Best Cards for Desert Commander Deck – MTG


emphasize

  • The desert is an underrated strategy for commanders.
  • Cataclysmic Prospecting offers unique board wipes and treasure production.
  • Scavenger Land and other deserts provide the necessary graveyard hatred for strategy games.



The desert is a major feature of just two of Magic's sets: the Wild West-style Thunderjunction and the Egyptian-themed Amonkhet, which also includes Hour of Destruction. If you're building anything close to a desert deck in Commander, you'll be visiting these scenarios quite often.

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However, lands only make up part of a 100-card deck, and there aren't that many deserts in Magic: The Gathering to begin with, so it's really up to the nonlands in the deck to tie the desert theme together. Thankfully, Land Matter decks have been a staple of Commander for quite some time, with plenty of universal support available for Desert as well.


10 disastrous exploration

A piece of treasure

MTG: Disaster Exploration Card


Red-Red-X for wiping damaged circuit boards is often worse than it looks. This costs 6 mana to kill a board full of 4/4s, and you can do it with cards like Tired or Stormfury for only 4 mana. This formula has been used before on other red sweepers such as Delete and Malicious Bandit.

Thankfully, catalytic prospecting's treasure production is a huge boon for expensive board wiping. With enough desert mana at your disposal, almost all of it is refunded when you cast this ability, allowing you to be the first player to rebuild.

9 Giant Rattlesaurus

Really huge

MTG: Giant Rattlesaurus card


Commander doesn't really have big stats that dictate the game's format, but rather a 6/5 stat line dropped four times with nothing but merit, and the possibility of ambushing creatures in combat… which is something you probably shouldn't ignore. Trample really pushes this card over the top, making it great both offensively and defensively.

Note that cards like Giant Rattlesaurus are far from optimal at competitive tables, but Desert decks are already sub-par in terms of competitiveness. Still, a creature this big can definitely run the table in a more casual setting.

8 scavenging yard

graveyard hatred in land

Scavenger Land Magic: Gathering Cards


Scavenger Land is the most commonly played desert outside of dedicated land or desert decks. The benefits of on-demand graveyard hate far outweigh the downsides of just utilizing colorless mana. Assuming you can support a colorless land or two, having this utility built into your land section is priceless.

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Scavenger Land gets better in actual desert decks. Normally, it would sacrifice itself to activate, but in decks with other Deserts, you could sacrifice those Deserts first, exile the Graveyard, and have Scavenger Land stay for additional activations.

7 moment of commitment

The Promise of Land and Zombies

Promise Time Magic: Party Cards

You really want your ramp spells to drop early in the game, or provide extra utility if they're more expensive. The latter is true for A Time of Promise, which gives you some obstacles and ramps to access any land you need, not just infrastructure.


Five mana for a ramp spell is a bit daunting, so you either want to get into this or make sure you have some very impactful lands to pick up once you hit five mana. Of course, you should prioritize the deserts required to secure Zombie Tokens.

6 dune song

desert king

MTG: Dune Chanter Card

Ode to the Dunes eliminates the hassle of choosing between desert and basic land or other non-basic utility land. As long as it's present, everything is desert, including the land in your graveyard. It also makes your mana situation nearly perfect, allowing Desert to tap for any color of mana.


Land-based decks tend to make full use of their graveyard, with cards like Ramunap Excavator and Crucible of Worlds allowing them to play lands outside of their graveyard. The Dune Chanter is also helpful here, as it can grind through the land and gain some health in the process.

Some deserts (such as the Oasis of Hashep) force you to pay life to generate mana. You can click on these deserts without losing a life using the alternate abilities Dune Caroler gives these deserts.

5 sand scout

White ramp and token generation

MTG: Sand reconnaissance card

There are a lot of white “chase” cards, but they almost always get plains cards, whereas the sand scout can get any color of land as long as it's desert. This will almost always start the gradient and fix your color on the second turn.


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The second ability is also a welcome addition. It's not specifically related to deserts, so if any land hits your graveyard from anywhere, you get 1/1. This includes your sacrifice of land, bicycles, mills, etc. Once per turn, but you can trigger this during another player's turn to gain additional Sand Warrior tokens.

4 Crop rotation

“Trap!” Effect on Land Deck

Crop rotation card with artistic background

Crop Rotation is one of the best cards you can use in a land-based strategy. No matter what the best or most important lands are in your deck, Crop Rotation will find the lands that work for you, and the lands it puts into the graveyard are usually relevant as well.


Crop rotation is best done with a utility land toolbox of options. This gives you instant access to key interactions based on the situation. Bojuca Swamp and Glacier Crescendo are examples of this, and if the opponent doesn't anticipate it, their plans will be completely destroyed.

3 Yuma, proud protector

The second-in-command of Hazezong

Yuma, Proud Protector-1

Kudos to Wizards of the Coast for their trans representation. Other than that, it's great that desert decks now have a second viable commander, even if it does share the exact same color as Hazzon, Shaper of Sand. Those poor blue and black deserts are still homeless.


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Yuma is a more well-rounded land affairs commander than Hazerzon, although it does incentivize you to prioritize the desert. Having a 4/2 army with Reach is a good reason to favor Desert, and they tend to naturally go into the graveyard, making Yuma easier to cast.

2 Hazzon, Shaper of Sand

Desert Commander's Choice

hazezon, shaker and shaper of artistic context

Despite the presence of Yuma, the proud protector, Hazazon, the Shaper of Sand, is still the first choice of desert commanders. A reimagined version of the legendary Hazezon Tamar gives players their first taste of a true desert commander, and Hazezon 2.0 even made a cameo appearance in Yuma's preview.

It's narrower than the Yuma, but is cheap to cast, pairs well with most deserts, and provides board presence when you put the desert to work. It's niche and doesn't often get widespread support, but it's an interesting alternative to most “landing” decks.


1 land of the dead

Top Land Wincon

land of the dead

There is a god-level land in Magic: The Gathering that is either banned from Commander (Tolarian Academy, Caracas) or expensive (Tabernacle in Pendrell Valley, Gaia's Cradle). Then, there is another layer directly below the destroyed land that is, in fact, in a legal format.

The land of death exists on the second level. Once you hit seven differently named lands, each additional land creates a 2/2 zombie token. This is a complete standalone game plan, and may be the first card you look for with effects like Crop Rotation and Promise Hour.

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