Commander Spotlight: Ghost Town

Casual Magic decks, by and large, truly are a reflection of the player crafting them. When given access to the cornucopia that is the entire Magic: the Gathering library to pick from (cost and availability being limiting factors), which cards end up in a deck really are at the whim of its creator. We all have different methodologies for deciding which cards make the cut and which don’t.

Generally speaking, most of the time our primary card picks are those that serve the deck’s principal purpose – whatever that may be. Then we flesh out the deck further by adding in cards to aid in that function and help it operate smoothly. Finally, in whatever space we have left are the elective card options. Sometimes these will be even more material from the first two card pools, but just as often it will be cards put into the deck…simply because we want them to go in there.

When it comes to my own decision-making process of which style cards to choose, my ethos comes from two areas. The first are cards that I’ve wanted to put in a deck for some time but have never found the right slot, and including them provides a sense of fun and entertainment by finally being able to. The second path, reflecting my own natural proclivities as a tinkerer, are unconventional or uncommon cards that I feel provide combo or synergistic potential – in certain circumstances.

Essentially, these are cards that people sitting at the table have never seen before, haven’t seen in a very long time, or those that (at least at first glance) don’t seem to make sense in the deck at all.

Unfortunately, style cards are hard to have in decks in large quantities, even in 100 card Commander decks. Card slots are a big commodity, which is why many players will forgo such frivolity in its entirety. Yet there are ways of having your cake and eating it too as many players have learned over the years. Utility cards. Modal cards. Cards that serve more than one purpose depending on the phase of the game (or turn) in which they are used.

And, of course, lands.

Land in any deck is a huge eater of card slots. In EDH, most decks run 32-40 of them, making them the single most frequent card type to come across when drawing. And in trying to cram in as many options are possible, it doesn’t take long for even the newest of EDH players to realize that if you can have a land do something other that just adding mana, then it’s huge value add to the deck.

Consequently, this is why so many non-basic lands – especially those more than five years old – end up creeping up in price. For as long as they fit the deck’s color identity – as most lands do – there are plenty of lands to pick from that can effortlessly be dropped into any deck to provide some kind of strategic advantage, situational as many of them may be.

To that end, this week’s card pick is a wonderful combination of both that adoration for non-basic lands writ large, filtered through my enjoyment of including cards that sometimes have people ask, “wait, why is that in there again?”

Today we have: Ghost Town

Name: Ghost Town

Edition: Tempest

Rarity: Uncommon

Focus: Land Bounce

Highlights: Originally created as an answer to early Magic’s abundance of land destruction running around (Stone Rain, Armageddon, Sinkhole, Strip Mine, etc.), Ghost Town saw a fair amount of use both in casual and even Constructed decks in the early years. Though its usage has diminished as the proportion of land destruction cards has dropped and Indestructibility has taken root, Ghost Town nevertheless can still be a useful tool in an EDH arsenal.

No, really.


As most lands are wont to do, Ghost Town enters the battlefield untapped and has the standard feature of tapping for one colorless mana – pretty much the bare minimum for non-basics these days. In decks running more than three colors this can naturally be limiting, but otherwise it can be added to nearly any EDH deck with ease.

Ghost Town’s non-mana ability is much more interesting. With a zero mana activation (admittedly there for rules reasons for that but still something I find irrationally amusing), Ghost Town states that upon activation you can bounce it back to your hand. While it does come with the restriction that you can only use it on another player’s turn, that was by design. After all, its original intent was to vanish in the wake of facing down land destruction. Over the years that limitation has also served well to keep the card’s power level in check, as without it the card would have skyrocketed in price with the advent of Landfall triggers. As it is, Ghost Town remains a financially modest non-basic land despite being over 20 years old.

Unless you’re running a Landfall deck, the main question to arise with this card is usually why use it over, say, Darksteel Citadel. After all, the Citadel is innately immune to destruction effects without needing to self-bounce and provides the same amount of mana. Though true that both cards share the same space, there are some differences that can make Ghost Town worth the extra hurdle. For one, Ghost Town can also save itself from exile effects whereas Darksteel cannot. Second, Ghost Town can be useful in cases where you may be forced to discard cards and you’d rather pitch it than what you’re holding in your hand. And yes, there are the aforementioned ways it interacts with land triggers, enabling you to take the chance of returning it to your hand and put it back out on turns where you didn’t draw land cards (or via other shenanigans).

Those facets alone are enough to make the card worthy of an EDH land slot, but there are also a couple other corner cases where Ghost Town can be advantageous. However, I will leave it up to you to learn those for yourself…

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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