The Best Commander Cards From... Tempest

Luka Sharaska • October 19, 2023

Welcome back to The Best Commander Cards From..., a series focusing on the most powerful EDH cards from Magic: The Gathering's rich thirty-year-long history. Today's focus is Tempest, the twelfth Magic expansion set, which was released in October of 1997, and is the first set in the aptly named Tempest block.

Experts Only

Around the time that Tempest was released, Wizards of the Coast was experimenting with a ratings system for their sets based around the level of play experience the target audience ought to have. Tempest, along with all other expansion sets, were labeled expert-level sets. This is also the first set after Antiquities that featured Richard Garfield, the creator of Magic, in an active designer role.

Mechanics & Firsts

While this was technically an expert-level set, the set mechanics of shadow and buyback are actually pretty intuitive. Shadow is just a variant of flying or horsemanship, and buyback allows you to, well, buy things back after using them. As for cool new creature types, Tempest introduced Sliver, Crab, Shapeshifter, Licid, and Spike. Even though tempest and storm are synonyms, Tempest was not the set where storm was introduced. Now then, the cards!

Ancient Tomb

By far the most popular card from the set, Ancient Tomb sits atop this throne for a very good reason. Any land that can tap for more than one mana is extremely powerful, and the closest parallel, City of Traitors, is significantly powered down by comparison. You get a lot of activations in a 40-life format, and this can overperform in many decks.


This is the reanimation spell that most players think of if you put them on the spot. It's cheap, at least in mana cost, and the downside is usually not a major consideration. It doesn't get better than this, and you should expect to see this card at Commander tables for as long as the format exists.


Although this isn't one of the most popular cards, it's easily one of the strongest. Aside from being an auto-include in Chulane, Teller of Tales, Aluren also creates plenty of infinites with cards like Whitemane Lion and Shrieking Drake. As a bonus, most players should find this card fun as long as you don't win immediately.

Lotus Petal

Even chopping a Black Lotus into thirds can't make it all that fair, as Lotus Petal is still a very powerful card. Of course, it shines brightest in the decks where the card disadvantage is mitigated by card draw or explosive combo potential, but you can technically play this in any deck.

Corpse Dance

Using Corpse Dance over other reanimation spells gives you two big bonuses. First, it's one of the few ways to put Eldrazi titans onto the battlefield from your graveyard. Second, you can buy it back. The downside, of course, is that it's one of the few cards that cares about the order of your graveyard. Caveat emptor.


Long before Cryptolith Rite, there was Earthcraft. Although you can only untap basic lands, Earthcraft allows you to tap any creature you control to do it, including those with summoning sickness. This can go a long way towards increasing your mana production, and can go infinite under certain circumstances.


If you're at a table where every single mana counts, Propaganda can go a long way in making sure that you've ample time with a high life total. Although it might be one of the most tame stax effects compared to mana-inhibiting cards like Winter Orb, it's also one of the most iconic, and it certainly deserves recognition for that.


What really separates Harrow from the pack is that it puts two lands onto the battlefield without tapping them, giving you a two-mana rebate on your investment that carries over into the late game quite well. Generating an extra storm count, unexpectedly fixing your mana, and just being much more mana efficient than a Cultivate goes a long way.

The Medallions

Alongside Emerald Medallion, Sapphire Medallion, Pearl Medallion, and Jet Medallion, Ruby Medallion completes this cycle of cost-reducing artifacts. They do cost two mana, but they often give you a much bigger discount over time, especially if you're trying to cast a lot of spells in a short time. Combine with cards like Birgi, God of Storytelling for best results.

Reflecting Pool

In almost every deck I own with two or more colors, Reflecting Pool is basically an untapped dual or tri-land. The better your mana-fixing, the better this will perform. If it wasn't originally printed in Tempest, I wouldn't think twice if I saw this first printed in a Commander set or something similar.

Time Warp

It's perhaps not the most exciting way to take an extra turn, but Time Warp is one of the classics. Extra turns might get you some aggression in a multiplayer format, but don't let that fool you into thinking this won't end games. It's almost worth the looks you'll get from the other players.


If you've never played against it before, Intuition might look like a very inefficient tutor. If you have played with it, you'll know that most of the time you're just choosing between several redundant combo pieces or cards that are just as good out of the graveyard.

Altar of Dementia

It's not often that graveyard decks get a sacrifice outlet that feeds itself this well. Altar of Dementia has gone a long way towards milling half my library most of the times that I've cast it, and it's a big combo piece in certain strategies.

Scroll Rack

Getting a fresh new hand of cards for only one mana each turn can get pretty busted pretty quick, especially when you combine Scroll Rack with other methods of drawing cards and ways to shuffle away the chaff. Additionally, it technically doesn't draw cards, so you get around pesky cards like Narset, Parter of Veils or Notion Thief.

Goblin Bombardment

This may seem like a Goblin card, but the most popular commander featured is actually Zurzoth, Chaos Rider. That said, any deck that spits out a ton of fodder will make good use of this, so it's sure to be a fine inclusion in the 99 of decks like Krenko, Mob Boss.

Living Death

While Living Death is technically a symmetrical effect, it always seems to hit the stack right after the Meren of Clan Nel Toth player conveniently lets their commander hit their well-stocked graveyard.

Blood Pet

Tinder Wall this is not, but Blood Pet does do a great job of being a delayed ritual of sorts in many mono-black decks. Given the price of some other cards that can accelerate out a three-mana commander on turn two, Blood Pet is a great budget option.


Another fun symmetrical effect that never seems to hit the caster particularly hard, Humility is a great way to humble your opponents. While it might not be as efficient as simply wiping the board sometimes, it's certainly more fun to watch everyone battle with tiny little armies instead of groaning about losing all their stuff.

I've stretched the limits of how long I can really make this article, but I feel like I've barely scratched the surface on all the cool cards from this set. From the many playable Slivers to cards like Capsize, Reckless Spite, Recycle, Apocalypse, Starke of Rath, Static Orb, Furnace of Rath, and many more! I could probably go on for another thousand words or so, but I digress. What's your favorite card from Tempest? Let me know in the comments. At any rate, I've been Luka "Robot" Sharaska, and I hope I'll see you next time.

Luka "Robot" Sharaska has been playing Magic for more than a decade, since the days of New Phyrexia. They've been captivated since that day. They earned the nickname "Robot" with their monotone voice, affinity for calculating odds, and worrying lack of sleep.