Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
What Is a Commander Damage Win in Magic?
In Magic's EDH commander format, players begin with a higher life total of 40, so it can take a while to deplete all of your rival's hit points. However, each deck has a legendary creature (the "commander") available throughout the match, and if your commander inflicts a combined total of 21 combat damage to an opponent, they immediately lose regardless of their remaining life.
Thus, many EDH decks aim to boost their commander with various spells and use their superwarrior to net a swift win. These structures are called "voltron" builds and operate best with generals geared towards offense. But with hundreds of renowned leaders available, which units reign supreme? These are the ten best commanders for a voltron win in Magic: The Gathering!
10. Scion of the Ur-Dragon
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 5
Affectionately referred to as "Skittles" for his rainbow colors, Scion takes one of every mana color to cast. At first, he seems like an average dragon, bearing 4/4 (four power and four toughness) and flying, letting him soar over ground blockers, but he can spend two mana of any hue to send a dragon from your deck to your graveyard, becoming a copy of it until the end of the turn!
Thus, you can morph Scion into whatever reptile your situation needs, and considering EDH's massive 100 card deck list, you'll have plenty of options. Use this to alter Scion into powerful creatures (who would normally cost more mana) like "Atarka, World Render" and "Scourge of the Throne." Atarka gives double strike and trample to your attacking dragons while Scourge provides an additional combat phase when attacking the player with the most life, perfect for racking up commander damage.
9. Uril, the Miststalker
This legendary beast also requires five mana, borrowing from the red, green, and white factions. Thankfully, green's ramp prowess should quickly amass the resources for an early play and once fielded, Uril's hexproof prevents your opponent (but not you) from targeting him with spells or abilities. He also gets +2/+2 for every aura attached to him, and he begins with an already-fierce 5/5 stats.
Thanks to hexproof, your opponent will struggle to remove Uril with anything other than field wipes, and even those can be defended if you place indestructible or totem armor onto Uril. Make the most of his self-empowerment with powerful aura enchantments like "Bear Umbra" and "Battle Mastery."
8. Narset, Enlightened Master
Narset's high cost and comparatively low stats may dissuade players, but she offers more than meets the eye. While her 3/2 stats are low, Narset joins with both hexproof and first strike, letting her deal combat damage first in battle (and potentially avoid a counterattack).
Better yet, when Narset attacks, you may exile the top four cards of your deck, then (until the end of the round) cast noncreature cards exiled this way for free! This can provide anything from auras to planeswalkers to extra turns through sorceries, making noncreature Narset builds a surprisingly effective voltron option. She also bears three colors, which balances having a wide array of potential cards without running a big risk of drawing the wrong land types.
7. Lord of Tresserhorn
Tresserhorn brandishes a stupendous 10/4 stats considering his relatively low cost, but there's a price—casting him requires you two sacrifice two creatures, lose two life, and let an opponent draw two cards. To avoid this hefty downside, use the cheap and colorless "Torpor Orb" artifact to disable entrance effects.
From there, you've got a massive beatstick who can achieve a one-shot win if you provide a +1/+1 counter and double strike. Plus, Torpor Orb only hinders entrance effects, so Tresserhorn's ability to regenerate himself with one black mana stays intact, offering an inexpensive defense against destruction, and many players consider Tresserhorn's colors of red, blue, and black the ideal trio for a voltron win.
6. Thrun, the Last Troll
Thrun's a strong defensive commander whose several shields make him annoyingly difficult to remove. First, he can't be countered, circumventing blue's common negation prowess. Second, he has hexproof and a sturdy 4/4 stats, defending himself once fielded. Finally, Thrun wields a two-cost regenerate, letting him recover even if killed through battle or a field wipe.
With these traits, Thrun's simply hard to stop; grant him trample, and some power/toughness boosts to rapidly decimate foes as they struggle to find a removal.
5. Rakdos, Lord of Riots
Rakdos wields an excellent 6/6 stats for his low price, but you only cast him during a turn where an opponent has lost life. Thankfully, Rakdos's black and red leanings provide several excellent ways to land damage ("Lightning Bolt," "Blood Artist," etc.), making him easily available.
Additionally, Rakdos also bears flying and trample, bleeding excess battle damage through blockers. Thus, only certain units can guard him, and even if they do, trample can still get through, quickly landing that 21 commander damage with a few buffs. Rakdos also reduces the CMC of your creature spells by one for each life opponents have lost during a turn, so even if he falls, you'll have likely fielded other powerful demons to finish what he began.
4. Bruna, Light of Alabaster
Bruna bears many similarities to Narset, costing six mana and sharing her white and blue colors (while omitting red, generally considered the worst EDH color anyway). Thankfully, Bruna's stats are a superior 5/5, and she bears flying and vigilance, letting her attack without tapping.
Even better, when Bruna attacks or blocks, you can attach any number of auras from the battlefield, your graveyard, and your hand to her for free! This amazing trait accesses spent auras, ones that haven't been cast yet, and even those owned by your opponent! Use white's best auras like "Ethereal Armor" and "Daybreak Coronet" to boost Bruna to monstrous proportions and score that commander damage win.
3. Omnath, Locus of Mana
A personal favorite, Omnath offers vast mana ramp and voltron abilities. He only costs three resources and prevents your green mana from depleting as phases and turns end, stockpiling your unspent fuel for future use!
He also improves his initial weak 1/1 stats by +1/+1 for each green mana in your pool, quickly turning to monstrous proportions by utilizing green's many ramps. To ensure Omnath's huge stats aren't guarded by a throwaway blocker, be sure to grant him pierce capabilities with the game's best trample-bestowers. Hexproof, totem armor, and regenerate also make appreciated add-ons.
2. Zur the Enchanter
Banned as of this writing in duel commander (but not in the general EDH format), Zur costs just four mana and accesses the useful white, blue, and black factions. His stats are mediocre at 1/4, but Zur wields flying and the abundant human and wizard subtypes, strengthening several clan effects.
Best of all, when Zur attacks, you can search your library for an enchantment with a CMC of 3 or less and field it for free! This can search out any type of enchantment, but works particularly well with auras; since Zur's already swinging, you might as well boost his power before the blow connects. Few opponents can endure for long against an inexpensive swinger who strengthens with each attack.
1. Skullbriar, the Walking Grave
At just two mana, Skullbriar's one of the cheapest commanders available, though he joins with only one power and toughness. However, his haste lets him attack immediately, and whenever Skullbriar deals combat damage to a player, you place a +1/+1 counter on him.
Additionally, counters remain on Skullbriar even if he moves to the graveyard, command zone, or exile, so you'll recast him with as much strength as he had before dying. Use Skullbriar's own ability alongside green's array of +1/+1 counter tactics to ravage foes with a speedy beatstick who quickly revives with all his power intact. Skullbriar has won me several games before my rivals knew what hit them; fortunately, he's one of the cheapest competitive commanders available, costing just six dollars!
How to Support a Magic Voltron Win
We've seen how the voltron commanders benefit from power-ups; utilize Magic's best artifact equipments to grant them whatever attributes they need. For instance, "Swiftfoot Boots" bestows haste and hexproof, "Hammer of Nazahn" offers two extra power plus indestructible, and the fierce "Sword of" cards grant +2/+2, protection to two colors, and several direct hit abilities. Remember, protection assists voltron strategies both as a defense and as a method of becoming unblockable to certain colors, letting your commander damage slip through unimpeded.
By pairing the strongest auras and equipment with our best offensive generals, you're well on your way to a voltron victory. But for now, as we eagerly await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion of legendary creatures, vote for your favorite commander, and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2018 Jeremy Gill