Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
The Companion Rules Update in Magic
Somewhat similar to commanders, companions are creatures you'll have available in every Magic match if you build your deck to fit their criteria. But unlike commanders, they're available in formats like standard, and you can't place them into the command zone if defeated.
Deemed too powerful on release, you now have to pay three mana to place your companion from your sideboard into your hand (originally, you'd just cast them from outside the game), from where you can play them. But even with this delay and their unique deck-building limitations, companions provide an extra card you're guaranteed to have each match—which reign supreme? These are the ten best (and only) companions in Magic: The Gathering!
10. Lutri, the Spellchaser
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 3
Deck Restriction: Each non-land in your deck has a different name
Lutri's deck criteria works just like commander and brawl's singleton rules—but he's banned in those formats, and using a singleton deck in standard is just too inconsistent to rely on. It's a shame too, because he's a decent card, bearing 3/2 stats, instant speed thanks to flash, and the ability to copy an instant or sorcery you control, a good way to duplicate removals like "Lava Coil", or even replicate a powerhouse like "Genesis Ultimatum".
So Lutri might not be the best companion, but he's a solid regular deck member in "Risen Reef" decks thanks to his elemental subtype and hybrid mana symbols (a staple among companions)
9. Umori, the Collector
Deck Restriction: All non-lands in your deck share a card type
Umori's a good card, but he ranks lower due to his narrow deck criteria, completely forcing you to stick to one card type, often creatures. Even creature-focused decks usually want some instant/sorcery removals and artifact or enchantment supports, so it's definitely a big limitation. That said, Umori is an impressive 4/5 who lets you pick a card type on entry and make your corresponding spells cost one less mana.
Umori is mostly seen in creature mutate decks, where mutation abilities from cards like "Dirge Bat" and "Pouncing Shoreshark" can substitute for removals. Some counterspell decks also employ him to discount their instants.
8. Obosh, the Preypiercer
Deck Restriction: Your deck can only have lands and odd-cost spells
Obosh might rank higher if not for the fact that there's a better companion for Rakdos decks (Lurrus). Now, Obosh does have a strong effect, doubling the damage your odd-cost permanents (including himself) deal, meaning he's effectively a 6/5.
That said, his deck limit is pretty harsh, and most red/black decks want to win before they get up to the five lands Obosh needs. Still, Lurrus fits Obosh's criteria, so one option is to use Obosh as your companion and simply include Lurrus as a regular deck member.
7. Jegantha, the Wellspring
Deck Restriction: No card in your deck has more than one of the same mana symbol in its cost
It's not so much that Jegantha is good as he is easy to use, bearing an easily-obtained limitation that simply prevents you from using cards with multiple same-symboled mana. Jegantha requires a hefty five mana, but he's got nice stats at 5/5, and his elemental subtype makes him another option for Risen Reef themes.
He can also tap for one mana of each color, although this can only be used for colored mana costs (not generic colorless slots). I'm also fond of using Jegantha in EDH alongside "The First Sliver", providing a late-game mana-fixer.
6. Keruga, the Macrosage
Deck Restriction: Your deck only has lands and cards of cost three or more
Keruga is a fierce 5/4, has the dinosaur subtype, and draws a card on entry for each other permanent you control with cost three or more, which, thanks to his companion criteria, should be several. This gives you some late-game card advantage that helps cement a control win—if you last long enough to do so.
The key to using Keruga effectively is to circumvent his limitation with cards like "Brazen Borrower" and "Bonecrusher Giant", who technically fit the criteria but have alternate-casting modes that give you something to do on turn two, helping you survive long enough to utilize your high-powered cards. Life-gain lands like "Thornwood Falls" also shield you, and if you take Keruga outside standard into commander, you can use other alternate-castings (like evoke) for more early-game plays.
Useful in a variety of formats, Keruga is one of my favorite companions: competitive yet fair, and he's a bargain deal, costing less than a single dollar!
5. Gyruda, Doom of Depths
Deck Restriction: Your deck only contains even-cost cards
In terms of mana, Gyruda is the most taxing companion, he's got a pretty hefty deck restriction, and his subtypes aren't great (at least in standard). But boy does he compensate with power, bearing 6/6 stats and a great entrance effect, milling the top four cards of each player's deck, then letting you play an even-cost creature among them for free!
You can steal an opposing creature this way, but since your deck only has even-cost units, you'll probably get one of your own—possibly a duplicate Gyruda, or a duplicate you won't have to sacrifice in the form of "Spark Double". Reusing Gyruda effects this way can also net you a quick mill victory.
If you're running Gyruda, use mana-accelerators like "Paradise Druid" and "Growth Spiral" to quickly ramp. You probably won't be able to cast anything on your first turn, so it's a good time to play lands that enter tapped anyway, like the scrying Temples or lifegain lands.
4. Kaheera, the Orphanguard
Deck Restriction: Each creature in your deck is a cat, elemental, nightmare, dinosaur, or beast
Kaheera's a great companion for tribal themes or ones that don't use many creatures anyway, mitigating the "cost" of his limitation. He himself is a 3/2 with vigilance who boosts the stats of and gives vigilance to your other creatures fitting his criteria by +1/+1.
Good effects for a fairly inexpensive card, the only issue is that most of these tribes aren't performing well in the current meta. Elementals are probably your best bet, but sadly, since Kaheera isn't one (he's a cat beast), he won't trigger Risen Reef's effect (though he will boost its stats).
Note that Kaheera's ability to maintain beasts in your deck means you can keep cards like "Questing Beast" and "Hydroid Krasis", so it's not as limiting as you might think. As for EDH, try Kaheera with commanders like "Arahbo, Roar of the World".
3. Zirda, the Dawnwaker
Deck Restriction: Every permanent in your deck has an activated ability
Zirda's elemental subtype is interesting, but he really belongs in cycling decks, reducing the cost of your activated abilities by up to two (to a minimum of one). He's also a solid 3/3 who can tap and spend a mana to prevent a creature from blocking that turn. Ikoria's new tri-color cycling lands fit his theme well, helping you quickly build towards a "Zenith Flare" win.
Now, we've previously seen ability cost-reducing effects from cards like "Training Grounds" and "Biomancer's Familiar", but what really sets Zirda apart is his reduction for all activated effects, not just ones on creatures. Enchantments, artifacts (particularly equipment), lands, and more are all discounted.
2. Yorion, Sky Nomad
Deck Restriction: Your starting deck has at least 20 more cards than the minimum
As a 4/5 flyer, Yorion's no slouch in battle, but his true power comes from his ability to blink any number of non-lands you control when he enters, returning them to the field at your end step. This will retrigger creature and enchantment entrance effects, reset planeswalker loyalty, and more. His deck-building requirement does admittedly reduce consistency, but it's a small price for Yorion's impressive power, and it helps guard against mill decks.
Yorion was arguably standard's best companion, but when the companion mechanic was nerfed, two staple cards of Yorion decks ("Fires of Invention" and "Agent of Treachery") became banned. Couple that with his inability to work in EDH, and there's one overall-superior partner...
1. Lurrus of the Dream-Den
Deck Restriction: Permanents in your deck cost two or less mana
Lurrus is a respectable 3/2 with cat synergy and lifelink, but his true power lies in his effect, letting you once per turn cast a spell of cost two or less from your graveyard. This lets you easily refield creatures (great fodder for "Priest of Forgotten Gods"), but you can also reuse enchantments like "Dead Weight" and "The Birth of Meletis".
Lurrus does have a limiting deck requirement, but it only affects permanents, so you can (and should) include instants and sorceries like "Call of the Death-Dweller". Banned in Vintage, Lurrus nonetheless remains a fearsome threat across multiple formats. While his colors are technically black/white, many of his best standard decks use black/red for deadly aggro with surprisingly decent long-term potential thanks to his ongoing graveyard access.
Companions and Commanders in Magic
Even with their nerf, companions remain a fierce threat; card advantage is card advantage. Remember that you can use them in EDH, but your commander has to fit their criteria, and their color identity has to match; while Jegantha's mana cost only includes red/green, he can only fit rainbow commander decks thanks to the symbols in his text.
Use the subtypes and hybrid mana symbols of the companions to your advantage (their multi-color status works well with devotion), but for now, vote for your favorite creature and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2020 Jeremy Gill