Ho ho ho! In the spirit of the season, this week I’m counting down the top 5 Christmas Commanders: those Legendary Creatures who prefer to give gifts to your opponents rather than beatdowns. Step inside to see which Commander does the best impression of Santa Claus.
Before we get into the list, it’s probably best that I lay out the criteria. Because Magic is a game of open combat, it’s going to be tough to find a Commander that encourages “peace on Earth and goodwill towards all” while spreading holiday cheer. But hey, we might be able to (hint: we will). Because of that, most of what we’re going to look at is “How good is the present that this Commander gives?”.
At the same time though, we aren’t looking for gifts that have a drawback. That directly rules out some good gift givers, such as Maralen of the Mornsong (who knows exactly what you want for Christmas, but makes you pay for your present yourself). We want our Commander’s giving to be its own reward.
With those holly jolly thoughts in mind, let’s start the list!
Coming in at number 5 is one of Magic’s most famous gift givers, Zedruu. The minotaur monk is the most versatile Santa in all of Magic, able to give your opponent anything from a wondrous holiday Enchantment to a loyal Planeswalking best friend. What holds Zedruu back from being the best approximation to Kris Kringle are three things:
- Often, her gifts are traps. Just like your funny uncle who keeps taping a fart machine and some socks in the same overused box, year after year after year, Zedruu’s often out for her own amusement more than your enjoyment.
- Zedruu’s a known re-gifter. She often uses something herself for awhile, and then gives it away when she’s done with it. Zedruu is that person at your office Christmas party who shows up with a re-wrapped box of half-eaten chocolates and says, “Oops, my mistake,” when you both know full well that there’s been no mistake.
- Zedruu directly benefits from the gifts she gives. You know how some people give gifts just to feel good about themselves, or they give a gift just because they’re hoping to get something in return? At her worst, that’s Zedruu.
Still, Zedruu has to make the list, if only because her potential for gift giving is the absolute greatest. She’s like Tim Allen at the start of The Santa Clause. I know she can turn it around before the end of the movie, if only the elves can break through to her.
In a two-way tie for fourth place, Edric and Gahiji both give your opponents great gifts. An attack boost or extra cards go a long way to helping out those in need.
What keeps these two this high up on the list is that their gifts require combat, which is decidedly un-Christmaslike. Much like that episode of The Office where Michael brings an iPod for the White Elephant gift exchange, your opponents will be at each others’ throats trying to lay claim to the extra cards that Edric provides or the extra power that Gahiji’s handing out. Also, these Commanders’ gifts are sometimes most helpful to those who are already in the lead, as they’re often the only ones who can afford to attack and reap the benefits. Christmas is about helping those in need, and these two Santas need to keep that in mind when they hit the table.
If you were going to force me to pick one over the other to break this tie, I’d have to pick Gahiji, even though Edric probably gives better gifts. Gahiji looks like he could be some kind of holiday beast, and his card is Christmas colors, and those facts nudge him ahead of Edric on this list specifically.
Kami’s one of the most straightforward Santas in all of Magic. Your turn starts, you draw an extra card. It’s a simple gift, and a good one. He loses points for lack of creativity and personal touch, but he stays in the running because an extra card is just such a good gift for all Commander players. It’s like a tray of Christmas cookies or a Target gift card. It’s not the exact thing you had on your list, but you know you’ll use it. You’ll also notice that the Kami benefits you, but, in true holiday fashion, he gives cards to your opponent first.
To seal the deal, he hands all these extra cards out with a semi-creepy smile, which is pure Santa to me.
Kynaios and Tiro make it this far up on the list because the gift they give is flexible. For opponents who like to ramp, Kynaios and Tiro provide an extra land drop. For those who don’t have any extra lands, or just value cards in hand more, the Therosian kings allow them to draw a card. I used the gift card analogy already with Kami of the Crescent Moon, but it applies here as well. Kynaios and Tiro want you to have an extra land or an extra card, whichever one is more appealing to you. It’s this extra thought that sneaks them into second place.
Of course, like Zedruu, Kynaios and Tiro also benefit from their own gift. It’s less of an issue here, as it’s less likely that this gift giving has dire consequences for the recipient, but it’s something to be aware of, and it definitely stops these guys from being the top Santas in all of Magic. That title goes to…
Bet you weren’t expecting that, huh?
So listen, this is probably the most Santa-like creature in all of Magic. Gwafa Hazid literally buys gifts for your opponents’ creatures, and then those creatures don’t fight anymore. You know how we were looking for creatures that encouraged “peace on Earth and goodwill towards all” at the top of this article? Gwafa’s got it covered.
While the on-card flavor might be that Gwafa is bribing these creatures, it doesn’t take much of an imagination to think of ‘ol Gwafa with a Santa hat on and a sack of Bantian toys on his back, handing out Christmas cheer. I’m tempted to get a nice alter of Gwafa with a Santa hat and a beard, with those beasts and wagons in the back of his art turned into reindeer and sleighs.
So yeah, this Azorius rogue is the closest thing Magic has to a Santa Claus. Well, either that or Mark Rosewater. I’ll catch you after the holidays for an updated U/R Delver deck tech. Until then, may your days be merry and bright!