Cormela, Glamour Thief | Illustration by Bram Sels
Vampires are iconic monsters in fantasy and have been a part of Magic’s history for decades. They represent a fear of things that lurk in the night and force people to ponder what would happen if humans weren’t at the top of the food chain. What if there were a creature that could prey on… us?
Vampires as a creature type have deep roots in the game. There are plenty of vampire commanders that work as tribal lords to build a vampire-theme deck, but the creature type has so much more to offer in the commander zone than just tribal decks.
Grab a bundle of garlic and the nearest wooden stake, let’s take a look at the best vampiric leaders!
What Are Vampire Commanders in MTG?
Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle | Illustration by Daarken
Vampire commanders are legendary creatures with the “vampire” subtype. They don’t have to care about having other vampires in play. Vampire commanders are primarily focused associated with black and red as the primary colors of the tribe, though several multicolor commanders branch out into blue and green.
We’re looking to these commanders to find interesting build-arounds in the command zone. Some of these are just good cards, but a lot of them have interesting angles that ask you to make more complex deckbuilding choices than just picking good cards in your colors.
Best White Vampire Commander
#1. Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle
Coming in first as the only mono-white vampire commander, Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle is a card that asks you to play plenty of aggressive vampires. This works as the commander of a token-focused strategy and can even work with some lifegain synergies since the tokens it creates have lifelink.
Best Black Vampire Commanders
#16. Sengir, the Dark Baron
Partners can be tricky to evaluate. You’re likely never playing Sengir, the Dark Baron alone, so its potential is theoretically infinite.
This card might be a bit expensive for its abilities, but it can get out of hand quickly. The ability that gains you life when a player loses is a great way to stabilize at the end of a close game.
#15. Irini Sengir
This is such an interesting card. That doesn’t automatically make Irini Sengir good. This commander is so incredibly niche that it doesn’t have a home in most decks unless you know that somebody in your playgroup is always rocking Go-Shintai of Life's Origin.
#14. Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief
Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief is a powerful card, but it requires a ton of mana. It could be an interesting Voltron commander because it comes with evasion and a way to buff itself. The card also does a great job of picking off your opponent’s threats. It’s just a little too clunky to be exciting.
#13. Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet
Rather like the Drana above, the main thing holding Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet back is being clunky and expensive. Kalitas does something far more interesting than Drana. Instead of just killing your opponent’s creatures, you get to turn them into your own army of Vampire tokens, and it’s cheaper to activate than Drana’s ability.
#12. Ascendant Evincar
Ascendant Evincar is almost fantastic. Giving your team +1/+1 and your opponents’ -1/-1 looks like a small advantage, but it makes combat miserable for your foes and makes it impossible to keep small creatures around.
It can also hamper tokens decks looking to go wide rather than tall. The main issue with this card is its mana cost, making it hard to recast if it dies once.
#11. Henrika Domnathi / Henrika, Infernal Seer
Modal commanders are always interesting, and Henrika Domnathi gives you plenty of options. The front face lets you draw cards and casts an edict on the board, but the backside is far more interesting.
The ability to pump creatures with deathtouch, lifelink, and flying enables some interesting synergies and gives you an excuse to play cards you might not care about otherwise.
#10. Drana, the Last Bloodchief
One of the more recent iterations of Drana, Drana, the Last Bloodchief gives you an interesting reanimator commander. This card doesn’t reanimate cards quickly, but it buffs the creature it brings back and makes it a vampire, if your deck cares about that.
Giving the defending player a choice also makes for some interesting gameplay.
#9. Vraan, Executioner Thane
One thing black likes to do is sacrifice its creatures to get all sorts of death triggers. Vraan, Executioner Thane gives you a sacrifice payoff right in the command zone. It’s also super cheap, making it easy to replay through a few removal spells.
The main thing holding this card back is its ability only triggers once per turn.
#8. Kinzu of the Bleak Coven
Kinzu of the Bleak Coven is another card that cares about your creatures dying but does so in a vibrantly different manner. Creating token copies of your creatures is very powerful, giving your threats a level of resiliency that’s hard to keep up with.
Making them 1/1s generally doesn’t matter so long as they have powerful effects, and the addition of toxic gives you another angle of attack your opponents need to be wary of.
#7. Timothar, Baron of Bats
One of the first vampire-matters commanders on the list, Timothar, Baron of Bats commits to the bit from the vibe of the artwork to the ability that transforms your vampires into bats and back again. Like Kinzu, Timothar gives your board a bunch of resiliency, except it preserves everything about your vampires.
#6. Anowon, the Ruin Sage
Speaking of vampire-centric commanders, Anowon, the Ruin Sage is a classic commander from the original Zendikar block. Still, having a copy of The Abyss in the command zone is incredibly powerful and makes it almost impossible for your opponents to maintain a solid board state.
#5. Drana, Liberator of Malakir
It’s hard to play aggro in Commander, but Drana, Liberator of Malakir does a solid job setting you up. It’s a cheap threat that comes down early and starts growing fast.
It also provides your team with a permanent buff. That gives it a lasting impact on the board, even if your opponent removes it.
#4. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
The second iteration of Kalitas isn’t specifically strong but generally powerful. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is an efficient threat that shuts down a lot of decks right out of the command zone since it stops creatures from dying and makes a token army while doing so.
It’s also a great sacrifice outlet and is a flexible commander because it can help a broad midrange deck or helm a zombie or vampire list.
#3. Mari, the Killing Quill
Mari, the Killing Quill is just a super neat card. It doesn’t shut off death triggers because it exiles cards after they die, not instead of dying, but does prevent any recursive or reanimation effects.
Mari is also a great commander for some underrated creature types and lets you draw cards and ramp.
#2. Yahenni, Undying Partisan
Yahenni, Undying Partisan is a powerful commander for an aristocrat deck. They’re cheap and have haste, which is strong. They also grow quickly as your opponents’ creatures die, but the best part of this card is the activated ability.
A free sacrifice outlet in the command zone is something this deck would want anyway, but making it so your opponents can’t remove your commander is incredible value for a 3-mana creature.
#1. Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose
Speaking of insane value at three mana, Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose gives the mono-black lifegain strategy a commander worth building around. It combos with Exquisite Blood for a 2-card win. It’s also impossible to race Vito because it’ll give your team lifelink and deal double the damage to your opponents.
This commander lets you win without needing to attack but still offers the option for powerful aggressive plays.
Best Multicolored Vampire Commanders
#34. Odric, Blood-Cursed
Odric, Blood-Cursed is an interesting commander. It’s cheap, which is good since it has an ETB ability you’d like to trigger several times.
The main problem is that it’s a bit of an awkward card. Producing a bunch of Blood tokens isn’t a game-winning strategy if you can’t exploit them, which is hard to do in Boros (). It’s also not a great aggressive Boros commander, leaving Odric as a niche commander.
#33. Szadek, Lord of Secrets
Szadek, Lord of Secrets is a commander focused on what it wants: mill your opponents to death. Szadek could be an interesting Voltron commander if you wanted to see if you could deal huge amounts of damage that gets replaced by milling, and it can get out of control quickly.
This card’s main weakness is its high mana cost.
#32. Kazarov, Sengir Pureblood
Kazarov, Sengir Pureblood could be a fantastic commander if everything about the card didn’t cost so much mana. It’s expensive to play, dies to a stiff breeze, and its activated ability costs an incredible amount for being so limited.
It’ll grow into a formidable threat, but not before somebody else has won the game.
#31. Zagras, Thief of Heartbeats
Zagras, Thief of Heartbeats is almost an interesting party commander. It’s held back by two things: not having access to white excludes you from some of the best cards in this theme, and it doesn’t benefit your party or even benefit much from a full party itself.
The cost reduction is nice but doesn’t scale with the game, and giving your creatures deathtouch is fine but unexciting.
#30. Rayami, First of the Fallen
Rayami, First of the Fallen is an interesting card. It begs to be a Voltron commander because its ability is all about stacking keywords. It’s also a stax piece that exiles creatures as they die.
The main weakness of the card is that it’s hard to exploit. You can’t rely on your opponents having all the keywords you need, so you need to bring your own keyword soup. But then you lose access to the cards and can’t exploit any death triggers with Rayami out, leaving them in an awkward position.
#29. Monoxa, Midway Manager
One of the Commander-legal cards from the recent Un-set, Monoxa, Midway Manager can helm a deck themed around rolling dice. You can sink mana into it to roll and trigger other cards that care about the effect, and it becomes more and more effective in combat the more dice you roll.
That said, its other abilities are a little underwhelming since six mana is a lot to toss a die.
#28. Arvad the Cursed
Arvad the Cursed is a commander with a simple goal: make all your legendary creatures big. Arvad is the kind of card that can only get better as Wizards prints more and more legendary creatures into the game, giving it an expanding suite of options.
That said, it’s a bit of a narrow build path, and Arvad is essentially just a fragile Day of Destiny.
#27. Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker
Another vampire that mills via combat damage, Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker is a more efficient option that still deals combat damage to allow you to attack an opponent on multiple axes.
The main issue with this card is that it’s hard to mill Commander decks without some kind of combo. You’re likely to win via commander damage before you mill somebody out.
#26. Vona, Butcher of Magan
Having removal in the commander zone is a great way to keep your opponents honest. Vona, Butcher of Magan lets you trade life for permanents to stop your opponents from getting too far ahead.
The combination of vigilance and lifelink also makes it a powerful offensive threat. Still, it can be a bit slow.
#25. Strefan, Maurer Progenitor
Strefan, Maurer Progenitor gives you access to Sneak Attack in the command zone if you squint really hard. More realistically, Strefan enables a vampire-centric aggressive strategy that turns Blood tokens into damage and a mana advantage by dropping vampires into play.
You can also use the Blood tokens to rip through your deck and find a vampire to put into play.
#24. Anje, Maid of Dishonor
Another Blood-centric commander, Anje, Maid of Dishonor is a pretty powerful card. It works best in an aristocrat deck as a sacrifice outlet and is notably strong for generating its own sacrifice fodder.
Its ability only triggers once per turn, which is the only thing holding this commander back from being a fantastic combo piece.
#23. Olivia Voldaren
Everybody’s favorite flamboyant vampire, Olivia Voldaren is an interesting commander that costs a lot of mana. Any commander that lets you steal opposing creatures is interesting, especially since you can grab opposing commanders to remove them without making them change zones.
It just costs a bunch of mana to enable Olivia, and you can lose all that work if it’s hit with something as simple as Lightning Bolt.
#22. Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter
Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter is a powerful commander for an aristocrat deck. It costs quite a bit of mana, but it’s worth the cost.
Vish Kal comes with a fairly chunky statline and grows larger with an ability that’s also a free sacrifice outlet. It also kills creatures for free while skirting indestructible and does a lot of work in a deck focused on exploiting these abilities.
#21. Olivia, Crimson Bride
The newest Olivia card, Olivia, Crimson Bride enables some interesting reanimation strategies. It puts creatures straight into the red zone for an aggressive slant on the archetype.
This Olivia is also less fragile than the other version since any legendary vampire in play can keep your creature around, not just Olivia, which also asks you to make some interesting deck-building choices.
#20. Anowon, the Ruin Thief
Anowon, the Ruin Thief gives rogues a build-around commander that centers on milling opponents. It does a good job of drawing cards while buffing your team.
It’s focused on enabling the rogues from Zendikar Rising that care about filling your opponents’ graveyards, but you can exploit this with non-rogue cards like Rise of the Dark Realms.
#19. Etrata, the Silencer
Etrata, the Silencer gives you an interesting alternate win condition in the command zone. It’s a powerful threat that exiles your opponents’ creatures for free and puts pressure on them to answer it or lose the game.
Etrata also works great with ninjas since you can ninjutsu it back to your hand in response to the trigger so it doesn’t get shuffled into your library or returned to the command zone.
#18. Drana and Linvala
A new commander from March of the Machines, Drana and Linvala gives you a great Orzhov () stax commander that shuts off a wide range of cards. It’s just Linvala, Keeper of Silence with extra keywords and text.
Some decks will see this come down and fold to it.
#17. Florian, Voldaren Scion
Florian, Voldaren Scion is a great commander for an aggressive deck that cares about dealing damage. Turning the damage you deal into card selection makes Florian a formidable threat. It’s also aggressively costed and can attack to enable itself.
#16. Ghalta and Mavren
Token decks often need to choose between going wide or going big, but Ghalta and Mavren let you do both. A 12/12 for seven is just an insane statline before you even get to the token-producing abilities.
This card makes massive monsters or effectively doubles the number of tokens you have each turn. You don’t even need to attack with this commander to get the trigger, so you can get the value the turn you play it.
#15. Olivia, Mobilized for War
The last Olivia on the list, Olivia, Mobilized for War is the most aggressive Olivia card, befitting a vampire going to war. Giving your creatures haste and buffing them helps deal huge amounts of damage.
It also serves as a discard outlet for madness or reanimation decks. Reanimating an Archon of Cruelty only to give it haste and discard the next turn’s reanimation target is incredibly powerful.
#14. Edgar, Charmed Groom / Edgar Markov’s Coffin
Edgar, Charmed Groom is a vampire lord to helm an Orzhov vampires deck. It’s also an army in a can. Your opponents can’t just kill Edgar because it’ll make a small army of vampires before coming back.
It’s great with aristocrat strategies that let you flip Edgar at will and plays well with other token producers.
#13. Parnesse, the Subtle Brush
Parnesse, the Subtle Brush is a an interesting spellslinger commander. Giving your opponents copies of your copied spells creates a lot of engaging political plays while the first ability defends you from interaction unless your opponents want to start paying a bunch of life.
#12. Runo Stromkirk / Krothuss, Lord of the Deep
Who doesn’t like making tons of copies of massive creatures?
Runo Stromkirk is a great reanimator commander that makes token copies of all your best reanimated creatures. It gives you an extra boost for sea creature-based creatures to round out the reference to Lovecraftian horrors like Cthulhu.
#11. Felisa, Fang of Silverquill
One of the best effects your commander can give you is resiliency, and Felisa, Fang of Silverquill gives you that in spades. You can play it as an aristocrat commander that continually produces fodder for your sacrifice outlets, or as a counters-matter commander that makes your board incredibly resilient to removal and board wipes.
#10. Evelyn, the Covetous
Evelyn, the Covetous is a great vampire commander that lets you steal your opponents’ spells. You need a high concentration of vampires to get the job done, but Grixis () is a great color pairing for that.
Evelyn having flash also lets you be sneaky and grab cards after your opponent manipulates the top of their deck with something like Vampiric Tutor or Ponder.
#9. Anhelo, the Painter
Doubling spells is a great way to generate a massive mana advantage. You thought one Time Stretch was good? Try two.
Anhelo, the Painter makes for a fascinating spellslinger commander because you need a high concentration of creatures to sacrifice to its casualty ability, but has to balance that with the necessary instants and sorceries to make that strategy work.
#8. Elenda, the Dusk Rose
Elenda, the Dusk Rose might be the best aristocrat commander on the list. It gets quite large quickly by growing whenever a creature dies and dies into a bunch of 1/1 tokens itself.
Elenda and its tokens having lifelink also gives you a big life buffer to race with or enable lifegain synergies.
#7. Mathas, Fiend Seeker
Mathas, Fiend Seeker is a commander that makes things happen. Spreading bounty counters around incentivizes your opponents to throw their removal at your opponent’s threats to keep yours safe.
It can also make a great deterrent to prevent key creatures from attacking to avoid giving card draw to the table. This sparks interesting gameplay and choices.
#6. Licia, Sanguine Tribune
Licia, Sanguine Tribune is another great lifegain commander that grows large. First strike and lifelink make this an effective attacker, and your ability to give it counters makes it hit even harder.
But the scaling cost reduction is what really makes this card great. Unlike the other cards criticized for being expensive, Licia offsets this, and its cost reduction even counts towards commander tax.
#5. Lord Xander, the Collector
Does anybody else remember when Lord Xander, the Collector was going to break the format? It might not have been as broken as everybody thought, but it’s still a solid option that rips through your opponents’ resources on ETB, attack, and even death.
It’s a bit pricy, but Xander has value to back up its costs.
#4. Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge
Jeleva, Nephalia's Scourge is a vampire spellslinger commander that scales with the game. This is a commander you want to die and cast multiple times to get as many instants and sorceries as you can.
It’s an interesting value commander that wants you to find ways to sacrifice it while bringing it back and attacking often.
#3. Anje Falkenrath
Anje Falkenrath is a very specific but powerful card. This is the premier madness commander, which is a mechanic often associated with Innistrad’s vampires. It also works well with reanimation strategies that want to throw massive creatures in the bin to bring back later.
Having haste is what really makes this card powerful as you start getting value out of it as soon as it hits play.
#2. Cormela, Glamour Thief
Cormela, Glamour Thief is a great spellslinger commander. Grixis doesn’t get many consistent ramp sources, making Cormela a unique effect for these colors. It’s also a fine commander for cEDH to pull off some crazy combos with the help of cards like Saw in Half.
#1. Edgar Markov
Who could top our list of the best vampire commanders other than the best vampire commander? Edgar Markov is the best creature to lead an army of vampires into battle.
Eminence is one of the most broken mechanics printed for Commander. Edgar produces an obscene number of tokens regardless of whether it’s in play. When it does hit the board, Edgar gives all those vampires it made a permanent buff.
Edgar Markov doesn’t even need to connect to have a lasting impact on the board, but you can leverage that eminence ability for a win without ever casting Edgar. It’s hard to beat this much free value.
Best Vampire Commander Payoffs
The best payoffs for your vampire commander depend on which one you pick to helm your deck, but you can broadly break your commanders off into several categories.
There are plenty of vampire commanders that want you to build around vampires, like Edgar Markov and Anje, Maid of Dishonor. For these commanders you want to stack your deck with all the best vampires you can find along with cards that benefit from having a critical mass of creatures that share a card type like Coat of Arms and Vanquisher's Banner.
There are also a bunch of commanders like Olivia, Mobilized for War and Anje Falkenrath that enable madness strategies. Madness is a mechanic with a bunch of support since it’s been around in Magic for decades. It also often overlaps with vampire synergies and works well with reanimation strategies since those also want to pitch creature cards to the graveyard.
You’ve also got plenty of more niche options for your vampire commanders that want you to play specific gameplans so you can dominate the game in interesting ways, like Licia, Sanguine Tribune and Etrata, the Silencer. The best way to get the most out of your vampire commander is to understand what that commander asks of you.
Are Vampires Good in Commander?
Vampires have a lot going for them as a creature tribe. They’ve been part of the game for some time and have a decent amount of support. We’ve also visited Zendikar and Innistrad, two planes with a bunch of vampiric-centric cards, multiple times. The tribe will only get better with our upcoming return to Ixalan.
That said, they have the same weaknesses inherent to many creature-based strategies. They’re vulnerable to board wipes. Vampires are also a particularly aggressive creature type, and aggressive strategies tend to underperform in Commander since they have to deal so much more damage than in traditional formats.
Licia, Sanguine Tribune | Illustration by Magali Villeneuve
Vampires are a classic Magic tribe with a long history in the game. They’ve also just been around fantasy forever, lurking in the shadows of our myths and legends until they find the perfect moment to strike and take a sip or two of our Blood.
Vampires offer a wide range of options as a commander, from tribal build-around to niche strategies built around one or two cards. While some are broken, others create interesting play patterns and force you to make interesting choices while deck building.
Who’s your favorite vampire commander? Let me know in the comments below, or join the discussion over in the official Draftsim Discord.
Thanks for reading, and protect your neck!
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