Ten Pauper Commanders That Pack A Punch

Benjamin Levin • October 5, 2023

Mayhem Devil | Illustrated by Dmitry Burmak
Third Path Iconoclast | Illustrated by Manuel Castañón

Hello, everyone! Welcome to another installment of Shower Thoughts, the series that proves Magic isn't pay-to-win. In this week's installment, I'll be showcasing ten nonlegendary pauper commanders for you and your friends to try.

The biggest difference between EDH and PDH(pauper EDH) is the commander can be any uncommon creature throughout Magic's history; in other words, they don't have to be legendary, giving you a total of 4,361 commanders to pick from, and if you exclude uncommon legends, you're left with 4,046 uncommon creatures to build with.

The other major changes are life starts at 30, and commander damage is down to 16 from 21. Cards printed at both common and uncommon can be in the 99 or your commander. A popular example would be Gray Merchant of Asphodel, which has been printed at both rarities, and if you decide to build a Background commander, the Background needs to be uncommon too.

Make sure to check out Alejandro Fuentes' articles on PDH for even more amazing content, and if you want to read more on the format, check out PDH Home Base for all the rules and ban list. Okay, without further ado, let's get into it!

Tempest Hart

Let's kick things off with the newest uncommon on this list, Tempest Hart. I was initially going to talk about Risen Reef but decided that it felt too much like Tatyova, Benthic Druid, so I wanted to showcase a new card instead. This card stood out to me for a couple of reasons. First, it's card selection we have access to from the command zone, and second, it's a powerful creature with trample that can grow into a massive threat.

Tempest wants you to cast as many five-plus-mana-value spells as possible to grow Tempest, and thankfully we have plenty of ways to cheat on big spells. The first few that came to mind were Treasure Cruise, which lets us delve cards away until it becomes Ancestral Recall; Mulldrifter, because even if we cast it for its evoke cost, it's still a five-mana-value spell; and Wavesifter for the same reason as Mulldrifter. If you want to see all the five-mana-value spells legal in PDH, check out my scryfall search and pick your favorites.

Third Path Iconoclast

Next is an uncommon that sees play in 7% of decks, Third Path Iconoclast. This powerful uncommon quickly usurped other token-generators in spellslinger decks and found as new home in artifact decks. Unlike Young Pyromancer or Murmuring Mystic, Iconoclast cares if you're casting noncreature spells, not just instants and sorceries, so any artifact ramp, cantrips, or even enchantments will make you tokens.

Because the tokens created are artifacts, we can include a pauper staple Thoughtcast, which quickly becomes a one-mana draw two, and let's not forget Impact Tremors, which was printed at common originally and just came down in price thanks to Wilds of Eldraine. Finally, Reckless Fireweaver is a back-up Impact Tremors for all your artifacts.

Vizkopa Guildmage

Many players, both old and new, love lifegain decks. I love them because seeing a number get bigger fills my brain with happy chemicals, and the first lifegain PDH deck you should build is Vizkopa Guildmage. This commander made the list thanks to my good friend, Wes, who showed me the power of this creature in their Abzan food deck. Oh, and did you know that their second ability stacks? If you activate it twice, your opponents will lose two times the life you gained.

Even with only common creatures, it's easy to gain large amounts of life over the course of the game, slowly draining the table. We have the soul sisters package of Soul Warden and Soul's Attendant, which become Impact Tremors once you activate the Guildmage's ability. If you want a back-up win condition, Marauding Blight-Priest is a weaker version of your commander's ability, and finally, the card that needs no introduction, Gray Merchant of Asphodel. This bad boy is already a powerhouse in Commander, and it's no different here in PDH.


If you love value, whether it be card draw or making tokens, then you'll love Soulherder as a commander. First introduced in MH1, it quickly became a mainstay in blink decks from Ranar the Ever-Watchful to Roon of the Hidden Realm. Aside from the value of blinking your own creatures, it also grows into a threat of its own as you, or your opponents, exile creatures. Just remember it doesn't actually have flying, despite looking like it should.

You should include blink staples like Mulldrifter, Inspiring Overseer, and Spirited Companion for card draw and life gain. There's a three-card infinite combo you should try out here, and yes, PDH has infinite combos. All you need is to have Archaeomancer and Peregrine Drake on the board. Cast Ghostly Flicker, targeting Archaeomancer and the Drake. Then when they enter the battlefield, you'll untap five lands and return Ghostly Flicker to your hand. Cast it again and repeat this process as many times as you'd like.

Mayhem Devil

Are you sick of Treasures? Do you to cause pain to your opponents for simply playing the game? Well, let's punish them for sacrificing everything! From lands like Evolving Wilds to the best frog Spore Frog and everything in between, and what's even better is you get to deal pain to others by sacrificing your own permanents. This lets you build a wide range of strategies from artifact decks, sacrificing Ichor Wellspring, or more traditional aristocrat decks.

I've decided to go a more traditional sacrifice route despite the fact we don't have access to Blood Artist and Zulaport Cutthroat in the 99. Thankfully, aside from our commander, we have Body Dropper as a way to end the game. Next is Impulsive Pilferer which not only ramps us but since the ramp is Treasures we get to deal more damage, and finally Persistent Specimen, which is the common version of Reassembling Skeleton.

Silver-Fur Master

While this Dimir Ninja is no Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow, it makes a great Ninja/Rogue tempo deck. Doing a quick scryfall search, there are only 14 Dimir Ninjas at common, which isn't quite enough for a full Ninja deck. There is, however, a myriad of Rogues we can include to create a powerful tempo deck, and given the lower starting life totals, we can build a much more low-to-the-ground deck than in traditional Commander.

When deciding what creatures to add, I started with all of the Ninjas that feature the ninjutstu ability. The best of the bunch is Ninja of the Deep Hours, which lets us draw cards when it deals combat damage. Next is the unblockable Snake Slither Blade, giving us an easy way to ninjutsu creatures into play and get in some chip damage, and the final piece of tech is the Background Candlekeep Sage. This Background is great since we can ninjutstu our commander in and out of our hand.

Shaman of the Pack

Next is a tried-and-true theme, elfball, and leading this ball of Elves is none other than Shaman of the Pack, which provides an amazing win condition right in the command zone. While we don't have access to some of the greats, such as Elvish Archdruid, Marwyn, the Nurturer, or Lathril, Blade of the Elves, there are still a ton of powerful common Elves we get to jam. Honestly, I was a bit surprised at the options.

We can play Legacy all-star, Priest of Titania, which is basically Elvish Archdruid at common and generates us a ton of mana. Next is Quirion Ranger, which synergizes with our many mana dorks to help ramp us into incredibly quick wins seemingly out of nowhere, and Lys Alana Huntmaster helps us grow our Elf army, I mean ball, into an unstoppable force.

Arcbound Shikari

This commander was actually my first PDH deck, built from boxes of bulk I owned and a few pick-ups from my LGS. I've always wanted to build Zabaz, the Glimmerwasp, and this seemed like a great alternative. The gameplan for this deck is pretty straightforward. You build up a massive board of modular creatures, then either sacrifice them to Ashnod's Altar or Fling to grow other creatures. You can also blink or reanimate your commander to put additional counters on creatures.

As I mentioned earlier, you will want to flicker Arcbound Shikari, and one of the best cards for this is Ephemerate. Because it has the rebound, we get to flicker our commander twice putting two counters on creatures we control. Next is one of my favorite creatures in the deck, Arcbound Tracker. This three-mana menace creature grows incredibly quickly given the low curve of the deck and the sheer amount of spells we can cast each turn. Finally, we have Hazardous Blast, which is a cheap board wipe for token decks, and it prevents our creatures from being blocked.

Botanical Brawler

If you're looking for a great +1/+1 counter commander, look no further than Botanical Brawler. Unlike other +1/+1 counter decks, such as Rishkar, Peema Renegade or Kami of Whispered Hopes, your commander easily becomes one of the best win conditions in the deck, and because its trigger is once each turn, you want to load the deck with instant-speed ways to put counters on creatures you control. You can either blink creatures to reset their counters or use one of the many combat tricks we have access to.

One of the best cards in the deck is the Background Master Chef. I love being able to put counters on creatures such as Devoted Druid or Fertilid to get additional value. Speaking of additional value, Viridian Joiner is one of the best mana dorks in the deck. As it grows, we can ramp into more powerful threats or use the mana it provides to grow Atomwheel Acrobats or save our board with Sporeback Troll. Finally, let's double a creature's power with Soul's Might. Ideally, you'll target Brawler with this, but doubling the counters on Iron Apprentice or Servant of the Scale is a great option as well.

Khenra Charioteer

And finally, let's take a look at Gruul monsters. This archetype is one of my favorites to give to new players thanks to its straightforwardness. You want to ramp as fast as possible using Elvish Mystic or Rampant Growth to turbo out massive threats like Ulamog's Crusher. Unlike some of the other commanders on this list, you don't want to cast them right away. Instead, wait until you have a board filled with Ancient Brontodon and Vorstclaw to attack for massive damage.

Aside from the mana dorks and land ramp, we also have Goblin Anarchomancer. With its cost reduction, if we cast three spells in a turn, it will have basically ramped us for three mana. Next, I want to give the big threats deathtouch so we can cheat on damage, which is where Nightshade Peddler comes in. The reason we want deathtouch is so we can assign just one point of lethal damage to a creature and allow the rest to trample over. Finally, let's actually make our board unblockable with Barrage of Boulders, which is also a board wipe against small token decks.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on my picks, on PDH in general, and what you want to see next in the comments down below!

This has been another installment of BathroomBrews; make 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.

Ben has been playing Magic since 2012 and started creating Magic the Gathering content in October of 2022 on YouTube under the name BathroomBrewsMTG (YouTube.com/@BRBMTG). 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.