As Magic: The Gathering's Commander format allows players to build decks around hundreds of different legendary creatures, a diverse range of deck archetypes and strategies are easily enabled. While many players tend to focus on the powerful abilities of their creatures and their ability to deal large sums of damage, there are some decks that aim to make use of the creature's toughness rather than their power.
These defensive decks can offer a player a great built-in tankiness against combat, whilst also having access to means of utilizing these high-toughness creatures in alternative ways outside of defense. Here are the best toughness-matters commanders for Magic: The Gathering's Commander format.
8 Pramikon, Sky Rampart
A legendary wall with flying and defender, Pramikon, Sky Rampart is a unique Jeskai (blue/red/white) commander option for those looking to build a defensive deck that takes advantage of the multiplayer nature of the Commander format. This is because upon entering the battlefield, you choose either right or left, allowing players to only attack opponents sitting directly next to them in that direction. While this ability has virtually no effect in a one-on-one game, it can prevent significant damage in Commander whilst limiting the options of your opponents. As Pramikon is a wall itself, it naturally synergizes with various wall-tribal cards and toughness-based synergies whilst providing access to three colors worth of high-toughness creatures.
Additionally, when paired with instant-speed flickering effects, Pramikon allows you to potentially change the direction in which opponents must attack, continuously forcing opponents' hands and preventing you from ever being the target.
7 E. Honda, Sumo Champion
Included as part of Secret Lair X Street Fighter, E. Honda, Sumo Champion is a monowhite toughness-matters commander that simultaneously benefits from utilizing significant card draw as well as creatures with high toughness.
A 0/7 for six mana, when E. Honda is in play, as long as it's your turn, all creatures assign their power through their toughness rather than their power. This notably impacts opponents' creatures as well, potentially rendering another player's front-loaded high-powered creature much less useful than it would be otherwise – although only during your turn.
In addition to allowing your creatures to attack with their high toughness stats, E. Honda can bolster the defenses (and by extension offenses) of your creatures. This is because whenever E. Honda attacks, up to one hundred target creatures each get +0/+X until the end of turn, where X is the number of cards in your hand. In all but the most efficient token decks you will never actually target 100 creatures. It is merely a reference to Honda's famous Hundred Hand Slap attack.
This means that, with enough card draw, E. Honda can convert your defensive creature into a substantial offensive win condition.
6 Rasaad Yn Bashir
Rasaad yn Bashir is a new white commander printed as part of Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's gate. An efficient 0/3 Human Monk for three mana, Rasaad Yn Bashir states that your creatures assign their damage through their toughness rather than through their power.
Additionally, Rasaad makes use of the Initiative mechanic introduced in Battle for Balduer's gate, doubling the toughness of your creatures whenever it attacks, as long as you have the initiative. Doubled damage output is not something to be taken lightly, especially when paired with such a low-costed creature.
Perhaps the most enticing element of Rasaad Yn Bashir is the fact that it has "choose a background," meaning that it can flexibly be used to create decks of several different color identities based on your background choice, opening up significant deckbuilding potential.
5 Geralf, Visionary Stitcher
For those looking to convert high-toughness creatures into evasive combative threats, Geralf, Visionary Stitcher may be the commander for you. An efficient blue 1/4 Human Wizard for the low cost of three mana, Geralf states that each Zombie you control has flying.
This is quite relevant, as for the cost of one blue mana, Geralf may be tapped to sacrifice a creature. You then create an X/X Zombie token where X is the sacrificed creature's toughness. This means that when sacrificing high-toughness creatures with low power, Geralf can create a token that is overall more useful than the original creature.
Furthermore, as the tokens created by Geralf are Zombies, they gain the added benefit of flying, making them much more difficult to block. With his ability, Geralf can convert even the most innocuous of walls into sizable flying threats. Geralf decks are multifarious, synergizing with high-toughness creatures, zombies, and flying synergies alike.
4 Doran, the Siege Tower
Doran, the Siege Tower is perhaps the Magic card most synonymous with toughness-focused strategies. First printed in Lorwyn, Doran is an Abzan (black/green/white) Treefok Shaman for three mana. A simple yet incredibly effective 0/5, Doran states that all creatures deal their combat damage through their toughness rather than their power.
At first glance, the value of this card is immediately apparent, allowing a player to make the most out of under-costed creatures with low power but high toughness. However, this commander can actually be used to throw a wrench into the plans of one's opponents, as their creatures are forced to deal damage through their toughness as well. If an opponent is planning on using powerful-yet-fragile creatures with high power and low toughness, Doran can render them significantly less threatening.
3 Bane, Lord of Darkness
Recently printed in Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate, Bane, Lord of Darkness is an Esper (black/blue/white) God that can be a deceptively powerful toughness-matters commander. A 5/2 God for four mana, Bane is indestructible as long as your life total is less than or equal to half your starting life total (20 in Commander), making it quite difficult to remove from play later in a game.
While protection is a nice feature, whenever a creature you control dies, Bane allows you to play chicken with an opponent. A target opponent may have you draw a card, but if they don't, you may put a creature card with equal or lesser toughness from your hand directly onto the battlefield, cheating its mana cost entirely. When paired with creatures with notably high toughness and a convenient sacrifice outlet, you can potentially put great high-costed utility creatures directly into play. Though this can require some setup, this is a unique alternative way to construct a toughness-focused Commander deck.
2 Arcades, the Strategist
While other entries on this list can allow one's high-toughness creatures to be used offensively, few can do so as effectively as Arcades, the Strategist. A Bant (blue/green/white) Elder Dragon for four mana, Arcades is a 3/5 with flying and vigilance for four mana that allows creatures with defender to attack, and allows your creatures to assign their damage with their toughness rather than their power.
While this provides high toughness creatures with significantly more value, the most powerful element of Arcades is the fact that it allows you to draw a card whenever a creature with defender enters the battlefield under your control.
This ensures that you'll constantly be refreshing your hands as you cast your various under-costed high-toughness creatures (as creatures with defender can be significantly cheaper than those without it), meaning you'll always have ample options of spells to cast during your turn.
1 Phenax, God of Deception
The Dimir (black/blue) God of Theros, Phenax, God of Deception is a stellar commander capable of converting one's high-toughness creatures into a veritable milling engine. For five mana, this indestructible 4/7 doesn't count as a creature unless its controller has sufficient devotion to Dimir.
While this may appear as a downside at first glance, this can make Phenax quite difficult for your opponents to remove from play – after all, creatures are easier to get rid of than enchantment.
While Phenax is in play, each of its controller's creatures is capable of being tapped to cause any target player to mill a number of cards equal to the tapped creature's toughness. This means that rather than simply using them to attack or block like other entries on this list, a Phenax deck's high toughness creatures can serve as an alternate win condition.
For those who aren't interested in milling their opponents, when used to mill yourself, high-toughness creatures in a Phenax deck can easily enable self-mill win conditions like Laboratory Maniac and Thassa's Oracle.
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