I thought it would be fun to go back and look at all the great new cards printed in 2010 that are fantastic in Commander. Keep in mind these picks are
one man’s opinion, and not everyone plays my style of Commander, so I won’t claim this as a definitive list. In fact, Commander is the sort of
format where nearly any Magic card can find a home in some sort of build, but I tried to pick out the cards that are head-and-shoulders above
the pack. I made an effort to include cards that I think are really good but might be outside of what I typically play. Hopefully you’ll weigh in
with your thoughts in the forums, and when the dust settles, perhaps we’ll all have a few more cards from 2010 we hadn’t thought about
playing before but want to give a try sometime in 2011! At the end of this column, I’ll also include cards you all voted for in my poll from last
Let’s kick things off with the best new legends available as commanders from 2010! I’m not going to include the Eldrazi Titans here because
they’re extremely difficult to build around (instead, I talk about them in the ROE section below). Tuktuk the Explorer got the boot as well since his
special ability so badly clashes with the command zone rule. All of the remaining eleven legends make perfectly fine commanders to build your deck
I haven’t built a deck around Thada yet, but I plan on doing so in the very near future. I’ve yet to see a good Commander deck built that
doesn’t have some number of great artifacts in them, from Sol Ring on up to Mindslaver shenanigans, so her ability is like a very specialized
tutor on a stick.
This is the epitome of what you want in a commander—reasonable mana cost, big body, powerful abilities. Islandwalk and swampwalk are great
evasion abilities that will likely cover many of your opponents, and people playing blue and black are likely to have more sorcery and instant spells
in their graveyard for you to target. Just a very nice synergistic and potent package.
Iona, Shield of Emeria is one of the most brutal and downright rude generals you can play, a perfect example of what happens when attaching a powerful
iteration of white’s “rewrite the rules” slice of the color pie onto a legend. Linvala is another example of that sort of card,
albeit a bit less brutal and rude. Her restrictions can really put a severe hurting on many of the format’s favorite creatures, and while I
personally think it’s a bit much to have her as your commander, I think she’s a useful tool to have in your deck as a counter to certain
strategies an opponent may be trying to set up (Sliver Overlord springs to mind).
Kemba is a great general that starts out rather innocuous but can soon become quite scary in a Voltron-style way if you give her a chance. Equipment
usually sticks around after creature removal sweeps Kemba and her cubs away, but then Kemba comes right back from the command zone. Also, keep in mind
that every kicka** equipment that gets printed in the future makes Kemba a little bit stronger.
I’ve made two different versions of Skithiryx, and there are two things that have become apparent: the Blight Dragon is quite good at taking down
one opponent, but he’s not so easy taking down a whole table. I’m not so sure he’s a good choice for a commander outside of dueling,
since playing him tends to rile up the whole table in fear—not that you can combo kill everyone like decks featuring Zur or Momir tend to do, but
each individual player is worried he or she is going to be that one player you poison out of the game early. Regardless though, he’s still a
quite potent commander that brings something different to the table.
2010 kicked off with Worldwake, a great set that capped nicely the lands matter/adventure-world themes begun in Zendikar. Many of the cards that have
proven to be Commander all-stars have also proven quite good in Standard as well.
In Standard, the Mystic allows you to run a “toolbox” of equipment in your deck; in Commander, you can only run one of each equipment
anyway, so something like the Mystic is incredibly helpful. While not as powerful as Stonehewer Giant (which lets you fetch up equipment and equip to
creatures multiple times), it’s a great supplement to any deck you’re running the Giant in and has the added benefit of fetching up the
piece of equipment right away, regardless of summoning sickness. Plus, the Mystic is pretty easy to reuse multiple times, either through something like
Erratic Portal or Reveillark after she dies. As good as the Mystic has proven to be in Standard, she’s just exponentially better in Commander.
While I personally haven’t played this guy in Commander yet, it’s purely for logistical reasons—the copies I have reside in my
Standard deckbox to be used for Standard deckbuilding. Once he rotates out, he’s going directly into any Commander decks with green that I have.
Doubling Season is only the tip of the iceberg of fun you can have with this guy.
While a tad on the expensive side, if your deck has any mana reach at all, this is a must-include. Perfect for Commander in that it’s a solution
card for multiple problems, and yet it gives the players who lost something a consolation prize in return that’s not insignificant. Or you can
just go brute force, destroy three of your own lands, and bring eighteen power of Elephants to smash someone’s face.
A perfect card for Commander that’s scalable no matter when you draw it, providing a modest mana bump if you draw it early and some serious mana boost
if you draw it late game. Plus, it plays so well with proliferate from Scars block.
Graveyards are a potent resource in Commander, and some decks can leverage their graveyard for game-ending effects, so having a way to deal with
someone’s graveyard is a staple effect every deck needs. Bojuka Bog does it simply without costing you a nonland slot, which can be very
important in some decks that might not otherwise want to be bothered with finding room for Tormod’s Crypt. Adding Karoo-style lands (like Golgari
Rot Farm) to your deck gives the Bog even more utility.
RISE OF THE ELDRAZI
I think all fans of Commander were pretty excited when Rise came out and featured a large number of splashy and fun colorless cards that could
conceivably go in any Commander decks. The other cards printed to help support the theme of casting big, scary monsters also play nicely into what many
Commander decks want to do.
The Eldrazi Titans
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre. Kozilek, Butcher of Truth. The three Big Bads of the Eldrazi invasion were supposed to be larger
and scarier than anything we’ve seen before in Magic, and boy did they deliver! What was particularly exciting about these three guys was they
brought some powerful effects to decks with color combinations that couldn’t typically access that stuff, if only you had the mana to pay for it.
As a green mage – who can go buck-nuts on mana if they want to – it was awesome to have access to Time Walk, Vindicate, and Opportunity
attached to a large and frightening body. Ultimately, Emrakul proved to bring more misery than fun to the Commander table and got the ban-hammer, but
no doubt his compadres will find plenty of tables to frighten a smidgen less in years to come.
Again, a spell like All Is Dust gives a valuable tool to decks with color combinations that don’t always have access to this, and All Is Dust is
incredibly good at doing it—while some decks can shrug off most sweepers by regenerating or using invulnerability, this card makes you sacrifice
these permanents, something most cards can’t really work around.
If you’re playing a mono-black deck, this is the perfect, high-end creature to run, with abilities that help you and help herself. I’ve
recently moved my copies of this creature out of my Standard deck boxes, since it seems doubtful she’s going to be good in Standard, but man,
she’s been great in my black decks!
A staple big, fat creature for green, and the fact that he’s an uncommon is just awesome for one’s budget. Gaining seven life isn’t
insignificant even in Commander; the body is large, the trample is in charge, and the consolation prize when he gets dealt with – and let’s
face it, people are going to need to kill him – is fantastic.
When it comes to good artifact mana acceleration in Commander, I usually draw the line at three mana, but Dreamstone Hedron breaks the rule on pure
quality. Ramping from six mana to nine mana isn’t something you’re looking to do much in Standard, but there are plenty of reasons
you’d want to do that in Commander. It’s the sacrifice ability that makes this a must-have though, allowing you to cash out for three cards
if you don’t need that extra mana, or if you’re desperate to refill your hand. Just simply grade-A material.
Expectations were high after Magic 2010 brought so many great cards and flavor to Magic fans, and Magic 2011 certainly delivered! As you can see below,
many cards are fantastic both in Standard and for Commander, but there are also a few gems just for multiplayer fans.
The reprinting of Baneslayer was a huge boon for Commander. BSA is a fantastic creature to run in this format, but being such a high-demand mythic rare
made it really expensive to run down a copy of the card for casual play if you didn’t open it. Reprinting it in 2011 significantly increased
supply, and the new set also brought us more incredibly efficient large monsters that people started playing instead of Baneslayer in Standard,
softening demand and making purchasing a single copy of Baneslayer for your Commander card pool much more affordable—you can easily find one for
$15 or less.
Like Baneslayer Angel, I think it’s awesome that Relentless Rats was reprinted—accumulating enough Rats to make a viable Commander deck
around was an expensive or time-consuming proposition, so having them reprinted in three base sets in a row (in addition to their original Fifth Dawn
printing) really helps those of us who want to build a silly Relentless Rats Commander deck.
I remember when Ivory Mask came out, and it was quite handy in stopping a lot of annoying and dangerous cards, both in tournament play and at the
casual table. However, at the casual table you would often find the Ivory Mask sometimes screwing you over when you actually wanted to target yourself
or need a temporary ally at the table to target you for some benefit. They printed another card that fixed that problem, but it cost one mana more,
which seemed to push it into being a bit too pricey for the effect. Leyline of Sanctity brings you all the benefits of Ivory Mask, at the Mask’s
reasonable mana cost, with none of the drawback. Bravo!
All of the Titans from Magic 2011 are large and useful creatures you’d be happy to put into your Commander decks, but these three are the very
best of the bunch by providing you with a steady supply of card advantage, something that’s of vital importance in Commander. Primeval is just
absurd in a format that features so many fantastic lands you tutor for, along with steady mana ramping for even more haymaker big spells.
As good as Sensei’s Divining Top is in Commander to help keep quality cards flowing into your hand, sometimes you just get stuck with two bad
cards on the top of your deck. Whether it’s drawing too many lands in a row or drawing a bunch of high-end cards you can’t cast yet, either
circumstance is a killer in Commander, either through boredom or becoming an easy target. I put this card in every single Commander deck to help remedy
While lots of people readily throw Howling Mines into their Commander decks, I tend to avoid that card except when I’m playing super-friendly,
“carebear” style decks or when I want people to draw a lot of cards for strategic reasons. I like something like Mikokoro instead because
you can control the timing for when everyone draws their extra card. Temple Bell’s got that same sweet flexibility, where you can either tap and
draw that extra card right away, or wait until another, more opportune time.
SCARS OF MIRRODIN
Commander fans were no doubt salivating at the idea of a bunch of great artifacts to add to their collection, given how easily they slot into any color
combination. The original Mirrodin block provided a ton of fantastic staples, and Scars continued in that great tradition.
As far as I can tell, this hasn’t caught on too much in Commander, but I don’t expect that to last long. Game mechanics automatically break
the symmetry on this card, given that you’d typically have an untap step before you’d cast this. This card passively punishes the most
aggressive players, or you can force the issue yourself with cards like Glare of Subdual or Opposition. If you have a way to give your creatures flash
or can blink the Angel at instant speed, you can even push its utility further.
Blue creature decks got a huge mana boost in this creature provided you’re playing enough artifacts… and what blue decks aren’t going
to be playing enough artifacts?
Syphon Soul has been mildly playable in multiplayer games for decades, scaling up the more players there are. Exsanguinate takes Syphon Soul to eleven,
acting like Syphon at three mana and going just bonkers the more mana you have lying around. You’d expect a card like this to require black mana
for X, but no—this doesn’t care where you get that X mana, so you can tap into Gaea’s Cradle or a bunch of colorless mana and have at
it. This card was definitely juiced up on the multiplayer power scale to the point that I’ve heard people complaining about how dumb and cheesy
the card is.
The commander-damage rule is a decent antidote to the potential for players in the format to gain ridiculous amounts of life (see Exsanguinate above),
but some generals take many hits to deal the 21 cumulative points of damage. With Tainted Strike, you only need 10 points of power hitting someone to
take them out, which can be a big surprise and comes in handy sometimes. It can also be a decent combat trick to shrink a particularly nasty creature
when someone chump blocks it with something substantial, or when you need to defeat a regenerator.
What I said about Tainted Strike applies to Grafted Exoskeleton, minus the tricky part. Exoskeleton is particularly nice on defense since no one wants
to run their Big Bad into a chump blocker that’s going to permanently shrink it. Personally, I consider this a staple card for just about any
deck with a fair number of creatures.
Re-usable board control cards are very valuable in multiplayer, and one that’s attached to a sizable body for a reasonable mana cost is even
This is a potent and useful enchantment that suffers from the problem of being useless in multiples, and so won’t likely see much play in
Standard. A singleton format doesn’t have that problem, so one copy works out great!
I’ve not yet had a chance to play this card; it’s also been camping out in my Standard deck boxes because it’s been creeping into top
Standard lists lately. However, there’s no doubt it’s insane in a format where making large amounts of mana isn’t too terribly
difficult, especially if your deck has a relatively low percentage of non-permanent spells. I did get to witness one resolve against me, fueled by
Gaea’s Cradle, and I was dead shortly thereafter. This will definitely be a staple in any heavy-green deck.
Proliferate is a sweet mechanic, and it’s easy to find really good permanents with counters on them to add to and then add to again. I wish that
the -1/-1 counters would nail all opponents, but generally there’s going to be the one player who has gone nuts with Saprolings that everyone
will be glad you took care of.
This sweet card has made some waves in Standard, but it shines even brighter in Commander where creatures die all the time, and the targets are even
sweeter. The beauty of this card is how you can “upgrade” what’s in the Vat whenever a better creature dies later on, though
sometimes you’ll want to keep the creature exiled permanently, so it doesn’t end up back in your opponent’s graveyard.
Another great, reusable utility card attached to a great body, and this one can go in any Commander deck. Bravo, staple!
An efficient creature with two great abilities that has some resistance to removal is pretty much an auto-include for Commander decks that can run it,
and with this one, any deck can run it! Bravo times two, staple!
Looking back through the sets, I have to say that 2010 was a fantastic year for Commander cards, with so many that stand shoulder-to-shoulder with
classic staples. Last week, I took a poll asking what your favorite cards printed in 2010 were, and here are the ones that had more than two votes:
What was your favorite card printed in 2010?
15.3% Mimic Vat
8.7% Primeval Titan
4.8% Genesis Wave
3.5% Sun Titan
1.7% All Is Dust
1.7% Avenger of Zendikar
1.7% Fauna Shaman
1.7% Kemba, Kha Regent
1.7% Koth of the Hammer
1.7% Steel Hellkite
1.3% Brittle Effigy
1.3% Nim Deathmantle
You and I agreed on a lot here, with a couple notable exceptions. I don’t personally like playing planeswalkers too much in Commander because
they tend to draw attention out of proportion to the threat they present to the table at large, so I wouldn’t really consider Jace, the Mind
Sculptor or Koth of the Hammer great Commander cards. There’s no doubt that Fauna Shaman is a powerful card, but again I don’t really like
reusable tutor effects because of how they slow the game down. As a “fixed” Survival of the Fittest though, perhaps it wouldn’t be
too bad if one hit the table and survived (pun intended).
Next week, we start seeing even more of what 2011 is going to bring to the Magic party with more previews for Mirrodin Besieged; have you seen any
potential Commander all-stars so far?
That’s it for this week! I’m planning on heading up to Richmond Comix for Friday Night Magic, hopefully get in a Standard or Draft
tournament along with a couple games of Commander—I’ve still got a couple new decks I’d like to take for a spin. See you next week!
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
Make sure to follow my Twitter feed http://twitter.com/blairwitchgreen, I check it often so feel
free to send me feedback, ideas, and random thoughts on Magic and life.
New to EDH? Be sure to check out my EDH Primer, part 1
, part 2
, and part 3
My current EDH decks:
Savra, Queen of the Golgothi (Demons)
Vorosh, the Hunter (proliferaTION)
Uril, the Miststalker (my “more competitive” deck)
Konda, Lord of Eiganjo (recently completed and ready to rock)