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How to Permanently Get Rid of Commanders in Magic: The Gathering

Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.

Recasting Commanders in Magic

In Magic's commander format, legendary creatures called commanders lead every deck. Players have access to their commander every game, and if they die or are exiled, they can instead place them back into the command zone. Recasting them takes two extra mana per revival, but their potential resurrections make them almost impossible to permanently eliminate.

That said, even commanders aren't totally invincible and can be removed or indefinitely weakened with the right spells—which reign supreme? Here are six great ways to eliminate commanders in Magic: The Gathering!

1. Make Their Cost Too High

Recommended Cards:

  • Swords to Plowshares
  • Malicious Affliction
  • Lightning Bolt

Okay, this one's pretty obvious, but for opponents to recast their commanders, they need to have (and be willing to spend) the extra mana. There's only so many times a general can die before it can't realistically be recast, so hit them with staple removals or board wipes.

Most commander decks have around 35 lands, but players probably won't see nearly that many in standard games; once a cost hits 10 or higher, it's gonna be real difficult to pay. This is one reason I recommend early to mid-game commanders, who have a fair shot at actually being recast.

2. Prevent Opponents From Casting It

Recommended Cards:

  • Meddling Mage
  • Llawan, Cephalid Empress
  • Void Winnower

Instead of figuring out how to beat commanders once they're out, consider preventing them from entering in the first place. Above are some of my favorite cards with ongoing creature-preventing effects; Mage blocks any one non-land spell, Llawan prevents opponents from casting blue creatures (and returns their blue creatures to hand, ensuring blue enemy commanders are locked), and Winnower stops foes from casting even-cost creature spells.

While some of these effects only work on certain commanders, they're powerful debuffs—just note they dissipate if your creature leaves the field.

3. Weaken/Transform Them

Recommended Cards:

  • Oko, Thief of Crowns
  • Darksteel Mutation
  • Kenrith's Transformation

Commanders can be recast when returned to the command zone, so dampen them without putting them back. Look for cards that make creatures lose their effects (and possibly alter power/toughness) to thwart enemies without giving them immediate potential to recover.

Infamous planeswalker Oko, Thief of Crowns is banned in many formats but still legal in EDH, so use his +1 to turn enemy creatures into 3/3 elks who lose their abilities. This effect lasts even if Oko dies, so as long as the transformed elk survives, foes won't be able to utilize their commander.

Auras also work well, especially Darksteel Mutation. It's cheap (two mana), makes a creature lose abilities and become a puny 0/1, but also gives them indestructible—making it harder for opponents to purposefully kill them and resummon their leader.

4. Steal Control of Them

Recommended Cards:

  • Confiscation Coup
  • Empress Galina
  • Control Magic

Fight fire with fire by turning opposing creatures against their owners. Blue contains most creature-stealing effects; I'm particularly fond of cards like Confiscation Coup and Empress Galina since their effects last as long as the stolen creature survives.

Auras like Control Magic and Corrupted Conscience also work, but opponents will regain control if they eliminate the aura, so watch out for enchantment removals.

Ixidron mtg

Ixidron mtg

5. Turn Them Face-Down

Recommended Card: Ixidron

There's only one card at the moment that can flip fielded creatures face-down; thankfully, it's a good one. Upon entering the field, Ixidron turns all other non-token creatures (including yours, so be careful) face-down. Face-down cards have no abilities and puny 2/2 stats, empty shells of their former selves.

For opponents to reclaim their commander, they'll have to eliminate their face-down leader and recast them from the command zone, buying you plenty of time to scrape a win. Note that Ixidron's stats become equal to the number of face-down creatures, so he'll die if none remain, but by then, he'll have served his purpose.

Useful as both a board wipe and anti-commander tactic, Ixidron is surprisingly cheap for a competitive rare, costing less than a single dollar!

6. Gain Control of Your Opponent and Exile/Kill Their Commander

Recommended Cards:

  • Emrakul, the Promised End
  • Mindslaver
  • Sorin Markov

Today we've covered many ways to neutralize commanders for lengthy periods of time, but here's how to truly take them out. First, you'll need to gain control of your opponent for a turn using any of the the three cards above (Sorin will need at least seven loyalty beforehand).

Then, puppeteer your victim into losing their commander, choosing to have them remain in the graveyard, exile, or shuffled into the deck rather than returned to the command zone. Hopefully, your target has something like Swords to Plowshares in hand to exile their own creature, but if need be, you can simply attack yourself and block with a stronger creature.

Go for exile where possible, where few decks will be able to recover their leader (only a handful of cards, like "Pull from Eternity", return spells from exile). In 99% of games, this combo will banish an enemy commander for good.

The Ur-Dragon mtg

The Ur-Dragon mtg

Anti-Creature Cards in Magic

Today we examined many ways to stall or completely block commanders, but that's just the tip of the iceberg—consider other anti-creature spells and board wipes to get the job done.

In the meantime, watch out for eminence commanders like "The Ur-Dragon", who activate effects even while safely tucked away in the command zone, but for now, vote for your favorite commander block and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!

© 2020 Jeremy Gill