haha Underworld Breach go brrrrrrrr
For quite a while, Red was left out in the cold when discussing competitive Commander (cEDH) and its top-performing decks. Especially during the time of Flash being legal, people held the color so low regard that they opted to play Thrasios, Triton Hero and Tymna the Weaver as the Commanders for their decks, forgoing what is now (in my opinion) the format’s most powerful card. Flash being banned opened people’s eyes to the powerful potential of Red’s best cards, leaving a smooth transition into the cEDH landscape we find ourselves in now.
Maybe we should have been playing it the entire time but look, Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus was “bad” until Jeweled Lotus was printed, okay? There are quite a few powerful Red cards to choose from, but which do I think are the five best? Let’s dig into it!
#5 Deflecting Swat
As I’ve said more than once in my articles, if it’s free it’s for me! Deflecting Swat is a strangely flexible spell that will be cast for free if we already control our Commander which we very often do well in competitive circles. It can be used to protect your permanents from removal or even as a pseudo-counterspell within already-happening counterspell wars. How does that work exactly?
Market Price: $28.73
Market Price: $50.61
Thanks to the intricacies of Magic’s rules, of course! Many people think it works by causing a Counterspell to target itself. This is, unfortunately, illegal! A spell can under no circumstances target itself. However, what we can do, somewhat unintuitively, is use Deflecting Swat’s ability to redirect the counterspell to target Deflecting Swat. Then, Deflecting Swat will finish resolving and the counterspell will fizzle as it no longer has a valid target! Deflecting Swat has made a big impact on the format, giving Red decks a free counterspell to work with as well as having other utilities. What cards could possibly be better than that?
#4 Final Fortune
As usual, there is a card on my list that I’m not entirely sure of the placement of. On this list, it’s Final Fortune! However, usually, I’m considering whether a card should be lower. This time I think it might belong higher. Costing double Red (making it sometimes hard to cast) and having a massive drawback of losing the game is otherwise, for all intents and purposes, just a Time Walk. I’m not kidding. With how small windows of opportunity are in cEDH, one turn is often all it takes to get there and win — especially when the extra turn you take can be between two opponent’s turns — oh yeah, it’s an instant!
Market Price: $15.87
Market Price: $13.32
Final Fortune shines most in Ad Nauseam decks, providing you an easy escape button on what might have otherwise been a bad Ad Nauseam. Using two mana to get to untap and have access to all your mana (and your best seven cards, which you do have to discard to hand size) is often enough to send you over the edge. Final Fortune is so flexible and powerful that most Red decks also happen to play two copies of the effect but strictly worse in Warrior’s Oath and Last Chance!
#3 Wheel of Fortune
A card that probably barely misses being included in the Power Nine, we have the card that all effects that do similar spells are named after, Wheel of Fortune. While cEDH players have an aversion to this effect, it is objectively very powerful. Drawing seven cards for three mana is an effect that most decks just plain shouldn’t be passed up. What complicates things (and as already mentioned, makes many Commander players dislike this effect) is that your opponents are drawing a fresh grip of cards. In total, 21 cards amongst opponents to your own seven can seem like a bad deal at first pass. However, there is much more to consider.
Market Price: $10.23
If we’re wheeling early (especially after dumping our hand of mana rocks), it can have a disruptive effect, causing opponents to toss away their carefully sculpted hands for a blind seven cards. If we’re wheeling late in the game, our opponents might be low on resources and tapped out on mana, re-opening our window to win the game. No matter the scenario, Wheel of Fortune has massive potential to power its caster to victory. After all, drawing seven incredibly powerful cards is very good. It helps that your deck is always better than your opponents!
#2 Dockside Extortionist
Double Masters 2022
Oh, Dockside. My beloved Dockside. If you’re active in online Commander spaces of any variety, discussions surrounding Dockside Extortionist are no mystery. No card has the potential to make more mana in return for so little investment. By paying just a generic and a Red mana, we’ll often make something in the realm of four to eight Treasure tokens. Even a relatively tame floor of turning that generic and Red mana into two Treasures (which will make any color to help fix three, four, and five-color mana bases) is quite strong, where it can be the difference between winning and losing.
Market Price: $64.40
However, if we step even one Treasure above this floor, we have the best mana ritual ever. It is essentially always mana-positive thanks to the very Artifact and Enchantment-heavy nature of the format (especially if you’re versus Green and Blue decks), where it doesn’t create temporary mana to add to our mana pool either. It creates Treasure tokens, a mana that is wildly flexible and will stick around for as long as we need it to (or until it gets turned off by a Collector Ouphe). Ever since its original printing, Dockside has simply been the second best reason to play Red decks, making life easy in a format where our decks are most limited now by the powerful cards they can play, but by the amount of mana they can make to cast as many of these cards as possible – as quickly as possible. But what could unseat Dockside Extortionist to land at number one on my list? It’s obvious, unfortunately.
#1 Underworld Breach
Theros Beyond Death
Underworld Breach. What else needs to be said? Printed in the same set as Thassa’s Oracle, the other format-warping wincon, Underworld Breach enables almost any strategy to win as soon as it hits the battlefield. As to how you’re winning, depending on the deck, it can be any combination of cards. That isn’t as much to say beyond it feels you can win in a cave with a bucnh of rocks when you have Underworld Breach in play. What I want to focus on is how simply egregious the floor of this card is, which is a better, more flexible Yawgmoth’s Will.
Market Price: $141.00
Market Price: $11.32
Market Price: $28.33
Yawgmoth’s Will was long considered one of the best cards ever printed, and it even has the downside of exiling anything that would hit your graveyard for the turn. While Underworld Breach has the “downside” of giving your cards Escape 3 (and causing you to blow up your graveyard in the meantime), it also has the incredibly relevant effect of not exiling the card that you’re casting! If we’re not winning the game through that, it generates monumental amounts of value. That level of value would probably easily land it in plenty of cEDH decks and also would land it on my list. However, the point of competitive Commander decks is to win the game as efficiently and quickly as possible. Nothing is better than that Underworld Breach in a wide range of decks and with a wide range of cards, landing it at number one.
So, What Did I Miss?
Market Price: $12.17
Whether you’re a big fan of Wheel effects or enjoy winning the game quickly, Red brings plenty of powerful effects for cEDH decks. It’s no surprise to me, that it’s gone from the color everybody passed on to the color that people just can’t pass up. Was there a card that I missed or that you think should have been on a different spot on my list?