The weekend is over. You’ve pretty much made it through another Monday, but let’s face it, getting up and at ‘em is kinda hard at the start of your week – often a little pick me up is what you need, something to look forward to, or something that tells you: “hey, it’s not gonna be so bad”. What if I told you that making your Commander deck stronger doesn’t always require dropping a day’s wages? What if I told you that you could increase your win percentage across the entire field, for less than the price of a coffee?
You’d probably tell me that this is Europe, and although the coffee is good the cards are a little pricier, and so my analogy is about as stable as the Pound is in the lead up to Brexit. You wouldn’t be entirely wrong.
Bad jokes aside, I’d like to introduce you to a new column here at MoM. This series aims to be a quick one-two punch demonstrating the value and power behind cards that we think have a great Margin.
What do we mean by Margin? Well to put it simply, for the small investment you make into these cards*, you’re going to see dividends when it comes to gameplay.
* We’re not the Command Zone, but good cards are good cards – they won’t stay cheap for long, so get ‘em while you can!
Going through the trade folders and the bulk at your Local Gaming Store can often be a volatile experience. You’ll face competition from your fellow players, both Standard Spike and Commander Veteran alike, and for every diamond in the rough, you’ll be rifling through enough cardboard to give yourself repetitive strain injury. What else are you going to do? Buying booster packs is probably the least efficient way to get new cards for a singleton format, and unless you’re a draft fanatic, you’ll probably never open everything you need.
A good number of our readers will already be buying specific singles online, and although it’s an obvious suggestion, I’d like to re-emphasise that it is the best option if your Local Game Store doesn’t have what you’re after. How do you know what to look for, though? Beyond your collection, and your friends’ trade binders, you’re unlikely to know the full spectrum of available cards. One resource that people use to build Commander decks is EDHRec, which is a great tool to see the most played cards in any given deck. There’s been talk recently of the impact that EDHRec has on deckbuilding in the community, but I’m not going to use this space to talk about that – let’s do that another time. Instead, through this series, I’ll attempt to solve one of the shortfalls of using such sites, namely, that it only shows you the current most popular cards. Let’s spread the news on some cheap cards that aren’t played enough.
I’ve cycled a Desert on a board full of Plains
It felt good to get Marginal gains.
Whilst it’s true that you’re more likely to jam in incidental card draw into a Mono-White deck than into any other, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be thinking more about it, especially when it comes in a small, powerful package. Ahem.
Graveyard hate can be a variable thing. It might be that in your local meta, everyone is already geared up to stop graveyard shenanigans, especially if that one guy with the Gravepact deck had a short run of rampant glee before you collectively put a stop to it – in that case, you might be thinking of checking it out now. Whilst this article is largely geared toward a more unsullied audience, you might still get something out of it, because even if graveyard shenanigans are variable, there is one constant truth: taking up an entire card slot on graveyard hate feels bad.
A note for the uninitiated – the graveyard is a very abusable resource in Magic, and it gets both exponentially easier to abuse and exponentially more beneficial to do so in Commander – a lot of decks can combo out with recursion. If you haven’t had the opportunity to be locked out of the game with a Cyclonic Rift loop yet, you’re really missing out.
The Hour of Revelation is upon us, and the cards I’d like to recommend (if you hadn’t guessed from the self-indulgent word play already) are Scavenger Grounds and the Cycling deserts from Hour of Devastation – Desert of the True, Desert of the Mindful, Desert of the Glorified, Desert of the Fervent, & Desert of the Indomitable. Let’s have a quick look at why these cards deserve to make the cut in your deck.
- Scavenger Grounds exiles all graveyards, not just one. Generally the more flexible answers (the ones you’ll want to run, so they aren’t just dead cards in one matchup) can only either target single opponents, or only single cards. Sometimes you’re not even that lucky, and your opponent has the luxury of choosing which card to let go of.
- All decks can run Scavenger Grounds, as it’s colorless. Up until now, the only real card that can offer such a powerful effect that all decks have access to is Relic of Progenitus, and it’s slowly creeping up in price. The card draw in a pinch is nice, but…
- … this package can offer a very similar deal, with upside. Being able to play the cycling deserts over the current cycling lands (or in conjunction with!) means they are never dead cards late game. If you don’t need to be playing them for slow mana, you can cash them in for another card.
- Being able to activate Scavenger Grounds more than once is truly fantastic. By playing the cycle deserts, you’re able to get at least two activations of your land, and if you happen to have the space in your deck for some other deserts, you can really maximise your opportunity. The most useful looking to me are Ifnir Deadlands in Black, and Ramunap Ruins in Red. In the right decks, these can do some work. Even Hashep Oasis can push your commander damage to 21 in a pinch.
- Being able to put your graveyard hate into your manabase rather than your spells is arguably the biggest advantage – whilst you’ll still be doing this to augment other situational cards like Burn Away, Spellweaver Volute, and Agent of Erebos, you’re still likely to be able to free up a card slot for a better spell.
- At the end of the day, if you never need to activate them they aren’t going to hurt your draws very much at all – you’ll end up with a colorless land and a land you can cycle away for another card.
If that wasn’t enough to get you excited, then let’s look at the price on MTG Goldfish. Grabbing a Scavenger Grounds and a couple of cycle deserts will set you back around $2 – Relic of Progenitus is around $5 currently, and for that price you could even get a Foil Scavenger Grounds, if that’s what you’re into. Shiny. I don’t think I need to bring up the coffee thing – you’re sold.
Commander is a truly fun and exciting format, and whilst your local meta will always dictate what you should be packing into a deck, there’s something to be said for freeing up as many slots as possible to play the cards you love. Maybe it’s time to look back at that 101st card and give it the home it deserves.
If you liked what we were aiming for with this piece then let us know – there’s nothing limiting this approach to only Commander. If you think I missed something, then let me know too! You can find me on Twitter @TheKristenEmily. I’ll be catching up with you again next week with some more flexible, rewarding, and justifiable investments to add to your decks.