One reason I play Commander is to try and experience cards I enjoy in new and exciting ways. While every so often a Commander will compel me to build a deck around them, more often than not I find myself looking at a set of game pieces and by attempt to craft a narrative around them. Today, I want to talk about some of my favorite cards in this mold that have led to some memorable stories.
I remember being told why Cauldron Dance was a good card during the original run of Invasion Limited. The ability to get back one of your best creatures and potentially get an attack in was some incredible value. When I started to play Commander, this was on the short list of cards I tried to include in every deck that could support it. Back then, I was very fond of expensive two card creature combos, specifically Triskelion and Mephidross Vampire. While quaint by today’s standards, in those days this was a feared duo that would wipe the board. When Mikaeus, the Unhallowed was printed it replaced the Vampire and now these two could end the game. Every one of my Cauldron Dance decks included these cards. One day, I managed to goad a player into attacking me with Mikaeus in my graveyard. I cast Cauldron Dance and got the Zombie back, put Triskelion into play and won the game on my opponent’s turn.
Nowadays, these cards are all a tad too expensive for me to run, and also don’t create the games I want to be playing. But I will forever retain fond memories of that perfect two-step.
Given my well established love of Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker it should come as no surprise that I really enjoy cards that reward you for cards leaving the graveyard. Syr Konrad, the Grim and Tormod, the Desecrator fit this mold but Desecrated Tomb is the first card of this stripe that piqued my interest. I used it to great effect in Grenzo, Dungeon Warden to generate an army of bats and it puts in similar work in my Araumi of the Dead Tide. However, my favorite use of Desecrated Tomb has been in my Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle deck. There, I was able to combine it with Cathars’ Crusade to present a quickly lethal flying horde that ended my opponent’s in short order. Good times.
I’ve written about my old Whisper deck before but it remains the home of one of my favorite, if convoluted, kills in my entire time playing Commander. Combining Whisper with Thornbite Staff means that for every activation of the Dominaria legendary Cleric, you get two additional untapped. Combine this with a creature like Weaponcraft Enthusiast and you end up with an unbound loop. At that point, a single Blood Artist does the work needed to end the game. Like my old Cauldron Dance decks, I have since hung this one up, but my foil copy of Whisper lives on in Teysa, Orzhov Scion.
So this is one of those cards I keep putting in swarm decks in an effort to slowly bleed my opponent’s dry. I managed to pull it off once in a Magic Online game early in the pandemic but have only recently added the card to a tabletop deck. The ability to get extra uses out of each attack is rather nice, but that’s playing fair. Me? I put this card into Ishkanah, Grafwidow with Cryptolith Rite. That way I can tap all my Spiders to activate Ishkanah, and then get some extra damage spread around at the end of the turn.
Remember what I said about the combo of Mikaeus and Triskelion? Nim Deathmantle used to be held in similar regard. While it was not the offending card, Nim Deathmantle made it pitifully easy to generate an unbound amount of colorless mana with Ashnod’s Altar and a creature that came into play with two creature tokens. Even with only one additional token, that could create enough death triggers to reduce every opposing life total to zero. However, as the format sped up, a three-card combo that did not win the game immediately became rather quaint by comparison. I still have to stop myself from including these card in every sacrifice deck I run, but now I don’t feel as guilty when I use it to wipe out my adversaries.
Rounding out this trip down memory lane is a combination from another time. Overseer of the Damned kills a creature and puts Zombie tokens into play when creatures die. Noxious Ghoul shrinks non-Zombies when one enters the battlefield. These two cards have been the backbone of every failed Zombie tribal deck I have tried to build. The idea of bringing back the Overseer with Rise Again or Ever After, thereby making it immune to Noxious Ghoul, has tickled my brain for years. Despite all of this and my love of all things undead, I have not been able to get a Zombie deck to stick. That is not for lack of trying and I have pulled off this combo once in a game. I didn’t win, but it sure was cool.
As I slowly get ready to start playing in person again, I am reminded of all the reasons I play Commander in the first place. Yes, winning is fun, but the stories that stick with me from my favorite cards are way sweeter than most victories.