With around 1,500 potential commanders, there is no shortage of cards you can use to lead your EDH decks. Some, however, have risen to the top as the format has developed and secured their positions as format favorites. Each color pair has its own distinct identity, and there are commanders that embody that identity, or parts of it, in ways that have made them immensely popular generals. Today, we’re looking at the top black-red commanders – for more detailed information about any of these decks, check out EDHRec’s page on top black-red commanders!
10. Grenzo, Dungeon Warden
Grenzo decks are always interesting to look at. To make the most of his activated ability, you’ve got to fill the creature suite with creatures that are both high-impact but have low power, and – weirdly enough – ways to manipulate the bottom of your library, not just the top. This means playing cards like Siege-Gang Commander, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Zealous Conscripts as creatures to cheat into play, in addition to cards like Epitaph Golem, Junktroller and The Cauldron of Eternity (as well as scry effects, of course) to control what Grenzo sneaks into play. It’s not your traditional red-black deck, but it can let you do very sweet things!
9. Blim, Comedic Genius
Speaking of weird effects, Blim asks you to do something very unusual indeed: give away your permanents to your opponents! Fortunately, however, there are a few cards that are very useful to cast, but not hold onto. Things like Demonic Lore, Treacherous Blessing or Demonic Pact, for instance. Alternatively, there are creatures with punishing downsides, like Rust Elemental, Grid Monitor and Steel Golem that are perfect to burden your opponents with – and Blim stands ready to give ’em all away.
8. Juri, Master of the Revue
Sacrifice decks are a classic red-black archetype, and Juri is here to help you make the most of killing your own creatures for fun and profit. With sacrifice all-stars like Mayhem Devil, Viscera Seer, Zulaport Cutthroat and Pitiless Plunderer, Juri will grow to colossal proportions as you sacrifice tokens from Pawn of Ulamog, Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia or Woe Strider – and that’s on top of all the Clue, Food and Treasure tokens this deck is capable of creating!
7. Greven, Predator Captain
Greven decks can get really nasty. Greven himself is capable of getting very big, very quickly, and killing people with commander damage – cards like Doom Whisperer, Wall of Blood and Unspeakable Symbol give you a lot of control over how much damage Greven can do. On top of that, playing a ton of high-power, low-toughness creatures can maximize your card draw every turn, and makes you happy to play cards such as Ball Lightning, Arc Runner and the mighty Vindictive Lich. As I mentioned, Greven can kill you out of nowhere with commander damage, so be careful of cards like Temur Battle Rage or Tainted Strike – not to mention Kediss, Emberclaw Familiar, which can steal a game with one single Greven attack.
6. Kardur, Doomscourge
Forcing action each combat step is a great way to sow chaos and dissent at an EDH table, and Kardur is all about chaos and dissent. Not only do Kardur decks force attacks with his triggered ability, they’re always full of goad cards such as Disrupt Decorum, Vengeful Ancestor and Geode Rager. There aren’t many ways to blink Kardur in red-black, so often these decks use cards like Supernatural Stamina or Malakir Rebirth to “flicker” him, or just slam Conjurer’s Closet and get a new round of Kardur triggers each turn. If you want your Commander games to get aggressive and messy, check out Kardur, Doomscourge.
5. Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger
Discard decks are usually firmly rooted in black, but Kroxa opens up the opportunity to play red cards to complement black’s more traditional discard. Waste Not, Megrim and Liliana’s Caress punish your opponents for discarding cards, while cards like Burning Inquiry, Dark Deal and the devastating Sire of Insanity make sure everyone keeps discarding over and over again. With plenty of reanimation spells, flashback cards as well as Underworld Breach (not to mention Kroxa’s escape ability), Kroxa decks don’t mind playing with an empty hand and a full graveyard!
4. Rakdos, Lord of Riots
Rakdos, Lord of Riots deck have three key parts. The first is pingers, little creatures like Thermo-Alchemist, Spear Spewer or Lobber Crew, in order to make sure you can cast Rakdos. There are then cards that cause your opponent to lose life, like Keen Duelist, Sin Prodder and Court of Ambition – not to mention just attacking with a 6/6 commander – to turn on Rakdos’ static ability and enable the third type of card in the deck: huge, colorless monsters. Eldrazi like Artisan of Kozilek, Void Winnower and Desolation Twin become laughably cheap, or even free, when your opponents have taken a beating with Rakdos out.
3. Strefan, Maurer Progenitor
Many Vampire players choose to go further than just the traditional black-red, playing Mardu with Edgar Markov as their commander. For those looking to just play two colors, however, Strefan is a popular choice. Being able to cheat huge Vampires like Markov Enforcer, Patron of the Vein and Crossway Troublemakers into play means that Strefan can build a board out of nowhere, assuming you have the Blood tokens – and with cards such as Glass-Cast Heart and Anje, Maid of Dishonor around to create the tokens for you, it’s not hard for Strefan to flood the board with expensive Vampires in the blink of an eye.
2. Anje Falkenrath
Madness has been around for awhile, and if you want to play madness cards in Commander, look no further than Anje Falkenrath for a commander. Anje can churn through madness cards like… well, like mad, and provide a massive amount of value as you tap and untap her, cast madness spells, and burn through your deck. There are some surprisingly useful madness card, too – removal like Big Game Hunter and Terminal Agony, threats like Archfiend of Spite and Shadowgrange Archfiend, and useful utility like Gibbering Descent and Call to the Netherworld. It’s not as broad an archetype as some, but madness still provides a good amount of power and flexibility.
1. Prosper, Tome-Bound
Prosper is the most popular black-red commander, and his decks are built around mechanics that aren’t the traditional mainstays of the color pair. Prosper decks look to generate and use Treasures and play things from exile, something that in recent years has become more and more popular in red in particular. Constructed staples such as Light Up the Stage and Gonti, Lord of Luxury help you cast things from exile, in addition to splashier EDH spells like Ignite the Future and Fevered Suspicion. Round it out with Treasure synergies from cards such as Xorn, Dockside Extortionist, Goldspan Dragon and Kalain, Reclusive Painter, and it’s easy to see why Prosper has lived up to his name in Commander!