On August 4, Commander Masters will have its release, bringing a ton of much-needed reprints that will hopefully make them more affordable to pick up copies for your Commander decks. Among these reprints are 130 or so legendary cards you can play as your commander, and today I wanted to highlight the dozen I think are the coolest to build Commander decks around. If you haven’t built a deck around one of these commanders, give it a whirl!
Ghalta, Primal Hunger
As of this writing Ghalta, Primal Hunger is the #264 most popular commander on EDHREC, but it also ends up in the 99 of any green deck with large power creatures since it’s not all that difficult to get nine or ten power worth of creatures on the battlefield to make Ghalta cost just three or even just two total mana. But as your commander, Ghalta is capable of doing really cool things when you keep in mind that the mana reduction can apply to paying commander tax too. For instance, if you have twelve power worth of creatures on the battlefield, Ghalta will still just cost two green mana to cast, even if you’ve got to pay for one instance of commander tax. This means if you can sacrifice Ghalta for some effect, you can potentially cast Ghalta again and again from the commander zone for just GG.
The card that comes immediately to mind is Greater Good, which will draw you a whopping twelve cards each time you sacrifice Ghalta, netting your hand nine extra cards once you discard three. If you have something like Maro, Psychosis Crawler, Empyrial Plate, or Masumaro, First to Live on the battlefield, those extra cards drawn will more than give you enough extra power on the battlefield to pay for Ghalta’s colorless mana cost plus commander tax. If you have a copy of Food Chain – recently reprinted in Double Masters and much more reasonable to pick up – you can exile Ghalta for a bunch of green mana to cast creatures with.
When building your Ghalta deck, it’s fun to look for cards that care about having a high-power creature. Surrak, the Hunt Caller’s formidable ability is looking for power eight or greater; Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma is looking for creatures power four or greater. Rishkar’s Expertise lets you draw cards equal to the greatest power among creatures you control. Then there are cards that care about the mana value of your commander, such as Tangleweave Armor and Majestic Genesis. And there’s a new powerhouse card that should definitely find a home in this deck: Last March of the Ents, which appreciates Ghalta’s whopping twelve toughness.
Gonti, Lord of Luxury
As of this writing Gonti, Lord of Luxury is the #658 most popular commander on EDHREC. Gonti didn’t really need a reprint from a cost perspective, since it’s been reprinted several times already, but its ability is rather difficult to resolve during remote Commander play on platforms like Spelltable and so it hasn’t seen much playing during the pandemic. Now that it’s safer to play in-person Magic, it’s a great time to take another look at this commander.
I love “build your own adventure”-style cards in Commander, where the ability is variable depending on what your opponents are playing. Gonti’s ability scales well with the power level of the decks your opponents are playing with, so the more powerful the cards are they’re playing, the more bonkers Gonti becomes.
Gonti as your commander creates an interesting tension, since your opponents have an interest in not killing Gonti and thus allowing you to recast it and get the triggered ability again. Its deathtouch ability means your opponents won’t want to engage in combat all that often, which makes me think of the recent mechanic “the Ring tempts you”, which might play great in a Gonti deck. Look for cards like Feign Death and Undying Evil to circumvent commander tax when Gonti dies.
Urza, Lord High Artificer
Urza is currently showing as the #46 most popular commander on EDHREC, in no small part due to its extremely high power level. Being able to tap untapped artifacts you control for a blue mana can generate a ton of mana very quickly, and you can draw parallels to Tolarian Academy, a card that has justifiably been banned in Commander for a long, long time.
Since this is the second reprinting, it’s much easier on your pocketbook now to pick up Urza for a deck. If you want to feel the rush of power making a mono-blue artifact deck with Urza leading the way, have at it! For me personally, I’d be more interested in making a lower-powered deck that wanted to use Urza’s activated ability to “spin the wheel” and see what free card I might randomly cough up.
Zetalpa, Primal Dawn
Zetalpa, Primal Dawn has had so many reprints, I think many of us have just collectively forgotten about how much fun this card is until we’re playing a game with preconstructed decks and someone slams this expensive Dinosaur onto the battlefield.
Recently there was a fun Magic meme going around Twitter where someone called Zetalpa “1-800-ARE-YOU-FLAPPIN” and replaced all of its keywords with: “flappin, double-slappin, no nappin, scrappin, unflappable”, and it made me resolve to put Zetalpa back in my decks again and potentially build a Commander deck around it. Sure, it’s expensive, but don’t you want to play the kind of games where this card shows up and rules the skies? Zetalpa is currently only ranked #1340 on EDHREC. Shouldn’t we try to change that?
Neheb, the Eternal
Neheb, the Eternal is ranked #271 on EDHREC, and is quite a powerhouse in Commander if you’ve got ways to damage your opponents… for instance, combat! Being able to turn damage to opponents into a rush of red mana during your postcombat main phase is quite good, and eventually drove the price north of $20 and even close to $30 before this reprint brought it down to a more reasonable level. I love that it takes all the various cards that deal damage to each opponent and brings it back to you in mana. Think cards like Fiery Inscription, Heartless Hidetsugu, and Price of Progress.
I did a good write-up on Neheb back in 2019 when it was first printed, so if you’re looking for some ideas, be sure to check it out!
Morophon, the Boundless
Morophon, the Boundless is ranked #58 on EDHREC, and is another card that really needed another reprint. Like Neheb, it had been north of $20 for a long time and flirted with $30 before the reprint. I’m not generally a fan of five-color commanders, since all too often they’re just a pile of the best cards, but Morophon encourages you to play a typal deck that cares about a particular creature type. Check out my write-up on Morophon back in 2019 where I sketched out a five-color Goblin deck:
I have a cool Morophon deck that is a Shadowborn Apostles Cleric / Demon deck, and with Morophon on the battlefield, I can cast Shadowborn Apostles for free. I haven’t shared the decklist yet in Deck of the Week, so keep your eyes peeled, as I’ll do a write-up soon!
Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder
Endrek is currently ranked #781 on EDHREC, and I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen Endrek at a Commander game. Aaron Forsythe, Vice President of Magic Design at Studio X for Wizards of the Coast (WotC), has been a fan of Commander since its early days, and one of his go-to decks was Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder. Sheldon Menery did a turn-by-turn write-up of playing against Aaron and his deck if you want to check it out:
Endrek has a cool flavorful design, squeezing out an army of small Thrulls whenever you cast a creature spell until you get seven or more Thrulls, at which time you must sacrifice Endrek (you fool around with Thrulls and get too many of them, and they’ll do you in). So, you basically want to ensure you have plenty of sacrifice outlets to keep your Thrull population below seven at all times, which seems like a cool tension to have going on with your deck. Also, just check out that amazing new art by Lucas Graciano! This reprint has me thinking I need to dust off my copies of Endrek and slide it into some decks.
The recent Tales of Middle-earth Commander deck Riders of Rohan brings us cards that care about being the monarch, so this is a great time to remember that Queen Marchesa was one of the first cards to feature the monarch mechanic. While Marchesa has black instead of blue in her color identity, there are still monarch powerhouse cards you can add from the Riders of Rohan deck, such as Forth Eorlingas! and Champions of Minas Tirith.
Monarch is a great mechanic for Commander. It really helps push games along where they might otherwise stall out, and I’m glad that there are some awesome options for different spins on monarch-themed decks. With the Mardu color identity, you get to make use of both Deflecting Palm and Inkshield to punish opponents who think they can just swipe the monarch crown. Queen Marchesa is currently ranked #31 on EDHREC, so I think quite a few others are on the same page.
Valduk, Keeper of the Flame
Valduk, Keeper of the Flame is one of my all-time favorite Commander decks, and I’ve still got the deck on my shelf, ready to rumble. Early this year I shared my list as a Deck of the Week, so be sure to check it out:
As an uncommon, price has never been an issue for acquiring Valduk, but that uncommon status also means that it’s easy to dismiss Valduk as not being very powerful. This is a mistake, but not an uncommon one, given that Valduk is ranked way down at #568 on EDHREC. WotC is always making new Equipment cards and cards that care about Equipment, so options for the deck are constantly refreshing; for instance, I’ve recently added Barrow-Blade, Bladegraft Aspirant, and Beamtown Beatstick to the deck.
What I most like about Valduk is that the Elemental creature tokens it creates stick around until your end step, so you can sacrifice them for profit during your second main phase! I’ve got an Ashnod’s Altar in the deck that can sacrifice each of them for two colorless mana, which is perfect for casting Equipment cards and paying equip costs.
Rafiq of the Many
In the EDH days, Rafiq of the Many used to be one of the scariest commanders you could face, since its powerful effect has “haste” and applies the turn it hits the battlefield, assuming you had a creature you wanted to attack with. I stopped playing it after a while because it was so notorious, but in the years since Shards of Alara, legendary creatures and the Commander format have changed quite a bit, and I hope reprinting Rafiq brings more copies of it back to the Commander tables.
The exalted ability of double strike is quite powerful to have in a Bant deck, and I like that it helps enable a more aggressive style of play. Last year I built a new Rafiq deck, this one focused on having a lot of the dungeon and initiative cards from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms and Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate. I wrote about it as a Deck of the Week here:
Rafiq still shows a respectable rank of #280 on EDHREC.
Zilortha, Strength Incarnate
When Ikoria: Lair of the Behemoths came out, they introduced us to sweet “Godzilla skins” for many of the cards, which were super-cool and flavorful. Zilortha, Strength Incarnate was only printed in the promo skin as “Godzilla, King of the Monsters”, so it’s awesome that we finally just now get the regular version of Zilortha in paper for the first time.
Zilortha is a fun build-around that helps creatures with high power but low toughness survive combat. An awesome card that springs to mind is Rancor, and with Zilortha on the battlefield, it gives you even more protection from lethal damage. Also, don’t forget the battle Invasion of Ikoria, since its back side is another version – Zilortha, Apex of Ikoria!
Zilortha, Strength Incarnate is currently ranked #653 on EDHREC, so if you bring this to a Commander table, you’ll definitely get some style points.
Sakiko, Mother of Summer
Speaking of style points, the last card on my list is a reprint of Sakiko, Mother of Summer featuring sweet new artwork by Livia Prima that nicely evokes the more modern style from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty. Sakiko wasn’t exactly tearing up the tables in the EDH days, and creatures have only become better over the years, but that just means that building a good Commander deck around Sakiko is a challenge that some deckbuilders will find fun.
You can build a smash-mouth deck chock-full of the most efficient mono-green creatures today, with Sakiko near the top of the curve. You cast her before you go in for a big attack and get a rush of green mana you can spend during your second main phase, and since there’s no condition on what you can do with the mana, it really frees you to get creative and lean into your own particular style. This is like a green version of Neheb, the Eternal, but it’s currently showing ranked way down at #1914 on EDHREC.
What reprinted legends from Commander Masters have drawn your attention? Which legends were you hoping to see that didn’t get reprints?
Talk to Me
Do me a solid and follow me on Twitter! I run polls and start conversations about Commander all the time, so get in on the fun! You can also find my LinkTree on my profile page there with links to all my content.
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And lastly, I just want to say: let us love each other and stay healthy and happy.
Visit my Decklist Database to see my decklists and the articles where they appeared!