Kediss, Emberclaw Familiar | Illustration by Jesper Ejsing
Although you can build around rare commanders for cheap, especially with a lot of the most popular commanders being under a dollar, there’s something extra fun about taking an uncommon legend and sitting across the table from a pile of mythic rares. It feels a bit like a hard mode flex.
I first started really getting into uncommons as commanders when I opened Slimefoot, the Stowaway in a Dominaria pack, and it’s been a bit of a collector obsession of mine since.
If you share my interest in what can feel a bit like hipster Commander, come along and enjoy the ride!
Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist | Illustration by Jason Rainville
Uncommon commanders are legendary creatures that are printed at uncommon rarity. Most legendary cards are printed as rares or mythic rares, which makes uncommon commanders, well, uncommon.
Uncommons, in terms of Magic’s design philosophy, are supposed to be impactful cards in Limited, often build-arounds, but with a lesser impact on Constructed formats. Some uncommons still have powerful enough synergies to leave lasting impacts on Constructed formats. Think Skullclamp, Mayhem Devil, and Swords to Plowshares.
It doesn’t often happen that an uncommon legendary creature has this kind of impact, especially in Commander, but that’s our focus today: those awesome outliers that can be fun EDH build-arounds, especially on a budget.
The current number of uncommon legendary creatures is 272. This compares to more than 1,600 legendary creatures overall.
My rankings will be about these cards as commanders. There are a number of legendary creatures that have some good value in the 99 but are underwhelming as a commander, so they may not make the list.
I’m also going to focus on commanders that serve in a unique space as EDH leaders, or that are clearly at the top of their respective deck types. So although Bruenor Battlehammer is a popular option as a Boros () equipment leader, there are quite a few more popular options.
Yes, and no. Pauper EDH traditionally uses a 99 full of only commons and a general who’s any uncommon-level creature, not necessarily legendary. But folks seem to be shifting to a world where uncommon legends need to lead the charge. This is a shifting field that’s probably up to you and your playgroup if you start down that path.
Yes, uncommon commanders can be great! Some uncommon commanders are at the top of their archetypes, or the sole owners of certain decks. And a lot of them provide a cheaper casting cost pivot to speed up your battlecruiser decks helmed by a 6-drop.
Ready to see how good?
Rebbec, Architect of Ascension grants a wide swath of protection from spot removal. This is a useful service for the artifact commanders that might want a spot of white to partner with like Silas Renn, Seeker Adept and Ich-Tekik, Salvage Splicer.
How else are you going to sleeve up your Belt of Giant Strength?
We’ve got a few partners here, as well as the leader of one of my favorite terrible decks.
This deck is not good. And that’s why it’s great!
No one will sit down across from your Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive deck and decide that you’re the archenemy. Then your unblockable ninjas, Scroll Thief creatures, cipher effects, and miscellaneous interaction spells should allow you to do some damage in a one-on-one matchup at the end of the game if you can live long enough.
That’s the plan, anyway. How often does it work? Well…
It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a good test of your political skills.
One of the most versatile of the Commander Legends uncommon partners, Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator is great in lots of decks, and looks great while doing it! It loves pirate tribal with Breeches, Brazen Plunderer. It also likes to partner with Kediss, Emberclaw Familiar for Treasure value ramp or in a cEDH deck with only one other creature, Glint-Horn Buccaneer, and some Polymorph effects.
There are also plenty of other combinations. Malcolm isn’t exactly Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, but it’s the next best thing in the partner slot.
Some really good ones here, plus a shameless meme.
This is the second time I’ve highlighted this pretty bad card, but hear me out!
You’ve got some kind of mono black deck that doesn’t actually need its commander out, right? Today that’s an Irini Sengir, and you’re a folk hero to the other two players at the table.
Keskit, the Flesh Sculptor can really churn through your deck. You can get things done paired with any of the blue commanders. My finest EDH accomplishment was a transformed Mechtitan Core wielding a Vorpal Sword for the win in a Keskit deck.
Armix, Filigree Thrasher gets pretty scary in clearing out potential defenders over time. It pairs nicely with lots of buddies, but it likes to hang out in Thassa’s Oracle-infested cEDH waters with Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus.
Breeches is pretty much only playable with Malcolm, but there are a few others in red worth a look.
Maybe the most popular mono red equipment commander, Valduk, Keeper of the Flame plus classics like Bonesplitter do work. Boros equipment is likely better but Valduk lets you play with enchantments like Sticky Fingers, which has some interesting upside.
Zada, Hedron Grinder is an awesome budget commander. Fill up on cheap creatures and ways to get creatures like Krenko’s Command and Young Pyromancer, then toss a lot of targeting cantrips and buffs like Ancestral Anger and Sudden Breakthrough.
A more expensive (and likely better build) is to do all of that with a mono red goblins focus. And you already know how that works.
This might be number one except for the unique effect of Kediss. Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh is the ultimate Voltron commander.
#1. Kediss, Emberclaw Familiar
This cute little lizard is what allows a Voltron partner like Rograkh to kill the table. Kediss, Emberclaw Familiar: when you absolutely, positively, got to kill every last… (you know the rest)
From the flexible to the hyper-focused.
#4. Halana, Kessig Ranger
#3. Wilson, Refined Grizzly
#2. Ich-Tekik, Salvage Splicer
#1. Fynn, the Fangbearer
Most of the best uncommon commanders are here. Below I’ve got the top twenty.
But there’s 10 on my watchlist that could soar with the right pieces as new cards drop:
- Kalain, Reclusive Painter
- Jasmine Boreal of the Seven
- Siona, Captain of the Pyleas
- Quintorius, Field Historian
- Minthara, Merciless Soul
- Raff, Weatherlight Stalwart
- Vohar, Vodalian Desecrator
- Raff Capashen, Ship’s Mage
- Mahadi, Emporium Master
- Farideh, Devil’s Chosen
Lagrella, the Magpie is a strange card to use as a commander. You’ll probably just use Chulane, Teller of Tales to command your Bant () soldiers deck you built to get both King Darien XLVIII and Harbin, Vanguard Aviator into the same list, but Lagrella is a soldier(!?!). Having a piece of removal in the command zone is pretty helpful in a deck that wants to pack more bodies and fewer spells.
Ice, ice, baby.
I’m not really a believer in this card, but it’s got a lot of decks to its name.
There are better Selesnya () tokens commanders than Cadira, Caller of the Small, sure, but have you seen the token this makes!?! This is the leader if you’re Clowning Around with Preston, the Vanisher.
This card doesn’t see quite the play it should, but Izzet () mages are spoiled for choice. Balmor, Battlemage Captain goes fast in the right build.
Izzet prowess fliers will someday come together, and this will be a top deck.
Leaving Grixis () vampires to Evelyn, the Covetous, Cormela, Glamour Thief is good as a tricky cEDH commander looking to power out some of that style’s most popular wincons: Ad Nauseam, Brain Freeze, and Thassa’s Oracle.
Vega, the Watcher seems more fun as a supporting cast member to Gorion, Wise Mentor and Ranar the Ever-Watchful, but this might be the commander for a deck that wants to mess around with stuff like One with the Multiverse, The Temporal Anchor, Future Sight, etc.
Kangee, Sky Warden is the best Azorius () fliers commander by a wide margin.
Giant tribal plus the typical Izzet nonsense? Aegar, the Freezing Flame is a deck with a lot of ways to win, and a lot of ways to respond to other decks.
Thalisse, Reverent Medium is the most popular Orzhov () tokens commander because… have you read the card???
If you’ve ever been stuck waiting for Trelasarra, Moon Dancer to finish scrying in a Scurry Oak/Heliod, Sun-Crowned combo on Arena then you know why you might consider this over reigning Selesnya lifegain champ Lathiel, the Bounteous Dawn.
Hamza, Guardian of Arashin is one of the best +1/+1 counters commanders, and it’s clearly the best in Selesnya.
How good is Naya () toolbox? Better than you think.
Who’s on the list for the Rocco, Cabaretti Caterer afterparty? Dockside Extortionist, Esper Sentinel, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, Drannith Magistrate, Toski, Bearer of Secrets, and even such mystery guests as Vexing Shusher.
#5. Queza, Augur of Agonies
The king of its own archetype, I’ll brook no argument as to why Slimefoot, the Stowaway is the most fun thing to do in Golgari ().
Dina, Soul Steeper has crept into the top four Golgari commanders because what it does is so unique. Staple a tiny version of Sanguine Bond onto a creature that’s also a sac outlet for Blood Artist effects and you have most of an engine for two mana in the exact colors to go wild.
Sometimes you just really need to dip into a color to build your deck in these spaces where you’re matching two commanders, or a commander and a legendary enchantment. And uncommons often allow a bit more flexibility than some of the dual-pipped rares.
Whether it’s Dina, Rograkh, Slimefoot, Fynn, Zada, Tetsuko, Araumi, Rocco, or many others, some of the cards in this list helm decks that really could not work with another commander!
A lot of these uncommon commanders are total bangers. But some are just kind of decent, at best. So when are those useful?
So you spent your Nana’s birthday check on a pack of singles to really pimp out your favorite EDH deck, the right rocks, some expensive staples, a chase rare or two. Leather deck box, nice double sleeves, you even sprung for more tokens. Aaaannnnddddd now your deck is too much for your local playgroup.
You could take it apart. You could even pull out a few OP spells. Or you could swap out the commander for something a little less powerful or synergistic from this list. Your deck isn’t as scary, and a lesser commander gives you some help with table politics.
I love my new Bant soldiers deck. It’s better than you think it is, I guarantee. And Chulane, Teller of Tales is, as expected, bonkers as a leader. But it’s not quite on theme and it doesn’t matter what’s in the 99, Chulane brings the hate. Cue Lagrella, the Magpie, which I make a show of switching out for “to go easy on ‘em.”
Ah, good times.
Dina, Soul Steeper (Strixhaven School of Mages) | Illustration by Chris Rahn
I probably like these cards more than most. It reminds me of the build-around cards from the early days of Magic. I get a bit tired of WotC printing the perfect mythic commander answer to our favorite decks and everything at the LGS being the same thing.
I’d love to see players mix it up, and I’d love to see uncommon commanders-only nights once in a while. How about you? Are you on this hype train, or is it back to Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice for you? Let me know in the comments below or over in the Draftsim Discord.
That’s all from me for now. Stay safe, stay healthy, and wash your hands!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: