Shower Thoughts: My Top Ten Commanders of 2023 So Far

Benjamin Levin • July 11, 2023

Thalia and The Gitrog Monster | Illustrated by PINDURSKI
Hidetsugu and Kairi | Illustrated by chiri*

Welcome to another installment of Shower Thoughts, the budget Commander series that proves that Magic isn't pay-to-win. We're only halfway through 2023, but it's already been an extraordinary year for Commander. Wizards of the Coast has released a whooping 224 new commanders for us to brew with, and I'm going to give you my picks for the top ten commanders of 2023 so far that you should check out. I'm only going to give my thoughts on cards I've played with and/or against. Let me know down below if I missed your favorite commander and make sure to vote at the end of the article for next week's deck tech. Without further ado, let's get into it!

#10 - Yargle and Multani

I played against this deck during a Commander FNM at my local game store a few weeks ago and loved it. It was a Golgari Fling deck where they used cards like Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord and Essence Harvest to deal massive damage to everyone at the cost of their commander, and in order to avoid commander tax, they included Reanimate, Animate Dead, and Necromancy to raise the Frog Spirit from the dead, or they cheated death altogether with Kaya's Ghostform, Malakir Rebirth, and Feign Death. Although it's not a deck I want to play against every game night, it is fun to see occasionally, which is why it's number ten.

Key cards to include: Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord, Disciple of Bolas, Kaya's Ghostform, Return of the Wildspeaker, Essence Harvest

#09 - Vishgraz, the Doomhive

Poison is a controversial mechanic in Commander because it can knock players out with only ten counters. It's true poison is powerful, but I think people have an irrational fear of it, and Vishgraz helped my playgroup overcome that fear. Vishgraz wants players on the edge of getting ten poison counters to maximize their buff. The corrupted mechanic from Phyrexia: All Will Be One reinforces this playstyle. Thankfully, Vishgraz costs five mana, so removing them a few times makes them prohibitively expensive to recast. Often, players view Vishgraz as the archenemy due to their fear of poison, but despite that, it's coming in at number nine thanks to its unique approach to poison counters.

Key cards to include: Ichor Rats, Evolution Sage, Infectious Inquiry, Swiftfoot Boots, Tyvar's Stand

#08 - Gimbal, Gremlin Prodigy

If I was ranking cards on flavor text, Gimbal would easily be in the top three. Gimbal is my favorite precon from March of the Machine due to its unique strategy. Token strategies often focus creating multiples of a single token, such as Treasure or Food, but Gimbal turns that idea on its head by caring about the number of unique artifact tokens. This quickly became a home for cards that make these unique artifact tokens that aren't found anywhere else: my Svella, Ice Shaper, for her Icy Manaliths; Toggo, Goblin Weaponsmith, for his Rocks; and Kibo, Uktabi Prince, for his Bananas, all found a home in this deck. Also, can Wizards please make a Banana token? Using those creatures along with Echo Storm, Saheeli's Artistry, and Stolen Identity, you can create a wide array of artifact tokens to buff your Gremlin army. Gimbal is number eight on my list thanks to its unique strategy but the board state this Gremlin creates can be difficult to track.

Key cards to include: Toggo, Goblin Weaponsmith, Svella, Ice Shaper, Clown Car, Volo, Itinerant Scholar, Sarinth Greatwurm

#07 - Graaz, Unstoppable Juggernaut

During late night sessions, I often crave a deck that takes the same amount of brain power I use when playing mono-green Tron, which is to say very little. I'm not apologizing to you Tron players either, you know I'm right. Graaz takes feeble artifact creatures, like Ornithopter or Memnite, from nothing and turns them into behemoths that your opponents will want to remove. Or he'll take already massive threats, like a Construct token, Etched Champion, or Nettlecyst Germ token, into game-ending threats. The biggest issue I've found with Graaz is their mana cost. Having an eight-mana commander that is hyper-dependent on mana rocks for ramp makes the deck easy to disrupt, which is why I've found Shimmer Myr, Liberator, Urza's Battlethopter, and Vedalken Orrery to be key cards in the deck. They allow you to play Graaz at instant speed as a combat trick instead of having it sit out, waiting to eat some removal. It comes in at number seven thanks to its fun ability, but the linear playstyle and easily disrupted gameplan hold it back from being higher on this list.

Key cards to include: Ornithopter, Shimmer Myr, Liberator, Urza's Battlethopter, Semblance Anvil, Orochi Hatchery

#06 - Aragorn, the Uniter

Even though The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth just came out, Aragorn, and my number five pick, have impressed me in a big way. Four- and five-color decks often feel like good stuff decks, filled with the best cards in the game. While you could build Aragon as a generic good stuff deck, I've seen more creative builds with him at the helm. There's the legends-themed deck I played against that only included two- and three-color legends, such as Chulane, Teller of Tales, Katilda, Dawnhart Prime, and Jetmir, Nexus of Revels. The other idea I've seen thrown around is a charm deck, where you play every charm you can find to get the most out of Aragorn's ability. He earns his number six spot thanks to the unique builds I've seen and having an ability that doesn't make him remove on sight.

Key cards to include: General Ferrous Rokiric, Hero of Precinct One, Fallaji Wayfarer, Trace of Abundance, Brokers Charm

#05 - Éowyn, Shieldmaiden

Eowyn has quickly become one of the mainstays in my deck rotation. The precon felt incredible out of the box, and she's the perfect commander for a Jeskai Humans deck. Her ability is everything I want in the command zone: it provides Humans to swing in with, and it's card draw. While Aragorn, King of Gondor is a great commander in his own right, I think you need to build a deck around the monarch to get the most from his ability, but Éowyn works incredibly well with all the Humans throughout Magic's history. If you have a friend who is new to Magic, this is the deck I'd recommend they pick up. I wanted to give her a spot higher than number five, but I've only played with her a few times since her release. I can almost guarantee you she will be in the top three at the end of the year.

Key cards to include: Lossarnach Captain, Riders of Rohan, Éowyn, Fearless Knight, Increasing Devotion, Horn of Gondor

#04 - Urtet, Remnant of Memnarch

I tend to have a bias against five-color decks since most five-color decks I've encountered have been Kenrith, the Returned King good stuff piles or near cEDH combo decks featuring Najeela, the Blade-Blossom. Then we have Urtet, a unique Myrs typal commander that isn't your typical five-color artifact deck. The list I've played against is from one of the better brewers in my group, so your mileage may vary in the wild. His list leans hard into Myr typal payoffs in conjunction with Urtet's ability to take dorks such as Copper Myr and turning them into 7/7s or 10/10s seemingly out of nowhere. Urtet earns their spot at number four because getting attacked by an army of Myrs is a sight to behold. I want to give it a higher spot, but sometimes the deck ends up doing the artifact combo thing and taking pretty long turns.

Key cards to include: Myr Kinsmith, Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer, Clock of Omens, Thoughtcast, Myr Battlesphere

#03 - Sidar Jabari of Zhalfir

Eminence was first introduced as a keyword back in Commander 2017 and is one of the strongest abilities in Commander. Well, technically Commander 2014 with Oloro, Ageless Ascetic, but it wasn't keyworded yet. Sidar Jabari has what I consider the most balanced Eminence ability of the bunch. His Eminence ability helps enable his second ability, so you have an incentive to actually cast him and attack, and reanimating only Knights is a flavorful restriction since there aren't any Knights that are as powerful as Atraxa, Grand Unifier. If you really wanted to abuse the reanimation, you could include Arcane Adaptation, Maskwood Nexus, and Conspiracy to turn all creatures into Knights, allowing you reanimate any creature from your graveyard. The reason for his appearance at number three is I enjoy playing both with and against him. He feels like an incredibly balanced commander with great benefits and payoffs using a creature type that isn't known to be explosive.

Key cards to include: Knights of Dol Amroth, Haakon, Stromgald Scourge, Murderous Rider, Herald of Hoofbeats, Knights' Charge

#02 - Hidetsugu and Kairi

Hidetsugu and Kairi are a combination of Gyruda, Doom of Depths and Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow. Instead of using creature clones, as you would in a Gyruda deck, you fill up on instants and sorceries to create clones of Hidetsugu. This lets you sacrifice Hidetsugu to the legend rule, allowing you to set up the top of your library, deal massive damage with the spell you put on top, and hopefully cast a free clone spell to repeat this process. Even if you don't hit a clone spell, you can deal massive damage with cards like Commit // Memory. The variance, explosiveness, and low price of the deck are why they're coming in at number two. Rituals and clone spells aren't expensive, so building a powerful budget version of this deck should be an easy task.

Key cards to include: Quasiduplicate, Cackling Counterpart, See Double, Stolen Identity, Replication Technique

#01 - Thalia and The Gitrog Monster

Abzan is far and away my favorite three-color combination in EDH. It takes Golgari and gives you a nice splash of white for removal, protection, and some stax. Thalia and Gitrog have been incredibly impressive in Magic Online games, helping keep some of the most oppressive decks down. The deck I play is an homage to Abzan Control from 2015. By using the greatest hits from that era, such as Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Siege Rhino, and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, along with Thalia's stax ability, the deck can grind out games to clear the way for a variety of win conditions. The unique idea I had is building an aristocrat-style deck where you'd animate lands and sacrifice those with Blood Artist effects out. The original deck had The Gitrog Monster as the commander, but I want to revisit this idea with Thalia and Gitrog. They've earned the number one spot thanks to the versatility they provide in the command zone. Whatever strategy you want from, Landfall to stax, this dynamic duo will eat your enemies. Like how Gitrog ate Thalia one time.

Key cards to include: Titania, Protector of Argoth, Felidar Retreat, Tireless Tracker, Tireless Provisioner, Entish Restoration

This has been another installment of Shower Thoughts; be sure to check out my YouTube channel, BathroomBrewsMTG, for weekly MTG content and the accompanying video. Also, make sure to check out my Patreon if you want to take your support further.

This has been Ben, from BathroomBrewsMTG, and remember, always wash your hands!

Ben has been playing Magic since 2012 and started creating Magic the Gathering content in October of 2022 on YouTube under the name BathroomBrewsMTG ( Primarily focusing on budget EDH content. When he isn't thinking or talking about MTG, he is usually playing video games, spending time with his wife or playing with his two cats. You can find him on Twitter @BathroomMTG.