Browse > Home / Strategy / Articles / Commander 2018: Ranking the Decks

Commander 2018: Ranking the Decks

We got the full spoiler and complete deck lists for Commander 2018 on Friday, and so far the reaction has been mixed. While the set undoubtedly has a lot of sweet new cards, the general feeling is that the reprints are a bit lacking. The truth is probably somewhere in between. While the Commander 2018 decks might not be among the strongest in the series, they do have some spicy new Commanders and interesting new cards, but rather than trying to place Commander 2018 into the context of past Commander releases, our goal today is simple: figure out which Commander 2018 deck is best.

While everyone could just buy every Commander 2018 deck in Magical Christmas Land, considering that the MSRP increased to $40 this year, not everyone has $160 to spend on preconstructed decks, no matter how sweet they may be. If you only have $40 in your Magic budget, which deck should you buy? For this, we'll try to be as objective as possible—while the Bant deck is my personal favorite because it draws a lot of cards, drawing a lot of cards isn't a very good criterion for ranking the decks. Instead, we'll turn to 10 categories and rank each Commander 2018 deck from first to worst. A first-place ranking gives a deck four points, with second in a category being worth three, third two, and last just a single point. Then, after going through all 10 categories, we can tally up the scores and see which Commander 2018 deck really is the best! Oh yeah, one last thing: for the rest of the article, rather than calling the decks by their proper names, we'll be going with their colors which are shorter and easier to type (as a refersher, Esper is Subjective Reality headed by Aminatou, the Fateshifter, Bant is Adaptive Enchantment headed by Estrid, the Masked, Jund is Nature's Vengeance with Lord Windgrace and Izzet is Exquisite Invention with Saheeli, the Gifted as the facecard). Take a gander at the decklists, and then we'll jump into the rankings!

#10: Most Value

C18—Most Value
Rank Deck Value
#4 Jund $79.80
#3 Bant $100.27
#2 Izzet $101.62
#1 Esper $114.70

Pricing Commander 2018 is tricky. While most of the cards are listed for sale on TCGplayer, their prices are extremely inflated thanks to the lack of sellers, leaving us in a situation where TCG mid is twice as much as some other reputable vendors. As such, to come up with a deck price, I used TCG mid for the reprinted cards but Card Kingdom to price the new cards, lowering the price a bit compared to just just TCG-mid pricing. 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Unlike past years, where much of the value of the decks was tied to reprints, Commander 2018 is all about the new cards, which pushes the Esper deck to the top of the list by a decent margin, thanks mostly to Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow being the most expensive card in the set but also some other solid-value cards, including Sower of Discord, Geode Golem, and Varina, Lich Queen

As for right now, the value of the Commander 2018 decks is actually higher than that of Commander 2017, but since most of the price is tied up in new cards (which, no matter what price you use, are inflated due to presale hype), expect a big drop in value over coming months once the cards actually hit the market. Still, the total deck value is pretty reasonable at the moment, with the average value at $99.10.

#9: Best Planeswalker Commanders

C18—Best Planeswalker Commanders
Rank Card Deck
#4 Aminatou, the Fateshifter Esper
#3 Saheeli, the Gifted Izzet
#2 Lord Windgrace Jund
#1 Estrid, the Masked Bant

Ranking the "legal as your commander" planeswalkers is pretty subjective, but I'll do my best to justify the rankings. In general, this ranking is my guess at how often each planeswalker will see play as a Commander, although I'm sure each of these cards will show up in the 99 of various on-theme decks as well.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Aminatou, the Fateshifter isn't a bad card—none of the "legal as your commander" planeswalkers are straight-out bad—but it does come in at the bottom of our ranking because none of its abilities are all that powerful. In general, looting a card back to the top of your deck is worse than discarding a card (since you can't take advantage of any graveyard synergies), which means the +1 is only powerful with a very narrow subset of cards (things like Miracles). Meanwhile, the 1 can combo with Felidar Guardian, but you need an extra piece for this combo to actually do anything (something like Altar of the Brood to take advantage of infinite enters-the-battlefield triggers). Finally, the ultimate isn't even good all the time—if you are winning and have a decent board, you might want to keep your own permanents rather than take your opponent's, especially since Aminatou, the Fateshifter is more about synergy than raw power, so your cards will likely be more valuable to your deck than your opponent's cards. All around, this makes Aminatou, the Fateshifter a rough combo of narrow and not especially powerful, placing her at the bottom of our list.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Saheeli, the Gifted is a fine commander, with her ability to add a bunch of mana with her second +1 being especially scary, but she suffers from the fact that there are a bunch of artifact-based Commanders available, including the extremely powerful Breya, Etherium Shaper, so being "fine" might not be enough to pick Saheeli, the Gifted as your Commander over other options.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Lord Windgrace combines a solid card-drawing +2 with a solid ramping 3 with a fairly high loyalty, making it a good value card. While cards like The Gitrog Monster and Ramunap Excavator can help to further support the Cat planeswalker, the Jund precon deck unfortunately wasn't as heavy on the "lands matter" theme as many players expected, which might make Lord Windgrace more of a good value card than a build-around commander.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Estrid, the Masked tops our list of best commander planeswalkers thanks to her ability to be a fun value planeswalker in a casual Commander deck but also a degenerate combo commander in a more competitive deck. While just enchanting things for value is a fine, fun way to play Estrid, the Masked, things can get out of control quickly if you start playing cards like Overgrowth and Fertile Ground so that Estrid's +2 acts like a massive ramp spell, and then The Chain Veil (perhaps enchanted with a Mask aura thanks to Estrid's 1) give you an easy way to activate your Estrid, the Masked an infinite number of times, potentially making infinite mana by untapping your lands and eventually winning with her Replenish ultimate. The combination of being good in both competitive and casual Commander decks is more than enough for Estrid, the Masked to beat out the competition and come in at the top of our planeswalker list!

#8: Best Land Value

C18—Land Value
Rank Deck Value
#4 Bant $4.07
#3 Izzet $6.93
#2 Jund $7.00
#1 Esper $8.03

When it comes to building a Commander collection, lands and artifacts are some of the most important cards that you can own, since they fit into a bunch of different decks. Unfortunately, the lands of Commander 2018 in general are pretty horrible. Each deck gets Forge of Heroes, which might be the worst "made for Commander" land we've had in the history of the series, since it's narrow and doesn't help fix your mana. Thankfully, every deck comes with Command Tower as well, which is the single most played land in the entire format and a card that you'll never be unhappy to have in your Commander collection.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

On the other hand, almost no valuable lands were reprinted in Commander 2018. While bounce lands and trilands are certainly playable in the format, at this point, they have been reprinted so many times they are very accessible and cheap. Otherwise, there were no rare dual lands reprinted in the set. In fact, by my count, Mosswort Bridge is the only rare reprinted land at all. As such, while the mana base is fine if you are a brand-new Commander player, if you already have a Commander collection of any size at all, you probably already have all of the lands that Commander 2018 has to offer.

#7: Best Backup (New) Commanders

C18—Best Backup Commanders
Rank Deck Cards
#4 Jund Gyrus, Waker of Corpses, Xantcha, Sleeper Agent, Thantis, the Warweaver
#3 Bant Tuvasa the Sunlit, Kestia, the Cultivator, Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle
#2 Esper Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow, Varina, Lich Queen, Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign
#1 Izzet Tawnos, Urza's Apprentice, Varchild, Betrayer of Kjeldor, Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer

Best backup commanders is another fairly subjective category, especially since each deck gets three backup legends this year to support their planeswalker face card. Further complicating matters is that there are a lot of sweet new legends in Commander 2018, which means there isn't really a lot separating the decks. As such, this is partly my own personal opinion, although I did my best to be subjective.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00


At the bottom of our list is the Jund deck, which has one super-spicy and unique (but probably not very competitive) commander in Xantcha, Sleeper Agent (make infinite mana and kill someone by drawing cards!) and two uninspired legends. Thantis, the Warweaver is somewhat interesting as a Jund Spiders commander, although as a creature, it's mostly just a big creature that is likely to get you killed if you're not prepared by forcing opponents to attack. Meanwhile, Gyrus, Waker of Corpses is the least exciting legend from the entire set. While it's a fine card and scales throughout the game, there are a ton of graveyard-centric / reanimation decks in Commander, and it seems unlikely that Gyrus, Waker of Corpses will beat out most of the pre-existing options outside of something like Jund Hydra tribal (and then, it's not even that good with many Hydras since they are X-creatures, which won't work with the reanimation ability).

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

The Bant deck has one of the sweetest Commanders in the set in Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle, which is a fine leader for a ramp deck, sea creature tribal, or some sort of sweet UG spellslinger deck, being a double-ramp spell on Turn 4 and eventually a finisher, killing an opponent with commander damage in just two attacks (or one, with the help of something like Berserk). Meanwhile, the other two commanders are solid in specific decks. Kestia, the Cultivator is a Bident of Thassa that you'll always have access to if it's your commander but does require some work. It's sweet to have a leader for enchantment creature tribal though. Finally, while I have no idea why Tuvasa the Sunlit is a Merfolk, the Vedurant Enchantress / Yavimaya Enchantress hybrid is a great option if you're looking to play a Bogles-style deck in Commander.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow is likely the most powerful commander in Commander 2018. While there aren't enough Ninjas in Magic to make full-on tribal, being able to cheat Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow into play with commander ninjutsu for just two mana repeatably makes it a bit like the infamously broken Derevi, Empyrial Tactician. Plus, drawing an extra card whenever Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow deals damage is extremely powerful (and even better if you have additional Ninjas). This doesn't even include the ability to drain all of your opponents for huge chunks of damage. Even discounting casual multiplayer Commander, Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow might have some potential in competitive (1v1) Commander and even Legacy as well. Meanwhile, Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign is one of the most interesting build-around commanders in the set, facilitating a brand-new archetype in odd-converted-mana-cost tribal (while still being fine on its own, with the double evasion making it pretty easy to draw an extra card each turn if you can't cast that card for free), while Varina, Lich Queen finally unites all of the colors of Zombies, so if you are looking to add the white Amonkhet Zombies to the blue Innistrad Zombies on the traditional black Zombie base, she's the best (and only on-tribe) option for your commander.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Topping our list of backup commanders is the Izzet deck, which boasts two janky but interesting build-around commanders and a new Panharmonicon variant. Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer allows for a weird new "big token" strategy, which should be interesting. Varchild, Betrayer of Kjeldor could be fun in some sort of group slug deck where you give your opponent tokens but in a harmful manner (maybe with something like Trespasser's Curse on the battlefield), although she might be better in the 99, since mono-red is pretty limiting. Meanwhile, Tawnos, Urza's Apprentice is a Panharmonicon for artifacts that costs a bit of mana but can copy activated abilities as well, which of course means it's the Commander I'm most excited to build around. While Varchild, Betrayer of Kjeldor brings down the grade a bit, the uniqueness of the Izzet commanders is enough to push it past Esper and onto the top of our list.

#6: Best Artifact Cards

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

C18—Best Artifact Cards
Rank Deck Cards
#4 (tie) Bant Sol Ring
#4 (tie) Jund Sol Ring
#2 Esper Sol Ring, Dimir Signet, Azorius Signet, Mind Stone, Commander's Sphere
#1 Izzet Sol Ring, Swiftfoot Boots, Izzet Signet, Mimic Vat, Commander's Sphere, Duplicant, Soul of New Phyrexia, Unwinding Clock

Colorless cards are like lands—they fit into so many Commander decks that they form the backbone of a good Commander collection. Unfortunately, much like with lands, Commander 2018 is extremely disappointing in terms of good artifacts. While the artifact-themed Izzet deck predictably comes out on top and the Esper deck at least has a couple of playable mana rocks, it's downright shocking to see that the only good artifact in the Jund and Bant decks is Sol Ring, which has been included in every Commander deck since the start of the series. Compare this to last year, when in Commander 2017, even the deck with the worst artifacts had Nevinyrral's Disk and the set as a whole had Skullclamp, Door of Destinies, Well of Lost Dreams, Lightning Greaves, and Blade of the Bloodchief (among others)—enough good artifacts that I didn't even bother to include Signets and other playable mana rocks on the artifact list—and the artifacts from Commander 2018 look even more disappointing in comparison.

#5: Best New Non-Legendary Cards

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

C18—New Non-Legendary Cards
Rank Deck Cards
#4 Jund  Windgrace's Judgment, Fury Storm, Reality Scramble, Turntimber Sower
#3 Bant  Estrid's Invocation, Myth Unbound, Ravenous Slime, Genesis Storm, Heavenly Blademaster
#2 Esper Magus of the Balance, Boreas Charger, Geode Golem, Skull Storm, Entreat the Dead.
#1 Izzet Retrofitter Foundry, Endless Atlas, Saheeli's Directive, Treasure Nabber, Echo Storm, Geode Golem, Coveted Jewel, Ancient Stone Idol.

Ranking the best non-legendary new cards is pretty simple: we just count up the value and figure out which deck has the most value. While this isn't an exact science (since expensive reprints will limit the price of new cards, which might be hurting the Bant deck a bit, since it has the highest-value reprints), this system works pretty well in general. Here, we have a clear winner with the Izzet deck, which not only has the highest number of new non-legendary cards worth $2 or more but also the single most expensive card in Treasure Nabber. Meanwhile, the Jund deck once again comes in at the bottom of our list, with Windgrace's Judgment being the only real card of note. 

#4: Best Reprint Commanders

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

C18—Best Reprint Commanders 
Rank Deck Cards
#4  Esper None
#3 Izzet Bosh, Iron Golem
#2 Jund Budoka Gardener
#1 Bant Daxos of Meletis, Bruna, Light of Alabaster

Last year, Commander 2017 had more than 20 reprinted legends, giving players who purchased a deck endless opportunities to upgrade and customize. Commander 2018 has a total of four. Last year, the worst deck in terms of reprinted commanders was the Vampire deck, with two reprinted legends in Anowon, the Ruin Sage and Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief. This year, the best deck for reprinted commanders is the Bant deck, with two reprinted legends in Daxos of Meletis and Bruna, Light of Alabaster. While the four reprinted legends are fairly heavily played, with both Bruna, Light of Alabaster and Daxos of Meletis in the top eight UW commanders on EDHREC, Bosh, Iron Golem as the 19th most played red commander according to EDHREC, andBudoka Gardener just barely cracking the top 50 for green commanders, no amount of playability can overcome the lack of numbers compared to previous years.

#3: Best Reprints

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

C18—Best Reprints
Rank Deck Cards Value
#4 Jund Avenger of Zendikar, Budoka Gardener, Sol Ring $11.93
#3 Esper Silent-Blade Oni, Entreat the Angels, Sol Ring $12.48
#2 Izzet Blasphemous Act, Mimic Vat, Unwinding Clock, Duplicant, Sol Ring $18.17
#1 Bant Hydra Omnivore, Enchantress's Presence, Bear Umbra, Sol Ring $21.44

Perhaps the biggest complaint from the community about Commander 2018 is the lack of good reprints. At first, I was skeptical that the reprints were really as bad as everyone was making it sound, and I still think boycotting Commander 2018 because the reprints aren't good enough is an absurd idea on its face. This being said, after digging into the numbers, the reprints in the set are pretty disappointing. If you count up all of the reprints valued at $3 or more, you'll see that Commander 2018 averages four a deck, while Commander 2017 had 6.4 and Commander 2016 had more than eight, which means the number of valuable reprints has been cut in half in two years (while MSRP increased from $35 to $40 at the same time). 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

The bigger winner this year is the Bant deck, which has the two most valuable reprints in Enchantress's Presence and Bear Umbra, both of which were $10–15 before reprinting and are now in the $7 range. These cards, combined with a couple other decent reprints, make the reprints of the Bant deck worth nearly twice as much as the Jund and Esper decks at the bottom of the list. The Izzet deck ranks a bit behind Bant, but more because of quantity rather than quality, with several reprints in the $3 to $5 range. 

This leaves us with a weird equation: if you're looking for the best reprints, Bant is the way to go, but none of the decks are especially exciting on the reprint front. In fact, if you add everything together, you'll find that the average Commander 2018 deck has $16 in reprints—less than half of last year, when the average Commander 2017 deck had more than $33 in reprint value. 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

While complaining about reprint value is fine and supported by the numbers, it's also important to keep things in perspective. I've seen some people asking for Snapcaster Mage and fetch lands in Commander decks, but that's not practical, and lacking super-high-end cards isn't the problem with Commander 2018. All the set needed was a couple Aura Shards / Phyrexian Metamorph / Rite of Replication-type cards per deck to solve the problem and flip the narrative surrounding the Commander 2018 decks.

#2: Best-out-of-the-Box Deck

C18—Best Out-of-the-Box Deck
Rank Deck
#4 Jund
#3 Esper
#2 Izzet
#1 Bant

This category is basically, "when we do Commander Clash featuring Commander 2018 decks, which deck do I think will win?" As far as I can tell, the decks basically break down into two tiers, with Izzet and Bant competing for the title of best-out-of-the-box deck, while Jund and Esper are pretty far behind, fighting it out in the loser's bracket. This basically boils down to Jund and Esper looking much less consistent and put together compared to the other two decks, although this might be (at least in part) because it's easier to build a cohesive artifact- or enchantment-themed deck than more abstract themes like "the top of your deck matters" or "lands matter." Here's a quick pros-and-cons list on the four decks.

Jund: Pros: Has a ton of ramp and can probably steal some wins by playing a huge creature quickly. Con: Pretty light on card draw outside of Lord Windgrace, so you'll have games where you ramp a bunch, play one or two threats that die, and then sit there empty-handed for a few turns while everyone else is playing Magic.

Esper: Pros: The miracles are extremely powerful if you can cast them for their miracle cost. Has a reasonable amount of ramp thanks to various mana rocks. Cons: Most of the deck's ways to manipulate the top of the deck are one-shot effects like Ponder and Portent, which might make the "top of your deck matters" theme inconsistent. 

Izzet: Pros: Can play big artifacts quickly thanks to Saheeli, the Gifted. Endless tokens allow for chump blocking to stay alive. A reasonable amount of card draw. Cons: A lot of synergy cards—the deck will struggle if you can't get multiple synergistic pieces on the battlefield at the same time.

Bant: Pros: Has a ton of synergy thanks to the enchantment theme. Nearly every card fits the theme. Thanks to various enchantress effects, it has perhaps the most card draw of any Commander 2018 deck. Cons: A lot of the cards in the deck aren't that powerful on their own. The deck has a frightening lack of ramp and will be prone to some clunky draws and slow starts.


#1: Most Upgradable

C18—Most Upgradable
Rank Deck
#4 Esper
#3 Jund
#2 Bant
#1 Izzet

Finally, our last category is most upgradable. As we've talked about before, you don't just buy a Commander deck to play it out of the box; you want to be able to use those cards to make other decks as well. As far as being upgradable, here are my basic thoughts on the decks.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Esper: Probably the easiest way to upgrade the Esper deck is to add in cards like Sensei's Divining Top and Scroll Rack to support the top-of-the-deck theme. Unfortunately, unlike artifacts, enchantments, and even ramp, there simply aren't that many "the top of your deck matters" cards in Magic, so there's only so far you can take the theme. Otherwise, you could forget about the top-of-your-deck plan and play a generic Esper control / good stuff strategy. 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Jund: With Jund, you have two main options: first, you can embrace the ramp theme, improve the finishers, and play a good-stuff / ramp deck. Second, you can try to focus on the light "lands matter" subtheme and play with Ramunap Excavator, The Gitrog Monster, Life from the Loam, and other cards based on getting lands in and out of your graveyard. 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Bant: Much like artifacts, there are a ton of enchantments in Magic, which means the Bant deck offers a ton of possibilities. You can add in hexproof creatures and play a Voltron- / Bogles-style deck, head toward enchantment creatures like Courser of Kruphix with Kestia, the Cultivator leading the way, or go all-in on comboing off with Estrid, the Masked and The Chain Veil. The only downside is that some of the most powerful enchantment cards (like Replenish or Serra's Sanctum) are older Reserved List cards, which can be pretty pricey.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Izzet: Izzet is on the top of our list for a very simple reason: there are a ton of good artifacts in Magic, so you have a ton of potential upgrades. Two of the easiest upgrade paths would be to head toward a big artifact / reanimator strategy with cards like Goblin Welder, Daretti, Scrap Savant, and other huge artifact finishers like Wurmcoil Engine, or play a token- / Thopter-themed deck with the help of cards like Sai, Master Thopterist, Pia and Kiran Nalaar, and friends.

Final Score

#4: Jund (17 points). Firsts: None. Worsts: Value, New Backup Commanders, Artifacts (tie), New Non-Legendary Cards, Reprints, Out-of-the-Box.

#3: Esper: (25 points): Firsts: Land Value, Value, Best Backup Commanders. Worsts: Upgradable, New Commanders, Planeswalker Commander.

#2: Bant  (27 points): Firsts: Out-of-the-Box, Reprints, Commander Reprints, Planeswalker Commander. Worsts: Artifacts (tie), Land Value.

#1: Izzet  (31 Points): Firsts: Upgradable, New Non-Legendary Cards, Artifacts, Backup Commanders. Worsts: None.

So, there you have it. According to our rankings, the Jund deck is not only the worst deck in Commander 2018 but the worst deck since I started these rankings with Commander 2016, scoring just 17 points (when the previous low was 23). Meanwhile, the Esper deck ranks poorly in terms of playability but does come out on tops in terms of value, which is a big consideration for some players. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the two top decks are the ones built around traditional themes: enchantments and artifacts. The Izzet deck managed a few firsts but comes out on top mostly because it managed to avoid being dead last in any category, scoring consistently in each group. Meanwhile, the Bant deck is supported by the best reprints, a cohesive theme, and a strong new planeswalker Commander but doesn't offer many Commander staples to add to your collection, thanks to poor lands and artifacts. 


Anyway, that's all for today. Which Commander 2018 deck are you most excited for? Which new card are you mostly looking to play or build around? What can Wizards do next year to avoid repeating some of the mistakes of Commander 2018? Let me know in the comments! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

More on MTGGoldfish ...

single scoop

Single Scoop: An Early Look at Standard Rogues

fish tank

The Fish Tank: Sweet and Spicy User Decks (September 13-19, 2020)

commander review

Commander Review: Zendikar Rising | Part 1 | White, Blue


Top 10 Modern Cards from Zendikar Rising

Next Article