March 1, 2018
Commander [EDH]: 2.75
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale.
1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Infernal Tutor looks, at first blush, like a card that basically does nothing, to quote Gerrard and Hanna from Null Rod. It’s costed for a combo deck, but if a combo deck already has the card it needs in its hand, it doesn’t often need another one (with the usual caveat that all combos are different and that some do in fact use more than one of the same card at one time). Where it gets interesting, though, is the hellbent clause – tutor spells may have been weakened somewhat now compared to Dissension, but even in 2006, Demonic Tutor was considered above the curve. And there are plenty of combo decks that can empty their hand quite easily: the eternal formats have Moxen and Lion’s Eye Diamond, and places in between have cheap but effective setup and synergy spells like Thought Scour, Voltaic Key, and Avarice Totem. Either can make sure your hand is empty in time to finish the game, so while Infernal Tutor is unlikely to be an all-star in the more open settings, it certainly has a niche and a lot of interesting uses.
Its impossible to review this card without mentioning Demonic Tutor, a card that is banned in most formats and still has an incredibly high price point. Demonic Tutor’s spirit lives on in other cards such as Diabolic Tutor and today’s COTD. While not as straight forward as its pedigree, Infernal Tutor is powerful with the right tools. While commonly combined with Lion’s Eye Diamond I’ve seen a Graveborn deck use Infernal Tutor in conjunction with One With Nothing for a stylish combo. Combos aside, whether you are running Hellbent, Madness, or just aggro, an Infernal Tutor is a damn good top deck. While certainly not for every combo deck, Infernal Tutor might be the missing piece you are looking for.
It’s extremely rare to have conditional tutoring in this day and age for as cheap as Infernal Tutor is, even if the condition is pretty weird. For two mana, you search out a second copy of a card in your hand. Which is nice if you have a linchpin you’d like an additional copy of, and two mana is a fair price for this sort of tutoring effect…
…but, let’s be real, you’re not using it for the normal effect. You’re using it for the hellbent part of the card; if you have no cards in your hand as this card resolves, it becomes Demonic Tutor. And Demonic Tutor is sorta kinda mega-banned in almost every format known to man (except Commander). So the question becomes where Infernal Tutor can be exploited in order to take advantage of its very powerful second mode.
Naturally, it does have a home already, in Ad Nauseam/Storm decks in Legacy. Using Lion’s Eye Diamond after Infernal Tutor goes on the stack gives you all the benefit of the “bad” Black Lotus while suffering none of the downside. If you have a way to empty your hand rapidly and generate the affordable cost of the spell, this is a very powerful piece in any combo, as it searches for cards more cheaply and efficiently than almost any other legal method would allow. It can be a bit dead if you don’t have the parts to go hellbent, but it’s a fair price to pay.
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