but let’s remember that this time of year is about giving thanks, not keeping track of whatever I may or may not have been doing in my man cave instead of doing the dishes.


Pilgrim GisaPilgrim Varolz



They’re big, they’re dumb, and they exist solely to get dumped in the graveyard for zombies or cheaply scavenged +1/+1 counters. (*Side note: Phyrexian Dreadnought in Varolz is cheap and amazing, but sacrificing the Dreadnought to Gisa in response to the ETB trigger is both super dirty and the pinnacle of awesome.)


Pilgrim Darien




Who wants a shittier version of City of Brass or pseudo-indestructibility for their chump blockers that acts like trample on steroids for your opponents? Darien does, that’s who. Now, it’s a given that having Darien out on the board is in and of itself a great incentive to attack anybody but you, but adding the monolith into the mix also ensures that all your dudes are that much less likely to get blocked by anybody else, too.


Pilgrim IxidorPilgrim Dralnu



These two dusty little forgotten artifacts of bygone blocks are just simple cost reducers, but they’re both so delightfully corner-case that it’d be hard for me not to auto-include them in either of these decks.  Besides, who doesn’t like saving mana?


Pilgrim Mistform



I have to give props to Bennie Smith and his book, The Complete Commander: An Unofficial Guide, for this sweet bit of Visions tech.  Granted, Bennie was playing around with the idea of making his commander into a Chimera with Runed Stalactite, but why bother going through all that hassle when good ol’ Misty is already a Chimera? (And a rat, and a zombie, and a wolf, and a spider, and a horror, and a spirit…etc., etc.)

Also, Bennie’s book is some of the best writing on the format that you’ll ever see collected in a single volume. Go buy it.


Pilgrim glissa


Oh sure, anybody with a spare $20 can run a good card like Arcbound Ravager, but it takes a real Commander player to shine up a turd like Extruder.  This doesn’t go into every Glissa deck, but in the right build (like Eggs, for instance), it’s a little gem.  It’s a sac outlet and a cute, instant-speed combat trick all rolled into one. And because it’s Glissa at the helm you don’t ever really need to pay the Echo cost, since you’re probably going to be sacrificing it to itself anyway.


Pilgrim Isamaru



Bouncing your commander back to your hand isn’t usually such a hot idea in EDH, but since Isamaru eats removal like other dogs eat, well… anything, it’s nice to have a way to save him from yet another round of commander tax every once in a while with the clasp.  Temper is one my favorite ways to turn the tables on folks who either expected me to chump block with my vanilla 2/2 commander or to suffer their Bogardan Hellkite trigger without putting up a fuss.


Pilgrim oloro


With Oloro, you’re going to gain life and draw extra cards pretty much no matter what you do, but occasionally you might actually want to use your mana to do things besides just drawing extra cards (heresy, I know); this is where our little one-drop buddy comes in.

I honestly don’t know what was more exciting the day I slotted this little artifact into this deck: the fact that I had finally found a use for this card or the simultaneous realization that no one will ever waste a removal spell on my Thran Turbine.


Pilgrim Sydri


I can’t remember for the life of me where I first saw this leveled-up No Mercy synergy, but I do remember thinking, “This is why I play this format,” when I did. True, you can get the same effect from Death Pits of Rath without paying Esper colors every turn, but being able to turn this effect on whenever you want, or leave it off with you want to attack, is makes this dynamic duo playable and awesome instead of oppressive and awful.


Well folks, that’s it for me this week.  I’ll be back in two weeks to wrap-up my discussion of mono-red.

If you have any favorite niche cards that slot nicely alongside a certain commander, but nowhere else in your collection, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.  I, for one, have a serious turkey hangover to nurse and stuffing withdrawal to recover from while the rest of America tramples each other to death searching for the true meaning of Christmas (sales).

And remember: nobody’s ever thankful for Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind + Curiosity or Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir + Knowledge Pool.


Thanks for taking the time to read my article.  Until next time–


Series Navigation<< Technology: Resource Denial in Mono-Red, part 1 – Don’t Piss Off the Entire Table

4 Responses to “Technology Holiday Edition: Cards My Commanders Are Thankful For”

  1. Jeremy Parsons said

    After reviewing my decks, it doesn’t help that some are not very general focused at all. Using the colors and then going in distinctly different directions than the general would suggest. However, my Reaper King deck has the most stuff you’d only see in Commander. And not just from the scarecrows to support it. Other tribal decks probably have enough going on they don’t need Conspiracy or Xenograft.

    Or redundancy of effects leading into playing a Minion Reflector. Even reflecting the Reaper King itself now for an extra trigger.

    Or as far as finding out how Heap Doll, Glissa, the Traitor, and the Reaper King can be used for destructive impact…

    • Mark Mahler said

      Jeremy, your Reaper King list is probably the coolest thing I’ve seen all week.

      Any deck with Goblin Welder & Master Transmuter is so metal my head might just explode. You, sir, get two rockin’ devil signs and round of headbanging for your efforts here.

  2. Aaron Kloppel said

    Gravecrawler seems to fit into my Skullbriar list like no other I’ve tried it in. Any other deck it just doesn’t seem to work but I’m always happy to see in the Skullbriar. Even without going infinite with phrexian altar it still does so much work. I’ve even had it save me from getting attacked any number of times because ppl don’t rtfc they just go oh you have a creature and leave me alone.

    • Mark Mahler said

      Great point about Gravecrawler, Aaron. I love that little dude. He almost made the list for Gisa and Grimgrin, but I felt that was taking it too far down the tribal route for this article (plus, I had too many that worked with Gisa and Varolz to justify buddying her up with another commander).

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