When I first saw Oona’s Grace I was intrigued. Here was an Instant that drew a card and could be recast multiple times from my graveyard by discarding a land and paying its casting cost again; an old ability called Retrace. Repeatable card draw seemed sweet, and so whenever I was building a Blue Commander deck I kept coming back to Oona’s Grace as a card to consider.
I would try this card time and again, and every time I was disappointed with how it performed. I tried to figure out why this was, and it took me a little while to realize my problem with it: because I had to discard a card every time I cast it I could never use it to get ahead on cards; I would always end up with the same number I had before casting it. Granted, it allowed me to filter through my deck, and while this was a useful ability it was never quite enough to warrant keeping it in the deck. While I kept trying to make it work, every time I cut it from my deck for something better. I was starting to wonder if the card was even any good. As time went on, Oona’s Grace slipped from my mind and into my box of spare Blue cards.
Recently, however, I built a new Commander deck called “Every Second Counts” featuring Jori En, Ruin Diver as its Commander. I was quite excited about this new Legendary Creature and her ability to draw a card every time I cast two spells in one turn. This ability seemed like it would be good in a deck with a larger concentration of cheap spells since it would allow me to trigger it more easily. One to four Mana spells seemed to be about where I wanted most of this deck to sit.
One of the appealing things about Jori En, Ruin Diver is that she doesn’t require a specific kind of spell to be cast. Creatures, Instants, Artifacts, they all could do the trick, so I had the freedom to choose which direction I wanted to go in. I decided that I wanted to focus more on Instants and Sorceries and to include cards like Guttersnipe, Gelectrode and Young Pyromancer whose abilities trigger off of those kinds of spells being cast. This is about where Oona’s Grace came back into the picture. At only three Mana it was right in the range of casting costs I wanted for the deck, its card type would work well with what I had in mind, and I could cast repeatedly, generating all sorts of extra triggers from those creatures. While it didn’t net me any cards on its own, being able to recast it from my graveyard as my second spell could trigger the ability of Jori En, Ruin Diver, effectively drawing that extra card I couldn’t get with Oona’s Grace previously.
Well, now here was this card that I found to be consistently disappointing in every deck I put it in, and suddenly I was finding all sorts of synergies and uses for it! Because it let me filter through my deck, Oona’s Grace could even be useful in finding those game-ending cards like Guttersnipe! With the right setup, Oona’s Grace would allow any Land card in my hand to be used to draw some cards, put creature tokens into play, deal damage to my opponents, or even all of the above if I was lucky! And all of that for only three Mana. It looked incredibly promising, and I was even inspired to hunt down similar cards that would fit a similar role in the deck as this Retrace card. After all, finding several cards that do the same general things for a deck does helps to make that deck more consistent and reliable, especially in a singleton format like Commander.
I looked at other cards with the Retrace ability, and while they might have been alright they just didn’t fit nearly as well as Oona’s Grace. Of the ones I could play in this deck the only other two I even considered were Flame Jab and Call the Skybreaker. Call the Skybreaker cost too much Mana for what I wanted to do, and while I was skeptical about the impact Flame Jab would have on the board, I decided to try it out anyway because of its cheap casting cost. Still, this wasn’t enough, so I decided to expand my search for other Instants and Sorceries with abilities that would allow me to cast them multiple times. I found a few, the most notable of which were Think Twice and Mystic Speculation.
Think Twice is also an Instant that draws a card, and using its Flashback ability it can also be cast from the graveyard, albeit only once. It being an Instant is what sets Think Twice apart; being able to trigger Jori En, Ruin Diver and the other similar abilities on someone else’s turn is not something to be overlooked. Also, its casting cost is particularly low, both when casting it from my hand and when casting it with Flashback.
Mystic Speculation is a little different; it is a Sorcery, and instead of drawing cards it lets me Scry 3. It also has one of the most powerful repeatable-spell abilities ever designed: Buyback. By paying its additional Buyback cost, this spell returns to its owner’s hand instead of the graveyard when it resolves. This means that it can be cast as often as I want without even needing to discard a card! What makes Mystic Speculation stand out so much is, again, its low casting cost. Even when paying for Buyback this spell only costs three Mana!
These spells, like Oona’s Grace, would clearly both fit fit very well into what I was building with Jori En, Ruin Diver. I was excited; things were coming together, and my deck was looking sweet. Perhaps what I was most excited about, though, was that very few of these cards were typically found in a Commander deck. For someone who has built as many as I have this was wonderfully refreshing. Still, I had to rein in my enthusiasm; just because the deck was different and refreshing wouldn’t mean that it would be any good or even any fun to use. After all, I was intrigued by Oona’s Grace before and ended up being disappointed; it was entirely possible that it would happen again here.
Thankfully, first impressions were positive. Because the deck had so many low-Mana cards it felt like I was doing quite a lot on each of my turns, which was fun. Moreover, no card that I played early on made the table look to me as being a huge problem. This gave me a lot of time to set things up. Sure, I was drawing a lot of cards, but it wasn’t doing much with them; a counter spell here, a burn spell there, the odd creature attacking for small amounts of damage. I was interacting with the other players and was able to have an impact on the game, but I didn’t look like a threat at all. That is, I didn’t look like a threat until I found a card like Guttersnipe or Gelectrode. Suddenly I was taking over the game, and in a staggeringly short time; it only took a couple of turns for me to go from quietly drawing cards in the corner to being right in the middle of everything, dominating the match!
After playing several more games with the deck I am willing to stick by my initial impressions; the deck is a lot of fun to use, and is remarkably resilient. As for Oona’s Grace, it has performed even better than I anticipated; it looks like such an innocent card, but it is such an integral part of the deck. By the end of the game I am often trying to cast as many Instants and Sorceries as I can to trigger cards like Guttersnipe before someone finds an answer to it. Being able to turn every land card I draw into an Instant that replaces itself with another card means that I can cycle through a large chunk of my deck and still have a large hand size afterwards in case things go sideways and I don’t win on the spot. Not only that, but the utility Oona’s Grace provides in the early to mid game is remarkable; casting it once early on with Jori En, Ruin Diver out so I can draw two cards is excellent, and if I find myself flooded with Lands I have a way of filtering past them to find the spells I need to stay in the game. That little Instant does work, and I’m finally happy to have it in a deck where it can really shine.
Sometimes it’s not about finding the right card for a given deck, but rather finding the right deck for a given card. If you’ve found a card that you’re struggling to make work, don’t despair. Just give it some time, and I’m sure that eventually you’ll find a home for it, just like I did with Oona’s Grace.