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When Can a Planeswalker be a Commander? (Ranked List, Rules & Exceptions)

In the Commander (or EDH) format of Magic: The Gathering, a player’s commander must be either a legendary creature, a planeswalker that can be a commander or a pair of legendary creatures or planeswalkers (that can be commanders) when both have partner. 

When the Commander format was introduced, any planeswalker could be a commander. However, the Commander Rules Committee (RC) ruled that a commander must be a legendary creature. The RC states on its website that it feels using planeswalkers for commanders creates “longer, less interactive, more repetitive games.” 

After this ruling, Wizards of the Coast began printing the occasional planeswalker that includes the text, “can be your commander.” In general, this text must be on a planeswalker card for it to legally be played as a commander. That being said, we will discuss the three big exceptions to this rule. Then, we’ll rank every planeswalker commander from worst to best. 

Top 10 Planeswalkers that Can Be Commanders (2022)

In this article, we’ve included a ranked list of all 21 planeswalkers that can be a commander. Here are the top 10 picks from the list. Click on a planeswalker to read more:

  1. Lord Windgrace
  2. Will Kenrith & Rowan Kenrith
  3. Valki, God of Lies / Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
  4. Saheeli, the Gifted
  5. Jeska, Thrice Reborn
  6. Nicol Bolas, the Ravager / Nicol Bolas, the Arisen
  7. Daretti, Scrap Savant
  8. Teferi, Temporal Archmage
  9. Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools 
  10. Grist, the Hunger Tide

Note: We will continue to update this article as more planeswalkers that can be commanders are released. For the purpose of our ranked list, we are including planeswalkers that are also legendary creatures. 

MTG Rules: When Can a Planeswalker be a Commander?

Since the RC ruled that planeswalkers cannot be commanders, the only planeswalkers that can be commanders are those with the text, “[planeswalker name] can be your commander.” This text is always found within the textbox and below the final activated ability.

Exceptions to the Rule

Grist, the Hunger Tide

This exception is made possible by the following rule in the commander format:

“Each deck has a legendary creature card designated as its commander. This designation is not a characteristic of the object represented by the card; rather, it is an attribute of the card itself. The card retains this designation even when it changes zones.”

Grist, the Hunger Tide has a static ability that says as long as it is not on the battlefield, it is also a 1/1 Insect creature in addition to its other types. The keyword here is “in addition to.” That means that Grist, the Hunger Tide is both a legendary creature and a planeswalker.

Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor

This double-sided card with Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor on one side and Valki, God of Lies on the other is from Kaldheim. Since it is a legendary creature, it can be used as your commander. 

Additionally, the RC ruled that Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor can be cast from the command zone. This means, however, that the command tax will increase respectively, whether you are casting Valki or Tibalt.

Legendary Creatures that Transform into Planeswalkers

There are also six legendary creatures with the ability to transform into planeswalkers. Since these planeswalkers begin as legendary creatures, they are able to be your commander. With these commanders, players are not able to cast the planeswalker from the command zone. 

You will have to cast the legendary creature, then pay its transformation cost to flip the card. The benefit of this is that the transform cost will not increase, since command tax only applies when casting from the command zone.  

In the rules, this is stated as follows:

“While a double-faced card is outside the game, in a zone other than the battlefield, or on the battlefield with its front face up, it has only the characteristics of its front face.”

The planeswalkers that begin as legendary creatures are:

Magic Origins:

Core Set 2019:

Note: These planeswalkers will also be included in our ranked list below.

Tournament vs. Casual Playgroups

Of course further exceptions can be made if your commander pod agrees that any planeswalker can be a commander. However, that is up to the discretion and agreement of those within your playgroup. Players may not want to allow this rule change in their playgroup due to the power imbalances it may introduce, and the potential for games to last longer than they already do.

The Complete Ranked List of Planeswalker Commanders

Instead of creating a top 10 list, let’s rank all of the planeswalkers that can be used as commanders in descending order. Of course, this is an amalgamation of opinions. Don’t let this ranking stop you from creating a deck around a planeswalker you’re excited about. Keep in mind that these are ranked based on how they would perform as a commander – not as a planeswalker that’s part of the other 99 in the deck. 

20. Kytheon, Hero of Akros / Gideon, Battle-Forged

MTG Trading card Kytheon, Hero of Akros MTG Trading Card Gideon, Battle-Forged

While a fantastic planeswalker to have inside a deck, Gideon, Battle-Forged is a lackluster monocolored commander. A major benefit of Kytheon, Hero of Akros is the single white mana cost required to play him. As a commander, that low mana cost will make it easy to bring Kytheon out again and again. 

Since Kytheon becomes Gideon at the end of combat if he and two other creatures attacked that turn, the keyword here is attack. When using the activated ability to make Kytheon indestructible, you’re guaranteed to be able to transform Kytheon – even if the other two die while attacking.

Once transformed, Gideon, Battle-Forged makes a strong ally for other creatures on the field. Since Gideon has zero abilities that subtract from his loyalty counters, he becomes stronger the longer he remains on the battlefield. 

19. Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath

Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath

This is the first planeswalker on our list from the precon commander decks of 2014. For the value, Ob Nixilis is a relatively high-cost commander. His second ability is, arguably, the most helpful: subtracting two counters puts a 5/5 Demon token creature with flying onto the field. Overall, Ob Nixilis is a fun card to include in a deck (Demons and Angels, anyone?) but he fails to offer a winning strategy as a commander. 

That being said, if a player wants to showcase their most gruesome black cards, Ob Nixilis is a fun way to do so. His ultimate ability provides an emblem. If a player can manage to protect Ob Nixilis long enough to obtain it, they’ll have the ability to stay alive while drawing deep into their library for big fancy spells.

18. Nissa, Vastwood Seer / Nissa, Sage Animist

MTG Trading Card Nissa, Vastwood Seer MTG Trading Card Nissa, Sage Animist

As one of the transforming planeswalkers from Magic Origins, Nissa, Vastwood Seer requires a player to control at least seven lands before she can become Nissa, Sage Animist. In a mono-green deck, that will be no issue. Additionally, as long as no one trashes their land base, she will easily be able to become a planeswalker thereafter.

The biggest strength of Nissa as a commander is in her ultimate ability: subtract seven loyalty counters to turn up to six lands into 6/6 Elemental creatures that are ready to attack. Unobstructed, that attack has the potential to do 36 damage. Building a deck around Nissa, Sage Animist leaves a lot of room to include mana-ramping artifacts and monstrous green favorites.

17. Liliana, Heretical Healer / Liliana, Defiant Necromancer

MTG Trading Card Liliana, Heretical Healer MTG Trading Card Liliana, Defiant Necromancer

Despite being a monocolored commander, Lilliana, Defiant Necromancer’s ultimate ability provides the player with a powerful emblem. Once obtained, every creature a player controls that dies is brought right back to the battlefield from the graveyard at the beginning of their next turn. Since this ability requires eight loyalty counters and Liliana starts (once transformed) with three, it takes a bit of finesse to get the emblem.

As one of the transforming planeswalkers, Liliana, Heretical Healer easily transforms into Liliana, Defiant Necromancer when any other creature dies. With a low mana cost, she’s an easy commander to quickly get onto the field. A deck built around her that focuses on acquiring the emblem early and overwhelming opponents would make for a fun casual deck. 

16. Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh / Chandra, Roaring Flame

MTG Trading Card Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh MTG Trading Card Chandra, Roaring Flame

This is another transforming planeswalker from Magic Origins that has the ability to produce emblems. While it will take seven loyalty counters to do so, Chandra deals six damage to each opponent and gives them an emblem that causes three more damage at the beginning of their upkeep. The challenging aspect of pulling this off is that Chandra’s ability adds one loyalty counter at a time – but she deals two damage directly to a target player when she does. 

While monocolored, Chandra leans heavy into one of red’s most common themes: burn. For players who enjoy building these types of decks, this card offers the opportunity to include a lot of favorites. Utilize some low-cost blockers to protect Chandra through the slow-climb toward the emblem, and you’ve got a fun casual deck that will pack a punch. 

15. Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury

Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury

If mono-green stompy is your style, Freyalise is a fantastic commander to build around. While not the cheapest of commanders, she can immediately add two counters to create a 1/1 Elf Druid creature that taps for one green mana. If you stumble across a powerful artifact or enchantment, her second ability destroys them, which is just a helpful utility to have. 

Overall, while Freyalise offers powerful support in an Elf tribal or big creature deck, she fails to offer significant board interaction or an ultimate ability with a wincon as a commander. Nonetheless, for the right player, Freyalise can play a supportive role for a mono-green deck that’s already stacked with power. 

14. Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy / Jace, Telepath Unbound

MTG Trading Card Jace, Vryn's Prodigy MTG Trading Card Jace, Telepath Unbound

Jace, Telepath Unbound has everything a player needs in a solid planeswalker commander. His second ability allows the player to cast an instant or sorcery card from their graveyard, while the ultimate ability creates an emblem with a game-winning strategy. Once activated, a target opponent has to mill five of their cards every time the player casts a spell. That means this ability can go off many times each turn, as well as on the opponent’s turns. 

Mono-blue control players will vastly enjoy creating a deck around this commander. Even more so when you consider the low mana cost of Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. To transform Jace, the player will need to mill their own library or utilize discard effects until there’s enough. So long as a player can minimize the amount of turns it takes to transform Jace, this commander offers a fun win condition that’s sure to irritate your friends.

13. Nahiri, the Lithomancer

Nahiri, the Lithomancer

Although limited by her mono-white color, Nahiri is an awesome commander for an Equipment-focused deck. Adding two loyalty counters produces a 1/1 Kor Soldier to whom the player can attach an Equipment. At bare minimum, this immediately produces a blocker for Nahiri.

For 10 loyalty counters, a creature is equipped with an indestructible sword that attaches for free and increases its damage by 10 (thanks to double strike). Even if the creature holding the sword dies, the Equipment will remain on the field unless it’s exiled. In the right situation, equipping the sword could allow the player to turn around and win the game. 

12. Estrid, the Masked

Estrid, the Masked

Estrid is the first multicolored planeswalker on our list. In Bant colors, she is a highly-specific deck for those who enjoy enchantments, especially Aura cards. Adding two loyalty counters allows the player to untap every enchanted permanent they control, which is dangerous in and of itself. The second ability creates an Aura enchantment that protects any permanent from being destroyed once. 

Finally, the ultimate ability mills seven cards into the player’s graveyard, then brings all of their enchantments back to the battlefield. While some of the planeswalkers on our list fail to offer a clear strategy, some players may feel confined by the strict strategy Estrid demands. As a commander, she fiercely wields enchantments – but that means building a deck entirely focused on using enchantments to win, either directly or indirectly. 

11. Aminatou, the Fateshifter

Aminatou, the Fateshifter

A fearsome commander, Aminatou, the Fateshifter is the rare planeswalker whose first and second abilities are generally more useful than the last. While the final ability of Aminatou allows all players to gain controls of the permanents to their left or right, most decks that use Aminatou aren’t built around utilizing this ability. Instead, it’s Aminatou’s second ability, which essentially re-activates a permanent’s ‘enter the battlefield’ effect, that makes this planeswalker scary to face. 

Alongside the utility of the first ability, Aminatou is a commander that combines the best aspects of blue control with the well-balanced abilities of white and black. In other words, this is a commander that is heavily supported and intensified by the other cards in the deck. For strong deck-builders, Aminatou can decide the fate of a board even without using her final ability. 

10. Lord Windgrace

Lord Windgrace

Starting the top 10 is a Jund commander, Lord Windgrace. Lord Windgrace is an extremely versatile commander that allows a player to ramp mana and draw into their library. This commander makes it easy for players to pick and choose their favorite cards, including big swingers that are expensive to cast. 

Lord Windgrace is a mythic from the precon Commander 2018 decks. The original deck list was filled with useful lands, big creatures and creatures with land-related abilities, whether fetching a land or having power equal to the number of lands. 

If a player can protect Lord Windgrace while consistently utilizing his first two abilities, their growing land base will quickly make them hard to stop. Although he doesn’t have a clear strategy for winning, Lord Windgrace is great for balanced, fun gameplay. 

9. Will Kenrith & Rowan Kenrith

Will KenrithRowan Kenrith

We’ve paired Will and Rowan together because, as partners, they can only use each other. A player can choose to use one or the other as a commander, but their power is strongest as a duo. Mythics from the Battlebond set, they were designed to battle as a pair – so much so that partnered pairs in the set were always together in a draft pack (and what an insane pull these two would be).

As a red and blue pair, each planeswalker’s ability perfectly encapsulates what their color is known for. Rowan can force all of a player’s creatures to attack, deal three damage to all tapped creatures an opponent controls and receive an emblem that copies all activated abilities that aren’t mana abilities. Will, in true blue style, can receive an emblem that copies all instant and sorcery spells cast – with new targets of course. His first ability offers solid board interaction, while his second is plain-old good utility. 

While they each cost six mana to cast, if a player can obtain their emblems (or even just one of them), the ultimate ability will work regardless of where Rowan or Will are located. For players who can’t choose between aggro and control, why not both? 

8. Valki, God of Lies / Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor

MTG Trading Card Valki, God of Lies MTG Card Tibalt Cosmis Imposter

What makes this card insane is that as soon as Tibalt enters the battlefield, the player gets an emblem allowing them to play cards exiled with Tibalt – even when he isn’t on the battlefield. This is especially important because Tibalt costs seven mana to cast before command tax. But, since any cards exiled with Tibalt can be played, this high mana cost becomes significantly less of an issue. 

Furthermore, unlike some of the other double-sided cards on this list, Tibalt doesn’t transform from the legendary creature on the other side. He can be cast directly from the command zone (as discussed previously). The drawback of this is that whether a player casts Valki or Tibalt, the command tax will rise each time for the card as a whole. 

All of Tibalt’s abilities utilize the emblem effect, and his ultimate ability gives the player full access to everyone’s current graveyard, including their own. It’s easy to see how the Cosmic Impostor was given his namesake, as this deck’s mischievous strength is in utilizing opponent’s cards against them. Even without his ultimate ability, Tibalt is a fun commander for players who enjoy being the puppet master.

7. Saheeli, the Gifted

Saheeli, the Gifted

Players who enjoy artifacts and armies will adore playing with Saheeli, the Gifted. This red and blue commander has three highly useful abilities and a clear wincon strategy. Her ultimate ability copies every artifact the player controls and gives it haste for that turn. While that ability costs seven loyalty counters, Saheeli adds one loyalty when creating a 1/1 artifact token creature. 

Wildly, her second ability (which allows the player to cast a card for one less mana for each artifact they control) also adds one counter. In a deck that rewards the player for using artifact creatures, this ability allows the player to include some gnarly picks. 

Alternatively, a player might include a bunch of low-cost artifacts that create more tokens than opponents can contend with. As long as a player is happy building a highly specialized deck, Saheeli is a powerful commander with wide utility range for an artifact-heavy deck. 

6. Jeska, Thrice Reborn

Jeska, Thrice Reborn

The first of two planeswalkers from Commander Legends, Jeska, Thrice Reborn is a powerful planeswalker with partner. Players can pair her with the other Commander Legends planeswalker or choose any legendary creature with partner. Jeska enters with loyalty counters equal to the number of times the player has cast their commanders from the command zone. 

For zero counters, Jeska triples a creature’s power if it’s able to land the attack directly to an opponent. Since Jeska is very low cost to cast, her ability to enter with X loyalty counters could be part of a player’s winning strategy. In the right deck, Jeska’s ultimate ability will sneak up on opponents, knocking their life totals way down. Overall, Jeska is a dynamic commander – with her ability to partner, player’s can wield a truly unique and terrifying combo. 

5. Nicol Bolas, the Ravager / Nicol Bolas, the Arisen

MTG Trading Card Nicol Bolas, the Ravager MTG Trading Card Nicol Bolas, the Arisen

From Core Set 2019, this is the only Nicol Bolas that can be used as a planeswalker and a commander at the same time. An Elder Dragon in Grixis colors, Nicol Bolas is the last of the transforming planeswalkers on our list. He enters the battlefield for four mana the first time and transforms for seven mana anytime a sorcery can be played. Once transformed, Nicol Bolas is a ridiculously powerful planeswalker.

Nicol Bolas’s first ability adds two counters and lets the player draw two cards. If the player can protect Nicol Bolas for three turns while triggering his first ability each turn, they will be able to trigger his ultimate ability. Once Nicol Bolas has at least 12 counters, he can exile all but the last card of an opponent’s library. 

Even without his ultimate ability, Nicol Bolas is a force to be reckoned with, able to deal 10 damage to a creature or planeswalker and return a card from any graveyard to the battlefield. Expensive to flip and challenging to build, Nicol Bolas is not a competitive deck, but it’s highly beloved among Bolas fans and full of flavorful possibilities. 

4. Daretti, Scrap Savant

Daretti, Scrap Savant

The fact that Daretti, Scrap Savant is a mono-red commander doesn’t impair this graveyard artifact deck. This commander requires a well-thought-out winning strategy and works best when stacked with combos. But Daretti’s abilities are wildly powerful and make it easy for players to include multiple expensive artifacts.

Daretti’s first ability adds two counters to discard up to two cards and then draw that many. The kicker is that the second ability, which subtracts two counters, has the player sacrifice an artifact then bring any artifact from the graveyard straight to the battlefield. If a player uses combos to strategize accordingly, they can reanimate a powerful artifact the same turn as Daretti, sidestepping the artifacts mana cost.

If the player is able to protect Daretti long enough to receive the emblem, that player becomes incredibly hard to kill. While this commander does have some weakness when playing against control-heavy decks or those with a lot of flyers, this deck is strongest when utilizing epic artifacts (Darksteel Forge, Nevinyrral’s Disk, Mycosynth Lattice are solid additions) in game-dominating combos. 

3. Teferi, Temporal Archmage

Teferi, Temporal Archmage

This mono-blue commander makes our number six spot thanks to the competitive EDH deck that has Teferi, Temporal Archmage at the center of its infinite combo. With The Chain Veil and mana rocks like Gilded Lotus, this is a highly competitive decknot the one you bring to your casual playgroup on Friday night. For those who are able to pull off this infinite combo, it’s an incredibly effective deck that feels like it belongs in the Vintage format.

Even outside of this highly strategic control deck, Teferi, Temporal Archmage offers a lot of practical utility. Once Teferi grants the player the emblem, planeswalker abilities can be utilized twice as often. Players who construct this deck for its infinite combo will still need a game-ending strategy to finish the job – but they’ll have “infinite” mana and draw power with which to do so. 

2. Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools 

Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools

Tevesh Szat is the other planeswalker from Commander Legends on our list. Like Jeska, Tevesh Szat has partner, allowing him to be paired with any other commander that has partner. Both of his first two abilities add counters, which respectively allow him to create his own protection and provide draw power with a sacrifice penalty. This is important because his ultimate ability requires 10 counters, at which point the player becomes in control of all commanders, whether on the battlefield or plucked from the command zone.

There are a lot of legendary creatures Tevesh Szat can partner with (although Jeska, Thrice Reborn is a fantastic option too). This world of open possibilities means a player can craft a unique deck that utilizes the best qualities of both commanders. 

Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh, as a fun example, has zero power but also zero mana cost. Tevesh Szat’s second ability is boosted by sacrificing a commander. A player could use this combo to draw two cards from their library each turn, as the mana cost increases by two each time. Since that ability also adds counters, Tevesh Szat will quickly be able to gain control of all commanders and finish the job. 

1. Grist, the Hunger Tide

Grist, the Hunger Tide

Grist, the Hunger Tide is a unique planeswalker in strategy and flavor. This Golgari made of bugs is a 1/1 Insect creature when not on the battlefield, cleverly allowing Grist to be a commander. Their first ability adds a loyalty counter that creates a 1/1 Insect token and mills a card, adding an additional counter if that card is an Insect. 

Grist’s ultimate ability offers a clear strategy for winning: for only five counters, each opponent loses life equal to the number of cards in the casting player’s graveyard. Furthermore, Grist is a cheap commander to cast that would be easy to protect inside an Insect tribal deck. 

Additionally, there is a combo that uses Doubling Season to win the game as soon as Grist enters the battlefield. As a planeswalker that enters with three loyalty counters, Grist is able to instead enter with six and immediately use their ultimate ability. So long as the player has properly filled their graveyard, this move can end the game on the spot. 

Do you disagree with our ranking?  Sound off in the comments below. 

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