The Super Staples of Commander

Feature Article from Bruce Richard
Bruce Richard
12/6/2016 11:00:00 AM
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There are staples in every Commander deck. The cards you expect to see every time you see a specific commander. When Prossh, Skyraider of Kher appears, Purphoros, God of the Forge and Beastmaster Ascension will be in the deck. When Brago, King Eternal is a commander, Reality Acid and Mulldrifter are close behind.

These are staples for good reason: they work arm in arm with their commander to do amazing things, practically without trying! Staples are cards that give you a kickstart when you are building. If you are using the Theory of Nine that I discussed last week, the staples will be some of the first cards you'll fit into the slots you've created. It may be that these staples are what led you to picking the themes that you did.

Then there are the “Super Staples.” While staples are cards you expect to find with specific commanders, the Super Staples are the cards you expect to see in every deck. Super Staples work well in practically every Commander deck. As you build your deck you likely to stop on a card and ask yourself if the card should go in your deck. If you are dealing with a staple, the answer should be a quick, emphatic yes. If you are dealing with a Super Staple, the question you should be asking isn't whether the card should go in your deck, but if there is a good reason not to include the card.

There are always a few decks that are so extreme that not all the Super Staples makes sense in those decks. However, almost every deck should be using the Super Staples.

Super Staples tend to be cards that involve mana or removal. Practically every deck requires mana and removal, and these cards tend to do it better than any other, to the point that you should have a good reason not to include the card. My list starts with a Super Staple in each color. If you are running that color in your deck, you should be running this card. After those five, I have five more that should start as part of every Commander deck you make.

10. Kodama's Reach

Mid
Low
 Kodama's Reach
$1.60
$0.75
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If you're running green, part of the reason is because you can find land so easily. So many cards get land from your deck, but none do it as well as Kodama's Reach. Two basics for three mana, and only one of them has to be green. Whether you are running a mono-green, two-, three-, four-, or five-color deck, adding two lands is big. More mana lets you cast more and bigger spells. You are going to run mana ramp in your deck and Kodama's Reach is simply the best there is.

I know Cultivate is practically the same. Realistically if you want two cards that do this, Cultivate is your next choice. However, if I'm only picking one, I'll choose the one with Arcane for those rare situations where that actually matters.

There are a group of green decks that will want Sakura Tribe Elder and other creatures that sacrifice to find lands even more than Kodama's Reach. Those decks usually also run black and have ways to regularly recur those creatures from your graveyard. This is the reason Kodama's Reach is #10 on the list, but even in those decks, I would think carefully about pulling Kodama's Reach. Most of the recurring cards need the mana that Kodama's Reach can provide.

9. Vandalblast

Mid
Low
 Vandalblast
$1.55
$0.69
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Red does artifact removal better than any other color and Vandalblast does it better than any other card. It has flexibility that lets it be useful early in the game to eliminate a Sol Ring or other mana rock, and hits in the late game to clean house, taking out everyone else's artifacts. Mana rocks, equipment, a key artifact that is making a deck hum - Vandalblast does it all. And the best part is that it doesn't hurt your artifacts at all! There are times when this won't matter, but most decks run some artifacts, and some red decks run a lot of artifacts. Resetting your opponents and leaving you untouched makes this a Super Staple for every deck that can cast it.

8. Demonic Tutor

Mid
Low
 Demonic Tutor
$28.97
$17.11
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I hate including this card. I am not a fan of tutors in Commander games. They make games repetitive and abuse the spirit of randomness inherent in 100-card singleton decks. However, I just spent an entire article showing you how to get redundancy in your decks, so refusing to include Demonic Tutor here seems rather hypocritical.

Hate it or not, Demonic Tutor does everything. For only two mana it can find land, the piece of removal you need, a way to recur a card you've lost to the graveyard, or just that one card you desperately need to make things work. I understand and appreciate it if you don't include Demonic Tutor in your builds, but be aware that you are actively making your deck worse without it.

7. Swords to Plowshares

Mid
Low
 Swords to Plowshares
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$1.50
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Fans of black cards will tell you that black has the best creature removal spells, but they are just wrong. Swords to Plowshares is instant speed removal for one white mana that gives opponents what is usually an irrelevant amount of life. Wrath of God and other mass removal effects are great for getting around untargetable creatures, but those are far more limited than you realize. Cards like Lightning Greaves get moved around and Swords flashes in out of nowhere to make opponents pay.

The cost ensures that you can play this in any deck that has white mana and you should. Some claim that Path to Exile is better but I'd rather give up some life than another land. Almost every deck will have another basic to find and put onto the battlefield, leaving your opponents better able to cast their next spell. Giving them life often turns them into a target if the lifegain is big enough. If the lifegain isn't big enough, it probably isn't enough to matter over the course of the game.

6. Cyclonic Rift

Mid
Low
 Cyclonic Rift
$6.47
$5.00
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Blue is known for card drawing, but with so many excellent options, the ones you choose really depend on your deck. Mulldrifter, Brainstorm and Stroke of Genius are all great cards, but the Super Staple in blue has to be Cyclonic Rift. Rift has the flexibility of a Vandalblast with the Overload mechanic again proving its worth. Rift gives you the early option of bouncing a single problematic permanent from any opponents' battlefield, which I've seen used against a mana rock to lock out a particular color of mana. This has bounced the one blocker that has been causing headaches for every other player's attack options. Any permanent that accumulates counters can be stuffed. An early Cyclonic Rift can leave a planeswalker going from ready to ultimate, all the way back to square one.

But the real reason this card is a Super Staple isn't because it can bounce a single permanent. The global reset leaves everyone, except you, scrambling to rebuild their decks. At instant-speed, you can even use it at the end of an opponent's turn to leave them wide open to your attack. The card has a ton of flexibility, and only costs one blue mana, so it fits in any deck that runs blue, no matter how small the splash may be.

5. Command Tower

Mid
Low
 Command Tower
$1.43
$0.74
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Command Tower is the land that says, "I got you covered." It always taps for whatever you need and offers no drawback. When Command Tower first came out, I hated the card because I felt it was just too easy. The drawback to playing multicolored commanders was supposed to be the colors making decks unstable as they tried to find the appropriate color, and Command Tower just made that easier.

The only decks that can justify not running a Command Tower are mono-colored decks. In those decks, Command Tower is a non-basic land that taps for one mana of that color. Another basic land just makes more sense. Otherwise, what are you doing? Sure, it is a non-basic land and there are drawbacks to that, but it taps for any color you need and has no drawbacks. That more than makes up for the drawback. You should be running this Super Staple.

4. Chromatic Lantern

Mid
Low
 Chromatic Lantern
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Command Tower taps for whatever color of mana you need, but Chromatic Lantern one-ups it by giving every land you have that ability. To top it off, it also taps as well, offering a little ramp while making your multi-colored decks just as reliable as your mono-colored decks. Even decks running one color get benefits from the Lantern. Most mono-colored decks have several lands that don't tap for mana, or at least don't tap for colored mana. Maze of Ith, Strip Mine, Academy Ruins, Ancient Tomb, and Homeward Path are a few of the land options you regularly see in mono-colored decks since conventional wisdom says you can run a few lands that don't tap for the color you need because you'll have so many others that do. Chromatic Lantern makes all of those lands even better. Chromatic Lantern doesn't even limit your land to producing only your commander's colors. If you are able to play your opponents' cards, then Chromatic Lantern is a star at making that happen.

If you are running a mono-colored deck, I can understand possibly not running Chromatic Lantern, but otherwise you better have a real good reason to not include the ramp and perfect color-fixing from Chromatic Lantern.

3. Command Beacon

Mid
Low
 Command Beacon
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$4.99
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Unless you have no intention of casting your commander, Command Beacon should be in your deck. This Super Staple gives you mana and lets you avoid the commander tax by putting the commander into your hand. This is generally more important late in the game when the cost of getting your commander into the game is prohibitive. It can be useful throughout the game if you get a benefit for having more cards in hand or have the option to play a card out of your hand for free.

While there are some concerns about a land that doesn't tap for colored mana in a three or more-colored deck, the benefit of avoiding the tax can often trump that. Besides, you are running Chromatic Lantern, so that shouldn't even be a downside!

2. Solemn Simulacrum

Mid
Low
 Solemn Simulacrum
$4.95
$2.99
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Solemn Simulacrum does it all. It finds a land for you when it arrives, helping you ramp up for future spells. It provides a chump blocker to deter others from attacking you since your opponents all know you want to block with it just so it dies. And when you do chump with it, Solemn Simulacrum draws you a card. This card helps in so many ways in every possible deck, it merits the title of a Super Staple.

While Solemn Simulacrum loses some luster in the later game where the mana ramping is less useful and the chump blocking is less likely to be effective, it continues to draw a card to replace itself, showing its value at all points in the game.

1. Sol Ring

Mid
Low
 Sol Ring
$3.09
$1.48
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If you have played Commander, you knew this card was going to be on a list of Super Staples. I've heard arguments against putting it in some decks, but they are weak at best. Sol Ring nets you one mana the turn you play it, then taps for two mana every turn after that. It pays for your first commander tax. Virtually every deck can use two colorless mana. It only costs one so you can play it on any turn. Sol Ring works in every deck. Every. Single. Deck.

Super Staples are cornerstones of your decks. Understanding these and the staples of various commanders give you a great start with your deckbuilding.

Bruce Richard

@manaburned




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