Navigating a Commander table can sometimes feel exhausting. Unlike competitive formats where the only objective is to win, Commander is inherently casual, so the game’s overall experience for all players involved is much more important than the game’s result. If you wish to play Commander to win, that’s also an option but is considered a separate format by many in the MTG community.
With 25,000 cards to choose from, there are unsurprisingly certain cards in casual Commander that can grind on people’s nerves. Whether it extends the game for absurd periods of time or requires you to ask questions at every single step of the game, some of Commander’s staples, while powerful, aren’t the best thing for promoting an enjoyable experience.
Because many of the MTG cards players get salty about in Commander tend to fall into a few different categories, we will be discussing these cards in said categories instead of on an individual basis. Otherwise, this entire list would contain cards that are basically different variations on the same annoying mechanic.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the MTG saltiest cards in Commander!
5. Smothering Tithe/Rhystic Study
Here are two incredibly common Commander staples that both saw a reprint on the recent Enchanted Tales bonus sheet from Wilds of Eldraine. Both of these cards are incredibly powerful in the Commander format thanks to them triggering off of multiple opponents. In two-player formats, your opponent can easily play around this to prevent the cards from giving you any value. In Commander, as soon as one player starts ignoring the card, you get more than enough value from them. Once one player starts ignoring it, other players may start as well. If left alone, these cards can win the game on their own.
The annoying bit about these cards, besides the table potentially arguing about how to play around them, is that the player has to consistently ask opponents to pay a cost. In the case of Rhystic Study, asking ‘Do you pay the one?’ for every single spell you don’t cast can start grinding nerves quickly. Smothering Tithe is much the same, asking players to pay two mana every time a card is drawn that’s not your own. These are played so commonly now that, at least in my experience, players are more okay with this than options above it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not annoying.
4. Quick Win Conditions (When Not Agreed Upon)
One of the worst things to experience in a game of casual Commander is a power level disparity. Sitting down at a table with players using preconstructed decks like the new Fae Dominion Commander deck and trying to win as quickly as possible is generally not a very enjoyable experience. The players playing preconstructed decks have no way to keep up with the other players, and the player winning in early turns is meeting no resistance. Players doing this on purpose are a different conversation.
The above two cards are commonly referenced as some of the most powerful cards in the entire Commander format, and that power level does make some players rather salty when they hit the table, especially if there’s a purposefully misrepresented power disparity from Rule Zero conversation.
It is very easy to win with both Thassa’s Oracle and Dockside Extortionist the turn you play them. Thassa’s Oracle and Demonic Consultation win the game for three mana, and Dockside Extortionist can create enough mana to run away with the game.
3. Land Destruction
If you’re playing land destruction, it’s best to let the table know in a Rule Zero conversation that destroying lands is what you’re up to. This is one of the ‘unspoken rules’ concerning strategies that is largely considered to not be a part of casual Commander games.
Ultimately, one of the worst feeling things in a game of Magic is simply being unable to play your cards. No one enjoys getting mana screwed, and these strategies essentially involve players trying to purposefully mana-screw other players. It can take ages for players to recover from an untimely Armageddon, prolonging the game in an unenjoyable way.
To be clear, land destruction does not refer to a player using an effect like Field of Ruin to deal with a Field of the Dead. Land destruction, in this instance, refers to effects like Obliterate, that destroy all lands.
If an Armageddon quickly leads to a win, I personally do not think the card is that bad. It’s not a very fun win condition, but at least it’s not extending the game for extended periods of time. Either way, land destruction is largely considered to be one of the saltiest things in the Commander format.
Stasis is considered the saltiest card on EDHREC, and we’re inclined to agree for the most part. Stax generally refers to a group of Magic cards that applies restrictions to the game that prevents players from playing any of their cards. The most common application of Stax effects are things that restrict mana values through adding extra costs like Lodestone Golem or restrict land usage like Winter Orb or Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger.
Stasis is the worst of the bunch. For two mana, you can shut down players’ untap steps. This means creatures and lands will never untap, at least as long as Stasis sticks around.
This is obviously an incredibly powerful effect when abused so, in order to avoid needlessly locking games into an unplayable state, the owner of Stasis needs to pay a blue mana on their upkeep. If they cannot, Stasis is sacrificed. This is, however, an incredibly easy effect to pay in a dedicated strategy using untap effects.
The reason why Stax cards are generally hated so much is because they prevent players from playing their cards which generally means the game progresses at a very slow pace. It’s not uncommon for Stax decks to completely shut opponents out, forcing them to watch one player as they slowly try to win the game, and sometimes fail to do so. Commander is about the play experience, and Stax effects promote some miserable ones.
1. Solitaire/Extra Turn Spells
Extra turn spells like Expropriate and Time Warp are the most commonly seen iterations of cards that directly cause solitaire situations, but solitaire can be extended to any play pattern that causes incredibly long turns (without minimal/no player interaction) to take place. Extra turns don’t represent this all too well honestly since the net cast is rather wide, and while some cards can accelerate this process, like extra turn spells, it is generally a larger combination of cards that causes this to happen.
There is a certain threshold where infinite combos are actually preferable to indeterminate storm-like sequences. These turns can easily take ten or more minutes to accomplish and can ultimately result in nothing. One of Magic’s biggest perks is offering players an abundant amount of chances to interact with one another. These sequences can slow down games when common and become incredibly annoying if repeated continuously. It’s probably because this is the one I run into the most (it’s me doing it, but only when in the late game unless we’ve agreed on high-power decks), but solitaire is generally not an enjoyable Commander experience for the table.
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