Out of every format, Commander is clearly the one with the most variation. Practically every card ever printed is legal, and with so many cards available, it’s a monumental task to be aware of what the majority do. However, there are cards throughout the history of Magic that have unique effects mainly because of the Commander format, and they are waiting to be utilized in both decks of today and tomorrow as new cards appear. Don’t write a card off just because it doesn’t appear to work in Commander at first-glance.
Show and Tutor
This is Mask of the Mimic a card you have likely never seen. Take a look at what this card does and how little mana it costs to do it. You have to sacrifice a creature, then you can search your library and put a creature into play as long as it has the same name as any non-token creature already in play. So yes, this card is very close to “one mana, put something ridiculous into play directly from my deck…as long as that thing is already in play.”
Wait a second, this is Commander. If the creature is already in play, and I can only have one copy in my deck, how could I possibly accomplish this? Turns out there are multiple ways!
First, Spy Kit gives a creature all creature names that are not legendary, so you could sacrifice any creature, target your creature with a Spy Kit equipped and then get any non-legendary creature into play straight from your deck! For one blue, plus that creature you sacrificed, that’s value. This is not a bad combination to get a Consecrated Sphinx directly into play. Sure you’re jumping through some hoops. But let’s really think about this card. You don’t need to target any creature you have in play, it’s merely any creature anyone has in play.
That’s right, if your opponent has Consecrated Sphinx in play, you can sacrifice a creature and put your own copy into play for one mana. Since Commander features three other players, the possibilities are actually pretty decent that you always have a chance to get some significant value from this card. Think about color agnostic creatures like Solemn Simulacrum that can be found in many decks. That’s not a bad pickup for one mana plus, effectively, “bargain.”
Let’s not forget that new cards are coming out all the time which break fundamental rules. The fact that you can have multiple copies of Nazgul in your Commander deck means you can get another one with Mimic on the cheap. More Nazgul are always better!
Finally, the fact remains that this is a meta focused card. If you play against the same players, regularly, or see the same creatures in many decks you can most assuredly get huge value off of this card provided you include it and those creatures in your deck. Blue has plenty of ways to recur spells so it’s not hard to Mimic out massive creatures on the cheap.
Mono-Blue Ramp and More!
The immediate thought process is what the heck does this do in Commander, exactly? But then you realize that you can ramp in mono-blue! With Island in play you can put another Island into play for just one blue, making it a mana neutral play. Both Meloku the Clouded Mirror and Uyo, Silent Prophet play to the strength of Retraced Image. These cards combine with High Tide to make powerful combos happen much faster in a blue deck.
Much like Mask of the Mimic above if any player has any permanent in play that is in your hand, you can put that into play just as easily, so it supports more than multi-Island plays. Spy Kit also works with this card as well to let you put a creature into play for one blue. Since this functions sort of like Mimic the two cards really do go together and both punish copy-cat metas where everyone is playing the same stuff. The thing is, if you’re playing the same stuff and Retraced Image, you can get your stuff into play at a significant discount.
Lands with no Color Identity
Certainly Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth is not a very obscure card as it shows up in 9% of decks on EDHrec. Likewise with the black equivalent in Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth showing up in 11% of reported decks with Cabal Coffers to make huge mana in mono-black decks. What makes these cards unique is the fact that they do not have a color identity. That’s right, Yavimaya is not green and Urborg is not black. This means these lands can go into any deck regardless of color. The sky is the limit on the future potential for these cards. Right now there is obscure synergy with a variety of low powered cards that reference land types in different color identities and you can generate interesting scenarios by utilizing these unique lands in your deck. Keep in mind that any deck can run Expedition Map too!
A pillow fort style deck might run Collective Restraint even in two colors (white and blue of course), because it’s basically just another copy of Propaganda. But for zero deck space you can improve that with these lands and actually make it take four mana per attacker. A slice of pillow fort decks run Collective Restraint but miss the relatively free includes of these lands.Karma is a unique Swamp hate card in white but it does no good in meta full of non-black decks. You can always add Urborg to make your Karma effect everyone for every land they have.
Finally, each of these lands still tap for a mana. Sure, it’s effectively as good as a generic mana when you use them in a different color identity deck but you also give many utility lands an additional mana tapping ability. Maze of Ith can deal with almost any creature but it doesn’t tap for mana. The much maligned budget fetch land Evolving Wilds does make the EDHrec top 100 for lands. Sometimes it is nice for it to be able to tap it for mana the turn it comes out instead of sacrificing it. Tapping an Ancient Tombs for one mana and not taking two damage is always a nice option to have. The lesson here is that these are very good lands for a variety of different decks and situations, they have unexpected synergy you cannot always predict, and you can use them in decks that aren’t even their “color” because they don’t have one!
Helping Your Opponent, but not Really
What is this mildly interesting card doing in this list? It’s here to show you the unique feature it possesses. You see, you can enchant your opponent’s creature and then they can’t be targeted by spells or abilities your opponent’s control. Yes, this is an aura version of the card Vines of Vastwood. Kenrith’s Transformation and Song of the Dryads are probably more generically strong but Canopy Cover has several things going for it. I consider it more like the green version of Darksteel Mutation or Witness Protection as you want a creature, usually a commander, to sit in play and not be a threat. Giving them a 3/3 with no abilities is a downgrade, sure, but it’s still a 3/3. Turning something into a land is usually pretty strong but ramping them into stronger cards is a very potential consequence. Making their commander harder to protect and impossible to buff is almost always a strong move and Canopy Cover is unique for several reasons.
First, you have the option to use it on your own creatures for a decent, positive effect. Of course, it’s far more interesting to use it on an opponent’s creature but hey, options are always good! Second, you can “help” your opponent by making their creature harder to block or be killed by the other players, and this could be useful for diplomatic efforts. This is very unlikely with the other two green auras. Third, Song is three mana, while Kenrith and Cover are equally cheap at two which is a bargain. Finally, this is a much sneakier card because many players don’t fully realize what the card does. The moment they try to enchant or protect or equip their Canopy Covered creature (usually their commander) you get to tell them “Nah.” This is very strong against decks that are aura and equipment based. The thing is it does not always click for that player that whatever you enchant is protected from them. There are always benefits to playing less played cards in more obscure ways.
Always be on the Lookout for Corner Cases and Unique Cards
Cards that seemingly require multiple copies in a singleton format. Lands that have no color identity yet tap for mana. Auras that buff your opponent’s creature but stop your opponent from buffing their own creature. These are all unique cards for the Commander format with examples of their current potential which is only niche. But with each new card released we’re one step closer to having pocket strategies and corner cases become the latest technology of the meta!
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