Well hello readers, welcome back to MTGCasualPlay.com and my Top 10 Commander 2015 Cards for EDH! As always, my rankings take into account new cards (no reprints) and playability with regards to fitting into a wide range of decks as opposed to niche, corner-case goodness. With that being said, I can’t overlook sheer power either, so I’ll try to stay as balanced as I can. For each card I will include a FOR ME… section to indicate how I would personally use the card in my existing or future decklists.
I find that top 10 lists are opinion based and you, my friends, are about to read my opinions for the next few minutes. At the end of the article is the comment section. I would be happier than a Gitrog Monster if you would leave a comment with your thoughts on the list and any opinions on cards that you consider top 10. Let’s discuss!
Be sure to check back every once in a while for my other Commander articles as well as checking out some of the other great articles written by the writers here at MTGCasualPlay.com.
So… let’s do this!
The Gitrog Monster: I have my reservations on how “great” the Gitrog Monster can be in an EDH deck. Don’t get me wrong, I think it could be good, but seems to be more of a “build-around-me” kind of card. If only it was Legendary. Sigh. Wait, what? Oh shit. It is legendary! Haha. Yeah, I knew that.
In all seriousness folks the popularity buzz for this hungry fella is real. The Gitrog Monster burps with potential. Having Crucible of Worlds, Life from the Loam, ample card draw or land tutors (ie: Cultivate) will fuel the swamp dweller’s engine. Since the card draw triggers on a land going into the graveyard from anywhere, it can also be exploited with Golgari type shenanigans such as dredge and anything else that throws cards from their library into the bin. Did I mention this was a 6/6 Deathtouch for five mana? Fantastic addition to the EDH world.
Tireless Tracker: Is it cheating if I’ve already played with this card before and was pleasantly surprised with the amount of cards I drew? I like this guy better than Seer’s Sundial since we do not have to pay the 2 mana right away. We can store our clues and crack them open when we have extra mana to burn. Great card.
Jace, Unraveler of Secrets: Go home Jace. You’re drunk! While the +1 to draw a card and the -2 to unsummon a creature are nice little parlor tricks, that ultimate is downright punishing and unfriendly. Be sure to ask your friends if they would like some fries with their salt when you cast Jace with Arcane Laboratory and Doubling Season on the board.
Enough of the “honorables”. You came here for a Top 10 List, so let’s get to it!
Top 10 Commander 2015 Cards for EDH
#10 – Engulf the Shore
Starting off with a thud ain’t we? Haha. Okay, let me explain this choice for my top 10. This card is definitely not Evacuation, but it’s all about how you play Engulf the Shore that will unlock the raw power that we are looking for. While true, this may be more powerful in a mono blue deck, it does have just as much potential in a two or three color deck. So what’s the trick?
Engulf the Shores, as opposed to Evacuation, isn’t about removing all of the creatures from the battlefield, it’s about what is best for a situation. On defense Engulf the Shores can save us from a token army in response to a Craterhoof Behemoth, uproot utility creatures that have us locked down or providing too much advantage for our opponents, or yes, quite simply, be a response to save our bacon in the eye of trouble. On offense, Engulf can clear the path for our Eldrazi, Colossus or big beater win condition or it can reset our creatures with enters the battlefield effects.
Engulf the Shores reminds me a smidgen of another one of my favorite bounce spells, Wash Out. Like Wash Out, it is all about finding the opportune time to make our move and tilt the balance.
FOR ME… Plain and simple, Muzzio needs a way to clear the path for Blightsteel Colossus and this card will do the trick. I also plan on including a copy in Simic Ezuri. Load one dude up with counters, clear most of the board, swing! Also contemplating copies of this for Hanna, Silumgar, and Oloro. As I said. I think this card has some potential!
#9 – Westvale Abbey
In the original Innistrad block many EDH Johnnys tried their hand at flipping an equipment in efforts to see Withengar Unbound terrorize the battlefield. While a little mana intensive and tricky to do, quite a few of us were able to achieve the goal. In Shadows Over Innistrad a new demon lays dormant and awaits Johnny deck builder to unleash him. Let me introduce you to Westvale Abbey and the legendary demon that is imprisoned there, Ormendahl, Profane Prince.
Westvale Abbey is quite a humble utility land if you take away the ability to release a demonic force. It does come into play untapped, which is always good, and taps for colorless mana c which will help us cast a batch of fun EDH cards we acquired in the Oath of the Gatewatch set. We can also tap the Abbey and generic mana to put a 1/1 White/Black human cleric onto the battlefield. A little expensive to use, but a nice mana sink none-the-less. However, the true game achievement is the ability that allows us to tap it and sacrifice five creatures to transform Westvale Abbey into Innistrad’s new evil terror Ormendahl, Profane Prince.
Ormendahl is a nasty 9/7 with flying, lifelink, haste and is indestructible. There is not much more to say than the “Prince of Vale-Air” is going to bring terror and panic to the kitchen table.
What decks will want to play Ormendahl? Since getting the land to flip is the key element, the obvious inclusions are in decks that run a lot of token producers. Decks like Ghave or Prossh that focus on tokens will definitely want to play Westvale Abbey as will decks that include cards like Grave Titan, Avenger of Zendikar or Tempt with Vengeance. In all honesty, Westvale Abbey warrants consideration in any black EDH deck that has an open spot for a utility land. It provides colorless specific mana, comes into play untapped, can pop out 1/1 creatures in a pinch, and has a dark side that will bring a crushing end to casual games.
FOR ME… I do have a couple of copies of Westvale Abbey and they are going into Prossh and Daxos.
#8 – Altered Ego
Did you realize there was a time in Magic’s history that the game developers did not design copy cards like Clone because of the awkwardness of the rules? Thank goodness they figured that out. Over the last few years we have received some interesting and powerful copy effects that can trace their ancestry back to the original copy dude from the Alpha set. Shadows Over Innistrad introduces a simic shapeshifter that is a must have for the copy fanatics, Altered Ego. In solid clone fashion, the Altered Ego enters the battlefield as a copy of any creature on the battlefield (can also copy hexproof dudes). What makes the Ego a solid addition to our EDH decks, however, is that it can not be countered. Being able to copy any creature on the board with no fear of a counterspell makes the Altered Ego a commander card worth bragging about.
In solid infomercial style, “But Wait! There’s More!” If we have tap an additional mana when we cast the Altered Ego it enters the battlefield with an additional +1/+1 counters. Having the option to give a clone +1/+1 counters in addition to not being countered is high grade goodness!
FOR ME… Altered Ego is an auto include in my Ezuri, Claw of Progress deck for it’s +1/+1 counter option AND in my Surrak Dragonclaw build because it fits the theme of resisting counterspells. I’m a huge fan of clones and looking forward to sending the Ego onto the battlefield.
#7 – Open the Armory
Whether it’s dialing up an answer, scavenging for a win condition or simply adding a drop of consistency to the randomness, most of us can agree that tutors1 are a treasured commodity in our EDH decks. I believe that most of us can also agree that our format does sport a large number of decks that are built around voltron, enchantress, or equipment based decks. This is why I have chosen Open the Armory for my Top 10 list. This tutor allows us to search our library for any aura or equipment card and put it into our hand. At , the value is tasty good.
Honestly, our deck does not need to be an aura or equipment deck. Even if we only run a handful of one or the other, being able to get it into our hand for two mana is worth a deck slot. Case in point, being able to tutor up our Lightning Greaves to ensure the safety of our commander or retrieve our Song of the Dryads to deal with an opposing commander are enough reasons to run Open the Armory. Sure, in equipment decks Steelshaper’s Gift is better, but if that is the situation, why not run both?
FOR ME… If there was a device to measure my level of excitement for this card, I guarantee it would break the scale. Open the Armory is an auto include in Uril, Sigarda, and Bruna to fetch up an aura and in Zurgo and Eight-and-a-Half Tails to tutor for equipment. I will probably put additional copies in Brago to ensure one of my four auras are in hand and in Kaalia and Aurelia so I am always able to abuse Lightning Greaves and Sunforger. What a great resource!
#6 – Archangel Avacyn
What can I say? I’m a sucker for a pretty face and this artwork is downright gorgeous on both sides of the card. Taking a look at Archangel Avacyn, we are presented with the Avacyn we have all grown to know and love. The protector and beacon of hope. For this stunning flyer can be cast at instant speed via her Flash ability. When she enters the battlefield, creatures we control gain indestructible until end of turn. There’s the gal that we remember, shielding all of our creatures from harm. At the end of the day she is also a 4/4 Flying Vigilance reminiscent of one of the best creatures from Magic’s history, Serra Angel.
So here’s the twist. With our return to Innistrad, we find out that our fiery Gemini has a bit of a temper. Should one of our non-Angels perish Avacyn takes it personally and in her rage flips from white to red becoming Avacyn, the Purifier. In her rage, Avacyn blasts all other creatures and opponents for three points of burn damage. She also loses vigilance but takes up a bit more power and toughness becoming a 6/5 flyer.
In EDH games being able to flash in a creature to give all other creatures indestructible until end of turn can be a pivotal point in a match. Getting her onto the battlefield in response to an opponent’s attempt to wrath the board can provide instant gratification. Of course we can also stoke up the mana and respond to our own board wipes and ask to see the white flags of the other players. I also believe that Avacyn can be relevant when she flips to her red side. Three points of damage to each creature can knock out token armies and utility creatures. We could also stock up on instant speed “flicker” or “blink” effects that would allow us to re-utilize that juicy indestructible effect. Archangel Avacyn could be a decent Boros commander in her own right having a rattlesnake-like effect whenever you have enough mana to flash her into play from the command zone.
The only thing that I don’t like about Miss Avacyn is that she is restricted to Boros or decks with W/R/x.
FOR ME… How can I not put Archangel Avacyn into my Aurelia tribal Angel deck? Sure, I won’t get her to flip very often due to the lack of non-angel cards in the deck, but the ability to save Aurelia and my other flying lovelies is just enough to have her on the team. She probably won’t replace Avacyn, Angel of Hope in my Kaalia deck, but I am considering her inclusion into Zurgo. Lots of blowing up the board with red damage in this deck. She would fit perfectly into the game plan.
#5 – Cryptolith Rite
If I were to choose a “sleeper” pick for the set, Cryptolith Rite is it. The design is straight forward, for two casting cost we get an enchantment that gives all of our creatures the ability to be able to tap for one mana of any color. Basically, all of our creatures become a Birds of Paradise in addition to their other features.
If you have ever had the opportunity to play a sliver deck with Manaweft Sliver on the battlefield, you will realize that if all of your dudes can tap for mana, a game can get out of hand quick. This enchantment will reward decks that focus on tokens or cheap casting cost creatures the most allowing them to explode with an overwhelming amount of mana in the early game. Add in some card draw and a game can find it’s end within a few turns. But we don’t need a lot of creatures to make The Rite a successful piece of our game plan. Cards like Grand Abolisher are included in decks for it’s static ability, so making it a mana dork has no downsides. The same goes for a card like Wood Elves where it’s main purpose in life was to get a forest and then assume the role of a chump blocker. With Cryptolith Rite, the Wood Elves can now help contribute more to our cause and stick around to help cast bigger stuff.
Let’s not forget that creatures suffering from summoning sickness will not be able to tap for mana right away, but the increased tempo provided by the ones that can tap for mana is going to draw some attention. I am sure that Cryptolith Rite will find itself the target of a few K-Grips in the near future.
FOR ME… This is a definite include in Prossh where I’m already set up to abuse infinite attacks with Aggravated Assault. The Rite is also an auto include in Jolrael so I can tap tokens for mana and swing with lands. My slivers on the other hand, not so sure this replaces the Gemhide or Manaweft Slivers, but we’ll see how it goes.
#4 – Sorin, Grim Nemesis
How many Orzhov Black/White Sorins are there now? Six? Seven? Seems like forever ago when Sorin was a mono black planeswalker. No worries. Sorin, Grim Nemesis may be one of the best yet. Let’s take a gander at those abilities for this 6 mana walker!
+1: Sorin’s main ability allows us to reveal the top card of our library and put it into our hand. While this in itself is a nice little draw effect, the pure enjoyment of this ability is that Sorin will drain the life of each opponent equal to that card’s casting cost. Giggity-giggity this is a hot effect. Sure, we can allow the randomness of the cards to fall where they might and be pleasantly surprised if we drain opponents for six by revealing Grave Titan or bummed out when a Plains is revealed. Or, we could manipulate fate and use cards such as Sensei’s Diving Top or Scroll Rack to ensure that Sorin’s fists are always punishing the other players. Even more epic, we could use one-shot blasts like Vampiric Tutor or Enlightened Tutor to be absolutely positive that we flop an Eldrazi from the top of our library and possibly finish out the game.
-X: Sorin’s - ability allows us to do direct damage to a creature or planeswalker and we gain life. Not bad for knocking out enemy walkers or troublesome monsters in a pinch.
-9: Sorin’s ultimate gives us a number of 1/1 Black Knight Vampires with Lifelink equal to the highest life total among all players. Better yet, we get to this ultimate in quick fashion thanks to 6 starting loyalty and that juicy +2 ability. Unleash our vampire armies!
While I am primarily focused on the +1 ability of Sorin’s, I really dig the overall usefulness of all three abilities. Sorin should be able to turn the tides of some matches, end long drawn-out stalemates, or threaten the board state with his array of powers.
FOR ME…: Finally picked up a Sorin and will probably jam him into my Oloro deck due to a healthy dose of top deck manipulation. Uncle Karl will have to wait until I pick up another copy.
I couldn’t resist including this unique tutor in my top 10 list. Let’s take a look at Traverse the Ulvenwald. Sure, it’s sorcery speed but for one green mana we get to search our library for a basic land and put it into our hands. That, in itself, is pretty groovy. You basically don’t lose anything outside of tapping a tree and the value of mana fixing right off the bat incrementally increases the effectiveness of this card in two, three or five color decks.
Then there is paragraph two of this card’s rules text. If we have Delirium we can search our library for a land OR a creature card and put it into our hand. Green usually has a knack for meeting the requirements of delirium, so more often than not, Traverse the Olvenwald will allow us to get the utility creature or the big beater we need and put it directly into our hand. Hot diggity dog!
Traverse the Ulvenwald flows with the game quite nicely. In the beginning stages it looks sweet in our opening hand and in the late game it could unlock the gates to our library of critters.
FOR ME… I really dig this card. My lone copy is set to go in my Jolrael, Empress of Beasts decks. The deck always needs lands and, if I’m full in the mana department, I really love the flexibility of retrieving an Eldrazi or Vorinclex so I can move towards my win condition. Dare I say that I like Traverse better than Worldly Tutor and should always be able to find homes for more copies in most of my green EDH decks.
#2 – Ulvenwald Hydra
Sometimes it’s just fun to evaluate a creature designed to go smash-smash on the battlefield. The Ulvenwald Hydra is a beefy box of beatdown that has power and toughness equal to the number of lands we control. More often than not, this will translate to a 7/7 that steps up it’s game with every land drop. In addition, the Hydra has the keyword Reach allowing it to block creatures with flying. While these stats are decent enough for the casual Timmy to sleeve up, it has one more ability that proves it’s worth in the Mythic slot and, at , makes the Hydra a consideration for every green deck that likes to search their library for a land and put it onto the battlefield.
When Ulvenwald Hydra enters the battlefield we may search our library for a land card and put it into play. Notice that I did not say “a basic land card” or “a Forest”, nope I definitely said “a land”. Whoah. So what does this mean for us? Well, we now have access to any utility land in our deck. Do we need to neuter a graveyard player? We can go get Bojuka Bog. Need Defense? Let’s get our Maze of Ith, Counterspells got us down? Cavern of Souls. Is Cabal Coffers fueling our opponent? Let the Hydra bring out our Strip Mine.
If we take a look at Gatherer, I believe there are very few, if any, creatures that let us get any land we want out of our deck and put it onto the battlefield. Sure there’s Primeval Titan but “Prime Time” is under lock and key in the land of the Banned, a place from which it can never return. While the Ulvenwald Hydra is no where near the power level of “PT” or the other green bad boy (Sylvan Primordial), the raw power/toughness combined with the ability to tutor any land makes it a satisfying play for all three Magic personas; Johnny, Timmy and Spike.
FOR ME… If I could spend a night trick-or-treating with every door dropping an Ulvenwald Hydra into my plastic pumpkin I would be so happy. I’ll have the Hydra in my Vhati deck so I can get Arcane Lighthouse, in Sigarda and Slivers I can get my Cavern of Souls, you get the point. I could do this all day. Great card.
#1 – Anguished Unmaking
Okay, so I kind of break my Top 10 List Rules by crowning a White/Black instant as my #1 EDH card in Shadows Over Innistrad. But, hey, I can’t help it. This card is dirty good. Our life total can be seen as a valuable resource in the Commander format since most variants start us off at 40. Anguished Unmaking costs us 3 life and 3 mana to exile any nonland permanent on the board. Exile! That is oober-value when it comes to spot removal. A must play card for any deck sporting Swamps and Plains.
Not convinced? Let’s compare Anguished Unmaking to two other Black/White removal spells that very well could be labeled as “staples” in decks with their valid color identity. Vindicate matches Anguished Unmaking at only 3 mana . The main difference between the two is that Vindicate can destroy while Anguished Unmaking exiles. Another weakness of the old-timer is it can only be cast at sorcery speed where Anguished is an instant. Sure, Vindicate can pop a land, but I’ll take the instant speed exile over sorcery speed destroy any day of the week and leave the land destruction to my Strip Mine.
Now, let’s take a look at Utter End. Like Anguished Unmaking, Utter End also exiles a nonland permanent and is instant speed removal. The only difference is that Utter End costs four mana while Anguished Unmaking only costs . As evidenced by the option to pay phyrexian mana in spells like Dismember, I would gladly pay 3 life to be able to cast a removal spell at a cheaper cost.
Compared to Vindicate and Utter End, two spells that could be considered auto-includes in their colors, Anguished Unmaking is arguably the best removal option of the three. The ability to exile any permanent at instant speed for three mana makes Anguished Unmaking the #1 Card on my Top 10 Shadows over Innistrad list.
FOR ME… Practicing what I preach my friends. I have already inserted pack fresh Anguished Unmakings into my Uncle Karl and Oloro EDH decks. Need one more for Daxos the Returned!
So there you have it folks, my Top 10 Shadows over Innistrad Cards for EDH/Commander. What do you agree with? What didn’t you like? Please comment in the section below!
Ah, Before I go, here are a few other cards that I will be playtesting/adding to my existing EDH decks. These cards did not make the Top 10, but I thought I would note that I may give them a try.
OTHER CARDS I MAY PLAYTEST
Descend upon the Sinful: A definite in my Aurelia Angel Tribal and an auto include in Hanna. Hope to get that Delirium Angel!
Startled Awake: Time for things to get nasty in my Lazav Mill Deck
Behold the Beyond: Tutor up a three card combo. Going into a deck for sure!
Odric, Lunarch Marshal: Interesting. Gotta find a place for it. Aurelia or Eight-and-a-Half Maybe? Ah, should fit in with Zurgo. I’ll try there.
Rattlechains: Possibility for Brago. Just might do that.
Tireless Tracker: This card has already went off in my Jolrael deck. So many clues!
Eerie Interlude: I love me some Ghostway. Will probably cram into Brago or Kaalia
Essence Flux: Too good not to put it into a deck. The obvious choice is Brago, but I’m sure there is other suitors.
Weirding Wood: Going into Sigarda Enchantress, for sure!
Invocation of Saint Traft: Put this in Bruna. Didn’t like it. Wish it was better than it looked.
Thing in the Ice: Ooooh. Looks so much fun. Gonna try Hanna, Jhoira or Oloro. Good times ahead! Almost made Honorable Mention.
Arlin Kord: The problem with Arlin is her abilities are similar to other Gruul Planeswalkers and she has to compete with Sarkhan, Xenagos or Domri for deck space. I’m sure I’ll try her somewhere, just not sure where yet. Maybe it’s time to build a Gruul deck.
Hope to see you back in a couple of months when we take a look at our Top 10 Eldritch Moon Cards for EDH Commander
On to the next!