10 Commanders to Play at Your Next CommandFest

With Commander returning to in-person play around the world with the upcoming CommandFest, it’s time to start enjoying the benefits that come with being able to sit across the table from the people you’re playing with, rather than playing remotely or digitally. Spelltable and MTGO have done their best to tide us over during the pandemic, but they just can’t replicate what it’s like to sit down at a table with in-person opponents. 

CommandFest Link

And it’s not just an atmosphere thing, either – some commanders received huge nerfs when in-person play was put on hold, and it’s time for them to shine once again. You can’t interact very easily with your opponents’ decks or graveyards when playing on Spelltable, nor could you readily click through infinite combos on MTGO. Now, however, the time has come to return to the old ways – so dust off those copies of Bribery and get ready to demonstrate loops, because in-person play is back. Here are some of the commanders that get a lot easier to play now that we’re returning to in-person events!


10. Wrexial, the Risen Deep

Wrexial, the Risen Deep

Wrexial isn’t the most popular commander, certainly, but it has its rusted-on, diehard fans that love cracking in with a 5/8 Kraken in order to cast stuff from opposing graveyards after milling over a bunch of cards.

On Spelltable, it’s not very easy to surreptitiously look through your opponents’ bins to figure out who to target, whereas now your eyes will be able to wander freely so you can make surprise attacks at whoever has the juiciest targets in their ‘yard. Wrexial mages can get back to their old tricks!

9. Sythis, Harvest’s Hand

Sythis, Harvest's Hand

Sythis is an immensely popular commander, usually the general of choice for enchantment-based decks. Enchantment decks? Surely they weren’t affected by remote play, were they? Not as much as others, sure, but have you ever tried to keep track of all the Oblivion Rings, Banishing Lights and other enchantment-based exile effects when you can’t actually pick up the exiled card and put it under the O-Ring? It’s a nightmare. In-person play will bring a welcome return to order, structure, and clarity. Thank goodness. 

8. Thada Adel, Acquisitor

Thada Adel, Acquisitor

Getting to steal something from your opponent’s library whenever you hit them is pretty sweet, but acquiring anything with Thada Adel over the last two years kinda relied on the good faith of your opponent. No-one wants to sit through a Spelltable game where one player spends half of it showing another player every single artifact in their deck, so it would usually be shortcutted by the opponent just saying “… you probably want this” and picking their best card. No longer will we have to rely on our opponents playing straight with us – Thada Adel players can choose the best card for themselves, thank you very much.

7. Brion Stoutarm

Brion Stoutarm

Brion Stoutarm decks are all about nicking opposing creatures with Act of Treason effects, then sacrificing them to Brion for fun and profit. Sure, you can point out the creature you’re stealing –  no, not that one, the one next to it, no, the other way, come on, yeah, that one, sacrifice it, okay? Great, I’ll target, um, wait, I’ve forgotten. Hang on. Who’s turn is it, again? No more of this awkward, clunky nonsense we put up with through remote play – now you can just pick up the creature and throw it, just like Brion Stoutarm himself! (Please don’t actually do this.) 

6. Marchesa, the Black Rose

Marchesa, the Black Rose

Similar to Brion Stoutarm, the Grixis-based Marchesa, the Black Rose loves a bit of pilfering and thievery, and often pairs Act of Treason effects with sacrifice outlets – but she goes further than this, of course. With access to blue mana, many Grixis Marchesa decks play everything from Mind Control to Bribery to Agent of Treachery. All these cards, as you can imagine, are a lot easier to properly resolve when you can physically pick up and play with your opponents’ cards – this was never very easy on Spelltable!

5. Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind/Niv-Mizzet, Parun

Niv-Mizzet, the FiremindNiv-Mizzet, Parun

Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind is a classic commander who people have enjoyed playing for a very long time indeed, while Niv-Mizzet, Parun, is a more recent but no less popular option for Izzet mages. Both these cards offer two-card instant-win combos with cards like Ophidian Eye, Curiosity and Tandem Lookout. But Riley, you’re saying, that’s not difficult to resolve – you demonstrate a loop, draw the cards, deal the damage, game over. Aha, exalted reader, have you ever done this on MTGO? I do not recommend it. Clicking through infinite combos is never fun, and thankfully you won’t have to as we go back to playing in paper. 

4. Sharuum, the Hegemon

Sharuum the Hegemon

Another commander that will very happily give you an RSI when playing online is Sharuum, the Hegemon. There are so many infinite combos with this Sphinx, and none of them are easy to click through. Phyrexian Metamorph gives you infinite death triggers, while Blood Artist weaponizes those triggers to win the game instantly – unless, of course, you’re playing online, in which case it’s far from instant. I hope you’ve got 20 minutes and a wrist brace to click through everything – or, alternatively, play in paper and get it done in 20 seconds. 

3. Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge

Jeleva, Nephalia's Scourge

Playing with Jeleva on Spelltable always resulted in the creation of an all-new game zone: the Jeleva Zone, where people would put the cards exiled by her. Sounds like a simple solution, until the Jeleva player keeps asking you to show you those cards as they agonize over exactly which one to cast whenever they attack. And, just like Grixis Marchesa, Jeleva decks usually play everything from Blatant Thievery to Worst Fears, which just… don’t really work with remote play. Welcome back, Jeleva!

2. Gonti, Lord of Luxury

Gonti, Lord of Luxury

However, if there’s one card that was absolutely unplayable in remote EDH sessions, it has to be Gonti, Lord of Luxury. Ordinarily, when you’re messing with an opponent’s deck, hand or graveyard, they can see what you’re doing and know what’s going on – but not so with Gonti. Playing Gonti means your opponents – all of them – had to look away from the screen while the exiled cards were shown to you and you alone, and then if you forgot what the card you chose was, you had to go through the ordeal all over again. I never want to see another remote-play Gonti trigger again – and hopefully, I won’t have to. 

1. Emrakul, the Promised End

Emrakul, the Promised End

But what effect, I ask you, is more difficult to work through remotely than a Mindslaver effect? In person, you hand over your cards, sit back, and… well, not relax, because you’re probably about to get messed up real good, but at least you didn’t have to do anything. When an Emrakul is played remotely, you suffer the indignity of having to be ordered around like a servant, tap this, attack with that, cast this, target yourself and on it goes. As much as I dislike Emrakul in commander, I am very glad indeed no one will have to suffer the indignity of being told what to do during their turn by another player on the other end of a Spelltable call!

Looking forward to playing these commanders and more in-person? Make sure to check out CommandFest Las Vegas for the biggest Commander event of the year!

CommandFest Link


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