Top Ten Dominaria Commanders

Dominaria is a set chock full of legendary goodness with a tether to its past and future. It features characters that evoke the Brother’s War like Rona, Disciple of Gix and Traxos, Scourge of Kroog as two examples. We have the Weatherlight Saga, Invasion, the Odyssey/Onslaught Otarian wars, the temporal apocalypse of Time Spiral Block and much more. You can see Mirage or Visions evoked in Kwende, Pride of Femeref and such. The emphasis on the Ghitu feels downright Urza’s Block and the characters like Aryel, Knight of Windgrace (or Windgrace Acolyte) that follow Lord Windgrace’s example also evoke that era.

The set is laden with history. And it has an intentional “legendary matters” theme layered in with tons of legendary critters at uncommon, rare, and mythic. With that in mind, pretty much no set since Kamigawa Block has had more potential leaders for your next Commander deck. There are a ton of legitimate Commanders here!

So which are the best? Which ones are top-shelf options for a deck?

When compiling today’s list, I began by looking at a few things. To me, these categories are the ones I am looking at when I assess the power level of a new Commander in Dominaria (or any set for that matter):

  1. Uniqueness — Does this Commander option do something new? Does it unlock a new archetype? As one example, compare Kaalia of the Vast, which is a very unique {R}{W}{B} leader that pushes three creature types to their limits in order to drop them quickly, against the Monarch-Making Queen Marchesa. Both are the same colors, but they could not play differently. So how unique is a new addition to the Commander roles.
  2. Powerful — Another interesting take is how powerful a new option is as well. Mannichi, the Fevered Dream is a very unique leader, as a power/toughness swapping option for every creature in Mono-Red. But Mannichi clearly lacks the power level to chart. How powerful is the creature in question?
  3. Colors — Does the Commander in question open up new colors for your Commander build? A good example is the Vampire build from the tribal Commander 2017 decks last year that were{R}{W}{B}, which is not normally the color of your typical Vampire leader. Opening up a color or two is very important in this format. Also, a potential leader that is overly color-restricted against some peers is also less likely to lead a Commander deck.

Those are my typical three questions I look at. Consider Naban, Dean of Iteration as a good example of something that clearly won’t make the cut. It does offer a Wizard deck something unique by doubling their triggers. And that’s powerful. But it’s lack of colors is a major hit. Why play it as my leader and prevent me from playing with multicolored Wizards? Naban is going to be used as a supplement to another leader quite nicely, such as Inalla, Archmage Ritualist that opens up three colors of mana for your Wizarding needs. Naban might score well in Uniqueness and Power, but it’s low color option reduce its presence on my list.

Another example of a card that won’t make my list is Valduk, Keeper of the Flame. If this was the first equipment-matters Mono-Red guy (or aura-matters too) then sure, Valduk might make it. But Valduk is competing with Godo, Bandit Warlord. So Valduk lacks uniqueness. Ditto Danitha Capashen, Paragon, who competes with tons of Mono-White guys and lacks uniqueness (or Adeliz, the Cinder Wind who is competing against every single “instant/sorcery matters“ Izzet leader ever printed).

What does make it?

Great question!

Honorable Mention — Shalai, Voice of Plenty

Shalai, Voice of Plenty

I discussed Shalai in my article last week as one of the best cards in the set. I mentioned last week that generally Shalai doesn't have to be run in something that can use the Green cost at the end, she does open up Green as a Mono-White leader, and that's pretty important to building a powerful Commander deck around her. Win with Shalai.

10. Verix Bladewing

Verix Bladewing

As the owner of two Mono-Red Commander decks, I can confirm from experience that it’s easier to play the color by itself than you might think. Verix (and another kicker-related leader higher up that cracks my Top 5) is interesting to me because she give you a way to spend extra mana later as you continue to drop and rock that mana acceleration. Having a 4/4 for 4 mana that flies for Red is already pretty good. Then you can spend a little extra mana to get a partner each time you recast it. Kicker works better as a mechanic for legendary creatures where you can ensure it happens every game. Getting two bodies every time you are hit with mass removal is strong.

Historically, the issue with cards like this is that you have no options, or they suck in a vacuum.

Take Stangg as a good example.

Stangg

With Stangg you spend 6 mana for two 3/4s. They have no abilities, no trample, and thus no major body presence. If one is killed, the other follows. A Swords to Plowshares kills both. And others cost too much mana for smaller 1/1 dorks or a smaller board presence on their own. But Verix Bladewing is different. She comes with a Partner Bladewing that brings some heat. Ready for it?

9. Slimefoot, the Stowaway

Slimefoot, the Stowaway

Previously we had a single option for your {B}{G} Saproling deck — Thelon of Havenwood. Thelon grows the creatures big as they gain more spore counters, building your army up. Any spore counters on your Fungi builds them high, and you have the (rarely used) option to exile a Fungus from a graveyard in order to build up your spore counters. Slimefoot is just a generic Saproling maker with a Saproling trigger upon death. That’s great because it plays into the Thallid way of sacrificing Saprolings for various effects.

Psychotrope Thallid
Deathspore Thallid

And while Slimefoot and Thelon would play differently as leaders, it’s not like the pool of cards available to choose from is deep enough to reward that. As such, I feel that Thelon is likely to be the leader of choice because of the depth of spore counters you have available to you.

However, Slimefoot is really good as the leader of a token-based Golgari deck. The best current option for that is . . .  Nath of the Gilt-Leaf? Ishkanah, Grafwidow? Uh . . .  Pharika, God of Affliction? That’s pretty much it. So Slimefoot can also rock it alongside friends like Nemata, Grove Guardian, Verdeloth the Ancient, Golgari Germination, and Korozda Guildmage.

Seems like a fun leader to me!

8. Tiana, Ship's Caretaker

Tiana, Ship's Caretaker

The value of Tiana is average if your consider her role in this color combination as yet another equipment enabler. She joins other Boros based equipment decks — ho hum. But where she shines is the aura additions. Adding that in enables a whole slate of new Boros builds that can pair stuff like Batterskull with stuff like Angelic Destiny. That’s interesting to me.

Sure, Boros has the equipment stuff already, but doing both itself and auras is new, and that plays into some cool territory with Tiana.

7. Grand Warlord Radha

Grand Warlord Radha

So what does Grand Warlord Radha provide that other leaders won’t? Mana-making by smashing! She wants to swing at folks and then make mana from the attack and then use those various effects for fun. Get infinite attacks with Aggravated Assault! Power up Staff of Domination! She plays into Gruul Ramp well. But layering in the “Attack for mana” option also unlocks the power of a Gruul token deck, a Gruul ramp deck, as well as the combo potential of cards like Savage Ventmaw. Use the mana to cast and recast Repeating Barrage! Win the game, and the hearts of many, by swinging instead of lounging behind a dope-y pillow fort!

GRUUL GOES RAR!

6. Aryel, Knight of Windgrace

Aryel, Knight of Windgrace

While there have been some Knight Matters tribal themes in White in the past, Aryel will give you a great Black addition to your Knight deck, which is not something we’ve had in the past. So now you can make Black and White Knights in a Commander deck. Pair stuff like Knight Exemplar or Zhalfirin Commander with Knights of the Black Rose or Stillmoon Cavalier. Classics like Ihsan’s Shade or Knight of the White Orchid would fit as well!

Now, Knights aren’t the most supported tribe out there, at least not right now. 2018 may be The Year of the Knight. So for now, Aryel is the lowest hitting of my “Making new archetypes” folks, but Aryel still works!

Love ya, Aryel!

5. Josu Vess, Lich Knight

Josu Vess, Lich Knight

I totally broadcast this guy from #10 above, but Josu earned this spot. He’s here because Black has a real love for making mana in droves when played by itself (From Cabal Coffers to Cabal Stronghold and more). As such the kicker here can make a bunch of tokens when you bring out your leader easily. Please note a few things about Josu:

  1. Josu is going to be one of the better mana-sink leaders to put at the helm of your Mono-Black Commander decks, in a way not dissimilar to the control of stylings of Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief.
  2. Josu is very good early and has a strong board presence later.
  3. Black has a lot of things to do with extra bodies, like throw them into an Attrition or Vampiric Rites.
  4. The creatures are both Knights (see above) and Zombies!

I’m sure you get the idea. Josu rocks!

4. Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive

Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive

This two-mana 1/3 rocks a pertinent ability that reminds me of the pertinence of Sygg, River Cutthroat and the card-drawing potential. Here you just have someone who can swing unblockably while also giving some of your smallest guys some longer game as well. As one example, almost every card-draw-if-you-hit-your-foe creature has 1 power — like Thieving Magpie or Jhessian Thief. Take a look at . . . 

Startled Awake
Persistent Nightmare
Cephalid Constable
Mistblade Shinobi
Rootwater Thief
Riptide Pilferer
Soul Seizer
Ghastly Haunting

Those are just a few cards that pop to my mind in addition to obvious choices like Ophidian, Looter il-Kor and more. Leading a saboteur deck like this is pretty cool, n’estce pas?

Oui!

3. Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain

Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain

Red and Blue are not in a good place. Prior to this set, we had around 13 legendary options for the color combination. Most of them had generic flavor good stuff (Ludevic, Necro-Alchemist) or something in the instant/sorcery matters genre, with was huge. That genre still defines that color combination in almost every set since then. And a few wackier things too like Nin, the Pain Artist. That gave this color combination very little true definition or options. Despite an interesting artifact theme in some sets and combinations of cards (Magic: Origins, for example) we had never had an artifice combo in a leader, until now. Blue and Red? Meet your new artifact overlord! I hope you become besties because there are a lot of synergies here to unpack! You can even draw cards from things like Slobad, Goblin Tinkerer or Padeem, Consul of Innovation. We have a lot of places we can go with Jhoira, from infinite combos (cast and recast a zero-cost artifact to draw a ton of cards) to grinding fun-times. But she works very well at carving out a brand-new archetype!

2. Jodah,Archmage Eternal

Jodah, Archmage Eternal

Jodah, the boring leader who will, in a way, not play much differently than a 5-color version of Jhoira of the Ghitu. Get big stuff, and then (suspend/alternate cast) it and get it early and often. Jodah is a five color (identity) Wizard with a Fist of Suns attached, so you have a lot of options here to consider. You know what you can do with Jodah already! Splashy effects that you would put in a Jhoira deck like Time Stretch or Insurrection twinned with similar big spells in other colors, like Tooth and Nail or Rise of the Dark Realms or Plague Wind. Enjoy!

1. Muldrotha the Gravetide

Muldrotha, the Gravetide

I liked this gal enough that I built a budget Commander deck around her as soon as she was spoiled. I love. Love. Love. Muldrotha. No one else on this list comes close. Muldrotha gives you so much. She is in the graveyard-loving colors of Sultai. That color loves filling up its graveyard with goodies with various effects, like Sidisi, Brood Tyrant, Bitter Revelation, or Satyr Wayfinder. And then once you have a stacked ‘yard, you can recur one land, artifact, enchantment, creature, and/or ‘walker every turn. Imagine how many lands you’ll have from Terramorphic Expanse, Sakura-Tribe Elder, and Font of Fertility each turn! You be able to cast the biggest stuff from Muldrotha so easily! Muldrotha works perfectly with itself, and it unlocks a different way to build around in the colors. For example, my own budget build had a number of enchantments that you normally wouldn’t run in a Sidisi, Brood Tyrant deck, such as Seal of Primordium. But I abused that Seal by casting it over and over again and getting powerful card advantage from your Muldrotha!

Sire of Multani for the win-tani.

Well that’s it! I hope you enjoyed my look at the Top Ten Commanders from Dominaria. What did you think of my list? Where did I go astray? And as always, thanks for reading!


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