So many EDH cards are easy to showcase in one form or another thanks to them simply existing. Whether they’re big flashy creatures, potent spells, dangerous enchantments, or highly versatile artifacts, many Magic cards can be flaunted just by pointing at its inherent awesomeness. This has become even more true in the last few years when many cards in a set are designed specifically for that purpose. While a bevvy of cards existed prior to Wizards printing their own Commander product that’s amazing for multiplayer gameplay, it’s fairly straightforward nowadays which cards are designed with this format in mind.
A second set of Commander-worthy cards are much more nuanced. These are the ones that may not seem like they’d be a good fit but whose usefulness becomes evident if you give the card a chance. It could be that they’re easily overlooked because of their age, that they need to be in the right deck for them to shine, or even because their benefit in EDH is opposite its original function. Whatever the case, these are the cards that give the game much of its thematic resonance.
Commander may succeed in large part because of its ‘battlecruiser’ nature, where lengthy political games allow players to toss out one costly-yet-powerful spell after another in the hopes that one of them will inevitably tilt the game in their favor, but what makes it truly thrive is its flavor. It’s the notion that your deck can be tailored however you want by using nearly any card from the game’s history. This opens up all sorts of possibility to resurrect and revitalize many older cards that haven’t been regularly seen in years.
There is, however, a third set of EDH cards to make note of. Namely, the ones that don’t make it easy to talk at length about. Neither flashy nor obscure, these are the types of cards that nevertheless make the deck function. They are the useful binding agents that make a deck work – the starchy gluten agents that help make the deck better with very little attention paid to their presence.
Little attention paid – except for this week that is.
Today we have: Exotic Orchard
Name: Exotic Orchard
Edition: Conflux / Planechase 2012 & Anthology / Conspiracy 2 / Commander 2016
Focus: Mana Fixing
Highlights: Nearly every multiplayer EDH deck runs some percentage of nonbasic lands to give it better access to multiple colors from a single card. The more of them you use – especially if you’re running three or more colors – the better your mana fixing for the deck. And smack in the middle of that pack lies the criminally underutilized Exotic Orchard.
Exotic Orchard doesn’t offer a new effect. It’s essentially a land-based version of Fellwar Stone, a mana rock we’ve had access to since The Dark. Much like its originator though, and despite being reprinted no less than four times in some fashion, Exotic Orchard rarely gets the same level of limelight as other lands capable of generating any color mana.
It’s not hard to understand why: unlike it’s inverse counterpart Reflecting Pool it can only generate mana of the colors your opponent is using, which takes much of the agency away from what colors it’s capable of playing.
That may have made it a poor tournament card for reasons of guaranteed mana and tempo, but neither of those are an issue in EDH. In fact, the nature of the format largely negates the negatives of this land entirely. For one, unless your meta runs lots of similarly colored decks, odds are you’ll be playing with access to at least three different colors to tap for, and likely more. For another, the game’s longer time span makes tapping for an unusable color a non-issue; it can easily be spent towards generic mana costs of your more expensive cards.
Unless it’s in your opening hand, more often than not you’ll find Exotic Orchard to be an excellent addition to your deck’s nonbasic land choices. And it does so without having to take damage or pay life to use, nor does it enter the battlefield tapped, which for a five-color capable land, is very rare. That alone should make it worthy of consideration.
Yes, this simple mana producing land may not have the same level of PR as many of the higher profile nonbasic lands out there, which is unfortunate.
On the other hand, it also makes the card ridiculously cheap to obtain. So…there are upsides to relative obscurity.
Keep an eye out for us to be regularly featuring other more accessible-but-worth-it Commander cards going forward. In the meantime, we’ll keep the light on for you.
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Do you have a particular Commander card to suggest for us to shine a future Spotlight on? You can send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org