When the first Commander expansion was announced in December of 2010, I was pretty excited. I had discovered the format earlier that year; and since playing casually had been my main form of playing the game, the idea of preconstructed decks for a social format seemed phenomenal—especially one with unique deck construction rules. The best part of the announcement for me was that these decks were going to have not only new cards printed for the purpose of being generals, but several dozen new cards designed for multiplayer formats.

The next half decade would bring yearly releases with another couple dozen new cards printed each time for Commander. Some of these cards entered the format and stuck; but far more would be lost to memory, entering card boxes, never to be seen again. My focus today is on some of these cards that were lost to memory which deserve more play. I have restricted my selections to cards newly-printed in a Commander product.

Syphon Flesh

Starting off the list is a card like this makes one hell of a splash in creature-light or stalled board states. The ability to combat Voltron strategies while also gaining an edge on the battlefield makes this one card I think too many people are blissfully unaware of. Syphon Flesh has been a top pick in any deck I build looking to bleed my opponents dry, such as Patron of the Nezumi or Ghost Council of Orzhova, or with a zombie theme where it can combo with Noxious Ghoul for maximum rub-ins. I just wish Wizards would consider printing it in more Commander expansions to push more awareness of its existence.

Faerie Artisans

Faerie Artisans might be the most known amongst the cards on my list, but I still feel it is underrated. While the Artisans don’t control what you’re creating the way something like Mimic Vat might offer, the ability to generate every creature your opponents cast can be very powerful. I mean, who is playing creatures that don’t have some effect on the board? The access to extra blockers, enter the battlefield abilities, or just bodies to toss at your local sacrifice engine can really make your opponents think twice before allowing you access to their creatures without a follow-up plan.

The only strike I personally have against the card is that it cost four and might come into play just as the board gets its first board wipe. This is only a concern if you reasonably think that Wrath of God or Damnation might actually be cast during the fourth or fifth turn as some kind of rite of passage for the game. Often, I think you will see more than four mana’s worth of value when you cast this.

Avatar of Slaughter

During the first attempt to deliver creatures that might make waves in Commander, Wizards gave us a creature that I am honestly surprised doesn’t see more play than it does. Red is not an especially powerful color by itself in Commander—especially at the time when Avatar of Slaughter first saw print—so the opportunity to not only double up the damage your creatures dish out, but also force interaction sounds really attractive. The downfall ultimately comes from the casting cost: eight is just too high for many players to justify the inclusion. I think this is an oversight. A deck built with Avatar of Slaughter in mind could really benefit from its inclusion—think Gisela, Blade of Goldnight or Fumiko the Lowblood.

Magmatic Force

The first release of Commander products brought with it the mirrored pair of Celestial Force and Magmatic Force, both in the thematic vein of Tempest’s Verdant Force. The cycle would be complete in Commander 2013 with Tidal Force and Baleful Force. While all five have their places in decks where they can shine, Magmatic Force is the most criminally underplayed.

The reasonable part of my brain says that this cards doesn’t see play for one of two reasons: a) people play in groups that are more competitive than I am privy to, or b) people glaze over whenever they see an X Force creature, thinking they are all very expensive spells to cast that doesn’t feel like it’s going to do a lot of work. Either way, I can agree that the cycle of creatures are rather underwhelming, possibly including Magmatic Force in many contexts. In a lower-power-leveled metagame, I can see Magmatic Force being a great late game target for a reanimation effect or just as a stellar attacker and blocker.

Under common circumstances, this is a red Sheoldred, Whispering One and in others it is Sulfuric Vortex at the face of whomever you like the least. I would at least entertain slotting it into a deck to test it out for yourself, especially if you’re new enough to format to have never seen this card before.

Surveyor’s Scope

This may be the best example of my own confirmation bias really shining through, but this card seems criminally underplayed. It might be because I have benefitted off of it as a follower of Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician, and I’ve grown accustomed to having very few lands in play during later parts of the game in that strategy. It might be that I am an active player of Ruination and Armageddon, and will gladly cast this before releasing either spell to stare the table down and dare them to play lands before my next turn. The secret being that I never cast Armageddon without at least two lands tucked away in my hand.

The real appeal of this card is that it is a low cost utility spell that does great work to ramp you or help you catch up with the table. For those people that don’t have a copy of Land Tax or are not playing white or just want something fun to do on turn two, Surveyor’s Scope is a card for you. But by no means is this an invitation to play below 32 lands or something crazy like that.

Unexpectedly Absent

The change to the “tuck rule” probably killed this card’s appeal in the eyes of many players, though the community’s reaction to that rules change was a bit of a pet peeve of mine anyway. Just because you can no longer shuffle a player’s general into their deck doesn’t mean that cards like Unexpectedly Absent, Spin into Myth, or Oblation are any less useful. In fact, Oblation and Spell Crumple bounced back very well. But why not Unexpectedly Absent?

One strike against has to be the X cost being perceived as too costly and not permanent enough to be considered an answer. In my experience X = 0 can be close enough to Memory Lapse or Plow Under to win you the game or at least stop someone else from winning. Another complaint I could see is that doesn’t have the modular quality that something like Path to Exile or Chaos Warp might have, turning one of your own permanents into another resource. This is a valid point, I forfeit there. I think the biggest issue is lack of face time with an audience that would love this card, being drowned out by True-Name Nemesis during its original printing and not being that sought-after in Eternal Masters.


In direct contrast to most of my list, Restore does not cost 5+ mana, thus it has far less reason to be overlooked by the community. When this card was first spoiled for Commander 2013, it had people excited by the potential to do any number of Magical Christmas-Land things. Like most hypothetical situations where you win the game, shock the audience, and find true love; sadly, those dreamed up scenarios never really surfaced once the card got slotted into decks.

Restore is the kind of utility spell that can be very underwhelming in the first few turns of the game—a fetchland?—but surprisingly powerful late in the game as you rebuy your Wasteland or punish a player with few basics by cutting them off a color with Ghost Quarter. Life from the Loam is the more sought-after card, but Restore is not strictly worse.

Sandstone Oracle

My last pick is another biased pet card of mine, but something I really think could stand to see play in decks without access to blue. This card was very unassuming when it first came out, being pulled from the Arjun, the Shifting Flame deck I was building and only seeing play when I needed to fill a slot in the Eldrazi decks I was working on the following Spring. I was impressed pretty quickly and wished I had devoted myself to this card earlier.

Seven mana might be a steep price, but for a 4/4 flier and setting our hand size back to seven, this feels deceptively useful on turn seven or eight and especially good once you find yourself in top-deck mode. While we would love to have Recurring Insight granting us access to even more cards, sometimes a humble card like this can make all of the difference.

Beyond the reveal of each of the decks’ generals, the biggest highlight of preview season for a Commander set for me is the new cards being designed for the format. While not everyone one of them is a home run, it’s often entertaining to see what Wizards thought would lend themselves well to the social politics and slower games overall. Cards like the ones on this list are handicapped by not having as much attention on them as cards that enter the format through Standard, making them easily forgettable if they never take off before the next few Standard-legal sets drown out the hype.

Sites like EDHrec certainly make it much harder for true secret tech to go under the radar anymore. But with the wealth of sets now seeing print, it is completely possible entire suites of cards are being printed only to be discovered in five years. What cards do you think don’t see enough play? Feel free to cast your net wider than I did today. As always, you can find my on Twitter, I would love to here whatever feedback I can get. Until next time, everyone!

Ryan Sainio is a Graphic Designer who writes about EDH, the story of Magic and the EDH community in his down time. He has been playing Magic: The Gathering since 7th Edition in 2002 and values flavorful and fun gameplay over competitively optimized decks.
Pet Deck – Shattergang Eldrazi

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