Last updated on May 5, 2022
Kolaghan’s Command | Illustration by Daarken
Command cards are unique instants and sorceries in Magic. They usually give you four options to choose from instead of just doing one specific thing. They can draw you cards, tap your opponent’s board, or even destroy everything including lands! Their power comes from their choice and flexibility, with the strongest command cards having the most use all the time regardless of board state or what you’re playing against.
Today I’ll go over each command card in order from worst to best, review their abilities, and give them a general ranking compared to each another. Let’s get started!
What is a Command Card?
Silverquill Command | Illustration by Bryan Sola
Command cards are modal instants and sorceries that represent one of the various color combinations from Magic lore. This includes everything between Kolaghan’s Command to Prismari Command as well as all of the mono-colored versions like Cryptic Command.
Commands are good because they give you options, which make them more versatile and give you strong tempo plays more often than you’d otherwise get. They’re not usually dead in your hand, which means you’ll often gain card advantage from playing them combined with their 2-for-1 value trades.
Most cards have different options for you to choose from and typically include three different types of interaction. First is something negative to inflict on your opponent like direct damage or discard. The second is beneficial to you like card draw or graveyard recursion. And third is some kind of specific interaction like counterspells or enchantment removal.
Cryptic Command | Illustration by Jason Rainville
My rubric for ranking these spells is based on their general strengths not any particular usage in combo or specific strategies. Here are some of the questions I ask when looking at each command card:
- How good is this card if it’s the only spell I can play and my opponent has no nonland permanents?
- How strong are these effects in terms of the mana being spent?
- How often can I get a 2-for-1 trade with this card?
- Can this card give me card advantage in any other way?
- How many mana pips does this spell require and how much of a barrier is that to including it in my deck?
#16. Dromoka’s Command
Starting off my list of all the command spells in Magic is Dromoka’s Command. I wouldn’t consider this card very playable at all. It just doesn’t hit often enough to warrant running.
At the very best your creature kills your opponent’s and you have them sacrifice their only enchantment. But that requires multiple factors and variables to be in place to get maximum value and you won’t have that on curve as often as other cards. Dromoka’s is just two mana (colored at that) to give a +1/+1 counter if your opponent doesn’t have a creature or enchantment out, which is pretty poor overall.
But the right place and right time could make this excellent just like all command cards. You still need to think about how often that time and place comes, though.
#15. Verdant Command
Verdant Command is in the 15th place spot for this list because it doesn’t have an option to search for a land. This is an entirely green card and not having any form of mana ramp on it feels sort of wrong.
Verdant too often does nothing in terms of interaction or impacting the board and it would be miles ahead in strength if it had an option to search for a basic land in addition to making two 1/1s. The unfortunate reality is that it doesn’t have that option, so here it lies.
#14. Witherbloom Command
Witherbloom Command is the Golgari command card from Strixhaven and comes in at 14th on this list. This card is okay. The best you’ll get on average is a Fatal Push effect on your opponent’s creature and maybe killing off another 1 toughness creature.
Witherbloom card being a sorcery really holds it back, especially when its third ability gives a creature -3/-1 until end of turn. Had this card been printed as an instant, it would likely see much more play thanks to the flexible nature of holding up mana.
#13. Atarka’s Command
The 13th spot goes to Atarka’s Command, the Gruul command from Dragons of Tarkir released way back in early 2015. This card does exceptionally Gruul things like allowing you to place a land on the battlefield as well as buff your team.
But Atarka’s Command’s weakness comes from the fact that the three damage is strictly to opponents. The upside being it goes to each opponent, but this card would be about seven places higher if it was a Lightning Strike that also either buffed your team or ramped you out. It’s a bit stronger in multiplayer formats like Commander since its first two effects hit all three of your opponents giving you three times the value.
#12. Silverquill Command
In at 12th place is Silverquill Command, the Orzhov command from Strixhaven. This card is a little wonky to use but pretty good if you can take advantage of its bottom option. Creature removal for four mana is pretty good and you’re feeling great if you get the bonus of drawing a card or potentially bringing your 2-drop back from the graveyard.
But you won’t be as happy to simply bring a 2-drop back and draw a card. Silverquill Command’s ranking is heavily impacted by the fact that you and your opponent both need creatures in order to maximize value while some of the other commands always get you their strongest options.
#11. Quandrix Command
Quandrix Command comes in at 11th place on this list. While a bit more specific in terms of targeting scope, this card is a step ahead of the previously listed spells. Putting two +1/+1 counters on a creature and bouncing your opponents at instant speed is an incredible tempo play.
While the counter on Quandrix is limited to enchantments and artifacts, it’s still a nice alternative and could come in handy. The last choice, which shuffles some cards from their graveyard into the library, is mostly just good against graveyard decks but could help in long limited matches.
#10. Primal Command
Primal Command is 10th on this list and the first of the mono-colored commands from Lorwyn. This command is the first on this list I’d also call playable. Tutoring out a creature card and dealing with graveyard decks for five mana is okay in EDH, especially in green.
Primal Command is exceptionally good when you’re using it as another way to find Craterhoof Behemoth and turn your elves into a bunch of 10/10s. That’s its primary purpose as a card. The other three options are simply added bonuses, of which putting a permanent onto a library is the strongest.
#9. Profane Command
Next up is Profane Command, the mono-black command spell in 9th place with a unique quality compared to the other spells; its X mana cost. The X lets you set the power level and timing of this spell which means it can be an excellent kill spell as well as a great way to push large amounts of face damage. The single X also means that you can go higher really easily.
If you’re in an EDH game and can generate lots of mana with mana rocks or something like Cabal Coffers, this spell could easily do 15 to 20 damage while simultaneously making your whole board unblockable with fear. Profane Command could also be something as simple as four mana to kill a mana dork and bring your dead Dark Confidant back. Whatever floats your boat.
#8. Ojutai’s Command
Ojutai’s Command is one of the stronger Dragons of Tarkir command spells. It does various Azorius-themed things like bring small creatures back from the graveyard, draw cards, and gain life. This card is much more reactionary in nature compared to most command cards and is best used countering something on your opponent’s turn while drawing a card to replace it.
Ojutai’s would ideally be placed in some kind of Azorius tempo deck where you can bring something great back from the graveyard like Mother of Runes or have cards that explicitly synergize with card draw.
#7. Silumgar’s Command
Next up is Silumgar’s Command. Big mana and big moves is what’s going on with this card. Your best option for will usually be to kill one creature with the -3/-3 option while countering some other spell your opponent is casting.
But Silumgar’s most often opts to bounce a permanent because there’s always a target for that ability. I think this card is just on the cusp of being really good but it’s not quite there yet.
#6. Incendiary Command
Incendiary Command does everything a red card can do. It destroys lands, deals face damage, wipes out entire boards through damage, and wheels the table. This card is decent in any mid-power EDH deck that runs well and helps you refill your hand while also acting as a nice way to push some face damage. Consider Incendiary a wheel or land destruction card with the other two options are alternative routes you can go down if the time is right.
#5. Lorehold Command
Coming in at the 5th place is Lorehold Command which has a few things going for it. Its instant speed makes it a great utility card with its indestructible plus making a 3/2 spirit. The card has the option to also go on the offensive because that second ability gives your creatures (including that spirit) haste.
There’s also some nice utility choices in drawing cards in exchange for a permanent, or removal with the third option being a practical Lightning Helix. Lorehold is a solid card all around and an excellent way to start off my top five.
#4. Prismari Command
Ah, Prismari Command. An absolute powerhouse in Standard right now and an excellent value generator. Really similar to Kolaghan’s Command, this command is best used to kill an opponent’s turns 2 or 3 play while creating a Treasure token to ramp out a turn 5 threat a bit early. The artifact removal is nice but won’t be used nearly as much, and effective Faithless Looting in its second ability is also great.
#3. Austere Command
Austere Command is the ultimate board wiper. It hits your choice of any combination of artifacts, enchantments, and creatures. This makes it very good, targeted removal in many senses. Austere shuts down artifact- and enchantment-based decks while preserving your board or wiping your opponent’s wide board of 1/1s while keeping your Sun Titan intact.
This is a very sweet card overall and very deserving of third place.
#2. Cryptic Command
Cryptic Command is up next taking my 2nd place spot. This is the ultimate blue card. It draws you cards, taps creatures, counters spells, and bounces any permanent. Pretty sweet.
Cryptic’s only real downsides are the in its casting cost and its weakness in comparison to something like Archmage’s Charm, which has completely replaced it in some formats. But I’d recommend Cryptic Command over Archmage’s Charm if you’re building something like a Simic big mana EDH deck.
#1. Kolaghan’s Command
In 1st place out of all the command cards is Kolaghan’s Command. While this card doesn’t do anything huge in scope like tutor cards or destroy planeswalkers, the amount of value you get out of is absurd.
This does two to your opponent’s face and makes them discard a card at worst. At best it kills their Sol Ring and Llanowar Elves. Kolaghan’s Command hits no matter what and being able to get an excellent choice consistently for such a low mana cost is why it’s set in stone as the best command available.
Now, let’s jump into some FAQ about commands.
In What Order Do Command’s Modes Resolve?
Prismari Command | Illustration by Johannes Voss
Command spell options don’t resolve all at once. They resolve in the order they’re printed on the card. This may not seem very important but it’s critical to their use for cards like Primal Command.
Since they resolve in order from top to bottom on the oracle text, you can pick Primal Command’s third and fourth option to put a creature from your graveyard into your library and then immediately tutor it back into your hand. This wouldn’t be possible if these were the other way around as you’d have to tutor out a card and then shuffle your graveyard.
Codie Commands Deck in Commander
Codie, Vociferous Codex | Illustration by Daniel Ljunggren
Birds of Paradise
Jadzi, Oracle of Arcavios
Jodah, Archmage Eternal
Simian Spirit Guide
Swords to Plowshares
Teach by Example
Approach of the Second Sun
City of Brass
The World Tree
There aren’t really any specifically “command-themed” Commander decks (very hard thing to search for, by the way). So I went ahead and threw together a list of what I think it could look like.
The deck’s commander is Codie, Vociferous Codex. Codie has a passive ability that says you can’t cast permanent spells. So you run only 21 nonland permanents. This may seem like a lot but remember that you’ll have a few turns before Codie gets dropped and turns where it’s dead. With this in mind, the permanents you do have are must-have mana accelerants like Sol Ring and extremely useful cards to play right before your commander like Jeskai Ascendancy and Training Grounds.
This deck looks to quickly ramp out and play lots of big mana spells through your commander’s activated ability as well as multiple dig spells like Jeska’s Will and Mnemonic Deluge. As for winning the game, you have a couple strategies.
Approach of the Second Sun can always be tutored out and played to get you there in long matchups. Massive turns with cards like Mind’s Desire can sometimes set your opponents back so far there’s simply no hope. You can also win with general big-mana-good-stuff shenanigans, which this deck has plenty of.
I’d like to clarify that this list is more of a theory-craft and something for you to think about, not a high-power build or something you’d want to outright copy. Take this as an example of a 5-color spells deck that’s purposefully trying to include as many command cards as possible.
I’d love to see your takes on the list! Let me know down below in the comments if you have any changes or different ideas.
Austere Command | Illustration by Anna Steinbauer
Those are all of the command spells! What did you think of the rankings? Do you think you can make a viable high-power EDH deck that includes all of these spells, or do you think it’s more of a for-fun midrange deck? Let me know down in the comments or go check out Draftsim’s discord and talk about it there!
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