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Top 10 Commander Cards from 2023

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2024. It feels weird to write that, but it's a good day to start getting into the habit. I'm sure I'll accidentally get it wrong a half dozen times in the next week or so.

This is the time of year where content creators take a look back at the best new cards from the previous year. I had planned to share a mix of old cards that I rediscovered and new cards from 2023, but you don't need me to wax poetic about winning a game with Jedit Ojanen of Efrava and Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth. I could fill an entire column about my love of old cards like Tombstone Stairwell, but that isn't the challenge before me today.

Today I'm going to share my top 10 list of new cards from 2023. Actually, I'm going to share TWO top 10 lists, but the first will be brief. The problem is that my own top 10 list of new cards from the past year won't do a good job of representing the actual best new cards in the format. Most of us aren't constantly trying to win every game and optimize every deck. Some of us do that, but I try to find a balance between casual and competitive. I play fun cards. I play bad cards. I also play very, very good cards, and I sometimes feel bad for playing them because I don't think it's that interesting to just grab the best new cardboard with the goal of maximizing my win percentage.

Still, the best cards are the best cards so before I launch into my personal top ten, let's take a look at the objectively best cards of 2023. I expect this list will not match any other content creator's top 10 list, but hopefully between the two, you'll come away with a good sense of the cards that impacted our format this past year.

An Objective Top 10 EDH Cards of 2023

Are you ready? I'm going to fly through these 10 cards pretty quick.

Honorable Mention goes to Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, because no card encapsulates the sad slide into ridiculousness that Commander is going through in the "Universes Beyond" era better than Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. Hey - this is my list and if you don't like it you can...

10. Get Lost. It's a flexible white instant speed removal spell that leaves behind a couple of map tokens. Removal is a key to winning games and this spell can hit a creature, enchantment or planeswalker.

9. Tishana's Tidebinder. No activated abilities for you! No triggered abilities for you! No soup for you! It's a decent answer to Thassa's Oracle and a way to answer a problem permanent with activated or triggered abilities.

8. Horn of Gondor. It's a Horn that reminds me of Krenko, Mob Boss. It makes Humans. If you can untap it and activate it even a few times and you're playing Humans, you should be able to swing with a pretty big army.

7. Roaming Throne. This creature type focused trigger doubler is going to be gas for certain decks, but will do very little for other decks. This removal magnet even has ward 2 and a 4/4 body!

6. Etali, Primal Conqueror. What happens if we glue a Blightsteel Colossus onto the back of Etali, Primal Storm, with a few minor tweaks so it's a different card? Players die. That's what happens.

5. Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines. Elesh Mom. She's staxy. She doubles your ETBs. She may not be ban worthy but an alarming number of casuals were asking for a ban when she was spoiled.

4. Up the Beanstalk. Banned in Modern. It's a cheap enchantment that draws you cards in a format where we often play high mana spells. What's not to love?

3. Boromir, Warden of the Tower. Nice Force of Will you've got in your hand. With Boromir in play, you'll have to pay full price for it, as any "free" spell will be get countered. You can even sacrifice him to make your creatures indestructible!

2. Orcish Bowmasters. In any game where players are drawing extra cards, this Orc Archer is going to put in work clearing the board of small creatures. It's also got flash and will even help amass an Orc Army token. You'll love having it on your side of the field but you'll hate to see it across the table from you.

1. The One Ring. It's indestructible. It protects you. It draws you cards at the cost of life. EDH is a format where we start at 40 life so that life loss isn't much of a problem. The One Ring is a powerhouse and can put in a ton of work. If you opened the right one you could have sold it for $2.64 Million dollars.

How did I do? Did I mostly hit upon the biggest spells of the year? If there are obvious misses, don't worry - they might be in my "personal" top 10 list below.

Whether you love the insane mix of IPs that Dinosaurs on a Spaceship represents, or you are saddened by Wizards' endless corporate greed - perfectly encapsulated by The One Ring - you can't say it hasn't been a really interesting year in Magic.

The cards listed above might be a list of the heavy hitters of 2023, but there's a chance you haven't been playing or seeing these cards in your games. I've seen some of them, and I've played some of them, but they aren't my personal top picks.

My Personal Top 10 of 2023

When you play at a range of power levels from low all the way up to cEDH, you see and play all kinds of cards. This list is of cards that I've seen and played in my own games this year. They may not be quite as powerful as the ones listed above, but each of them has impacted my experience of the format and has earned a place on my personal top 10 list.

Honorable Mention

I have to give an honorable mention to the two new mono-Red burn commanders, Imodane the Pyrohammer and Ojer Axonil, Deepest Might.

These two legendary creatures gave mono-red burn some exciting new options. Burn is still not the best strategy in EDH, but I love that we have new toys to play with. I don't know if either of them will supplant Purphoros, God of the Forge if you want to burn out a table, but it's been fun trying these guys out this year.

You can read those here:

10. Delighted Halfling

Delighted Halfling

This delightful mana dork can tap for any color and will make your commander or any other legendary spell uncounterable. It barely edged out Kami of Whispered Hopes and Poison Dart Frog, both of which are strong additions to the range of mana dorks available to us in Green.

All three of these mana dorks have impacted my games, with Kami of Whispered Hopes being particularly strong in my Raggadragga, Goreguts Boss deck. Delighted Halfling won her spot over Kami and that adorable Dart Frog simply because of how happy she looks. I have a soft spot for cards with art that warms the soul, and Halfling is nothing if not delightful to look at.

9. Bill the Pony

Bill the Pony

Bill the Pony is an unassuming little horse who creates two Food tokens when it enters the battlefield. You can sacrifice a Food and until end of turn, target creature you control deals combat damage equal to its toughness rather than its power. A Bill the Pony deck is all about instant speed toughness boosts and killing players with voltron butt damage.

This is probably the most unexpected card on my list, but my Bill the Pony column ended up being quite widely read. The fact that the column was titled "Bill the Murder Pony" probably helped. I got the chance to watch a friend play my Bill the Pony list on Tabletop Simulator and saw someone get murdered by Bill after a series of pump spells and a lot of surprise and amusement. I don't think Bill won the game, but it was a real delight to see him in action.

Read my July 3rd Bill the Pony column here.

8. Me, the Immortal

Me, the Immortal

I felt an obligation to include a card from the Doctor Who set, and I could think of no better choice than our new Temur Skullbriar: Me, the Immortal. She not only keeps her counters when she changes zones, she can also give herself a +1/+1, first strike, vigilance, or menace counter when you go to combat. Just make sure she doesn't get bounced to your hand or shuffled into your library.

I put Me, the Immortal together for a Yankee Swap at our LGS this holiday season and it ended up being one of the top picks, getting traded for multiple times. I never got the chance to play with or against the deck but I love this new take on an old voltron commander and I hope I get to see her in action.

Read my October 23rd Me, the Immortal column here.

7. Last March of the Ents

Last March of the Ents

This eight-mana sorcery can't be countered, can draw you a boatload of cards, and might just give you a huge army if you end up with a bunch of creatures in your hand. When players say that eight mana should probably win you the game, this is what they're talking about.

I played this in my short-lived Lord of the Rings Treefolk deck last summer and I currently have this in Raggadragga. It's a lot of fun to resolve and every once in a while it ends up being enough to set you up for the win. You need to start with a big creature on the field for it to really put in work. If that makes it a "win more" card, all I can say is that winning more is fun!

6. Faerie Mastermind

Faerie Mastermind

This flying Faerie Rogue will have you draw a card whenever an opponent draws their second card each turn. It already feels like he's been in the format forever, as he and last year's Ledger Shredder have become staples in mid and high-powered Blue decks and probably even see some cEDH play.

It's hard to identify a single game where Faerie Mastermind played a pivotal role, but I ended up running him in nearly every one of my blue decks and I was never sad to draw him. I'm not great at keeping track of triggers, but it's not unheard of for Faerie Mastermind to draw as many cards in a casual game's turn cycle as Mystic Remora or Rhystic Study. I won't pretend Faerie Mastermind is the equal of either of those powerhouse enchantments, but it's still a great card and if you're not running it, you probably should.

5. Urtet, Remnant of Memnarch

Urtet, Remnant of Memnarch

I've been a fan of the Myr creature type for years and even had a Karona, False God deck built around Myr. It had long been a sore spot for me that there was no good 5 color Myr commander, but in 2023 that all changed with Urtet, Remnant of Memnarch.

This commander rewards you for playing Myr, encourages you to go wide by making Myr tokens and has a built-in ability to pump them up. I've successfully won games by pairing Urtet with All Will Be One, a Red enchantment that pushes out damage when you put counters on permanents or players. Urtet isn't super powerful, and you can definitely get blown out by an overloaded Vandalblast, but I'm really happy that we now have a viable Five-Color Myr commander in the format.

Read my February 6th Urtet column here.

4. Elrond, Master of Healing

Elrond, Master of Healing

I built and played a bunch of Lord of the Rings commanders and only one of them is still together. Not only is it still sleeved up, but it has become one of my favorite mid-powered decks. It's a fun build that won't overpower a table but should give me a decent chance at winning.

Elrond puts counters on creatures when you scry. This pairs up really nicely with a ton of cards, from the card draw engine Fathom Mage, to creatures with the Devour keyword like Mycoloth and Bloodspore Thrinax. I haven't tuned this list up with Ivy Lane Denizen combo yet, but it's been a deck I keep coming back to and expect to keep together for a while.

Read my July 17th Elrond column here.

3. Heliod the Radiant Dawn

Heliod, the Radiant Dawn

While I enjoy low- and mid-powered games, I've always had a soft spot for decks that are incredibly explosive. Biding my time until I can launch into a ridiculous turn where I cast a ton of spells, draw a mess of cards, and sometimes even win the game, is every bit as much fun as playing out creatures and smashing them together.

Heliod, the Radiant Dawn can flip into Heliod, the Warped Eclipse, a Phyrexian God that lets you cast spells as though they had flash. Spells you cast cost 1 less for each card your opponents have drawn this turn. This deck was so effective that I actually had to cut Approach of the Second Sun out of the list because it made it too easy to win games. Wheeling the table again and again and saving a ridiculous amount of mana on your spells is some of the most fun I've had in Magic. Sometimes you wheel a tablemate into an answer, but that risk is well worth the reward.

Read my April 10th Heliod column here.

2. Mirkwood Bats

Mirkwood Bats

Mirkwood Bats is probably going to be one of the best cards from this point forwards in any deck in Black that's creating and/or sacrificing tokens. We are now firmly in the "Treasure Era" of Magic, so the number of decks that are creating and sacrificing tokens willy-nilly is simply enormous. Those tokens don't have to be creatures, though they certainly can be.

I've long been a fan of Tombstone Stairwell, and in the right deck that old enchantment can quickly kill the table with Mirkwood Bats on the field. I've also won with a graveyard deck by attacking with Kessig Cagebreakers by creating a mess of 2/2 Wolf tokens. Just creating the wolves gave me enough life loss from Mirkwood Bats. This card is going to be a staple in certain decks for a long time and should probably always be removed as soon as you see it. Nobody playing Mirkwood Bats is up to any good.

1. Beseech the Mirror

Beseech the Mirror

Three Black mana is a pretty serious commitment to that color, but if you're in the right deck this card is amazing. You get to tutor for a card and exile it, and if you bargained the spell and the card you tutored for is four mana or less, you get to cast it without paying its mana cost. Most tutors just put a card into your hand, but Beseech the Mirror actually casts it!

I've used this to grab Mirkwood Bats and Tombstone Stairwell, and someday hope to use this to finally nail down the Mortal Combat win that I've been chasing for years. The fact that this is at Sorcery speed is probably the only limiting factor, but it's still a fantastic spell that belongs in any black deck and nearly any two-colored deck that is in black.

Final Thoughts

Some of my personal top 10 picks could easily have been included in my "Objective Top 10 Cards of 2023". It should come as no surprise that a lot of my personal picks were cards that I wrote about this year. Churning out a column every week and doing my best to play a lot of those decks in paper or on Tabletop Simulator tends to expose me to a lot of new cards and new commanders.

I hope my personal disdain for having spaceships, sonic screwdrivers, transforming robots and video game characters all mixed up into what was once a game with a strong medieval fantasy theme hasn't tainted my writing too much. I dread the eventual introduction of Thomas the Tank Engine, the X-Men, or the cast of Grey's Anatomy to our format through the endless cash-grab of Universes Beyond, but I still love this game.

I genuinely don't want to "yuck your yum" about Universes Beyond Magic cards. I'll probably even laugh when in some future year you're playing your Friends deck and you flash in "Chandler Bing, Witty Apartment Mate" and you happily quip "Could a surprise blocker BE any less convenient for you right now???" (RIP Matthew Perry, by the way - taken too soon!)

Looking back at 2023 it was a really interesting year with a lot of really interesting cards added to our format. With the 2024 Fallout and Assassin's Creed sets on the way and a number of genuinely odd sets from within the Magic IP, our format is just going to get weirder and weirder. Cards that bring the flavor of a murder mystery or an old time western may someday seem normal, but I'm expecting another year of having Commander feel more and more bizarre.

The best thing about Commander is and always has been that we can play what we want.

That means that old curmudgeons like me won't ever be forced to play Magic's version of Jesse James or The Lone Ranger. I can keep my Fallout side quests on my PC and as far away from my deck collection as possible. I can always choose to play older commanders like Multani, Maro Sorcerer or I can decide to try out whatever crazy nonsense they dream up with in the future.

Nonsense can be exhausting, but it can also be a lot of fun! Here's to hoping we can each still find the fun we want in Commander in 2024, because it will be there waiting for us.

Thanks for reading and I'll see you next week!

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