Last updated on February 15, 2023
Thrasios, Triton Hero | Illustration by Josu Hernaiz
Ah, Commander. Commander, or Elder Dragon Highlander (EDH) as it was called before Wizards decided to develop for it directly, is probably the most popular casual MTG format available. For a deck builder, it can be one of the best formats to build for and maybe even a constant source of frustration. But we’ll get to that in just a sec.
“Partner” is a keyword that was introduced in Commander 2016 that allows you to have two commanders if they both have the keyword. Allow me to take you through everything you need to know when it comes to choosing partner commanders, and if you even should!
What Are Partner Commanders?
Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix | Illustration by Bastien L. Deharme
We’ve gone over the deck rules before, but here’s a quick reminder if you need it:
- 100 cards exactly: 1 commander, 99 other cards, no sideboard
- All cards must have the same color identity as the commander
- Commander must be a legendary creature
- All sets are fair game
You can see how these restrictions are both freeing and infuriating. Although your other 99 cards are important, the first choice for building a Commander deck is generally the commander. This is where your color identity will come from and, more importantly, where synergies ripple out.
A good (dare I say great) commander is going to have some awesome abilities. Take Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded as an example. While you can cast your commander as many times per game as you can pay the commander tax for, you only get the one. This is where partner commanders come in.
Let’s say you’re playing Tymna the Weaver. If you’re going for partner commanders, you could also play Akiri, Line-Slinger in your command zone, but not Adriana, Captain of the Guard. This gives you the chance to benefit from more synergies and helps to expand you color identity. Since you have two cards in your command zone, you’ll only have 98 cards in your library. But the commander tax applies to each commander individually, so your costs stay lower.
With all of that said, there are also some commanders in Battlebond and Commander 2020 that only allow you to partner with specific cards. For example: Pir, Imaginative Rascal and Toothy, Imaginary Friend can both be your commanders, but they can only partner with each other so it’s both of them or just the one. Interestingly, if you only run one as your commander, the other can’t be one of the 99 because color identity. Also, they must be legendary creatures and, weirdly, some partners cards aren’t.
Haldan, Avid Arcanist | Illustration by Manuel Castañón
Partnering allows for some interesting things. I’ve already discussed the pros of doing it (more card synergy, greater color identity, two static creatures to play), but there are definitely some cons to playing partner commanders as well.
A lot of the partner commanders’ abilities are niche and only work well when in use with their partner, so having them out alone isn’t as impactful. This is only really a con depending on how you’ve constructed your deck, though.
Another con is you run the risk of becoming a target at the table. Partner commanders, especially when both are out, tend to be fairly powerful. A lot of interactions will take care of one or both immediately as they hit the battlefield. People also tend to not like them for the same reason why they didn’t like the companion mechanic as it originally stood: it’s another guaranteed card that isn’t in hand, giving you additional card advantage. It’s a reasonable complaint given that you’re working with a larger deck and it happens without the need for a tutor.
As for building with partners instead of a single commander, the main thing is going to be looking for getting the best bang for your buck with them. In other words, play to their strengths. Also, any cards that can give wide rather than targeted protection will be a very good idea. This goes for just about all of them in some capacity. You can probably get away without the spread protection for the cheaper ones like Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh since the tax won’t take effect as quickly.
Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker | Illustration by Zack Stella
At the most basic levels, playing with two commanders isn’t much different that playing with one. The main difference on the board is that your Command Zone is a bit more crowded. There are definitely some things to keep in mind when playing with two commanders that you don’t have to worry about otherwise, though:
Commander Tax is Applied Individually
If you partner up two commanders with abilities that can stand on their own, then you can use one for a the early stages of the game and then switch to the other once the tax gets too high on the first one.
Each Commander is Cast Individually
I know this seems like common sense, but it does matter. When building a Commander deck, the cost of the commander matters since they tend to be a big part of the deck’s engine. How fast or slow they hit the battlefield can determine quite a bit. With two creatures to cast, it can potentially take twice as long to achieve your goals unless you have a fair bit of ramp or secondary mana sources.
Each Commander Assigns Their Commander Damage Separately
Since Commander damage is per commander, you can’t have them both just gang up and take down an opponent via the commander damage rule. This can also be a pain point for some opponents because it’s just one more thing to keep track of.
The Partner Commanders: A Full List
Ravos, Soultender | Illustration by Zezhou Chen
Here’s a list of all the partner commanders. Any commanders that only work with one another are listed together. Check it out:
The Best of the Best
Section updated for KHM by Niels
“Best” is subjective and depends on the game and who you’re playing against. That being said, I’ve compiled my own list of what I feel to be the 10 best based on ability and card synergies. Let’s do this.
Pir, Imaginative Rascal + Toothy, Imaginary Friend
Pir is a great counter doubler that stacks well with other counter doublers. Toothy takes counters all day long and eats them for additional card draw when he gets bounced. Given the amount of ramp and draw in Simic, these two don’t have to hunt much to get what they need.
Think of putting a few gems like Doubling Season to get even more counters on your permanents and Greater Good as a sac outlet to exploit the goodies of sacking Toothy (and others) even more. Yeah, I’m drooling, too.
They also pair very well in Team Commander or Two-Headed Giant.
Sakashima of a Thousand Faces + Vial Smasher the Fierce
Now these two are just busted. The fact that Sakashima nullifies the “legend rule,” which means you can copy Vial Smasher a bunch. Throw in all the Clone cards and a couple of copy-worthy targets (Clever Impersonator copying Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, anyone?) with some artifacts to get to your big spells faster and you’ve got a beast of a deck.
Imagine copying the Smasher four or five times and then dropping Ugin. Possibly one opponent dead and a selective board wipe, plus you keep your artifact mana and lands to power your stuff out again quickly. Sign me up!
Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools + Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh
A fair amount of people really hated on Tevesh when he was first spoiled, and there were even calls to ban the card. I feel like this was an overreaction. So what if he gets to his ultimate and your commander gets stolen? There’s a simple solution: just play wraths that wipe the board. Problem solved. Don’t be afraid of this card; just play it yourself and let your friends enjoy playing with it, too!
The real treat with this card is his +1 ability. Combine this with a cheap partner (hello, Rograkh!) and start drawing cards for the low cost of a sacrifice. Now that’s a steal! Talking of stealing, red is known for their steal effects, so you can grab other people’s commanders with the likes of Act of Aggression and sac them to Tevesh for maximum pros to his sacrifice “draw back.”
I’d combine this with cards that make everyone draw more cards so the “feel bad” is okay to deal with. Everybody gets the chance to draw to their good stuff, too. You’re just doing it a smidge faster!
Silas Renn, Seeker Adept + Keskit, the Flesh Sculptor
Since the dawn of time (or at least it feels like it) blue has been a great pair with artifacts. That there’d be a great partner commander having to do with artifacts should be no surprise to you.
This combination between Silas and Keskit calls for a lot of artifacts that reward you for coming back from the graveyard. I’d look at card draw, but of course that’s entirely up to you. Combine this with a couple of artifacts that ramp and give unblock-ability plus creature artifacts like Wurmcoil Engine and Myr Battlesphere, and you’ve got a bumping deck real quick.
Kodama of the East Tree + Toggo, Goblin Weaponsmith
This combination is bound to give your friends at the table a headache because it goes infinite. Quickly. If your friends are a little like mine, they’ll have more than one EDH deck. It might be a good idea to talk beforehand and decide that everyone brings out their proverbial guns for that particular game. Enter Kodama and Toggo.
To combo off, you’ll need just one other card. Gruul Turf, easily findable with one of green’s many land search spells. Now the fun begins. With both Kodama and Toggo out, put Turf into play and all three will trigger. Stack the triggers so Turf goes off first, then Toggo, and last Kodama. Turf bounces itself, Toggo makes a Rock equipment. This triggers Kodama again, put Turf back into play. Rinse and repeat.
The result is an endless supply of Rock equipment artifacts. What to do with all these landfall triggers and endless supply of artifact equipments? Oh, I don’t know, Krark-Clan Ironworks perhaps? That way you can equip and use the rest of your infinite Rocks for good measure. All credit goes to The Professor for this combo:
Akroma, Vision of Ixidor + Kamahl, Heart of Krosa
You might be wondering, “Isn’t this a bit overkill?” And you’d be correct, but it’s a damn good combo nonetheless. Even if you don’t play many creatures that have a lot of keywords on them, these two cards alone can end the game. The fact that they both enter the battlefield later in the game actually works to your advantage here because you want a ton of lands on the battlefield.
Once you’re ready with cards like Dense Foliage to protect these star-crossed lovers, play Akroma and Kamahl because it’s time for them to meet and start making babies of doom. Before your next combat step, animate as many of your lands as possible. You may also want to have some kind of untap lands cards like Animist’s Awakening ready for maximum impact. Then go to your combat step. Both Akroma and Kamahl trigger.
Make sure you put Akroma’s trigger on the stack first. Kamahl’s trigger goes off and gives your animated lands their boost and trample. Then Akroma’s trigger resolves and gives all your lands +4/+4. Aaaand swing with the team. 8/8 indestructible, haste, vigilance, and trample lands, plus your commanders if you’ve been patient or have Concordant Crossroads, come crashing in.
Sidar Kondo of Jamuraa + Tana, the Bloodsower
This fun little interaction isn’t as immediately deadly as the previous one, but is still pretty awesome. You can make a lovely little nigh-unblockable token army. These colors have all the great token makers, so cram your deck full of them.
The text on Sidar that mentions “without flying” is critical here. As with any deck that focuses on ground creatures, it’s imperative to keep your friends’ flyers at the same level. Gravity Sphere and Whiteout are the cards for this. Luckily, white and green are the perfect colors to re-use cards in graveyards and search up enchantments, too. For an even greater chance at success make sure to include Break Through the Line and Braid of Fire when the time comes to make those fatal swings with your token army. Extra combat steps, anyone?
Tymna the Weaver + Jeska, Thrice Born
You want to make sure you do one of two things when it comes to partner commanders: stack them on one another or make sure they complement each other. The latter is true with these two lovely (or should I say deadly?) ladies. I’m a big fan when black and white combine lifelink with paying life, because it balances out so nicely and fits their color pairing perfectly.
Tymna does this wonderfully. You want to make sure you can use her ability as securely as possible to help her along. And what better way than to have a partner in the command zone who can do so anytime you have the mana? They say third time’s the charm. Enter Jeska.
You can either build a pillow-fort type deck with enchantments that hold off your opponents and ones that give you life when creatures die, or you can stuff your deck full of lifelink creatures and swing away. The extort ability works with either route. It really brings home the ping-and-prick flavor that both Jeska and Tymna have taken to heart.
Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist + Rebbec, Architect of Ascension
Mono white is the perfect color to get going with equipment cards. Yes, Boros is the classic version, but it’s an upside you can’t get away from with Ardenn and Rebbec working so nicely together. Protection is powerful and protection from everything is just plain ridiculous, pun intended.
You want to build this deck with a strong equipment theme and multiple equipments at each CMC slot to ensure they all have protection from everything. Combine this with white’s ability to search equipments from your deck with cards like Stoneforge Mystic and Steelshaper Apprentice to find the pieces you’re missing. Include a classic Death and Taxes theme to make things difficult for your opponents, and you should be able to get the most out of Ardenn and Rebbec very quickly.
Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator + Breeches, Brazen Plunderer
Who doesn’t love a good ol’ tribal theme? Partner commanders support a couple, but none so powerful or fun as this duo. As with many tribal decks, it comes down to synergies between the shared types and turning your cards sideways. A lot.
This deck is really no different, but this one is perfect for all you pirate-loving people out there. Ixalan gave us a lot of modern pirate options and subsequent set releases have added plenty more swash-buckling, one-eyed, hat-wearing goodies to the seas they roam and villages they plunder. Malcolm and Breeches meet in the middle to give you both the plunder and the Treasure. The latter of which can be used to fuel the prior.
To make sure you connect with your crew, put in things like Disrupt Decorum and Geode Rager. You can combine this with menace and even bring in the previously mentioned Break Through the Line to ensure your rum-guzzling team connects.
With plenty of pirates to choose from, many of which are both fun and really good, this theme should be able to form a fun deck to both pilot and play against. Am I the only one who’s got the Pirates of the Caribbean tune stuck in my head now?
Bottom of the Barrel
Section updated for KHM by Niels
Sadly, there are also a couple of partners that don’t really get there. In my opinion the commanders that are bound to pair with a specific partner, with the exception of Pir and Toothy, are the weaker ones. Not necessarily in what they do, but the fact there’s only one other card to pair them with. The other partners are so much more flexible and give so much choice to you as a builder that they just outclass their siblings by a big margin.
With more products in the future that will undoubtedly include a couple new options, I’m keeping my hopes up that the following cards will get a whole lot better.
Livio, Oathsworn Sentinel
I love this card and its abilities. As a commander on its own, Livio is the perfect card to build a fun ETB/LTB matters deck. But sadly there’s no partner that can easily and cheaply abuse its ability.
The fact that you can also target your friends’ creatures makes this a great strategic and political card for commander and makes me doubly sad there’s no good partner for this Sentinel yet. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for future sets, shall we?
Sengir, the Dark Baron
You must admit that the art for this card is absolutely slamming. But they truly missed out on a chance to give Sengir his due and make him amazing. And not to mention Grixis, since that’s what his home actually makes: Castle Sengir. So, instead of telling you what’s bad about this card, let’s talk about what would’ve made him better.
I can think of one keyword that, if they’d only added that to his card, would’ve already given him a much bigger impact: deathtouch. This partner would’ve at least been a creature you wouldn’t want to block. If they’d added first strike to the mix it would’ve started to look like a Baron that was feared and you’d feel threatened. Not only by the counters, but he’d also be able to deal with practically any creature that doesn’t have indestructible or protection.
This would’ve made his “Whenever a player loses the game” ability so much stronger and, even better, relevant. Make him mythic if you have to. After all, he already is in many people’s eyes.
Brinelin, the Moon Kraken
It’s true that there are more expensive commanders with the partner ability. But unlike those creatures, this one really doesn’t do anything abusive. Bouncing something on 8 mana is just not where you want to be. It’s a point in the game where big plays are awesome and this just isn’t that.
Not to mention that, Brinelin costs two more if it dies, making him even worse. It’s only an uncommon, but if Aethersnipe can do it for less and at common than what are we even talking about here. Don’t play this card is my advice.
The Prismatic Piper
Yes, this card can be a life saver in Commander Legends draft, but the Piper is truly completely useless on its own in the wide world of EDH. Any other card that has partner and the color you want to play is literally better than this card. Obviously it wasn’t made for those surroundings, but it’s still completely at the bottom where partners are concerned in Commander.
Other than the commanders that only partner with specific other commanders, the ones with the partner keyword can be paired with any of the others with that same keyword. The world is your oyster. Have fun!
However, some strategy might be good. Here are a couple pairings and decklists to give you an idea of how some of the pairs can work together.
Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder + Tana, the Bloodsower
Bruse’s ability makes Tana a self-replicating army. If she swings in for full damage, you get four 1/1 Saprolings and 4 life right away. The more you pump her the better she gets. With cards that will use saprolings as resources and quite a bit of pump and beaters available in Naya colors, these two won’t take long to finish out a game.
If Naya isn’t your thing, Tana features on our Jund commanders list along with Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools.
Sidar Kondo of Jamuraa + Ikra Shidiqi, the Usurper
The combination of these two on the battlefield with a field of weenies or low-power non-defender walls with Doran, the Siege Tower on board means that, not only will everything be practically unblockable, but you’ll be getting a ton of life each time they swing through. This allows you to use life willy-nilly on things like Aetherflux Reservoir and Necropotence. White and green have lots of things to help with that and black has lots of things to use it on.
Vial Smasher the Fierce + Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus
I know. These look weird together. Vial Smasher seems like he would work better with Ludevic, Necro-Alchemist (and I honestly thought about pairing those two together at first), but hear me out. The whole point of this pairing is a bit of color identity trickery since it doesn’t really sit well in Grixis: hand hate. Kraum’s ability puts pressure on your opponents in two different ways: play more spells each round since the more they hold onto them to play later the more cards you get, OR: hold off on playing more than one spell a turn to keep from giving you any card advantage. While you have a restriction like this, you get the added benefit of some free damage courtesy of Vial Smasher. Throw in some additional hand-hate like Mindslicer and Sire of Insanity plus some additional free damage like Guttersnipe and you probably won’t be the most liked at your table.
Brallin, Skyshark Rider + Shabraz, the Skyshark
Yes, I know that these two only partner with each other, but seeing them together got me looking at decks for these two. It’s an easy concept: you want as many cards that can cycle or with abilities that allow you to draw/discard as possible, along with cards that also like draw and discard. The decklists I’ve got for you seemed to rather like wheels over cycling. I’m not sure why. You could very easily trade out the more expensive wheel cards for cheap cyclers from Ikoria.
Is Friends Forever the Same Thing as Partner?
In Secret Lair x Stranger Things, we got a new mechanic called “friends forever”, except the mechanic isn’t really new. You guessed it, friends forever and partner are exactly the same thing, only they aren’t compatible with one another. In other words, you can’t have Eleven, the Mage and Tymna the Weaver as your two commanders. Here are all the cards with friends forever:
Is Backgroud the Same Thing as Partner?
Background is a different mechanic that was introduced in Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate that allows for an enchantment card to influence your deck’s color identity. Both partner and background employ multiple cards to influence your deck, but they’re not the same mechanic.
Tymna the Weaver | Illustration by Winona Nelson
Commander is by far one of the most fun formats in the game right now, period. The possibilities for decks are endless and with 30,000+ cards in the MTG library, you can create a deck that no one else has ever done before. The amount of partner cards has been greatly expanded on with the release of Commander Legends, which brought their grand total to 88, 22 of which are set in stone. This makes a staggering 2,145 different possible partner combinations. Plenty to explore, so give it a shot!
I hope our talk today was informative and you found some use in it. If you enjoy articles like this, keep an eye on our blog for more. If you’re an MTG Arena player and looking for help in draft, give Arena Tutor a try. If you want to share any other interesting partner combinations and deck lists, we’ll welcome them in our Discord or in the comments below!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates:
Can you have a Creature/PW partner combination?
Technically I don’t think there’s any reason why not. In practicality — as far as I’m aware — the only planeswalkers with partner have a specific requirement that their partner be a certain card, which is always a planeswalker. So in reality, this isn’t possible. Unless there is a card you’re thinking of that I’m not?