Last updated on July 14, 2022
Atla Palani, Nest Tender | Illustration by Ekaterina Burmak
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Commander is a format of choice, and a big part of that is figuring out what color (or combination) you’re building around. But that’s not even the hard part. The real hard part is choosing which commander to actually pick once you’ve picked your color or color combo.
I’d like to present you with a combo that I see not only as underrated but also underplayed: Naya (). Today I’ll give you the rundown as to why Naya could be the color trio for you, what commanders are great if it is, and even cover a sample EDH decklist to give you an idea how you may want to build your own.
Let’s get into it!
Why Choose a Naya Commander?
Marath, Will of the Wild | Illustration by Tyler Jacobson
Have you ever thought to yourself, “man, I wish Gruul had the removal and midrange-y aspect of white?” Well, you’re in luck!
Let me introduce you to the color shard, which often runs a heavy creature-based strategy. Naya takes the aggression of red, the ramp and bodies of green, and the removal and protection of white to create a formidable color combination. If playing commanders that cost four mana and enjoy giving your diverse board of creatures a bunch of different keywords sounds appealing, then keep scrolling to check out the best commanders Naya has to offer!
#7. Zacama, Primal Calamity
In 7th place we have Zacama, Primal Calamity, the first (but not the last) dinosaur commander ranked today!
While Zacama doesn’t specifically empower dinosaur tribal how can you not run dinosaur tribal with a 9/9 vigilance-reach-trample monstrosity in the command zone? Especially when that dinosaur pays for itself when you cast it, allowing you to activate each of its abilities at least once. An enter-the-battlefield trigger that blows up an opponent’s mana rock, gains you three life, and deals three damage to some other weakling of a commander seems pretty good.
As for how to build this deck, living a simple life of “big mana, big creatures” is definitely the easiest way to go about it. Green has access to as much mana as you want and I recommend going over the average number if you’re running this commander. Your whole game plan revolves around playing huge creatures and doing big mana things, so if you fail to get to the point where you can cast your commander let alone some of the bigger dinosaurs then you’re just a sitting duck waiting for your turn to be killed.
Ranging Raptors, Kinjalli’s Caller, Marauding Raptor, and Knight of the Stampede are all must-haves along with the classic acceleration spells like Cultivate or Kodama’s Reach. I’d even include more than a few mana dorks (anything from Llanowar Elves to Bloom Tender will do) since hitting that extra mana right away completely changes the pace of the game for the better.
#6. Ghired, Conclave Exile
In 6th place is Ghired, Conclave Exile, the human shaman from Commander 2019 and the only commander on this list to promote a populate strategy. Populate is a mechanic that creates a token copy of another creature token you control, in this case whenever Ghired attacks. The fun part about populating with Ghired is that the token comes in tapped and attacking with it which presents a tremendous threat to your opponents while also making up for its pitiful 2 power.
Ghired, Conclave Exile (hopefully) won’t be your only populate engine, especially considering there are so many strong ones in green and white to include. Growing Ranks is undoubtedly the best since you get a populate trigger every turn for just four mana which is difficult to stop once it starts rolling. Sundering Growth is excellent removal on its own with a populate bonus, Selesnya Eulogist extracts additional value from your dead creatures, and Full Flowering can populate as many times as you can pay for it!
If consistent populate triggers is more your style, consider including a copy of Song of the Worldsoul for an few more populates per turn, or Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage to populate two or three times later in the game.
#5. Mayael the Anima
Starting off the top five is a Commander classic and one of the most popular Naya commanders of all time, Mayael the Anima.
Mayael emphasizes a “big mana” theme in its commander decks with its activated ability which costs a whopping . This ability lets you dig through the top five cards of your deck to pick a creature with power five or greater to put directly onto the battlefield. This can get out of hand pretty quickly when you’re suddenly activating it and cheating out a Terastodon on turn 4.
Part of running a strategy that depends on having quick and big mana is that you’re dead in the water if you miss on your early mana acceleration. To prevent this you want to make sure you’re running more than the average amount of early acceleration with all available methods. This means you’ll want to hit around 10 mana artifacts, six mana dorks, and a handful of spells that tutor out lands like Cultivate and Kodama’s Reach.
As for the big creature bit, try to focus more on creatures that have ETB effects as instead of too many attack triggers (notice I only said focus more). Terastodon, Avenger of Zendikar, and Angel of Serenity come to mind first but there are hundreds of great choices for you to pick from.
#4. Rin and Seri, Inseparable
In 4th place are the dog and cat duo (but not partners!), Rin and Seri, Inseparable. This commander is just too adorable and actually makes for a great cat tribal commander. Tribal is a very strong strategy in EDH thanks to the large variety of enabling artifacts and enchantments, and also because you have access to every cat ever printed.
As for the artifacts and enchantments there are half a dozen or so “staples” that you have to include if you want your tribal deck to succeed and hold its own against other less-specific strategies. Coat of Arms is arguably the most important because each creature you control gets stronger for each other creature you control of that type. Yes, you read that right; it gives +1/+1 for each creature that shares a type with it. This gets out of control incredibly fast and often results in somebody’s death if you’re able to attack with it even once.
There’s also Vanquisher’s Banner, which gives you incredible card advantage by making your cats card neutral to make up for the lesser combat stats buff. And there’s something to say about Eldrazi Monument in cat tribal. You’ll typically make a lot of tokens with planeswalkers like Ajani, Strength of the Pride or Ajani, Caller of the Pride that you don’t mind sacrificing in exchange for flying and indestructible.
As for the actual cats you’ll be playing there are more than a few great ones. Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist helps you connect with more damage each swing. Hungry Lynx continuously provides buffs for your creatures while being a cost-effective lightning rod. And Brimaz, King of Oreskos helps fill your board and provides sacrifice fodder for the previously mentioned Eldrazi Monument.
#3. Gishath, Sun’s Avatar
In 3rd place is the most popular Naya commander with over 4,300 decks online, Gishath, Sun’s Avatar.
Gishath’s popularity stems not only from its strength as a commander but the fact it enables dinosaur tribal. Dinosaur tribal has a simple but effective playstyle that can be almost comforting at times. It can be perfectly summed up by the phrase, “play big dinosaurs, win.”
The biggest part of playing big creatures is getting even bigger mana, so let’s talk about what you need to include if you want to have any shred of consistency in playing your commander or other big dinos on time. A big part of your “ramp” should come from discounts on your dinosaur’s mana costs overall paired with the vast number of mana ramp spells, creatures, and artifacts; Knight of the Stampede, Kinjalli’s Caller, Marauding Raptor, and Otepec Huntmaster. These – and -mana discounts will take you far, and they aren’t limited to a once-per-turn use that mana dorks like Llanowar Elves are weakened by.
As for your actual dinosaurs there are quite a few thanks to the multiple dinosaur sets and Commander products WotC has blessed us with. There are of course the obvious huge dinos like The Tarrasque, Wakening Sun’s Avatar, Etali, Primal Storm, and Zacama, Primal Calamity. But you also have a lot of lesser-known dinosaurs (at least to me) that are worth including in the list. I’m referencing powerful commons and uncommons like Raging Regisaur, Thundering Spineback, Drover of the Mighty, and Majestic Heliopterus.
There’s also something to be said about including various enchantments to continuously buff your board. I think Unnatural Growth and Mirari’s Wake are the best but you can also look at including Colossal Majesty or Warstorm Surge.
#2. Marath, Will of the Wild
In 2nd place is yet another classic Naya commander, Marath, Will of the Wild. Despite originally releasing in Commander 2013, Marath can hold its own at any non-cEDH table. It’s a +1/+1 commander at heart and I highly recommend building it this way instead of something like pod or beast tribal.
+1/+1 counters have plenty of support in green and white, and red even has a few good cards for the strategy. The release of Crimson Vow brought quite a few good inclusions for Naya +1/+1 counters with Torens, Fist of the Angels, Hopeful Initiate, and most notably Halana and Alena, Partners.
These kind of +1/+1 zoo decks also benefit from token creation, and your Marath list has a great token generator in the command zone with its last activated ability. Being able to turn your commander into a token with identical combat stats (or many smaller tokens) at instant speed makes it difficult to remove and keep down.
Naya also has excellent token- and zoo-empowering enchantments you should pick up in addition to Marath. Mirari’s Wake, Impact Tremors, and Cryptolith Rite all work well in an ordinary zoo list but are especially strong if you include some token elements. And make sure to consider picking up Parallel Lives if you do and you can afford it; it quite literally makes your token generators twice as powerful.
#1. Atla Palani, Nest Tender
Finally in 1st place is Atla Palani, Nest Tender, the second human shaman from Commander 2019 with over 3,700 decklists online.
A general Atla Palani, Nest Tender decklist can be pretty easy to build on your own. You want to focus on ramping out through mostly spell and artifact acceleration so that you don’t flood your deck with dorks that come out of your eggs, and then use your commander and the ramp available to you to cheat out huge creatures in the early game.
In case you still need convincing, just imagine cheating out Zetalpa, Primal Dawn or Ghalta, Primal Hunger out on turn 5. Somebody is going to lose half their health as early as that turn if your opponents don’t have hard removal ready immediately.
Decklist: Mayael Big Stuff in Commander
Mayael the Anima | Illustration by Jason Chan
Ilharg, the Raze-Boar
Sigarda, Host of Herons
Xenagos, God of Revels
Etali, Primal Storm
Kodama of the East Tree
Kogla, the Titan Ape
Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
Soul of the Harvest
Angel of Serenity
Gisela, Blade of Goldnight
Verdant Sun’s Avatar
Archetype of Endurance
Avacyn, Angel of Hope
Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger
Zacama, Primal Calamity
Mayael the Anima leads our sample decklist for a couple reasons. First, I think this commander’s art is just beautiful. It’s great to look at, it’s easily accessible in foil, and it really shows the Naya colors well.
Second is that the skeleton of this decklist, the mana and creatures and such, can easily be stripped off and placed under any other commander. This list is very customizable and can be easily adjusted for dinosaur tribal, pod, or any other theme you want to go for. Just make sure to include the mana acceleration, early creatures, and possibly some of the better enchantments in the list.
Your early game plan is simple: get a healthy amount of mana acceleration out with spells like Cultivate, Farseek, and Explosive Vegetation or artifacts like Sol Ring and the Signets. This early mana helps you curve into activating your commander on turn 3 or 4 so that you can cheat your huge creatures out as early as possible.
Notice that you’re not playing any creatures with mana values less than four. This is because you can’t really afford to “miss” with your Mayael the Anima’s activated ability by hitting some loser 1-drop. You want value, and that comes from at worst getting a strong 4-drop like Elvish Piper, or a mega-bomb like Worldspine Wurm at best.
The enchantments in this deck are the secret to its success, not the big bodies. Warstorm Surge is an incredibly fun and powerful card to play and it’s terrifying to stare down across the other side of the table. It lets you hit creatures in addition to players which just adds to its strength.
Gishath, Sun’s Avatar | Illustration by Zack Stella
That wraps up today’s ranking for the best Naya commanders in Magic! I really enjoyed researching and writing this since I got to dive deeper into one of the less popular color shards in MTG. I think that Naya is severely underrated and often gets passed over for Jund.
What did you think of the rankings? Were there any that you’d move around? Let me know in the comments down below or over on our official Draftsim Discord.
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