There are likely close to 1500 eligible Commanders in Magic: the Gathering – how do the most popular Commanders emerge from the sea of fishes? The easiest answer is the Commanders power level, but if you look at our list of top 10 most powerful Commanders, not all of them are listed here.
Well known mechanics, smooth synergy among cards, and deck building flexibility could be some of the other factors that make a Commander popular. We peeked at data collected over the past 2 years by EDHREC, and analyse the top 8 Commanders that have the highest number of decks listed online.
8th Most Popular Commander: Prosper, Tome-Bound
Who would have imagined that a Commander from a low-key preconstructed deck launch would make it all the way to 1 of the most popular in Magic’s history? Prosper, Tome-Bound was from the Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms line of precon decks, and he’s become so popular because of his ability to generate so much value through Exile effects.
Prosper’s 1st ability translates to getting free temporary card each turn. It may not be an actual card draw, but it’s easily exploitable since Lands can be played, and you’re likely to have enough Mana through Treasures to cast any spell. His 2nd ability is what generates those Treasure tokens, and with every new set release, there’s bound to be at least a few new cards that put others into Exile.
As you might imagine, there are a plethora of cards that synergise well with Prosper, Tome-Bound, so many that you’ll even have a hard time picking the most optimal cards to put in the 99 of your deck. Xorn creates double Treasures, while Goldspan Dragon makes each of them produce 2 Mana. Or you could go with Mayhem Devil and deal damage through those Treasures. Professional Face-Breaker even gives you a way to loop both Exiling cards and creating Treasures.
Power Level: 8/10. Prosper, Tome-Bound‘s popularity is likely due to the thrill of creating value out of uncertainty (since you often don’t know what the top card of your Library is). That doesn’t mean Prosper can’t be powerful. There are several lines of 4-card infinite combos that you can pull off, and before that happen you can try to outmuscle your opponents by playing more cards or taking theirs.
7th Most Popular Commander: Korvold, Fae-Cursed King
Let’s see, this popular Commander also uses Treasures and has not only black and red colours, but green too? Korvold, the Fae-Cursed King was also originally found in Throne of Eldraine’s Brawl preconstructed decks, and is now 1 of the most popular Commanders in Magic, with over 3600 decks on EDHREC.
Korvold, Fae-Cursed King is more expensive to cast, but the dragon has the often overlooked ability to actually kill an opponent through Commander damage. With many Sacrifice outlets in his deck, it’s easy to grow Korvold into a 9/9 or 10/10 flyer. 2 or 3 hits with Korvold can finish someone off, and if that doesn’t work, there are also ways to search through their entire deck and find a winning combo.
One popular combo is the use of Food Chain and Squee, the Immortal to produce infinite coloured Mana for Creature spells. With another Artifact like Ashnod’s Altar and the trusted Mayhem Devil, you can easily deal infinite damage to all your opponents.
Power Level: 9/10. Harnessing the flexibility of Treasures and Sacrifice makes Korvold, Fae-Cursed King a viable entry into the competitive EDH/Commander level. It’s more fluid than Prosper, and with the addition of the 3rd colour, gives more options for infinite combos, including those only require 3 cards. It is quite reliant on the combo pieces, but if any opponent removes key cards, then try a different direction with Korvold’s Commander Damage or alternate win conditions such as Revel in Riches.
6th Most Popular Commander: Edgar Markov
The power of the Eminence ability makes Edgar Markov a hot favourite Commander for Magic players. Edgar was also part of the Commander precon decks of 2017, and perhaps for good reason, the Eminence ability has not been since then. Eminence provides a bonus effect even if your Commander has not been cast, and for Edgar Markov, that means free 1/1 Vampires whenever another Vampire is cast.
Edgar Markov decks are all about attacking with force, but it does need some help from other “Enter the Battlefield” or attack triggers that make it more potent. Impact Tremors and Purphoros, God of the Forge all help to reduce players’ life totals as your army grows bigger, then there’s Zulaport Cutthroat and Vindictive Vampire to provide even more cover in case someone decides to wipe out all your Creatures.
While the deck is pretty linear, there is the 2-card combo between Sanguine Bond and Exquisite Blood, which does fit nicely in the vampire theme. To deal with specific threats, you can use tutor spells such as Demonic Tutor or Vampiric Tutor to search for an Anguished Unmaking or The Meathook Massacre, which coincidentally also helps drain opponents’ life.
Power Level: 8/10. The deck is short of competitive EDH/Commander level, even though the deck is very, very fast. Its downside comes from the fact that you have to attack your opponents 1 by 1, giving others the chance to gang up on you or find an answer to all your vampires. Once your army is down, it does take a while to build back up, making your job that much harder.
5th Most Popular Commander: Kenrith, the Returned King
Standing at over 10,000 online decks built according to EDHREC, Kenrith, the Returned King isn’t right on the throne but is close to it. It’s so popular because he is a utility knife, able to wield 5 abilities and cards from all 5 colours to great effect. Whatever the threat an opponent poses, Kenrith, the Returned King is the 1 that has the highest chance of dealing with it.
Kenrith, the Returned King‘s abilities include giving Creatures Haste, gaining life, drawing cards, placing +1/+1 counters, and even returning a Creature from the Graveyard. With cards like Biomancer’s Familiar, Zirda, the Dawnwaker and Heartstone, these abilities become cheaper to activate, and that’s where the trouble begins.
The use of Willbreaker can steal opponent’s Creatures, while a recurring Spore Frog means you don’t have to worry about combat damage again (unless your Graveyard is Exiled somehow). When you combine these effects with cards like Seedborn Muse and Wilderness Reclamation that let you untap each turn, the amount of value generated is almost insurmountable.
Power Level: 9/10. Apart from creating a ton of value all around, Kenrith, the Returned King does have the option to plunk in a few infinite combos, since it does run all 5 colours. Demonic Consultation and Thassa’s Oracle is a common sight, and there are so many ways to create infinite coloured Mana as well.
4th Most Popular Commander: The Ur-Dragon
Coming close to 11,000 decks online is The Ur-Dragon Commander. It’s the 1st name that comes to mind when any player thinks of Dragons. While it expensive to cast at 9 Mana, it does run all 5 colours like Kenrith, the Returned King, hence upping its appeal factor. It’s also not a weak Commander by any measure, though most players are likely building him for flavour rather than power.
The Ur-Dragon is the other Commander on this list that makes use of Eminence, giving a 1 Mana cost reduction to any Dragon you are trying to cast. This is amazing value, even more so than Edgar Markov because it lets you put more things on the Battlefield and also enables some infinite combos more easily.
The number of powerful dragons in Magic history is also a long list, with those such as Terror of the Peaks, Utvara Hellkite, Balefire Dragon, and Ancient Copper Dragon merely scratching the scales of what horrors are available. There are consistently dragons in almost every new set release, with the recent Miirym, Sentinel Wyrm and Rivaz of the Claw all worthy additions.
The Ur-Dragon also offers an alternative path, using Creatures with Changeling for more delicate tools and ways of playing. Instead of swinging in with big, flying dragons, you can pull off funny tricks using cards such as Aphetto Wizard or those that say “whenever a [Creature type] deals damage, etc.” Since Changelings count as all Creature types, you can have a true tribal deck that involves all tribes.
Power Level: 7/10. Dragons are fun but they are more of a battlecruiser style deck that takes time to build a threat. That means it may not stand the test of infinite combos from competitive decks but
3rd Most Popular Commander: Lathril, Blade of Elves
Right from the get go, Lathril, Blade of Elves caught the eyes of many, not just because it was an Elf Commander that had black as a secondary colour to green, but also because it has a particularly devastating activated ability that doesn’t rely on combat to win. She does have to create elves first through combat, but once you have enough, it’s all just a matter of tapping to make each opponent lose 10 life.
Lathril, Blade of Elves is such a popular Commander that she’s beaten out the other elf powerhouses – Selvala, Heart of the Wilds and Marwyn, the Nurturer – with over 11,000 decks listed online. Green decks like to have Carpet of Flowers and Collector Ouphe, both of which help to bring up the power.
The stable of elves in Magic history also means Lathril has no shortage of options. From the old Priest of Titania to the new Leaf-Crowned Visionary, it’s all about Mana ramp and strength in numbers. The addition of black means Poison Tip Archer and Miara, Thorn of the Glade are worthwhile inclusion into the main deck.
Power Level: 8/10. Thanks to special black card like Hatred, it’s possible to have Lathril, Blade of Elves to 1-hit an opponent through Commander damage. From that hit, you create 20 or so elves, ready to be tapped the next turn with Lathril’s ability. Black also opens up the can of tutor cards that can help a player search for specific cards. Lathril can be played in a mid power level on a budget, but with a little bit of help, can really push into the competitive sphere.
2nd Most Popular Commander: Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow
Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow checks a lot of boxes for Commander: cheap to cast, strong ability, and in favourable colours, all of which puts her as easily the 2nd most popular Commander in Magic. In our opinion, the biggest factor for her popularity is the Commander Ninjustu ability, allowing her to bypass the Commander tax regardless of how many times you bring her onto the Battlefield.
Being in blue and black, there are plenty of control cards at Yuriko’s disposal as well. Counter spells, tutor cards, and even spells like Temporal Trespass and Temporal Mastery[/c[ for extra turns are all common sights in Yuriko decks. The Creature base is already relatively cheap to build, with just lots of low-costing Ninjas or Changelings that can’t be blocked.
Then there’s that ability to deal massive amounts of damage whenever a Ninja connects with an opponent. Not only do they get damage, but Yuriko’s owner even gets more cards into the hand, keeping her ahead of the pack. When the time is right, she can cast extra turns to finish the job. Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow started off as an unassuming blue-black Commander in 2018 but has since emerged as 1 of the most popular Commanders of all time.
Power Level: 9/10. With proper piloting, [c]Yuriki, the Tiger’s Shadow can easily fit among the competitive EDH/Commander peers. It may lack in infinite combos, but she can still be a deadly, all-rounder Commander.
Most Popular Commander: Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice
She’s both an angel, horror, and a powerhouse, so it’s no wonder that Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice is easily the most popular Commander in Magic so far, with over 13,000 deck entries on deck builder websites. She comprises of 4 colours, making her a good choice for any player who can’t decide on colour identity, plus her Proliferate ability is so versatile that there are several different ways to build a deck.
Atraxa is a 4/4 with Flying, Vigilance, Deathtouch, and Lifelink. All that for 4 Mana is a steal, and that’s before taking into account her Proliferate ability. Proliferate lets you add 1 of any counter on Permanents or players that already have counters, hence is perfect for any Planeswalker, +1/+1 counters, or Infect builds. This combination of amazing stats plus flexibility in deck structure makes Atraxa so popular.
Even though Atraxa has also recently been reprinted a few times since her original appearance in Commander 2016, it’s so in demand that all versions still command a rather hefty price above US$30.
Power Level: 8/10. Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice‘s versatility and wide coverage of colours in her identity means you can make a very powerful deck with her at the helm, even if you’re not focusing on her Proliferate mechanic. Infect is a pretty powerful archetype, while Superfriends (Planeswalkers) also create immense value in the long game.
Is it a coincidence that the most popular Commanders in Magic: the Gathering also have a high power level? The Ur-Dragon is the lowest rated in power but still comes in at a respectable 7/10. It’s likely these 2 factors are correlated. After all, people tend to support powerful entities, regardless if they are companies, sports clubs, or just iconic figures. When Commanders gain attention because they win games, then they likely become popular as well.