Last updated on July 12, 2022
Tymna the Weaver | Illustration by Winona Nelson
With Commander being Magic’s most popular format, it’s no surprise that lots of players search far and wide for commander rankings to pull ahead of their opponents. It might be a casual format but that doesn’t mean there’s no strategy involved. Whether that means getting the best precon or stocking your deck with the best cards, sometimes strategy is the fun part.
Rather than $40 precons, today I’ll be looking at the commanders at the helm of EDH decks that can go for upwards of $1000. Yes, you read that right: no cheap stuff. Here’s our official commander tier list for the best of the best, from the cream of the crop to just pure jank.
Phage the Untouchable | Illustration by Ron Spears
I’ll judge the commanders based on their performance at the helm of their strongest deck. This means that all casual etiquette goes out of the window; infinite combos, mass land destruction, fast mana, etc. are all fair game here.
There are a few key factors that I’m going to use to determine a commander’s placement:
- Speed. How quick is the deck? The faster your gameplan, the less time your opponents get to interact with you.
- Resiliency. If you have a deck that could threaten a win on turn 1 but it folds to Gut Shot, that’s an example of a deck that lacks resiliency. You need to be able to protect your gameplan and come back from situations that go awry.
- Number of Colors. When you disregard budget, you’ll find that the more colors you have in your commander’s color identity, the better. This gives you more versatility in what cards you can play and makes you less susceptible to hate pieces like Boil.
- Timing. A deck that can win on the stack is better than one that needs all of its pieces on the field. The same goes for a deck that can win on your opponent’s turn against one that can’t.
- Versatility. How many different wincons can the deck run?
- Card Quality. Some decks need more room for cards that are just combo pieces.
This is where the best of the best live. The very top of cEDH. This tier belongs to some of the fastest combo decks and the harshest of stax. These are the optimal decks to play assuming an “average” meta. With that being said, they can be outclassed by lower tier decks in specific situations. Tutors, fast mana, and infinite combos are the bread and butter of this tier, with most decks overflowing with plenty of each.
I’ll only be covering the top three, but there are a few other decks that go into this tier like Najeela, the Blade-Blossom and Tymna plus Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus. Golos, Tireless Pilgrim also belongs here as a Turbo Naus deck, but he’s arguably worse than Tymna and Thrasios at that playstyle.
Not only do these partners give you four colors but they also give you the two best colors in competitive Commander; blue and black. Tymna and Thrasios bring you some of the most important things in Commander at the helm of your deck.
Tymna gives you a card draw for each opponent you’ve damaged. This card advantage is so impactful that “it blocks Tymna” is a part of evaluating creatures for competitive Commander. Thrasios lets you use excess mana at the end of every turn cycle for some card advantage. He could also let you draw your deck if you’ve got infinite mana. Naturally this leads to Thassa’s Oracle victories.
Thrasios and Tymna are also very low mana cost with mana values of two and three respectively. This means you can get your commanders out on the battlefield extremely quickly. Before Flash was banned, these two were considered to be “tier 0,” meaning that they were the optimal duo to play in nearly all situations. Thankfully the banning has rectified this, although the pairing remains extremely potent.
Tymna and Thrasios are also great at pulling off a “Turbo Naus” strategy, where you play a very low average mana value deck and try to resolve Ad Nauseam as quickly as possible to pivot to a win.
The first point in Kenrith, The Returned King’s favor is simple: he’s a 5-color commander. This gives you access to all of the best cards across all five colors, which in turn enables you to play most competitive strategies. Kenrith also brings a lot to the table by himself. Although he’s a bit expensive at , he brings five different and useful effects. The only mode that tends to be irrelevant in competitive play is the lifegain.
With haste, reanimation, and card draw in the command zone, Kenrith decks are incredible at grinding out value and staying resilient. They can also easily employ combo lines that rely on already-good cards like Dockside Extortionist and Underworld Breach. This is amazing for minimizing the number of “dead” cards in a deck.
Kenrith can also easily be an outlet for infinite colored mana. This means that you don’t need another card to win the game once you’ve got infinite mana. Just use Kenrith to draw your deck and play Thassa’s Oracle.
Another point in Kenrith’s favor is that he’s a commander that’s very easy to build a casual deck with as well. Unlike Kess, Dissident Mage, Kenrith can easily be modified to hang with casual tables.
Kess is usually built as a Demonic Consultation / Tainted Pact commander. This means that the deck tries to win by using Pact or Consultation to mill itself and win with Thassa’s Oracle or another LabMan effect.
Kess is especially resilient because you can pull the combo off even if Pact or Consultation end up in the graveyard. There’s no reason to play Kess as an all-in combo deck because of this; you should play a more midrange game. You can also back your combo up with the counterspells you used to stop your opponents from winning if you’re doing it on your turn.
These are the decks that contain all the raw power that the tier 1 decks do but are just a little bit more meta-dependent. Some tier 1.5 decks can combo off faster than some tier 1s, but they usually lose out on resiliency to do it.
This tier contains all of cEDH’s mono-colored decks. These are viable in cEDH and might even be better than tier 1 decks in a known meta.
This is quite a large tier with the likes of Heliod, Sun-Crowned, Zur the Enchanter (care for a Zur-led EDH enchantment deck?), and many others representing it. Some of the most fun cEDH games can be put together with the variety of tier 1.5 commanders.
Godo, Bandit Warlord
Godo, Bandit Warlord is a fast combo/stax deck. Simply playing Godo and having the mana to equip Helm of the Host, which it can tutor, is enough to start infinite combat steps and kill all of your opponents thanks to its ability. This is often referred to as a “0-card” combo since you don’t need to have any specific cards in your hand to power out a win. This means that the deck doesn’t have to run any dead cards and can go all-in on ramping and protecting the combo.
If Godo has all these benefits, then why isn’t it tier 1? The answer is actually pretty simple: colors. Godo is a mono red commander, which means you doesn’t have access to some of the most powerful cards in the format. It also wins on the battlefield, meaning the deck can be pretty “soft” to removal as there’s only so many Fork effects you can play. On the other hand, these downsides allow Godo to play stax pieces like Blood Moon to punish your multicolored adversaries.
One of Magic’s most powerful characters in-universe finally got their own card, and what a card it is. If Urza, Lord High Artificer was multicolored, there’s no doubt that it’d be firmly in tier 1 or perhaps even tier 0.
Urza can play a variety of different strategies ranging from Polymorph-based combos to extremely resilient stax. One of its main advantages is that it not only makes it so that stax pieces like Winter Orb don’t affect you, but it also turns them into mana rocks! Urza is also an infinite mana outlet, letting you play your whole deck with infinite colorless and just a few blue mana.
Because of all these perks, Urza basically doesn’t need to dedicate any slots to a wincon. This makes the deck’s card quality one of the highest in cEDH.
One of cEDH’s pioneer decks and one of the most complex to pilot to date, The Gitrog Monster is a deck that evades categorization. Despite the steep mana cost of its commander, the deck is really quick, though not quite Godo-quick.
Whole tutorials have been made on how to execute some of Gitrog’s most complex combos. Once you’ve mastered this deck, you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world, especially as your opponents are unlikely to know all the game states you can combo from.
This is pretty much the only land-based strategy in cEDH, and for good reason. It’s quick, resilient, and has really high card quality.
Tier 2: cEDH Viable
Commanders in this tier are a bit suboptimal for cEDH. Their strategy might have one large flaw or there are simply better commanders out there. If pushed to their maximum, any 5-color or 4-color with blue can reach this rank thanks to sheer card-quality. Because of this I’ll start evaluating commanders by their general usefulness and power level a bit more rather than by their strongest deck.
Tutors, fast mana, and infinite combos are quite common in this tier, with most decks having at least a few of each. These commanders can usually hang at cEDH levels of play and might even be ideal for some niche metas, but they tend to be a step down from tier 1 and 1.5 commanders.
These are usually commanders that provide a lot of value like Edric, Spymaster of Trest, or that function as combo or stax pieces like Grand Arbiter Augustin IV and Marath, Will of the Wild. A lot of commanders that have extremely powerful effects but are very costly like Narset, Enlightened Master and Ramos, Dragon Engine go here.
Ghave, Guru of Spores is often referred to as the commander that goes “infinite with anything,” and that’s a pretty accurate name. Ghave is extremely easy to infinite with out of nowhere. In fact, making a Ghave deck that can’t assemble an infinite combo is quite the challenge.
So because of X, I get infinite +1/+1 counters. Because of infinite counters, I get infinite tokens. Because of infinite tokens, that means infinite mana, and because of infinite mana, you have to get me a cheeseburger. It all checks out, call the judge, I don’t care.
Lavinia, Azorius Renegade is one of those commanders that can actually be top dog at a cEDH table if everyone is playing the right kind of deck for it. Lavinia really thrives against high-speed combo decks.
This can be built many ways, though the most popular option is to build a stax deck looking to leverage Omen Pool combos. Lavinia one of those commanders that you can build at pretty much any power level since its own power scales down with your opponents’ power.
Muldrotha, the Gravetide is one of the most popular casual commanders and it’s easy to see why. It’s high-cost and provides a boatload of value when you stick it on the field.
Muldrotha decks generally play a midrange-y gameplan trying to fill your deck with a balance of different permanent types to get the most out of its effect. The biggest reason Muldrotha isn’t a true cEDH commander is that it doesn’t contribute much to most combos by itself and has a prohibitively high mana cost in that environment.
The high-power tier is for commanders that can be oppressive in casual play but are almost always the wrong deck to bring to a cEDH night. They’re often crowned “archenemy” at more casual tables and can be hard to find a place for unless you intentionally power them down to find the right table.
Tutors, fast mana, and infinite combos are rarer in this tier, but most decks will still have at least one combo and a few tutors.
Light-Paws, Emperor’s Voice
Light-Paws, Emperor’s Voice is a recent addition to this list from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty. The 2/2 for two has an ETB ability which tutors out any aura with a mana value less than its own and puts it into play attached to itself. It’s a wonderfully nasty ability that can get out of hand quickly, especially when you tutor out something like Sage’s Reverie or Ethereal Armor.
Despite having such unrivaled combat capabilities, Light-Paws, Emperor’s Voice is severely limited by the fact it wins through combat damage, putting all your cEDH eggs into one basket. It can easily kill in a one versus one scenario but fails to adequately take out the entire table. It’s the ultimate lightning rod, and people will keep that in mind the moment you put your commander into play.
Ever since its release The Locust God has been one of the archetypal high-power commanders. Making flyers with haste whenever you draw a card is an extremely powerful effect even without your commander being able to draw cards.
The Locust God combos with some cards that are already good in this type of strategy like Ashnod’s Altar and Skullclamp which can help you make as much mana and a bit fewer flyers than you have cards left in your library. You’ll usually see a lot of wheel effects like Wheel of Fortune and hand-shuffling effects like Arjun, the Shifting Flame.
Alesha, Who Smiles at Death is one of the most interesting reanimator commanders out there, behind maybe Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker. It has easy access to some great creature stax pieces like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben plus some compact combos it can drop from the graveyard.
Alesha is a great commander to play with if you’re looking for a high-variance game in the high-power tier. It also doesn’t suffer from the common issue of high-power commanders being difficult to power down.
Zada, Hedron Grinder is one of the quintessential creature-storm commanders. The gameplan of most Zada decks is simple: pump out a bunch of tokens alongside Zada and then use Crimson Wisps-like effects to draw a bunch of your deck. From there Zada uses anthems and rituals to assemble a lot of mana.
The deck offers you an opportunity to play unusual cards like Fiery Gambit to great success. It’s also one of the best decks to make with a low budget while still maintaining power.
This tier is where most casual decks live. We’re talking your average LGS commander pod. While the commanders used might be more powerful than the tier would suggest, that’s usually counteracted by most players not getting the most out of them. This tier has the highest number of commanders with interesting effects but they’re either too costly or too weak to be competitive material.
Tutors, fast mana, and infinite combos are practically nonexistent in this tier. Decks will sometimes have a few of them, but only very rarely. This is by far the most plentiful tier. Most commanders fall into this tier, and it’s also the place where creativity thrives the most.
Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker
Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker is one of the most interesting reanimation commanders out there, as I already mentioned. Being restricted to 1-drop creatures makes for some really fun deckbuilding decisions.
The deck generally needs to protect Shirei at all costs because without it, you’re just a deck with a bunch of bad 1-drop creatures. If you can manage to do that, though, Shirei is a threat to be reckoned with, especially once it gets a few Blood Artist effects going.
Odric, Master Tactician is a commander that tries to play a relatively fair game of Magic. There aren’t many combos that go into this commander, or really even that many synergies.
You want to make a big board of creatures and swing with them, either selecting that your opponent doesn’t block in order to finish them off or using Odric’s ability to pick how they block to serve as pseudo-removal. Soldier-tribal is also a very common way to play this commander.
Fun fact: In most Slavic languages, “Kraj” means “end.”
This is one of the few casual commanders that’s actually fond of infinite combos. Experiment Kraj can be played as a semi-combo commander. Obviously there’s the usual Simic +1/+1 tokens strategies, but you can also use Kraj’s ability to give it the activated ability of a creature that untaps itself, thereby creating an infinite loop.
The low-power tier is where you’ll find most of the simply suboptimal commanders. Why would you play Jugan, The Rising Star instead of most other green +1/+1 commanders if all you’re looking for is power level?
The tier also has some of the more unique commanders in the game that simply drew the wrong end of the power curve. There might not even be anything weak about the commander itself. Aboshan, Cephalid Emperor is a perfectly fine tribal commander, it just so happens that there aren’t many strong cephalids.
Tutors, fast mana, and infinite combos generally aren’t played in this tier. Decks might have some very rarely, but never if it doesn’t fit with the “theme” of the deck.
Celestial Kirin is one of the more unique white commanders out there. The biggest things holding it back is that white is notoriously bad in Commander and that Kirin’s effect makes it very difficult to win the game since it wipes your own permanents, too. Cards like Ugin’s Conjurant are great in this deck because they let you wipe the board with a cost of your choosing.
This is one effect that’s just straight-up underpowered. If Eutropia the Twice-Favored granted flying permanently then it might be able keep up with some of the stronger commanders. But getting a +1/+1 counter as payoff for playing an enchantment is just too weak. The deck generally plays very similar cards to most other enchantress lists, leaning a bit more heavily on enchantment creatures.
Despite the cool art, Adamaro, First to Desire has difficulty proving an effective commander. It naturally leans towards Voltron-style builds with its effect but there are very few effects that allow you to manipulate your opponent’s hand in red.
If there were a new card that let you give an opponent free cards in hand, preferably above the hand-size limit, Adamaro might get a bit better, but it’s unlikely to ever reach high-power play.
This tier consists of commanders that are strictly worse, usually by a wide margin, than other available options. This is where all of the vanilla commanders from Legends go. With that being said, there are some interesting options that simply take too much effort to pull off to really be worth it.
Phage the Untouchable
After reading Phage the Untouchable’s effect, you might be wondering how decks using it can even get it onto the field. You’ll generally use effects that either stop the end step from occurring like Sundial of the Infinite or ones that prevent you losing the game like Platinum Angel.
Phage also doesn’t have any evasion, so getting it to actually connect with your opponent can be pretty difficult.
Yet another conundrum is Haakon, Stromgald Scourge. Once you manage to get it into the graveyard it’s actually quite a force to be reckoned with, but doing that can be really difficult.
The only way currently in the format to get Haakon outside of the command zone is Command Beacon. This means that the deck will play a lot of tutors to find it and then attempt to discard Haakon with Tortured Existence and the like.
Lavinia, Azorius Renegade | Illustration by Steven Belledin
There’s a lot of different power-levels in Commander, and I could probably split each of these tiers into two or three if I wanted to. They’re just here to give you a general idea of the power-level you can expect from them.
Tiers tend to matter more the higher up you climb. While three casual decks have a solid chance in a pod with one high-power deck, three high-power decks will be hard-pressed to eke out a win against a fully optimized Kenrith, The Returned King. The most important thing is to talk with your playgroup before the game starts.
But what about you, dear reader; What tier is your favorite to play at? What’s your favorite underrated Commander? Let me know in the comments below, or head over to our Discord if that’s more your style. Commander has yet to come to Arena, but there’s still plenty to play on Magic’s digital platform, so make sure you’ve got Arena Tutor to guide you through your Mastery progress!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: