Top 5 Pauper EDH Commanders - Outlaws of Thunder Junction

Benjamin Levin • April 11, 2024

Vial Smasher, Gleeful Grenadier | Illustrated by Borja Pindado
Kraum, Violent Cacophony | Illustrated by Artur Nakhodkin

Hey, nerds! Outlaws of Thunder Junction spoiler season is finally over, and, Holy Cow, did we get a bunch of new cards! For this week's article, I wanted to share my top five Pauper EDH commanders from the set. As always, I'll give you my thoughts on the key strategies for the commander and some key cards you'll want to include. One final note, these aren't listed in any particular order, and make sure to read until the end for some honorable mentions. Without further ado, let's get into it. 

Vial Smasher, Gleeful Grenadier

Let's kick things off with none other than Vial Smasher, Gleeful Grenadier. Much like her original card, Vial Smasher the Fierce, she wants to deal damage to your opponents, but instead of casting big spells to deal big damage, we want to cast and reanimate outlaws to slowly chip away at our opponents, and because outlaws span five creature types, we have 200 Rakdos baddies to join up with. There are some notable powerhouses, like Boarding Party, Thorn of the Black Rose, and Crimson Fleet Commodore. Rakdos isn't known for its ability to blink creatures, especially in PDH, but it is very good at reanimating their creatures.

I'd build Vial Smasher as a Rakdos aristocrat deck, where we sac creatures for value and use cheap, instant-speed ways to bring them back into play. I'm thinking of cards like Feign Death, Not Dead After All, and Undying Malice to start. You could also include Ashnod's Intervention and Supernatural Stamina for more one-mana options, but the three I just mentioned also buff the creature when they return. As for dedicated reanimation spells, we get Dread Return and Unearth. Finally, I'd include all of the sacrifice draw effects, like Village Rites, Deadly Dispute, and Corrupted Conviction.

Ertha Jo, Frontier Mentor

Next up is Ertha Jo, Frontier Mentor, a Rings of Brighthearth on a stick. I had to do a double-take when I first saw this commander. This isn't an effect we normally see at uncommon and in the command zone. When I first read her, I assumed she'd only copy creature abilities, but you can copy any activated ability that targets. This means we can double up on Basilica Skullbomb and Furnace Skullbomb triggers to draw cards. I'd likely build her as an artifact deck because of the recursion that artifacts provide.

A cute interaction I saw was with Viridian Longbow. Because equip is an activated ability and Ertha allows you to pick new targets, you could pay three mana to move the Bow to an untapped creature. Then with the copy on the stack, tap the creature to deal one damage to any target twice, then move the Bow to the new creature and do it again. Basically, this Equipment becomes three mana, deal four damage to target creature or player, and because the creature is dealing damage, if they have lifelink, deathtouch, or infect, you get those effects, too.

Lazav, Familiar Stranger

If you're looking to build a Dimir control, Lazav, Familiar Stranger should be your next commander. His ability only triggers once each turn, but it doesn't matter whose turn it is. You can use instants like Thought Scour, Dream Twist, and Dampen Thought to mill opponents and fuel Lazav'z ability. You can also add the small Voltron package of Whispersilk Cloak, Haunted Cloak, and Vorrac Battlehorns. You could mill yourself instead and use removal to trigger Lazav's ability.

Or if you want something unique, try building Lazav Eldrazi. You can play massive threats, like Ulamog's Crusher, Eldrazi Devastator, and Hand of Emrakul, and you can use the Eldrazi Processors, Oracle of Dust, Murk Strider, and Mind Raker, to get additional value from the cards that Lazav exiles. There are 29 Eldrazi in Dimir colors, which is more than enough to build a dedicated deck.

Kraum, Violent Cacophony

Next on the list Kraum, Violent Cacophony. Izzet spells is a tried-and-true strategy, and if you're in search of a new spell commander, Kraum might be the Zombie Horror you're looking for. Casting two spells each turn should be easy enough to do with cheap cantrips like Opt, Consider, and Brainstorm. You could build Kraum as a traditional storm commander with rituals and cards like Grapeshot, Galvanic Relay, and Temporal Fissure

However, I'm more interested in building him as a Voltron commander with combat tricks, giving him double strike, with cards like Temur Battle Rage, Psychotic Fury, and Uncaged Fury, or trample, with Fists of Flame, Crash Through, and Rile, and with blue, we can use a wide range of counterspells to help make sure he sticks around to win the game. 

Bounding Felidar

And to round out the top five, we have a new mono-white commander, Bounding Felidar. This is also the only nonlegendary creature in my top five. I think part of that is Wizards has started to print more uncommon legends in the last several years, but that discussion can be an entire article on its own. Instead, I want to talk about the power of white weenies, especially in PDH. If you're subbed to my YouTube, you'll know I really enjoy mono-white in Pauper. There's something about casting Thraben Inspector, Novice Inspector, and Squadron Hawk that makes me giddy. The other mono-white archetype I love is soul sisters, featuring Soul Warden, Soul's Attendant, and Suture Priest, so when I see a commander like Bounding Felidar that supports both at the same time, you know I have to build it.

I'd build Bounding Felidar as a go-wide deck to maximize the amount of +1/+1 counters and life gain. Of course, there are the token staples Raise the Alarm, Charge of the Mites, and Battle Screech, but how about creatures that care when they become tapped or untapped? Cards like Stonybrook Schoolmaster, Samite Herbalist, and Oreskos Sun Guide. Also, if we can generate enough Merfolk with Stonybrook, you might want to include Judge of Currents. The final piece of the puzzle is Village Bell-Ringer. This card in conjunction with some blink spells gives your board pseudo-vigilance.

Honorable Mentions

Finally, I wanted to talk about some honorable mentions. These are cards that I think are interesting and powerful, but I couldn't quite fill out an entire section with them.

  • Cactusfolk Sureshot: Reminds me a bit of Khenra Charioteer, but instead of giving all creatures trample, it cares about four power. I do love the art, though.
  • Servant of the Stinger: This is a Demonic Tutor that has to sacrifice itself and you need to commit a crime. No doubt a tutor from the command zone is powerful, but not my cup of tea.
  • Wrangler of the Damned: If you want to build Azorius control in PDH, Wrangler seems like a solid option. My biggest issue is it seems pretty slow for five mana.
  • Deepmuck Desperado: If you want to build mill, this is your Crab. There are plenty of blue mill spells that target opponents, essentially letting you double up on mill.
  • Forsaken Miner: This Zombie barely missed the top five. A one-mana creature that can recur itself for a single black is going to combo with something, especially when we have Ashnod's Altar and mana filter creatures in the format. The hardest part is finding a solid payoff in mono-black and an engine to commit crimes.

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.