Monday, 14 February 2022 13:50

MTG's most loved commanders

Written by
MTG's most loved commanders WOTC

One of the most appealing aspects for EDH is that any legendary creature (as well as a handful of planeswalkers) in the history of Magic: The Gathering can be 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 February 14).

#14 Queen Marchesa ($4.25)

Perfect for Aikido-style strategies (that is, strategies that focus on a combination of defense, control, and deflection), Queen Marchesa has become one of the most popular commanders.

Ran in roughly 5,130 decks, according to EDHREC, she is a perfect option for those preferring more of a politics-style of gameplay.  While typical political strategies often include deal making (and breaking), manipulation, obfuscation, and so on, Marchesa players tend to go a slightly different way.  A Queen Marchesa decks seeks not to trick or convince an opposing player to take a particular action or play a certain way.  Rather, the idea is to navigate the course of the game so that players instead take certain actions or play a certain way because that is what the board setup allows -- essentially playing right into your hands not because of trickery, but rather because their bad plays just happen to be their best options based upon the situation at hand.

She is often paired with cards that fit right into that mold, such as Deflecting Palm, Crackling Doom, Smothering Tithe, Ghostly Prison, Court of Grace, and so on.  Sweepers such as Damn and Wrath of God, as well as the make-combat-silly card Disrupt Decorum are also great inclusions. 

#13 Kaalia of the Vast ($20)

A great commander option for aggressive strategies, Kaalia of the Vast is currently found in some 5,320 or so decks.

Despite being a human cleric, Kaalia screams tribal (just not HER tribal).  Whether it be angels, demons, dragons, or a combination thereof, she wants to get these big-bodied creatures in play on her terms and take advantage of not just their size, but their skill as well.  As such, those who build decks around her tend to look for appropriate creatures with enter-the-battlefield and/or useful triggered or activated abilities.  But the deck isn't just stuffed chock-full of big and expensive angels, demons, and dragons.  There also needs to be a quick mana base as well as ways (such as tutoring or wheels) to refill one's hand with new creatures for Kaalia to cheat in.

If you're looking to build with Kaalia of the Vast as your commander, seek out cards such as Demonic Tutor, Wheel of Fortune, Profane Tutor, and Gamble to help keep your hand loaded, and creatures such as Aurelia, the Warleader, Kaalia, Zenith Seeker, Scourge of the Throne, Terror of the Peaks, Lord of the Void, and Archfiend of Depravity to keep your opponents on the defensive.

#12 Alela, Artful Provocateur ($3)

A very budget-friendly option (but not the most wallet-friendly on this list), Alela, Artful Provocateur is a fun three-colored commander that is ran in slightly more than 5,400 decks.

Essentially the de-facto commander for faerie tribal, this "flying matters" commander is all about going wide and doing it in the air.  Faeries are, for the most part, quite low-cost and often have fun, useful abilities.  As for Alela, her mechanics are fine and her first ability -- the one providing a small offensive boon to your other flying creatures -- is a nice touch.  What really makes her shine, however, is her final ability, which can get out of hand if you build around her well.

Players running Alela are going to want to look for not just fun and useful faeries to include within the deck, buy also efficiently costed artifacts and enchantments to help ramp and provide anthem-like effects (respectively).  Cards like Sol Ring are, of course, auto-includes, but Alela players should also consider Talisman of Dominance and Talisman of Hierarchy, as well as stat-boosting enchantments like Favorable Winds, Etchings of the Chosen, and Intangible Virtue.  The new card from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, Reality Chip, could also prove useful.  And (of course) various faeries such as Vendilion Clique, Brazen Borrower, Sprite Noble, and so on.

#11 Meren of Clan Nel Toth ($8.75)

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 nearly 5,500 decks, this Golgari-colored 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 Priest of Forgotten Gods.  The deck often tends to run sac-to-use creatures like Spore Frog and Caustic Caterpillar, sac targets like Solemn Simulacrum, and cards that take advantage of one’s creatures’ deaths like Skullclamp and Dictate of Erebos.  Recursion-oriented cards like Eternal Witness, Regrowth, Animate Dead, and the new Takenuma, Abandoned Mire card are also great options for this deck.

#10 Omnath, Locus of Creation ($10)

Proven to be a beast in Standard and Modern, Omnath, Locus of Creation has found similar success in EDH.

Ran in nearly 5,750 decks, this card is an obvious "lands matters" commander with a ton of power.  And, even more so than in 60-card formats, it's not too difficult for a player to bring multiple lands into play on the same turn, thus allowing this four-color Omnath's various triggers to fire off with good regularity (which can often turn the tide of the game in your favor rather easily).

If you're looking to run Omnath, Locus of Creation as your commander, keep landfall and landfall-like abilities at the top of your mind, as well as ways to trigger those abilities as often as you can.  Land-fetching cards such as Kodama's Reach, Cultivate, and Scapeshift are examples of the many great options deckbuilders will find towards this end, as are lands that fetch other lands, like Fabled Passage, Prismatic Vista, and the various two-colored fetchlands like Windswept Heath and Misty Rainforest.

There are also myriad creatures with amazing synergy to consider when playing Omnath.  Risen Reef, Knight of the Reliquary, and Courser of Kruphix are just three such examples.

#9 Lathril, Blade of the Elves ($1)

It's another low-budget commander option that clocks in at number nine on this list and, like with the previous one, tribal is once again the word of the day.

Found heading up nearly 6,100 decks, Lathril, Blade of the Elves is a Golgari-colored card that cares not about the graveyard, but rather about building an elven army.  And, while she can help towards that endevor by making her own elves via combat damage, you can really support her second ability through many of the elf token generators at your disposal.  And, as for her final ability, it can be easy to abuse through a combination of simple combo pieces.

For building that army you'll need, look for cards like Dwynen's Elite, Elvish Warmaster, Elvish Promenade, and Elven Ambush.  And, to help you best use and abuse her last ability, mass-untap tech such as Copperhorn Scout, Mobilize, Vitalize, and Benefactor's Draught can help you get multiple uses in the same turn, and cards like Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose and Sanguine Bond also act as follow-up punches -- all of which can lead to one heck of a strong turn (maybe even a game-winning one).

#8 Sisay, Weatherlight Captain (70¢)

The final of the bargain bin cards to be on this list, Sisay, Weatherlight Captain is found at the helm of more than 6,100 decks.

This five-color commander has a tribal theme as well, per sé, but rather than focusing on a card's subtype as with the previous two on this list, Sisay cares about supertype.  Specifically, the "legendary" supertype.  As such, one shouldn't be surprised that decks running her have a ton of legendary synergy within.  And, not only can she tutor legendaries directly into the battlefield, she gets larger with the more you have out (up to being a 7/7 maximum).

With Sisay, players tend to go one of two ways.  First, you could look to build a legendary army to overwhelm your opponent (making Sisay larger and more fearsome along the way).  If you're looking to do that strategy, keep an eye out for useful legendary creatures like Halana and Alena, Partners, Arvad the Cursed, and Lavinia, Azorius Renegade.  Keep in mind that planeswalkers are also legendary, so options like Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God, Oko, Thief of Crowns, and Kaya the Inexorable are also worth considering.

The best build with Sisay, Weatherlight Captain, however might be to use her as your shrines commander.  All of the shrines from Champions of Kamigawa and Core Set 2021 are legendary, so it's quite easy to build into a shrine-based strategy and overwhelm your opponents via an ever-increasing burn.  And now, with a new batch of shrines found in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty (all of which are also legendary, by the way), don't be surprised of Sisay doesn't start going up even higher in popularity and price.

#7 Muldrotha, the Gravetide ($7)

Found in some 6,175 decks, the Dominaria card Muldrotha, the Gravetide has been a top-ten commander option for some time now.

The Sultai-colored Muldrotha is all about that graveyard.  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.  Also, the new legendary lands from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty -- Boseiju, Who Endures, Takenuma, Abandoned Mire, and Otawara, Soaring City -- also have great synergy with Muldrotha as the commander.

#6 The Ur-Dragon ($49)

Let’s face it.  Dragons are popular.  Heck (and spoiler alert), two of Magic's top 14 commanders currently are 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 nearly 6,300 decks, 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, Scourge of Valkas, and Scion of the Ur-Dragon.  Popular non-dragon (creature) cards feature the likes of Dragon Tempest, Dragon’s Hoard, Dragonspeaker Shaman, and Crucible of Fire, as are just generally good support cards like Rhythm of the Wild, Urza's Incubator, and Vanquisher's Banner

#5 Edgar Markov ($94)

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 almost 7,000 decks despite a nearly $100 price tag, Sorin’s grandfather (yes, he is Sorin’s poppop), is a three-color legendary (RWB) that 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 blood-suckers larger.  Rather, it happens upon the attack trigger, meaning that even those little 1/1s he makes through his Eminence ability can become quite formidable if unchecked.

Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of vampires that tend to make their way into Edgar Markov decks.  This often includes the likes of tried-and-true options such as Stromkirk Captain, Cordial Vampire, Captivating Vampire, Legion Lieutenant, Nighthawk Scavenger, and Bloodline Keeper.  And a number of the new vampire cards from Magic's recent jaunt back to the plane of Innistrad are also making appearances in Edgar decks, such as Welcoming Vampire, Edgar, Charmed Groom, and Olivia, Crimson Bride. Support cards like Phyrexian Arena, Black Market, Exquisite Blood, and Herald’s Horn are also commonly found in Edgar decks.

#4 Korvold, Fae-Cursed King ($10)

The second of two dragon commanders to make this list, Korvold, Fae-Cursed King stands apart from The Ur-Dragon in that, unlike the latter, he doesn't care about dragons.

Found heading up 7,150 or so decks currently, this three-colored commander is one of the best sacrifice strategy commanders out there right now.  Initially the face of the Throne of Eldraine brawl deck, Savage Hunger, the pre-constructed deck's blurb more-or-less says it all: "Devour your resources to feed and empower Korvold, then unleash his monstrous appetite on your opponents."  Whether you're talking leave-the-battlefield and sacrifice synergy through triggers, or simply knocking a player out via Korvold commander damage, that one sentence pretty much sums things up rather well.

When running this commander, keep an eye out for cards like Mayhem Devil, Dockside Extortionist, Viscera Seer, Zulaport Cutthroat, and Judith, the Scourge Diva.  The new Korvold-colored dragons from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty -- each of which have cool leaves-the-battlefield abilities -- are also good to consider.  Looking beyond creatures, cards like Goblin Bombardment, Dictate of Erebos, and Bastion of Remembrance are also good options to keep in mind.

#3 Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow ($16.75)

Ninjas are cool.  Even more so with Kamiagawa: Neon Dynasty launching at the end of the week, so 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 more than 7,300 decks, Yuriko is a popular commander card that doesn't empty the wallet too much to acquire and can be a blast to play.  She punishes players for YOU playing a deck full of mana-intensive cards.  What’s more, she can do this from the command zone thanks to her unique Commander ninjitsu ability should you 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 Ornithopter, 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 Deep Hours.  Deck manipulation cards like Brainstorm, Faerie Seer, Lim-Dûl's Vault, and Vampiric Tutor also help to set up that win condition.  Strionic Resonator (for double Yuriko triggers) is also great inclusions.

#2 Kenrith, the Returned King ($5.75)

One of three five-color commanders on this list (two of which are white cards, if you hadn't noticed), Kenrith, the Returned King is found as the commander of slightly more than 8,100 EDH decks.

Thanks to the King's five abilities (four of which target), there is a lot of combo synergy that can be had here.  Plus, thanks to his extremely low-costed red ability, which provides haste and trample to all creatures, he can provide a nice, hard hitting surprise whether for himself and/or for other creatures on the battlefield.

Largely because of this card's five-color versatility, there isn't one true way to build a Kenrith deck.  That, in part, may be why this card sees so much love as a commander.

Whether it's putting a +1/+1 counter on an opposing creature (only to gain control of it via a Willbreaker), bringing one of your big baddies back from the dead, swinging hard and fast, or simply gaining life (or, with the help of Tainted Remedy, making your opponents lose life), and drawing cards, Kenrith, the Returned King is a strong commander that, with the right combination of cards in play (such as a Phyrexian Altar and Peregrine Drake, for example) can go infinite.

#1 Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice ($32)

And finally, at the top of the list of the 14 most loved commanders over the past two years is 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 nearly 8,500, 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 Teferi, Master of Time, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, Narset Transcendent, Vraska the Unseen, and the newly-printed Tamiyo, Compleated Sage 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, Walking Ballista, Herald of Secret Streams, and Simic Ascendency.

Thirdly, there’s a popular Stax build that involves the likes of Ensnaring Bridge, Tangle Wire, Static Orb, Winter Orb, and Darksteel Reactor.

Of course, these are just the 14 most loved commanders for EDH right now.  With Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty coming out in just a few days, a bunch of new commanders will become available including Jin-Gitaxias, Progress Tyrant, Satoru Umezawa, and Hidetsugu, Devouring Chaos -- all of which have a chance of becoming extremely popular.

Time, as they say, will tell.