2018 was an exciting roller coaster for Commander as a format. We received dozens of interesting generals to build around that have unique and compelling abilities. In order to fully say hasta la vista to 2018, let’s give a collective nod to some fantastic new legendary creatures that were released this year. This list will only include cards originally released in 2018. There will be some notable omissions, the reasons for which I will explain at the conclusion of the article. My criteria that the commanders in question had to meet was a mixture of my own personal taste, their uniqueness, and overall popularity whether it is the number of lists on EDHREC or the amount of times I have seen them across the table.
Firstly some honorable mentions:
Lazav, the Multifarious
I used to have The Scarab God as my Dimir general of choice until I realized that control really isn’t my style so I switched it over to Lazav. He is unique in the way he interacts with the graveyard and has tons of silly interactions that require serious planning in order to implement. I find it hilarious that he runs cards like Leveler and they are legitimately powerful with him!
He has not had as much widespread popularity, so he didn’t quite make the cut, however, the way he wins and sets up, distinguishes him from other graveyard focused commanders, so he is worth a mention.
Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain
I love when Wizards prints power and they made the storm commander of my dreams. I enjoy the “breakneck/on the edge of your seat” type of feel she brings. The game plan is simple, resolve Jhoira then floor the accelerator and don’t stop until the game is over. In addition, bouncing all of our artifacts and then replaying them is too much fun. Jhoira can also be built as simply, artifact-based value or, eggs, or control. She is also one of the few generals that turns Paradoxical Outcome into a powerhouse, and runs Mana Severance with a straight face.
She does it all, any commander that says “draw a card” in its rules text is going to be powerful and Jhoira did not disappoint.
On to the top 5!
5. Tatyova Benthic Druid
Tatyova made the cut due both to her power and her presence in the metas that I play in. Simic has always been a big mana color combination, however, the colors never had lands focused commander like this before. It is quite in flavor for what Simic wants to do and yet UG has never had it. There are so many lands matter commanders and it’s refreshing to see the lands matter ideals implemented so simply. As I said above any commander that says “draw a card” in its text is a serious threat especially if all it takes to draw is a land entering play. In addition, she is a fantastic piece as a member of the 99 in any number of Simic decks. She synergizes with what most UGx decks want to be doing whatever their particular twist is. There’s not much more to say, from my perspective, Tatyova has already become a fixture as a powerful card in a short time which alone earns her a spot on this list. It does not, however, push her any higher since her game plan as a general is a tad too straightforward for my taste. Every game becomes the same steps of play ramp, draw cards, counter anything that’s a problem, and win. It seems a tad samey from an observer’s standpoint. Either way, Tatyova is both strong and simple and will be a commander favorite for years to come both as a general or as part of the 99.
4. Najeela, The Blade Blossom
As with Tatyova, Najeela is not a general I am interested in per se, however, she is a unifying leader to a tribe that did not already have one. In addition, even without considering the tribal aspect she is simply so powerful that she has made her presence known on the competitive side of this format, and even when built casually she is explosive. There are multiple ways to generate infinite combat steps with her that allow cards that usually aren’t on the same battlefield to create interesting synergies. She comes down nice and early, enables her own trigger and obtaining WUBRG mana is not all that difficult with the right pieces. She is akin to Muldrotha in the sense that no matter what build she leads she will shine. She will be awesome at the lead of so many builds, from tribal, to combat steps matter, to combo and more that I can’t fathom. Najeela is both powerful and versatile, if I was going to build her I would definitely build tribal warriors and slam a bunch of flashy legendary warriors on the table. She fosters so many varying strategies that it would be criminal if she were not mentioned as a highlight of 2018.
3. Jodah Archmage Eternal
Another addition to the 5 color gallery of commanders Jodah as well as Najeela gave commander players compelling 5 color generals. Najeela is more powerful however Jodah is quite explosive in his own right. I theory crafted a Jodah list that I dubbed “oops all bombs”. The idea was I would run all of the big splashy legendary creatures that I never cast before in one deck with some cascade craziness. The issue I find with how I build decks is that when I want a deck to be powerful the flashy spells usually don’t make the cut. Therefore, commanders, that want to be surrounded by those big spells catch my eye this is the same reason why I built Bosh. I may be a spike but there is something special about slamming a Blightsteel on the table. In any case, when Jodah was spoiled I felt the same. With Jodah on the field, we can cast Omniscience for WUBRG than follow up with an Enter the Infinite and then proceed to vomit the biggest bombs in the game all over the table!
If personal inspiration wasn’t enough Jodah lends himself to a ton of different strategies, such as Superfriends, my “Oops all Bombs”, Cascade/free spells and a ton more. Jodah lends himself to any strategy that doesn’t want to pay the full mana cost for spells. Even if the deck isn’t built around Jodah he will assist the strategies’ goals because who doesn’t want a discount on their large spells? Jodah is powerful and has his own strategy and offers legitimate support to strategies that simply need a generally good 5 color commander. And of course, his potential certainly doesn’t hurt.
2. Yuriko the Tiger’s Shadow
My favorite cards in magic are those that combine flavor, with in-game mechanics. I love such cards, even more, when the implementation of these mechanics has a serious in-game impact. Yuriko is a perfect amalgamation of all of these aspects; Ninjutsu is a flavorful representation of ninjas in cardboard and the commander variant dodges commander tax which adds serious resilience. In addition, she gives an underdog tribe a compelling leader that it was lacking. She enables her own trigger and is in blue which proficient in manipulating the top of the deck. Her trigger while also ripping apart life totals gives card advantage which is key for an aggro deck to keep the hits coming. If there is a Yuriko deck across the table any removal aimed at her needs to be timed carefully. Since she can be Ninjistu’ed back in when a creature is unblocked before damage is dealt. In addition, Ninjutsu is an activated ability so unless anyone has a stifle she will swing uninhibited. She is number two for the same reason original Innistrad is my favorite set; when flavor and mechanics are joined the resulting gameplay is fantastic and compelling. I have found that she is as fun to play against and she seems like a blast to pilot. The presence of Yuriko at the table keeps everyone on their toes and forces opponents to be careful with their use of their precious spot removal. As it is with real-life ninjas if we take our eyes off them for a second we are likely their next victim. Yuriko is simply an awesome card that creates new possibilities and options in the commander format. This format thrives on creativity so I always love to see cards that expand parameters.
1.Muldrotha the Gravetide
Numbers one and two are likely a reflection of the metas that I play in. I can recall seeing more than a few Muldrotha and Yuriko decks. The main reason Muldrotha occupies the top slot is that each Muldrotha deck felt quite different to play against. I saw builds centered around Zombies, Control, Stax, Graveyard Value, Combo, Reanimator, and Lands. Muldrotha is quite versatile to the point that she could lead essentially any strategy that wanted some extra resilience. She is my top commander of 2018 because of the number of times that I have seen her across the table and since the possibilities are endless. In my experience, the Muldrotha decks were so different that for those months that I was seeing her regularly it did not become repetitive for that reason. While she does not necessarily bring anything new to Sultai she brings premium versatility to benefit any of the builds mentioned above and more! She essentially redefined the general recursion strategy in a way that is both elegant and powerful. She will continue to be a force to be reckoned with for years to come in this format.
Commander 2018 Face Commanders
I did not feel that any of the face commanders from the 2018 product were worth a slot mostly because I never found planeswalkers as commanders to be compelling. In addition, they didn’t add anything new to the format per se. Commander 2018 simply added new colors to pre-existing archetypes. I am more interested in cards that brought something altogether new to the table and I don’t feel that this past commander set did that. There is an argument that Aminatou brings a new flair since “top deck matters” didn’t exist but she doesn’t exclusively do that either. Enchantments, Lands, and Artifacts were already prevalent in and again I personally do not find planeswalkers in the command zone to create compelling gameplay. Furthermore, in the months since the release Commander 2018 has seemingly faded from my perspective. I see a Windgrace deck occasionally, however, I have seen Yuriko more than any of the planeswalker commanders. Incidentally, it is an interesting “tug of war” with Wizards advertising around planeswalkers and one of the marquee formats being based around legendary creatures. I would not be surprised if Commander 2018 was part of Wizards’ push for planeswalkers to become centerpieces of this format. This is a discussion for its own article entirely and is purely speculation, but it is an idea to consider. At any rate, the 2018 face commanders I do not feel brought a new flair to the format and I haven’t seen that many decks with them at the helm. It feels like they have fallen by the wayside and I was unimpressed by the set as a whole.
Battlebond Partners: Firstly, apologies for the lack of images there are simply too many of them. If you don’t know the Battlebond Partners a quick google search should fix any confusion. I love the Partner With mechanic, and all of the Battlebond partners were both flavorful and exciting to play against. In addition, WOTC worked out the design flaw with Partner as a mechanic while not completely robbing these partners of power. Most of them brought something new to the format which is what I look for when a new set releases. However, the general lack of decks that I have seen kept them from being mentioned. If I was doing a top 5 mechanics of 2018 Partner With would definitely be on it. Well done to Wizards for the latest group of partners, and for Battlebond as a whole. It was a great set with sweet mechanics and legends that are both cool, and flavorful.
Thanks for reading!
These images were obtained from gatherer.wizards.com I do not own any of these images they all belong to Wizards of the Coast
-Paul of Clan Nel Toth