Magic: The Gathering’s latest set Strixhaven is absolutely chock-full of exciting cards for Commander players, but there are few cards in particular that we think are going to make for genuinely exquisite commanders.
Not all of these are going to be the best commanders in the format, but that’s not the point. Each of these offers something a bit different, and they all offer fun ways to build a Commander deck that could allow for some real innovation from all of you deck brewers out there.
Most exciting MTG Strixhaven commanders
- Jadzi, Oracle of Arcavios/Journey to the Oracle: Think bigger.
- Hofri Ghostforge: Ghosts everywhere.
- Codie, Vociferous Codex: Permanents are banned.
- Beledros Witherbloom: Nonpermanents are banned.
- Plargg, Dean of Chaos/Augusta, Dean of Order: Tap it.
Some of these cards will be boosted even further by the new Commander 21 cards that are incoming, but we’re not talking about those just yet. Instead, we’re keeping our eyes firmly fixed on Strixhaven, the five colleges that make up the school of mages and the plethora of unique creatures it contains.
There are a lot of legendary creatures in this set, and they all seem like a fair bit of fun, but we’ve narrowed the list down to five so that we can look a little bit at the way the decks can actually be built. With no more ado, here are our picks for the most exciting Magic: The Gathering commanders in Strixhaven.
1. Jadzi, Oracle of Arcavios/Journey to the Oracle
You simply have to love the Modal Dual-Faced Cards (MDFC) in Magic: The Gathering, because they offer some really unique deck-building opportunities and can often give you a card that isn’t a legendary as your commander. In this case, Jadzi, Oracle of Arcavios is an eight-mana Blue 5/5 with an awful lot of text.
First of all, you can discard a card to return it to your hand, which is good for reasons we’ll get to later, but on a fundamental level it allows you to protect Jadzi if they get targeted or would otherwise die. The other ability is a Magecraft trigger, which is one of the new mechanics from Strixhaven: School of Mages, that activates whenever you cast or copy a sorcery or an instant. In this instance, you reveal the top card of your library; if it’s a land you can put it into play, whereas if it’s a nonland you can pay one mana to cast it instead of whatever it normally costs
The other side is Journey to the Oracle, which is a four-mana sorcery that lets you put any number of land cards from your hand onto the battlefield. If you then control eight or more, you can discard a card to return the spell to your hand. Basically, both sides of this card let you recur it and flick between the two versions, making for some really innovative deck ideas.
The key thing here is that you basically always want to have cards in hand, which isn’t hard when you’re playing a Green and Blue deck because card draw is plentiful in both colours. Just look at cards like Tatoyova, Benthic Druid, who is a five-mana Blue and Green 3/3 that lets you draw a card and gain one life whenever a land enters the battlefield. If all you want to do is put cards in your hand, then Blue Sun’s Zenith will do that wonderfully, allowing you to draw X cards for X plus three Blue.
Ideally though, you need to strike a balance between fuel and big old spells, and that makes cards like Avenger of Zendikar perfect for this kind of deck. Avenger of Zendikar enters the battlefield and then creates a 0/1 Plant token for each land you control. Then, every time you play a land, you can put a +1/+1 counter on every Plant you control. It normally costs seven mana, but you can just pay one if you hit it with Jadzi’s ability.
If you’re looking for something truly monstrous to play with that ability, we’d recommend Omniscience. Omniscience costs ten mana, which is a lot, but it also makes it so that you can cast spells from your hand for free, which is very silly indeed. This is useful if you want to make sure you can always cast your spells, but also makes otherwise pricey cards like Oona’s Grace - which has retrace, allowing you to cast it from the graveyard if you discard a land card - infinitely more valuable. The main thing that we’d recommend is Sensei’s Divining Top, because it lets you manipulate the top card of your deck - and that means you can always hit what you want with Jadzi’s ability.
2. Hofri Ghostforge
Red and White isn’t a combination you’d normally consider for spirits, but now that it’s here, we’re very excited about it. Hofri Ghostforge is a five-mana Red and White 4/5 dwarf cleric who gives all of your spirits +1/+1, trample and haste. He also makes it so that if a creature of yours dies, you exile them and make a copy of them that is a spirit. If that spirit then leaves the battlefield, the original card goes to your graveyard.
In short, it not only gives your creatures a second life, which is more than enough on its own, but makes them stronger in doing so. There are a lot of cards that should absolutely be in this kind of deck, one of which is Venerable Warsinger, a three-mana Red and White 3/3 with vigilance and trample. When it deals combat damage to a player, you can return a creature card with a mana value of X or less from your graveyard to your hand, where X is the damage dealt. This lets you recur your creatures quite efficiently, especially if you can find a way to protect them.
Speaking of which, Selfless Spirit is a two-mana White 2/1 with flying that you can sacrifice to give all your creatures indestructible until the end of the turn. With Hofri, that means that you get a token of Selfless Spirit, which you can sacrifice, then get back using Venerable Warsinger and do it all again. Plus, it’ll have +1/+1 from Hofri as well. You can also buff up your creatures with Quintorius, Field Historian who gives all of your spirits +1/+0. They also create a 3/2 spirit whenever one or more cards leaves the graveyard, which will trigger whenever Hofri makes a new token.
That’s just a handful of cards you can include in a Hofri deck, but you can already see just how powerful he is as a commander. It’s also a brand-new archetype in Red and White, and the possibilities here are nearly endless.
3. Codie, Vociferous Codex
Permanents are banned
We’re not sure this one is actually good, but it is fascinating - and given that Commander is all about innovation, that’s basically the same thing. Codie, Vociferous Codex is a three-mana 1/4 artifact that makes it so that you can’t cast permanent spells. However, you can pay four and tap it to add one mana of each colour to your mana pool. That means when you next cast a spell that turn, you get to exile cards from the top of your library until you exile an instant or sorcery that costs less than the original one and then cast it for free.
Basically, Codie here is a five-colour nonpermanent machine. Although the inability to cast permanents seems bad at first, you can work around it with the right cards. There are a lot of ways to make sure you can put permanents into play. Cards such as Quicksilver Amulet, for example, which you can tap and pay four mana to put a creature card into play. You’ve got cards like Mindwrack Liege too, which is a creature that costs six mana, but you can pay four mana to put a Blue or Red creature into play. If you want to go that route, you’ll need to make sure you have them out before playing Codie, but it’s fun to have that kind of restriction in your deck.
Of course, you could just go all-in on spells, in which case you could stuff your deck full of things like the Ultimatum cycle, all of which do obnoxious things, or Clone Legion, which lets you copy an opponent’s creatures and make tokens of each one. You could also take it another way and focus on cards such as Finale of Devastation or Green Sun’s Zenith, which let you put cards into play without casting them.
Codie has the kind of restriction that seems impossible to build around at first glance, but there are a lot of players who will be salivating at the thought of finding the best way to use this rather unique legendary creature to come up with some fun new ways to play the game.
4. Beledros Witherbloom
Nonpermanents are banned
While all of the new Elder Dragons are cool, our pick for the most interesting is Beledros Witherbloom because of its second ability. For seven mana, you get a Black and Green flying 4/4 that creates a 1/1 Black and Green pest in each upkeep and gives you one life if it dies. You can also pay ten life to untap all of your lands, but you can only do that once per turn. Your aims here are simple: gain a lot of life, play a lot of lands, play massive things.
You can build this deck in a lot of different ways, but it feels like the kind of deck that would fit well with Primal Surge, thanks to its ability to produce permanents and ramp naturally. Primal Surge is a ten-mana Green sorcery that exiles the top card of your library; if it’s a permanent, you can put it into play. You keep repeating this until you hit something that’s not a permanent. That means you can play your entire deck if they’re all permanent cards, which is basically the opposite of Codie, Vociferous Codex.
If you do go that route, you’ll need a way to win the game - or at least some ways to not lose. So make sure you’ve got a Platinum Angel in there, which is a seven-mana 4/4 that literally stops you losing the game. Also, we recommend something like Asceticism, which is a five-mana enchantment that stops your creatures from being targeted by spells or abilities, and lets you pay some mana to regenerate a creature if it’s going to die.
You can also make sure you can win the turn all of your permanents come out by having Akroma’s Memorial in your deck, which is a seven-mana artifact that gives your creatures flying, first strike, vigilance, trample, haste and protection from Black and Red.
It’s worth including a couple of other ways to win the game too. While something like Helix Pinnacle - which lets you put counters on it to win the game - is fun, we think that Gray Merchant of Asphodel, a five-mana creature that drains all of your opponents for X life where X is your devotion to Black, is perfect for ending the game as soon as it appears.
5. Plargg, Dean of Chaos/Augusta, Dean of Order
The other MDFC on this list is Plargg, Dean of Chaos, who has a fun name to say, and Augusta, Dean of Order. Plargg is a two-mana Red 2/2 that you can tap to discard a card and then draw one, or pay five mana and tap to reveal cards from your library until you hit a card that costs three or less, and then cast it for free.
Augusta, on the other hand, is absolutely fascinating. For three mana, you get a White 1/3 that gives your other tapped creatures +1/+0, and your other untapped creatures +0/+1. You can also untap each creature you control when you attack, and then retap them if you want to. It’s an odd array of abilities, but it works well with a lot of things like Combat Celebrant - which you can exert to have an extra attack step, then untap to allow you to do it again as many times as you want.
Archangel of Tithes is a good one if you prefer to play defence, as it’s a four-mana 3/5 with flying that makes opponents unable to block or attack without paying one mana for each creature they want to use. Normally it loses out because the defensive part only works if it’s untapped, but that’s not an issue with Augusta.
It means you can always get the most out of Builder’s Blessing, which gives all of your untapped creatures +0/+2. If you’d rather have everything tapped, then Dragonscale General is a four-mana 2/3 that makes all of your creatures a little tougher permanently for each tapped creature.
You can also make the most of untapped creatures by tapping them with the likes of Devout Invocation, which is a seven-mana sorcery that allows you to tap any number of untapped creatures you control and then create that many 4/4 Angel tokens. If you’d rather just end the game, Burn at the Stake is a five-mana sorcery that lets you tap creatures to deal three times that damage to a creature or player.
The idea of a “tapped matters”-style deck is something that you can have a lot of fun with. The flexibility of Augusta, and the ability to use Plargg in a pinch, means you can really experiment with different strategies and builds as you go.