10 Black Commander Cards Under $20 You Should Be Playing

A Magictation by Mikeal Basile

“Magictating” is defined as getting into the zone with your Magic the Gathering collection–thinking, planning, organizing, reminiscing about past games, and imagining future games. It is a combination of hard thinking about the game and calm meditation, reveling in the joy it brings you.

You might be tempted to spend $100 or more on a single card to get a big impact mythic for your Commander deck. I’d like to help you find a way to stretch that $100-200 you might budget for one or two cards into buying several high impact but budget friendly black Commander cards. The problem is that you can play several games before you get a chance to actually play your new pricey mythic. I’m here to tell you about 10 different mythics and rares that are under $20, make a huge impact, and offer you more excitement during your Commander games. So, here’s 10 cheap black cards with a big impact you should be playing in Commander.

1.    Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni

It seems like people have forgotten that you can play this deck in a non-ninja deck. Ninjisu works with any unblocked creature—rogue, ninja, beast, illusion, or even a saproling token. It doesn’t  matter that the token is exiled when it is returned to your hand, because the cost is paid, and Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni is going to steal you something good. This card deserves a price tag over $20 for its artwork alone. When you factor in the sneakiness and impact Ink-Eyes can have on a game, then you clearly have a card that’s undervalued by far too many players. 

2.    Shadowborn Demon

Having demons with downsides used to be normal—like the class act that is Lord of the Pit. Now, we expect a mythic rare, demon or not, to be all upside. Where’s the fun in that? Well, Shadowborn Demon lets you have your fun, but also keeps it bloody good while you slaughter one of your opponent’s creatures and enjoy immunity yourself because of the creatures you’ve already sacrificed. You can always sacrifice the demon to itself, so if you’re desperate you can slaughter your own shadowy demon.

3.    Stunning Reversal

Now, you may be of the camp that says if you’re not trying to win, then you are losing. You may believe cards like Stunning Reversal do nothing, because you think that momentarily avoiding a loss is not a path to victory. Sorry—not sorry—that’s just wrong. Stunning Reversal is perfectly named; you don’t die and you get to snag seven extra cards at instant speed for only four mana. That’s incredibly powerful. This Battlebond Mythic deserves one of the spicy slots in your black decks, and can even be the sort of thing that enables some truly crazy comebacks and is disturbingly good when you’re running cards like Eternity Vessel. A player might plan to knock you off along with everyone else, but thanks to Stunning Reversal, now they still have to wreckon with you and your fully loaded crack back (which is fueled by seven extra cards).

4.    Haunting Voyage

Haunting Voyage makes me feel a bit awkward even mentioning that it’s not only under $20, but under $5!? How is it that a one-sided Patriarch’s Bidding is still this cheap? Yes, I know Patriarch’s Bidding got a reprint and it’s cheaper than ever, but did I mention this is one-sided? Also, Haunting Voyage can be foretold. Foretell is a powerful mechanic as it lets you save your spells in a discard immune zone to cast when it’s most convenient for you. How powerful and impactful is this card? More than $5 worth of impact, and it definitely deserves consideration in your to-buy list.

5.     Erebos, God of the Dead

I played with Erebos, God of the Dead back in Standard, of all places, and found it to be deceptively powerful there. However, that’s a way smaller card pool than Commander. Still, any card that wins me games in another format is something I’m sure to try out in my favorite format—Commander. I have never been disappointed with this card. Having an enchantment that allows you to draw a card for two mana and keep everyone else from gaining life is super powerful. Having it become an indestructible attacker/blocker is also pretty solid as well. It does become more susceptible to removal once it’s a creature, so be aware that there’s times you actually prefer not to raise your devotion if possible. Did I mention that Erebos allows you to draw lots of extra cards, and doesn’t shut off your own ways to gain life? Oh, I did…well, let’s move on!

6.    Demon of Dark Schemes

Demon of Dark Schemes is similar to Questing Beast in that they have a ridiculous amount of rules text. That’s about all they have in common, as Demon of Dark Schemes is a serious budget buy. This thing flys, kills off small swarms, fuels it’s own energy driven ability, and reanimates any creature you want! Seriously, why is a card that is beastly like Massacre Wurm, but also sneaky like Ink-Eyes or Beacon of Unrest so affordable? I have no idea why. Perhaps people think that because it needs energy to reanimate that it doesn’t just kill small swarms without an effort at all? This is the type of card I bought four of for under $3, and I’ve never been sorry I did. Seriously, try this Massacre Wurm alternative out sometime, and you might be amazed at how fun it can be.

7.    Calculating Lich

In a world of Zombies, I’m astonished this card is still so cheap. This is another card that’s probably flying under people’s radars. Rot Hulk spiked early on in this latest Innistrad set; I wasn’t surprised as it’s a Game Day promo card that’s never seen any other printings. It has a powerful effect for Commander, and that also makes it worth more. Of course, this all applies to Calculating Lich as well. The lich really helps add up the damage on your opponents rather quickly, and that can lead to you closing out games much faster than anyone may have anticipated. This is one card whose price is worth calculating.  

8.    Worst Fears

Super power effect—check!

Super high mana cost—check!

Makes people salty?—double check!!

Worst Fears is the type of card that can really get under someone’s skin, but that’s just because you’re borrowing their skin for a bit. Honestly, for this much mana no one should be complaining that you’re stealing their next turn from them. Yet, there are some ways to go about casting this for a lot less than the actual cost—Counterlash, Magus of the Mind, Mind’s Desire, Scholar of the Lost Trove, Sins of the Past, and Spelltwine all come to mind. Making someone else realize their worst fears is even better when you double it up with something extra evil like Counterlash or Spelltwine. Granted, you do need a discard outlet to get Worst Fears into the yard, but that’s a small concession when building with the color that specializes in discard effects.

9.     Tree of Perdition

While Tree of Perdition isn’t quite as powerful as Sorin Markov, it’s does a reasonable impression. Look, it doesn’t have haste (unless you’ve got Anger in the graveyard), but it is a serious threat to anyone on the table. It doesn’t actually sacrifice itself to use its ability either. It becomes a giant blocker and instantly cripples an opponent as well. If you manage to blink it with an Ephemerate or Momentary Blink before your turn, then you can go ahead and cripple an additional player as well. You can also just give someone else life by stealing one person’s and then giving it to another. This is something that will often be a removal magnet, but also has the potential to allow you some serious shenanigans in many different decks. Also, did I mention how nicely this combos with Triskaidekaphobia? Yes, that dream could happen. Plus, you’re playing black, so you’ll be able to recur from the graveyard and maybe find another opponent to fall victim to the Tree of Perdition and Triskaidekaphobia’s nasty combination.

10. Vampire Nocturnus & Bloodlord of Vaasgoth

Now, I know these cards really only work with Vampire decks, but seriously, why not discuss them with Crimson Vow on the Horizon? Vampire Nocturnus gives such a strong boost to your team of Vampires (itself included). Yes, it doesn’t work all the time, but when it is working it is incredibly strong. I love seeing people re-read this card and then frown as they see your top card is black. It’s devastating to realize that the combat math just got much more serious, and it’s deadly serious once they read those last three words, “…and have flying.” Seems fair. Meanwhile, Bloodlord of Vaasgoth super charges your team as they come into play. Dealing damage with the bloodsuckers and then dropping pumped up versions of smaller vampires is brutal. It will suck the fight from your opponents and leave them empty husks. Just watch out of for Tsabo’s Decree!

Wrap up.

Black can be a brutal, sneaky, viscous color to play, and I love that about it. If you’re into doing dastardly deeds with your swamps, then these cards are for you. They aren’t nearly as expensive as some of the more pricey black mythics like Liliana of the Veil or Mekaeus, the Unhallowed, yet they can impact games arguably in even more powerful ways. It’s nice to see that there are plenty of budget options available. I really tried to give you the cards that most people aren’t really aware of here, and this is by no means an exhaustive list of cheap mythics—there’s more, but you probably already know about them. I’ve discovered 120+ mythics that fit this basic budget criteria. Not all of those cards have as big an impact, but they are mythical, so they do have big special effects. I hope this list of cards leads to you finding your darkest desires, and in so doing guarantying that the cards will be ever in your favor.

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