When you are playing Commander there are a variety of responses to cards you tend to hear:
- The loud exasperated cry suggests you've played something that has messed up your opponent's plans.
- The frustrated mutter suggests you've played a card that inadvertently hurt what your opponent wanted to do.
- The loud shout suggests you've played one of your bombs.
- The appreciative nod is what happens when you play your hidden gems.
Hidden gems tend to be cards in your deck that are not going to send the game your way instantly, but the card works with what your deck is trying to do. Most players appreciate a good hidden gem, recognizing the extra effort involved in adding even more synergy to a deck. And when you find a card that your friends haven't seen it used in that way, there is genuine appreciation. As Stybs said to me, hidden gems are "cards off the radar that get the job done."
I looked through Aether Revolt and found a few of the hidden gems that will have places in more than one of my decks and I suspect will fit beautifully into a few of yours as well.
A 5/5 for five mana isn't too exciting, but getting +1/+1 counters on all your creatures will be outstanding in so many decks. Combine it with Cauldron of Souls so your creatures survive mass removal spells. When it and your creatures enter the battlefield it goes off again, removing all the -1/-1 counters from your other creatures, so they can come back again! Think of every creature that gives you an ability by removing a +1/+1 counter. Stingmoggie can destroy another artifact or land! Karlov of the Ghost Council gets to six counters a little faster. Twilight Drover gets two 1/1 flying Spirit creatures. Noosegraf Mob gets an extra 2/2 Zombie Token! The list goes on and on! I wouldn't describe Ridgescale Tusker as the lynchpin to any of these decks, but as a role player in Vorel decks, or a way to get counter doubling shenanigans going, the Tusker is a true gem.
You know that deck that loves the doubling shenanigans I just mentioned? Say hello to Skyship Plunderer! Hit for combat damage with a cheap flyer, and add a counter on a permanent. You can add -1/-1 counters on an opponent's creature. You can add charge counters. Adding +1/+1 counters are a given. I'm excited about adding loyalty counters! So many Planeswalkers with -1 abilities get so much better with Skyship Plunderer bumping them every combat!
The joy of Skyship Plunderer is the repeatability of effect. In most games, you'll find at least one opponent that can't stop a flying creature, or chooses not to stop the creature since that player wants you to do what you are planning. This level of reliability forces your opponents to deal with the card, and watching someone spend a removal spell on a 2/1 flying creature that costs two mana instead of a bigger threat because they know the Skyship Plunderer makes so many cards into bigger threats practically makes me giggle!
Are you beginning to sense a trend? Winding Constrictor gives you an extra counter whenever a counter would be placed on an artifact or creature you control, or any counter you would get. Energy and experience counters fit in that category, along with pretty much every counter that goes on creatures and artifacts. Ridgescale Tusker and Winding Constrictor are best friends.
The Constrictor is best when your deck adds one counter at a time to creatures. If your deck wants to double three counters on a creature, the Constrictor will still do the job, but isn't as impressive. I really want to see it in decks that want to add a single counter to multiple creatures. Proliferate will be seen right alongside Winding Constrictor. Proliferate to add a counter and Winding Constrictor sees that and adds another. This could get out of hand very quickly. You could also look at Cathars' Crusade and other cards like it. Plenty of fun to be had!
Take care though, Winding Constrictor doesn't give you the option not to take the counters. If a -1/-1 counter is put on one of your creatures, it gets another counter. The same goes with poison counters for you, and an extra poison counter every time can be miserable You've been warned.
Argivian Find has been a utility card in more than one of my decks. It is a great way to snatch a card out of the graveyard in a color that hasn't done that too much. The fact that it was only one mana and an instant meant that you could do it on your opponent's end step and no one would see it coming.
At first glance, Restoration Specialist appears to do the same thing but on a 2/1 body for one more mana, but you need to consider the game state a little further. Where Argivian Find relies on surprise, the Restoration Specialist is more a threat. You want to play it out before you lose your permanent. With it sitting there, you are just telling opponents that they are wasting their removal. Why destroy your enchantment when you are only going to get it back and use it again? Better to send that removal spell somewhere else where it will be more permanent.
It does offer flexibility, in that you can use it as a surprise, or even as a 2/1 attacker or chump blocker, but I'll be looking at it as a rattlesnake to ward off random hits on my artifacts and enchantments!
These cheap combat tricks are nice in so many decks that run bordes of tiny creatures. Whether you decide to pump the token creature that gets chump blocked or the creature that slips through the blocks, Invigorated Rampage makes your opponent wish they hadn't blocked at all.
With the addition of trample, you can also use this with your big creature(s) that is getting chump blocked repeatedly, since getting +4/+0 means little if you don't get to use the extra power effectively.
That Invigorated Rampage can give two creatures trample just makes the card that much more flexible, which is something you really want from a spell you are only ever going to use in combat situations.
I always like to remind you that multiplayer games offer combat phases where you aren't involved, but could be! The benefits of Invigorated Rampage can be used on one opponent's creatures in their attack against another opponent! I take great glee in turning an attack that should hit for minimal damage into an attack that crushes an opponent.
Magic has reached a point where the graveyard is no longer a colorful way to refer to the discard pile. Cards in the graveyard are simply a second library everyone can see that requires different cards to access them. When you want something gone, destroying it just isn't a long-term solution. Natural Obsolescence tucks the offending card into the library where your opponent will, hopefully, never draw the card again. It doesn't handle artifacts and enchantments like its ancestor Naturalize does, but it does a better job of keeping artifacts gone. If your meta will let you drop your focus on enchantments, Natural Obsolescence will be great for you!
An aura is rarely a gem, but with four-color commanders being currently in vogue, an aura that enchants a land to give you all kinds of colored mana fits the bill.
Auras are generally questioned since they aren't effective when they are destroyed or the permanent they enchant are destroyed; the likelihood of them leaving play is doubled. The difference here is land. Lands are rarely destroyed in Magic games these days, especially if they are basic lands, so the likelihood of this card being destroyed goes way down.
Now add in the ability to draw a card, and you realize that almost no one is going to try to destroy this aura. Why do that if you are just going to sacrifice it in response to draw a card? The sacrificing ability goes even further than that, though. If you are running this card, there are going to be times when you really need the color options it provides. There will also be times when you already have all the mana fixing that you need. Even then this isn't a dead card, since you can simply cast it for one green mana, then immediately sacrifice it to draw a card. You are essentially cycling the card whenever you don't need it.
So many hidden gems are only found when considering a card for a particular deck or set of decks. Have you seen cards in Aether Revolt that have a perfect synergy with a deck you are running? I'd love to hear what cards already have spots in your decks. Mention them in the comments or let me know on Twitter.