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.
1. General Tazri
The card Food Chain has been used for a long time in CEDH, mostly in conjunction with Prossh, Skyraider of Kher. Prossh decks have long been present in this format, but the printing of General Tazri has really taken this Food Chain archetype to the next level.
Like the Prossh decks before, Food Chain Tazri is very good at overcoming hate, especially since its main combo pieces are creature-based. The addition of two colors has given this deck far more flexibility in keeping pace with other Tier 1 decks.
The printing of Niv-Mizzet Reborn and The First Sliver has provided a very strong alternative to General Tazri for a top-tier Food Chain deck.
2. Kess, Dissident Mage
Kess is the quintessential storm commander. Storm decks didn't really perform all that well in this format until the printing of Aetherflux Reservoir, which allows a storm deck to kill all of the players at the table pretty much at the same time.
Storm decks in most other formats play a lot of multiples of the same card and multiple playsets of cards with the same effect. Being a singleton format would seem to make the deck very inconsistent. However, CEDH decks have plenty of tutors and this deck is no different as it's able to assemble a combo and win fairly quickly.
This spot used to be held by Jeleva, Nephalia Scourge. The recent printing of Kess, Dissident Mage has created a secondary variant of the Grixis Storm deck that tends to be a little more on the control side and wins a little more slowly.
The biggest and most successful archetype as of late 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 Laboratory Maniac or Jace, Wielder of Mysteries.
3. Teferi, Temporal Archmage
Planeswalkers are rare as competitive commanders. First of all, there are only a limited number of planeswalkers that CAN be your commander. Secondly, planeswalkers are typically not viable in competitive EDH. The main reason Teferi is not only viable, but highly competitive is that he is able to be a combo piece and also enable a stax strategy.
Chain Veil Teferi is really a stax/combo deck. It can win very quickly on one hand, and also play the very long game on the other hand. The deck plays a bunch of stax pieces like Back to Basics to lock other players out of the game and then wins quickly with infinite mana produced with the combination of Teferi himself along with The Chain Veiland a bunch of mana-producing artifacts to generate infinite mana and win with Stroke of Genius or another mana outlet.
4. 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 Doomsday or with 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 Doomsday or Storm plan, and if you are stopped in some way, you play Zur and get Necropotence to reload for another attempt.
There are two main variants of Zur decks in CEDH: Doomsday Zur and Shimmer Zur. Doomsday Zur is pretty straightforward, seeking to win with a combo of Doomsday and Laboratory Maniac, while Shimmer Zur plays as a Storm/Eggs deck at instant speed with Shimmer Myr.
5. 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. Some variations play a Doomsday win condition, while other use Protean Hulk piles.
6. 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
What do you mean by tiers? Also, why are most of these commanders multicolored in Magic the Gathering?
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.Helpful 3
Is Animar viable in a CEDH?
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.Helpful 4
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
Is Muldrotha viable in CEDH?
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.Helpful 7