I am a tried and true spike, I enjoy playing with the most powerful cards that my wallet will allow. I particularly revel in the deck building challenge of taking a goofy commander and making the resulting deck as explosive as I can. I have done this with two recent favorites of mine, Bosh and Wort Boggart Auntie. Since building both of these I have not seen other Bosh or Auntie decks across multiple playgroups and neither of their deck counts is high on EDHREC. In building both of these decks I found that the generals were more powerful than they got credit for, and they were more compelling to pilot because they were unique. My point is there are several generals that are underplayed simply because they got lost in the shuffle of new releases not due to lack of power. This can be said for tons of commanders however the ones that made this list caught my eye for reasons I will explain. Due to the criminal lack of attention most of these have received this article is intended to raise awareness ,and get some of these unheralded generals the play they deserve. In my opinion every card on this list deserves to lead armies ,and brings more to the table than most would believe. Without further ado in no particular order are five commanders that you probably aren’t playing. If you or a friend uses one of these to great effect please let me know! I love to hear about spicy brews!
Bosh, Iron Golem
I’ll start with the golem that sent me down this rabbit hole initially. When considering which commander to build I wanted to build artifacts and I wanted it to be mono colored as at the time I did not have a mono color deck, and was starting to hop aboard the artifact train. I picked Bosh for a few reasons, I was relying on black tutors too much, I like sacrificing my permanents, this a good deck for Blightsteel Colossus(one of my favorite cards), and finally the image of bosh chucking flaming hunks of metal at my opponents is pleasing to me.
At first glance Bosh seems both slow and clunky, however the deck can be built to function without him if need be ,and he is a versatile win condition in the command zone. We can devote more slots to card draw ,and mana ramp since we have mostly constant access to our most consistent way to win. Since he requires so much mana we need all the mana rocks we can get ahold of ,and once we no longer need the mana, those big mana rocks become removal spells waiting to happen. The mana ramp is not intended to power out Bosh as soon as possible. It pushes the deck to the such a position that it can use the large mana rocks as removal/sac fodder ,and still have the mana to cast other large threats. If the deck is built with careful consideration the mana requirement will not inhibit the deck most of the time. Additionally, if the “fling artifacts” plan isn’t profitable the deck can simply rely on other threats such as Blightsteel or Mindslaver if need be.
While opponents might know how we intend on winning they do not know which direction we will take ,and this deck is so packed with spells that are potentially game winning they will not know what to answer.
The bottom line is Bosh is not simply a big dumb dude, he is a repeatable removal spell and a win condition rolled into 6/7 trampling body. He offers a unique deckbuilding constraint and gives us as deck builders an excuse to include all the massive artifacts that could never find a home.
That Mycosynth Golem is no longer simply a threat it is also 11 damage waiting to happen! Bosh combines a repeatable fling, big splashy artifacts ,and lots of mana. What’s not to love?
Thromok, the Insatiable
I generally refer to the setup for one’s general “setting the table” but this hellion takes the phrase in a literal direction. Thromok generally leads a token deck however, not the stereotypical token beatdown. We obviously run most of the good team buffs such as Triumph of the Hordes and the token doublers in green namely Parallel Lives ,and Primal Vigor.
Once the board is full of tokens we drop Thromok eat a bunch of them play a power based card draw spell and go to town! This is why I find Thromok to be so cool ,because he wants to go wide and tall at the same time. He wants plenty of tokens to feed on so he becomes huge, once he is give him trample and watch the level of fear at the table rise. This is a token deck that legitimately benefits from a voltron package which is not necessary however the fact that the concept exists as a possibility opens up a litany of possibilities which is fantastic as it causes more deck building creativity.
The most skill intensive part of piloting a Thromok deck is the timing of when to play him ,and not overextending into spot removal or counter magic. There are not many generals that test those skills in the same way also this is a token deck is a requires serious planning. Thromok forces the pilot to critically evaluate the odds of Thromok eating a removal spell the second he lands. From what I can see running the hungry hellion as a general makes the pilot a better player ,and allows for a more straightforward game plan if needed. The deck can simply win with an army if needed or it can beat down with a large bellied Thromok. He does indeed seem fragile ,and he is but he makes up for it in the flexibility that he offers. He is an X factor that is capable of ending the game on the spot with the right setup. I am drawn to generals that allow for multiple paths to victory and that allow the pilot to adapt to the board state, and Thromok is no different. Additionally, I love when Fling and Chandra’s Ignition can win games. In short, Thromok can lead a token deck with a few tricks up its sleeve. A deck lead by him fosters deck building creativity ,and enhances pilot skill in ways that is not seen with other token commanders. He is a refreshing departure from a typical Gruul beatdown while still synergizing with the colors’ strengths. He seems like a blast to play and he should spend more time as the leader singer.
Taigam, Ojutai Master
About a year or so ago my playgroup decided to do a deck building challenge. The idea was each person received a random guild and had to build around a general in those colors. A friend of mine got Azorius and I was expecting some hard control build which is to be expected from the UW color pairing. This friend we’ll call him James selected Taigam. His build ran a healthy protection package designed to simply allow Taigam to attack unscathed. He would then he would drop a litany of extra turn spells ,and eventually win via commander damage or some other win condition like Monastery Mentor.
I remember being stunned as to why this card is not more played. He makes all the big nasty extra turn cards uncounterable and allowed James to cast them again. Even if the game isn’t in the Taigam player’s favor the time magic alone has serious comeback potential. In addition, with Taigam on the field you win every counter war, since all of your counterspells are essentially Counterflux. There is also the possibility of a voltron build since we are in white and Taigam does need to attack to give spells rebound if that idea appeals. This general allows for a control focused spellslinger shell that simply cannot be stopped once the engine is churning. Taigam can be protected with unstoppable counter mana and can begin chaining extra turns. Once that train is moving there is no stopping it! I can understand why such a deck would not be welcome at casual tables ,but Taigam’s power is undeniable, the only way to stall such a deck is to counter him initially or, win before the extra turn train leaves the station. Again as with Thromok I find it refeshing when a general synergizes with its color’s main strengths while not being solely focused on those strengths. There isn’t much more to say, this card is fantastic ,and is from my experience criminally underplayed. The only time I have seen a Taigam deck was during that deckbuilding challenge over a year ago. If spellslinging in Azorius sounds fun give this guy a try. He is powerful, interesting ,and highly customizable.
King Macar, the Gold Cursed
As John Suarez once said running a King Macar deck means “All gold everything”. The King combines tapping/untapping synergies with an artifacts matter/big mana strategy in black. He gives the builder a ton of flexibility synergizing with what black does best but not being limited to the typical black win conditions. I was envisioning a deck focusing on the gold that King Macar creates and using those with some Improvise cards and using the excess mana from gold plus some black mana doublers to cast a huge X spell such as Torment of Hailfire for the win.
His most impactful upside is that he provides creature exile in black which is typically hard to come by and as a bonus we receive some extra mana. He fosters an untraditional strategy in mono black ,and he leaves it up to the builder to figure out which win condition best suits their deck. If the reasons mentioned above was not reason enough the King Midas flavor is quite tasty, Greed is now both good and flavorful! Black is good at creating tons of mana and dealing with creatures, the King does both of those admirably. I was considering building either King Macar or Bosh I wound up building Bosh because King Macar is a little too wide open for myself ,but to someone else that might be a positive as he doesn’t lend himself to any one direction.
Vona, Butcher of Magan
Granted, I have seen this card across the table but never in the command zone. I think that Vona makes for a fantastic lifegain commander for a few reasons. Firstly, there are two things that BW does best, kill permanents unconditionally, and gain life. Vona is an active payoff for gaining tons of life. The reason I personally do not favor lifegain decks is that often times I see them gain hundreds of life but have no way to benefit from all the life they gained. Vona solves that issue by being a payoff in the command zone. We run all best lifegain cards, add some ways to untap Vona such as Thousand Year Elixir, plus some those lovely black tutors and card draw. For good measure toss in a copy of Ad Nauseum to find answers or ways to put the game away.
If there are problem permanents on the battlefield no need worry we are Orzhov! Even without Vona we can run the greatest hits from the gallery of BW removal spells! I cannot emphasize enough how powerful it is to have constant access to a repeatable removal spell. As for win conditions, Aetherflux Reservoir will usually do the job or a large Exsanguinate/ Debt to the Deathless.
It is true that both Ayli and Karlov both deal with permanents unconditionally as well. I am merely making the point that Vona can do so as well while having cool side synergy in addition to simply gaining tons of life. In addition both of the aforementioned generals require a tad more setup than Vona as we simply need to uptap with her and we can begin destroying problems.
In summary, Vona heads up a simple yet powerful game plan in colors that are well equipped to take advantage of her abilities. She is situated perfectly to be a force and should be considered to lead instead of being shunted into the 99.