When it comes to the myriad formats of Magic: the Gathering, on paper, Commander is by far the most popular. Offering one of the largest card pools available, Commander is a playground for unrivaled creativity in MTG. Thanks to this, it is arguably the most fun format to build and brew decks for.
Whether you want to build around a specific typal theme or a beloved pet card, Commander allows you to do it. Should either of those options not take your fancy, however, you can also play to win. When aiming to build the best deck possible, Commander has countless awesome combos and cards to exploit.
When taking this competitive desire to win to the extreme, Commander decks will reach the status of cEDH. Within this sub-format, only the best of the best days survive, yet MTG players have a surprisingly good time playing it. So much so, in fact, that for some players it’s actually a nicer environment than typical Commander games!
As much as cEDH does have its benefits, unfortunately, this format is also tremendously expensive. Subsequently, for most MTG players, it’s best to stick to the more casual games that you’ll find at your local FNM. Here, games can still be plenty competitive, even if they’re not playing $3000 lands each turn.
If you want the best chance at winning at one of these tables, you’ll need to bring a competent, still causal, deck. Thankfully, if you’re looking to do this, we’ve got a handy cheat sheet for you to follow! Throughout this article, we’ll be highlighting some of the best casual Commander decks in MTG that you can build right now.
Honorable Mention | Preconstructed Decks
While we’ll be talking about decks you can build yourself throughout this article, we couldn’t resist mentioning preconstructed decks. As the name implies, these decks have already been made for you by the diligent team at Wizards. All you need to do is crack into the packaging, shuffle, and play!
For better or worse, preconstructed Commander decks in MTG are, typically, not the best decks around. So much so, that at many tables, you may find yourself struggling if you only bring along a fresh precon. While this is far from ideal, thankfully, there is an easy solution: upgrading your deck.
Through buying singles, even sub-par precons can be turned into viable and enjoyable decks! The question remains, however, which preconstructed deck should you spend your hard-earned money on and use? Ultimately, that is up to you, as there are so many different preconstructed decks to choose from.
Whether you’re looking to start off with a themed deck, or something more mechanically focused, Wizards has you covered. It’s also worth keeping in mind that some decks will need more upgrades than others since power levels do vary. If you’re looking for one of the most powerful precons around, check out the Hosts of Mordor deck.
At the end of the day, when using a preconstructed Commander deck, it is not mandatory that you upgrade it with singles. Choosing not to, however, may require you to be more careful about your table choice. After all, as you’ll see throughout this article, many casual-focused decks are seriously strong and don’t mess around.
If ease of access isn’t enough of a selling point for preconstructed Commander decks, there are also many Universes Beyond offerings! This can allow players to dive deep into their favorite franchises!
The Deck of the Month | Gishath, Sun’s Avatar
As much as Commander does have a lot of preconstructed and powerful decks, these aren’t the format’s greatest strength. That, instead, is the near limitless creativity on offer to players thanks to the immense card pool. Allowing access to cards from throughout Magic’s history, Commander players are free to build niche pet decks and beloved Typal lists to their heart’s content.
Due to the creativity Commander provides, the best-themed deck is a very hard one to nail down. Often changing on a monthly, if not weekly, basis, the flavor of the month is always in a state of flux. For this month, the community’s favorite flavor is Dinosaurs and Gishath, Sun’s Avatar.
Being reprinted in The Lost Caverns of Ixalan, this immense Dinosaur has seen a huge surge in popularity. Considering the prevalence of Dinosaurs within the new Ixalan set, this isn’t a surprise at all. Giving access to the majority of new Dinosaur cards thanks to its color identity, this Commander is a stellar choice for some fun.
While Gishath, Sun’s Avatar should offer a very enjoyable and flavorful time for dinosaur fans, admittedly, the deck isn’t tier one. On the wrong table, this deck will get utterly dominated, however, this isn’t guaranteed to happen. By picking the right table and power level of your opponents, this deck has every chance to succeed. Just don’t expect to go winning cEDH events with this flavor-focused list.
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9 | Sauron, the Dark Lord
Following the release of The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth, one new Commander card has reigned supreme. As you can see above, rather fittingly, this card is Sauron, the Dark Lord. Synergizing with the new Ring Temps You mechanic, this powerhouse of a new card absolutely excels in Commander. So much so, in fact, this new card is the most popular Commander of the past month.
Despite this impressive claim to fame, currently, Sauron, the Dark Lord only appears in just under 5,000 decks on EDHREC. Given enough time, however, this card is sure to earn a spot on this list properly.
As for the card, and accompanying deck, as mentioned, Sauron, the Dark Lord is fantastic alongside the Ring Temps you and Amass mechanics. Thanks to this, Dreadhorde Invasion is an obvious auto-include in the deck. Alongside this, it’s a good idea to play even more Sauron. Specifically, Sauron, Lord of the Rings is a great choice thanks to their powerful Amass Orcs ability.
Unfortunately, unlike many other typal-focused decks, there are literally no normal Army cards in MTG. Instead, the only cards which carry that subtype are the creature tokens created via Amass. Thankfully, Changelings can skirt around this problem, giving you a few more ways to activate Sauron, the Dark Lord’s main ability.
Outside of specifically building around, Sauron, the Dark Lord, this deck is a great opportunity for all things Lord of the Rings. Subsequently, many lists built around this Commander also contain cards such as Nazgûl and rather appropriately Lord of the Nazgûl. Of course, alongside these, it’d be downright foolish not to include The One Ring as well.
Ultimately, while decks themed around Sauron, the Dark Lord are not the strongest in all MTG, they are very flavorful. Subsequently, they can be a real joy to play, so long as you can find the right playgroup for them. Thanks to this highly flavorful fun, it’s no wonder that Sauron, the Dark Lord is the go-to commander right now. After all, The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth did just launch.
For an example of a deck built around Sauron, the Dark Lord, have a gander at Jacob Bertrand’s deck from Game Knights 62. If you want to watch this deck in action, you can do so below. Otherwise, a link to the deck can be found here.
8 | Shalai and Hallar
Shalai and Hallar is all about getting +1/+1 counters onto creatures and dealing damage to other players. Every time one or more +1/+1 counters goes onto a creature, Shalai and Hallar deals damage equal to the number of counters. That encourages you to quickly get counters on your creatures to put pressure on other players.
This doesn’t count as combat damage and won’t contribute to the 21 combat damage a Commander can deal to a player to take them out. Fortunately, if you can quickly get multiple counters onto your creatures, you can quickly eat away at a player’s life and mop them up in combat with your creatures.
Shalai and Hallar is particularly potent because of their access to infinite combos. The card will instantly win the game alongside The Red Terror, which creates a feedback loop, dealing infinite damage and gaining infinite counters. The card also performs incredibly well with Heliod, Sun-Crowned, who can give Shalai and Halar Lifelink. Once you can life, you can put a +1/+1 counter on Shalai and Halar from Heliod. This will make your Commander deal damage, gaining you life from Lifelink which creates another loop.
Even if Shalai and Halar can’t maintain its presence outside of the command zone for long, you still have powerful creatures capable of strengthening themselves. Abzan Battle Priest and Benevolent Hydra are great examples of creatures that can power up. This can quickly snowball into big threats that your opponents struggle to deal with. You also get some removal from red spells and the ability to add on more counters with green spells.
It’s a deck that will rely on building lots of counters, but you won’t need these creatures to stay around long. As long as Shalai and Halar is present, just the act of putting +1/+1 counters will put players in an uncomfortable position. They will either remove the creatures or stall your ability to add counters just to stay alive.
7 | Sidar Jabari of Zhalfir
Sidar Jabari of Zhalfir focuses exclusively on Knights to take advantage of his ability to bring Knights back from the graveyard. Your Knights will mostly come from white and black mana, but there are blue Knights that you can use as well. Knights support each other well, almost as well as Slivers, if you can get them on the battlefield fast enough.
This deck will focus on attacking with your Knights while protecting them from any threats that could interfere. Cards such as Knight Exemplar grant benefits to all Knights (being Indestructible in this case), while spells like Negate stop any spell from ruining your momentum. You also have a variety of Artifact/Equipment cards to power up and protect your Knights or give them extra offense.
Vanquisher’s Banner can be used to strengthen your Knights and give you card advantage as you cast them. The Circle of Loyalty is also a great pick to produce some decent Knight tokens while strengthening your creatures. If you need a powerful combatant, you can use Silverwing Squadron or Wintermoor Commander to fight against larger threats. For late-game attacks, Akroma’s Will is perfect for letting your Knights slip past blockers and withstand most removal.
You can also combine Haakon, Stromgald Scourge with Phyrexian Altar, and Knight of the Ebon Legion if you want to repeatedly play Knights. It’s perfect when used with cards such as Worthy Knight, Syr Konrad, the Grim, and Breathless Knight. You either flood the battlefield with Knight tokens, repeatedly damage a player, or strengthen a Knight to powerful levels.
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6 | Omnath, Locus of All
For a powerful Phyrexian Commander, Omnath, Locus of All is a great choice for accessing all five colors. It gives you access to playing all five Praetors, but it also allows you to ramp up mana if you have several multicolored cards. You also retain any unspent mana as black mana, which always remains with you until Omnath leaves the battlefield.
This is great for cards such as Villainous Wealth, which can exile a considerable number of cards with the proper mana ramp. Creatures such as Nyxbloom Ancient will help generate that excess mana, which can be used immediately or stored to cast gigantic X spells like Torrent of Hellfire to end the game.
Omnath’s second ability relies on multicolored cards to be truly effective. You choose the three mana from the combination of colors revealed at the start of your precombat phase, allowing you to play various powerful cards quickly. It’s perfect for getting cards like Maelstrom Nexus or Maelstrom Angel out on the battlefield, as they have high multicolored costs.
Overwhelming your opponent with powerful creatures faster than they can respond is always a solid strategy. You can also rely on other Phyrexian cards to hurt your opponent, like the Vraska, Betrayal’s Sting, and Vorinclex, Monstrous Predator combination.
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5 | Lathril, Blade of the Elves
Elves are a popular choice in Commander, and after seeing Lathril, Blade of the Elves, you will see why. When Lathril deals combat damage to a player, you create 1/1 Elf tokens equal to Lathril’s power. After ten Elves are on the battlefield, you can tap them to take ten life away from all opponents.
Players don’t want Lathril to deal damage since Lathril dealing 21 cumulative combat damage will end in their defeat. Not only does the Commander damage add up, but Lathril also creates tokens equal to the damage dealt.
Summoning ten other Elves and draining players of life is the way to go. With cards like Elvish Warmaster, you can quickly flood the battlefield with Elf tokens and start draining life. Elvish Archdruid and Leaf-Crowned Visionary turn weak 1/1 Elves into decent fighters. Rather than use cheap removal like Lightning Bolt, it forces your opponents to wipe the board.
You can also turn your Elves into powerful armies with cards like Ezuri, Renegade Leader. Backed with naturally powerful Elves like Glissa Sunslayer and Abomination of Llanowar, players are forced to either exile or neutralize them. These cards aren’t cheap mana-wise, but cards like Llanowar Elves and Wirewood Channeler can help you cast them sooner. Combining some cards like Elvish Archdruid and Staff of Domination can even grant you infinite mana.
Protecting your Elves with equipment and enchantments keeps them alive and lets you focus on draining life from enemies. Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots can keep your more powerful Elves safe from harm. You can also use Coat of Arms or Beastmaster’s Ascension to boost your Elves’ power even further and overwhelm your opponent’s defenses.
With several methods to hurt your opponents, you will have them scrambling to react as you adjust your strategy to the circumstances.
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4 | Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver
Looking to overwhelm your opponents with an undead legion of Zombies? You’ve come to the right place! Willhelt, the Rotcleaver is a four-mana Commander from the Undead Unleashed preconstructed Commander deck from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt. As long as you have Zombies to sacrifice, Wilhelt offers a legion of Decayed Zombie Tokens and endless card draw.
The strongest Zombies, in a synergistic sense, threaten to completely overwhelm your opponents. Rooftop Storm is a spooky enchantment that will allow you to cast all of your Zombies for free. Just make sure you do what you need to do quickly. After all, opponents will not leave you alone with an enchantment this powerful. Should you combine this with Acererak, the Archlich and you get an infinite combo that is a real pain to play out online.
Outside of magical Christmas land, there are a lot of other Zombie synergies that can make this strategy purr. Gravecrawler’s ability to recast itself works wonders with Wilhelt’s sacrifice ability. The card can also get paired up with Phyrexian Altar to create infinite ETB and sacrifice effects. This will create infinite Decayed tokens with Wilhelt.
3 | Tymna the Weaver (paired with Thrasios, Triton Hero)
If you are curious about the Partner mechanic that lets you use two Commanders, Tymna the Weaver is a great Commander to use. Partnered Commanders have several options, but Tymna the Weaver and Thrasios, Triton Hero, is a common pairing. You get the benefits of blue, green, white, and black mana while having two Commanders that complement each other.
Thrasios is excellent for ramping up your mana with his Scry ability. The main difference is it allows you to reveal the top card of your library. If it’s a land card, you play it tapped, otherwise, you draw a card if it’s anything else. It’s a good way of controlling the cards that go into your hand while quickly bringing lands into play.
Cards like Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, Atraxa, Grand Unifier, and Razaketh, the Foulblooded, can quickly come out with the enhanced mana ramp. Since the Scry ability isn’t limited to basic lands, you can play cards such as Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth or Breeding Pool with this ability. Creatures such as Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch can pitch in if you need more mana.
Tymna helps you build card advantage after dealing damage to players. You can pay life to draw cards based on the players you damaged after your post-combat main phase. In larger games, this can quickly replenish your hand and provide more options after a drawn-out engagement.
Cards such as Serra Ascendant[tooltips] or [tooltips]Sheoldred, the Apocalypse will help you gain life to offset Tymna’s life drain. Other cards, such as Toxic Deluge, can help clear the board while benefiting from the extra life you gained. Protecting your creatures, artifacts, and enchantments will be important; using cards such as Counterspell or Heroic Intervention will ensure most threats won’t hurt you.
There are several ways to win with Tymna and Thrasios. Large creatures with powerful effects can end the battle like the aforementioned Atraxa, Grand Unifier. You can also exile difficult creatures away with cards like Swords to Plowshares, then strengthen your creatures with counters and break through.
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2 | The Ur-Dragon
For Dragon players looking for a powerful Commander, you can’t go wrong with The Ur-Dragon. It gives you access to every color, and it makes every Dragon cheaper to play by one mana. While the cost to bring The Ur-Dragon from the Commander zone to the battlefield is great, it’s often worthwhile. After all, not only do you get amazing card draw, but you can also cheat out additional dragons!
Combining this effect with cards such as Miirym, Sentinel Wyrm can quickly fill the battlefield with powerful threats that amplify The Ur-Dragon’s existing power. Lathliss, Dragon Queen, and Utvara Hellkite will supplement your board with Dragon tokens, providing more attackers that your opponents must deal with.
Dragons aren’t cheap to play, and you must have some form of mana ramp. Scaled Nurturer and Faeburrow Elder can get onto the board early and start generating mana. Cultivate and Growth Spiral can get you the lands you need. Dragonspeaker Shaman doesn’t help with mana ramp per se, but it can reduce mana costs to get your Dragons out sooner.
This mana ramp can also help with combinations such as Old Gnawbone and Hellkite Charger, getting them out when opponents can’t do much against them. You can then generate multiple combat phases, which can overwhelm individual opponents.
Having several methods to revive your Dragons is important since players will use your removal to destroy them. Bladewing the Risen can revive a single Dragon while providing a body on the battlefield, while Patriarch’s Bidding can bring back all your Dragons from the graveyard. If you are in a challenging position (or encountering a mirror match), Crux of Fate can give you some time or give you the win.
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1 | Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice
Any Commander deck that uses counters will benefit from Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice. Atraxa has a good set of abilities such as Flying, Vigilance, Deathtouch, and Lifelink. The real draw is Atraxa’s Proliferate ability, which happens at a player’s end step. This allows Atraxa to choose any number of permanents with counters and add on an existing counter.
Atraxa doesn’t need to attack or do anything other than exist for Proliferate to kick in. Prologue to Phyresis puts a Poison Counter on your opponents without requiring combat, starting the threat quickly. If spells don’t work, cards such as Bloated Contaminator can break past early defenses to put a poison counter on players.
Cards such as Tekuthal, Inquiry Dominus, and Inexorable Tide let you Proliferate multiple times, with Tekuthal having the option of getting an Indestructible counter to avoid most removal. Evolution Sage triggers Proliferate with every land that comes into play, while Ezuri, Stalker of Spheres helps you build card advantage while you proliferate.
Planeswalkers such as Teferi, Temporal Archmage, benefit from Atraxa and Proliferate as well. Combined with artifacts like The Chain Veil and mana-producing permanents, you could generate more mana and more Planeswalker loyalty ability uses. Vraska, Betrayal’s Sting and Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider is another combination that can take advantage of Proliferated poison counters on players to win.
If other players have cards that inconvenience you, Swords to Plowshares can eliminate them while keeping you alive. Other cards, such as Astral Cornucopia and, Shalai, Voice of Plenty have other types of counters (charge and +1/+1, respectively) that benefit from Proliferation and give you an advantage. As long as you have ways to Proliferate, other players must focus on you or lose the game.
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