Friday, 14 February 2020 15:56

Magic’s most loved EDH commanders

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Atraxa, Praetor's Voice is one of the most popular 'Magic: The Gathering' commanders. Atraxa, Praetor's Voice is one of the most popular 'Magic: The Gathering' commanders. WOTC

One of the most appealing aspects for EDH is that any legendary creature in the history of Magic: The Gathering as the commander for one’s deck.  It wouldn’t be surprising, of course, for some commanders to be more popular than others.  To get more “love,” as it were.

With the help of the database at the awesome EDH deckbuilding website EDHREC, we count down the fourteen most loved commanders in EDH over the past two years (because, you know, Valentine’s Day is on 2/14).

#14 Arcades, the Strategist ($4.25)

He likes big butts and he cannot lie.  No, seriously.  This guy is all about a creature’s thiccn…err…toughness.

Designed to helm a “toughness matters” theme (more specifically, “defender/walls matter”), Arcades, the Strategist is heading up 1991 decks (0.723% overall) according to the EDHREC database.  With defenders, Acrades provides bonus card draw.  He also allows defenders not only to attack, but he encourages an aggressive playline seeing as he makes one’s creatures deal (and receive) damage based upon their toughness.

Cards most often played along with Arcades include Crashing Drawbridge, Jeskai Barricade, Dusk//Dawn, Tree of Redemption, Hover Barrier, Carven Caryatid, and Fell the Mighty.  A number of other cards that would otherwise be left largely forgotten such as the zero-cost artifact Shield Sphere, creature generator Hornet’s Nest, and the Homelands card Wall of Kelp often see love in an Arcades, the Strategist deck, as do redundancy cards such as enchantments Assault Formation and High Alert, as well as planeswalker Hualti, the Sun’s Heart.

#13 The Ur-Dragon ($8.50)

Let’s face it.  Dragons are popular.  Heck, if you haven’t noticed, the first two commanders on this list are both of the draconic variety.  This dragon, however, isn’t just any dragon.  He’s The Ur-Dragon.  The dragon daddy, if you would.

Ran in 2013 decks (0.731%), The Ur-Dragon just screams “Dragon Tribal,” which is probably why the card is the face of the Commander 2017 deck Draconic Domination.  Allowing for all five colors, The Ur-Dragon allows players to run dragon they want in their deck.  He also not only discounts the casting cost of the typically expensive dragon cards by one generic mana, but he also allows players to not only draw cards equal to the number of attacking dragons, but he also lets players plop a permanent (dragon or otherwise) into play FOR FREE.

Dragons often run with The Ur-Dragon include Atarka, World Render, Utvara Hellkite, Lathliss, Dragon Queen, Bladewing the Risen, and Scion of the Ur-Dragon.  Popular non-dragon (creature) cards feature the likes of Dragon Tempest, Tragon’s Hoard, Dragonspeaker Shaman, Crucible of Fire, and Rhythm of the Wild.

#12 Niv-Mizzet, Parun ($1.50)

The leader of Ravnica’s Izzet guild, Niv-Mizzet is an un-counterable 5/5 flying dragon that provides a nice combination of card draw and direct damage.  He’s also the third dragon out of three on our list.  (See?  Told you dragons were popular!)

Heading up 2019 decks (0.733%), this version of Niv provides an insane amount of value because he gives players the card draw regardless of who plays an instant or sorcery.  Of course, when you draw that card (or any other card), Niv pings a target of its controller’s choice for one damage.  Even in a format where players start at 40 life, this can get out of hand rather quickly.

Cards that Magic players seem to love to pair with Niv-Mizzet, Parun include a barrage of counterspells like Negate, Arcane Denial, and the “OG” Counterspell, Firemind’s Research, Search for Azcanta, Propaganda, Fevered Visions, Goblin Electromancer, and bonus damage spells like Guttersnipe and Electrostatic field.  Players also, of course, run a bunch of card draw sources such as Curiosity, Windfall, Treasure Cruise, Faithless Looting, Opt, Tandem Lookout, and Brainstorm. 

#11 Teysa Karlov ($1)

Who doesn’t like a little bit of good-natured death?  If you’re Teysa Karlov, leader of Ravnica’s Orzhov guild, you tend to like it a lot – especially when it’s to your advantage.

Teysa is a budget-friendly commander who is run in 2021 decks (0.733%) and is all about those dying triggers.  In fact, she loves them so much that she wants to see each one happen twice.  Oh, and she throws in a nice little bonus ability that grants creature tokens vigilance and lifelink – something quite handy with the recent Afterlife Orzhov keyword.

Look to run cards like Pitiless Plunderer, Grim Haruspex, Requiem Angel, Pawn of Ulamog, and Sifter of Skills with her.  Aristocrat-like strategies also work great with cards like Blood Artist, Syr Konrad, the Grim, and whatnot.  Players also tend to like to include cards such as Vindictive Vampire, Smothering Abomination, Twilight Drover, Field of Souls, Anointed Procession, and Divine Visitation as well.

#10 Gishath, Sun’s Avatar ($9.50)

Getting back with the scalies, Gishath, Sun’s Avatar, is a dinosaur (sorry, dragon fans) that not only packs a punch due to it being a three-color 7/6 with trample, vigilance, and haste, but also because it grants players good card advantage.

The face of 2123 decks (0.771%), Gishath is your premier dino tribal commander.  When he connects for combat damage, he lets you filter through a set amount of cards from the top of your deck based upon damage dealt to a player, allowing you to then pot any number of dinosaur cards found directly into play.  And if going wide with big, bad dinos doesn’t take out your opponents, Gishath’s commander damage probably will.

Cards people tend to love to run alongside Gishath include (of course) a nice assortment of dinosaurs.  That list typically includes the likes of Regisaur Alpha, Marauding Raptor, Etali, Primal Storm, Ghalta, Primal Hunger, Ripjaw Raptor, and Zacama, Primal Calamity.  Gishath decks also often include good ramp thanks to cards like Cultivate, Farseek, and Nature’s Lore, as well as mana rocks like (of course) Sol Ring, Guilded Lotus, and Commander’s Sphere.

#9 Jodah, Archmage Eternal (50¢)

Back to the humans, Jodah, Archmage Eternal is one of the most famous and long-standing characters in Dominarian history.  He only just recently got a card just a few years ago despite his importance in many storylines set on the plane.

Found heading up 2149 decks (0.780%), Jodah is not only extremely wallet-friendly, he is also a walking Fist of the Sun (which is a good backup card to have in the deck).  This also means that he’s a five-color commander, allowing for a nice variety of cards that can be included in his builds.

Cards that players tend to include most often with the Archmage Eternal include ramp and color-fixing to allow for that WUBRG assortment such as Fellwar Stone, Farseek, Cultivate, Rampant Growth, and Kodama’s Reach.  Powerful, expensive cards such as Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur, Maelstron Wanderer, Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, and Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh are also common inclusions on Jodah decklists.   Door to Nothingness is also often included as a fun alternate win condition.

#8 Meren of Clan Nel Toth ($18)

The second commander to be the face of a Commander sealed product (in this case, the Commander 2015 deck Plunder the Graves), Meren of Clan Nel Toth is all about your creatures meeting their well-timed demises.

Ran in 2173 decks (0.789%), this B/G commander uses the experience counter mechanic.  At the beginning of its controller’s end step, its controller gets to bring a creature either back into play or back to their hand depending on whether or not said creature’s converted mana cost is less than the number of experience counters Meren has.  This allows for the recycling of creatures and provides a good structure for a “sacrifice matters” deck.

Cards often found in a Meren of Clan Nel Toth deck include sac outlets like Merciless Executioner, Razaketh, the Foulblooded, and Fleshbag Maurader.  The deck often tends to run sac-to-use creatures like Spore Frog, Solemn Simulacrum, and Caustic Caterpillar, as well as cards that take advantage of one’s creatures’ deaths like Skullclamp and Dictate of Erebos.  Recursion-oriented cards like Eternal Witness, Regrowth, and Animate Dead are also often seen in this deck.

#7 Golos, Tireless Pilgrim ($1.75)

For “lands matter” strategies, Magic players only have a few worthy options.  The Magic 2020 artifact creature Golos, Tireless Pilgrim is one such option and, despite being colorless, allows for a five-color deck thanks to its rules text color identity.

The head of some 2243 decks (0.814%), Golos not only searches for an extra land (any land), he also lets you play the top three cards of your deck for free with his 2WUBRG activated ability.  Of course, this could lead to some really nasty shenanigans.

In addition to the common assortment of ramp and mana fixing (eg: mana rocks and land-searching spells/abilities), Golos decks also tend to run the land reclamation cards Crucible of Worlds and Ramunap Excavator.  It also tends to run a lot of Goros-protecting board wipes like Solar Blaze, Slaughter the Strong, and Divine Reckoning.  The ultimate payoff, of course, is getting a really explosive turn and win the game thanks to the like of Swarm Intelligence, Reclaim, and kill spell Treacherous Terrain.

#6 Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow ($9.25)

Ninjas are cool.  Don’t let anybody else say otherwise.  Ninja’s are cool and Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow is one of the coolest.

The face of some 2258 decks (0.820%), Yuriko is a popular budget commander who can be a blast to play.  She punishes players for playing those all-too-common EDH decks that are chock-full of mana-intensive cards.  What’s more, she can do this from the command zone thanks to her unique Commander ninjitsu ability should its controller have an unblocked creature.  Thanks to Magic’s nice proliferation of evasive creatures, that isn’t terribly difficult.

Unblockable and otherwise elusive creatures such as Phantom Ninja, Looter il-Kor, and Invisible Stalker are popular to include with this commander.  Small-yet-mighty flying creatures like Ornathopter, Baleful Strix, and Sage Owl are all also common to run with Yuriko, as are other ninjitsu cards like Skullsnatcher, Moonblade Shinobi, and Ninja of the Deep Hours.  Support cards like Propeganda, Rhystic Study, Key to the City, and Stritonic Resonator (for double Yuriko triggers) are also great inclusions.

#5 Kess, Dissident Mage ($1)

Kess, Dissident Mage is a cool, inexpensive card that sees play in Legacy as well as in EDH.  Thanks to her allowing players to cast an instant or sorcery from their own graveyard, it’s possible to go infinite with her.  Due to her popularity, it seems that Commander players have noticed.

Ran in 2378 decks (0.863%), Kess is a three-color commander (UBR) that is all about extra value.  She’s all about the combo and Kess decks tend to run a small variety that can all go off in different ways thanks to a number of interchangeable parts.

Aside from the usual mana fixing and whatnot, blue cards like Archaeomancer, Ghostly Flicker, and Peregrine Drake can allow for seemingly infinite mana, ETB triggers, and mana.  A similar result can be achieved with Possessed Skaab, Illusionist’s Stratagem, and Cloud of Faeries.  There are a number of other combos as well thanks to cards like Dualcaster Mage, Release to the Wind, and others with the final payoff being something along the lines of Impact Tremors, Sage’s Row Denizen, Drowned Secrets, and so on.

#4 Lord Windgrace ($4)

The second “lands matter” commander to make this list, Lord Windgrace is the cover card from the Nature’s Vengeance Commander 2018 deck.  He is also the only planeswalker commander to make this list.

Found heading up 2459 decks (0.892%), Lord Windgrace is a three-color commander (BRG) who provides players with card advantage, powerful land recursion, and a combo targeted destruction/go-wide finish.  He also has amazing synergy with other “lands matter” cards.

Those “lands matter” cards include Gitrog Monster, Omnath, Locus of Rage, Oracle of Mul Daya, Wayward Swordtooth, and Ob Nixilis, the Fallen.  It should come as no surprise that other, less high profile cards based around the “lands matter” theme such as The Mending of Dominaria and Seismic Assault are common inclusions as well.  Plus, he's probably a fan favorite among the furry subculture for, well, reasons.

#3 Edgar Markov ($12.25)

While Edgar Markov might not be the big daddy of vampires (that honor goes to Baron Sengir and don’t you dare convince us otherwise), he is the top vampy when it comes to commanders.

Ran in 3031 decks (1.100%), Sorin’s grandfather (yes, he is Sorin’s poppop), is yet another three-color legend (RWB) who care about vampires and making those vampires bigger.  Unlike other, similar vampires such as the iconic original Sengir Vampire, Edgar doesn’t need to wait until he deals damage to make himself and the rest of his controller’s vampires bigger.  Rather, it happens upon the attack trigger, meaning that even those little 1/1s he makes through his Eminence ability can become quite formidable.

Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of vampires that tend to make their way into Edgar Markov decks.  This often includes the likes of Stormkirk Captain, Cordial Vampire, Captivating Vampire, Legion Lieutenant, Vampire Nighthawk, and Bloodline Keeper.  Support cards like Phyrexian Arena, Black Market, Exquisite Blood, and Herald’s Horn are also commonly found in Edgar decks.

#2 Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice ($24.50)

The face of the Commander 2016 deck Breed Lethality, Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice is a card that lets players go in a variety of very formidable directions.

Found at the helm of some 3552 decks (1.289%), Atraxa is a four-color (GWUB) creature with flying, vigilance, deathtouch, and lifelink.  Oh, and she has a proliferate trigger that fires off at the begging of your end step.  It’s because of this end step trigger that she is ultimately so darn powerful.

Atraxa players can choose to go the superfriends route with cards like Jace the Mind Sculptor, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Liliana, Dreadhorde General, and Vraska the Unseen being some of the deck’s largest threats.  Players can also choose to go the+1/+1 route, which is heavily supported though cards like Forgotten Ancient, Crystalline Crawler, Ghave, Guru of Spores, and Walking Ballista.  Thirdly, there’s a popular Stax build that involves Ensnaring Bridge, Tangle Wire, Static Orb, Winter Orb, and Darksteel Reactor.

#1 Muldrotha, the Gravetide ($9)

And finally, at the top of the list of the 14 most loved commanders over the past two years is the Dominaria card Muldrotha, the Gravetide.

Found as the face of 3750 decks (1.361%), Muldrotha is all about that graveyard (as are a number of the commanders on this list, really).  She is a very powerful commander who depends on its controller committing to a single strategy:  fill the graveyard with permanents while controlling the board.  She’s at her best when her controller out values her opponent and finishes them off by swinging big.

Cards like Nyx Weaver and Splinterfright are good at putting cards into the graveyard while still providing players with an early board state.  The likes of Sidisi’s Faithful, Seal of Removal, and Aether Spellbomb provide nice, low-cost board control, while the likes of Phyrexian Scriptures, Nevinyrral’s Disk, and Pernicious Deed help with it later on.  Cards like No Rest for the Wicked, Worm Harvest, and Tidesprout Tyrant often act as the deck’s finisher, as can Muldrotha herself.

What are your most loved commanders?  Which are the ones you like to use when playing games of EDH?  Let us know in the comment section below!

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