Devon has been playing Magic since 1994. He is an enthusiastic player who mainly enjoys the Legacy, Vintage, and Competitive EDH formats.
I love playing control decks in any format. I love generating incremental value over my opponents and wearing them down and then winning with some kind of haymaker or lock out.
Unfortunately, when I first started playing CEDH, I kept getting told that there's no way to play a competitive control deck in the format. Combo was king, and a single control deck could never keep three other players in check with incremental value. You would stop one opponent from winning, only to have the next opponent combo out the following turn. I was always told to play Stax if I wanted to control the whole table.
Fortunately, the CEDH community has been working hard and coming up with interesting ways to develop control decks that can keep pace with multiple opponents while winning quickly once the dust clears. This article is going to talk about the best control commanders currently in the format. This list will not include Stax commanders. I will cover those in a separate article.
These commanders are listed in no particular order.
1. Rashmi, Eternities Crafter
Remember what I mentioned above about not being able to out-value three opponents at once? Well, Rashmi directly addresses that problem head-on. The first counter/kill spell/hate spell you cast every turn replaces itself as long as Rashmi is in play. Her ability is like an upgraded cascade effect, which you can use to really gain maximum advantage.
My only problem with Rashmi is her color identity. Although there are many powerful green and blue cards, I feel like you really miss out on some of the removal and tutor power that black offers.
Many people have been leaning more towards a 4-color Rashmi deck that uses Thrasios and Vial Smasher instead of Rashmi as the commander.
2. Baral, Chief of Compliance
I haven't played with Baral as my commander, but I've played with him enough in other commander decks, as well as in other formats (mainly modern storm) to know the sheer value that Baral brings to the table.
His cost reduction is very nice in any control deck since you need to stretch your mana out over four turns to be able to stop game-winning combos. His looting ability is great for deck velocity. Sometimes, it's just as good to push through your deck as it is to have raw card draw.
3. Breya, Etherium Shaper
Breya has long been a favorite commander of mine. There are a couple of reasons that she is one of the highest played commanders in the format. First of all, she fits many different deck archetypes. She's a win condition by herself as long as you have a mana engine. She can control enemy creatures. Lastly, her color identity allows you access to many different card combinations.
I really like her as a control commander because of her ability to repeatedly kill enemy creatures. This can really create a lot of advantage throughout a game and heavily disrupt commander-centric combos. Once you exhaust your combo opponents, you can then put together an infinite-mana engine and win the game with Breya herself. This means that your win condition takes up fewer slots in your deck, which improves your draw quality throughout the game.
I personally use Divergent Transformations, sacrificing thopter tokens, to get Auriok Salvagers and Trinket Mage. The trinket mage will then find a Lion's Eye Diamond. Putting this bomberman combo together creates infinite colored mana that I can use to win the game with Breya herself.
The weaknesses of Breya are twofold. First of all, casting a 4-color commander, on curve, in a non-green deck is pretty tough. Also, using her as a win-condition requires infinite COLORED mana, which is a lot tougher without mana dorks.
Secondly, Breya is completely shut down by both Null Rod and Cursed Totem and any card with similar text. This means you need to fight through a lot of fairly common hate to get to a win condition. She also is hit by the sheer amount of artifact removal in the format.
4. Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Tasigur was the first control commander I saw in action that actually seemed to work. He's easy to cast, even when you're short on mana. He generates tons of value. With enough mana, he can be a combo-enabling engine. He also encourages politics at the table. You can activate Tasigur's ability and ask an opponent to give you a card that would stop another opponent at the table.
BUG/Sultai is the most powerful color combination in the format, giving you access to all of the best and powerful cards.
5. Thrasios // Vial Smasher
Thrasios is clearly a staple in CEDH as one of the top commanders all-around. He is a card draw engine all on his own and is very cheap to get onto the board. His partner ability really allows a lot of flexibility in playstyle. A control deck using this commander has access to the raw card draw that Thrasios brings while enabling many different combos to close out the game.
What I've seen most recently from this pair is the use of the Divergent Transformations combined with Notion Thief and Whirlpool Warrior to create a lock where your opponents lose their hand and can no longer draw any new cards. This is effectively a game-ender unless someone has an on-board or instant-cast answer to Notion Thief.
So what do you think? Do you have a personal favorite commander for your control game? Did I miss a commander above? Let me know in the comments below.
Questions & Answers
Question: Could you male a Kruphix control deck?
Answer: In my opinion, you could make a CEDH deck with almost any commander. The question would then be, "How effective is it?" I think in the case of Kruphix, we have to look at what he does and whether it advances a gameplan. His ability to give you an unlimited hand size is not an effect that is typically used or sought after in CEDH. If I draw 20-30 cards in a turn, I am looking to win that turn, even as a control deck. His second ability, which essentially stores mana between turns, also isn't particularly useful. The idea would be to generate vast amounts of mana, draw many cards, and win that turn. On top of all of this, he's a 5-mana casting cost. Other 5-mana commanders in the format are immediate win conditions and require an immediate response from your opponents. One example of this is Gitrog Monster.
If you wanted to make a control commander with these colors, certainly Thrasios + partner would be better in all regards.
© 2019 Devon Lemieux