Last updated on April 30, 2023

The Ur-Dragon - Illustration by Jaime Jones

The Ur-Dragon | Illustration by Jaime Jones

I love Magic mechanics that are “controversial” among fans. I’ll make a safe bet that almost no one thinks flying or trample are terrible or broken mechanics. They’re good, they add depth to the game, and that’s it.

But then you have the mechanics that have fans divided. Storm, dredge, annihilator, cascade, phyrexian mana, infect. The mechanics that twist the game in fascinating ways but sometimes twist it a little too much and end up warping it.

Today I want to talk about Commander’s very own exclusive and controversial mechanic: eminence.

How Does Eminence Work?

Inalla, Archmage Ritualist - Illustration by Yongjae Choi

Inalla, Archmage Ritualist | Illustration by Yongjae Choi

Eminence is an ability word that grants your commander an extra tribal effect as long as it’s on the battlefield or in the command zone. It’s a straightforward mechanic in and of itself. Every card with the eminence mechanic is designed to be an exclusively tribal commander since it’s the only real way to take proper advantage of its power.

The History of Eminence in MTG

This is probably the shortest history of any mechanic so far. Eminence was created for Commander 2017 where it was featured on its four main commanders. That was the first and last time the ability showed up and it’s safe to say we’re unlikely to see it again any time soon.

The truth of the matter is that eminence wasn’t too well received, and it seems to be off the table for new cards.

How Many Eminence Commanders Are There?

There are exactly four commanders with the eminence ability.

You could count Oloro, Ageless Ascetic since its ability is really similar to eminence minus the tribal aspect. If you reach a little further you could also count Derevi, Empyrial Tactician and Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow as eminence-adjacent commanders thanks to their command zone abilities. But similar to eminence as these may be, they don’t actually have the keyword anywhere on the card.

Is Eminence an Activated Ability?

Edgar Markov - Illustration by Volkan Baga

Edgar Markov | Illustration by Volkan Baga

Eminence is an ability word that groups a series of cards with similar or identical effects. It allows for certain abilities to be used as long as a specific criteria is met.

While eminence is an ability word and has no real effect on the rules, none of the cards with it have an activated eminence ability either. Three of them have triggered abilities while The Ur-Dragon has a cost-reduction ability for your other dragons.

Is There Any Way to Counter or Deal with Eminence?

There isn’t really any proper way to deal with eminence. Since any effect that removes a commander from the game only sends it back to the command zone there’s really no way to get rid of their eminence ability.

What Happens if an Eminence Commander is Put into the Command Zone with its Ability on the Stack?

If a commander whose eminence ability triggers is put into the command zone before that ability can resolve, the ability doesn’t do anything. That’s basically the only way to prevent eminence from actually doing anything if only for a short while.

Eminence Card List and Rankings

#4. Inalla, Archmage Ritualist

Inalla, Archmage Ritualist

Inalla, Archmage Ritualist is easily the least played of the four eminence commanders. Its eminence ability isn’t terrible by any means, but it’s hard to put it at the top of the list when there are so many good wizards out there.

Inalla still sees some play thanks to its eminence ability’s replicating effect and it has some interesting combos if you know how to break it, but there are easier ways to go about combo-ing with a Grixis wizard deck.

#3. Arahbo, Roar of the World

Arahbo, Roar of the World

Arahbo, Road of the Wild is probably the best commander for a cat tribal deck out there. There are quite a few legendary cats but most of them don’t really work in a tribal build. Arahbo’s two abilities are entirely focused on the other cats in your deck and making them attack.

This card’s eminence ability is at its strongest during the early stages of a match. Giving a creature +3/+3 at the beginning of combat won’t make all that much difference once your opponents have more solid board states. But having it on turn 2 with a Steppe Lynx and a land can help you rush some damage early on. The longer the game goes on the more this ability becomes a small support ability.

#2. The Ur-Dragon

The Ur-Dragon

I personally love The Ur-Dragon as a dragon commander. Is it the best 5-color dragon commander? Probably not. But I enjoy playing it a lot and I think it has a nice balance. Its eminence ability lets you go faster in a deck that desperately needs it since most of its creatures are extremely expensive, and it knows quite a lot about being expensive.

The thing about this card is that attacking with as many dragons as you can while it’s on the battlefield can turn the game around, even if it’s very expensive. Drawing anywhere between one and a potentially infinite number of cards depending on how many dragons you attack with is strong enough by itself. But you also get to cheat any one permanent from your hand into play right after you draw a huge number of cards.

But beware removal because The Ur-Dragon is always one of the biggest targets at the table.

#1. Edgar Markov

Edgar Markov

If you play regular multiplayer Commander then Edgar Markov is just a very solid vampire tribal commander. You get a 1/1 token whenever you play a vampire which makes it exploitable, but most decks only have it as a secondary advantage. Playing Edgar Markov and attacking with it gives you some really interesting benefits.

If you play Duel Commander then you probably know that this card is banned thanks to how absolutely broken it was in that format. Making extra tokens for every vampire you play isn’t a huge advantage in a multiplayer game. But having to face eight or nine creatures on turn 3 or 4 can be extremely discouraging.

You can obviously still play it as a Duel commander with friends if they agree to it, but keep in mind that it might be a controversial deck.

Wrap Up

Arahbo, Roar of the World - Illustration by Jesper Ejsing

Arahbo, Roar of the World | Illustration by Jesper Ejsing

There really isn’t all that much to say about eminence. The abilities are fun, but they can also be kind of annoying since they interact with the game in a weird way. Not everyone likes an ability that’s essentially a free emblem. I kinda like that you can’t really build around it like other abilities since it’s just a tribal ability. Just build a tribal deck.

I doubt we’ll ever see eminence come back, but I’d love to see some similar abilities around other tribes. I think they can be a fun space for innovative and experimental designs as long as they’re not too broken.

What do you think? Do you like eminence? Do you hate that one person in your playgroup who always plays dragons with extremely reduced costs? Do you want to see this mechanic return, or would you rather it stays gone? Let me know in the comments below and make sure to drop by our Discord and join our community.

That’s all from me for now. Have a good one, and I’ll see you next time!

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