Best Cards of 2022 - cEDH Review
Best cEDH Cards of 2022
Wondering what the best cEDH cards of 2022 were? I don't blame you. Exactly 1,992 new Commander-legal cards were printed this year. A whopping 425 new commanders were printed, 25% of the total pool. That's a lot to keep track of. The best way to know what's good and what's not is to read cEDH set reviews on Commander's Herald, but the second best way is to read the cEDH set review review. Good news, you're currently reading it!
More than just the best cards in each color, some highlights from across the meta, and important categories like "best card to name with Demonic Consultation" and "best card to go infinite with Devoted Druid", I want to take this opportunity to go back over my own predictions. Not to show you where I was right; where I picked something that other players and reviewers hadn't; where I get to say I told you so. No, much more fun than that. I'd like to revisit everything I got wrong. So come, let's go over everything 2022 had to offer cEDH.
Best White Card
Card advantage in white at a reasonable rate? It's no Esper Sentinel, but Archivist of Oghma lived up to most of the hype. The flash makes it flexible, the 2/2 makes it trade with Tymna the Weaver, and it triggers frequently. Granted, the bar is low for advantage in white, and low-color cEDH decks would run a ham sandwich if they thought it would put more cards in their hand, but Archivist of Oghma is useful enough to find a home even in five-color piles. Short of tutor density dropping in cEDH, (extremely unlikely), we'll be seeing this little fella for years to come.
With a little more time to assess things, I might have given this award to the white bounce spell, Soul Partition. I say bounce because in practice, that's how it plays. Bounce spells are already ubiquitous in cEDH, so Soul Partition fits right in, a huge addition to white's toolbox. More than just a good white card, Soul Partition is a good Magic card, and its ability to buy extra time with the (2) tax is invaluable.
Best Blue Card
Blue is the biggest winner of 2022. There are four cards that could easily take this place and it's a shame to pick just one. Before paying lip service to the other three, some thoughts on An Offer You Can't Refuse. Counterspells are a dime a dozen, not just in cEDH but in EDH and Magic at large. They come in all shapes and sizes, with every manner of upside and downside you can think of. There is a lot of competition for a new counterspell to prove worthwhile in this subformat, and it's a testament to An Offer You Can't Refuse that it manages to not just make, but break the top ten list. It wasn't a sure thing either.
Back when An Offer You Can't Refuse was first spoiled, it had hordes of detractors. "I don't want to give my opponent resources," they said. "We've got enough one-mana counterspells already," they said. "This is the best mobster reference in the whole set!" they (or at least, I) said.
As it happened, the naysayers couldn't have been more wrong. Any possible downside that comes from giving someone two Treasures is almost always offset by the upside of countering whatever they really cared about. It's even proved useful post Ad Nauseam to ramp and wash blue mana into whatever color you might need!
The other three contenders are Ledger Shredder, March of Swirling Mist, and Displacer Kitten. Ledger Shredder continues to put in work as an efficient source of card filtering, not to mention quickly becoming big enough to block the likes of Kraum, Ludevic's Opus and even Serra Ascendant. Blue's most interesting new toy is the combo Cat, Displacer Kitten. It takes the cake for the most intriguing tool of the year, but it relies on a deck that can truly take advantage of it to justify the four-mana pricetag and lack of immediate payoff.
Best Red Card
The second card to hail from Streets of New Capenna, Professional Face-Breaker quickly made a name for herself in every deck that wanted to turn creatures sideways. As long as the combat step is somewhere on your list of priorities and red is in your color identity, Professional Face-Breaker is a worth considering. With her own form of evasion, she can even reliably trigger herself. While it lacks the explosiveness of its black counterpart, the number of red decks interested in creature combat surpasses the number of black ones, and Professional Face-Breaker is easily the more common of the two.
While useful across the board, Professional Face-Breaker shines the brightest in Magda, Brazen Outlaw. We'll talk more about her later, but this is just one of the incredible cards she's received in 2022. Who knew that producing Treasures was good? In the last few months, I've seen PFB fall a little, and there's a growing feeling she's not quite as good as we all thought she was on release, but I ask you, what is she competing with? Maybe Brotherhood's End, possibly Delayed Blast Fireball if the meta gets even more bogged down with creatures, but for my money you won't find a more universally powerful red card in 2022 than this knuckle-dusting, cap-wearing Cappenite.
Best Green cEDH Card
Where white, red, and blue received cards that could fit into near any deck, green was not so lucky. Last year green received Endurance, in 2020 it was Allosaurus Shepherd, and 2019 had the wombo of Collector Ouphe and Veil of Summer, but all green has to show for itself in 2022 is Vivien on the Hunt. She's strong, very good at what she does, but only useful in a tiny portion of decks. Why? She's just like Birthing Pod.
She finds creatures all the same, she sets up infinites all the same, but crucially she isn't held back by Collector Ouphe or Null Rod in the way that Birthing Pod is. This is great for decks looking to avoid those stax pieces or decks that want to run them themselves. She might be six mana, but the typical combo lines with Birthing Pod involve blinking it and reactivating it, often twice, meaning the total amount of mana spent on Vivien on the Hunt ends up being much the same. Vivien on the Hunt is at her absolute best in Minsc, Beloved Ranger, where she works as yet another one-card win condition if you pull her into play with a sacrificed Arena Rector. The only other green card of note this year was Tail Swipe, the first one-mana fight effect at instant speed. Dull as dishwater, but playable.
That makes it look a bad year for green decks in cEDH, but only because I'm not painting the whole picture. The biggest boost green received in 2022 was of course Boseiju, Who Endures, but it's not technically a green card. Pick nits if you must.
Best Black Card
Much like green, it was a slow year for black. Nothing printed for black in 2022 comes close to "staple" status; there's just nothing on par with 2021's offerings like Dauthi Voidwalker and Grim Hireling. That's not to say there aren't interesting cards, just that they won't see widespread play. Contenders in this category include Ruthless Technomancer (for what else, breaking Dockside Extortionist and doing Inalla things), Activated Sleeper (a new option for Golgari Protean Hulk piles), and Cut Down (a passable removal spell), but none of the above can boast the potential of Saw in Half. I said it when it was first spoiled all the way back in 2021, I said it when it was released, and I'll say it again: keep your eye on Saw in Half.
Just by itself, Saw in Half goes infinite with Dualcaster Mage at instant speed. That's a solid start for any card given Heat Shimmer is already perfectly playable for the same job. But Saw in Half does so much more. Like anything that can make creature copies, it's extremely good with Dockside Extortionist as it creates two copies instead of just one. For amplifying Treasures, this is cheaper, more explosive, and altogether more efficient than any bounce or blink spell. Pair it with Eternal Witness and you'll have a runaway value train that can grind out indefinitely. Heck, Saw a Serra Ascendant in half and you'll have two 8/8s. Yes, I'm sure.
It's even the primary combo piece for an entire deck; Cormela, Glamour Thief. With Cormela in play, Saw in Half in hand, and any of Rite of Flame, Dark Ritual, or Demonic Tutor available, you can assemble a game-winning line. No space to write out how, but if that's piqued your interest, check out this comprehensive primer.
Best Colorless Card
Best feels inappropriate here. "Least bad" might be more accurate, only because none of the colorless cards printed this year were inspiring. Sure, Relic of Legends was cool, but only in Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh + Thrasios, Triton Hero decks. Energy Refractor was great but didn't mean anything to anyone other than Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy. That leaves us with Containment Construct, a useful but incredibly overhyped tool. Back when it was spoiled in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, there was talk Containment Construct would revolutionise Lion's Eye Diamond and Wheel decks. None of that happened.
The floor on Containment Construct is a two-mana "do absolutely nothing", while the ceiling is "make really good cards a bit better". Unfortunately, that's not a great place to be in cEDH. What Containment Construct needs to shine is a commander with built-in discard. Thankfully, commanders like that already exist in cEDH (Raffine, Scheming Seer, Vohar, Vodalian Desecrator, and the backside of Birgi, God of Storytelling), and Containment Construct has managed to find a home in all of them.
Best Land Card
If I counted it as a colorless card, it would be the best. If I counted it as a green card, it would be the best. That's the only reason I have it down here in the best land category: to give everything else some breathing room. Because Boseiju, Who Endures is not just the best land card, it's the best cEDH card of 2022. It's the best EDH card of 2022. Boseiju, Who Endures is what they call BIS: Best In Slot.
Just on the surface, the card is playable as a two-mana removal spell for artifacts, enchantments, and lands. Add the fact that it's usually going to cost one mana. Add the fact it can't be countered by conventional counters. Add the fact it doesn't count as a spell, bypassing Silence, Grand Abolisher, and Rule of Law. THEN add the fact that it's a land. And an untapped one at that. What you're left with is a card that's useful at literally every stage of the game. More than useful, it's actually more powerful than non-land alternatives like Nature's Claim and often enough, Force of Vigor.
In some ways, I'm thrilled. This is an extremely powerful card, and I'm playing cEDH because I like powerful cards. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed that the strongest cEDH card of 2022 is just a really good Naturalize.
Best cEDH Commanders 2022
It was a very good year for fans of low-color decks. With no new Partners (no, Backgrounds don't count) and Studio X abandoning their fetish for five-color soup commanders, like Kenrith, the Returned King and Golos, Tireless Pilgrim, 2022 brought us plenty of interesting three-color and two-color options. In no particular order, the cream of the crop were as follows.
Evelyn, the Covetous
The first Grixis commander capable of turning a reanimated Worldgorger Dragon into a win. Just assemble the loop as normal and your infinite mana and infinite ETBs will allow Evelyn to exile every single player's library from top to bottom. Given how overladen Grixis already is with wincons and viable commanders, Evelyn, the Covetous had a high bar to clear, but she's quickly become one of the better options for players who enjoy Alara's most nefarious shard. Five mana is usually prohibitive, but Evelyn's flash provides incredible flexibility. Likewise, her incidental exile on entering the battlefield provides genuine card advantage in much the same way as Pako, Arcane Retriever and Haldan, Avid Arcanist do. Add the usual Underworld Breach + Brain Freeze and of course Thassa's Oracle + Forbidden Tutor, and you've got one mean Grixis gal.
Shorikai, Genesis Engine
Shorikai, Genesis Engine was a game-changer for Azorius. Prior to 2022, blue and white were forced to choose from Lavinia, Azorius Renegade, Brago, King Eternal, or Grand Arbiter Augustin IV. At the risk of speaking ill of commanders that cEDH players still play, what the existing Azorius options had in common was a distinct lack of card advantage and an inability to convincingly win the game with lean combos. But such are the limits of flesh and blood, and Shorikai, Genesis Engine is a machine. It can draw cards and find answers with even better efficiency than the almighty Thrasios, Triton Hero, and while it isn't strictly an infinite outlet, typical infinite combos like Isochron Scepter + Dramatic Reversal or Hullbreaker Horror + a pair of mana-positive rocks allow it to win the game all the same. Not being a creature and only producing 1/1s, it's also an ideal Polymorph deck, and it takes better advantage of Humility than any other commander ever printed. If you like the sound of that, read my breakdown here.
Rocco, Cabaretti Caterer
Having access to a tutor in the command zone is historically powerful (a lesson Yisan, the Wanderer Bard has been teaching us for years), but until 2022 we hadn't seen it quite so pushed or available in so many colors. Rocco, Cabaretti Caterer isn't just multicolored, they're in the three best creature colors and they're very close to an infinite mana outlet, providing the source of that infinite mana involves something like Food Chain or Temur Sabertooth or Wirewood Symbiote. The ability to find whatever creature you're missing from any two-card combo cannot be underestimated, effectively making Rocco a one-card combo with cards in the 99 - like Food Chain.
Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes
Average Ad Naus enjoyer staring down a 20/20 Hamster token.
Just like Shorikai, Genesis Engine, Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes was a breath of fresh air for a color combination long stagnant. With due respect to Ruric Thar, the Unbowed and the Gruul commanders that came before, red and green together have historically been bad to the point of unplayable in cEDH. This tracks given Gruul's thematic focus on "big smash" not translating well to a combo-centric subformat, but the problem went deeper than guild philosophy. With rare exceptions, a good cEDH commander needs at least one of three things: mana advantage, card advantage, or combo potential. Lo and behold, Minsc & Boo provides the latter two and then some. The bald man and the hamster provide card advantage, targeted removal, the ability to turn infinite mana into a win, and a way to place massive pressure on life totals. I could write about the good word of Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes until I wore my fingers down to nubs, but you can find more info here.
Tivit, Seller of Secrets
Tivit, Seller of Secrets was just as broken with Time Sieve as we all thought he would be, but he turned out to be a much better value engine than anyone (or at least I) anticipated. The mana advantage and card advantage might be conditional, but they really add up in longer games, not to mention the inherent threat of a 6/6 with flying and ward. Tivit, Seller of Secrets also has access to one of 2022's coolest new combos: Abdel Adrian, Gorion's Ward combined with any variant of Animate Dead. You can read how that combo works here, but what matters is that infinitely blinking Tivit will result in infinite Clues and infinite Treasures. Suffice to say, that's a win.
Most Improved Deck
It was Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow. Am I biased? Extremely. But I'll stand by it, because to my knowledge, no cEDH deck has ever received so many playable cards in the space of a single year. Let's have a look:
Moon-Circuit Hacker is a cheap Yuriko trigger with extra advantage, Nashi, Moon Sage's Scion forms a topdeck combo with Enter the Infinite, Prosperous Thief is Professional Face-Breaker but blue, Silver-Fur Master cheapens costs and boosts damage, and of course, Thousand-Faced Shadow is the most perfect Ninjutsu-enabler ever printed. And that's just the Ninjas.
Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow is no stranger to ridiculously expensive mana costs, but never before has she had one that can actually be cast. Before Streets of New Capenna, us Ninja enthusiasts were working with Draco, Blinkmoth Infusion, and even Emrakul the Second. They're great cards to reveal with a Yuriko flip, they're terrible cards if you want to actually... play your cards. Shadow of Mortality distinguishes itself as being a 7/7 for two mana in longer games, what is usually the biggest creature on the board by a considerable margin. When you include An Offer You Can't Refuse and March of Swirling Mist, you're looking at seven brand new cards, five of them exclusive to Yuriko.
If I ignore my biases for half a second, the runner up and arguable alternative winner is Magda, Brazen Outlaw. No, there wasn't a single cEDH-viable Dwarf printed at any point in 2022, but the little red Outlaw was spoiled with goodies regardless. Just look at what she has parked in her garage these days:
For a deck that's desperately trying to tap their own creatures down at a moment's notice, you can't do any better than Vehicles. Crew doesn't just require you tap creatures, it allows you to overpay, meaning even one Vehicle can be Crewed by every single Dwarf in play. High-Speed Hoverbike and Unlicensed Hearse have their own utility, but my favorite is Clown Car. Never mind the fact you can put it into play for the same price as a Mox, it comes with the visual imagery of a gang of Dwarves with red noses and white makeup spilling out of a honking automobile. If that's not cEDH, I don't want to know what is.
No need to rehash Professional Face-Breaker; if you can read the text on Magda, Brazen Outlaw you'll understand why PFB is so powerful. Wild Magic Surge is an addition to red's otherwise paltry removal suite, an improvement on Chaos Warp and more than efficient enough to find a home. Lastly, Twinshot Sniper serves as a tutorable and uncounterable Shock effect. That doesn't sound like much, but it's easily loopable, and it's now an important winning line for most Magda, Brazen Outlaw decks.
What I Got Wrong
Now to the misses. It's fun to look back on your own predictions and shake your head in dismay, wondering what on earth you were thinking. Every Magic player bold enough to share an opinion about a card during spoiler season knows the feeling. My worst predictions for the year were as follows:
Deep Gnome Terramancer
"This card doesn't just catch you up, it puts you ahead." - Streets of New Capenna cEDH review
Boy, did I want this thing to be good. Hot on the heels of Archivist of Oghma, Deep Gnome Terramancer looked like the other vertically challenged flash creature that would find its way into every deck. After all, fetchlands are played in nearly every deck, surely this little fella would be triggering all the time, right? I was hopelessly wrong. I played it five times and got one Plains before taking it out of my deck. The frequency of fetchlands is high enough to trigger Archivist of Oghma every now and then, but the halfling draws from every other tutor as well. Relying on the likelihood of opposing fetchlands for mana advantage is just too clunky to work. Which brings me to another white card...
"This card advantage engine is going to pan out quite nicely and make it into a lot of white decks happy to play a slower game." - Streets of New Capenna cEDH review
This is that ham sandwich I was talking about. If 2022 taught me anything about card evaluation, it was to keep my hopes in check for grindy white cards. Given how far Smothering Tithe has fallen in recent years, I should have known a lesser imitation would never stand a chance. Like Deep Gnome Terramancer, Smuggler's Share hinges completely on your opponents' actions. This is nothing to bank on. You can be sure they'll cast cards (Mystic Remora/Rhystic Study), and you can usually be sure they'll tutor cards (Archivist of Oghma/Opposition Agent/Aven Mindcensor), but it turns out you can't rely on your opponents drawing cards. That might sound silly given Notion Thief's existence and the late Hullbreacher, but what distinguishes those cards are their backbreaking interaction with wheels. Their reliability on their effect happening naturally isn't important when wheels can force the hand of fate.
"I see this card finding a home in most red decks concerned with the combat step" - Streets of New Capenna cEDH review
Sticky Fingers may be a shining example of incredible power creep in the common slot - it can pay for itself, it can ramp, it provides evasion, it replaces itself - but "good Magic card" and "good cEDH card" aren't always the same thing. If I'm honest, I'm surprised Sticky Fingers didn't make more of an impact. It still looks like a perfect card for a red Tymna deck, a great way to ensure mana advantage in a drawn out game, but there's no denying it hasn't panned out like that. In fact, it doesn't even see play in every Magda, Brazen Outlaw deck, what I thought would be a match made in heaven. How did I get this so wrong? What did you think of it when it was spoiled?
"my pick for the best commander of the set" - Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty cEDH review
Well, this is embarrassing. Not just because Hinata, Dawn-Crowned is average in cEDH, but because Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty also contained Shorikai, Genesis Engine, one of the best commanders of the whole year and now a personal favorite deck. Even forgetting Shorikai, I've seen the USB jellyfish put in a surprising amount of work as a commander, certainly more so than Hinata. Looking back, I overestimated how useful the spell reduction effect was and underestimated how the tax effect would play out. Yes, sometimes the tax will protect a win, but more often than not it allows one opponent to win while another is locked out of interacting.
March of Swirling Mist
"No comment" - Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty cEDH review
That's right. I didn't even deign to mention it. March of Swirling Mist is protection, removal, and my greatest shame of 2022. It's as good at disrupting creature combos as it at protecting a board. With enough mana or a few cards to pitch, March have an enormous effect on the board, completely nullifying entire combat steps and even turns. The utility is endless. Take Winota out of play to stop triggers for a turn, get rid of Collector Ouphe so you can go off with your artifact combo, protect your commander from a Toxic Deluge, March of Swirling Mist can do anything. In retrospect, I hyper focused on the fact that because it was Phasing rather than actually exiling and returning, it lacked synergy with enter-the-battlefield effects. At least that's what I'm telling myself.
Best New Combo Piece For Devoted Druid
Why is this a category? Because Devoted Druid received FIVE new ways to produce infinite mana in 2022. I don't know why. Prior to this year, there were just two cards that could produce infinite green mana with Devoted Druid by themselves: Vizier of Remedies and One with the Stars. The former saw little play because it still required Devoted Druid to lose summoning sickness and the latter because it was a whopping four mana. But just look at the options we have today.
All but Luxior, Giada's Gift work by removing Devoted Druid's creature typing. In order of least to most terrifying, I'd start with Luxior, Giada's Gift. It's just a special sword that keeps Devoted Druid healthy, there's nothing so bad about that! Machine God's Effigy is fine, it's just a noncreature artifact copy, the original remains intact. Then you've got Myrkul, Lord of Bones, where the flavor seems to be that Devoted Druid returns as an ethereal enchantment version of her former self. Spooky, but not horrifying. It's Captain Rex Nebula and Swift Reconfiguration that are truly macarbe, the implication being that Devoted Druid is transformed into not just an artifact (horrifying) but specifically a Vehicle, meaning other creatures will presumably climb inside. Disgusting.
In any case, there's no real competition here: Swift Reconfiguration is easily the best. Thank goodness, because even though Archivist of Oghma is overall more useful, I needed a chance to talk about this card.
Best New Card To Name With Demonic Consultation
It was a huge year for the Demonic Consultation meta. No, the combo didn't improve, but the number of legal Magic cards you can name with Demonic Consultation got a lot longer, and more importantly, a lot funnier.
I'm a tragic fan of The Godfather, so I really want to give this to An Offer You Can't Refuse, but unlike everything else listed above, it's a card that might actually be in your deck, so while I can't Refuse it, I can disqualify it. Ambassador Blorpityblorpboop and the wonderful Sloppity Bilepiper put up a good fight given how fun they are to say out loud, but I can't go past You Are Already Dead.
Telling someone they're already dead at the point you're resolving Demonic Consultation is a good start, but there's more to this Kamigawan removal spell. Specifically, the Japanese translation: Omae Wa Mou Shindeiru. If that doesn't mean anything to you, watch this clip. That single line is now iconic enough that it warrants its own Magic card, so if you'd like to delight or confuse your opponents with esoteric references to a mid 80s anime, join me in naming You Are Already Dead with Demonic Consultation.
Twenty twenty two was among the weaker years in recent memory for cEDH. It can't stack up to 2020, but when you look at what was printed1 you'll realise that nothing ever will. It compares a little better to 20212, but still comes up a tad short. When we look back five years from now, I think we'll most remember Boseiju, Otawara, and to a lesser extent, Eiganjo. It's just so hard to imagine landbases improving at such a rate that these pieces will fall out of fashion. Beyond the lands, An Offer You Can't Refuse would be my pick for card of the year. But what do I know? I thought Smuggler's Share was a ham sandwich.
What do you think of 2022? What did you play? What lived up to the hype and what fell short of the bar? What did I miss? Whatever those answers might be, let me know in the comment section below or reach out to me on twitter @Jake_FitzSimons. Actually, one more thing.
You. Thank you for reading. CEDH was new territory for Commander's Herald when I wrote my first article this time last year. They took a chance on me and even though it's been a bumpy ride, it's also been a rewarding one. I wouldn't have got far without the support, encouragement and criticism from readers like you. I'll never get tired of writing about Magic's greatest subformat.
Stay tuned for a lot more in 2023.
- Thassa's Oracle, Underworld Breach, Jeska's Will, Jeweled Lotus, Hullbreacher, Opposition Agent, Archon of Emeria, Deadly Rollick, Fierce Guardianship, Deflecting Swat, Drannith Magistrate, Wheel of Misfortune
- Esper Sentinel, Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, Ignoble Hierarch, Hullbreaker Horror, Grim Hireling, Magda, Brazen Outlaw, Culling Ritual, Dauthi Voidwalker, Birgi, God of Storytelling, Tibalt's Trickery, Wandering Archaic, Resculpt