Too-Specific Top 10 - Uncommon Core

(Basalt Monolith | Art by Yeong-Hao Han)

The Middle Seat

Welcome to Too-Specific Top 10, where if there isn’t a category to rank our pet card at the top of, we’ll just make one up! (Did you know that Colossus Hammer is the only one-mana Equipment to grant a creature more than 3 extra power on its own?)

Last week we looked at first-run commons from Core Sets and where they stacked up in our favorite format. Seeing that the pun still sticks if you stick an "Un" in front of it, and that uncommons on the whole tend to be better than commons, I wondered... how much better?

Top 10 Uncommon Cards From a Core Set

So, let's find out with the same rules from last week, shall we?

Criteria: Cards originally printed as uncommons in a Core Set which was their first printing. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score. 

10. Elixir of Immortality

(17,167 Inclusions, 5% of 381,193 Decks)

Are you worried that you're going to deck yourself, but not in an intentional, Laboratory Maniac kind of way? Would you like to reuse cards that you've already used, but can't find a copy of Eternal Witness anywhere? Are you tired of all those pesky aggro decks hitting you for early damage before you get your elaborate pillow fort set up? Well, has Elixir of Immortality got a deal for you! For the low, low cost of one mana to cast and two mana to activate, you too can shuffle your graveyard back into your library and gain five life!

All salesmanship aside, Elixir of Immortality makes this list for good reason. It solves a lot of problems that slower control decks face often, all at once, and it can ensure that decks with limited win conditions can find them even if the initial attempt was met with removal. It's a roundabout way of doing things, but it's also colorless and eventually gets the job done while also possibly solving some problems along the way. Who doesn't love that?

9. Animate Dead

(25,770 Inclusions, 13% of 198,076 Decks)

Aside from being one of the wordiest cards in Magic, Animate Dead is also a staple. No matter the deck you're building, if it includes black, you have to spend at least a moment considering whether or not it would make your deck better. That much is definitely indicated by its 13% inclusion rate, although I would actually argue that figure is low by that metric, as many decks would be more powerful with an Animate Dead inclusion, but choose not to to make more room for theme/hipster quotient.

8. Buried Ruin

(27,456 Inclusions, 7% of 381,193 Decks)

Buried Ruin, on the other hand, is not a one-size-fits-all kind of card. It is, however, an auto-include in any artifact decks that can afford a slot for a colorless land. Given that artifact decks just so happen to be the most popular theme to build a deck around, this means that the numbers are astronomical, and for good reason. Being able to throw a land in your deck to do land things early and then get you a key component back from the graveyard late is solid, no matter how you swing it.

7. Acidic Slime

(35,886 Inclusions, 19% of 186,810 Decks)

As for our number seven card, however, I'm not sure that I agree with the numbers. Seeing play in almost 20% of all the green decks of the world just seems like a lot when it comes to a five-mana 2/2 that is basically just a backup to the might of Reclamation Sage. Sure, it's more flexible in that it allows you to go full Creeping Mold as opposed to just Naturalize, and the deathtouch might take out something relevant in a block. Is that really worth going all the way up to five mana, though? There are great options for destroying artifacts and enchantments all over green for much cheaper, and if you're already playing Reclamation Sage, as 55% of decks that include Acidic Slime are, then it seems like you have better options for backup. Here, let me indulge myself with a list inside of a list:

Top 10 Green Naturalize Effects That Cost Less Than Acidic Slime

  1. Reclamation Sage
  2. Krosan Grip
  3. Nature's Claim
  4. Caustic Caterpillar (Not really a fan of this one, either)
  5. Return to Nature
  6. Naturalize
  7. Force of Vigor
  8. Broken Bond
  9. Thrashing Brontodon
  10. Seal of Primordium

Now, if you're playing Yarok, the Desecrated, then I understand that you want to take advantage of enter-the-battlefield effects. But for everyone else that isn't on the Panharmonicon train, there are just better, cheaper options out there for your mana. Even for Yarok decks, it might be worth looking into a couple effects that aren't completely destroyed by the four Torpor Orbs that are now in print, though.

6. Reclamation Sage

(44,462 Inclusions, 24% of 186,810 Decks)

If you're looking for the number one new Uktabi Orangutan, however, then as much as I might recommend Thrashing Brontodon, it's still only a second fiddle to Reclamation Sage. Three mana to put a body down on the field and destroy a problem is just too good of a rate not to use, even if your deck can't abuse it repeatedly with creature recursion.

5. Demonic Tutor

(60,363 Inclusions, 30% of 198,076 Decks)

If you're looking for a card to cut out of your black decks, however, don't hand your deck to me or I'll probably advise you to get rid of Demonic Tutor. Don't get me wrong, that is entirely the wrong decision if you're looking to improve your deck's win percentage. Demonic Tutor is one of the best cards in the entire history of Magic, and will probably make any deck it's included in better. If your deck has been feeling stale lately, however, or seems to play the exact same every time, then might I suggest that variance is built into Commander for a reason?

4. Counterspell

(92,090 Inclusions, 46% of 201,264 Decks)

On the other hand, seeing that Counterspell is only in 46% of all the decks that can play it is interesting data from a meta perspective. Some of those 54% of blue decks may be shying away because they're five colors, so keeping up two blue is just too inconsistent, but for the most part there is no strategic reason not to be playing Counterspell if you can, which means that the most likely reasons that people aren't playing more of it are social or budgetary. Given that it only costs a bit over a dollar and can generally be found in just about any player's collection that's been around for more than a couple years, I personally lean more toward the social theory. Counterspells have always been a bit controversial from a "fun" perspective, and they rub a lot of people the wrong way. If you've been around EDH for a while, for instance, then you've probably played against a Talrand, Sky Summoner Counterspell-tribal deck which does nothing but try to counter every impactful spell that hits the table, often not even including a win condition outside of Drakes. Of course, not every deck that plays counters is doing so as a means to make an entire table miserable, but the ones that are tend to stick in people's minds.

To those who do have a negative view of Counterspells, I would remind them that not every deck that plays them is playing 30 of them, and I would also suggest putting in two or three in one of your builds to try them out. You'd be surprised how often they do something positive for a board state instead of oppressive. Countering a board wipe that only benefits the player who's already winning, saying no to an instant-win card like Tooth and Nail, or simply allowing your commander to stay on the field instead of going to the yard for the fourth time can all be very powerful and positive effects that let you and others continue to have fun in a game that might otherwise become a slow spiral of doom and gloom. My suggestions for an easy, cheap three counters to include as a removal/protection package for just about any blue deck are: Counterspell, Negate, and Arcane Denial.

Advanced users might also enjoy Insidious Will to give you a few extra options for what to do with that Earthquake for 13 or that Decimate that's for some reason only pointing at your permanents.

3. Swords to Plowshares

(98,585 Inclusions, 56% of 175,435 Decks)

As positive as I am about Counterspell and how more people should play both less and more of them, however, I feel the opposite about Swords to Plowshares. Not because you shouldn't play it. You absolutely should, it is just hands down better than any other creature removal spell in the game. But that's really the problem, isn't it? Every year, we get a fancy new removal spell to put in our white decks, and we don't use it because Swords to Plowshares is right there.

I find myself looking forward to when I build budget decks simply because it's an excuse to try out a Dispatch or a Wing Shards instead of just throwing in the staple. Outside of that, leaning heavily into theme or playing mono-white may be the only reasons you can come up with to find room for that Declaration in Stone that makes you feel all nostalgic.

2. Swiftfoot Boots

(10,6631 Inclusions, 38% of 381,193 Decks)

Speaking of budget considerations, Swiftfoot Boots is sneaking ever closer to overtaking Lightning Greaves as The One on top of the commander protection/haste pile.

Lightning Greaves currently has about a 10,000 inclusion head-start, but given that its price is still triple that of Swiftfoot Boots, we're probably just a few more Commander precon reprints away from the budget decks edging the hexproof version over the finish line despite the increased Equip cost. And hey, remember that last time that you couldn't do that thing you wanted to do because of shroud? Just sayin'.

1. Sol Ring

(306,179 Inclusions, 80% of 381,193 Decks)

For the second time in the history of Too-Specific Top 10, we have done the unthinkable... We have made a top ten list based off of the popularity of cards in the Commander format that ends with... the most popular card in the Commander format. Believe it or not, however, it has actually fallen in popularity since the last time we've visited this particular low point! Sol Ring now sits in just 80% of the decks tracked here on EDHREC, as opposed to the 83% and mere 192,522 out of 230,764 inclusions recorded back at the beginning of 2020, a lifetime ago. What was more interesting to me than the drop in inclusions that is probably more a statistical blip than anything else, however, was the sheer increase in the number of decks being recorded in the last six months. If we keep at this pace, we'll see 100,000 new decklists from 2020 within the next two months, and will see in excess of 150,000 by year's end. That is quite the testament to the brewing spirit, and I applaud each and every one of you out there that continue the grand experiment of Commander and allow us to continue our grand experiment of keeping track of things over here at EDHREC. You're the lifeblood of the format, and don't you forget it.

Also, your excuse for not playing Sol Ring is probably still bull, so long as we're being truthful out here.

Honorable Mentions

Every infinite mana fan's favorite card, Basalt Monolith just missed the top ten with 16,936 inclusions. It's also seen a very recent boost in numbers with the printing of Zirda, the Dawnwaker, which I, for one, am for. I mean, go back two years, and I tell you there's an extremely powerful infinite mana deck in Boros on the tails of an extremely powerful infinite deck in mono-white. Wouldn't you take that as good news as far as where the weakest colors are headed in Commander?

Regrowth takes number twelve in this category, but I really took the time to list it here in the Honorable Mentions exclusively because it's still so far behind Eternal Witness in popularity (almost 50,000 inclusions behind, as a matter of fact). Which is fine; looping an Eternal Witness is one of the most fun things you can do in Commander, and it leads to both shenanigans and wins. But there are still a lot of decks out there with no ability to recur or copy Eternal Witness's ability who would be better served to just save a mana and three bucks.

Coming in at number fourteen would be Meteor Golem, who will always have a strong showing in popularity so long as a cheaper way to destroy permanents doesn't come out for red, blue, and black decks. Being able to remove problem enchantments is absolutely necessary in a game of Commander, and while blue can do that temporarily or with the right timing, in red and black there really aren't any good options outside of Chaos Warp. Combine that with the fact that both colors are fairly good at cheating expensive creatures into play, and Meteor Golem is here to stay.

Barely cracking into the top twenty at the nineteen spot, Poison-Tip Archer is the Golgari combination of Blood Artist and Zulaport Cutthroat that also sports the very relevant keywords of reach and deathtouch. It might cost four mana, but that is a lot of goodness all wrapped up in one package, for those Aristocrats builds that can use it.

Nuts and Bolts

Over the series, there have been some questions about how I reach the data to make these lists. With that in mind, I'm going to be trying to implement this section at the end of each of my articles to link the Scryfall search that I used to come up with the contained list. If you have any questions on the commands or shorthand I've used to come up with the list included, or have an improved method I could have used to save some work, we would love to hear about it.

What Do You Think?

The spectrum of common to uncommon really showed how much difference a little rarity can make, going from a fairly mundane list with some mid-level inclusions to some of the top staples in the format. Nowhere is this more relevant than in the Pauper format and its cousin, Pauper EDH. With that in mind, and with the costs of several of these staples continuing to rise despite several reprints at the uncommon level, should there be more consideration of printing these cards at a lower rarity in sets like Modern Horizons and Ultimate Masters to both bring prices down and to feed those formats based around commons?

And finally, what do you think of the new Core Set? Are there diamonds in the rough from top to bottom, or do you feel that it's just the rares and mythics that are going to make a dent in EDH?

Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the slightly more expensive card table your buddy bought for game nights.

Doug has been an avid Magic player since Fallen Empires, when his older brother traded him some epic blue Homarids for all of his Islands. As for Commander, he's been playing since 2010, when he started off by making a two-player oriented G/R Land Destruction deck. Nailed it. In his spare time when he's not playing Magic, writing about Magic or doing his day job, he runs a YouTube channel or two, keeps up a College Football Computer Poll, and is attempting to gif every scene of the Star Wars prequels.