This week and next week I’m going to be closing out the year with my top 20 Commander cards of 2015. It is entirely my opinion, and my ranking is only vaguely specific, but these are the cards that stood out to me upon reflecting upon what turns out to have been a fairly momentous year for Magic: the Gathering.

Let’s begin!


I still find the new frame unexpectedly beautiful, although I find the Dragons watermarks to be more than a little weird.


20) Sunscorch Regent

I’m going to start with a surprisingly good dragon in monowhite. White has two other solid dragons, Eternal Dragon and Yosei, the Morning Star, but it’s not exactly known for its support of this tribe. The Regent compares well to both, insomuch as they’re all different flavors of excellent fruit. Eternal Dragon is a ramp engine and Yosei, the Morning Star is a prison card, while Sunscorch Regent is neither. In fact, it’s hard to classify. Is it a beater? It comes down turn five and generally swings above its weight class. Is it a lifegain engine? People like to play spells, and it gives you life whenever that happens. Is it a counter generator, for decks like Ghave, Guru of Spores? Because again, people like playing spells in Commander.

It is all of those things and more—specifically that it’s a bulk rare. I love it when a card like this doesn’t cost a fortune to acquire and play.


not literally, of course... who bets?

It is a little weird how this card glorifies self-harm, but whatever. I mean, I’d bet that Magic players do traditional self-harm at lower rates than the general population. You know, because gender.


19) Priest of the Blood Rite

Another underappreciated bulk rare, Priest of the Blood Rite does a lot of things right. First off, it’s seven power for five mana. That’s a solid rate. It has two drawbacks: you lose two life a turn, and that seven power is not all on the same body. But that’s okay! It turns out, in Commander, getting two bodies for the price of one is a way to generate incremental card advantage. In a sacrifice or recursion deck, this lets you amass a flock of demon tokens, since you can recur the Priest of the Blood Rite without losing your token.



The more I learn about Kytheon, the more he irritates me. Can we get Koth of the Hammer back in the mix?


18) Tragic Arrogance

Balance is an iconic card, so it’s no wonder that they endeavor to print a fixed version of it from time to time. Restore Balance, Natural Balance, Balance of Power—none of them managed to resolve the fundamental disconnect in a Balance effect: it’s symmetrical, but far too easy to break that symmetry.

Tragic Arrogance is their latest attempt, and don’t let the name fool you. Wizards, like SpaceX the other night, sticks the landing. It is hard to break the symmetry of Tragic Arrogance, because it has a static sacrifice requirement. If a person has things, they go down to one of each of those things. It’s a little more complicated, and there are still ways to snag an opponent since you get all the choices, but it gives you all the benefit of a Planar Cleansing while also giving you fodder for a political power play.


Now that’s a traditional-looking dragon! Western traditional, at least. Dragons are universal, and not universally that.


17) Dragonlord Silumgar

This past year brought us the Dragonlords, a cycle of Elder Dragons who broke their timeline and rose up a force of savagery and oppression. It was all very foreseeable, though it doesn’t change the fact that it was the most interesting storyline about time travel that Magic has put forward since Time Spiral block supposedly put a stop to all those shenanigans, because time travel breaks time or something to that effect.

(It was a storyline so novel that Marvel came to it independently a year or so back with “Age of Ultron.”)

Of them, I think Dragonlord Silumgar is the best for Commander. Don’t get me wrong, some of the others are decent (though Dragonlord Kolaghan’s inexplicable uselessness in Commander sticks out like a sore thumb), but Silumgar is the right mix of utility and lost hope to do well in a format where threat management is serious business. Plus, a 3/5 with deathtouch and flying is absolutely great on defense, and being able to commandeer a planeswalker is a very useful ability, as their prevalence means it’s harder and harder to avoid seeing one on the board at any given moment.


It’s nice that they brought orcs back. How you doin’, Ire Shaman?


16) Kolaghan’s Command

Perhaps Dragonlord Kolaghan was useless because her charm is so strong. While it’s primarily seeing play in more aggressive formats like Modern or Standard, where it acts as the Rakdos version of Electrolyze, it’s still an excellent card in Commander. While you wouldn’t play Shock, Raise Dead, Funeral Charm, or Shatter in Commander normally, a card which does all of those things, and lets you do two of them at once, will definitely earn its spot in your 99.


I like how the Scourge is in Meren of Nel Toth’s art, and Meren is in the Scourge’s. Symmetry can be beautiful.


15) Scourge of Nel Toth

There are two things I love about this card. The first is that it’s a sacrifice engine when it’s not on the battlefield. There aren’t a ton of those, and they all tend to be powerful in their own way. They help you rebuild after a sweep, which is important if your deck has a strong graveyard or sacrifice synergy. It’s also a self-recurring creature. If I love the sacrifice outlet, I adore the self-recursion. Bloodsoaked Champion, a 2014 card, was another great example of this, as are my three favorites in the genre: Bloodghast, Gravecrawler, and Reassembling Skeleton. What you will notice, however, is none of those creatures is a 6/6 flying dragon.

So, the Scourge has that on all its predecessors. It ain’t nothin’.


Ironically, Nissa decks are the ones least in need of a sword like this.


14) Sword of the Animist

When I first saw this card, my thoughts immediately jumped to Solemn Simulacrum. Most colors do not have ramp as part of their color identity, and when you’re ramping, few things beat putting lands in play. (Mana rocks just can’t compete, outside of an Armageddon or Balance situation). So seeing a colorless card, which could fit in any deck, that helps you ramp out basics? It seems good.

And now that Wastes have been spoiled, we know that even a deck like Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger can take advantage of this wonderful piece of kit! Excelsior.


He’s no Tasipurr, though. Damn I wish I had gotten that playmat.


13) Tasigur, the Golden Fang

I still believe that Tasigur, the Golden Fang should be playable in Golgari and Dimir decks as well as full Sultai, but the Commander powers that be are a silo, and their decision-making is opaque as all hell. While I understand not wanting to shuffle up the format as often as Modern, for example, the way that hybrid and off-color activations are locked out of decks is frustrating, and it primarily serves to winnow the card pool. It’s a lost battle, but I’m still going to grumble about it whenever it comes up.

Anyway, Tasigur is great, and unreservedly the best legend in his cycle from a purely play perspective. (Shockingly, I like Alesha, Who Smiles at Death better for other reasons). Delve is a powerful ability, and it turns out being able to delve away your commander tax is a great way to ensure that you’re always in the game. Tasigur needs to be built up with the right self-mill options, but the Sultai wedge has plenty of those, from Thought Scour to Grisly Salvage to Forbidden Alchemy to Mulch.

Choose the ones that are best for you.


The art on these is all a bit too busy, though. I really wish Wizards would stop making all the art so high-rez.


12) Outpost Siege

Most of the Siege cycle proved underwhelming in actual play. Citadel Siege doesn’t have enough of an impact on the board, Frontier Siege has an ability at odds with green’s color identity (fliers that fight), and Palace Siege just costs too much for its moderate reward. Monastery Siege is good, but being a loot/graveyard engine in blue means that it has plenty of competition, and the protection mode fails in the face of big mana… something most Commander decks have access to. But Outpost Siege? Outpost Siege does exactly what red wants from a card like this.

For starters, the Dragons side is the perfect fit for any deck that plans on letting its creatures die. Unlike some of the other death-triggers, which can be thwarted by Rest in Peace or Leyline of the Void, Outpost siege gives you the benefit even when a creature is exiled or bounced back to your hand. And unlike Boggart Shenanigans, you can use that power to pick off creatures or burn the face, giving you a bit of a mono-red Grave Pact effect.

That alone is good. That the Khans side is a draw engine, though, or at least red’s weird “exile and then play” draw equivalent, means that it’s actually capable of being exactly what you need when you play it. All in all, it’s pretty sweet.


I’m a little iffy about the art, but the text box more than makes up for any reservations I might have.


11) Smothering Abomination

I have made my peace with devoid. If you can have artifacts with color, it is not a far step from there to colorless spells that require colored mana to cast. Is it a good step to go from there to the purple mana that seems to have infected the Oath of the Gatewatch? Time will tell. I’m open to it, though. I want to believe.

Smothering Abomination is one of the new Eldrazi, and like all the new Eldrazi, it is significantly less infuriating to face down than all the annihilators were. Indeed, the only person Smothering Abomination asks to sacrifice permanents is its caster, and it rewards you well for doing that. “Whenever you sacrifice a creature, draw a card” is a beautiful thing to see on a card, and it’s refreshing to see the absence of any non-token amelioration of it, as you see on cards like Grim Haruspex and Harvester of Souls. That it has flying, and a relevant body, is just gravy so far as I’m concerned.


The whole "colour out of space" thing does not really work in visual art.

The whole “colour out of space” thing does not really work in visual art.


That’s it for this week; tune in next week for the top ten Commander cards of 2015… I think you’ll like the ones I’ve chosen. I know I do!


Jess Stirba is also a writer on Dear Azami, a separate Commander-based column.

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