Devon has been playing Magic since 1994. He is an enthusiastic player who mainly enjoys the Legacy, Vintage, and Competitive EDH formats.
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
Question: Will Edgar Markov ever be competitive as a CEDH commander?
Answer: 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.
Question: Could Urza, Lord High-artificer be an CEDH deck?
Answer: Absolutely. There are facebook groups and other discussion groups based around building with this commander. Here is a primer for a CEDH Urza Deck : http://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/urza-high-lord-arti...
Question: Will Derevi ever be competitive as a CEDH commander?
Answer: 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.
Question: Is Muldrotha viable in CEDH?
Answer: Yes, Muldrotha can be played as a CEDH commander, though at a fringe level of competitiveness. The main/only strategy I have seen is kind of a mid-range stax deck that recurs cards to kind of out-value opponents and win with a combo finish.
Question: Is Narset, Enlightened Master a competitive commander?
Answer: Yes, but she's not top-tier like the other commanders on this list. She has the same problem as Arcum Daggson or other incredibly linear combo commanders: Linear combo decks just aren't as good in the current meta as they used to be. Also, you're really limited on what type of decks you can reasonably play with these commanders.
Also, this is a format where your deck needs to reasonably function and win without your commander. Narset is very commander-focused and the deck has a lot of nearly unplayable cards without her.
Question: Does Kytheon, Hero of Akros have potential in CEDH as a Commander?
Answer: 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.
Question: What about Yidris? What are his downsides?
Answer: Yidris is definitely a competitive commander. The downside of Yidris is that what he does is done better by another commander, namely Kess. Before Kess, you would see Yidris used with demonic consultation and/or a storm win condition. Kess just does this better, allowing you to immediately win off of a consultation or tainted pact by replaying reanimate on Thassa's Oracle. Kess is also, technically, easier to cast if you're buried under stax pieces.
Question: Is Anje Falkenrath a top-tier commander in competitive EDH?
Answer: The main combo usage with Anje Falkenrath is Worldgorger Dragon and Animate Dead. The main problem with her is that this seems to be the only serious combo available to her. This makes any deck based on her very vulnerable to having Worldgorger Dragon exiled. Black/Red is also one of the weaker color combinations in the format (though still better than White/Red). People are still working on her as a commander, and so I would say she's untested at this time.
Question: Is Animar viable in a CEDH?
Answer: Yes, Animar does see play in CEDH. The main variant uses Ancestral Statue, coupled with Purphoros or a similar card to kill all opponents simultaneously. If you're looking for a list, just search for "Ancestral Animar". The nice thing about this deck is that most of the win conditions are creatures and so get around spells like spell pierce and negate. Animar isn't a top-tier commander, nor is he super common in the format, but he definitely can hold his own at a CEDH table with the right build.
Question: What do you mean by tiers? Also, why are most of these commanders multicolored in Magic the Gathering?
Answer: Typically, with any game that is viewed from a competitive standpoint, there are strategies which rise to the top over time. The very best strategies are considered "top-tier". Every other strategy, besides these top-tiers, are organized by how close they are to optimal. Most of time, these strategies will be clumped into "tiers" of competitiveness.
To answer your second question, most commanders are multi-colored for two main reasons. For one, the mana base in competitive EDH is so good that there are typically very few penalties to running an additional color. Secondly, there are colors which have very powerful format staples. Black has vampiric tutor and necropotence. Green has very good mana dorks. Blue has cantrips and countermagic. No matter what color you intend to run, your CEDH deck WILL be improved by adding one or more of these colors. On top of all of this, the partner commanders are especially good by their very nature and allow you access to four colors.
Question: Is or will Heliod Sun Crown be a competitive EDH commander?
Answer: I don't see Heliod being a competitive CEDH commander. White really suffers as a mono color and it's difficult to really have any combo potential in mono-white. On top of that, it's very difficult to go deep into a STAX plan with mono-white, especially since there are so many great green and blue-stax pieces.
Question: These are based on the cEDH, which is played at 30hp. If you take the French edh (or duel commander), which is by far the most supported competitive environnement, it is much more balanced, starting by the colors. Do you think it deserve a top10 by itself ?
Answer: CEDH starts at 40 HP start. I can't speak as well to duel commander, but maybe someone else has an answer for you.
Question: Is Maelstrom Wanderer a top-tier CEDH commander?
Answer: No, he isn't one of the top CEDH commanders. There are two major downsides to this commander. The first is that he does not have black as a color option, which removes the ability to have a lot of the best tutors in the format, and make no mistake, he is a combo commander that would greatly benefit from the consistency of using black tutors. Secondly, his mana cost is prohibitive to the point that you would never really cast him unless you're already going off with a mana engine. In other words, he doesn't generate value throughout the game, nor does he move you closer to putting together your mana engine. Every single one of these weaknesses is completely solved by using the First Sliver instead.
With all those things said, he does have some pluses. The biggest plus to this commander is that he is a combo piece right from the command zone. Secondly, a lot of the combo pieces you're going to be using will be creatures and completely get around cards like Swan Song, Negate, and Force of Negation. They also get around of stax effects like Thorn of Amethyst and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben.
So to give a nice short answer. Maelstrom Wanderer is not a top-tier CEDH commander, but he is definitely viable and playable at a CEDH table.
Question: Can Rashmi, Eternities Crafter be competitive? If so, with which cards and combos?
Answer: Yes, and I do highlight Rashmi as a control commander in my article about CEDH control commanders. I think the big thing here is that Rashmi has been moved into the maindeck in a 4-color version with thrasios and vial smasher. This deck is often called 4-Color Rashmi.
Question: Where’s Muldrotha the Gravetide on this list of Top Commanders in EDH?
Answer: Check out my article where I talk about the attributes that make a commander top tier in CEDH : https://hobbylark.com/card-games/What-makes-a-Comm...
Simon moore on June 10, 2020:
What about Kenrith, the returned king as a CEDH deck I’m been looking at builds and it looks really competitive you think it’s tier 1
Devon Lemieux (author) from Gardner MA, on March 16, 2020:
Scion of the Ur Dragon used to be a real powerhouse in the format, but like many of the other big players from five or six years ago (Sharuum, Prossh, etc etc) they've just been supplanted by either A) Decks that are more streamlined in what they do ( Gitrog Monster ), or B) Partner commanders that offer more versatility. This list is largely based on the data from the spreadsheet in the CEDH Deck Conglomerate. Please refer to that for reasoning behind the listings.
autoMattiCMC on February 02, 2020:
Scion the Ur dragon should be on this list. He's potentially the scariest must deal with commander ever printed. With Mana present there is no telling what he might do. With combo cards like slythrix moltensteel and the ur dragon this commander can cause a multitude of outrageous plays far before there time. With reanimation from grave scion can set up even more comboes. I can't even take this list seriously with scion not on it
John on January 06, 2020:
My best deck is a Brago Stax deck, it seems competitive am I wrong about that?
Devon Lemieux (author) from Gardner MA, on May 03, 2019:
Well, like the previous comment, there are all kinds of personal favorites that can be placed on this list. However, the commanders on this list are really the best of the best which are showing real results. Oloro is kind of getting into the hard to cast realm for commanders in CEDH. If you do cast a five mana, three color commander, he/she needs to really pay off immediately or be a must-answer threat. Zur is top-tier and has been for a long time because he is a very solid backup plan that tutors Necropotence or Phyrexian unlife and causes a game-winning condition from there.
Ad Nauseam is a mainstay in almost all CEDH decks right now. This has truly become an Ad Nauseam format and most decks are warped around using it or fighting against it.
Anymouse on May 02, 2019:
I was actually kind of surprised that Oloro wasnt even in the "honorable mentions". I know that someone made a joke of him being the beat cEDH commander. I found that out after I made it. But its essentially Zur storm/eggs except i use ad nauseam/Angel's grace to refill, or yawgmoth's will. Right now im tinkering with Bolas' citadel in the deck
Devon Lemieux (author) from Gardner MA, on March 31, 2019:
Arcum was definitely, at one time, a real contender. Unfortunately, extremely linear combo decks are really falling away to the midrange combo decks. Arcum does still feature in the Paradox Arcum list, but keep in mind that the commanders on this list have multiple competitive archetypes that are currently performing very well OR their one archetype has a large representation right now. I will add him to the honorable mentions, however.
Thedudeabides on March 31, 2019:
No room for Arcum Dagsson? A sad day in history indeed my friend.