The Top Commanders in Competitive EDH
Competitive EDH can be somewhat intimidating to get into at first. The format is a far stretch from your casual EDH game and is, in many ways, more akin to the Legacy or Vintage formats in its speed, mana efficiency, and raw power.
With that said, I really enjoy this format because it's still pretty unsolved. The singleton nature of the format also lends it to a lot of surprises, as the decks are rarely "stock" in nature and usually have some sort of personal flair or touch that differentiates that deck from others of the same archetype.
Over the past several years, the competitive commander format has started to become a bit more streamlined and certain commanders have started to really shine and show just how powerful they can be.
Below I am going to list the absolute best commanders in competitive EDH. These are the commanders that are part of the cutting edge archetypes that seek to win at all costs. So let's begin!
These commanders are listed in no particular order.
The First Sliver
The card Food Chain has been used for a long time in CEDH, mostly in conjunction with Prossh, Skyraider of Kher, and later, with General Tazri. Prossh decks have long been present in this format, but the printing of the First Sliver has really taken this Food Chain archetype to the next level.
The First Sliver, coupled with the infinite mana from Food Chain, allows you to cast your whole deck, effectively decking you and allowing you to win with Thassa's Oracle or Jace, Wielder of Mysteries.
This deck also uses the omnipresent Demonic Consultation and Tainted Pact package for an alternate win enabler. This makes the First Sliver-Food Chain gameplan extremely resilient.
The First Sliver is a great commander if you want to have a very resilient and proactive plan that other players have to deal with.
Kess, Dissident Mage
The biggest and most successful archetype for Kess has been in the form of Consultation Kess, which uses cards like Demonic Consultation and Tainted Pact to draw or remove your whole library and then win with Thassa's Oracle or Jace, Wielder of Mysteries.
This type of deck can spend very few card slots on the combo itself (usually 4), which allows it to run more interaction. For this reason, Consultation Kess can play much like a control or midrange deck, and win quickly once the time is right.
Kess seems to be everywhere these days, and this is a good solid choice if you want to play something with more interaction. Here is a sample decklist:
The Gitrog Monster
The Gitrog Monster is the perfect example of an "all in" strategy in CEDH. This is the type of deck that is always pushing for a win, forcing its opponents to react or die. Although the Gitrog Monster decks are not dredge decks, per se, they typically abuse the dredge mechanic, namely on the card Dakmor Salvage.
This strategy is looking to draw the entire deck, stripping all opponents' hands, destroying all of their permanents and then, if they refuse to give up, killing them with Deathrite Shaman loops. That fact that this deck can do this incredibly early in the game makes it all that more painful.
The Gitrog Monster is a great commander if you want to be the threat at any table you play. Check out this sample decklist:
Zur, the Enchanter
Zur has been around for a long time, and he has held a place amongst the top commanders in the format for most of that time. The most interesting thing about this commander is that he is actually used mainly as a backup plan to your deck's primary gameplan, which is usually a win with Demonic Consultation/Tainted Pact and Thassa's Oracle, or with a storm combo involving Shimmer Myr and Aetherflux Reservoir.
It may surprise some people to know that Zur is not typically played in an enchantment-based deck. In fact, the only real enchantment that you care about in this deck is Necropotence. Typically you will play out your primary Consultation, Doomsday or Storm plan, and if you are stopped in some way, you play Zur and get Necropotence to reload for another attempt.
Zur is a great commander that has multiple strategies associated with him. His synergy with Necropotence alone makes him worth quite a lot. Here are a few sample lists:
Thrasios, Triton Hero // Tymna the Weaver
Ahh, Thasios and Tymna. This commander pair is probably the source of more CEDH archetypes than any other commander or commander pair.
Thrasios, by himself is a combo piece in many different combos, often involving generating infinite mana and drawing your whole deck. Tymna is an insane midrange card that allows you to keep drawing cards throughout the game.
The main method of winning for this commander pair involves Isochron Scepter along with a variety of different spells, like Dramatic Reversal and Swan Song.
No matter which way you go, this pair of commanders is top tier. These are my personal favorites and have really done a lot of work for me.
Here's where you can get them:
Najeela, the Blade-Blossom
Najeela is a new addition to this list. The main reason I added her is that she wins quickly with combat damage, which is highly unusual in this format. She's really the closest thing we have to a Tempo/Aggro deck in the format, although her win condition does rely on a combo to win.
Essentially, you want to be able to generate mana over and over again during combat to take a infinite number of combat steps and kill all of your opponents. This can often be done as early as turn three, though it's a lot more common to do it on turn four.
Najeela also gives access to five colors as your commander, which gives you all of the options that CEDH has to offer.
7. Honorable Mentions
Now, there are many commanders that can certainly be viable in CEDH. The ones listed here are really the best of the best. But what if you want to play something that's almost Tier 1? Here are some slightly less powerful options that could most certainly hang with the best.
Competitive EDH is a blast to play. You get to use some of the most powerful cards in the game of magic with three of your friends. The games usually end quickly, allowing you to play multiple games in a night. The play is fast paced and nuanced. And with the commanders I listed in the article, you will be playing the most powerful decks in the format.
So what do you think? Is there a commander I missed? Is there a commander you enjoy playing in competitive EDH? Let me know in the comments below!
If you want to read more about the commanders listed in this article, along with decklists, please check out the Competitive EDH Decklist Conglomerate on Reddit.
Also, I've been getting many questions asking why I chose certain commanders over others on this list. To address these questions, I've written another article, which can be found here.
Questions & Answers
Will Edgar Markov ever be competitive as a CEDH commander?
I don’t see Edgar Markov ever being a top-tier CEDH commander for several reasons. The first reason is that, arguably, the best colors in CEDH are Blue, Green and Black and you lose out in two of those colors with this commander. Secondly, he is neither a combo piece nor can he tutor for combo pieces. And lastly, he is a board-centric commander that is not based around stax effects. General Aggro decks are typically too slow for CEDH. You have to win within three-four turns or be able to significantly slow your opponents down within the first few turns.Helpful 58
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Does Kytheon, Hero of Akros have potential in CEDH as a Commander?
So the biggest strike against Kytheon, as a commander, is that he isn't a win condition, nor does he tutor or enable a win condition. The importance of this cannot be understated. Making your creatures indestructible is, typically, not very useful in CEDH. Additionally, If I were going to be making a mono-white CEDH deck, I would want my commander to, in some way, slow down or prevent what my opponents are trying to do. In this regard, Thalia or another hatebear would be much better in this role.
Another strike against a deck like this is that it has to be mono-white. While mono white has some very good CEDH staples, they are often a very small percentage of the overall makeup of a deck. White offers essentially no card draw, no counterplay and very little ability to tutor or ramp. This will drastically slow your deck down.
Remember, you are going to be fighting against decks that are doing very powerful things in the first few turns, and many can win on turn three or four rather consistently. You can't hope to race that type of speed and deal 120 combat damage before one of your opponents win.Helpful 7
Will Derevi ever be competitive as a CEDH commander?
Derevi definitely has a presence in CEDH, but has moved from a CEDH staple to more of a fringe commander. The main lists I have been seeing lately are those that self mill and use Nexus of Fate as a win condition. A lot of what Derevi does has been largely overshadowed by the use of the partner commanders. With that said, you can definitely make a very powerful Derevi deck that will hold its own at your CEDH table.Helpful 10