MTG Commanders 2023: The Best Commander From Each Set This Year
Magic: The Gathering moves at a rapid pace these days. We have more sets hitting shelves throughout the year than ever before. And each release is packed to the brim with different products and unique versions, and then it's on to the next best thing. That said, as we move closer to the end of 2023, I want to look back - Particularly at the best new commanders of 2023.
I'll be going through each set released in 23 and picking the best/most popular commander from the set. All sets (so far) from this year will be fair game. However, I won't be making a pick from reprint sets like Dominaria and Shadows Over Innistrad remastered. With that out of the way, let's jump into the most popular commanders from 2023.
The Most Popular Commander From Each Set (So Far) Of 2023
The past 11 months have been eventful for Magic: The Gathering. We've had some of the most successful sets this year... And some of the worst sets of all time. Moving in chronological order of release, up first, we have Phyrexia: All Will Be One, up to Doctor Who. Moving chronologically, let's kick things off with All Will Be One.
Phyrexia: All Will Be One
Urtet, Remnant of Memnarch came from the ONE commander precons and not the main set. But don't let that fool you; it generated some significant buzz when spoiled. And rightly so. It's a spicy, five-mana Myr tribal commander that does everything you want and then some.
First, it puts Myr onto the board - Whenever you cast a Myr, you create a 1/1 Myr. Doubling the number of bodies you get for your tribe is enormous. Next, Urtet untaps all your Myr at the beginning of combat on your turn, including himself. So, anything with a good activated ability that requires you to tap your creature (, for example) can be used twice each turn or used, and you can still attack with it.
Speaking of attacking, Urtet can put three +1/+1 counters on all your Myr by paying WUBRG and tapping. Three counters on your entire board is enormous, and the fact that he untaps himself makes it even better, as you can use it twice each turn! So, even your 1/1s will be 7/7s.
Atraxa is from the main March of the Machine set and is a close second to Urtet. And is probably the most popular non-precon commander. She has a massive 7/7 body with flying, vigilance, deathtouch, and lifelink. If that wasn't enough, when she enters the battlefield, you reveal the top 10 cards of your library and put one card of each card type from among them into your hand.
March of the Machine
The most popular commander from March of the Machine is Omnath, Locust of All. Unlike the Omnaths we've seen, this version has all five colors. However, the black pip is phyrexian mana and can be paid with life instead. From a lore/flavor perspective, this is a really cool concept.
As for the card itself, it's potent in a unique way. First off, you don't lose your unused mana. Instead, it converts to black mana, and Omnath stores it. Banking your mana is huge! And Omnath can quickly bank a ton of black mana. It has to be black mana, but x spells like Torrent of Hailfire and Villianous Wealth don't care what color you're using for the bulk of the spell. Making X spells a viable direction for the deck.
And that's only half of what Omnath does. At the start of your first main phase, you get to look at the top card of your library. If it has three or more colored mana symbols, you can reveal it, you get three mana in any combination of colors and put the card into your hand. If it doesn't, or you choose not to reveal it, you still put it into your hand. So, you get some card advantage each turn either way.
If the spell does have three or more colored mana symbols, you get three free mana to help cast it or other spells you may have in hand. Can't use the mana? No problem, Omnath stores it for you! Omnath fun is fun, and being in WUBRG (and wanting colored mana symbols) means the deck gets to play a lot of fun/good cards like Agagorn, the Uniter,, , and more.
Thalia and the Gitrog monster also comes from March of the Machine and is quite popular. There's a lot to like, and I would say that it's the most popular "two-creature pair" card from the set. The combination of deathtouch and first strike makes blocking the card a nightmare for opponents.
Overall, it's a fun commander to build/play. Dropping extra lands ramps pilots into their spells and supports landfall strategies. As well as casting lands from your graveyard. Next, it hates on opponents by making all their stuff enter tapped, which further increases your favorable attacks.
Lastly, you can sacrifice creatures or lands to draw a card. Who doesn't love aristocrats? And the g,w,b color combination is perfect for producing a ton of sac fodder. Another thing that adds to the playability of this card is that it can easily be built to various power levels. For example, you can go lands matter or aristocrats and have a pretty friendly build. Or you could lean fully into hatebears and be quite oppressive.
March of the Machine: The Aftermath
March of the Machine: The Aftermath wasn't a great set. In fact, it was a bad set, and it didn't have too many great cards. However, Narset, Enlightened Exile is an exception. It's very powerful! Right off the rip, it gives all your creatures prowess. This is nothing to scoff at and can lead to some enormous creatures for the Narset player.
The really spicy part is the attack trigger, though. When she attacks, you can exile a noncreature, nonland card with mana value less than Narset’s power from any graveyard and copy it. Then, cast that card for free. Free spells are always good, and being able to snag spells from any player is excellent.
There are a ton of ways to pump Narset's power and toughness up as well as create favorable attacking situations - Pump spells (on top of prowess triggers), equipment, auras, and anthems all work well. And with access to every player's previously cast spells, you'll never have a lack of spells to cast.
Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-Earth
From the least popular of the year to the most popular. The LOTR set, Tales of Middle-Earth, was the most significant success in the game's history. Its success was primarily due to the 001/001 One Ring card, but the popular IP produced several powerful commanders as well. The most popular from the set is the dark lord himself,.
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He's in the Grixis color combination, and everything about him is fun. Of course, he's a beast from a stat point of view - A six-mana 7/6 is pretty solid. He can protect himself via Ward by sacrificing a legendary creature or artifact. Whenever any opponent casts a spell, you'll amass 1 Orcs. If you've never played with/or against this, let me tell you, this triggers a lot - Even removing the dark lord will make an army or grow the one already there.
Whenever your army damages an opponent, the ring will tempt you. Here's the helper card that shows what happens as the ring tempts you:
The more the ring tempts you, the more of these abilities you give your ring bearer. And even though wearing the ring is supposed to wear you down over time, in-game, it's all upside! We've been through three blocks of text on this commander, and we're still not done. As a matter of fact, we've saved the best for last.
Whenever the rind tempts you, you may discard your hand. And if you do, you draw four cards. Sauron really does it all, and playing a "wheels" strategy in this color combination is a lot of fun. Plus, any LOTR fan has to love playing with Sauron and the ring in tandem.
Aragorn, despite all the controversy, quickly became one of the set's most popular creatures to build around in EDH. Why? Well, he only makes every other spell in your deck automatically a little better. Are you casting a ? Make a 1/1. Ramping with ? Give a creature +4/+4. on an opposing threat? Scry 2. Have a free for playing . You get the point.
Where Aragorn really gets out of hand is when you cast multi-colored spells. Take, for example. Not only do you get the effect of the charm, but you also get to pump a creature by +4/+4, create a 1/1 token, and deal three damage. And this is true for every spell you cast with your commander in play - Lots of value and fun to be had just playing simple magic.
Commander Masters was in between March of The Machines and LOTR in terms of popularity. What do I mean by that? Well, the set was very hyped when announced, and it felt like it would be huge. That said, as the actual cards became spoiled, much of the excitement quickly dissipated, and many players were disappointed overall.
Still, the commander precons for the set were a redeeming factor for many. After some time to digest them,has proven to be the most popular of the batch. And I can see why. Commander players love big, powerful spells, and casting stuff for little two no mana. Zhul does both of these quite well.
He gives all the colorless spells you cast from your hand double cascade. So, anytime you play a big, colorless bomb that costs seven or more mana, you're going to get two free spells that cost less. Less than the minimum seven can be pretty terrifying, too. If you play a, you can cascade into some big, nasty stuff.
Casting the biggest, scariest things at the table is always fun - Casting the biggest thing at the table and getting two more fatties to go along with it is even better.
Wilds of Eldraine
Aside from being the most played commander from Wilds of Eldraine, I think Eriette is one of the most popular commanders of the year. It uses auras in a somewhat unique way. You put them on your opponent's creatures, and then they can't attack you or a planeswalker you control. Not only does this protect you from danger, but it ensures it's going at your rivals. And they'll have whatever the aura is giving them as well.
This is not only a fun way to play a commander game (for the pilot and the other players), but it's also very effective. And that's only the first half. You'll also drain your opponents (and gain life) at the end of your turns equal to the number of auras you control. So, essentially, you're playing a "you guys have fun duking it out" game while you slowly drain everyone out of the game. Eriette is a 10/10 commander if you ask me, and I recommend anyone interested try it.
The Doctor Who set hasn't been out long at all. So, perhaps which commanders are the most popular will shift in time. For now, The Tenth Doctor is the talk of the town. Not only is David Tennant's character one of the most beloved doctors, but the card is awesome. Remember when I said EDH players like to cast big spells for free or at a reduced cost? Well, that's precisely the appeal here.
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In typical Doctor Who fashions, The Tenth Doctor plays around with time and lets you suspend big spells you usually wouldn't be able to—allowing you to cast even your biggest cards for free after a three-turn delay. Or for seven mana, he can Timey-Wimey them out right then and there by time traveling three times.
Casting big spells for cheap is always fun. And this commander is a considerable flavor win for any Doctor Who fan.
In conclusion, the sets of 2023 have produced many great, fun commanders. Some of them are versatile; others have a lot of raw power. A few others come from universes beyond sets, where there's added nostalgia and fun added to the cards. We still have a few months of 2023 and a few more sets to drop this year. So, as these others drop, I'll add them to the list.
What do you think of my picks? And what is your favorite commander from 2023?