Braids, Conjurer Adept | Illustration by Zoltan Boros & Gabor Szikszai
Humans are one of the most printed creature types in Magic. This is due in large part to the fact that humans are native to most planes of the Multiverse, with a few exceptions like Lorwyn. Lots of the main characters in Magic’s story are also humans, so a large number of legendary creature cards also happen to be human.
Any time a creature type is widely represented like this, it becomes more likely to have Commander decks built around it. These decks are referred to by most players as “tribal decks,” though you may have heard that some players are starting to move away from that terminology. Human tribal is a very popular theme for a Commander deck, and you’re likely looking for a good legendary human to lead it if you’re building one.
Of course, human commanders aren’t just good for human-focused decks. So many legendary creatures are humans, so there are some that are just great commanders who happen to have that creature type.
Today I tried to pick mostly commanders that were both human and worked well for a human tribal theme. That said, there are some human commanders I felt I should include regardless. They’re such great commanders the list would feel incomplete without them!
What Are Human Commanders in MTG?
Yawgmoth, Thran Physician | Illustration by Greg Staples
A human commander is any legendary creature that’s also a human. There are nearly 600 human commander cards in Magic, making it difficult to get a full picture of how each one of them stacks up.
I’m going to be looking mostly at human commanders that work well in a human deck, with a few exceptions. When looking at the list you’ll notice the mono-colored commanders are more generally good cards as opposed to tribal commanders. That’s because having access to at least two colors significantly improves your build when building a human deck. White is the exception because it has several great human tribal commanders that can do well on their own.
Best White Human Commanders
#3. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is a popular commander for mono-white stax or control. One of the most popular ways to build this commander is by including lots of hatebears, or cheap creatures that make it difficult for your opponents to play the kind of game they want to play. These are cards like Spirit of the Labyrinth or Containment Priest that shut down common strategies that are essential for the success of most decks.
#2. Adeline, Resplendent Cathar
Adeline, Resplendent Cathar stands out as a great option for a human tribal deck. Not only does it make you lots of humans each time you attack with a creature, Adeline also gets much stronger each time it does. White is also a color with a lot of token support like Mondrak, Glory Dominus that makes this deck even more powerful.
#1. Rick, Steadfast Leader
It’s a shame that Rick, Steadfast Leader isn’t more readily available because it’s one of the better human tribal commanders. Rick’s ability to add keywords to your other humans is very helpful, and since you’re in white, you have access to cards like Ephemerate to let you choose new keywords if needed. Rick works well in human decks looking to make a lot of token creatures or go wide with weenies thanks to his ability to buff all your humans.
Best Blue Human Commanders
#5. Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy / Jace, Telepath Unbound
Flip walkers like Jace, Vryn's Prodigy offer you a chance to play with some of your favorite planeswalkers as your commander. If you want to theme an entire deck around that planeswalker, these are a good option for that too. This version of Jace works well for searching through your deck and synergizes with strategies that make use of your own graveyard. Mill decks and self-mill decks work well with this Jace.
#4. Sai, Master Thopterist
Sai, Master Thopterist works very well as both the commander or as part of the 99 of an artifact-themed deck. It can make you lots of tokens, especially if you’re playing with a good number of 0-cost artifacts. There are plenty of ways to sacrifice these artifacts for your own benefit, like Sai’s activated ability or by cheating out larger artifacts with cards like Master Transmuter or Kuldotha Forgemaster.
#3. Braids, Conjurer Adept
Braids, Conjurer Adept creates some very fun and chaotic Commander games. Because it allows each player to potentially drop a bomb from their hand each turn, you get games where massive creatures are being dropped around the table turn 3 or 4. You can also build yourself a deck full of massive creatures and just focus on keeping Braids on the field, allowing you pretty much to ignore the mana cost of your big threats.
#2. Baral, Chief of Compliance
Baral, Chief of Compliance seems almost designed to annoy your opponents. It’s best built like a deck that relies heavily on counterspells, which is something that a lot of players find frustrating. However, if your playgroup doesn’t mind you playing it, Baral can be a pretty hard commander to beat because it’s constantly giving you more resources and it discounts your counters.
#1. Urza, Lord High Artificer
It’s almost absurd how powerful of a commander Urza, Lord High Artificer is. Because this version of Urza turns all your artifacts into mana rocks, regardless of summoning sickness on your artifact creatures, you can have some incredibly explosive turns. Even if you run out of cards to play from your hand, Urza’s ability allows you to cast cards for free from your deck.
Best Black Human Commanders
#3. Liliana, Heretical Healer / Liliana, Defiant Necromancer
The Liliana flip walker, Liliana, Heretical Healer, canbe a very fun commander to build around. Though more suited for zombie decks than human ones, Liliana’s abilities to return creatures from your graveyard can really work with just about any creature type. You’ll want to include a good amount of removal in this deck, so you can basically overwhelm your opponents with their own best cards if you manage to get Liliana’s emblem.
#2. Yawgmoth, Thran Physician
While Yawgmoth, Thran Physician isn’t a good commander for a human deck, it does do well against them thanks to its protection ability. Yawgmoth is a great choice for an aristocrats deck because it can easily sacrifice creatures and get you lots of benefits for doing so. You may also want to splash some infect into a Yawgmoth deck to take full advantage of its proliferate ability.
#1. Syr Konrad, the Grim
Syr Konrad, the Grim’s first ability can be triggered in so many different ways that it offers you lots of choices for deckbuilding. You can also add in cards that have triggers from similar events like Blood Artist for when a creature dies or The Haunt of Hightower which has a similarly flexible way to trigger its ability.
Best Red Human Commanders
#3. Orthion, Hero of Lavabrink
Orthion, Hero of Lavabrink is a relatively new commander, but I think it’ll prove to be a pretty popular one. Cards like Braid of Fire or Jeska's Will can help you activate its second ability more quickly, and creating five versions of your best creature can have a big impact on a game. I’d include some evasive creatures like flying dragons that are good to copy. I’d also include cards with death triggers, good ETB effects, and attack triggers. Cards like Cavalier of Flame and Chaos Balor are good because they’ll trigger multiple abilities in the same turn when copied with Orthion. I’d also include cards like Terror of the Peaks and Warstorm Surge.
#2. Rionya, Fire Dancer
Rionya, Fire Dancer can be built very similarly to Orthion, though I think it’s slightly better for a few reasons. Instead of just sinking mana into an ability to make copies, you get to cast spells meaning you’re getting more value out of your mana. Rionya also gives you at least one free copy each turn, and there’s no upper limit. If you can cast more than five spells, you can make more than five copies.
#1. Godo, Bandit Warlord
Godo, Bandit Warlord is a competitive commander that can be difficult to beat. Godo not only creates a game-winning infinite combo with Helm of the Host, but Godo can grab it from your library onto the field for free when it enters the battlefield. If you can equip the helm to Godo, it likely wins you the game the turn it hits the battlefield.
Best Green Human Commanders
#2. Azusa, Lost but Seeking
Azusa, Lost but Seeking’s ability to let you play additional lands can be very powerful in a few ways. If you’re running big creatures, you’ll be able to more quickly ramp and get them on the field. It also synergizes very well with any landfall abilities, making cards like Scute Swarm even more deadly than they normally are.
#1. Yisan, the Wanderer Bard
Yisan, the Wanderer Bard is a unique pod commander because it won’t force you to sacrifice any creatures to get a free one from your deck. This can be paired well with other pod effects because you can then sacrifice whatever creature Yisan found for something more powerful. This commander also works well with proliferate effects because you can more quickly add verse counters and get to your bigger creatures. Make sure you’re spreading out your mana curve more than usual in this kind of deck so you don’t run dry of creatures Yisan can find for you.
Best Multicolored Human Commanders
Honorable Mention: Morophon, the Boundless
I wasn’t sure if Morophon, the Boundless should really count because it both is and isn’t a human creature. Its type line doesn’t include “human” but you can consider it one thanks to its changeling ability. Just as it works well for many other tribal decks, Morophon is a great human tribal commander because it reduces the cost of all your cards. It even lets you play some for free! Being in five colors also means that you can include any human creature you want from the game in this deck.
#17. Katilda, Dawnhart Prime
Katilda, Dawnhart Prime is a good commander for any deck that’s looking to go wide with creatures. Each time you cast a creature, you’re also essentially getting a mana rock which speeds up your ability to cast big spells more quickly. Katilda’s activated ability also allows you to beef up your smaller creatures, meaning it’s okay to play lots of cheap weak creatures for the quick mana because you can then make them stronger.
#16. Captain Sisay
Because there are so many legendary humans, Captain Sisay can be a great commander for a human deck. There are a variety of powerful legendary Selesnya human creatures, and ones that support humans like Sigarda, Heron's Grace. Sisay helps you to find these cards as you need them, allowing you a lot more control over what cards you have than you normally would. Including a Concordant Crossroads in this deck is a good idea because you’ll be able to activate Sisay right away, which also means you can include cards that flicker it to help you find multiple cards in a turn.
#15. Shanid, Sleepers’ Scourge
Shanid, Sleepers' Scourge is another commander that can take advantage of all the legendary humans available to you. Mardu is a pretty popular color combination for human decks according to EDHRec, and there are plenty of great legends you can include that work well with Shanid’s abilities.
#14. Jirina Kudro
Jirina Kudro is another option for Mardu humans, with an ability that can buff all your creatures, not just the legendary ones. I like that it lessens the downside of commander tax a bit by giving you some extra tokens, and it works well with flicker spells like Ephemerate which can get additional triggers off its ETB effect.
#13. Chulane, Teller of Tales
Chulane, Teller of Tales excels in any deck built around playing a lot of creatures. It offers you so much value each time you play a creature, and it can somewhat protect creatures from removal by returning them to your hand instead of letting them be destroyed or exiled. While none of its abilities specifically buff humans, Chulane itself is human meaning so it’ll benefit from any human-focused spells and buffs if you’re building in that direction.
#12. Najeela, the Blade-Blossom
Najeela, the Blade-Blossom may be more of a warrior-focused commander, but there are a decent number of human warrior creatures if you want to dip your toes into both types for your deck. Najeela’s extra combat ability can allow for some very impactful turns, especially if any of your opponents are out of blockers. Jegantha, the Wellspring is an auto-include for a Najeela deck, either as a companion or in the 99. Jegantha can be tapped to activate Najeela’s ability easily. If you can give it vigilance you can even have infinite combat steps by attacking with Jegantha and then tapping it to activate Najeela.
#11. Saskia the Unyielding
Though Saskia the Unyielding doesn’t explicitly name humans anywhere in its rules text, it still works well as a commander for a human deck. If you’re playing humans, you’re often looking to win through combat damage. By allowing you to essentially attack two players at once, Saskia is speeding up your way of winning. There are plenty of cards that buff human creatures, and as a four-color commander you’ll have access to a lot of them with Saskia.
#10. General Kudro of Drannith
General Kudro of Drannith is as oppressive of a card as he is a leader in Magic’s story. Its triggered ability can help slow down any of your opponent’s graveyard plays while its activated ability allows you to take out big threatening creatures. Usually it’s a good trade to ditch a few weaker creatures to take out a big one. You can build in ways to create human tokens to give you more sacrifice fodder, and death triggers also work well in this deck.
#9. Durnan of the Yawning Portal + Folk Hero
Durnan of the Yawning Portal’s attack trigger is very helpful for making sure you always have creatures at your disposal. Combining it with the Folk Hero background gives you even more resources. You’ll want to make this a human tribal deck so that you’re consistently drawing some extra cards, and you’ll also probably want some ways to protect Durnan when it attacks.
#8. Silvar, Devourer of the Free + Trynn, Champion of Freedom
Trynn, Champion of Freedom naturally works well with its only partner Silvar, Devourer of the Free. By sacrificing a human to Silvar, you can attack without worry of it being destroyed. Since you attacked, you’ll get another human from Trynn which you can sacrifice next turn and continue the cycle. Building a human deck around these two allows you to make Silvar very big and keep it safe from a lot of removal spells and abilities.
#7. Katilda and Lier
Katilda and Lier add lots of value to each human you cast by basically turning them all into a Snapcaster Mage. Flashing back ramp spells or draw spells like Mass Appeal can help you ensure you have the resources you need to stay competitive. It also lets you play an X spell like Wargate earlier in the game and then flash it back for a greater impact once you have the mana to do so.
#6. Maja, Bretagard Protector
Selesnya is one of the best color combinations for a token deck, and it’s pretty good for landfall too. You’ll have a lot of ways to maximize the output of Maja, Bretagard Protector. By creating lots of human tokens, any benefits you get from having humans or any buffs given to them are more effective. Maja itself is also an anthem, making its tokens and any of your weaker creatures just a bit better while it’s on the field.
#5. Torens, Fist of the Angels
Torens, Fist of the Angels can get a lot of value out of your creatures by always giving you two bodies for the price of one. As a cast trigger, you’ll also get your token even if your creature spell is countered, so less wasted mana. Since your human tokens have training, that means they all continue to get stronger until they’re tied with whatever your strongest creature is. Selesnya has lots of support for +1/+1 counters and tokens, so there are plenty of ways to build a powerful Torens deck.
#4. Sisay, Weatherlight Captain
Like the other version of Sisay, Sisay, Weatherlight Captain can take advantage of the many great human legends available in Magic. What makes this Sisay better is that you can include any human legend in the game in a deck built around it. It’s also able to get you creatures right to the battlefield, and multiple times a turn if you have enough mana.
#3. Winota, Joiner of Forces
At first, Winota, Joiner of Forces may seem like a strange choice for a human tribal deck since you need non-human creatures to trigger its ability. However, as long as you’re including human creatures like Loyal Apprentice that make you non-human tokens, you can keep most of the actual creatures in your deck humans. This means you can attack with your largely disposable tokens and be more likely to hit a human creature you can play for free.
#2. Kyler, Sigardian Emissary
Kyler, Sigardian Emissary’s ability won’t just make it very strong; it’ll also buff your entire board if you’re only running humans. Including cards like Doubling Season can help accelerate Kyler’s counters and in turn make the rest of your creatures more powerful at the same rate. This works well in decks that are looking to make a lot of human tokens because they end up being a great value due to Kyler’s massive buff.
#1. Kenrith, the Returned King
Thanks to all its activated abilities, Kenrith, the Returned King is one of the most flexible commanders to build around. Being five colors means you can include all the best human support cards in this deck, and Kenrith itself benefits from them. It can also ensure you’re keeping your creatures with important abilities on the field thanks to its reanimation ability. While human tribal isn’t the most popular Kenrith build, it’s definitely a powerful way to take this commander.
Best Human Commander Payoffs
There are plenty of good cards that care about you controlling humans.
Dire Tactics is a very cheap removal spell and one with no downside for human-based decks.
Mass Appeal is a cheap draw spell that can get you a lot of cards when you’re playing a human deck that goes wide.
Visions of Glory can be an especially powerful payoff for having a lot of humans, and if you flash it back it can essentially double what it made the first time.
I’d also recommend Laid to Rest, a great source of card draw in a human deck.
You can also benefit from generic tribal support like Coat of Arms or Path of Ancestry.
Kyler, Sigardian Emissary | Illustration by Dmitry Burmak
As I said before, there are nearly 600 human commanders. These are just the ones that stood out to me, that are widely popular or work well for human tribal. It’s also important to note that there are some great human tribal commanders that aren’t themselves humans, like Sigarda, Heron's Grace. If your favorite human commander didn’t make the list, that doesn’t mean it’s not a great card, and I’d love to hear what you think are some of the best!
Who is your favorite human commander? Do you enjoy human tribal decks or tribal decks in general? Let me know in the comments below, or over on Draftsim’s Twitter.
Thanks for reading, and I look forward to seeing you in the next one!
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