Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
What Are Command Spells in Magic: The Gathering?
In Magic, the Command cards (not to be confused with commander format) are a set of one-off instants and sorceries that let you pick between a variety of different effects. Since they're so versatile, Commands are powerful spells that can adjust to your game's current needs, making them some of my favorite cards available.
Commands come in all shapes and sizes, some monocolored, others requiring multiple hues. But with dozens of potential orders to issue, which directions reign supreme? These are the 10 best Command spells in Magic: The Gathering!
10. Austere Command
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 6
Austere Command suffers from a steep mana cost and only sorcery speed, but it provides four powerful, field-wiping options. Like other Commands, you pick any two of the four choices and can't select the same option more than once:
- Destroy all artifacts
- Destroy all enchantments
- Destroy all creatures with a CMC of three or less
- Destroy all creatures with a CMC of four or more|
These are powerful nukes that don't need to target their victims, circumventing defenses like hexproof and protection. Still, they can be tricky to employ as they'll wipe out your corresponding forces as well, so think carefully about when and how to employ Austere.
9. Incendiary Command
The red faction's Incendiary also operates at standard speed, but it's slightly cheaper (albeit still pricey) at five mana. It also wields several destructive traits, letting you select any pair of the following:
- Deal four damage to target player
- Deal two damage to each creature
- Destroy target nonbasic land
- Each player discards their hand, then draws that many cards
You've got a nice spread of options here. Four damage can eliminate an injured player, two can finish off weakened creatures or massacre swarmed tokens, a rare land destruction always helps, and the ability to stock your graveyard and replace your hand can definitely hasten your strategy.
8. Ojutai's Command
Compared to our prior spells, blue/white Ojutai's Command needs a lesser amount of four mana and functions at instant speed, letting you interrupt foes with its traits:
- Return target creature with CMC two or less from your graveyard to the battlefield
- You gain four life
- Counter target creature spell
- Draw a card
Here's a nice spread of four varied abilities. Countering a creature should be your top priority, and reviving a troop from your graveyard is usually second, but the options to replenish your hand or life make for nice alternatives when needed.
7. Kolaghan's Command
Black/red Kolaghan's effects are a bit weaker, but its instant speed and affordable cost of three mana more than compensate:
- Return target creature from your graveyard to your hand
- Target player discards a card
- Destroy target artifact
- Deal two damage to target creature or player
With its artifact and creature checks, Kolaghan can potentially remove two threats at instant speed, and its forced discard and graveyard recovery only add to its allure.
6. Profane Command
Black's Profane Command resolves at sorcery speed, but its variable cost lets you place any amount into its X value (plus two black mana), letting you modify Profane's power with as many resources as you can afford:
- Target player loses X life
- Return target creature with X or less CMC from your graveyard to the battlefield
- Target creature gets -X/-X until end of turn
- Up to X target creatures gain fear until the end of the turn (letting them only be blocked by artifact and black creatures)
With some wide coverage, you have plenty of potent choices. Forcing lifeloss on players edges them closer to defeat, but reviving a creature from your graveyard is typically most useful. Granting fear works great for making your troops unblockable (and triggering "damage your opponent" effects), and weakening a foe by -X/-X can outright kill them if their toughness hits zero, useful for exterminating indestructible enemies.
5. Atarka's Command
Uttered by the red/green double strike dragon himself, Atarka's Command only costs two mana and functions at quick-play speed, offering two of four solid effects considering its low price:
- Your opponents can't gain life this turn
- Deal three damage to each opponent
- You may place a land from your hand onto the field
- Your creatures gain +1/+1 and reach until the end of the turn
A nice set of well-balanced boons, it's hard to select any notable standouts as they're all quite helpful. Three damage to each adversary works particularly well in multiplayer, an extra land for the turn assists with mana ramp, and +1/+1 as well as reach forms a sturdy defense against flying enemies, especially useful for the generally-grounded green faction.
4. Dromoka's Command
Like Atarka's orders, Dromoka's Command only needs two mana (white/green) and functions at instant speed:
- Prevent all damage target instant or sorcery spell would deal this turn
- Target player sacrifices an enchantment
- Place a +1/+1 counter on target creature
- Target creature you control fights target creature you don't control
The first trait is admittedly situational but can really save your bacon against hefty one-off spells, and a +1/+1 counter offers a permanent upgrade for a troop. Still, I generally prefer pairing the other effects, demanding an opponent forfeit an enchantment (useful against indestructible cards) and forcing a weaker utility unit into an unwanted fight that should remove it.
3. Silumgar's Command
If you're willing to shell out five mana, this blue/black instant offers several excellent traits that can reliably thwart two enemy cards:
- Counter target noncreature spell
- Return target permanent to its owner's hand
- Target creature gets -3/-3 until end of turn
- Destroy target planeswalker
These are all good enough to make choosing favorites difficult. Countering anything except creature adeptly negates late-game spells, while bouncing units back to hand or inflicting -3/-3 both offer great ways to conquer indestructible enemies. Plus, Silumgar offers a rare planeswalker destruction, a handy defense against a unit preparing to unleash its ultimate loyalty effect.
2. Primal Command
Although it costs five mana and only activates at sorcery speed, green's Primal Command offers several powerful benefits worth your attention:
- Target player gains seven life
- Place target noncreature permanent on top of its owner's deck
- Target player shuffles their graveyard into their deck
- Search your library for a creature card and place it into your hand, shuffling your deck afterwards
You'll nearly always want option two, which bounces any unit (bypassing the indestructible defense) not back to the hand, but to the top of your foe's library, removing a foe and essentially killing their next draw. After that, you can gain seven life, search out a creature, or reclaim your graveyard (useful if you've been getting milled). I use Primal Command in nearly every green deck I craft, especially in the longer matches of EDH, and (unlike our next entry), it's a surprisingly inexpensive bargain, costing well under three dollars!
1. Cryptic Command
Cryptic Command can be challenging to blend into multicolor decks since it specifically mandates three of its four mana be blue, but it offers several fantastic effects at instant speed:
- Counter target spell
- Return target permanent to its owner's hand
- Tap all creature your opponents control
- Draw a card
These are all amazing abilities, particularly the first two; use the counter and bounce to thwart two threats at once. The all-tap also comes in handy for stalling when needed, and if all else fails, you can always nab that extra draw. Despite its tricky mana setup, Cryptic's fair cost, swift speed, and plethora of stellar abilities easily make it the best of the Command spells.
The Very Cryptic Command Cards
With that, we've covered all the Command spells released thus far—except the "Very Cryptic Command" set. Resembling their namesake, these blue instants cost four mana and come in six different forms, my favorites being the "B" and "E" variants, although since they stem from the semi-official Unstable expansion, they're banned in most organized events.
Still, they make for exciting variants in casual play or Un-set matches, and I look forward to future releases. But for now, as we eagerly await Wizards of the Coast's next set of epic Command spells, vote for your favorite card and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2018 Jeremy Gill