Heroes (and Monsters) of Ravnica

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The letter I!f you've been following Command Tower for the past few months you may have noticed something strange. Most articles and columns that focus on specific formats prominently feature decklists. It makes plenty of sense to share a decklist when you're talking about the features, matchups, interactions within, key cards of, and next developments for a deck.

For Commander, things are a little different.

Most Magic decks are either forty cards, for Limited (Draft and Sealed), or sixty cards, for your average Constructed format like Standard or Modern. You can play multiple copies of cards, and understanding the general sense of a deck is easier when we're considering twenty or so unique cards.

Commander decks typically pack sixty or more unique cards. Displaying them all simultaneously is difficult on the Internet.

Our weekly prompts typically ask for samples of six cards. While talking about six cards at a time is a way to apply a restriction for more creative discussions, it also avoids handling all at once the sixty or so cards we'll find for a Commander deck. Segmenting ideas in digestible bites makes complex things easier to understand, and I strongly disagree with anyone arguing that Commander is simple.

But today we're going to do something different.

One of the most common non-prompt emails I receive fits a general pattern:

Dear Adam,

Thanks for writing about Commander. It's my favorite format!

I wanted to ask, though, if you could share a decklist for {INSERT COMMANDER OF CHOICE HERE}? I'd really like to see what a deck for {COMMANDER} looks like.


Trying to gather, create, and show a decklist for every commander in Magic isn't possible for Command Tower. But taking some time to feature decks from the community is a great fit. While Return to Ravnica Block will be sticking around in Standard for another year, we'll also be turning our attention forward to Theros in the coming months. Before our visit to Ravnica begins to fade into memory I wanted to recap what we have as souvenirs.

This week, it's all about the commanders. Between Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash, and Dragon's Maze, we received twenty more options for commanders. Instead of rehashing what many of us know about all twenty, I asked you to provide a decklist for your favorite one. (Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius was a clear favorite among favorites.)

For each guild, there's a deck ready. Some are filled with familiar cards and powerful Commander staples. Others are creations that show you a different way to play. All of them were sent in by readers like you.

When you're ready, click on the guild of your choice to jump to a sample deck (or just keep scrolling down to see them all).


Lavinia of the Tenth is a proactive choice of commander. Locking down powerful Equipment, Planeswalkers, and small creatures can create order within the chaos of multiplayer. Cole provided a deck that maximized this potential:

Commander – Lavinia of the Tenth

Main Deck

99 cards

Adarkar Wastes
Azorius Chancery
Calciform Pools
Command Tower
Glacial Fortress
Halimar Depths
Hallowed Fountain
Lonely Sandbar
New Benalia
Nimbus Maze
15  Plains
Reliquary Tower
Seachrome Coast
Secluded Steppe
Sejiri Refuge
Thespian's Stage
Vivid Creek
Vivid Meadow

39 lands

Augury Owl
Cloudgoat Ranger
Cryptic Annelid
Deadeye Navigator
Deputy of Acquittals
Diluvian Primordial
Galepowder Mage
Glimmerpoint Stag
Intrepid Hero
Knight-Captain of Eos
Leonin Relic-Warder
Mistmeadow Witch
Myr Battlesphere
Nephalia Smuggler
Peregrine Drake
Phyrexian Ingester
Phyrexian Metamorph
Restoration Angel
Sakashima the Impostor
Sakashima's Student
Solemn Simulacrum
Soul Warden
Soul's Attendant
Sphinx of Uthuun
Stonehorn Dignitary
Vesuvan Shapeshifter

34 creatures

Azorius Signet
Cathars' Crusade
Conjurer's Closet
Darksteel Ingot
Faith's Fetters
Followed Footsteps
Ghostly Flicker
Mimic Vat
Momentary Blink
Otherworldly Journey
Path to Exile
Rite of Replication
Sol Ring
Spin into Myth
Swords to Plowshares
Telling Time
Turn to Mist
Vanish into Memory

25 other spells

Venser, the Sojourner

1 planeswalker

Lavinia of the Tenth

This is a blink deck that focuses on flickering cards such as Nevermaker to make an opponent never draw a new card again, Stonehorn Dignitary to never let an opponent have a combat phase, and Lavinia to detain all your opponent's small nonland permanents. I do have an infinite combo with Leonin Relic-Warder, Phyrexian Metamorph, and either Cathars' Crusade or Soul Warden/Soul's Attendant.

Unlike Isperia, Supreme Judge, Lavinia lends herself to a deck that wants to take control. Cole pulls no punches to fulfill the Azorius mission of applying the law.


Of all the guild mechanics, extort is the most impressive in multiplayer. Scaling with each opponent, extort gets better the more enemies you're facing down. Obzedat, Ghost Council may be more exciting for competitive play than Commander, but the colors it carries are far more fearsome in a group, as Andrus explains.

Commander – Obzedat, Ghost Council

I submit to you a deck that I have decided to call Long Suffering Surprise. It features Obzedat, recursion fun for the long game, and a lot of life drain, which actually resulted in an "Oops!" moment the first time I played it. I had only played extort in Sealed, and I did not realize the devastating level of life swing it could provide when playing against five folks. The cheaper ramp cards are the effective bridge to the higher end of the curve, all while powering extort.

I recently built a Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts Commander deck that focuses on draining opponents of their life. This take using Obzedat looks very different from mine, and digs into a broader range of cards. In other words, there's a lot more to the drain life theme than appears at first glance.


Copying creatures is a classic Commander tactic for blue. In a world of Dragons and fatties, those that cost less (Clone) work great. The new leader of the Dimir, Lazav, Dimir Mastermind, plays right into the copy-paste world of blue, and Chris jumped right into the action:

Commander – Lazav, Dimir Mastermind

Main Deck

99 cards

Darkslick Shores
Dimir Aqueduct
Dimir Guildgate
Dreadship Reef
Drowned Catacomb
Esper Panorama
Frost Marsh
12  Island
Jwar Isle Refuge
Nephalia Drownyard
Salt Marsh
11  Swamp
Tainted Isle
Underground River
Watery Grave

36 lands

Body Double
Cemetery Puca
Consuming Aberration
Dark Hatchling
Dimir Doppelganger
Dreamborn Muse
Evil Twin
Extractor Demon
Geralf's Mindcrusher
Havengul Lich
Hex Parasite
Higure, the Still Wind
Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
Jace's Archivist
Lord of the Void
Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker
Myr Battlesphere
Nightveil Specter
Ninja of the Deep Hours
Okiba-Gang Shinobi
Oona, Queen of the Fae
Phantasmal Image
Phyrexian Metamorph
Quicksilver Gargantuan
Sakashima the Impostor
Sakashima's Student
Silent-Blade Oni
Solemn Simulacrum
Sphinx Summoner
Szadek, Lord of Secrets
Vela the Night-Clad
Vesuvan Shapeshifter
Wrexial, the Risen Deep

39 creatures

Cackling Counterpart
Charcoal Diamond
Conjurer's Closet
Copy Artifact
Dimir Keyrune
Dimir Signet
Fact or Fiction
Forbidden Alchemy
Infinite Reflection
Life's Finale
Memory Erosion
Mind Funeral
Mind Grind
Minds Aglow
Mistvein Borderpost
Nemesis Trap
Nim Deathmantle
Rite of Replication
Shapeshifter's Marrow
Soul Ransom
Spirit Away
Stolen Identity
Underworld Connections

23 other spells

Jace, Architect of Thought

1 planeswalker

Lazav, Dimir Mastermind

My deck for the next column was created and designed when Return to Ravnica came out, using one of my favorite effects: cloning. In Commander, everyone plays big creatures, which I happily copy. Vela the Night-Clad was going to be the commander, but as Gatecrash released, Lazav became the obvious choice. I made a list that combined mill, Clones, and a few powerful creatures of my own. Additionally, I added Ninjas to be able to bounce my own Clones. This deck is a lot of fun to play in multiplayer and I look forward to seeing how it plays with the new legend rules.

Copy, kill, bounce, repeat. It's a solid foundation for blue-black to build on, and Lazav is uniquely positioned to benefit no matter how creatures end up in the graveyard. Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker can eat normal library with ease, but only Lazav can turn the best your opponents have into their worst nightmares.


It doesn't take a Dracogenius to figure out that the Izzet are a strange bunch. Trying every angle and cranking the power up as high it can go is par for the course. Michael took this to heart to build a deck that wins in a way you usually don't find in the format:

I've got a single deck I've played at present which uses a Ravnica-based Commander: A Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius deck called 99 Problems but the Attack Phase Izzet One of 'Em.

It's still a work in progress (Aren't they all?), but the basic underlying strategy is, in theory, to worry less about the attack phase and more about being able to chip away at opponents in other ways (such as "Tim"-type cards) combined with a bunch of counters and all-around fun red and blue disruption.

It's not quite control, and it's certainly not quite conventional. While our Melek, Izzet Paragon deck also went for an alternative theme, commanding with the power of Niv-Mizzet on your side is hard to turn down.


Sometimes, accidents happen. Unsigned emails, missing cards, and more have all come through in the feedback I ask for each week. This time, a Rakdos, Lord of Riots deck rolled in without a name and without explanation.

Commander – Rakdos, Lord of Riots

Main Deck

99 cards

Blood Crypt
Bojuka Bog
Command Tower
Dragonskull Summit
Ghost Quarter
Graven Cairns
13  Mountain
Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep
14  Swamp
Tainted Peak
Tectonic Edge
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

37 lands

Blood Speaker
Bloodgift Demon
Bogardan Hellkite
Chandra's Phoenix
Darksteel Colossus
Disciple of Bolas
Dread Cacodemon
Furyborn Hellkite
Heartless Hidetsugu
Hypnotic Specter
Kaervek the Merciless
Kargan Dragonlord
Knollspine Dragon
Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
Lobber Crew
Lord of the Void
Maga, Traitor to Mortals
Myojin of Infinite Rage
Myojin of Night's Reach
Nether Traitor
Ob Nixilis, the Fallen
Rune-Scarred Demon
Sire of Insanity
Solemn Simulacrum
Steel Hellkite
Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
Urabrask the Hidden
Vampire Nighthawk
Wurmcoil Engine

30 creatures

Blasphemous Act
Chaos Warp
Diabolic Revelation
Diabolic Tutor
Disaster Radius
Doom Blade
Go for the Throat
Honden of Infinite Rage
Honden of Night's Reach
Increasing Ambition
Lightning Bolt
Lightning Greaves
Mana Vault
Oblivion Stone
Phyrexian Arena
Rakdos Charm
Rakdos Signet
Red Sun's Zenith
Reforge the Soul
Sol Ring
Swiftfoot Boots
Talisman of Indulgence
Underworld Connections
Warstorm Surge
Wound Reflection

32 other spells

Rakdos, Lord of Riots

Fortunately, this deck needs little explanation. Demons, Dragons, and spells that cause damage to opponents works well with a commander who rewards for you doing just that. Discard and destruction follow quickly once Rakdos hits the table. Who needs words when the only thing you speak is pain?


Speaking of community decks, Melek wasn't the only legendary creature from Ravnica we built a deck around. One of our first projects was a Varolz, the Scar-Striped deck built from your combined submissions:

Commander – Varolz, the Scar-Striped

The recursion and sacrifice effects working in tandem provide plenty of power to anyone who wants to wield the Golgari, and all the details of how this deck works are just a click away.



If you enjoy the Gruul and playing to their strengths, you've tried your hand at raising an army of fatties to overrun the battlefield. It'd be easy to stop there, but the true Gruul among you know there's surprising depth to the colors of bloodrush. Johannes shares just how explosive Borborygmos Enraged can get:

Here's my Commander deck, led by the mighty land-flinging Borborygmos Enraged. The idea is simply to ramp up, get Borborygmos to stick on board, and start filling your hand and graveyard with lands to throw at your opponents. Deck plays like a very explosive combo deck but doesn't go infinite. There are some other win conditions beside Borborygmos, mainly Seismic Assault; Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle; and a couple of nasty creatures that can get huge and swing at things.

Yes, there's still smashing and crashing. But the real goal isn't to simply attack your opponents to death, but blow their life straight off the top. It's potent, surprising, and complex in interesting way. It's refined for the Gruul, but just as savage in every way.


The Boros are near and dear to my heart. When I opened Aurelia, the Warleader at the Gatecrash Prerelease I knew building a Commander deck for her wasn't far behind. Tony, too, appreciates the majesty that comes with dominating combat:

Commander – Aurelia, the Warleader

Main Deck

99 cards

Arid Mesa
Boros Garrison
Clifftop Retreat
Command Tower
Evolving Wilds
Flagstones of Trokair
Kor Haven
Mistveil Plains
Reflecting Pool
Rugged Prairie
Sacred Foundry
Scalding Tarn
Slayers' Stronghold
Strip Mine
Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion
Temple of the False God
Terramorphic Expanse
Windbrisk Heights
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills

33 lands

Angelic Skirmisher
Avacyn, Angel of Hope
Balefire Liege
Baneslayer Angel
Boros Reckoner
Exalted Angel
Firemane Avenger
Frontline Medic
Gisela, Blade of Goldnight
Godo, Bandit Warlord
Greater Gargadon
Hero of Bladehold
Leonin Shikari
Luminate Primordial
Mirran Crusader
Molten Primordial
Puresteel Paladin
Restoration Angel
Serra Ascendant
Solemn Simulacrum
Stoneforge Mystic
Stonehewer Giant
Sun Titan
Zealous Conscripts

25 creatures

Akroma's Memorial
Angelic Destiny
Assemble the Legion
Aura of Silence
Austere Command
Boros Charm
Boros Signet
Champion's Helm
Chaos Warp
Coalition Relic
Darksteel Ingot
Darksteel Plate
Enlightened Tutor
Gilded Lotus
Into the Core
Land Tax
Nim Deathmantle
Oblivion Ring
Path to Exile
Return to Dust
Sensei's Divining Top
Sol Ring
Steelshaper's Gift
Sword of Feast and Famine
Sword of Fire and Ice
Sword of Light and Shadow
Swords to Plowshares
True Conviction
Umezawa's Jitte
Warleader's Helix
Wear // Tear
Wheel of Fate
Wild Ricochet
Word of Seizing
Wrath of God

39 other spells

Ajani Vengeant
Elspeth, Knight-Errant

2 planeswalkers

Aurelia, the Warleader

This is my Aurelia, the Warleader Commander list. She is my favorite card in the block, and meets both my Spikey power level and my Timmy super-fun criteria. My play group is strong but fun, not a lot of combos or infinite loops. We play with strong cards and don't pull any punches. This combines the best aspects of white's board sweeps and spot removal, and red's speed and aggressive nature.

There was a Tajic, Blade of the Legion deck that came through and looked fairly similar too, since, well, attacking is awesome and doing it well works! The Boros mix battlefield-commanding power with the aggression and speed needed to make good clearing the way. Setting up situations where your army sweeps in after stymieing everyone else's is precisely how Aurelia herself would handle matters.


Gathering a disparate collection of tokens and rallying to one vision is what sets the Selesnya apart from everyone else. For them, it isn't about what you are so much as what you believe in, and JT's deck gives them a point to focus on:

JT didn't say anything about this Trostani, Selesnya's Voice deck, but it's obvious what's going to happen:

  • Make some tokens, any kind of tokens. As many kinds as possible.
  • Play Trostani, or some other token-increasing effect.
  • Swarm your enemies.
  • Profit mightily.

The variety and potential to surprise opponents with Bird, Beast, Wurm, Spirit, and other tokens is reason enough to consider slipping Emmara Tandris in here, but Trostani can do plenty without her.


When the Simic meet, things change. Growing creatures, drawing cards, and experimenting for the long payoff are all features of the green-and-blue guild. When you have a leader like Prime Speaker Zegana, it's little wonder why a deck full of card drawing would itself be a path to victory, and John explains:

My favorite Commander deck is all about card advantage. Most of the nonland cards in it either cantrip or generate extra cards, and my favorite win-con in the deck is drawing tons of cards while Psychosis Crawler is on the board. Prime Speaker Zegana is my commander.

The best part about strategies like John's is that if the "draws card to kill you" plan doesn't work out, you still have drawn plenty of cards to figure out a way anyway. It's a long-term strategy with short term payoffs—a perfectly Simic way to approach things.

The More the Merrier

There were many, many more decks sent in. Sharing ten is already a difficult challenge, since there are hundreds of unique cards included, making it impossible to break each down into small pieces. What ties each together is obvious: Following the theme your choice of commander provides leads to fun decks. Whether it's a powerhouse pile everyone will target or a one-in-a-blue-moon contraption that makes everyone laugh, the variety of Commander decks you can create is vast.

Next week, we'll dive into those small bites to reveal what you felt the world of Return to Ravnica block left us with. After that, it's a very special week I want to have your help on. The prompt for it is a bit more challenging, but I trust you'll come through as always.

What are the five greatest cards for Commander in Magic's history?

  • Feedback via email
  • 100-word limit to answer the question
  • One paragraph explanation for all the picks
  • Name and email required (non-personal information to be used in column)

Beyond just Return to Ravnica and going as far back at the very first Magic cards printed, I'm looking for the cards you feel are absolutely indispensable for Commander. This can be any card: legendary creatures, mana fixing, awesome spells, or anything else that goes into a Commander deck.

And unlike the usual samples of feedback, I'm going to tabulate every response. Everyone's answers will count, similar to the Krenko, Mob Moss breakdown I shared this time last year. If you want to be super helpful, group cycles of cards together and format your answer like my ballot of five:

Sol Ring
Command Tower
Volrath's Stronghold
Darksteel Ingot
Dual Lands

Sol Ring and Darksteel Ingot can serve as the cornerstones of artifact mana in any deck, while Command Tower and dual lands are what allow any legendary creature to have its time to shine. Volrath's Stronghold is among my most favorite cards on any given day, and it's among my all-time top picks for cards that both support creatures and combo well with many other cards.

No numbers or bullets, and a quick paragraph of one-liners at the end, will help me quickly compile all of the responses and filter down to great explanations of the cards.

Stop back next week when our exit from Ravnica is complete. See you then!

Adam Styborski
Adam Styborski
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Adam "Stybs" Styborski joined in 2009 to take over Serious Fun, before switching over to begin Command Tower in 2013. With his passion for Commander and community inclusion, you'll find plenty of opportunity each week to share your thoughts about everyone's favorite casual format.

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