So M19 looks pretty sweet, right? There’s a ton of tribal support for one of my favourite tribes: Zombies.
Whether zombies will make waves in Standard is yet to be seen, but for Commander it’s already pretty clear that we’re going to get some serious goodies!
But with so many sweet tribal Commanders to choose from, which one is the best?
Let’s find out.
Hi, I’m Rob, also known as @WhiteRobbit and @PleasantKenobi’s Voice of Reason. I love Commander and I’m here to share with you my top ten Zombie Commanders. To narrow down the top ten, I had to decide what counted as a true Zombie tribal Commander. For this, I basically took any Legendary Creature that is, or references a Zombie. From this list of the beautiful and the damned, I have been able to put together a perfectly on-theme list.
But before we hit the Top Ten, here are my honourable mentions:
It’s not every day you find a Dwarf Zombie, least of all one with a mass reanimation ability that you can abuse over and over. With a tragic flavour text and sweet ability, this bearded badass was just shy of making it into the top ten.
The problem is that his ability is better when he’s played as a roleplayer in a Rakdos coloured deck. Red creatures have some really strong ETBs that Balthor really benefits from abusing.
There was a time when Liliana was my go-to mono black Commander. She comes down early, flips really easily and as a planeswalker, she offers you a ton of value.
But that value is also the problem. Defending a planeswalker is so hard to do when three other players are gunning for it and all you end up doing is painting a target on your back. Commander is all about having fun and not being able to use your Commander effectively is not fun.
The Top Ten Zombie Tribal Commanders
Once a lowly and cowardly Kjeldoran soldier, Lim-Dûl is a pivotal player in the events of Dominaria’s Ice Age. Granted magical powers by a magic ring belonging to Mairsil, the Pretender, Lim-Dûl became a powerful necromancer who threatened to take over Terisiare and forced the Kjeldorans and Balduvians to form a powerful alliance. Ultimately defeated and escaping to Shandalar, Lim-Dûl became the go-to recurring necromancer villain for several Magic stories.
As a seven mana Commander, Lim-Dûl takes some time to get going, but if you can get him to stick, you can truly play the necromancer, resurrecting creatures that die and adding them to your army. As a bonus, you can even protect your Zombies from harm. If you’re looking for a Commander that gives you the feel of being a necromancer, Lim-Dûl has you covered.
Sedris was once the good and righteous king of Vithia, a region of Alara that would soon be doomed and named Grixis. No one knows when the great king fell from grace, though rumours abounded as the king’s court slowly succumbed to evil. That that is known is this: When demons tempted Sedris with dreams of power, he accepted their overtures. He handed thousands of innocents over to the demons, killed his own family and advisors, and performed a dark ritual that allowed his consciousness to continue into unlife, becoming a lich.
Grixis colours are very powerful for Zombies. The looting and rummaging effects of red and blue play nicely to fill the graveyard, allowing you to take advantage of Sedris’ ability. Getting Zombies out for cheap with haste is both flavourful and effective. But be wary! Once Unearthed, the creatures go to exile, so you can’t keep recurring your threats.
The fall of the House of Vess is a Dominarian gothic horror story. But the tale fails in its ability to capture the true horror of what befell the Vess girl and her brother. In trying to save Josu from a sickness, Lilana cursed him and took her first step into necromancy. With her spark ignited, she left Dominaria, leaving Josu cursed and mad. He was recruited by the Cabal and transformed into the Lich Knight.
Josu is awesome in an aggressive zombie strategy or in a mono black controlling capacity. He has pumped stats so he can jump in early with your Death Baron and Undead Warchief to bring the pain with Commander damage. Or, you can play the long game, control the board and finish off the table with an army of Zombies when you pay Josu’s kicker cost.
The story of Daxos is so sad, it’s like a Greek tragedy. Well, it literally is. Slain by his love, Elspeth, Daxos was freed from the Underworld as part of a cruel bargain with Erebos. Now cursed to travel Theros forever in search of her, he will never know that Elspeth is in the Underworld taking his place.
Daxos might seem an odd choice for a Zombie Commander because he makes Spirits, but hear me out. Endless Ranks of the Dead. Corpseweft. Curse of Shallow Graves. Liliana’s Mastery. Grave Betrayal. Tombstone Stairwell. Zombie Infestation. Call to the Grave. Zombies love them some enchantments! With the white Zombies now available from Amonkhet, the saddest boy in Magic can do serious work in a Zombie Enchantress build.
Jarad vod Savo is the leader of the Golgari Swarm, one of the Guilds of Ravnica. When Lyzolda kidnapped his child to perform a Rakdos sacrificial ritual, Jarad saved him, though he died in the attempt. But no worries! Jarad’s necromancy allowed him to come back… sort of. The best he could manage was to possess his own corpse which, while not the freshest vessel in the world, did allow him to retain his seat as guild leader.
Our first (but not last) green flavoured Commander, Jarad brings a lot to the table. With the best creatures, card draw, interaction and planeswalkers, green is the best colour in Commander from a power perspective. And Jarad knows how to take advantage of every last scrap of greenery. Getting bigger with creatures in the graveyard makes Survival of the Fittest Jarad’s best friend. He can easily get very big very fast and smash in for Commander damage. You can sac a land to avoid paying Commander tax thanks to his recursion ability, while his sacrifice ability affects all opponents, so you can spread the love!
Two estranged and rival siblings come together to fight eldritch horrors using their undead creations. What more can I say? Gisa and Geralf are Vorthos rock stars who perfectly exemplify both halves of the Frankenstein archetype: the necrophilic lust and thrill of grave robbing, and the obsessive madness of creating perfect life.
Gisa and Geralf are the best at using your graveyard to its full potential. Build your deck right and your graveyard becomes your second hand as you cast your Zombies from the yard over and over again. If you like the relentlessness of a Zombie horde, this is the Commander for you because eventually, your opponents will run out of removal spells. But your threats just keep coming back.
Dralnu is a lich, but possibly the weirdest one in the multiverse. Unlike the evil scheming necromancers looking for the undead power of lichdom, Dralnu was a just a soldier in life, nothing more. When he was killed, he was later reanimated by an Urborgan necromancer into a Zombie. But unlike other Zombies, he was slightly more intelligent and was able to learn necromancy as a sort of posthumous vocation. In many ways, Dralnu is a poster child for anyone who thinks it’s not too late to learn a new skill.
Over the years, there have been more and more instants and sorceries that make Zombie tokens. And a token strategy is where Dralnu really shines. Add that to the spellslinging appeal of UB control and you have a wealth of exciting multiplayer options. Playing a creatureless Zombie tribal deck that offers a unique deck building opportunity is why Darlnu is so high on this list.
Deep within the Moorland, beyond the Nearheath in the parish of Gavony lurks one of Geralf’s most horrific monstrosities…
Did you know that in the expanded art for Gravecrawler you can see that the Zombie in the art is crawling towards Grimgrin’s open arms? That isn’t true, but what is true is that those two are BFFs and the reason why Grimgrin is a Zombie Tribal combo powerhouse. Being a sac outlet makes you a combo piece that’s readily available when you need to go off. Just assemble your Rooftop Storm and Vengeful Dead to create an instant win. Grimgrin is also removal and a hard to kill beater in his own right. If you want to get spiky, get your hands on Geralf’s real masterpiece.
Decadent, powerful and with a body that makes its own curves, Sidisi is the hot mama jama of Tarkir. Khan of the Sultai, back in the days when her jungle realm was essentially a steamy, sinuous day spa, Sidisi is an ambitious queen with powerful undead at her heel.
Sultai brings almost everything you need when you want to play with your graveyard. You have card selection, effortless graveyard filling and payoffs that make the board tremble. The best thing about Sidisi, however, is that she makes Zombies while you’re generating that value! All Zombie decks rely on the graveyard, but is also their weakness. If the graveyard gets attacked, you’re sunk. But Sidisi gets around that by providing value as your cards enter the yard.
All you need are creatures to go from your library into your yard to get value. If they get picked off with a Relic of Progenitus, so be it. Sidisi provides a resilient Zombie threat in a colour combination that supports a graveyard value strategy. She encourages attacking, which I for one feel we need to do more of in Commander.
My number one Zombie Tribal Commander takes us back to Grixis. “He Who Paints The Earth Red” is the most badass undead ever to grace a Magic card. Seven feet tall, riding a Dreg Reaver and wielding a huge greatsword, Thraximundar is a force to be reckoned with.
Not only is he the most metal creature in Magic (he has a band t-shirt and everything!), he makes for a fantastic Commander.
Firstly, he’s in Grixis colours, which we’ve noted is one of the most powerful and versatile colour combinations.
Secondly, you can take any deck building route you like with Thrax. This includes tokens, graveyard shenanigans, or basic tribal beat down. Whatever you choose, Thrax provides a must-answer, on-demand threat that can easily be a three turn clock when you’re ready for the game to end.
Thirdly, he’s metal as f*ck.
Thraximundar is my go-to Zombie Tribal Commander for all these reasons and more. I like using him as a win condition in a value-based , Zombie combo deck that uses Goblin Bombardment, Deathbringer Thoctar and Gravecrawler to machine-gun everyone to death. Sure, it’s a janky combo. But if it fails, I tap seven (or nothing if I have Rooftop Storm out), cast Thrax and take the game home.
So that’s my Top Ten Zombie Tribal Commanders! Do you agree, or disagree? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @WhiteRobbit.