17 Cards from 2017 You Should Be Playing in Your Commander Decks!
Another year, another ton of great Magic cards for everyone’s favourite casual format.
We had a new set of Commander bringing a swathe of new tribal cards designed specifically for the format and Iconic Masters with a huge number of fantastic reprints. While there were a bunch of great reprints last year, I’m going to be focusing on new cards that were released and what kinds of decks they can be added to, or in the case of legendary creatures, can be built around.
Below are my top 17 cards from 2017:
17. X (and other Unstable Cards)
I couldn’t get away with writing this article without mentioning the month that we were allowed to play silver-bordered cards. X was the legend of choice that I decided to make a deck for. I had a lot of fun with X choosing to go down the route of stealing permanents with a mill/reanimation sub theme using some of the less common cards like Extract From Darkness and Dilluvian Primordial to replay cards from my opponent’s graveyards. Unlike Unhinged and Unglued, Unstable had a bunch of cards that were like Magic cards from normal sets, meaning that they didn’t change games of Commander too much. My playgroup is going to continue running some silver-bordered cards with a caveat of ”If it’s too powerful, don’t play it anymore”, but really do what your playgroup is happiest with.
16. Rishkar’s Expertise
Probably the card I’ve played most since its release that is still yet to disappoint. The most impactful deck I’ve played this card in is definitely Xenagos, God of Revels, where you can double up the power on Worldspine Wurm, draw 30 cards and then play Savage Beating for free. Definitely recommend running this in any green deck but of course becomes more and more powerful the higher the average power of the creatures in your deck is.
15. Paradox Engine
One of the cards that’s on the top of the list that has been very polarising since its release. Some people believe it’s an incredibly powerful combo piece on the borderline of being too powerful and easy to abuse, especially with cards like Isochron Scepter with an imprinted Dramatic Reversal, or just basically any spell on Isochron Scepter. On the other hand some believe that a format with so much artifact removal means that an artifact with a converted mana cost of 5 is a little too slow given that it’s easy to facilitate incredibly early plays with cards like Sol Ring. One thing that can’t be argued is that this is an incredibly powerful card and will probably see play for as long as the format is around.
14. Razaketh, the Foulblooded
Like Paradox Engine, this card was incredibly hyped with people even calling for it to be banned before the set was released and comparing it to the banned Griselbrand. Unlike Paradox Engine, Razaketh was not as powerful as predicted, needing quite a lot of set up and not being able to simply win you the game on the spot on resolution like Griselbrand.
13. Search for Azcanta
The two mana enchantment that is quickly becoming a Modern and Legacy staple. It allows you to fill your graveyard in reanimator decks to fuel your strategy, while in control decks you can eventually flip it and use its ability to Impulse every turn, digging for card draw, removal or counter magic.
12. Vona, Butcher of Magan
Probably one of the most flavourful cards released last year. A white/black creature with a Vindicate ability when you tap, not only is it a powerful removal ability but it does not cost any mana, and the life cost can be almost fully recovered by connecting thanks to lifelink. You can also declare attackers and tap Vona to remove a permanent before she is blocked. As the general of a lifegain-centric deck, Vona is really able to just take over a game, however I personally think that she works better as one of the 99 of a midrange deck like Anafenza, the Foremost or Karador, Ghost Chieftain, as part of the removal suite alongside Vindicate, Anguished Unmaking and Utter End.
11. Approach of the Second Sun
The new control win con of choice for most Azorius and Esper decks, especially Grand Arbiter, Augustin IV and Oloro, Ageless Ascetic. The best decks that this fits into are those that durdle around for a million turns before winning since you need to first reach 7 mana, draw 7 cards and then cast the spell a second time.
10. Vizier of the Menagerie
Another great card for creature based decks, Vizier of the Menagerie gives virtual card advantage by allowing you to play creatures off the top of your deck similarly to Courser of Kruphix and Future Sight. It also combines very well with Sensei’s Divining Top and Scroll Rack to fix your mana by letting you cast the creature with any types of mana.
9. Kess, Dissident Mage
One of the most popular generals from the last year, Kess has been built as anything from Storm, to Wheel of Fortune-based decks and even Grixis goodstuff decks, doubling up on the uses of removal spells and breaking the parity of the singleton rule. Whilst I’ve not personally built a deck with Kess, I’ve played against a few and doubling up on your removal spells and your extra turns can make the deck incredibly potent.
8. The Locust God, The Scarab God and The Scorpion God
The Scarab and The Locust God are both very popular commanders since they were released but it didn’t feel right including those two but not The Scorpion God. Each of these generals can be built with various themes, but the most important part of these cards is that they can circumvent the Commander tax by being put into your graveyard. Building The Locust God with Bident of Thassa, The Scarab God with a strong mill theme and The Scorpion God with Kuldrath Knight are a few of several powerful combos that fit in these decks.
7. As Foretold
One of the more underrated cards released last year, As Foretold lets you play a number of cards you couldn’t play straight from your hand before like Ancestral Vision and Living End. Once a few turns have passed (or you’ve proliferated a few times) you can easily play a spell for free in your turn and an expensive counterspell like Cryptic Command or Mystic Confluence for free during your opponent’s turns.
6. Baral, Chief of Compliance
Baral is an extremely powerful card in control decks as part of the 99, but the real power of this card came out in 1v1 Commander where it was powerful enough to warrent bans of cards like Polymorph and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, both on MTGO and in Duel/French Commander.
5. Mirage Mirror
As with As Foretold, I think that this card is underrated with not as many turning up in decks as I would expect. Being able to have the most powerful card in play is something that has made cards like Control Magic and Treachery so powerful in Limited for so long. Being able to change what you are copying each turn gives Mirage Mirror significantly more utility in the long drawn out games that Commander tends to cultivate. This utility is a feature that makes these cards significantly more appealing when deck-building.
4. Mairsil, the Pretender
Mairsil is probably the card that I’ve been the most excited for last year and have had the most fun brewing. Since he was spoiled I was scouring Gatherer to find the best cards to add and have been making small changes, tuning the deck as time has passed. With every new set I’ve been scouring the spoilers for new cards with activated abilities to add to the deck, but unfortunately there isn’t much that’s been able to replace the powerful abilities that’re already in it. I won’t go on more about this deck, but if you want a more in depth look at one of my first drafts of the deck you can read my article here.
3. Champion of Wits
One of my pet cards released recently, I’ve been trying to put Champion of Wits into every blue deck, this Frantic Search on a creature has done a lot of work in every EDH deck and has won me games by itself in Standard. Not only is a 2/1 that draws two cards and lets you put two cards into your graveyard for three mana extremely powerful, but the ability to Eternalise it for seven mana, and make a 4/4 and draw 4 from your graveyard makes it good even if you discard it through another outlet suc h as Golgari Grave-Troll.
2. Teferi’s Protection
One of the most expensive cards from Commander 2017, being worth the same as almost the whole Vampire deck made it incredibly hard to get hold of. One of the most powerful ways to use this is in response to a card like Armageddon or Jokulhaups to be the only player with lands. At its worst, this card simply acts as a second copy of Heroic Intervention while also having the upside of being able to protect yourself from a lethal attack. I often put this under the larger umbrella of cards that function like Fog but it has the significant upside of also being able to avoid a lethal Comet Storm or Worldgorger Dragon combo.
1. Ramos, Dragon Engine
I put Ramos at the top of this list because he’s the five colour general that I think Commander has needed for a long time. Previously all of the five coloured generals were mostly tribal focused, cards like Horde of Notions, Scion of the Ur-Dragon and Sliver Overlord but none of these were really appropriate for 5-colour goodstuff decks except Sliver Queen which still didn’t really fit that role. Ramos, on the other hand, can be cast without needing all of the colours of the rainbow but also allows you to ramp perfectly into cards like Door to Nothingness and Progenitus by removing 5 +1/+1 counters.
I honestly think that 2017 was a fantastic year for Commander, a bunch of great cards and more support from Wizards of the Coast. I hope that 2018 brings more official support for the format including a new set of precons, more cards from expansions and a ton of high value reprints in the form of Masters sets and judge promo reprints.
Let me know what your top cards of last year were and how you’ve been using them!
I hope that this article helps you to pick up a few great cards for your Commander decks and as always, thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the article!