Sometimes, Commander can pass cards by. Spells that were once staples of the format find themselves not cutting it as more and more cards enter the format. In environments that rotate power creep can be managed, but in Commander, with its ever-expanding list of game pieces, one of the best ways to have a diversity in play experience is by having players who like doing things slightly different. Today, we’ll be taking a look at some of the other (and forgotten) options for graveyard value in EDH/Commader.
Oversold Cemetery in many ways is emblematic of this cycle. When I started playing Commander, Oversold Cemetery was an incredible value engine. It was almost always “on” and, unlike Genesis, cost you no mana to get the creature out of your graveyard. Persistent Raise Dead effects – those that put dead creatures into your hand – are powerful in that they allow you to reuse your investment turn after turn. So today, in the vein of recycling, I want to take a look at different takes on this effect and try to figure out what makes each one unique. I’m going to be focusing on enchantments and creatures today, and also focusing on cards that put the creature back into your hand.
Right off the bat I want to get a few cards out of the way that don’t quite fit the mold. The first is Skeleton Shard, which can only get back artifact creatures. The second is Sigil of the New Dawn which has the drawback of only being active when the creature dies – you cannot discard something and then get in back with the white enchantment. Finally there’s Deadbridge Chant, which can put non-creatures back into your hand but if it hits a creature, it hits the battlefield.
The first two I want to discuss are more multiplayer-friendly – Oath of Ghouls and Endbringer’s Revel. Oath of Ghouls is a wild one that every player can benefit from. Basically, during each player’s upkeep, that player can choose an opponent who has fewer creature cards in their graveyard than the active player. When they do, they get a free Raise Dead. This is a great way to play politics at the table and if you have ways to repeatedly remove opposing graveyards – Agent of Erebos and Ashiok, Dream Render leap to mind – you can break the symmetry. Endbinger’s Revel is different in that it’s always active for all players except there’s a cost of four generic mana attached. As far as these two go, I can see them in all sorts of decks, but I think they would shine in Blim, Comedic Genius as they don’t care who controls them.
Next up is Malevolent Awakening and its cousin with legs, Golgari Guildmage. Both of these ask that you have an abundance of creatures around to retrieve other monsters from the bin. These are fairly straightforward in their execution and are at their best in decks that generate tokens. Chatterfang, Squirrel General seems like a great place for these two, but there are plenty of other options including Kresh the Bloodbraided, Slimefoot, the Stowaway, Sidisi, Brood Tyrant and a Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools partner situation.
Next up is another pairing of creature and enchantment. Palace Siege is a five mana version of Oversold Cemetery that doesn’t require you to have a minimum number of creatures in your graveyard. Ravos, Soultender, is a legendary creature that also costs five mana while also boosting the stats of all your army. These cards each come with some additional benefits. Palace Siege has an alternate mode that works with Willowdusk, Essence Seer or lets you cast Rakdos, Lord of Riots. Ravos wants you to have plenty of creatures out so it might be best suited to be partnered with Nadier, Agent of Duskenel or Tana, the Bloodsower.
Phyrexian Reclamation might be the gold standard for this effect. At one mana, it’s pitifully easy to get into play and its activation has no timing restriction. Instead, you can pay 1B and two life at any time to just get a creature from the bin into your hand. It’s simply great. Tortured Existence, on the other hand, requires some work. You can get back any creature for a single black mana but you need to discard a creature to do so. Tortured Existence is at its best alongside cards that care about creatures leaving the graveyard – Desecrated Tomb comes to mind – and is a perfect inclusion in Syr Konrad, the Grim and Tormod, the Desecrator builds.
Haunted Crossroads deserves a special mention. While it also will trigger any cards that care about a creature leaving the graveyard, it puts the selected card on top of your library. From there, you can either draw it naturally or pull off some shenanigans with either Sapling of Colfenor or Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire. Haunted Crossroads is especially nice with the Elder Dragon as it allows you to reduce the variance in what you hit, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Veinwitch Coven and Witch of the Moors are two recent additions to the roster. These two are ones I often overlook mostly because they came out at a time when the number of releases make it hard to remember all the cards that pique my interest. These Warlocks make it relatively easy to get creatures back from the graveyard and both care about you gaining life. Aside from the aforementioned Willowdusk, there are plenty of Commanders that could ensure you get your money’s worth out of these two. Firja, Judge of Valor will give you a fairly steady stream of cards from which to select a creature while Ghost Council of Orzhova makes it easy to get a creature into the yard only to see it travel back to your hand.
These are just a small sampling, of course. There’s Soul of Innistrad which lets you pay five mana to get back three creatures, and Extus, Oriq Overlord which adds Raise Dead to each of your spells. And this is to say nothing of all the various ways to bring a creature back from the graveyard and into play. But which of these are your favorite? What’s your preferred way to get a creature back into your hard and cast it over and over again?