2021s most unique commanders

2021’s Most Unique New Commanders

Scott Cullen Commander

2021 has been a ridiculous year for Commander, especially when it comes to legendary creatures. In the past twelve months alone, there have been a staggering 191 new legends introduced to the game! Some have become incredibly popular, and a few have already become some of the most popular commanders in the format.

However, there are a plethora of commanders that don’t see much play. They may be less obviously powerful, they may be limited in power level, or they might not have the right support. As a self-professed Commander hipster, these are always the most intriguing commanders to me. They often grow to become the most interesting and unique decks, and ones that other players remember for a long time after the game has finished.

These are what I believe to be the ten most unique commanders from 2021. The criteria for a commander to make the list was:

  • They had to have been printed for the first time in 2021
  • They must have fewer than 1000 decks under their name on EDHREC

Kardur, Doomscourge

Forced combat is something that’s loved by many players, much to the chagrin of the rest of us. Kardur, Doomscourge is a fantastic commander for wreaking havoc on board states, forcing opponents to make suboptimal attacks and blocks, and sowing the seeds of chaos across the entire table. It’s also surprisingly easy to reuse the ETB ability, between recursion spells like Undying Evil and creatures like Skull Collector.

Kardur only has 930 decks to its name on EDHREC, but it’s truly a force to be reckoned with. If you’re looking for a political deck with a mean and aggressive streak, this Demon Berserker is the right one for you.

Grist, the Hunger Tide

grist the hunger titde

This creature, er, planeswalker, is certainly the most unique commander this year in terms of design. Grist is the first and only planeswalker with a static ability that turns it into a creature everywhere other than the battlefield. Sheldon Menery from the Commander Rules Committee even had to make a statement on Grist’s eligibility as a commander, which was then added as a note on Grist’s Scryfall page.

As for Grist’s playability and use as a commander, it’s one of the primary choices for Insect Tribal (alongside Blex, Vexing Pest). The creature type has a lot of self-mill, graveyard matters, and sacrifice themes, which happen to be some of the strongest things to do in Golgari colors. You can fit a number of powerful staples into the 99 while supporting a fun and underplayed tribe.

Octavia, Living Thesis

Octavia, Living Thesis first appeared as a support creature in the Prismari Performance precon, and it has garnered a small cult following of brewers since, including me. Many people became enamored with Octavia when they learned about the relevance of the number “8” to this card: her first name is eight letters long, her full name has eight syllables, there are eight “8”s on the card, and there are eight lines of text in the text box.

Aside from all the quirky mathematical instances on the card, Octavia is also a phenomenal Spellslinger commander. She’s one of my current favorites, and when paired with tiny value creatures like Looter il-Kor and a critical mass of cantrips, she can command a battlefield with ease. Her magecraft trigger isn’t limited to targeting your own creatures, either, so you can cause problems on purpose by playing around with your opponents’ combat math!

Slogurk, the Overslime

We all know what we’re getting into when we shuffle up a Simic commander: value, and lots of it. This is no different with Slogurk, the Overslime, but it does so in such an interesting way, while breaking the mold by providing a decent clock. Slogurk excels as the head of a Lands deck, with self-mill, discard, and sacrifice all helping to advance the game plan.

This is another commander that’s a part of my own arsenal, so I’m happy to share my list. While the deck can run the usual blue-green cycle of endless value generation, it can also play a tight, low-resource game. Slogurk’s ability means you rarely have to pay the commander tax, and the velocity at which the deck bins lands makes Slogurk a fast threat. Plus, you get some nice recursion if Slogurk is ever removed.

The biggest draw to this legendary Ooze is its flexibility as a commander. Whether you want a grindly Lands deck, a low-resource tempo deck, or a graveyard-heavy build, Slogurk, the Overslime will have you covered.

Lier, Disciple of the Drowned

Lier, Disciple of the Drowned is a real underdog. It has just over 500 decks to its name according to EDHREC, but its power has yet to be fully realized.

I wrote a piece involving Lier just after Midnight Hunt previews, where I positioned the card at the head of a “counterless” control deck. However, Lier’s true power lies not in control, but in its combo potential. Giving every spell flashback is unbelievably powerful, and when paired with cards like High Tide, Turnabout, and Time Stretch, you can start to see how easily this monstrous wizard could be broken. There’s a lot of competition for mono-blue commanders – Urza, Orvar, and Emry all come to mind – but this is one that could surprise us in the future.

Oswald Fiddlebender

oswald fiddlebender

While Birthing Pod-style decks are nothing new in Commander, a mono-white one certainly is. Oswald Fiddlebender is one of the best mono-white commanders from this year, and I don’t think we’ve seen its full potential yet. In fact, Oswald even has the potential to replace Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle as the white artifact deck of choice.

Oswald is similar to Teshar in a few ways: they both care about artifacts, they’re both graveyard-related, and they run many of the same pieces. But while Teshar wants redundancy in its pieces, Oswald provides the same consistency while acting as a potent toolbox. You could easily include the combo pieces necessary for Teshar loops, while still having access to most of your deck at any stage of the game. This makes me think we’ll see much more of the Gnome Artificer as time goes on.

Aeve, Progenitor Ooze

Some players wanted a commander to helm an Ooze tribal deck, but I don’t think they were expecting it to have storm. Aeve, Progenitor Ooze is a bizarre commander that walks the line between thematic and off the wall, and with surprising results.

It’s rare enough to see storm as a keyword on green cards, let alone on a legendary creature. Aeve uses storm as both a payoff for casting several spells, and as a self-contained lord effect. The resulting Aeve decks feel both dangerous and casual; they can chain off spells with ease, while still functioning like any other quirky tribal deck. Commander Advisory Group member Rachel Weeks’ Aeve deck is perhaps the most well-known, and it’s truly a sight to behold!

Laelia, the Blade Reforged

While Prosper, Tome-Bound may have become the most popular exile-based commander this year, Laelia, the Blade Reforged holds a special place in my heart. It’s rare for red to get powerful value engines like this, let alone one that can also become a potent threat in record time. Laelia is heavily incentivized to attack, but can easily outgrow even the biggest blockers.

As I run this commander myself, I thought I’d add my own Laelia, the Blade Reforged list here for reference. It’s a budget build, and can easily stand up to a table of higher-power decks. In fact, Laelia is so powerful that I had to remove many cards that gave her hexproof or made her unblockable, to ensure she didn’t run away with most games!

Laelia can act as the primary threat in the deck, and she grows organically through red’s many impulse draw and flashback spells. This makes for a powerful midrange deck with a consistent source of pressure – one I’m sure your opponents won’t soon forget!

Mavinda, Students’ Advocate

mavinda Lower-Power Commander

White has plenty of value – you just have to be willing to build your deck around it. Mavinda, Students’ Advocate is one of those commanders, but thankfully, it’s a blast to play. The main plan with Mavinda is to load up on spells that target your own creatures, allowing you to play them again for value.

These targeted spells can come in the form of blink effects to reuse enter the battlefield abilities, protection spells to keep your threats in place, or even Bandage-like effects to draw more cards. While she’s not as powerful as her Boros counterpart, Feather, the Redeemed, Mavinda is still an underexplored and underrated option for white mages to try.

Rhoda, Geist Avenger & Timin, Youthful Geist

Tapping creatures always seems to be on the lower end of power, especially outside of Limited. However, if you’re looking for an interesting Voltron commander that can really keep a battlefield in check, Rhoda, Geist Avenger and Timin, Youthful Geist have your back.

Blue is stacked with tapping effects like Sleep and value generators like Verity Circle, so this style of battlefield control is much more viable than you’d think. Timin’s ability also triggers on each player’s combat step, so it effectively locks down the biggest attacker (or another opponent’s best blocker), while Rhoda gets incredible gains. If you couple all of that with massive card draw spells like Borrowing 100,000 Arrows or Theft of Dreams, you have a potent pairing in the command zone that can keep most decks at bay.

These were the ten most interesting commanders I came across this year. There were so many great choices for this list that I could have easily made it a top 20. I hope you’ve found a new commander or sparked some ideas for your next brew!

What do you think of this list? Are there any commanders I missed? I’d absolutely love to see them, so please show me over on Twitter! Happy brewing!