Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
What Are the Best Commanders in Magic?
Magic's commander format enthralls its fandom with its large 100-card decks and singleton rules, ensuring you won't see duplicates. You also have a bigger life total of 40 and a legendary "commander" available throughout your match, whose identity dictates the colors your deck can incorporate.
Note that the power of a commander heavily corresponds with two factors—the other cards in your deck and whether you're playing 1v1 or multiplayer, meaning different leaders excel in different groups and strategies. You'll notice several of today's cards offer "tutoring" (search) abilities, often more important than their own traits since they pull needed cards for infinite combos. With that in mind, these are the ten best commanders in Magic: The Gathering!
10. Kenrith, the Returned King
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 5
In addition to impressive 5/5 stats, Kenrith's biggest asset is his versatility. Casting him only requires white, but his five activated effects use all mana types, meaning you can include whatever color combinations you like in a Kenrith deck.
His activated abilities can be played at instant speed; all have their uses, but I'm particularly fond of the first (which spends one to give creatures trample and haste for the turn) and the last (which spends five to revive a creature from any graveyard). Kenrith also works well with the companion "Jegantha, the Wellspring".
9. The Gitrog Monster
Gitrog's twin subtypes (frog and horror) aren't especially useful, but he compensates with great abilities. 6/6 is impressive for a five-cost creature, especially since Gitrog has deathtouch, ensuring he kills any challengers. You also get to play an additional land each turn—useful since the amphibian forces you to sacrifice one at the start of your upkeep.
But this seeming disadvantage is surprisingly useful—Gitrog draws a card whenever one or more of your lands are sent to the graveyard, rewarding his own terrain destruction plus any self-milling or discarding spells you employ (common among black).
8. Brago, King Eternal
Brago's 2/4 stats aren't particularly impressive, but he wields flying, making him difficult to block. And when he lands direct combat damage on an opponent, he can exile any number of non-land permanents you control, then return them to the field.
This offers several great combos; use it to refresh tapped creatures and artifacts, or reset the loyalty of diminished planeswalkers. It's particularly handy in stall decks; use universal dampeners like "Winter Orb" while you reset mana-tappers like "Mana Vault" with the effect. Blue also contains several auras that make you unblockable, ensuring you'll land your damage.
7. Captain Sisay
What Sisay lacks in subtypes and power, she makes up for with versatility. 2/2 stats are rather poor, but she can tap to search any legendary card from your deck, an insane continuous tutor that consistently pulls what you need. Remember, legendary cards are commonplace in EDH, as the format's singleton rules essentially negates their duplicate-sacrifice drawback.
Sisay's low toughness can be a problem against removals like "Lightning Bolt", but several white instants can shield her from harm, and green's ramp prowess means you'll hopefully outspeed your opponent. Her colors also access legendary "Gaddock Teeg", who prevents players from casting non-creature spells of CMC four or more, casting a formidable net around non-monster builds.
6. Najeela, the Blade-Blossom
At first, Najeela appears mono-red, but her text actually grants her all colors. so you can play her with as many or as few as you like. She's a fair 3/2 that automatically creates an attacking 1/1 warrior token whenever a warrior you control swings. Since both Najeela herself and the tokens are warriors, this quickly forms a massive army, especially when combined with attacker-shields like "Dolmen Gate."
Additionally, Najeela can spend one mana of each color to untap your attacking creatures and grant them trample, lifelink, and haste for the turn. Then, there's an additional combat phase after the current one ends, letting you further ravage foes with your buffed army.
5. Animar, Soul of Elements
Animar begins weak at 1/1, but his effect automatically acquires a +1/+1 counter whenever you cast a creature. Plus, he reduces the price of your troops by one per +1/+1 counter on him, forming a fierce support for monster decks.
And to help guard him in his early state, Animar wields protection from both black and white, making him immune to several of the most common removals. I also find three colors a nice balance between versatility and focus, unlocking several factions without running a big risk of drawing the wrong land types.
4. Zur the Enchanter
Zur provides three powerful colors and the wizard subtype, though his 1/4 stats are lacking. However, it's not an issue; when he attacks, you get to search and play any enchantment of CMC three or less from your deck for free! You can summon regular units if you like, but it's a great opportunity to attach an aura to Zur, fortifying his strike and racking up that commander damage.
Again, anything that tutors makes a tempting commander; try granting Zur haste with cards like "Swiftfoot Boots" to let him swing immediately. But be wary of your tournament rules, as he's forbidden in the alternative "duel commander" ban list. Still, for regular EDH, Zur is completely legal.
3. Atraxa, Praetors' Voice
Atraxa offers arguably the four best colors in commander plus a ton of lethal abilities. For four mana, you get a 4/4 beatstick with flying, vigilance, deathtouch, and lifelink. Stopping there, you'd have a great card, but Atraxa can also proliferate any permanents and players at the end of your turn, adding counters of a kind already present.
This has several uses, from multiplying your own +1/+1, charge, and energy counters to forcing additional -1/-1 and poison counters on foes, making an infect win more than possible. It even works with planeswalker loyalty effects, making Atraxa a popular choice for so-called "superfriends" builds.
2. Baral, Chief of Compliance
As a rule, mono-blue counterspell decks work better in 1v1 than multiplayer, so against multiple foes, you might want to adjust your tactics. But against a single rival, few themes can so frequently thwart enemy plays.
Baral only needs two mana, carries a fair 1/3 stats, has the useful wizard subtype, and lets you cast instants and sorceries for one less mana, making it ridiculously easy to negate opposing spells. Plus, whenever a card or ability you control counters a card, Baral lets you both draw and discard, readjusting your hand as needed while stocking your graveyard. Two great effects for the price of one.
1. Thrasios, Triton Hero/Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix
Thrasios operates around the partner mechanic, letting you pair him with another generic partner. To mix in white and black, "Tymna the Weaver" makes a nice ally, but I'm fond of keeping the blue/green theme by pairing with "Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix".
Thrasios has the useful merfolk bloodline while both Thrasios and Kydele carry the wizard subtype, offering several clan combos. Additionally, Kydele can tap for colorless mana equal to the cards you've drawn in a turn while Thrasios can spend four mana to scry one, then play the top card of your deck if a land, or add it to your hand if not. Both are versatile warriors who stack well and blend the speed and big creatures of green with the draws and counterspells of blue.
Picking a Commander in Magic
Remember, various player counts and strategies reward different units; ask multiple players which 10 leaders are best, and you'll hear dozens of answers. Of course, you'll want a general who provides the colors you need, and if you're shooting for a specific infinite combo, you'll definitely seek someone that tutors appropriate spells.
Today I melded the official top-tier list with my own personal opinions, but several powerful units remain; don't overlook aces like "Scion of the Ur-Dragon" and "General Tazri". But for now, as we eagerly await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion of formidable commanders, vote for your favorite general and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
Questions & Answers
Question: What is a “unit”?
Answer: Sometimes I use it to mean "creature". Hopefully it's not too confusing; it helps avoid regurgitating the same terms repeatedly.
Question: Why use Thrasios/Kydele when Tymna/Thrasios and Thrasios/Vial Smasher offer 4 color mana flexibility?
Answer: True, some players go that route, but remember that more colors doesn't always mean a better deck--the more you add, the higher the risk of getting color-screwed. Additionally, many of the best multi-color lands are pricey, so budget players might prefer fewer types so they can run more basic lands.
Question: How can I build a control deck for Magic: The Gathering?
Answer: For control, you'll definitely want blue. Consider Baral for a pure-blue counterspell theme.
© 2019 Jeremy Gill