Commander is practically drowning in powerful options to put in the command zone, quite literally when you’re swimming in the blue end of the pool. The most potent of these creatures have quickly risen to the surface, but this has also made the game feel more homogenous and “samey.” I personally love trying to find the best, underutilized creatures in the format, and I want to take a moment to highlight some of the less popular (or potentially powercrept out of the game) options in mono-blue.
Arcanis, the Omnipotent
Arcanis is the most popular commander that you’ll see on this list, but the power he provides is something that’s getting slept on by many players. Six mana asks a lot, but he is the complete package for what a mono-blue deck wants in the command zone: card advantage combined with the ability to protect himself. Sure, you need to have ten mana up to have the mana available to bounce him, but not having to spend one of your counter spells to stop from seeing a jump in the command tax is great. Pile a bunch of mana rocks and expensive threats (say Eldrazi or Sea Monsters) into a deck and you can play Arcanis essentially as a “nice” version of Kozilek!
Deekah, Fractal Theorist
Deekah provides deckbuilders with a unique toolkit, incentivizing both spellslinging strategies (something that blue will often want to do) with tokens. Talrand, Sky Summoner is the most popular creature for this strategy, making evasive flyers, but frankly I don’t think he’s deserving of that spot anymore. Deekah creatures tokens that scale with the mana you have to spend and she has extra synergies with big tokens that cards like Reef Wurm or Spawning Kraken can spit out. That big keyword “unblockable” gives her substantial upside, transforming a Desolation Twin titan into an unblockable win while the tiny 2/2 drakes from Talrand can sometimes struggle to close things out.
Myojin of Cryptic Dreams
Speaking of token strategies, Myojin of Cryptic Dreams technically falls into that category as well, but it’s more specifically an underplayed clone commander. Sakashima of a Thousand Faces plus literally any partner crowds out any potential clone commanders, and the Myojin’s massage mana value pushes him deep into the margins of playability. However, again, with Commander being the home of powerful mana rocks, haymakers, and games that often run long, you shouldn’t let a high cost keep you from giving a commander a try. The Myojin of Cryptic Dreams represents some potentially wild board states- getting three copies of the best permanents available to blue can be completely game breaking.
Author’s Note: Unfortunately, the Myojin specifies “from hand,” dropping it into a more deserving form of irrelevance. You can still run a lot of ways to return it to hand to get the value, but the initial cost becomes a much bigger problem with that plan (though if you can get Tyrite Sanctum out you can also keep feeding it indestructible counters). Instead, try Alora, Merry Thief x Shameless Charlatan for your cloning needs- this gives you the option to clone the best things on the board, either directly with your commander or to repeatedly bounce your own Clones back to hand!
Eligeth, Crossroad Auger x Esior, Wardwing Familiar
Eligeth, paired with the obvious Siani, Eye of the Storm has a notable amount of popularity, but again I don’t think this is the best pairing for the scrying sphinx. There are plenty of cards that scry without needing to pair Eligeth with the obvious partner- instead, keeping Eligeth alive is likely to be much more useful. As a powerful draw engine, the sphinx is lightning rod for removal, so pairing him with Esior is likely to end up giving you much better overall results. Even better, Esior is remarkably mana efficient, so even if the familiar dies to an incidental wrath or someone who -really- wants to spend the extra three mana on a tiny 1/3 flier, the card is easy to get back out on the board. Try switching the owl into your command zone and you’ll see an immediate improvement.
Thryx, the Sudden Storm
One of the most common things you might have noticed in this list is how many “big mana” creatures have snuck in as hidden gems. Thryx sees all of these powerful creatures and makes them much more castable, but more importantly Thryx says “spells,” not just creatures. Blue is full of game breaking cards with large mana costs, from the all-powerful Omniscience to classic powerhouse cards like Tidespout Tyrant, Thryx may well be the best choice for any blue deck that wants to play with the most impressive of battlecruiser cards. To top it off, Thryx has the extra bonus of having Flash, letting you pick and choose the best possible time to play him out while still being able to keep mana open for counterspells or other forms of instant interaction.
Barrin, Tolarian Archmage
Without even a shred of doubt, Barren is the most undervalued mono blue commander option. He looks innocuous enough, which is probably why he isn’t popular, but looks can absolutely be deceiving. His low mana cost lets him drop in and serve as a legendary Man-o’-War, which is already solid enough to delay some threats (or potentially completely crushing if the target is suited up with lots of auras or equipment), but his second line of text is where he starts to shine. Anything that says “draw a card” is worthwhile, and transforming Unsummon effects you throw on your own creatures into card advantage is amazing in practice. Getting to double up on powerful enters the battlefield triggers while restocking your hand is something that only Barrin can do.
Shining in the Deep
There are a lot of hidden gems floating in the blue corner of the color pie, but all of the above commanders are worth much more time than they’ve been given by the commander community. Mono-blue decks already have a lot going for them, so you should strongly consider trying these underutilized options to help your deck play a little more under thet able. I will always recommend playing more politically-minded commanders, and that often starts with picking a commander that doesn’t paint a target on your head- these shining gems are a great place to start!