25 Underplayed Generals

Just about everyone who’s writing about Commander at some point does something akin to the “Top 10 Generals” list. You’ll find the same names popping up on pretty much all these lists, with little deviation – Sharuum the HegemonKaalia of the VastAnimar, Soul of ElementsJhoira of the GhituUril, the MiststalkerRafiq of the ManyZur the Enchanter, and Gaddock Teeg are names you’ll see over and over.

I’m not going to do one of these lists, because honestly? I can’t imagine anything I have to say on the subject can possibly add positively to the discourse. What I am going to do this week, however, is run down 25 generals that I believe have slipped under the radar.

What are the criteria by which I selected these 25? Well, simply put, personal taste. The sample of legendary creatures are those that have worthwhile abilities or characteristics, that have either been overshadowed by other generals, or just plain under-utilized. You won’t find the likes of Jedit Ojanen on this list, as awesome as his card art is. What you will find are legendary creatures who have little reason not to be run as general, but for various reasons aren’t. These are generals who, if you search a database, you will only find a couple of decklists for, as opposed to the dozens you will find for more popular dudes like Rhys the Redeemed.

So, without further ado, here’s 25 under-rated generals!

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Thelon of Havenwood: The poor Green-Black Thelon has been mostly overshadowed by Ghave, Guru of Spores, who does his job better in most ways. What Thelon does have going for him over Ghave is a cheaper casting cost, and a much smaller target painted on his back. If you want to go straight Thallid/Fungus Tribal, then he’s probably your guy. Thelon lends himself well to a Tokens strategy, from where you can either go Swarm Aggro, Control, or Combo.

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Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs: Kazuul is mainly a victim of his color; Mono-red is not terribly popular in the format. His ability is fairly unusual – Red doesn’t generally carry much in the way of taxing effects. I like the potential to use him in a “scratch my back” style of politics. You let an opponent hit you with a creature that doesn’t do much damage, but lets him draw a card or something, and you get an ogre token for it. He’s got other possibilities though – like Ogre Tribal, or some insane Pillow Fort deck that wants to punish those who attack you through red’s chaos effects.

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Melira, Sylvok Outcast: I would venture a guess as to why she’s not as popular in Commander as she is in Modern: her color identity limits her combo potential. Sure, you can’t sacrifice a Kitchen Finks infinite times with her as your general, but just think of the possibilities she possesses when paired with Cauldron of Souls! Certainly there has to be a deck possible that uses her to abuse cards like Woodfall PrimusPhyrexian HydraAboroth and Essence Warden.

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Lady Evangela: It must be the $20+ price tag that is scaring players off, because Lady Evangela is a strong general. She’s cheap to cast, gives access to three colors, and her ability fogs a single creature. She’s the best Pillow Fort general in Esper colors, and a strong contender in the field of Political and Control archetypes. It’s hard to believe she isn’t played more, though to be fair she shares the same colors as Sharuum the HegemonZur the Enchanter, Sen Triplets, and Merieke Ri Berit, so that probably has something to do with it.

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Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker: There is a type of card in Magic called a “Rattlesnake.” Rattlesnakes are those spells you want played in full view of your opponents in order to deter them from doing something, usually attacking you. Michiko Konda’s fangs are clear as day – you attack me, you sacrifice a permanent (on top of what I’m going to do to you that you DON’T see). Nonetheless, despite her clear usefulness, she hasn’t seen much action as general compared to other mono-white legends like Darien, King of Kjeldor and Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero.

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Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch: It could be because she just came out in Dragon’s Maze, but it appears that the Commander brewmasters of the world have very little interest in the Rakdos champion. You would think that with the number of creatures available that come into play with counters on them (via Unleash, Devour, Undying, and various other means) that there would be some crazy aggro decks out there with her at the helm.

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Ascendant Evincar: This guy would make an excellent Mono-Black control general. It’s like having a Night of Soul’s Betrayal in your Command Zone. For “mono black general,” he’s competing primarily with Xiahou Dun, the One-EyedMaga, Traitor to Mortals, and to a lesser degree, Kagemaro, First to Suffer. All have their merits, but I like Ascendant Evincar if my primary win condition is creature-based.

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Thromok the Insatiable: This guy was seriously hyped when he came out in Planechase 2012. Devour X? That had never been done before, and if you sacrifice 5 creatures on the way in, your general is a 25/25! As awesome as this sounds, unfortunately, Thromok runs up against some harsh realities in Commander – he has no other abilities. No trample or evasion, so his “instant-kill through general damage” is stopped by a 1/1 Saproling token. Nonetheless, I can’t help but envision a Doubling Season-powered nightmare deck full of hydras and tokens, with creatures capable of possessing +1/+1 counters in the triple digits.

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Adamaro, First to Desire: Adamaro is another victim of being mono-red, but for three mana, he possesses a potentially amazing power-to-cost ratio, making him a strong Voltron general. In a format where the prevalent wisdom is “no matter what, run Reliquary Tower,” certainly SOMEONE at the table has a hand full of cards. Admittedly, red’s options for putting cards in their opponents’ hands is limited, but there’s a good amount of equipment support available – so he’s got solid support for the Voltron plan.

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Halfdane: Halfdane is another “forgotten brother” in the family of Awesome Esper Generals. Running Halfdane as your general means that when it gets to your turn, you will at the very least be tied for the biggest creature on the board. This means he can support a variety of strategies – but if you’re wanting a thievery deck in Esper colors, then he should be at the top of the list.

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Patron of the Kitsune: Mono-white is not exactly short of options for a Lifegain general. You’ve got Rune-Tail, Kitsune AscendantAtalya, Samite MasterGerrard Capashen, and Kiyomaro, First to Stand to name a few. What Patron of the Kitsune offers is a reactive lifegain plan – allowing you to pursue something more akin to mono white control than “racing to eighty hojillion life for the win.”

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Tsabo Tavoc: He’s the Magic: the Gathering equivalent of Deathstroke the Terminator – he’s a general who specializes in killing other generals. He’s not very popular primarily because single-target destruction is not valued highly in the format. However, even having Tsabo in the Command Zone slows down the game – players don’t cast their generals until they have means of protecting them. This makes him valuable as a Control general.

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Ayumi, the Last Visitor: Historically, Legendary Landwalk has not been considered a good ability, because legendary lands are few and far between. However, with the changes in the Legendary rules with Magic 2014, Legendary Lands are becoming more popular, and Ayumi’s evasion ability is becoming more relevant. Even though she has 7 power for 5 mana, she is still overshadowed as a Voltron general by the mono-white Kemba, Kha Regent. So she’s never going to be top-tier – but she is a very playable general if you want something a little different.

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Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius: The Return to Ravnica version of the Izzet guild leader is generally considered weaker than its Guildpact version, Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind. Since you can run both versions in the same deck (and even have both in play at the same time), the Dracogenius usually loses the General slot to the Firemind. That being said, if you’re wanting to focus more on the burn aspect of a Blue-Red deck than the draw aspect, the Dracogenius is probably the better general.

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Masako the Humorless: I have a particular fondness for generals who “change the rules of the game,” and doubly so for those with Flash. Mono-white aggro is an archetype that has been largely unexplored in the Commander world, and I can think of no general better to experiment with than Masako. She allows you to attack all-out in the mid-game without regard for your own safety, then flash in whenever you’re under attack so you can still defend yourself. That, to me, seems solid.

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Rubinia Soulsinger: Bant is a strange color combination where Commander is concerned. Each Bant general lends itself almost exclusively to one particular archetype.Phelddagrif is the quintessential Group Hug commander. Jenara, Asura of War and Rafiq of the Many are pretty much exclusively Voltron generals. Angus Mackenzie is a Pillow Fort guy. Rubinia has the distinction of being Bant’s Thievery general, but white and green are not popular thievery colors. This tells me that players who are used to mono-blue and blue-black thievery decks won’t be prepared to fight against a Bant thievery deck.

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Kuon, Ogre Ascendant: Kuon often finds himself listed amongst the 99 cards of a Sacrifice Control deck, but rarely as the general. He’s usually overshadowed by Sheoldred, Whispering One and Anowan, the Ruin Sage. What I like about Kuon is his casting cost – he comes into play faster and gets the sacrifice engine going as quickly as turn 3 (barring some Dark Ritual shenangians) if you’ve done proper setup.

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Mishra, Artificer Prodigy: At first glance, it’s pretty obvious why Mishra isn’t popular in a singleton format. This is because people aren’t using him creatively. When tweaked for Commander, his ability might as well read, “whenever you cast an artifact spell, you may shuffle your library.” If you can’t make use of that, you’re not even trying (or at the very least don’t own a Sensei’s Divining Top.) Consider also creatures like Thada Adel, Acquisitor. “Oh, you have a Sol Ring in your library? Awesome, I’m gonna cast it. Then I’m going to grab my own out of my library and put it into play.” Look past the obvious, and Mishra can become amazing.

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Iname, Life Aspect: I would guess that Iname, Life Aspect’s low popularity is at least in small part due to players not understanding how his ability interacts with the Commander replacement effects. The good news is Iname’s ability only cares that you sent him to the Exile zone – not that he got there. So, it hits the graveyard. You choose to exile it, but it goes to the Command Zone instead. Nonetheless, you still get to put any number of Spirits from your graveyard into your hand. I’m sure there’s more than enough green Spirits to make this worthwhile.

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Boris Devilboon: Even I have to admit this card looks pretty weak. However, it also looks pretty fun to me. Some crazy brewer out there has to be able to do SOMETHING with a guy who produces Demon tokens. He wouldn’t be a bad general for a Demon tribal deck either, giving access to the Rakdos demons that mono-black can’t cast.

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Joven: You see the place in the background of his art? “Snarg’s House of Sin.” That’s the kind of art theme that just begs a deck to be built around it. Or, if you’re more interested in function than form, Joven is repeatable artifact destruction, in a format with plenty of non-creature artifacts. You can even play around with Liquimetal Coating to make him able to destroy any non-creature permanent. While he lacks the punch of larger creatures from better sets than Homelands, there seems like a great deal of untapped potential here.

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Borborygmos: Red-Green has a problem in the Commander format, and that problem is Jund. Pretty much anything you can do with Red-Green, you can do better by adding black. The Gruul guild leader is no exception to this unfortunate rule, and a 6/7 trampler for 7 is not exactly special in this format. Sure, he makes your creatures bigger whenever he connects with an opponents’ face, but this is a format where sweepers are popular. All is not lost though… think of him as a late-game puncher for Red-Green Aggro. Or perhaps paired with some Hydras?

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Skyfire Kirin: Red has a strange all-but exclusive mechanic, the ability to steal opponent’s creatures until end of turn. It’s become so ingrained in the color that spells likeTraitorous BloodTraitorous Instinct and Act of Treason are being printed at common. It’s the mechanic that was attached to red’s portion of the Primordial (Molten Primordial) cycle. Molten Primordial is considered the weakest of the cycle, and the entire “Treason” mechanic is not well-valued in any format, Commander included. I think, however, that Skyfire Kirin could make use of the mechanic properly as general, because it’s cheap to cast, and you can reliably make use of it through spirit and arcane spells. I think it’s worth brewing up.

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Sliver Legion: You won’t find nearly as many Sliver Legion decks on the ‘net as you will decks featuring the other two legendary slivers. This is a shame, because Sliver Legion is potentially one of the most explosive aggro generals in the game. It’s probably the cost of an efficient five-color manabase more than anything that scares people away from building a Legion deck. That, or not wanting to play aggro in a multiplayer format.

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Kaysa: Believe me, I totally get that mono green has no shortage of solid legendary creatures to fill the general slot. As an elf, she’s outclassed by the likes of Ezuri, Renegade Leader, and as a druid, she stands in the shadow of Seton, Krosan Protector. As a “green lord,” she’s in competition with Baru, Fist of Krosa. Nonetheless, she’s so versatile that I can’t believe she’s not played more. It’s a rare green deck that can’t use a Gaea’s Anthem out of the Command Zone.

4 thoughts on “25 Underplayed Generals

  1. Sorry about this not being posted yesterday, folks. The Labor Day holiday totally threw off my calendar sense. 🙂

  2. Mishra can also be used with effects that counter your artifact spells, such as Blood Funnel, and then they will go right to play from the graveyard at a discount.

  3. Ive always looked at Mishra and been like damm what can I do with this guy and make every body scratch their heads, your ideas for him were fantastic!

    Good article, you definitely took it the correct direction with the 25-untapped generals, I got to the bottom and went back to count that there were actually 25 because I was so interested that it actually felt less lol.

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