There’s not much I enjoy more than game nights with friends. One of my favorite games is a variant of the popular and infamously complex card game Magic: the Gathering, called Commander.
While I enjoy the multiplayer aspects of Commander, what I really LOVE is “brewing,” or designing decks. Coming up with pieces, combos, and synergies and then finding the perfect “99” cards to go with a particular commander.
Over the last 5 years, I’ve brewed, built, and played 48 commander decks in almost every color combination and archetype. Now, as a fun exercise, I'll discuss and rate them all!
Things to note:
- Most of these were built on a budget, so many deck choices were suboptimal.
- My playgroup resides in the mid-power 6-8 range, so power level and fun-factor were considered within that context.
- I never had more than 2 “physical” paper decks at the same time (I wish I had held on to many of the cards I traded in to build new decks, like Teferi’s Protection).
- I’m also a big proponent of proxies in casual games with friends; more than half of these decks were simply printed out or sharpied and sleeved over basic lands.
- Many of these commanders are more reliant on what the “99” other cards look like - you can build very powerful commanders like “Ghave, Guru of Spores” and then have the surrounding cards be spore tribal. Conversely, some commanders on this list, like “Adun Oakenshield,” have close to no impact on a deck’s fun factor or power level.
For each deck, I’m going to give it a power-level score out of 10. However, where they sit in my ranking is purely based on personal preference - how fun they were to build and pilot.
To jump to a particular section:
These decks are either so under-powered or boring they're not fun to play.
48. Sefris of the Hidden Ways - 4
Enter the Gungeon
I played the Sefris precon at a LGS commander brawl for the Adeventures in the Forgotten Realms decks. Before I got home I had taken it apart for pieces. The deck is fine - I won a few games - but mostly because it has the shell of an esper control deck. Sefris commands one of the most underpowered and unexciting mechanics in a while, dungeons, for which almost every relevant card is rarely Standard playabale let alone EDH. Case in point - “dungeon descent,” a land that allows you to venture into the dungeon (meaning scry 1) if you tap 4 mana (not including the dungeon descent), plus an untapped legendary creature.
47. Adun Oakenshield - 4
Have you heard of this commander before? I thought so. It’s old, and it’s pretty bad. I thought it would be a fun commander for a jund midrange deck, but ultimately the deck was just not what I had hoped it would be.
46. Arabbo, Roar of the Wild - 5
Dogs are Better
Arrabo was a boring precon to pilot. At the time, cat tribal was still lacking support, and the pieces that existed were also not super interesting. Arrabo also has the worst of the eminence abilities, by quite a lot. But hey, it came with some decent equipment.
45. Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons - 5
Hapatra is unique in that she's a -1/-1 counter deck. Unfortunately, -1/-1 counters are weak in commander, and their support cards (with a few notable exclusions) are similarly low-powered. However, you get to play "Black Sun's Zenith" and several cards that synergize together well.
44. Arixemethes, Slumbering Isle - 5
My Sleep Schedule
Sea monster tribal! The biggest problem this budget deck has is that it’s really slow - it’s essentially 8-drop tribal. Depending on your surrounding simic shell that could still be good (because simic walue), but my particular build was pretty weak. Still, in the right pod, this deck is very fun, allowing you to embrace your inner Timmy and play big beasts. Plus, you get to play all the other blue board wipes that are terrible in any other archetype.
43. Atraxa, Praetor's Voice - 5
Legends Never Die
Wait, what! Atraxa, this low?! My friends can vouch, not even Atraxa can make up for how bad “Saga tribal” is in commander, particularly when you’re playing a budget build. The incremental value is just too slow in a format where you have to wait an entire turn cycle to get a single trigger.
These decks mostly have the opposite problem to the ones in the previous tier; they're so overpowered and linear in their play patterns that they are actively not fun for the rest of the table.
42. Neheb, the Eternal - 5
Burn, Witcher Burn
Neheb makes mana when he deals damage. Then he uses that mana to cast burn spells to the face. This makes people target this deck as more of a threat than it truly is. However, this is a great deck for mono-red players like my friend who played it despite its power level.
41. Golos tireless pilgrim - 9
No Wheat Equals Defeat
I proxied Golos as a flavor-based Catan-themed deck for one of my friends, where the basic lands were “resource cards,” ramp spells were development cards, and guildgates were victory points, with the goal being to win with Maze’s end (by having all 10 victory points). Even in that extremely casual shell, Golos is busted.
40. Tatyova, Benthic Druid - 9
I put Tatyova together for a friend. It’s an uncommon, it’ll be low-powered fun! Nope - this deck is brutally powerful and consistent, rewarding you handsomely for just playing magic. The extra turns made it even more frustrating to play against. One of very few decks my playgroup house-banned.
39. Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow - 10
Silent But Deadly
Yuriko was incredibly fun to play. It was also so oppressive that it is one of only 3 commanders on this list to be house-banned. Turns out flipping over Temporal Trespass to dome everyone for 10 life every turn is a fast and dangerous clock that is also extremely difficult to interact with. The deck lands this low because it was so un-fun for the rest of the table.
38. Edric, Spymaster of Trest - 10
Edric is similar to Yuriko in that it is bonkers powerful, but it’s also way more consistent. A side effect of that is that Edric is that he tends to be very linear in his play patterns, making him a boring commander to play with and against.
37. Najeela, the Blade Blossom - 10
Warriors, by Imagine Dragons
Another commander I proxied for a friend, Najeela was so powerful we house-banned it. It consistently took over the board, recovered from board wipes, and could win the game far faster than any other commanders we’ve played with. Totally busted.
These decks are not as powerful as the previous tier, and enjoyable to play. While they may have cool synergies or combos, they may not always have been fun for the whole table.
36. Zndrsplt + Okaun - 6
Coinflip tribal! This was a chaos deck through and through - albiet a low-powered one. Randomness is fun in small doses, but I personally find it to be frustrating for luck to become so central to success in a game generally defined by strategic play patterns. Krark's thumb (and his other thumb) are MVPs!
35. Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer - 6
What Could It Be Now
I proxied this morph tribal commander for one of my friends. Morphs are a fun mechanic because there's always some possibility that your opponents could have something relevant or powerful underneath them, and surprise you. They're also relatively interactive and flip at instant speed. Unfortunately, this causes some players to regard morphs as a bigger threat than they truly are, and in reality, there's only so many decent morphs out there. But hey, at least the deck didn't have a ton of "mega-morphs."
34. Sinai + Eligeth - 6
Scry Me a River
This deck is unique because the initial list was created by one of my friends for me. He knew I love drawing cards, and so the synergy here was quite fantastic. This deck is a blast to play (if you like durdeling around and drawing firstfulls of cards). On the other hand, it lacks almost any interaction whatsoever. Fun for a mono blue deck.
33. Inalla, Archmage Ritualist - 6
Renalla of the Full Moon
Inalla was the second tribal commander I put together, and it's a cool one. Doubling the ETB triggers for every wizard can lead to some sweet shenanigans, particularly when those wizards double effects (like "Dualcaster Mage").
32. Naban, Dean of Iteration - 6
Naban also doubles Wizard enter-the-battlefield effects - but he does it for free! Naban is a "Panharmonicon" for wizards, and as a mono-colored deck allows for some awesome value with cards like "Barrin, Tolarian Archmage." Plus, cards like "Azami, Lady of Scrolls" let you draw all the cards.
31. Tuvasa, the Sunlit - 8
“Have Fun Not Playing”
Tuvasa can be built in many different ways. Suffice to say, stax enchantress is rarely fun for the table. You do draw a lot of cards though…
30. Kozilek, the Great Distortion - 8
Humungous Hasty Tentacle Monsters
Kozilek lets you counter anything by discarding a card with an equal CMC cost. Most MTG players dislike being repeatedly countered. They also dislike being smacked by giant hasty eldrazi that make them sacrifice their boards.
29. Marchesa, the Black Rose - 8
What's Yours is Mine - And Now it's Sacrificed
Threaten effects aren’t usually good in commander - but I built this whole deck around stealing your cards and then sacrificing them. While it rarely won, this deck made a lot of enemies. When Marchesa is out, the only person who keeps their board is the person with Marchesa.
28. Kess, Dissident Mage - 8
The scraps of Inalla became the grixis storm shell for Kess. Kess is a fun commander with some power that can be built in many ways. I ultimately took it apart because the storm-nature of the deck led to many “solitare”-style turns that were unfun for the table. If this category hasn’t made it clear - from experience, Magic players want to play Magic, and dislike commanders or effects that prevent them from doing that.
27. Brudiclad - 7
This deck likely has the most cool synergies out of any on this list. You create big tokens, like from "Reef Worm," and then you get to clone those tokens by creating janky servos, thopters, and treasures. Plus, this is a standout deck for one of my favorite cards, "Rite of Replication."
26. Akiri + Tymna - 7
This is a mardu partner deck focusing on artifacts! Based on Jumbo Commander's Akiri and Tymna list, this list took advantage of the sweet synergies between artifacts. Cards like "Goblin Welder," "Arcbound Ravager," and "Cranial Plating" were particular standouts.
25. Edgar Markov - 8
Edgar is an interesting beast. As my first EDH deck ever, it was a fairly simple deck to pilot out of the box. Over time, I made changes to add more lower-cost vampires and trigger his eminence ability (which is broken). I loved playing Edgar, but he gets fairly repetitive - as with all tribal decks, you just play creatures and hope they survive. His fearsome reputation in casual circles is earned.
These decks were not always powerful enough to win many games, but very fun to play.
24. Braids, Conjurer Adept - 8
Welcome, Class. It’s Show & Tell Time!
Braids is an untraditional group hug commander. It gives everyone an incredibly powerful effect with the hope that you’ll be able to take better advantage of it than everyone else. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. This can make Braids a big target, but there’s no denying that any game where Braids comes out is exciting.
23. Gargos, Vicious Watcher - 7
Also known as X-spell hydra tribal! Gargos is big and green - one of the best mono-colors. Backed up by strong card draw and ramp, these hydras take down a table quickly. I usually gave this proxied deck to a friend - and he won a high percentage of the time with it.
22. Tasigur, the Golden Fang - 8
Political Banana Boi
Tasigur is fun to play against because he’s so interactive and versatile. You can manipulate your graveyard so that your opponent needs to return the card you want, or you can dump your deck into your bin, essentially creating a second hand. It’s card advantage with selection - which is powerful - but it’s also working to help your opponents keep everyone in check. Tasigur leads to more stable games and is highly reactive. My build included a lot of voting and team-up cards, which leaned further into the banana man’s political tendencies.
21. Ludevic + Ikra Shidiqi - 6
Whatever You Can Do, I Do Better
Based on the deck with a similar theme from Game Knight’s first fan episode, this deck is a combination of political cards and clone tribal. What this means in practice is that it’s only ever as powerful as the other decks it’s playing against. I also love playing with cards from other player's decks, so that gives it a bonus as well.
20. Zeddru the Greathearted - 7
Who doesn’t like gifts?! I like my political decks, and Zeddru is once again one of those (I’m sensing a theme in this category). This deck had many gifts - some exciting, some malicious - and depending on how friendly you were, you’d end up with one or the other. Add in some group hug effects and this deck was a hit.
19. Kasetto, Orochi Archmage - 6
Sssssnakessss Sssshhalll Poisssson You
One word: infect. Kasetto grants unblockable, which turns your "Orhan Viper" and "Blight Mamba" into serious threats - particularly after you cast "Triumph of the Hordes."
18. Unesh, Criosphinx Sovereign - 6
I Sphinx, Therefore I Am
A mini "Fact or Fiction" whenever you play a Sphinx? Unesh is an underrated tribal powerhouse. Sphinxes almost always have card advantage attached to them and have evasion (great for combat). They're also in one of the best colors for interaction and protection. Only downside - the deck's average CMC is 6+.
17. Lord Windgrace - 7
Jund em' out with lands. It misses some of the sweet card draw of Tatyova or Aesi, but "Lord Windgrace" provides plenty of card advantage. Combining the best of the graveyard-based lands-matter commanders of "The Gitrog Monster" and "Titania, Protector of Agaroth," the deck allows for some explosive "Worm Harvests."
16. The Scarab God - 7
The bane of Hour of Devastation standard, "The Scarab God" was a zombie-tribal deck with the political twist of turning your opponent's threats against them. It's a fun and balanced commander with a few sweet tribal payoffs like "Rooftop Storm."
15. The Locust God - 7
Wheels! This deck draws all the cards (by discarding all the cards). In the meantime, it makes bugs. "Skullclamp" is even more broken in this deck than usual. Don't get me started on "Dream Halls."
14. Chevill, Bane of Monsters - 6
Toss a Coin to Your Witcher
The gimmick with this deck is that “Chevill, Bane of Monsters” is very clearly “Geralt of Rivia,” and so I built a deck with entirely custom proxy art from open-source Gwent folders where each card needed to represent a specific character, item, or event from the Witcher books, show, and games. This led to some… less than optimal deck inclusions.
These decks fall in the sweet spot between power level and fun factor (both for the person playing it and the rest of the table)
13. Karador, Ghost Chieftan - 7
Love That Grind
Graveyard shenanigans! Play creatures with cool effects, sac them for value, and play them again. Karador turns your yard into a second hand, and adds white mana for even more possibilites including "Revilark" and "Karmic Guide." Seige Rhino loops - Magic as Richard Garfield intended.
12. Muldrotha, the Gravetide - 8
This was a deck I built and ultimately gave to a friend. It's fundamentally a sultai pile of value. Like Karador, by transforming your graveyard into a second hand, Muldrotha allows the chaining of permanents for maximum durdelage. Cards like "Mystic Remora" and "Caustic Caterpillar" are particularly fun to loop.
11. Animar, Soul of the Elements - 7
Animar enables some crazy combos (particularly infinite ones with "Ancestral Statue"), but with morphs, it becomes a more balanced and reactive deck. There's lots of interactivity, but with the ability to dump your hand onto the board that only Animar provides. With cards like "Beast Whisperer," "The Great Henge," and "Soul of the Harvest," the deck is able to become a creature storm. And as a bonus, you can play stuff like "Primal Surge!"
10. Gishath, Sun's Avatar - 7
Horizon Zero Dawn
Dinosaur tribal looks janky but is legitimately powerful when led by a hasty T-rex that can dump more dinosaurs on to the battlefield from your deck. Enrage synergies allows this deck to reach the next level and provides political power when in combat. Plus, nobody can complain when they die to a bunch of dinos!
9. Omnath, Locus of Range - 8
Big Angry Red & Green Jellybean
Play lands, make 5/5's, draw cards, deal damage. The angry bean is everything you want in a gruul deck. It's strong and easily rebounds from a board wipe, with plenty of synergy and a high overall win rate. If anything, this deck suffers from having (usually) the best board state, leading to becoming archenemy some amount of the time. It's easy to pick up and play which made it a particularly great deck for new or returning casual commander players - I proxied this up and often lent it to a friend.
8. Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis - 7
Wasn't Banned In This Format
Hogaak was an incredibly unique commander. The synergy among dumping cards in the bin and then getting value out of that second hand is exactly the kind of durdeling I look for in a commander deck. Plus, Hogaak's size enables shenanigans with effects that draw cards or tutor lands equal to the greatest power when sacrificed - like "Life's Legacy" or "Greater Good." A blast to play and surprisingly fair (for a commander that cannot be cast normally).
7. Sram, Senior Edificer - 7
Good Mono-White Card-Draw?!
Sram is arguably one of the best card-draw commanders ever printed. And he's in white! This deck wants to play a ton of equipment, and it's very strong when firing on all cylinders. One of my friends built a sram deck that was always impressive to play against, and somehow managed to consistently turn the 2/2 Sram into a legitimate threat.
These are my all-time favorite decks - fun to play, powerful enough to win some games but not oppressive, and fun to brew.
6. Lonis, Cryptozooologist - 6
Haven't Got A Clue
My favorite (all-time) card is "Tireless Tracker." This is a commander deck built almost entirely around getting Tireless Tracker on the table and abusing its abilities. An "investigate" themed deck, with birthing-pod effects to tutor it out, and land ramp effects to make more clues - everything a tracker needs. Despite being simic, the deck constraints of using small dorks over spells leads to it being much lower-powered. While it doesn't win often, it still usually succeeds at what it's trying to do (which is durdle around and draw cards). Unless "Academy Manufacterer" is out, in which case this deck is busted.
5. Queen Marchesa - 7
Long Live the Queen
"The Monarch" is the best multiplayer mechanic ever created in Magic’s history. Queen Marchesa adds it to the game from the command zone on a reasonable body. Must I say more? What I like about Marchesa is that she’s inconspicuous, and can be built in myriad ways. I actually brewed 3 different Marchesa decks - a political-themed one (vote for death or taxes), a token deck, and a pillowfort deck. Mardu (white-black-red) is one of my favorite color combos, and I'm always excited to see another player pull out a Queen Marchesa deck.
Decklist Decklist 2 Decklist 3
4. Selvala, Heart of the Wilds - 7
It Isn't Easy Being Green
I started out a dirty blue player, but ever since playing 3 years of modern elves (which are very bad), I'm officially a green mage. Selvala is the culmination of that archetype - play big beefy green creatures, draw cards, and deal damage. Selvala in particular has the fun effect of helping everyone draw cards, although naturally her effect usually benefits you more. Plus, Selvala can tap for outrageous amounts of mana with the right board state. I particularly love effects equal to the greatest power among creatures you control, like drawing cards with "Return of the Wildspeaker" or tutoring lands with "Traverse the Outlands."
3. Maelstrom Wanderer - 7
Storm the Castle!
This deck was basically a "spin the wheel" temur fun-cards tribal. With a game plan of "ramp, ramp, ramp, cast commander, CASCADE, CASCADE," it was a blast to pilot. "Balefire Dragon" and "Pathbreaker Ibex" combined for some crazy starts, and I got to play some personal favorites like "Mind's Dilation," "Spelltwine," and "Season's Past." Temur (Blue-red-green) is one of (if not) my favorite color combinations, and I love every card in the deck and their synergies. I no longer have this deck in person, but I have recreated it on MTGO to continue cascading. Plus, "Ghalta, Primal Hunger" is a solid swap-out commander.
2. Vial Smasher/Thrasios - 8
Save The Earth
Vial Smasher & Thrasios was one of my first custom decks not based on a precon. They went through many iterations - starting out similar to Josh Lee Kwai's build with "Expropriate" and Eldrazi, and eventually becoming a lands-matter "hidden froggy" deck where I got to play all the cards. Big winners from the intial version were Kaeravak the Merciless and Void Winnower. For my friends that played decks that primarily won through combat damage, "Glacial Chasm" and "Constant Mists" were particularly frustrating.
1. Niv Mizzet Reborn - 7
The only deck I still currently have built in paper. Niv Mizzet is everything I look for in a commander - interactive, political, it draws cards and durdles around. It's not too powerful but can win a few games. Niv has an inherent degree of randomness so that games feel different. Moreover, the deck is constructed in a way where a lot of the cards can be swapped in or out to increase or decrease the power level. What more can you ask for?
Thanks for reading :)