Last updated on October 28, 2022
Jeska, Thrice Reborn | Illustration by Yongjae Choi
Wow, Commander really has grown over the years. It wasn’t even an officially sanctioned format when it first started. Now we’ve got Commander precons popping up left, right, and center. But many things have changed since the format was born.
The command zone has experienced a fundamental change since the release of Commander 2014. With the ability to have select planeswalkers as your commander, a whole new set of rules and questions are bound to pop up.
Let’s take a look at how exactly planeswalker commanders work.
Can a Planeswalker Be a Commander?
Yes, believe it or not. A planeswalker can only be a commander if it specifically states on the bottom of the card, “this card can be your commander.”
If it doesn’t have that line of text, forget it. Pick a legendary creature instead.
Estrid, the Masked | Illustration by Johannes Voss
But don’t take this statement too literally. At the end of the day, Commander is meant to be a casual format, meaning the rules are flexible. If your playgroup decides that any planeswalker can be your commander, then by all means, go for it!
How Many Planeswalker Commanders Are There?
As of now there are 17 planeswalker commanders. Most of them have been released with Commander precons, but there are a handful of others that have come from Commander-specific sets like Commander: Legends.
Some are obviously better than others. I’ll be ranking them from worst to best. Let’s get started!
#16. Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath
Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath has the undesirable position of being the worst planeswalker commander in the game. Mono-black commanders aren’t all that popular, and this particular one doesn’t have any great abilities to make up for its color restriction.
I just don’t see myself ever playing this card.
#15. Rowan Kenrith & Will Kenrith
You may have noticed that the countdown started at 16 even though there are 17 planeswalker commanders. Don’t worry, this wasn’t a mistake. I’m putting Rowan Kenrith and Will Kenrith together because nobody in their right mind would play one without the other. They’re partner commanders that can only partner with each other.
What I don’t like about the Kenriths is their casting costs. A commander should shake up the board right away at six mana. Neither Rowan nor Will accomplish this.
It’d be a lot better if at least one cost five mana because then you could cast one on turn 5 and the other on turn 6. The twins both having the same mana value makes things awkward.
#14. Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes
Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes was one of the first cards spoiled for Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate. It’s your typical run-of-the-mill Gruul stompy commander, who generates a 1/1 with trample and haste on ETB and on your upkeep. Its +1 ability puts three +1/+1 counters on a creature that currently has either trample or haste.
In Gruul stompy, you’ll never be short of creatures to put these counters on, but the additional 1/1 hamster is a nice touch. Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes‘ other ability, which costs two loyalty, sacrifices a creature to deal damage equal to its power to any target and also draws the same number of cards if that creature was a hamster. This is some great card draw. It’s essentially Lightning Bolt and Ancestral Recall in one, and I can’t imagine a Gruul deck that wouldn’t play that.
#13. Estrid, the Masked
Estrid, the Masked requires a very specific deck to work, and it’s not that powerful even then. Maybe I lack the deckbuilding imagination to make a great deck with it as the commander, or maybe I just don’t like auras all that much.
Estrid isn’t the worst, but I think you can do better in terms of planeswalker commanders.
#12. Tasha, the Witch Queen
It was only a matter of time until Tasha herself found her way into Magic. This five mana planeswalker from Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate is all about stealing instants and sorceries from your opponents’ grasps. Tasha’s first ability is a +1 that draws a card and exiles up to one instant or sorcery from each opponent’s graveyard with a page counter on it. Her -3 works alongside this, allowing you to cast one of them without paying their mana cost. To round things out, she’ll give you a 3/3 demon whenever you cast one of these stolen spells.
Tasha’s concept is certainly fun and powerful, especially in Dimir where this sort of steal your stuff, play it later strategy is the norm. I’m a little disappointed in her balancing, though. 3 loyalty to cast one of the spells when she starts with four and her other ability is a +1 is sort of weak. I’d rather this either allow you to cast multiple spells, or cost less to activate.
#11. Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury
As far as mono-green commanders go, Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury isn’t the best. Locking yourself into only one or two colors is a bad idea unless you commander is powerful enough to justify it. Its second ability provides board interaction, which I like, but it doesn’t have a whole lot to offer other than that.
#10. Nahiri, the Lithomancer
Well, I’m about to say the same thing about Nahiri, the Lithomancer as I did for Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury. Building a mono-white deck in Commander is hard, mostly because of how little card draw is available to you.
Odds are you’ll want to put tons of equipment in your deck, and there are other commanders that’ll get the job done if you’re planning on going full equipment mode in EDH. In better colors, too.
#9. Saheeli, the Gifted
You could remove Saheeli, the Gifted’s first ability altogether and I’d still give the card the same ranking. It’s really the second ability that matters. Being able to produce potentially insane amounts of mana in a single turn is nothing to laugh at.
I’d build the entire deck around that one ability if I used Saheeli as my commander.
#8. Aminatou, the Fateshifter
What I like about Aminatou, the Fateshifter is its versatility. Not only are its first two abilities relevant (we can pretend the third one doesn’t exist), but Esper is also a great color combination in EDH.
You won’t be subject to harsh deckbuilding restrictions with Animatou as your commander.
#7. Lord Windgrace
Yet another versatile commander. Lord Windgrace is both a source of card advantage and mana ramp. Being in Jund is also an excellent color combo for its effects. Plus, its second ability pairs especially well with fetch lands. Did I mention it’s a great commander for land-based builds?
Azorius has long waited for a planeswalker commander to call its own, and Elminster has arrived in Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate to be just that. Elminster is a spellslinger commander who gives discounts to the mana costs of your spells whenever you scry.
White and blue scry like no other color combination, which makes this a great mechanic for a spell-based deck. Scrying is often used anyway in powerful cantrips or huge sphinx creatures, so it’s a natural fit into the archetype.
#5. Daretti, Scrap Savant
Remember how I mentioned that mono-colored commanders have to be really good to work? Well, Daretti, Scrap Savant is one of them. Its ability to filter through your hand makes it relevant at all times, but what really stands out is its -2 ability.
You’ll pretty much always be able to reanimate an artifact from your graveyard when you cast Daretti regardless of its mana cost. Put some high-impact artifacts in your deck like Mindslaver and you’re good to go.
#4. Grist, the Hunger Tide
Grist, the Hunger Tide is one of the more unique commanders on this list, as it’s simultaneously a creature and and planeswalker when it isn’t on the battlefield. That is what allows it to be a commander after all, as clarified by Wizards of the Coast in a rulings update.
Like many other Golgari planeswalkers, Grist, the Hunger Tide‘s entire kit revolves around the graveyard and sacrifice. The first ability gains one loyalty counter, creates a small 1/1 insect token, mills one card, and repeats the process if the milled card is an insect card. The second ability, which costs two loyalty counters, allows you to sacrifice a creature in order to destroy another creature or planeswalker. This is excellent commander in Golgari decks that love to have creatures in the graveyard to target with their various reanimation spells.
The ultimate ability is a whopping table-wide explosion that deals damage to each opponent equal to the number of creature cards in your graveyard. In the right commander deck, this can be upwards of ten to twenty damage. On top of that, it only costs five loyalty counters! This is incredibly potent and makes Grist, the Hunger Tide an immediate lightning rod once it hit’s play, so make sure you’re either ready to defend it or content not untapping with it.
#3. Jeska, Thrice Reborn
Partner commanders are always great build-arounds for flexible EDH decks, and Jeska, Thrice Reborn is no exception. Winning through combat damage can be difficult since players start with 40 life in Commander.
Jeska makes this a much easier task by allowing you to play good old-fashioned aggro decks without feeling outclassed by your opponents.
#2. Teferi, Temporal Archmage
There’s a competitive EDH deck out there that essentially goes infinite with Teferi, Temporal Archmage, The Chain Veil, and a couple mana rocks. You don’t have to be a hyper-competitive player to enjoy playing it, though.
Teferi’s abilities always come in handy regardless of the situation.
#1. Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools
Wow. This card looks great in theory, and from my experience, it’s even better in practice!
Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools has the partner keyword, so don’t worry about it being mono-colored. It also starts with lots of loyalty and can immediately generate some blockers for your board, so it’s going to be extremely hard to get rid of once it hits the battlefield.
But wait, there’s more! Just take a look at Tevesh Szat’s ultimate ability and you’ll see what I’m talking about. That’s right, it’s more than just a card draw engine. Since a lot of decks rely on their commanders as a win condition, activating Tevesh Szat’s ultimate ability is bound to win you the game.
What Special Rules Are There for Planeswalker Commanders?
Teferi, Temporal Archmage | Illustration by Tyler Jacobson
If you really get down to it, not a whole lot changes when you use a planeswalker instead of a legendary creature as your commander. Commander tax still applies along with every other rule related to the command zone. Even the partner mechanic works the same with planeswalkers as it does with creatures.
Can Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker Be a Commander?
The short answer is no. Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker can’t be your commander, nor can any other planeswalker unless it specifically states otherwise. But if you really do want to use a Bolas planeswalker as your commander, you could run Nicol Bolas, the Ravager.
It’s technically a creature but can transform into Nicol Bolas, the Arisen if you’re willing to pay the mana.
Can a Planeswalker be a Commander in Brawl?
Things are a bit different when it comes to Brawl. In this format, any planeswalker can be your commander, regardless of what the text on that planeswalker says. All rules for the command zone and color identity still apply as deckbuilding restrictions.
Sample Planeswalker Commander Decklists
OK so I’ve teased you enough. Here are a couple really cool decklists with two of my picks for top commander. Hope this gets the juices flowing.
Daretti and His Artifacts
Daretti, Scrap Savant | Illustration by Dan Scott
This Daretti deck is all about slowing down the pace of the game with artifacts like Trinisphere, Magus of the Moon, and Lodestone Golem. Then, with value engines like Trading Post and Staff of Domination, you’ll slowly but surely grind out your opponents to victory.
Lion’s Eye Diamond
Sensei’s Divining Top
Sphere of Resistance
Thorn of Amethyst
Crucible of Worlds
Rings of Brighthearth
Staff of Domination
Clock of Omens
Tevesh Szat and Kraum
Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools | Illustration by Livia Prima
Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools and Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus team up in this hyper-fast combo deck. Most wins involve playing Thassa’s Oracle with an empty deck. You can draw most of your deck with Ad Nauseam, use Lion’s Eye Diamond alongside Underworld Breach to generate loads of mana to recast cards from your graveyard, and use the rest of your cards in your graveyard to draw out your deck that way. Plus, you can always grind out your opponents with your commanders while using powerful counterspells as backup.
Chain of Vapor
Culling the Weak
Force of Negation
Force of Will
Lion’s Eye Diamond
Pact of Negation
Peer into the Abyss
Red Elemental Blast
Talisman of Creativity
Talisman of Dominance
Wheel of Fortune
City of Brass
Spire of Industry
Oathbreaker: All Planeswalker Commanders
This wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Oathbreaker, a custom format designed just for planeswalkers. It’s a 60-card singleton format where any planeswalker can be your commander (except it’s called an “Oathbreaker” instead of a commander) and an instant or sorcery spell also starts in the command zone.
There are plenty of other rules associated with Oathbreaker, so make sure to read up on it if you’re interested in that style of play!
Aminatou, the Fateshifter | Illustration by Seb McKinnon
Hopefully I’ve cleared things up for you when it comes to having a planeswalker as your commander. Having planeswalkers that can also be your commander can be confusing, but I think it’s an interesting mechanic that adds a healthy variety to the format.
But the discussion doesn’t have to end here. What do you think about planeswalker commanders? Which one is your favorite? Feel free to find us on Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit to tell us what you think.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: