Last updated on April 30, 2023
Chulane, Teller of Tales | Illustration by Victor Adame Minguez
If you read my other rankings of tri-color commanders you’ll remember something I said in each one: Commander is a format of choice.
Choosing a color (or colors!), choosing a commander, and choosing a theme are all important and unexpectedly difficult decisions every EDH player has to go through before building a new deck. If you’re like me and build a new one every week(albeit online), then you’ve probably been around each color combination more than once. But I’ve found that many players haven’t, and even worse that they haven’t delved into the color shard of Bant ().
Bant is an efficient and proactive color shard that many blue and green players enjoy. Today I’m going to tell you why you should choose a Bant commander, give you a list of some to think about, and end off with a Bant decklist to get the gears in your mind turning.
Let’s get started!
Why Go with a Bant Commander?
Tuvasa the Sunlit | Illustration by Eric Deschamps
Bant offers a clean and efficient playstyle that enjoys playing the value game through proactive defensive spells and efficient creatures.
White and blue get even better when you have access to fast mana since many of their big threats and removal demand to colorless mana plus their main colors. Green brings large creatures and enchantment/artifact removal to keep your opponents on their toes.
You’ll enjoy Bant if you enjoy ramping into a strong tap-out control playstyle, and you should definitely read on and look at some of the best commanders in this wedge.
First on the rankings today is a sort of classic and under-estimated commander, Phelddagrif! This is one of the first group hug commanders, a strategy that revolves around giving everyone (including you) plenty of resources which not only supplies you with your own combo pieces and threats but prevents you from becoming too big of a threat.
Group hug defends itself through an incentive to not be killed with passive enchantments that benefit the entire table, like Dictate of Kruphix and Rites of Flourishing that give table-wide card draw. These strategies also give self-specific benefit to themselves to slightly pull ahead in the long game on top of defending itself. Tidal Barracuda and Rootweaver Druid both give you extra benefits that can easily be rationalized to your adversaries since they don’t specifically lose anything from them.
Game-enders and win conditions are the most important part of a group hug strategy. It can be easy to get caught up in table-wide benefits and defensive buildup which could create a security dilemma of sorts. Combo is the most efficient and consistent way to win since you naturally have card advantage from your group hug pieces plus plenty of time to put them together from not being killed.
There are a couple main combo lines with the most prominent being Deadeye Navigator paired with Peregrine Drake for infinite mana to deck your opponents with your commander’s activated abilities. There are also lines with Thassa's Oracle or Laboratory Maniac to win by drawing all the cards in your deck and then dropping them to win on the spot. Approach of the Second Sun can also be an excellent choice in lower-power decks. Bant can run plenty of sorcery tutors like Personal Tutor that can make it a 2-turn combo.
#7. Rafiq of the Many
In 7th place is Rafiq of the Many, a commander from all the way back in Shards of Alara that’s most often used in exalted-based decks. Exalted is a keyword that gives a creature attacking alone +1/+1 until end of turn.
Rafiq gives double strike on top of the counters which further incentivizes you to play around it. Bant has access to lots of powerful cards with exalted, most notably Noble Hierarch which has seen play across a multitude of Magic formats.
Exalted is a mechanic that starts to add up on its own and can turn mediocre attackers like Silent Arbiter into powerful synergistic cards. Rafiq’s double strike bonus also plays a big role in this deck’s success. Dealing double damage is incredible as you can imagine, even more so when you start taking commander damage into account.
Since you’re running a straightforward exalted theme most of your creature base will be whatever creatures have exalted and seem playable. You usually want to attack with your commander anyway, but you can make anything into a threat with enough exalted stacks.
The best exalted cards to pick up are Ethercaste Knight, Court Archers, Silent Arbiter, Stoic Angel, Noble Hierarch, and Shield of the Oversoul. There are also tons of auras and enchantments you can play since you’re already trying to swing in with one mega attacker. Steel of the Godhead, Mantle of the Ancients, and Rancor are great examples but there are plenty for you to choose from.
#6. Tuvasa the Sunlit
In 6th place is a heavily enchantment-based commander from Commander 2018, Tuvasa the Sunlit. Tuvasa makes your first enchantment each turn neutral at least and gets +1/+1 for each enchantment you control.
Selesnya is a very enchantment-heavy color combination and there are lots of powerful ones in blue that make Bant an optimal tri-color for enchantment-based strategies. Just think about Propaganda, Rhystic Study, or Mirrormade in your run-of-the-mill Selesnya Enchantress deck. That is what you get to play with when you have Tuvasa in the command zone.
Enchantment (sometimes called “Enchantress” in homage to Verduran Enchantress) decks succeed with card-positive interactions and spells that allow you to spend as much mana as possible and resolve plenty of powerful enchantments each turn. You ideally draw multiple cards per enchantment and start spinning out of control with +1/+1 counters, lifegain, and card draw thanks to a bunch of triggers. That’s exactly what you should aim for with any enchantment-based Commander deck, and Tuvasa the Sunlit is no exception.
Your best and most important cards are those that draw when you play other enchantments, like Enchantress's Presence, Verduran Enchantress, Eidolon of Blossoms, Mesa Enchantress, Sythis, Harvest's Hand, and Setessan Champion. Resolving even one of these makes your game feel somuch better and being able to have two or three out turns you into an unstoppable force very quickly.
As for the actual enchantments you want to play, most of them are very efficient and value-centric but there are some bombs. Mirari's Wake gives you incredible mana while buffing your board. Easy removal can be found in Darksteel Mutation, Imprisoned in the Moon or Grasp of Fate. Privileged Position keeps your permanents secure from removal like Krosan Grip.
In terms of actually killing players, your commander, Sigil of the Empty Throne, Nylea's Colossus, and Ajani's Chosen will take you a long way.
#5. Estrid, the Masked
Starting off the top five is Estrid, the Masked, another enchantment-based commander that focuses more on auras rather than static-ability enchantments. Estrid is also the only planeswalker on this list which makes it a unique candidate for an aura-based commander.
But don’t let that fool you; Estrid’s secondary ability creates a Mask that protects your permanent from one attempt at removal which in turn also saves all the other auras on it. One of the biggest downsides of aura strategies is that you sometimes put all your eggs in one basket only to be Doom Bladed, resulting in you losing your enchantments. Totem armor prevents that (and sweepers) and makes you much more resilient to removal.
Enchantments and Enchantress effects are a top priority and not something to be skipped out on whatsoever as an aura deck. I of course mean cards like Enchantress's Presence, Verduran Enchantress, Eidolon of Blossoms, Mesa Enchantress, Sythis, Harvest's Hand, and Setessan Champion.
As for the auras themselves there are quite a few. At the forefront of aggressive auras is Finest Hour that basically doubles your combat abilities and provides an exalted keyword, which is global across all your creatures. Snake Umbra gives you another chance to keeps your board alive with totem armor and provides a nice card-advantage bonus for combat damage. Ancestral Mask is also an absolute game-ender if you can swing with it and a dozen or so other enchantments.
You have a lot of wiggle room and area for personal choice with the rest of the auras, but I recommend Righteous Authority, Ethereal Armor, and Mirrormade.
#4. Galea, Kindler of Hope
In 4th place is Galea, Kindler of Hope (nope, not Gaea), another aura-based commander. But this one also promotes the use of equipment with free first-time equip costs. The equip cost is often the balancing power in terms of powerful equipments and artifacts since it limits how quickly the artifact can be put to use. Having this removed with your commander essentially buffs every existing equipment and makes some of them ridiculously strong.
The most obvious is something like Colossus Hammer, which is now just a 1-mana +10/+10. Holy Avenger also gets much stronger since you can get it plus an extra aura equipped for just . And the value isn’t restricted to just huge artifacts. Cheaper equipment like Basilisk Collar and Winged Boots also become great.
Don’t make the mistake of building this as an enchantment-heavy deck. That isn’t the lane you want to commit so heavily to. Enchantment decks get their strength from having lots of enchantment triggers to draw cards from Enchantress effects, which you won’t want. Instead, use the enchantment side of this commander for cards like Shielding Plax or Eel Umbra rather than something like Sigil of the Empty Throne.
#3. Arcades, the Strategist
In 3rd place is the newer version of the classic Elder Dragon, Arcades, the Strategist. This version of Arcades promotes a defender-based strategy which is very different from most other Bant commanders. Defender is a very unique mechanic and not one that many players know how to effectively combat at a casual table.
Cards with defender are balanced with the inability to attack in mind so they have high toughness with other effects. This means that they’re some of the best creatures in the game when they suddenly become 5/5 attackers instead of 0/5 walls. What other strategy can supply 2-mana 4/4s that give your other creatures haste like Crashing Drawbridge does?
There are plenty of walls to include and you probably don’t know of many (if not most) of them since they’re relatively underplayed. I’d bet you’ve never heard of Wall of Junk or Shield Sphere even though they’re some of the the best cards in the deck.
The main advice I’ll give you when building or playing a defender/wall-based deck is to include ample protection for your commander. Arcades, the Strategist being stuck under Oblivion Ring/Detention Sphere basically hits this deck’s off switch. This can be done with reactive protection in counterspells or proactive protection in things that give hexproof or totem armor, like Eel Umbra.
#2. Derevi, Empyrial Tactician
Derevi, Empyrial Tactician is a classic stax commander. If you enjoy seeing your opponents get visibly frustrated and say things like “I can’t play the game” or “why would any happy person do this?” then you’ve found your card.
Stax is a strategy that revolves around restricting what your opponent can do so that their turns and interactions are so limited it’s as if you’re playing alone. You want to cut them off at every possible avenue to accomplish this goal.
Winter Orb and Static Orb are must-haves to keep their mana down. You have Esper Sentinel, Mystic Remora, and Rhystic Study to keep your hands full while disincentivizing their own cards. Finally you want to include Cyclonic Rift, Trinisphere, Meekstone, and Sphere of Resistance to make their life a living hell.
You want to include as many untap and mana effects as possible you keep you out of the line of sight of these stax pieces. Seedborn Muse, Circle of Dreams Druid, and mana dorks like Fyndhorn Elves come in clutch here. You also want single-card game enders that provide enough power to overcome whatever our opponents manage to get out before being shut down if resolved. Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite is great for this since it’s hard to remove, makes your commander a 4/5 flier, wipes out most of your opponents’ mana dorks, and makes your dorks actual threats.
#1. Chulane, Teller of Tales
Not only is Chulane, Teller of Tales the most played and most powerful commander in Bant, it’s also one of the most diverse commanders in the format. With over 4,500 decks online, Chulane is a viable commander for a long list of strategies including pod, bounce, a few tribal themes, blink, landfall, and more. I’ll focus on the pod strategy when it comes to card suggestions and creatures at each mana value.
The best part of Chulane, Teller of Tales’s abilities is the fact that you get extra incentives to play with your creatures and take advantage of enter-the-battlefield effects. You’re already heavily building around those as a pod deck and being able to return creatures for to get a second use of Avenger of Zendikar or Craterhoof Behemoth is amazing. A pod deck wins through value (and also combo!) at the end of the day and this commander heavily emphasizes that idea.
Here are some great creatures that you should highly consider including in your lists:
- Mana Value 1: Boreal Druid, Joraga Treespeaker, Quirion Ranger, Mother of Runes, and Giver of Runes.
- Mana Value 2: Bloom Tender, Priest of Titania, Coiling Oracle, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Grand Abolisher, Fauna Shaman, Malevolent Hermit, and Gilded Drake.
- Mana Value 3: Reclamation Sage, Spellseeker, Recruiter of the Guard, Skyclave Apparition, Knight of Autumn, Circle of Dreams Druid, Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, and Brazen Borrower.
- Mana Value 4: Beast Whisperer, Mystic Snake, Linvala, Keeper of Silence, Venser, Shaper Savant, Glen Elendra Archmage, and Solemn Simulacrum.
- Mana Value 5: Seedborn Muse, Mulldrifter, Acidic Slime, and Ashaya, Soul of the Wild.
- Mana Value 6: Sun Titan, Deadeye Navigator, and Kodama of the East Tree.
- Mana Value 7: Avenger of Zendikar, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, and Hullbreaker Horror.
- Mana Value 8: Craterhoof Behemoth.
Commander Decklist: Phelddagrif Group Hug
Phelddagrif | Illustration by Amy Weber
Arbiter of Knollridge
Braids, Conjurer Adept
Edric, Spymaster of Trest
Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer
Kami of the Crescent Moon
Kwain, Itinerant Meddler
Magus of the Vineyard
Selvala, Explorer Returned
Shizuko, Caller of Autumn
Swords to Plowshares
Approach of the Second Sun
Tempt with Discovery
Dictate of Karametra
Dictate of Kruphix
Heartbeat of Spring
Oath of Lieges
Rites of Flourishing
Sphere of Safety
Well of Ideas
Folio of Fancies
Font of Mythos
Helm of Awakening
Horn of Greed
Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
Sea of Clouds
Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth
I’m choosing to showcase Phelddagrif for our sample list today because I see group hug as an underrated and underplayed strategy in Commander. Most players seem to get caught up in playing big spells and doing ultra-powerful things and I think they’re missing out on the pleasure of playing table-wide buffs and just relaxing.
In case you don’t already know, group hug is a strategy that succeeds when it’s allowed to grow and gather resources in a longer game of Commander. It does this by directly incentivizing opponents to not target or kill you with table-wide benefits in cards like Dictate of Kruphix and Dictate of Karametra. You play more beneficial enchantments and creatures as the game progresses and your game plan radically shifts from the pacifist in the corner to planning how quickly you can combo off and win.
There are a few outlets to win that you should make note of in this deck since it can be kind of tricky. The first and most obvious is Approach of the Second Sun. By the time you play this you’ll ideally have plenty of ways to draw extra cards per turn and can win in one cycle around the table.
If that doesn’t work you can also win with Laboratory Maniac by having no cards left in your deck and attempting to draw a card, which would normally be your doom. Lastly, Triskaidekaphile is a surprisingly easy way to win without much preparation. You’ll be drawing multiple extra cards per turn in any group hug deck so you can potentially line this up by drawing exactly enough cards with the activated ability to land at 13.
Piloting this deck is pretty straightforward: you want to make friends with those playing around you. Play your enchantments with a smile, joke about how your deck is totally not a threat, and have your win conditions lurking in the shadows, waiting for an opportunity. Playing politics is an excellent tool to take advantage of and this deck does it better than any other.
Arcades, the Strategist | Illustration by Even Amundsen
That wraps up the rankings for the best Bant commanders in Magic! Bant holds a special place in my heart (along with Esper) so it was especially fun to write this up. It even made me want to put together my own Chulane, Teller of Tales pod deck.
But I want to know what you think. Are there any rankings specifically you think are off, or even spot on? Let me know down in the comments or over on our official Draftsim Discord.
Bant not your preferred color trio? Check these out: Abzan, Mardu, Sultai, Jund, Jeskai, Grixis, Temur, Naya.
Until next time, stay safe and stay healthy!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates:
What about Amareth, the Lustrous? This can be a great commander when plenty of Scry is included. Please update the title or actually put all bant commanders in this guide. This is a good guide to get ideas for bant decks but, I was hoping to see the Amareth entry to improve my deck. I probably should just switch to Chulane, Teller of Tales though because it is better for creature heavy builds