What cards can you simply not help but include in every Commander deck you build, by color? I'm not talking the usual ones like Sol Ring, or maybe Path to Exile for white, but cards you include that nobody else does, ones that aren't in the Commander's list on edhrec.com, or that nobody can (initially) figure out why you put it in. Cards that you either love to play with, or for which you've found some sort of little-known utility, or perhaps cards that you simply don't have a rational explanation to include. . . like maybe you like the art or something.
In every deck in which I run Black, I can't help including both Reaper from the Abyss and Black Market. The former is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated cards in the game. You can use its ability at the end of everyone's turn, not just yours, and things die so often in Commander that you'll typically get plenty of use out of it. Plus it gets around the "nonblack" restriction that you see so often on Instant and Sorcery kill spells. What's not to like? As for the latter, one well-placed spell like Wrath of God, even when played by someone else, will supercharge your mana. Sooner or later, if not dealt with, it becomes like a Black version of Omniscience.
In every deck in which I run Blue, I always seem to need Thassa, God of the Sea. Scrying every turn is never NOT useful, and very rarely is there not some card (often many more than one) in the deck that can be helped immensely by making it unblockable.
I have two decks in which I run the legal two of the original three Eldrazi titans (Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre and Kozilek, Butcher of Truth). I can't help myself but include Mesmeric Orb in each deck along with them. I can't seem to explain the satisfaction I get from seeing people mill cards off the tops of their libraries, knowing that they won't get them back without some sort of recursion, but knowing that I'm essentially immune because those two titans will just shuffle my graveyard back into my library for me as many times as I need them to.
So, let's inspire each other. What are your "auto-includes," and why?
As a general rule I tend to avoid cards that I know I play elsewhere, but some cards keep coming back...
If I so much as start thinking 'green ramp', Recross the Paths is not usually very far. It's not the most efficient ramp, and I tend to lose the clash just when I'd desperately want to win it, but it gets in anyway. Very definitely a pet card.
Any red deck that doesn't really care what I cast, just that I get to keep casting, gets Possibility Storm. This card never fails in creating interesting game states and people often get into 'fishing', ditching a card and hoping they get the one of same card type they really want.
I will probably never stop trying to fit Cyclical Evolution in decks. There is just something I really like about that card and I am not even sure what.
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X Hope of Ghirapur Swordpile W Ghosty Blinky Anafenza U Nezahal- Big, Blue and HERE! B Gonti Can Afford It R Etali, Primal 'Whatjusthappened?' G Polukranos Wants More Mana WU The Exalted Vizier Temmet WB Home, Athreos WR Basandra, Recursive Aggression WG Karametra, Momma of Lands UB Wrexial Eats Your Brains UR Arjun, the Mad Flame UG The Fable of Prime Speaker BR Hellbent, Malfegor Style BG Jarad, Death is Served RG Running Thromok WUB Varina and ALL the Zombies WUBYennett, the Odd Pain-Train WUR Zedruu the Furyhearted WUG Arcades' Strategy, Shmategy, Sausage and Spam WBR A Case of Mathas' Persistent F*ckery WBRLicia's League of Legendary Lifegain Layabouts WBG The Karador Advantage PackageWRG Gahiji Rattlesnake Collection UBR Jeleva... does... things UBG Damia's Just Deserts URG Yasova's Has More Power Than Sense BRG Wasitora, Bad Kitty WUBRBreya, Eggs, Breya'd Eggs WUBG Tymna and Kydele, Extended Borrowing WURG Kynaios and Tiro, Landfall Impersonations WBRG Saskia Pet Card EnchantressUBRG Yidris of the Chi-Ting Corporation WUBRG Tazri's Amazing Allies
I find it very hard not to run Acidic Slime in any green deck, Lightning Bolt in any red deck, and Counterspell in any blue deck, but those are all just very strong cards (though Lightning Bolt is underestimated in EDH, imo).
As far as pet cards go, Radiate and Custody Battle are in the initial pile for any deck running red. Custody Battle always seems to drive my opponents nuts.
Possibility storm in all red decks. The card is quite asymmetrical when you build the deck right. It punishes tutors and countermagic. It also makes for interesting deck building decisions. If you only have 2 instants in your deck, you know what you will hit when you cast one of them.
I can't think of any other cards that I auto-include.
Birthing Pod is one of my all-time favorites. I have a hard time cutting it, even when I know I'm not playing enough creatures.
Arcane Melee is a ton of fun. I tend to play a lot of spell-heavy decks, especially when playing blue.
Gruul Turf. I like this whole cycle, and I think they're underrated. But Gruul Turf has a special place in my heart. When I first started buying singles, I bought 12 Gruul Turfs so that I could play four in each of my red/green ramp decks. Also, back when we didn't fully understand the rules, we just decided you could play a Gruul Turf on turn 1 and not have to return anything to your hand. I have a lot of good memories because of this card.
I have an unhealthy affection for Spiritmonger, who is still only 'bad' in the sense that he doesn't have trample. Some day they'll print that BG trample-giving commander...
I don't like being dependent on my own graveyard in commander due to the general presence of graveyard hate (other peoples' graveyards are fine though, people don't usually nuke their own 'yards). Still, since it's such a valuable resource, I usually include one or two cards that use it, generally of the "exile a card from your graveyard for insert neat effect" since nothing else is using those cards. As such, Skeletal Scrying has become a pet card for being instant-speed and always relevant for the mana.
I always have to have a great reason not to play Glacial Chasm and Sol Ring. I think Vedalken Orrery is getting to that point, too. Strip Mine. Also Nykthos, but then I don't have any 3+ color decks, either.
Green decks always get the Green Sun's Zenith / Dryad Arbor pairing, even in Gaddock Teeg, where it's the only spell I can't cast with Teeg out. GSZ is probably my favorite card, and with Dryad Arbor, it's at worst a 1 mana Rampant Growth. Seems good. Yavimaya Elder is another card I always make room for in green decks.
For me the cards that I find the hardest not to include in almost any deck in the relevant color are the cards that deal with artifacts and enchantments. You know you will always need a few, and there are 4-5 of them that stand out as being much better than the others in almost any deck; Acidic Slime, Return to Dust, Fiery Confluence, Vandalblast, Decimate and Aura Shards in particular, I have a really hard time not putting in any deck that plays those colors.
My only auto-includes are the Fetchlands. ALWAYS FETCHLANDS, even in mono-color builds.
Just curious, but why in mono colour? The effect of "deck thinning" is so mathematically insignificant* that you're better off with the life point and zero risk of being hosed by Stifle/Blood Moon/etc. Unless there's some other reason (landfall, graveyard filling) then you're just running a bunch of really expensive lands that harm more than help and slow the game down.
*keep in mind this analysis is for a 60 card deck, in 99 the numbers are even worse for fetches.