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Commander Sleepers: Mirage


Lately, I've been trying to sort and catalog all of my old cards, and along the way, I keep running into things that seem like they could be sweet in Commander, so I decided to make a series showing off some of my favorites on a set-by-set basis. Today, we're looking at some of my favorite sleepers from Mirage. According to EDHRec, all of these cards show up in one percent or less of Commander decks, which means there's a decent chance that you've never even seen them on a Commander table, but for various reasons, they might have more potential than they are given credit for. As such, here are my five Commander Sleepers from Mirage

Do you have some ideas for where these cards could fit in Commander? Do you have another favorite underplayed Alliances card for Commander? Let us know in the comments!

Commander Sleepers: Mirage

The Cards

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Traditionally, Cadaverous Bloom has been a combo piece (primarily in a classic Standard deck that combined the enchantment with Prosperity) with X-card-draw spells. Since Cadaverous Bloom allows us to turn cards in our hand into mana, cards like Prosperity, Gadwick, the Wizened, or even Nylea's Intervention become rituals once we have a Cadaverous Bloom on the battlefield (for example, if we spend 10 mana on Gadwick, the Wizened, we will draw seven cards, which we can then exile for up to 14 mana, netting four mana in the process). While chaining together X-spells with Cadaverous Bloom as the mana engine could work in Commander like it did in Standard's past, the card likely has fairer applications as well with specific Commanders like Damia, Sage of Stone (which refills our hand every turn anyway) and one of my personal favorites, Yarok, the Desecrated. Once a Yarok deck gets going, the pinch is usually on mana, not cards, since Risen Reef, Mulldrifter, and other creatures with card-drawing enters-the-battlefield triggers keep our hand full of action. Being able to turn some of those extra cards into mana to cast even more creatures with enters-the-battlefield triggers using Cadaverous Bloom seems like an easy way to play through your entire deck in one turn with a Yarok deck. I'm planning on giving Cadaverous Bloom a shot next time I get a chance to take Yarok, the Desecrated out for a spin.

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Phyrexian Tribute isn't a great card—sacrificing two creatures to destroy a single artifact is a high cost—although it is noteworthy since it is one of only two black cards in Magic that can kill an artifact. The other is Gate to Phyrexia, which is extremely expensive since it's a Reserved List card from Antiquities, which means if your black deck really needs to kill an artifact and you don't want to spend $40 on Gate to Phyrexia, then Phyrexian Tribute is literally your only option. Thankfully, black decks often like to sacrifice their own creatures for value and can always reanimate them later, so the cost isn't as high as it seems at first glance, especially if you are playing a sacrifice-themed commander like Yawgmoth, Thran Physician, Ayara, First of Locthwain, or Shirei, Shizo's Caretaker

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Circle of Despair is an interesting card. Once it is on the battlefield, it works as a cheap sacrifice outlet and also a way to Fog the damage from any one source of your choosing. While most decks probably wouldn't be interested in the effect, the enchantment is worth considering if you're playing a deck that actively wants to sacrifice creatures for value (like Teysa Karlov or Athreos, God of Passage) or that can incidentally tutor out Circle of Despair (like Zur the Enchanter). Outside of being a sacrifice outlet, the biggest upside of Circle of Despair is that its damage-prevention ability doesn't target, which means it can deal with hexproof creatures like Uril, the Miststalker and creatures with protection (including one carrying a Sword of Light and Shadow) along with spells like Banefire. While using Circle of Despair to stop your opponent's stuff from damaging you is great, maybe a more interesting and exciting application is using it to prevent the damage from your own spells. For example, for the low, low price of one creature and one mana, you can use Circle of Despair to prevent all of the damage from Command the Dreadhorde, allowing you to reanimate every creature and planeswalker from all graveyards for just six mana!

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The argument for Reparations seeing more play is simple, and it has nothing to do with the fact the card has one of Magic's all-time classic flavor texts: Reparations is basically a slightly upgraded (but more expensive) version of Shapers' Sanctuary, and Shapers' Sanctuary sees significantly more play than Reparations in the Commander format. Of course, for Reparations to be good in your deck, you need to be playing a decent number of creatures, which means more controlling creature-light Azorius decks probably won't want it. But if you're playing something like Brago, King Eternal, Ephara, God of the Polis, or Zur the Enchanter (which can tutor up Reparations when it attacks), Reparations offers a good way to discourage your opponents from interacting with you creatures (or you).

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Finally, we have Natural Balance, which offers a bunch of different possibilities. First, if you have a green ramp player in your playgroup, it is a solid way to keep them from getting too out of control with Cultivate, Kodama's Reach, and other land-tutoring ramp spells—by resetting everyone to five lands—that isn't quite as brutal as true mass land destruction, like Armageddon. While your green ramp opponent won't be happy when you resolve Natural Balance, they probably won't be an enemy for life either. 

Griefing ramp opponents aside, you can do some interesting ramp tricks with Natural Balance yourself because while the enchantment makes players with a bunch of lands sacrifice down to just five, if you have fewer than five lands, you can tutor enough basic lands from your library to get up to five on the battlefield (and these lands come into play untapped). This means you can use cards like Squandered Resources or Zuran Orb to sacrifice your lands for value (after floating mana); use Natural Balance to get five new untapped lands and possibly sacrifice them for value as well; and then use something like Splendid Reclamation, World Shaper, or even Faith's Reward or Second Sunrise to return all of your sacrificed lands back into play, turning Natural Balance into one of the most powerful ramp spells in Magic. While you could in theory slot these synergies into most decks, Natural Balance is especially powerful with commanders that like lands going into the graveyard, like Titania, Protector of Argoth, The Gitrog Monster, or Lord Windgrace.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today! What other Mirage cards might be underrated for Commander? What decks could take advantage of our Mirage sleepers? Let me know in the comments! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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