Last updated on July 22, 2022
Miara, Thorn of the Glade | Illustration by Johannes Voss
Elves are one of Magic’s most prominent creature types. They’ve shown up in almost every set in the game since Alpha. Elf tribal has always been a staple when it comes to archetypes, and with good reason. They’re absurdly powerful and, very much like their red archenemy goblins, they’re at their best when in groups.
Tribal decks are very common in Commander. We’ve even had quite a few precons over the years that focused heavily on tribal dynamics, starting with 2017’s infamous eminence decks. The first elf tribal precon was arguably the Guided by Nature deck from Commander 2014. Elves showed up again with Kaldheim’s Elven Empire deck, which brought a twist to elves as a Golgari () deck.
Ready to take a look at some of the best elves for Commander in the game? Let’s get started!
Marwyn, the Nurturer | Illustration by Chris Rahn
Elves are the quintessential green tribe. They’ve been around since the start of the game and they’ll keep showing up in pretty much every set for as long as the game goes on. But of course you’re not just gonna build a deck around a creature type just because they’ve been around for a long time. You’re gonna build it because they’ve had a ton of support and are one of the game’s strongest tribes.
Almost 30 years of being one of the game’s staple creatures has allowed elves to be an absurdly powerful tribe. Not unlike goblins, elves shine their brightest when they’re working as a team. They tend to have a ton of synergies and “do X for each elf you control” effects. Commander allows you to take even greater advantage of this by having space for a ton of elves in your deck so that you can exploit all of the effects that care about having them.
This tribe has another advantage, and that’s that they have quite a few ways to make creature tokens. This plays right into what I just mentioned about quantity, but it also grants you attackers and blockers without needing to risk some of your more effect-oriented creatures.
One of the most prominent effects on elves is mana generation. There’s actually a fundamental elf strategy called elfball, which is basically using elves to generate absurd amounts of mana so that you can fling a Fireball at your opponent and win. This becomes impossible in a mono-green or Golgari EDH build, but you can always have places to dump your mana into and generate a win condition.
Elf commanders can be strong as individual cards, but the truth is that the other 99 is what’ll make your elf deck shine. But even so, your commander can fundamentally change how your deck is built or works, so let’s take a look at some of the best elf commanders in Magic.
Arguably the most important elf in the Selesnya () guild, Emmara Tandris focuses specifically on tokens and shines brighter in a token deck than it would in an elf tribal. But elves have a bunch of ways to create tokens, and being able to prevent any damage that would be dealt to them can be amazing.
Graveyard recursion is a staple of the Golgari swarm, and Storrev, Devkarin Lich plays right into that. Being able to bring creatures back from your graveyard in tribal decks can be great for cards like Door of Destinies, and there are also quite a few elves with ETB effects that add an extra benefit to this card’s ability.
Not unlike the previous entry, Savra, Queen of the Golgari is another Golgari commander that cares about your elves dying. Since there’s so many black elves now, especially ones like Skemfar Avenger, building a sacrifice-heavy elf tribal deck can be a fun idea.
This could be a graveyard commanders list at this point. There are about 75 legendary elves out there, and most of them are some kind of combination of green, white, and black.
Kethis, the Hidden Hand would probably be at its strongest with a less tribal deck, but then again, EDH isn’t always about strongest. Sometimes it’s about weirdest or most fun concept.
Mana generation is probably the strongest suit Magic’s elves have, and +1/+1 counters have a ton of support in green. Rishkar, Peema Renegade cares very strongly about counters, and mixing a huge army of small elves with counters to make them bigger can be a massive threat. It ensures every single one of your elves can generate mana to cast even more elves.
And we’re back in the graveyard! Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord is a great commander for graveyard-themed decks because it’s an amazing engine for graveyard decks, making itself stronger, allowing you to sacrifice your own creatures for damage, and having a way to return itself from the graveyard. And elves that can generate mana are amazing to make that sacrifice ability work great.
I’m aware that Chulane, Teller of Tales isn’t an elf, but its first ability can be extremely exploited in a good elf deck. As I mentioned before, elves tend to generate a ton of mana one way or another.
They also have pretty low mana costs, so you can draw a huge chunk of your deck real quick and play tons of elves every turn.
As I just mentioned, elves tend to have low mana costs. Make sure to add some spells with higher costs into Rashmi, Eternities Crafter’s deck (especially instants) and you can cheat quite a few of your elves into the deck while also taking advantage of those other spells.
So have I mentioned that elves produce mana? Yeah.
Generating the blue mana for Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy’s second ability will probably require lands almost exclusively, but being able to only tap three (maybe even fewer) elves to cheat creatures onto the battlefield can generate a huge advantage.
Make sure to add some strong high-cost creatures in this deck to take as much advantage of this ability as possible.
There are gonna be a couple partner commanders here, but the way you choose to partner them up is up to you. Nadier, Agent of the Duskenel is a commander that cares greatly about tokens, especially tokens leaving the battlefield.
The possibility of pairing Nadier up with another commander that can be more focused on elves is what puts it ahead of commanders like Emmara Tandris.
Are you tired of hearing how elves produce a lot of mana yet? Me neither.
Anyway, having a board full of creatures and lands that can generate green mana every turn can very quickly turn Omnath, Locus of Mana into a massive creature.
Rocco, Cabaretti Caterer allows you to tutor any creature you can pay for right onto the battlefield. And I think we all know by this point that paying for things in elf tribal decks isn’t particularly difficult.
The fact that this ability can only be repeated by casting your commander makes it a bit harder to play sometimes, but there’s ways of returning it into your hand to avoid commander tax. Or even paying the tax without it being too much of a problem.
Selvala, Explorer Returned isn’t a card that creates a ton of interaction with the cards you play, but it lets you interact with your opponents a ton and can make for some fun interactions.
You can expect to be generating about two or three mana every time you activate the ability, and that should be enough to cast one of your smaller elves.
The king of all of Kaldheim’s elves feels kind of lacking in my opinion. I like that Harald, King of Skemfar lets you put an elf or Tyvar card into your hard from the top of your deck, and it’s an ability you can repeat by blinking it. But it could be a little better for such a supposedly powerful character.
Rhys the Exiled gaining you life for each elf you control every time it attacks while also being able to sacrifice one of those elves to regenerate itself makes it a great way to gain life while also pressuring your opponents a little. It works well as a commander that’s greatly focused on itself.
#15. Grand Warlord Radha
Most elves add mana by tapping themselves, so being able to generate almost as much mana by attacking with Grand Warlord Radha is almost objectively an advantage. There aren’t too many Gruul () elves, but some of the ones out there can be pretty powerful, like Bloodbraid Elf.
Giving your army of Elf tokens +1/+1 can turn it into a massive threat to your opponents. And Dwynen, Gilt-Leaf Daen rewards you for attacking with those elves by gaining you life.
While Rhys the Exiled has a better lifegain ability, Dwynen giving all your elves +1/+1 puts it ahead on the list.
The graveyard theme for Golgari elves continues to show up. Abomination of Llanowar is a card that cares specifically about the elves in your graveyard and battlefield to make itself stronger. The fact that it has vigilance is kind of weird given its color identity, but it’s still a great thing to have along with menace.
Experience counters were one of those interesting experiments we used to get back when Commander decks were a special yearly product. I think they were really fun and gave the format some interesting uniqueness.
Ezuri, Claw of Progress makes great use of that by taking advantage of how low-costed elves can be, building your counter charge really quickly.
The best thing to have in an elf deck is somewhere to dump your mana. Numa, Joraga Chieftain isn’t perfect because it’d be better to dump that mana right before your upkeep, but distributing +1/+1 counters among any number of elves you control can be amazing to have a solid bunch of attackers.
Momir Vig, Simic Visionary is another of those cards that would work much better in other decks that can better take advantage of its abilities, but it can be pretty powerful even in an elf deck. You’re gonna be using the second ability a lot less than the first since there aren’t that many blue elves and elf-related spells, but tutoring another elf for each one you play can be pretty powerful.
We’ve established that elves are good at building massive token armies. That mostly means that those creatures are pretty expendable and you can use them to attack pretty freely, which means Edric, Spymaster of Trest nets you a bunch of cards.
I think it’d be a fun challenge to build a deck around that concept. And it can have a soft control subtheme thanks to its discarding, so it can even be pretty useful.
Landwalk abilities have fallen out of favor in recent years, but I’ve always liked how strong they can be if your opponent has the right land on the field. Commander players love to play nonbasic lands that still have land types, so giving all your elves forestwalk with Eladamri, Lord of Leaves can be a great way to remind them that you can take advantage of that too.
Rhys the Redeemed expands on the token theme by creating Elf tokens. And, more importantly, being able to double all of your tokens at once. With so many cards that can create and benefit your elf tokens, being able to just double all of those tokens can be overwhelmingly powerful.
Miara, Thorn of the Glade pairs really well with almost every other partner commander for elf tribals. It also represents the focus black elves have benefiting from death really well, making Golgari a great color identity for them.
Not to mention that you’ll hardly lack ways to pay for the mana and life costs this card asks for considering those are two things elves excel at.
#4. Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury
Creating an elf that can generate mana every turn while also gaining loyalty points is already a solid ability. And it only takes Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury two turns to use its last ability, which allows you to draw a ton of cards.
This is a really solid green commander in general, and it works particularly well as an elf commander.
Ezuri, Renegade Leader has arguably been the go-to elf commander for quite a long time. Its first ability protects your elves in extremely effective ways while the second is an amazing mana dump. Giving +3/+3 to all of your elves can make an absurd difference when attacking or blocking.
In some ways I’d say Lathril, Blade of the Elves is more in line with what I expected from Harald, King of Skemfar. Being able to generate elves equal to its power can already be a huge ability if you play enough cards to make Lathril stronger, but you can also tap it and another 10 elves to drain each of your opponents of 10 life while gaining 10 yourself.
You don’t even need to have it attack all that often thanks to how easy it is to quickly fill your field with elves. All this makes Lathril, Blade of the Elves a great elf commander.
But it doesn’t only do that. Marwyn also generates green mana equal to its power, which can very quickly grow out of control. Play one or two hydras in the deck and you’ll have some massive creatures to take down your opponents.
Emmara Tandris | Illustration by Mark Winters
Elves are one of Magic’s biggest staples, and they’ve been huge in Commander basically from the start. They’re deceptively powerful, and the truth is that what commander you choose for your deck isn’t all that important. What makes your elf deck strong is the amazing interactions all elves have with each other.
But what do you think? Do you like elf tribals? Would you want stronger elf commanders, or ones with other abilities? Or are you more of a goblins kinda player? Feel free to leave a comment down below or over in our Discord.
That’s all from me for now. Have a good one, and I’ll see you next time!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: