Last updated on May 23, 2023

Rionya, Fire Dancer - Illustration by Heonhwa Choe

Rionya, Fire Dancer | Illustration by Heonhwa Choe

I don’t often play mono-colored Commander decks, but when I do they’re usually red. After playing Magic for years and experimenting with everything from one to five to no colors in my Commander decks, there’s a refreshing simplicity to putting together a deck that just cares about doing damage and getting the job done.

That isn’t to say all red decks have to be simple. In fact, there are several different ways to build a mono-red Commander deck, and many different commanders to build it around. How complex you want to make your deck is up to you. That said, if you’re looking for an aggro deck that’s going to turn a bunch of creatures sideways, then a mono-red deck might be your best choice.

Let’s take a look at some of the best red commanders to build a deck around, as well as some of the different archetypes that emerge from mono-red’s card pool!

What Are Red Commanders in MTG?

Neheb, the Eternal - Illustration by Chris Rahn

Neheb, the Eternal | Illustration by Chris Rahn

Red commanders are any legendary creature card with a red color identity. In Commander, color identity is determined by what colored mana pips appear in the cost or rules text of a card.

Both Lightning Bolt and Bomat Courier are examples of cards with only a red color identity. Lightning Bolt because it has a red mana pip in its cost, and Bomat Courier for the red mana pip in its activated ability.

#33. Valduk, Keeper of the Flame

Valduk, Keeper of the Flame

Valduk, Keeper of the Flame is a Voltron commander that will also make you extra attackers. Throw in a Sundial of the Infinite and you’ll be able to hold on to your tokens, accruing a pretty big army of Elementals. Glorious End is another good card for this deck, just be sure you’re going to win next turn when you play it.

#32. Orthion, Hero of Lavabrink

Orthion, Hero of Lavabrink

I honestly can’t decide if Orthion, Hero of Lavabrink is a new sleeper hit or just my newest pet card, but I think it’s a very powerful option for a mono-red deck. Not only does it allow you to cash in on ETB triggers and attack triggers multiple times, but it also synergizes very well with mono-red staples like Warstorm Surge and Terror of the Peaks. There are plenty of ways to cheat out big creatures in red, like Sneak Attack, and you can then copy them with Orthion to potentially close out a game when nobody sees it coming.

#31. Delina, Wild Mage

Delina, Wild Mage

Delina, Wild Mage has a lot of the same benefits as Orthion, Hero of Lavabrink, with a few differences. The tokens it creates won’t cost you any mana, and if you’re lucky you may end up creating a lot of free creatures. You’ll want to add some ways to keep Delina safe when they attack like Whispersilk Cloak or Darksteel Plate. While I prefer Orthion’s consistency, it’s hard to deny that when Delina goes off it’s much more powerful.

#30. Chiss-Goria, Forge Tyrant

Chiss-Goria, Forge Tyrant

Chiss-Goria, Forge Tyrant may look prohibitively expensive, but it really isn’t too hard to get out in an artifact deck. When it attacks, you’ll likely be getting a heavily discounted, if not free, artifact off the top of your deck. This can really help you snowball into a powerful board state while also dealing out commander damage.

#29. Syr Carah, the Bold

Syr Carah, the Bold

Syr Carah, the Bold isn’t super flashy, but its ability allows you access to a lot of extra resources. Even if you don’t have a burn spell in hand, you can always tap Syr Carah to get access to an additional card. It’s a good option for building a burn deck around if you’re finding yourself in need of consistent card draw.

#28. Zurzoth, Chaos Rider

Zurzoth, Chaos Rider

Zurzoth, Chaos Rider’s triggered ability eventually creates a loop that guarantees you will be getting some extra creatures and cards each turn. Once you have some Devil tokens, you can attack with them and force your opponents to draw. This will create you more Devils, so you can replace any that died. You’ll also get to draw cards for each opponent you attack, giving you a better chance at finding what you need. On top of that, you’ll get to deal out some damage whenever your Devils die to blocks.

#27. Laelia, the Blade Reforged

Laelia, the Blade Reforged

Laelia, the Blade Reforged is a commander focused on one of red’s most common forms of card draw, impulsive draw. This is when you exile a card and can play it for a limited amount of time. Laelia lessens the blow of whiffing when you impulsively draw as you’ll still get a buff when you do. Laelia also probably won’t be an immediate target for removal, so you’ll probably get a few good early activations to help set up your game.

#26. Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh / Chandra, Roaring Flame

I’ve always liked the flip walkers as commanders, since it lets you use some of Magic’s main characters who usually can’t go in the command zone. Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh isn’t a terrible commander, but it probably won’t have a huge impact unless you’re able to flip it into Chandra, Roaring Flame and get off an ultimate ability. Still, if you want to build a deck fully themed around Chandra, it’s nice to also have one in the command zone.

#25. Etali, Primal Storm

Etali, Primal Storm

When building a red deck, it’s hard not to put Etali, Primal Storm somewhere in the 99. If you prefer to know that you’ll be able to play Etali in the game, you can instead just shove it in the command zone and you’re good to go. While a little pricey for my taste, this commander can swing games heavily in your favor, especially if you have haste enablers on the field.

#24. Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion

Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion

Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion is very good at helping you cycle through your deck. Since it also adds additional mana whenever you do this, you’ll likely be able to play some of the new cards you draw. Neheb’s ability goes great with extra combat effects, especially Aggravated Assault. As long as you have five or more cards in hand, you can perpetually take extra combats and gain extra mana until you find the cards you need.

#23. Birgi, God of Storytelling / Harnfel, Horn of Bounty

Birgi, God of Storytelling is a great option for a storm or spellslinger deck thanks to its ability to give you extra mana. The flip side, Harnfel, Horn of Bounty is also a good source of extra cards, giving you two good options of how to cast this. As of right now boast isn’t a big enough mechanic to build a Commander deck around, and especially not in a mono-colored deck. That being said, Birgi’s second ability may be more relevant after a few more visits to Kaldheim.

#22. Kediss, Emberclaw Familiar + Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh

This pair of commanders might not seem strong at first glance, but I assure you they can be very powerful and a lot of fun to play with. Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh has a lot of effective combat abilities, so all you need to do is add some equipment and combat tricks to buff them up. Once Rograkh is an intimidating attacker, you’ll be able to do a lot of damage to all of your opponents at once with the help of Kediss, Emberclaw Familiar. There’s also just something satisfying about winning a game with a 0-mana creature.

#21. Heartless Hidetsugu

Heartless Hidetsugu

Before Hidetsugu was a neon ink chase card, they were just a mono-red card you never wanted to see on the other side of the field. Heartless Hidetsugu does insane amounts of damage, and if you have more life than your opponents the ability will essentially double your lead. Since Hidetsugu is dealing damage, granting lifelink with Basilisk Collar will gain you all the life that both you and your opponents lose. This allows you to use Aetherflux Reservoir as a win con. You can also use cards that double or triple damage like Dictate of the Twin Gods or Fiery Emancipation to just end the game.

#20. Muxus, Goblin Grandee

Muxus, Goblin Grandee

Goblin decks are great at creating a lot of goblins, be they creature cards or creature tokens. Muxus, Goblin Grandee will help you get more goblins on the field and benefit from you having a lot of them. Depending on how wide your board is, Muxus can even become a serious threat to your opponents with commander damage.

#19. Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker

There are a lot of ways for Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker to create infinite combos. Any creature like Zealous Conscripts will allow you to make infinite creatures, Combat Celebrant does the same while also giving you infinite combat steps, and you can create a game winning combo with it, Thornbite Staff, and Ashnod's Altar. If you like combo decks, Kiki-Jiki makes it easy to get at least one off.

#18. Urabrask / The Great Work

Urabrask has yet to be officially released at the time of writing and yet there are already hundreds of decks built around them on EDHREC. It’s easy to see why; instants and sorceries allow Urabrask to ping your opponents and they’re essentially free if they only cast one mana. Spellslinger decks should have an easy time flipping into The Great Work which can have a big impact on the game if it’s allowed to get down to the third lore counter.

#17. Ashling the Pilgrim

Ashling the Pilgrim

One thing I really like about Ashling the Pilgrim is that you rarely have turns where you don’t use all your mana. Even if you don’t have a lot of spells to cast, you can always pump mana into Ashling. I would definitely include a Braid of Fire in this deck, as it works very well with Ashling’s activated ability.

#16. Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded

Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded

Building a deck around Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded is essentially like having an indestructible Sneak Attack as your commander. Cheating out creatures with great ETB effects or something like Etali, Primal Storm which has a powerful attack trigger is well worth the three mana. Creatures like Etali rarely survive to be used more than once anyway, so sacrificing it isn’t a huge waste. Of course, you can use Sundial of the Infinite to keep any creatures you cheat in.

#15. Inferno of the Star Mounts

Inferno of the Star Mounts

Inferno of the Star Mounts is not very difficult to get up to 20 power. Red has plenty of ways to make Treasure tokens or extra mana with cards like Dockside Extortionist, Goldspan Dragon, and Mana Geyser. This means you’ll likely be able to deal out 20 damage to your opponents at least once. This can easily close out a game later on, or at least give you a pretty comfortable lead. Inferno of the Star Mounts is also a very effective attacker and can easily take players out with commander damage.

#14. Toralf, God of Fury / Toralf’s Hammer

Toralf, God of Fury is one of the biggest flavor wins I’ve seen in a while. The ability allows you to use a single direct damage spell against one creature and then have it branch off into others similar to how a chain of lightning might spread between creatures close together. I also think it’s a lot of fun that if you have a creature throw Toralf's Hammer it comes back to your hand. If you’ve ever wanted Thor as your commander in Magic, here he is. Also, make sure you include a Blasphemous Act, it can win you the game in this deck.

#13. Norin the Wary

Norin the Wary

Newer players probably look at Norin the Wary and wonder why they’d make it onto this list. In truth, Norin has a lot more uses than it would seem at first glance. You can punish players by stacking ETB damage abilities like Warstorm Surge or Pandemonium for one, or you can get creative with Confusion in the Ranks and continuously exchange Norin for some of your opponents’ permanents. Norin also works well with cards like Tome of Legends and Genesis Chamber which will likely be triggered on each of your turns.

#12. Godo, Bandit Warlord

Godo, Bandit Warlord

What makes Godo, Bandit Warlord so powerful is that it isn’t just part of a two-card combo, but that they’ll also fetch you the other piece of that combo on ETB. Equipping Godo with Helm of the Host allows you to have infinite combat steps and therefore continue to create infinite Godos. Even if you choose not to go the combo route, being able to grab any equipment you want, and having at least one extra combat each time Godo attacks is still very powerful.

#11. Feldon of the Third Path

Feldon of the Third Path

Feldon of the Third Path[card]'s activated ability works really well with a mono-red aggressive playstyle. It's nice to be able to temporarily resurrect a creature that may have died in an attack to use again, and it allows you to use looting effects to help you cheat out big creatures. Feldon also works well with cards like [card]Kuldotha Forgemaster which can make use of your artifacts before they sacrifice at the end of the turn anyway. Also, usually effects like this require you to exile the creature you bring back, but Feldon allows you to target the same creature in your graveyard over and over.

#10. Torbran, Thane of Red Fell

Torbran, Thane of Red Fell

Torbran, Thane of Red Fell is one of those commanders that is less self-centered and more about what it adds to the rest of your deck. You get a lot of added value out of the extra damage Torbran allows you to do, and stacking it with similar effects like Mechanized Warfare can make even your weakest cards incredibly dangerous.

#9. Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer

Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer

Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer will get you off to a very quick start in a game of Commander. You’ll likely be able to cast or dash on turn one or two, allowing you to start building up Treasure and possibly get some good cards from your opponents. Even if you aren’t casting your opponents’ cards, you’re still denying them access to whatever card you exile, which can sometimes have a huge impact.

#8. Neheb, the Eternal

Neheb, the Eternal

Neheb, the Eternal can make it pretty easy to cast very expensive spells. A lot of burn spells deal more damage than the mana you put into them, meaning it’s easy to get a lot of mana for the second half of your turn. This can allow you to drop potentially game-ending spells like Worldfire or cast an X spell like Crackle with Power for a lot of damage.

#7. Daretti, Scrap Savant

Daretti, Scrap Savant

If you’re looking to run a mono-red artifact deck, it’s hard to beat Daretti, Scrap Savant. The flexibility you have to swap artifacts in and out of your graveyard both synergizes very well with Daretti’s looting ability, but also allows you to abuse ETB and death triggers on your artifacts. Daretti’s ult isn’t needed to win a game, but if you do get it off you’ll be pretty hard to beat when a lot of your permanents keep coming back from your graveyard.

#6. Purphoros, God of the Forge

Purphoros, God of the Forge

My favorite aspect of Purphoros, God of the Forge is the ticking clock element it adds to the game for your opponents. Everyone is incentivized to play a little faster when you’re taking their life down each turn. Purphoros works well when combined with similar effects like Terror of the Peaks as well as any card that generates token creatures. Purphoros has the added bonus of being indestructible so it can be hard for your opponents to keep it off the board.

#5. Rionya, Fire Dancer

Rionya, Fire Dancer

Everything I said about Orthion, Hero of Lavabrink and Delina, Wild Mage is easily applicable to Rionya, Fire Dancer as well. What makes Rionya so much better than those other commanders is that you get to spend your mana on spells and then get the copies for free. This is a lot more value than pumping your mana into Orthion and way more of a sure-thing than Delina. Rionya also works very well with extra combat spells since the copies stick around until the end step.

#4. Zada, Hedron Grinder

Zada, Hedron Grinder

Zada, Hedron Grinder is a fun commander that scales pretty hard as the game progresses. The wider your board gets, the more effective each spell you cast on Zada is. This allows you to do wild things like draw upwards of 10 cards with a single red mana thanks to a cantrip like Expedite or copy all your creatures for only two mana with Twinflame.

#3. Solphim, Mayhem Dominus

Solphim, Mayhem Dominus

Damage doublers can be absolutely devastating in a burn deck, and Solphim, Mayhem Dominus lets you run one as your commander. Solphim’s ability to make itself indestructible is also relatively easy to activate and will make it more difficult for your opponents to remove it from the field. Pack this deck with burn spells and other ways to increase your damage output like Fiery Emancipation and you’ll easily be able to deal lethal damage to your opponents.

#2. Magda, Brazen Outlaw

Magda, Brazen Outlaw

Since Magda, Brazen Outlaw was printed, it has only gotten easier and easier to make Treasure tokens. This means it’s incredibly easy for you to find and cheat out big dragons like Blast-Furnace Hellkite. Including other dwarves is a good idea as well, since they’ll allow you to increase your treasure output.

#1. Krenko, Mob Boss

Krenko, Mob Boss

There are a lot of goblin commanders to choose from, but it’s hard not to put Krenko, Mob Boss on top. Being able to exponentially grow your goblin army with each activation makes it hard for your opponents to keep up with your board state. Also, you can equip Krenko with a Thornbite Staff and as long as you have a free sacrifice outlet like Goblin Bombardment you can keep untapping and making more goblins.

Best Red Commander Payoffs

While each individual red commander may vary in what the best payoff for it is, there are some general cards that reward you for playing red.

For instance, Mechanized Warfare and Torbran, Thane of Red Fell allow your red cards to deal extra damage.

Blood Moon or Magus of the Moon are also great for red players since you won’t lose access to your mana the way your opponents playing multicolor decks will.

Generic damage doublers like Angrath's Marauders or Fiery Emancipation also usually go very well with red decks.

While a little riskier, Dictate of the Twin Gods and Furnace of Rath can often be better for you as the red player if you’re dealing damage more often than your opponents.

Commanding Conclusion

Valduk, Keeper of the Flame - Illustration by Victor Adame Minguez

Valduk, Keeper of the Flame | Illustration by Victor Adame Minguez

If you’ve never tried building a mono-red Commander deck, I’d definitely give it a try. A lot of these commanders lead to pretty fun builds, and they can be pretty cheap sometimes too as a bonus.

If you have a favorite red commander that didn’t make the list, I’d love to hear about it and why you think it should have been included! Have you built any of these commanders? Are there any you’re thinking of trying out now? Let me know in the comments below, or over on Draftsim’s Twitter.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to seeing you in the next one!

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