I was planning this post yesterday when the banhammer came down. There was no warning, and a massive 11 cards went to fob into their various formats monday morning and found their IDs no longer worked.
This post is about the uncommons and commons in Double Masters, mostly from a Commander perspective. What a perfect opportunity to write about the power of Uncommons and Commons, just a day after the surprise ban took 2 Uncommons and 1 Common out of Standard! Two of which weren’t even in Throne of Eldraine!
Doubling your mana is problematic? What?
Being able to play a land and draw a card, two of the more impactful things you can do on your turn, is great. It’s the grease of the Magic wheels. This doubles that up on your turn, or makes it happen on their turn. Extra lands and drawn cards as colour pie abilities are just ruining magic design right now. Is it any wonder there’s an endless parade of broken simic, blue and green cards? It’s because the design team equates drawing a card or playing a second land for turn, sometimes straight from the deck, with some stupid combat-triggered +1/+1 counter, or a 1/1 token under conditions that can’t happen before turn 3. Mystic Sanctuary and Idyllic Grange were in the same cycle, speaking of banned commons.
This stupid cat won’t die.
And what else needs to be said about Teferi? Time to go. Poor standard. So many bans, so many mistakes. So much upheaval. The stability of Commander, and some of the other longstanding formats, can be quite a draw in the face of such volatility in the game’s flagship format. When it comes to Standard, I just want to back away slowly after I raid the sets for Commander cards. Interesting to note that all of Wilderness Rec, Growth Spiral and Cauldron Cat have already been reprinted in supplementary products.
Raiding a set, for me, goes right down to the Commons. I think there are plenty of Commander-worthy Commons and Uncommons in Double Masters. They can be had cheap, and there is a fresh supply of foils as well.
Double Masters is all about the Mythic hype. Big spenders, speculators, and people looking for a big splash for their buck can buy the boxes, and the rest of us can swoop in later for the cheap singles. Commander players are always digging for the next piece of tech, and maybe you’ll see a card here you didn’t consider before, or didn’t even know existed.
Ash Barrens is a great fixing option that gives some strategic variance to cards like Evolving Wilds. Don’t forget you’re discarding this card when you cycle it, which can be a useful trigger. This card is no secret and is frequently printed in Commander precons now, but it’s becoming easier to have many copies for many decks, and for newer players to have a ready group of mana-fixing lands at a minimal cost.
Basalt Monolith can be a questionable mana rock in some builds, and part of a two-card infinite mana generator in others. It was one of the reasons Zirda, the Dawnwaker is banned in Legacy.
Playing fair with the Monolith looks a lot more like Voltaic Key/Manifold Key for value, or a bunch of apes to replicate the opening of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Buried Ruin adds a powerful piece of recursion to a deck built around a couple of powerful artifacts. Or a lot of them. Green and Black are the recursion colours, but the least attuned to artifacts, and this being a colourless land helps the rest out a little. It shines best in colourless strategies, which often lean heavily on artifacts anyway.
Clone Shell is kind of like Buried Ruin in that it takes a very green ability and makes it colourless. Green likes to cheat big monsters into play from the top of the deck, and other colours would love to, too. While it can certainly whiff, Clone Shell can also be a reason not to attack you, or fire off that boardwipe for fear of what’s underneath. Decks that love ETB triggers might love this the most.
Coretapper plays well with charge counter decks… right? Are there charge counter decks? Well Wizards seems to see charge counters as a deciduous mechanic or something, where it’s not evergreen, but it still shows up fairly frequently. It’s not even really a mechanic, but with Ikoria making counter types matter more than ever, and the slowly growing list of charge counter cards, this could be a player. Instant speed self sacrifice might be a cool thing you can use, too. And speaking of charge counters….
Culling Dais is something I tried out earlier this year as part of a green sacrifice/recursion deck. It was a really pleasant surprise. I’m all for cards that let you sacrifice your creatures at instant speed, ideally for some value. It’s big game against exile and theft effects, and makes use of creatures that might die anyway. It can even stop triggers that happen when creatures deal damage to each other by removing a blocker from combat. Anyway, lots of strategy available here, and the payoff is card draw. This could be a home run in a lot of creature decks that struggle to refill their hands after powering out a bunch of stuff.
Deathreap Ritual, for those of you still sleeping on this card, it triggers at the end of every turn. That includes creatures dying in combat you’re not a part of. Great card for learning how to pay attention.
Disciple of the Vault can be part of a few nasty, game-ending damage loops with recursive artifacts, but it can also be played for value. It has a couple of solid creature-types as well.
Dread Return, banned in Modern, can be a really nasty surprise card in Commander. At face, the 4 mana CMC is slightly below what Wizards wants you to pay for a reanimation spell these days, and a ‘free’ flashback just adds juice. Reanimator strategies can sometimes struggle if they employ self-mill, because not all of their spells can be cast from the graveyard, even if that’s where they want their creatures. Dread Return helps with that, too, and gives you the ability to turn 3 chumps into a world-beater.
Fatal Push isn’t the greatest Commander card, but it’s still fantastic removal for a ton of formats, and cheaper copies are always welcome. Obviously not the boxtopper pictured.
Hinder adds some unusual variety to the 3 mana counterspell, which actually opens up some interesting strategic potential. While exiling cards is the best way to deal with them in Commander, putting them on the bottom of someone’s deck can be just as good. If you’re countering someone’s Commander, it’s pretty much the same. The real sneaky value comes with cards like Stolen Strategy, which lets you exile and cast the top card of your opponents’ libraries at the beginning of your upkeep.
I don’t know if there’s a real deck that could pull this kind of thing off regularly, but Stolen Strategy isn’t the only card out there like this, and a legendary creature that plays like this could totally be a thing in any supplemental multiplayer product in future.
Izzet Charm is the kind of question you ask yourself when someone swoons over you. It’s also a pretty versatile card. Looting, direct damage and a soft counterspell are an amazing combo of choices, and this is a terrific fair target for Isochron Scepter.
Lightning Greaves are a must-own for Commander players. The slow, the derpy, the janky, and even the OP all want the Greaves. Even as an uncommon here, they are unlikely to drop to bulk, or sustain it if they do. This is one of many cards that is good to have in multiples so you can have them in several if not all of your decks.
O-Naginata is a bit restrictive to equip, but is extremely cheap to cast. The power boost is great, but the real reason to play this card is trample. There are only 17 pieces of equipment that grant trample total. 3 have colour identity, 1 also grants defender, and many of the rest suck for one reason or another. If you’re playing any sort of Voltron with a 3+ power Commander, this is worth a look. This is also just great for bashing through in a deck with large creatures.
Oubliette is finally here with rules that make sense and enough copies for everyone! Is it playable? We can finally find out!
I bet it is. I bet it is so much so that we see phasing on a Standard card like Banishing Light in the very near future instead of exile. It mitigates ETB triggers, revolt triggers, etc, though it retains good stuff like +1/+1 counters as well. Possible big mechanic win for Magic.
Path to Exile, like Lightning Greaves, is something to grab cheaply in multiples if you can. I doubt the price floor is low. This thing shrugs off reprints like ducks shrug off rain. Mono white mages should consider the ramp potential. Turn your 1/1 token into a Plains. The green mage would do it in a heartbeat, and sometimes that fourth Plains casts the Wrath of God you need so much more than the Path to Exile.
Pongify does a pretty good Path to Exile impression for U, doesn’t it? I mean, destroy and exile are worlds apart, but for a single mana, at instant speed, and with minimal downside, Pongify deserves to see some play. Especially in mono-blue. As with Path, you can also play it on your own thing for value. Need to deal 3 damage on an empty board and all you’ve got is a 0/1? Got an ape lord? Even a creature ETB or death can be the trigger you need to get to Christmasland. Lots going on here.
Sandstone Oracle might seem like a questionable deal at 7 mana, especially if your opponents like to empty their hands regularly, but we should all know by now that 7 CMC creatures are supposed to cheated into play, and ETB triggers aren’t supposed to be a one-time thing, but abused with blink outlets. As a colourless card, Sandstone Oracle is ready to fit into any of those strategies. It might just take a single instance of drawing 4 cards, or 6, or more to hook you. The Oracle has a ton of potential. It even has a relevant, evasive body and decent enough type.
Skullmulcher can be visually deceiving. When I first looked at this card, I figured it could only devour 1 creature. ‘Devour 1’ is right there on the card. It’s followed by a dense mass of italics explaining that it’s actually ‘devour any number of creatures, and put 1 +1/+1 counter on this guy for each.’ The 1 in Devour 1 is how many counters per devour. While I try and commit that to memory, and try not to call it Skullmuncher, I can certainly appreciate that a green ETB trigger that effectively reads ‘sacrifice X creatures to draw X cards and put X +1/+1 counters on this creature’ is actually pretty great. Terrific hand filler for token decks.
Sphinx of the Guildpact is one of a very small handful of creatures that are all colours but have no colour identity. Does that even matter? Well for starters, it makes a mono-white Happily Ever After deck a possibility.
As Commander forces Design to consider multiplayer, jank, expressive building, underpowered fun, etc., cards and niche mechanics like all-colour-colourless can explode from nothing into OP. Look at Painter’s Servant, which is not the same, but plays in the realm of colour-matters. And until recently, was banned in Commander.
This doesn’t mean I think cards like Sphinx of the Guildpact are any kind of future powerhouse, or spec target, or anything, just that unique mechanics are worth watching, and sometimes cost almost nothing to toss into your collection.
Thopter Engineer can easily fall in with the group of enthusiastic human creatures that make thopters. A derpy lot, that maybe with some synergy, could rise above. But Thopter Engineer rises so far above the rest, she’s in a stratosphere by herself. Blanket haste to your artifact creatures is just plain amazing, and the fact they she makes an evasive one herself to provide an immediate combat interaction is tremendous. Lots to like, even outside of artifact-heavy strategies.
Throne of Geth wants to marry two strategies that may not jive: spare artifacts and putting counters on stuff. While going wide and going tall can sometimes mean going in different directions, there are plenty of cards that bring the two together. Think planeswalkers that make artifact tokens. Thopters, clues, etherium cells, etc. Even an artifact-heavy strategy with a few payoffs might like the instant-speed sacrifice as much as anything else.
Trash for Treasure doesn’t need much explanation. It’s kind of fun that one of the best targets for the card is a treasure token, because of how easily generated they are these days. This card also offers a ton of flavour, and goes well with pirates, goblins, dragons, and even eco-conscious decks that want to harness the power of upcycling.
Ulvenwald Mysteries is one of the few playable clue cards for Commander, in large part because it both creates clues and offers a payoff for them. The asynergy of mechanics like clues has been their doom, and they have to rely on being part of a singularly powerful card, like Tireless Tracker, or even Thraben Inspector, to see play. Both the generator and payoff are somewhat weak here, but producing 2 kinds of tokens, one of which is an artifact that draws a card and the other of which is a creature with useful colour and two relevant types is pretty interesting. If Wizards ever feels like getting back into TV production, The Ulvenwald Mysteries, starring Thalia and Sir Odric, is the way I’d go. It could be like CSI, but with werewolves and vampires and stuff.
Vampire Hexmage is a great answer to certain cards, like planeswalkers. Having a few more cards like this would be great, as they deter players from leaning too hard on planeswalkers in the first place. You can still turbo out Marit Lage from your Dark Depths, too, and pull lots of other shenanigans.
Veteran Explorer is the gas for a Legacy deck called Nic-Fit, where the deck wants to sacrifice the Explorer early for a pair of basics, knowing that most other decks in the format don’t run basics at all. …Making a major mana advantage for you, and considering the sacrifice part of the deal was likely Cabal Therapy, it’s all valuetown, baby. It’s less likely you’ll be able to pull this trick in Commander, but who knows. You might also ramp the player you least want to ramp. But the cost, power level and even rattlesnake potential of the Explorer should be considered.
Abrade has been downshifted. Take that, Pauper! While not as versatile as in smaller-scale formats, this is still a great card.
Ancient Stirrings helps make Tron an apex predator in Modern, and can be a great enabler for colourless/green Commander strategies, too.
Argivian Restoration does what Refurbish does, but that’s not bad at all. It’s trivial to loot away a high CMC artifact and bring it back with this turns before you could normally cast it. That can definitely help blue decks that don’t ramp so well.
Crib Swap exiles at instant speed. It can also turn your creature into a token that’s probably relevant to your tribal strategy if you need an ETB trigger. Like for Allies as an example. If The Ur-Dragon is your Commander, it only costs 1W, bringing it into Path to Exile territory. Knocking on the door of premium removal.
Everflowing Chalice is a scaling mana rock that gets out of hand easily with proliferate. It can also be played for 0 if you need storm count or a free artifact ETB.
Expedition Map just got banned in Pauper, but you can still find your Gaea’s Cradle with it, or third Tron piece.
Fierce Empath is a really solid tutor, for those that want that sort of thing.
Frogify is no Darksteel Mutation, but enough decks struggle to remove enchantments that it can do the job. Especially in a removal-starved colour like blue.
Goblin Gaveleer may not look like much, but the keyword trample turns a pile of random equipment into a fighting force. Basilisk Collar, the Swords, etc, all get a turbo charge from trample, and this little goblin can be a cool Voltron deck threat.
Myr Retriever, also downshifted from uncommon, threatens to turn Pauper into the next combo wasteland. Commander can find combos for it, or just play it for value.
Steel Sabotage is extremely narrow, but considerably less so than similar cards that are just the bounce, or just the counterspell. It can bounce your stuff to save it, too. Probably a meta choice at best but at least it’s a cheap choice to make.
Supernatural Stamina has seen a number of printings now, and continues to be a really strong card. As a combination regenerator, blink effect and buff, there is a ton of game to be had. Gonti, Lord of Luxury loves this.
While that’s the end for me, Double Masters is chock-full of more powerful cards at common, like Brainstorm, Temur Battle Rage, etc, that shouldn’t be any surprise to most Magic players at this point. If you think I missed a few worthwhile cards, I probably did. My eyes get pretty glazed staring at cards for hours on end.
Double Masters is worth a double check. In the hype of the moment, it’s easy to see the Mythics and Rares and Boxtoppers and Alt Arts and VIP Boosters and all that and forget all the value to be had at the lower end of the spectrum. Give it time, and a lot of these cards will even be more valuable than plenty of the bulk rares and mythics from the set. Thanks for reading!