Welcome back to Into The 99’s year-end review! We got so...damn...many new legendary creatures this year. It’s a monumental task during a normal year to rank our favorite commanders, but 2020 is the Year of Commander. We’ve never gotten more legends in a single year and this list is going to be tough to put together. I’m opening up the list from a top 10 to a top 15, and I hope you’ll join me for this journey!
As always, the disclaimer: I’m aggressively casual and all of my assertions in this list likely will not consider the competitive side of the format or super pushed cards like Omnath or Kinnan. Sorry.
15: Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh - Commander Legends
I mean, come on. We had to put the meme Commander on this list. We’ve never had a Commander cost 0 before, and this little dude comes with first strike, menace, and trample on a completely fearsome 0/1 body. I want to put this guy together with Keleth, Sunmane Familiar for the world’s worst/best Boros Voltron deck. I do not expect this guy to ever be a powerful force in the format, but he's got Partner and you should be able to come up with some unique ideas. Whatever deck you build around him is just going to be a lot of fun.
14: Rin and Seri, Inseparable - Core Set 2021
Who doesn’t love cats and dogs? This is another meme deck that people were asking for, but now that it’s here we’re all just like, “Oh okay.” They’re alright. It’s a fun deck to play that occasionally gets wins, and it’s a great deck for beginners. There are way better Cat commanders out there and there aren’t enough Dogs to really make Dog tribal worth it, but the commander is fun and the art is adorable. I couldn’t not include it. Like Rograkh, don’t expect to see Rin and Seri very often in the wild, but expect a fun time when you do see it.
13: Winota, Joiner of Forces - Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths
I don’t know what to make of Winota except that I’m so intrigued. First, can we talk about how badass this art by Magali Villeneuve is? Winota's out there kicking ass with all these monsters and she's only got one freaking arm! Mad respect. This card is the definition of a glass cannon. When she hits, she hits hard, but when you only draw your big fat Humans, or Winota is removed, or you whiff a few times on your combat trigger, you’ll be in big trouble. I love the design space from both flavor and function standpoint, but I don’t know how much more this deck will grow over the next few years. We will continue to get more Humans and non-Humans to tinker with, but Winota is generally looking for Humans that bring along non-Human friends in the form of tokens, like Captain of the Watch. I fear she will be solved and forgotten. On the bright side, Winota gives us card advantage in Boros in a really exciting fashion, and this is a great avenue that I hope WotC explores in the future. Winota is the second best Boros commander we got this year, and keep reading for the best one!
12: Armix, Filigree Thrasher - Commander Legends
This golem looks cool as hell and opened up a design space that didn’t exist for artifact aggro. When you have removal sitting in your command zone that hits indestructible creatures, it’s hard for your opponents to feel safe committing anything to the board. The removal trigger comes upon attacking, so if things go your way then you blow up their best blocker and suddenly Armix puts your opponents into a pickle. Slap a Cranial Plating on this dude and you’re off to the races. There are a lot of great partners for Armix as well to really flesh out strategy, including Akiri, Line Slinger; Silas Renn, Seeker Adept; Anara, Wolvid Familiar; and Dargo, the Shipwrecker! Armix won't ever be a 10, but I like what WotC brought to the table with him.
11: Neyith of the Dire Hunt - Jumpstart
I love that we finally have a fight club commander. I thought Grothama back in Battlebond was kinda goofy but Neyith is so much better. This Gruul commander is in the exact right colors that care about fighting, and WotC gave us some card draw on Neyith to boot. I feel like this is a deck that will be fun to tinker with over the years as better creatures come out and there will never really be a “solution.” Neyith is just fun, replaces your fighters with cards, and gave us a commander that cares about something we didn’t quite have a commander for. I know folks hate on WotC for designing for commander, but Neyith is exactly the reason why I’m happy they design legends with us in mind.
10: Inniaz, the Gale Force - Jumpstart
As you’re gonna see a lot in this list, I like getting legends for things we’ve not had commanders for. Was anyone asking for a flying tribal commander? No, not really. Is it cool that we have one now? Yes, absolutely. Inniaz gives us an aggro strategy in a color combination that is not terribly well-known for being aggressive or...you know...fun, all while stapled to a donation strategy like Zedruu. Inniaz will be a commander that you won’t see terribly often, but when you do you’re not going to be upset about playing against Azorius. She’s a perfect combination of fun, flavorful, and scalable between casual and optimized.
9: Belbe, Corrupted Observer - Commander Legends
I love that Belbe finally got a card after being relegated to flavor text for 20 years. Her card is weird and I love it. She sows chaos with her promise of up to six colorless mana for hurting multiple opponents, and incentivizes everyone to split their forces in order to really optimize the free ramp. We’ve got avenues for Eldrazi tribal, artifact synergy, Pestilence effect decks, and the list goes on. Belbe is very much the opposite of Inniaz and Neylith: no singular direction or strategy immediately jumps at you and she has an ability that’s open to interpretation. I’m excited to see what people come up with for Belbe, because she has an ability that I think will just explode once the right card is printed.
8: Eutropia the Twice-Favored - Theros: Beyond Death
There was not a lot of Theros: Beyond Death that really excited me, but Eutropia manages to do two very exciting things: (1) be deceptively powerful, and (2) be a Simic commander that is perfectly fair. Eutropia is a great and seriously underrated enchantress commander. Between green’s great ramp auras and blue’s removal suite of auras, you have a solid basis of answers that will trigger Eutropia and get you rolling. Mystic Subdual, Deep Freeze, Kasmina’s Transmutation, and Narcolepsy are draft chaff cards you’ll find in your store’s penny bin, and people will laugh at you for running them. However, Eutropia turns garbage auras into tempo swings and critical weapons that your opponents will not see coming. Best yet, you can build this deck for under $50 and still legitimately compete at a casual table. If you decide to scale it up with all the mono-green enchantresses, this deck moves from “holding its own” up to “oh no this is a problem” real quick. Eutropia is the enchantress commander we didn’t know we wanted, and the one you should fear when you see it across the table.
These two commanders don’t have “Partner With…” so you can technically pair them with any other partner, but I wanted to bunch them together because they’ve given us a new space for a tribe that’s close to my heart: Elves. I play Elves in three different formats (EDH, Pauper, & Modern) but have always been a little sad that there’s no real support for Golgari Elves in EDH, because really I just wanted an excuse to loop Shaman of the Pack over and over again. Sure, I could run Nath or Jarad, but they don't really care about Elves specifically. Miara and Numa give us the support we needed for a true Golgari Elves deck. Numa is a mana sink that grows your army, and Miara is a card draw engine in the command zone that simultaneously opens up real aristocrats support in Elf tribal. As someone who’s lost so many games to board wipes, it’s amazing to have Elf commanders who don’t immediately fold to a Wrath of God since Miara can at least refill your hand with more gas, not to mention giving you access to reanimation spells to get your army right back. If these two aren’t your flavor, swap them out for the literal elfball in Abomination of Llanowar and you still have a GB Elves commander that cares about Elves specifically and still enables aristocrat shenanigans. Elves players are a spoiled lot, but that doesn’t diminish what Miara, Numa, and Abomination of Llanowar have brought to the table. Elves as a tribe continue to be an embarrassment of riches.
6: Obosh, the Preypiercer - Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths
I thought that Burn as an archetype in EDH had finally gotten its long overdue renaissance last year when Torbran, Thane of Red Fell debuted in Throne of Eldraine. I was not expecting to get something better in Ikoria when we met Obosh, the Preypiercer. To be clear, I’m talking about running Obosh as the commander itself, not running it as a companion. Mono red burn is great under Torbran, but adding in black for Obosh gives the deck some much-needed card draw to keep the gas flowing. Doubling damage on odd-CMC cards is far more potent than Torbran's additional 2 damage. Plus, opening up to black also doubles your chances of finding efficient beaters that fit into Obosh’s odd-CMC requirement like Kederekt Parasite, Pestilent Spirit, and Syr Konrad the Grim. Obosh gave Burn players the best option they have in the command zone and I don’t think it’s even close. I love that the Burn archetype finally got its fair shake, and I’m really excited to see how Obosh fares going into the future.
5: Akiri, Fearless Voyager - Zendikar Rising
Boros got a good bit of love this year in the form of Akiri, Fearless Voyager. She gives Boros card draw in a way that still feels very Boros. In the immortal words of the prophet Tony Stark: “I have a plan: attack.” This not only strengthens Boros but also strengthens equipment Voltron decks as well. Their pitfalls before Akiri were protection against removal and lack of card draw. Akiri gives instant speed indestructibility which makes it easier to play out multiple threats like Balan, Wandering Knight and Kemba, Kha Regent and just swing out with all of them knowing that you’re drawing a card per opponent you attack and that you can protect them at instant speed for a single white. Feather was the beginning of the Boros renaissance in EDH, and Akiri is the next step in that path. You will see a lot more from Boros in the coming years and Akiri is definitely one of those signposts of things to come.
Haldan & Pako answered the question, “What if Etali was somehow more versatile?” Haldan & Pako came to us from the Arcane Maelstrom deck this year and they easily overshadowed the face commander Kalamax. I love everything about the design of these partners from both flavor and function perspective. These are partners that I’ve seen everywhere on all tables from casual to competitive. Decks that play their opponents' cards are great for adjusting to the power level of a table because you really are at the mercy of what your opponents bring. Haldan & Pako suffer from the unfortunate reality of being kinda unwieldy to play over webcam, but they’re on my shortlist to build once we can venture into the world again. This pairing is a hoot to build around and rewards players of all skill levels with fun, interactive gameplay that guarantees you won’t play the same game twice. This is the kind of chaos I can get behind, and I’ll never say no to the goodest of bois Pako.
3: Jared Carthalion, True Heir - Commander Legends
A new fighter has appeared, and they're challenging Queen Marchesa (long may she reign!) for the throne. Jared Carthalion, True Heir is a new Naya commander that gives us our second “monarchy matters” commander. Queen Marchesa has an open design that allows for a lot of interpretation, and at first glance it appears that Jared knows what he wants and has a clear path on how to get it. He acts as his own Vigor when you’re the monarch and gives a real home to cards like Stuffy Doll, Boros Reckoner, and Brash Taunter. I love Star of Extinction as a legit finisher in this deck to turn Jared into a one-shot kill. You can go Voltron (and that's likely where most people will go), but you're in colors that support pillow fort, prison/stax, or even just plain stompy. Despite Jared having an extremely unique ability that seems to push him in a big beats direction, his ability still hinges on you being The Monarch. Queen Marchesa showed us just how versatile a monarchy matters deck can be, and I see that same versatility with Jared. No matter what way you decide to go, Jared is making the combat step increasingly relevant in Commander and bringing a new challenger to the monarchy matters archetype that is more than welcome in the fold. I love what this design and I hope that I get to play a Jared vs Queen Marchesa game one day.
2: Anowon, the Ruin Thief - Zenidkar Rising Commander
This was one of my favorite decks that I put together this year. I’ve loved Rogues as a tribe for a while but I didn’t have a real commander for them or a payoff. Anowon shows up and it’s literally everything I wanted from a Rogue tribal commander. This is also just the style of Magic I like to play: creature combat combined with incidental card advantage and leveraging tempo plays. Rogues as a tribe had a scattered identity; some were unblockable, some had deathtouch, some had Curiosity effects built in, but there was no real cohesion. It almost felt like Rogue was a creature type that WotC slapped on any small-ish, combat-oriented creature in any of the Grixis colors that didn't neatly fall anywhere else. Anowon and Zendikar Rising finally gave us payoffs that immediately felt Rogue with combat focus and a mill theme. Think about it: rogues hit someone fast and hard, sift through their data (represented by milling), and steal their intel (represented by drawing cards if they mill creatures). The best thing is that while Rogues led by Anowon supports mill, it doesn’t have to be a mill deck. You can go reanimator, you can be a combo deck with Opposition Agent (who is a Rogue!) and Maralen hidden in the 99, you can play straight control, or focus on Rogue combat damage with stuff like Conspiracy and Arcane Adaptation. Rogues will continue to get new pieces nearly every set so you know that you’ll always be able to update, tinker, and adapt this deck to the ever-changing meta. Anowon was a slam dunk for flavor, function, and giving Rogues a solid identity that's fair and fun to play against. A+ recommended.
These two partners from the Ruthless Regiment deck in Commander 2020 were secretly a powerhouse that everyone forgot about; Trynn & Silvar are my partner pair top choice for commanders of 2020. Before Trynn & Silvar, there was nothing preventing us from throwing a bunch of Humans into a Kenrith deck and calling it tribal Humans, but it lacked something fundamentally...Human. But, once you give us a Human-focused sac outlet and a token generator sitting in the command zone, now we’ve got something to work with. When you look at Trynn & Silvar, you start to think you’re building towards a commander damage/Voltron win with the indestructible cat. You feed the cat Humans, he grows, and protects himself. Simple, right? However, you need a critical mass of Humans to really leverage Silvar and once you really start digging, you realize that this deck operates on a few different axis. That free, instant speed sac outlet on Silvar encourages some level of aristocrat synergy into the deck with popular aristocrat payoffs Judith, the Scourge Diva; Syr Konrad, the Grim, Zulaport Cutthroat (all Humans!), and newcomer Bastion of Remembrance (which produces a Human Soldier token for Silvar to eat!). Additionally, you get the Human lords from Ikoria with Jirina Kudro (the face card of Ruthless Regiment), her father General Kudro of Drannith, Sanctuary Lockdown, the controversial Rick, Steadfast Leader from Secret Lair: The Walking Dead, and honorary Human “lord” Mirror Entity. Suddenly, a go-wide aggro plan becomes a real possibility for Trynn & Silvar. On yet another axis, you’re sacking a lot of creatures anyway so maybe you want something like Whisper, Blood Liturgist; Doomed Necromancer; or Alesha, Who Smiles At Death to get a little reanimation going. Trynn produces Human tokens, so you can also include Thraben Doomsayer, Hanweir Militia Captain, and Westvale Abbey to support a token subtheme that also adds Humans to the board. Finally, take a look at some of the phenomenal hatebears that Humans have to offer: Thalia, Guardian of Thraben; Thalia, Heretic Cathar; Kambal, Consul of Allocation; Containment Priest; Mother of Runes; Drannith Magistrate; Tithe Taker; Grand Abolisher; and the list just goes on. Trynn & Silvar allow you to play tribal, hatebears, Voltron, aggro, tokens, and aristocrats all in the same deck and it plays them all very well! You can never count this deck out because it can just pivot to a different strategy and if built correctly can absolutely win without either commander ever hitting the battlefield. Trynn & Silvar are an absolute home run and my pick for top commanders of 2020!
How wrong am I? Who are your top commanders of this year? Let me know! I’m @DanteInformal on Twitter and Instagram, or you can tweet @IntoThe99 on Twitter/Insta and yell at them for allowing me to write for the site. Please like, tweet, favorite, share, subscribe and click all the buttons everywhere. Have a great holiday season!