So I was hanging out listening to one of my favorite podcasts The Command Zone, when I caught an episode (Click here to listen) regarding Sheldon Menery’s Cards You Shouldn’t Play In Commander. While I highly recommend you checking both the TCZ episode and the article out, we are not going to be discussing the rammifications of nor the content of those mediums. Instead we are going to take inspiration from Mr Menery and build a list of ten cards in commander that are not recommended to be played in non-cEDH groups. cEDH is another beast unto itself and I think that cEDH is no-holds-barred format in which a turn 1 or turn 2 win is not only acceptable but strived for. I would also like to point out that Mr Menery and I agree on a few cards on our lists, but I think we see the format generally in different lights.
My Perception Of Commander.
I love commander but… that wasn’t always the case. I used to play Standard but the cards were to expensive to keep up with for them to just plummet in value after rotation, looking at you Deathmist Raptor. Then I moved to modern because I had a bunch of modern cards and this opened up my pool to do more interesting builds. As time went on I came to realize that Modern punished me for not playing meta decks, and also didn’t like me doing all my Johnny combo player shenanigans. Modern wanted a consistency I was unwilling to give as it required me to sacrifice my uniqueness in deck building, RIP Merrow Milling.
See I believed, and still do, that a deck was a work of art that you as a player create and that each card is a brushstroke in your mural. Standard and Modern did not seem to allow me to paint my mural, and that was when I was introduced to Commander. You said it’s OK to play a 10 drop? I can only have one of each card? I can use any card EVER PRINTED!?!? I was in heaven. 100 cards was my canvas and I was going to paint mural after mural, learning more and more about what worked and what would be too slow even for Commander. The challenge of the singleton nature of the format propelled my knowledge, and use of the gatherer, forward trying to find cards that operated in similar veins. Suddenly it was perfectly OK to use my dumb Johnny combos, in fact because of them I would guarantee my victory! As long as the game was silly, explosive, and interactive I was having fun and that’s all I wanted.
Now all of this is relevant for you to know ahead of time because what I call fun is probably different from you. I enjoy slowly assembling card breaking, fun card interactions while giving my opponent the chance to thwart my plan, or at least attempt it. I enjoy building stupid armies of tribes that no one builds. I enjoy watching everyone else draw cards and win the game while I play a Pheldagriff deck with NO WIN CONS! I enjoy playing Magic!
With That In Mind.
Now that you have guidelines as to what I will be judging these cards on, here is my 10 cards I refuse to play in Commander in no particular order.
1. Meren of Clan Nel Toth.
I know what you’re thinking, “She’s Interactive, she’s fun.” and on the surface you might be right. However place her next to her Commander 2015 counter parts or the players that play her, and you start to understand her power.
Unlike her counterparts she comes on the battlefield and has an immediate affect on your turn, where as with say Mizzix of the Izmagnus who does nothing until you have experience counters. Once Meren gains experience counters she becomes bonkers because now she makes an impact on your turn AND your boardstate.
I might be bias, but in my experience the players who gravitate to Meren are players that enjoy no enjoyment from the rest of the table. Players who enjoy stasis decks, or hardcore control can prevent players from ever having a creature with their suite of golgari sac outlets, and prevent all combat damage by using the demon that is Sporefrog. OK, I’m super bias about this card, and I don’t mind it as a card in the 99, I just hate her as a commander.
2. Vorinclex, Voice of HANGRY!
Oh Vorinclex… I used to love this card. I thought it was cream of the crop, and I played it in every deck that had green in it. I tried to play it in modern at first in my big green deck with mana dorks, Khalni Hydras, and Leatherback Baloths; at the time Primetime and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle were all the rage so I didn’t get very far. In a format like Commander though where 8 drops were common place… I mean come on I get to double my mana, get a giant body, AND hinder my opponents play!? SOLD!
I remember the day I realized how much this card hindered my fellow players vividly. I was playing Mayael, the Anima and I activated her ability to put Vorinclex on the table, there was a sigh among all the players at the table. At first I was like “whatever, I’m just doubling my mana” and then the ‘play a land, pass’ turns started happening. Everyone at my table could only play once every other turn, and I swiftly took the lead until everyone at the table focused me down for playing him. Vorinclex is in a sense, a stax-esque card that causes players to not play magic while the player controling him not only plays but catapults forward.
3. Iona, Shield of Emeria.
Iona is a card that can be perfectly OK in some games and a complete nightmare in others. In some games she shuts off one of your many colors, and doesn’t let you play the game the way you want to. This is a healthy interaction as it forces the players at the table to deal with her or continue to play in this modified state.
Iona truly shows why she is on this list when there is a mono color player, then she just tells that person they can’t play magic or deal with her at all. If multiple players are playing the SAME mono color then she literally cuts the legs off of those players and laughs maniacally! Now the only hope for those mono colored players is that another player wants to rid the board of her for some reason, even when it basically guarantees they have an advantage. Obviously either of these scenarios ARE NOT a healthy game state and is very common one with Iona.
4. Sorin Markov.
Mr. Markov… You are a naughty, naughty vampire aristocrat, lord, person. At first you might think oh he’s triple black and 6 CMC, “he’s not that bad.” I have an attachment to Sorin even, as my favorite tribal archetype is mono black vampires; which I played in standard for sometime during Zendikar’s life. Sorin saved me in more games than I can count and in a 60 card format, he was good but not broken.
However as with Vorinclex I learned how much of a hateful, destructive card this actually is from the misery and sighs of players at my table. In standard your life total becoming 10 isn’t a huge deal as it’s only half your life total, so you think “oh his -3: is lose half your life total.” It isn’t until you’ve played him in Commander that you realize this is “make whatever your life total is 1/4th of your starting life total.” What makes this worse is that he comes down and has the ability to make set someone’s life total IMMEDIATELY. Chances are he gets nuked immediately after, however if you do manage to keep him alive for a bit his torture to your “friends” becomes worse. His only counter play is well… playing a counter.
5. Armagedon. Kinda.
Armagedon… No I’m not talking about the movie with Bruce Willis, we’re talking about the card that games are won out of pure concession from your opponents. This is actually a bit of a cheat card on this list because when I refer to it, I mean ALL mass land destruction.
What is the basis of playing Magic? Casting spells, right? To cast a spell you need mana, and to create mana you need lands. So it would be fair to say that in order to play Magic you need lands correct? So if you have no lands you aren’t able to play Magic and what fun is a game where you can’t actually play? I mean sure you can play a land and pass, but that’s not gonna help you with the Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger your opponent cast before Armagedon.
Armagedon at worst restarts the game for everyone, and at best ends the game for all the players who didn’t cast it. Anyone who’s playing Armagedon most likely can play around it with a Crucible of Worlds, or it doesn’t effect them using a Teferi’s Protection to keep their lands safe.
6. The Stasis Strategy.
These three cards are the bane of many players existence, and to some they are their prized possessions. How a player feels about these three cards can really tell you a lot about who a player is. Either they embrace the stasis effects and tell you that you should have ran artifact/enchantment removal, looking at you Spike, or you think that these cards turn the game into a war of attrition that sucks the soul out of you slowly… yet… surely.
Not much else to say about these three cards, honestly they just make playing the game very unfun.
7. Krenko, Mob Boss.
Now my problem with this card can be applied to multiple Commanders, but Krenko just happens to be the card that I have in my personal play group. Simply put, Krenko is way too easy to combo out with. Hearing this from a Johnny play can be a shock I know, but I like to work for my combos. Krenko just lets you do it so easily, and with only one or two cards.
I guess my biggest issue with Krenko is that if I have a player at my table playing Krenko, I have to worry about that player the entire game so long as he is on the table. Most Commander decks work with or without their commander, but in Krenko he IS the deck. As long as he’s on the table I have to worry that I’m about to die from some infinite Impact Tremors/Purphoros, God of the Forge triggers. Creatures like Krenko and Narset, Enlightened Master are the vein of Commanders I’m referring to.
8. Grand Arbiter Augustin IV. The Tax Man.
Taxation without representation under a corrupt government profiting off my tears, I think is a great way to explain The Tax Man himself. Taxing isn’t a bad thing in Magic, in fact cards like Ghostly Prison and Trinisphere are cards that are healthy in almost all playgroups as they slightly modify the table’s play pattern. However, with The Tax Man, he’s taking those tears of yours and depositing them into is account for maximum value!
Don’t get me wrong if all Grand Arbiter Augustin did was tax you one mana for your spells it’d be acceptable, but like Vorinclex it catapults you ahead. Augustin turns the tides of the game too far in your favor, hindering the other players and rewarding you for just casting a card. While he may not be much of a threat when apart of the 99, as a commander this guy is a frustrating sight to see.
9. Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir.
Teferi the time mage, in and of himself is a cool card, and paired with the likes of Knowledge Pool you get some really cool card interactions. However cool those card interactions are Teferi shuts off whole deck archetypes, and the ability to respond to anything. Sure you can continue to play your permanents every turn but what does that matter when you can’t use combat tricks, or counter a spell.
Teferi is another example of overloading a card I believe, his first ability on its own isn’t bad however his second ability hinders your opponent way too much to benefit you as much as this one card does. Unlike most the other creatures in this deck I do not believe this card is any less disruptive in the 99 over the command zone. Personally I try to avoid this card at all cost.
10. Razaketh, the Foulblooded. Tutor On A Stick.
Oh Razaketh… I remember when I thought my Shadowborn Apostle deck (the only deck I allow Raz in) was one of my weaker decks, until you came around and made my turn 4 win not only possible but likely probable. The flavor of most demon cards is to pay life and get a giant advantage out of it, like Griselbrand before him, card advantage is key.
Razaketh is usually a prime candidate in any deck in which you create disposable creatures, and game winning combos. Generate a bunch of dudes, play Raz, tutor up combo pieces, and win game. Sure tutors aren’t unhealthy for Commander but being able to tutor at instant speed, by simply sacing one creature and paying a measly two life? One off effects are fine, but anytime you take something as powerful as being able to find any card in your deck and make it easily recurrable you’re in dangerous territory.
Thank you for reading about the ten cards I refuse to play in commander. Understand that this is a personal choice for me in the hopes to keep the fun alive in my playgroup; if and when I play cEDH all these go out the window. I think that if you are looking for a way to lighten the mood in the playgroup, and make your games just a bit more fun don’t play these cards.