Last updated on November 21, 2022
Orah, Skyclave Hierophant | Illustration by Heonhwa Choe
There are more than 500 clerics in Magic. There are over 100 good ones, which seems like a good rate for evaluating tribal power.
So strap in, because today we’re going to explore the best clerics in Magic. The greatest hits are all here, but so are a few hidden gems you might have missed along the way.
Ready? Let’s get started!
Vizier of Tumbling Sands | Illustration by Josu Hernaiz
Clerics are a creature type in Magic.
Based on the cleric class in Dungeons & Dragons, the 1981 basic rulebook defines clerics as “humans who have dedicated themselves to the service of a god or goddess” that are “trained in fighting and casting spells.” The key magics for clerics in that game for decades were healing spells and their special ability to destroy the undead.
While the early clerics in Magic were all about healing and preventing damage, clerics became the tribe where life and death magics were practiced as the game went on. Lifegain and reanimation are the most common decks that include a meaningful number of clerics.
Samite Healer all the way back in Alpha introduced this D&D class to the color white in Magic, but simple damage prevention quickly lost relevance. Clerics in white have since explored a large variety of powerful effects with little that binds them together.
There aren’t that many ways to turn the game into Hearthstone by turning off instant-speed actions your opponents could take on your turn, but this is one of the most popular among the few options. Grand Abolisher is key in various control and stax decks, but it even shows up in half of Winota, Joiner of Forces decks just to bring the pain that much harder.
Depending on what you need your enchantment tutor for, Academy Rector can be a better choice than Idyllic Tutor-style effects that put the target in your hand, or cheaper effects like Enlightened Tutor that more riskily puts it on top of your library. This creature shines when the enchantment you want is expensive or hard to cast, like Thousand-Year Storm or Sanctum of All because it drops it on the battlefield.
Giver of Runes is everywhere, from Modern Hammertime decks that really want to protect the creature holding Colossus Hammer to various stax decks to what feels like every EDH deck that plays white. The colorless protection option is useful and unique.
Glorious Protector sits in foretell exile waiting to rescue your entire board from a board wipe, so of course this is a key card in Ranar the Ever-Watchful decks. If you’ve got a blink theme going then you can throw down a lot of triggers. But this card is too slow for the mono white meta in pretty much any 60-card format, and maybe that means players underestimate it?
Does Heliod’s Pilgrim go in every deck that likes auras? I think yes it does. This cleric is the cheap tutor everyone owns. This is your girl when you absolutely, positively need to find your All That Glitters.
Tutors for more stuff. A bit more slowly and riskily. Moon-Blessed Cleric is another card that you want for your Enchantress decks, but it’s also a useful tutor for combo pieces.
This card wasn’t on my radar when I started this list, but now I can see why I might want Leonin Abunas in my ill-advised Greasefang, Okiba Boss deck or my better-advised Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith deck, or even various Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist builds.
Paulo is an awesome card that shows up in decks from aggro to control in Standard and Historic. Elite Spellbinder is nice early disruption in a clerics or stax EDH deck, but it’s an almost-always welcome top deck.
Soul Warden and Soul’s Attendant are the lynchpins of the Soul Sisters strategy that either blows up lifelink-ers like Ajani’s Pridemate or turns into some horrid form of infinite life combo, like with Scurry Oak and Heliod, Sun-Crowned or the classic baby’s-first-combo with Famished Paladin and Presence of Gond.
Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle
Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle is its own archetype as an (often) budget commander for cheap, useful artifact creatures like Filigree Familiar with card draw engines like Mentor of the Meek or Skullclamp. Not terrible for an equipment deck, either.
You can build a decent Teshar deck for well under a hundred bucks, and it’s simple but fun to play.
A typical land catch-up card for white in the Land Tax milieu, Weathered Wayfarer lets you get any land, not just a basic or a basic type. There are a lot of utility lands you might need, whether that’s an emergency hammer like Strip Mine or Boseiju, Who Endures or a wincon like Field of the Dead or Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle.
This stasis effect is pretty ridiculous in artifact decks like Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle, Alibou, Ancient Witness, or even stax decks like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. I think Ethersworn Canonist will only carve out more space in Oswald Fiddlebender decks going forward.
I have no idea what Glowrider is doing in the art of this card, but I do know that I want this if I’m trying to be the least popular person at my EDH table by dropping my Thalia, Guardian of Thraben taxes deck.
Angel of Destiny is a wincon that can show up as a surprise top end in lifegain decks. It also works fine in angels builds. This card is hard to use, but I think its value will only increase with time.
Containment Priest is a pretty good include in control decks and seems really nice in stax builds, so you’ll see Containment Priest in a lot of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Gaddock Teeg, and Lavinia, Azorius Renegade decks. This cleric is a useful inclusion for more draw-go style control decks because it can flash in just to give a flier on an end step, even if the pretty powerful ETB never comes into play.
Giving creatures with counters on them lifelink isn’t bad at all, and there are a pile of commanders that want Abzan Battle Priest, from Daghatar the Adamant and a dozen other +1/+1 counters commanders, Lathiel, the Bounteous Dawn and other counters and lifegain commanders, and even some unexpected generals like Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper.
This is kind of a janky hard-to-use Kira, Great Glass-Spinner type of effect, but Devoted Caretaker does this in white. There’s better options to protect your creatures but it can keep a key artifact or enchantment combo piece alive if you need to.
Righteous Valkyrie can end the game fast if you don’t have an answer when it drops on turn 3 or 4 in a Standard or Historic lifegain dec. This cleric is less flexible than the Soul Sisters cards, but it hits harder.
This evergreen Cube staple has to be the white +1/+1 counters card. Mikaeus, the Lunarch is so flexible it’s even bursting out of the Selesnya () space and finding a home in Felisa, Fang of Silverquill decks.
Because Ajani’s Pridemate was getting left behind by power creep?
You know you want the utility of Remorseful Cleric in your clerics and spirits decks.
Light-Paws, Emperor’s Voice players, here’s your PSA that this card exists if you grabbed your Sram, Senior Edificer deck and swapped in the fox advisor with minimal changes. Nomad Mythmaker is what you’d like to see after they’ve killed off your commander a few times to get the key pieces of the toolbox back.
Venerated Loxodon is the MVP that rescues your Cube Draft when it starts to go off the rails once pack 1 wheels if you look at what you have and realize that nothing fits together. This cleric is there to get you started down the open Selesnya path everyone avoided so far while drafting blue cards and dual lands, along with a bunch of low-cost utility creatures.
Okay, maybe that’s just what happens to me in Cube. It is really hard to resist powerful traps like Spell Swindle.
This is a good way to throw out counters in Commander, but it’s been a bit outpaced the last two years. The tapping is brutal in 2020s Magic, even if you don’t have to take a turn off attacking because you have a Heliod, God of the Sun or something else that gives everyone vigilance.
Sure, Victory’s Envoy is the other card that wheels in Cube while whispering, “Selesnya…” It seems playable-ish in your EDH counters deck. But five mana is a lot for this, since everyone who was waiting to cast their Farewell now has the mana for it when you pass the turn.
I’m not sure Bishop of Wings works in EDH, but this could often signal game over in Historic when it came down on turn 2 in the angels lifegain decks, especially against aggro. This cleric into Righteous Valkyrie equals red deck loses.
God forbid you bust out your token deck and don’t have enough removal for this cleric. Nils, Discipline Enforcer really wants to tag along in your Breena, the Demagogue and Shadrix Silverquill political powerhouse decks.
So powerful in Standard mono-white builds that WotC nerfed it in Alchemy, Luminarch Aspirant can get really out of control. It seems unlikely this can compete in other mono-white builds in Modern and Pioneer, humans, lifegain, and angels after rotation, and I’m not sure this really does enough for Commander. Still, triggers are good and this will find its place.
Strict Proctor is the card you need in Lotus Field decks in Modern or Historic to stop you from having to sacrifice the two lands. This can go in your taxes EDH decks, but do you really want it on the battlefield when someone sits down with their Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger deck?
I’m not sure how playable white-centered reanimator decks are going to be going forward, but Sanctifier en-Vec seems like a decent way to nerf the black reanimator graveyards while you work to get Velomachus Lorehold into your own graveyard as things like Brilliant Restoration keep getting printed.
Vizier of Remedies makes infinite mana with Devoted Druid. I realize almost everything makes infinite mana with the Druid, but this is the simplest version of that. If that’s your game, this cleric is your clutch hitter.
You can use Sanctum Prelate in a taxes deck to close down some counterspells, but it also shows up in various iterations of Tymna the Weaver decks, many of which are go-wide decks. Choosing the number four shuts down a lot of board wipes and just one more turn in those decks sometimes gets you to hitting the whole table for lethal.
Dawnbringer Cleric is a nice way to destroy enchantments in your blink deck.
Why not put Hanweir Militia Captain in a tokens deck? It helps you go wide and gives you a tall payoff. This cleric is easy enough for opponents to deal with, but they absolutely have to deal with it.
It doesn’t get more efficient than Cathedral Sanctifier if you’re blinking a creature for lifegain. That said I’m not sure why you’re doing that, exactly.
Someone’s gotta be playing Naya () dinos with Gishath, Sun’s Avatar at the helm, right? If so you definitely need a nice little dino tutor like Priest of the Wakening Sun. Is this a lot better than Forerunner of the Empire? Well… Sorta? But Huatli says you want both.
There aren’t that many clerics in blue. Clerics seems to be the catchall tribe for utility creatures in white while that’s wizards in blue. Still, there are a few interesting options to explore in this color.
Vizier of Tumbling Sands is the untapped sac waypoint in your Prime Speaker Vannifar deck as you go from Corridor Monitor to Breaching Hippocamp to whatever your final Eldrazi destination is. Safe journeys!
Noble Benefactor seems the right thing in a group hug deck. There were times (dark times, olden times) when you might need this in a combo and control deck as a blue tutor. If you had enough discard or counterspells at the ready you could grab the last wincon while preventing your opponent from using their answer.
I still run this cleric in those kinds of decks, but it makes me feel old.
When you’re looking to add sacrifice and lifedrain to the lifegain you get with your white clerics, black is the color that’s next on your shopping list.
Zombies like brains and ETBs, but Mikaeus, the Unhallowed likes all sorts of decks that play with death and resurrection, like Yawgmoth, Thran Physician or Meren of Clan Nel Toth. It also does wicked things with Marchesa, the Black Rose: no creatures left behind, ever!
Yawgmoth, Thran Physician makes a decent Golgari sac deck in Modern with buddies like Grist, the Hunger Tide and Chord of Calling, which might start to see more play now that Lurrus of the Dream-Den is banned. It’s also great as a commander of sac or infect decks, and as a loyal soldier in Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons and The Scorpion God -1/-1 counters decks.
It really is a super powerful card that only get better as WotC prints more toys for it to play with and disembowel.
Vito, Thorn of the Dusk may be the most played cleric in Commander. It’s nice as an enabler and alternate wincon in decks ranging from Tivash, Gloom Summoner to Oloro, Ageless Ascetic. I particularly like Vito as a duplicate effect in my Dina, Soul Steeper deck.
It can also command its own deck pretty well by doubling down on cards like Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Blood Artist, Bontu’s Monument, and even Bolas’s Citadel or with tutors and the “oops, I win!” card, Exquisite Blood. It’s nice to be able to eat the entire table at once instead of one opponent at a time.
This Cube staple is great in reanimator EDH decks, like Chainer, Nightmare Adept and anything that likes graveyard triggers like Orah, Skyclave Hierophant and Sefris of the Hidden Ways. Part of the fun is that you can crack Doomed Necromancer in response to an attack step, which is the best time you’ve ever had at a Magic table if someone walks into it.
Archghoul of Thraben can draw a massive number of cards in zombie decks, whether that’s in Standard’s never-quite-good-enough Necroduality decks or in Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver EDH piles. This can be huge in Commander with a bit of recursion.
You can also just not reveal the zombies you look at and drop them right into the graveyard, which is another great thing to do in zombie decks. This cleric is almost a 1-card answer to a board wipe for a zombie player.
Twilight Prophet is pretty bonkers in vampires decks that go wide like Edgar Markov. It also slaps in lifegain decks like Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose. It’s hard to imagine not putting this cleric in a vampires or clerics deck. Card advantage plus damage is a nice formula.
Whisper, Blood Liturgist is so good in sac decks of any kind. It’s also great in cleric tribal decks since there are so many nice utility clerics with death triggers and ETBs, and it gets you both.
This used to be better before Witch’s Oven effects started proliferating. But Disciple of Griselbrand is still pretty nice in a lifegain clerics build under the watchful eye of Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose.
Hear me out. I know Draugr Necromancer was never really there in Standard, but Kaldheim-era Standard is just busted. This is a lovely addition to snow decks like Jorn, God of Winter in EDH, sure, but I’ve run things with this in a snow lands Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver deck.
It’s good for all the reasons you think when you first read the card, but where this really shines is as a zombie commander mirror breaker. Wilhelt is one of the most popular commanders, and any zombie deck is going to need graveyard synergies. This cleric stops a lot of what a zombie tribal deck wants to do. It blanks both clauses on Zombie Apocalypse if your Wilhelt opponent didn’t come prepared with enough removal that can target other zombies.
Not sure you really want Liliana, Heretical Healer outside of Liliana tribal (which is apparently a thing), and you probably want to have that deck sleeved up to match your Liliana cosplay. But this is our only planeswalking cleric so we gotta give Heretical Healer a shoutout.
Zombies tribal needs a wincon. Shepherd of Rot is one of those.
Taborax, Hope’s Demise
Six mana to reanimate a card has never been on rate. But Nullpriest of Oblivion is a house if you’re the rare blink deck in black.
Tourach, Dread Cantor is mostly flavorful boomer nonsense, kicking in its own Hymn to Tourach like an evil Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself.” There are a few other discard tribal commanders you’d want to play over it for power level, but maybe Tourach is low powered enough as a general that players won’t refuse to play with you like with Tergrid, God of Fright decks?
I’m dropping Custodi Lich in the list just so you know it exists. The monarch mechanic will likely only get more important in Commander and this cleric is a nice resource to have in those battles. It doesn’t really belong here on raw power, I guess, but this is my good deed for the day.
Vito needs Marauding Blight-Priest.
There are just two clerics in red but they’re both pretty great.
Harsh Mentor can do a lot of damage really quickly in a Commander game. And it has a few different homes.
It can hang with Torbran, Thane of Red Fell as they try to make mono red burn happen. It can also pair with other cards that have these static life tax effects like Kaervek the Merciless or Klothys, God of Destiny.
There are two good green clerics and two cards I really, really want you to like. Please.
There are a few ways to abuse this Cube staple in combos, the most horrid of which is infinite turns with Walk the Aeons and Azusa, Lost but Seeking. Fetch lands and the channel lands from Neon Dynasty are interested in Ramunap Excavator.
You could pack Strip Mine if you hate having friends. There are a lot of ways to get lands in the ‘yard if you’re looking to add this to your landfall deck. Everyone loves the snake.
A classic Cube card that serves the same purpose in green stompy EDH decks: to empty the deck onto the battlefield. If your Fierce Empath didn’t already find your Craterhoof Behemoth for you, just keep digging with Vizier of the Menagerie and you’ll get there.
I know Thelonite Druid is an old, old card, but it shocks me that it appears in less than 250 decks on EDHREC. This is a straight up wincon for ramp and landfall decks. It’s a slow and inefficient and risky wincon subject to absolute humiliating blowout, so the drama of the game requires you to add this cleric to something besides your Yedora, Grave Gardener deck.
Rankings here are even less reliable than usual, I’d say. Most of the multicolored clerics center around very specific and very different archetypes, the way gold cards often do in Draft formats. Ranking those archetypes and these cards’ place in those archetypes is often a murky task, like comparing apples to pineapples to… grapples?
Still, here’s my best shot at it.
The top cleric commander on EDHREC for a reason, Orah, Skyclave Hierophant can just keep tossing dead clerics onto the battlefield. This could be extremely potent when combined with Pyre of Heroes from the Alchemy clerics deck. There isn’t really anything close to Orah if this is the Commander deck you want to field.
Ravos, Soultender is the next best Orzhov () clerics commander. And it’s still really, really good.
The most popular partner commander for obvious reasons, Tymna the Weaver can just draw a boatload of cards. Still quite good in Orzhov clerics, but pick a deck that likes card and needs to add these colors and you have a commander in demand.
Hofri Ghostforge is bonkers. Not bonkers enough to displace blue from the ETB spirits decks, but one more visit to Strixhaven for some Lorehold cards or a few more mono-white spirits and you’ll start seeing a lot more of this cleric on Commander night.
It’s not that these EDH decks build themselves, exactly, it’s more just that the cards tell you what to do. Kaalia of the Vast wants to Lightning Greaves up and start dropping flying beaters. Kaalia, Zenith Seeker probably wants you to ramp and do some blinking. And they absolutely want to be in the same Commander decks.
The OG Vast leads twice as many decks right now, but I think the Seeker is the more consistent general.
A pretty important part of Winota, Joiner of Forces decks, Blade Historian keeps sneaking into various aggro go-wide decks on MTG Arena. If your colors can allow this and you have a Pyre of Heroes, why not use one?
We’re diving into the depths here, but if you play a sea monster tribal EDH deck and want to play black to use cards like Lochmere Serpent, your real choices are Runo Stromkirk (which also lets you explore the graveyard better), Gyruda, Doom of Depths (which is mostly a meme and stops you from playing Hullbreaker Horror), and Wrexial, the Risen Deep.
Wrexial will get you banned from the table for saying “Wrexial is going to Wrexial you for five damage” while Runo synergizes with the kinds of cards you play sea monsters for, like Scourge of Fleets, giving you repeated bounce triggers.
A wrath on one side and wrath protection on the other? Of course Selfless Glyphweaver goes in your Orah, Skyclave Hierophant deck. Especially because you can keep pulling it back out of your graveyard.
Geist of Saint Traft was probably once the go-to as an Azorius () spirits tribal commander. It’s got quite a bit of competition now from its Midnight Hunt precon buddy, Millicent, Restless Revenant, but this still seems useful and underplayed.
You’ll also still see this cleric in off-meta Modern builds of decks like Bant () spirits and Esper () Stoneblade, but I can’t see it taking down many tournaments.
Niambi, Esteemed Speaker is a nice card in decks that want to use it for a quick Rescue or to enable a lot of bounce house sorts of shenanigans, but Niambi, Esteemed Speaker is a hidden gem of a reanimator commander, especially now that white is getting cards like Late to Dinner and Invoke Justice. She drops what you want in the graveyard with a Divination to boot. A hidden gem to build around.
There are so many viable go-wide Selesnya tokens commanders, but Torens, Fist of the Angels has my heart. Not just because I won the sweet Dr. John Seward Dracula alt art box topper in my Draft, but because it just goes wide faster than its competition.
These decks have to win before everyone draws their board wipes and Torens is what I want for what often feels like a lost cause in Commander strategy.
A reasonable choice in Amonkhet Limited, Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons has two Commander archetypes it wants to lead: infect/poison counters, as you’d expect, and a really interesting -1/-1 counters deck that uses all the old suspects like Obelisk Spider and Blowfly Infestation. It even often sneaks in the infinite Quillspike and Devoted Druid combo and throws in unexpected fun like Generous Patron for nutty card draw.
I’m not sure any of that is especially great, but it is flavorful and fun to try.
Protect the side in spirit or cleric tribal. Selfless Spirit, join the 99.
Cleric of Life’s Bond
Any clerics deck in Standard, Alchemy, or Historic the past two years has needed Cleric of Life’s Bond and its inexplicable bracers/seedpods thing. Since it combines a Soul Sisters effect with a muzzled version of Ajani’s Pridemate it’s probably good enough for your Pioneer or Modern clerics deck (which is probably not quite a good enough deck for either meta, really). It’ll likely find a place in your Orzhov clerics Commander deck.
This feels like the retconned origin of the very first Lightning Helix. If this is your EDH jam, you already have this deck sleeved up. Firesong and Sunspeaker is definitely a unique and fun build around.
There are a number of cards like this cast in the Mikaeus, the Lunarch mold that merge going wide with going tall, and Kyler, Sigardian Emissary is a good version of that effect for Selesnya humans. But there’s a lot of competition in that space, and Kyler’s casting cost seems too 2013 to me in that lot. But I’d happily drop this cleric in the 99.
How is Lyzolda, the Blood Witch not in more Rakdos () decks? It’s not cheap to use, sure, but that’s repeated card advantage or damage for your Rakdos sac decks.
Yeah, this cleric is easy to kill. If only you were playing it in a sac deck where that didn’t matter as much…
Tap to fog is kind of cool, but Angus Mackenzie mostly just looks like Tim, the Enchanter from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, so it’s going on this list. If you have a problem with that I have a small rabbit I’d like to introduce you to.
The edgelord here can power out any cleric commander, say the pre-Orah dynamic duo of Ravos, Soultender and partner Tymna the Weaver pretty rapidly. That’s not always the best top deck and there are only a few decks that want Edgewalker, but those that do really, really want to see this cleric in their opening hand.
Markov Purifier really helps get things moving for the many commanders of Orzhov lifegain clerics.
Clerics decks used to be a thing in Modern before the era of Modern Horizons. I’d be surprised to see one again soon, but there are quite a few uses for these cards you might enjoy.
I like talking about cards that exist in print and I can sleeve up in my 99, but that clerics deck became oppressive enough that the Captain was nerfed in Orzhov or Esper. It’s still playable but the meta seems to have mostly passed by.
And all of that can be used for fun and profit with the older cleric cards that care about lifegain, from the Soul Sisters cards to payoffs like Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose.
Commander lifegain decks, which usually have a boatload of clerics in them, tend to come in Selesnya or Orzhov varieties. But an intrepid few slap all the lifegain cards together into an Abzan () deck, the most relevant commander of which are the partners Ikra, Shidiqi, the Usurper and cleric favorite Tymna the Weaver.
The real utility of these lifegain decks in Commander is that the payoff cards like Vito tend to hit all opponents at once, which gives the deck its fighting edge.
Aside from the lifegain theme which is usually a part of any cleric deck in Commander, Orah, Skyclave Hierophant adds a significant other element to that mix.
The graveyard recursion and focus on ETB triggers allows for a lot of interesting and creative gameplay, from toolbox-style decks that look to tutor Pyre of Heroes or Relic Vial to decks that lean into the reanimation of Orah, Skyclave Hierophant and cards like Whisper, Blood Liturgist on top of the lifegain and life drain themes.
We’re not in cEDH territory here by a long shot, but this kind of deck can win seemingly out of nowhere while being fun to play and flavorful, which is kind of my recipe for the sort of thing I want to bring to a fun night of reasonably-powered Commander decks.
Giver of Runes | Illustration by Seb McKinnon
This was a lot, I know.
Look, clerics are always the last thing people want to play in D&D, even after the power and versatility buffs in 5th edition. Healing the party just seems so boring.
Clerics historically get a bit of a bad rap in fantasy lore and I kind of wanted to give folks a window into a tribe that’s a lot more fun than it might seem if you’ve got a bunch of never-played Samites in your boxes of old cards.
What are your thoughts on this tribe? Did I leave your favorite cleric out of my listings? Let me know in the comments below or yell at us over on Twitter.
That’s all I’ve got for you today. Stay safe, stay healthy, and wash your hands!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: