If you’re building a Commander deck in Magic: the Gathering, there are tons of Commanders to choose from. As far as specific creature types go, however, elves are one of the most viable and popular tribes to pick.
Elf Commanders encompass a lot of strategies. There are some that generate armies of tokens, some that help you create absurdly enormous mana pools, and others designed for interacting with the graveyard.
In this guide, we’re going to take a look at the best MTG elf commanders. We’ve made sure to pick ones with a variety of strategies in mind, so you can find one to suit just about any playstyle in this list…
What are Elves in MTG?
When most people think of an elf, they likely think of two different images: Christmas elves or elves from high fantasy franchises like Lord of the Rings. Magic: the Gathering elves are their own unique entity, but they draw inspiration from high fantasy elves.
In MTG lore, you can find elves on tons of different planes. This means that they can vary immensely from plane to plane, looking like your stereotypical beautiful fantasy elf or like horrors.
As far as gameplay goes, their abilities vary as much as their appearances. However, they are generally green or black in color. They also tend to do one of two strategies: generate tons of mana or generate tons of other elves.
This doesn’t mean there aren’t elf cards that have different abilities, as you’ll see on this list.
Read Also: 10 Best MTG Green Black Commanders
Best MTG Elf Commanders
If you’re looking to a mono-black Commander deck with a focus on death and card draw, Ayara, First of Locthwain is the elf for you. She’s not an elf tribal Commander who benefits elves as a whole, but she’s still a powerful elven Commander that we had to include.
With her, the goal is to get as many black creatures on the battlefield as possible. As each one enters the battlefield, you’ll gain one life, and your opponents will lose that much, as well.
Later on, you can start tapping her to sacrifice your creatures and draw a card. This is perfect for when you’re backed into a corner and are hoping to draw into a solution to a threat.
The best thing about Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord is that it’s kind of a win condition in and of itself in multiple ways. For starters, it gets a +1/+1 counter for every single creature card in your graveyard, so the more dead creatures you have, the stronger he gets. This means that, with a large enough graveyard, you could potentially swing with Jarad alone for lethal damage on other players.
But he does more than just that. You can pay three mana and sacrifice another creature to him to deal damage to another player equal to that creature’s power. If you have something else that gets a lot of +1/+1 counters on it, then, you can sacrifice it to potentially eliminate another player.
With Ezuri, Renegade Leader, the strategy is fairly simple. What you want to do is get as many elves on the battlefield as possible, and then use his second ability to give them all +3/+3 and trample. This turns your elven army into a lethal elf stampede that opponents will be desperate to use a board wipe on.
Of course, his first ability is pretty nice, too. You can use it to prevent an elf from going to your graveyard. It’s a perfect counter for when someone casts a kill spell on one of your many elves – just another thing you can fall back on when necessary.
We would say one of Ezuri’s greatest issues is that he’s mono-green. It’s generally better to build a multi-color deck when it comes to Commander, so you have more options, but if you’re going with a single-color deck, green is a great pick. You’ll have no problem ramping into mana.
Rhys the Redeemed is a classic elf Commander who used to be way more expensive than he is today. A somewhat recent reprinting has driven his cost down, so now may be an excellent time to grab him if you want to build an elf-themed deck.
He’s fantastic for generating tokens. Not only can you tap him to make a single elf token, but you can tap him to effectively double all the tokens you have on the battlefield. Provided you have a lot of mana you can pay into him, and cards that let you untap him, you can easily exponentially increase the number of elves you have out.
Additionally, he’s great because he only costs a single green or white mana. You can re-cast him from the Command zone numerous times, and he still will be less costly than many other Commanders out there.
When Rishkar, Peema Renegade enters the battlefield, he buffs two of your creatures by adding +1/+1 counters to them. If you’re able to bounce him – that is, cast him again and again – you’ll see a couple of your most devastating creatures grow even more threatening.
He has the added benefit of turning creatures with +1/+1 counters on them into mana dorks. You can tap them all to give you a single green mana.
If you’re not going to use him as a Commander on his own, he at least deserves to be in other elf Commander decks. He pairs particularly well, for instance, with Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord.
Lathril, Blade of the Elves
Lathril, Blade of the Elves is another elf card created to help you generate a massive army of elf tokens. Every time she manages to get through another player’s defenses and deal combat damage to them, you’ll get to create a single 1/1 elf token for each point of combat damage she does.
The more elf tokens you get from her, the better, because you can tap ten of your elves to gain ten life while doing ten damage to your opponents. To get elves even faster, it’s a good idea to buff her stats so she can swing for more damage. You could use Rishkar, Peema Renegade to help boost her.
If you were using a three-color deck with green, white, and black, we might also suggest adding both her and Rhys the Redeemed. Rhys will effectively double the amount of elf tokens you get from Lathril.
This is the perfect card if what you want is to get as much mana as possible. Any time another elf enters your battlefield (which includes elf tokens, by the way), Marwyn, the Nurturer gets a +1/+1 counter.
You can also tap her to get one green mana for each point of power she has. In other words, as she gets more counters, you get more mana to add to your mana pool.
Like many of the other elves on this list, she doesn’t necessarily have to be a Commander. If she’s not, though, consider adding her to another one of your elf-themed decks to take advantage of her ridiculous mana generation ability.
Read Also: 10 Best MTG Commander Mana Rocks
Looking to make an elf Commander deck with a bit of edginess? Consider choosing Abomination of Llanowar, which is a disturbingly portrayed elf horror creature that gets bigger and bigger the more elves you have on the battlefield or in your graveyard.
What’s more, it has both vigilance and menace. Vigilance means you can attack with it without having to tap it afterward, and menace means opponents can only block it with two or more creatures.
Using it is fairly straightforward. You want as many elves as possible – it doesn’t matter whether they’re in your graveyard or on the battlefield. You’ll also want to consider adding tons of artifacts to equip to Abomination of Llanowar to give it even more abilities.
Not only is Nath of the Gilt-Leaf one of the oldest Golgari (green and black) elf Commanders in the game, but he also offers players a unique strategy as far as elves go. He creates elf tokens, which is pretty par for the course for elves, but the way he does so is different: he only generates tokens when opponents discard cards.
This means you’ll want to run Nath of the Gilt-Leaf in a discard-themed deck. You can either force opponents to draw so many cards they must discard them, or simply play tons of cards that make opponents discard. Either way, the more you can achieve this effect, the larger your army of elf tokens gets.
If we were planning on building a truly unique elf Commander deck, one of the first Commanders we’d consider would be Selvala, Explorer Returned. She’s kind of a political card because every time you tap her, she forces players to reveal the tops of their library, potentially making mana and gaining life for you.
However, once this is done, she also lets each player draw a card. Card draw is powerful, and your opponents will likely be grateful to you for letting you do so – which means they may not target Selvala for elimination early on.
She’s the type of Commander to fly under the radar for awhile, but as the game goes on, her mana generation and life gain abilities will only make her more and more useful.
Related Article: 10 Best Life Gain Cards in MTG
MTG Elf Commander Questions
How many lands should an elf Commander deck have?
Building a mana base is sometimes one of the trickiest parts when you’re throwing together a Commander deck. With elves, it can be even trickier, as there are many elves that can be tapped for mana themselves.
Usually, a good number of lands to start with can be anywhere around 35-40. The only way to determine if you need more less than that is to play test your deck a few times.
Does your deck consistently struggle to produce enough mana for you to cast spells? Then you may want to add more. What if you have the opposite problem, and you constantly draw into lands you don’t need? You may want to take a couple out and swap them for synergistic spells, in that case.
As we mentioned above, there are tons of elf cards that tap for mana, so you may be able to get by with fewer lands than normal if you have plenty of elves to create mana for you.
Is Lathril, Blade of the Elves good?
We think Lathril, Blade of the Elves is an excellent Commander – that’s why we put it on this list! It’s a multi-functional card that will generate tokens, gain you life, and make opponents lose life.
At a converted mana cost of four, Lathril is surprisingly good value for all the abilities she puts as your disposal.
What is the best elf Commander?
Picking a single elf Commander and calling it the “best” is difficult. There are numerous elves to choose beyond the ones we mentioned here, and they offer a range of strategies. Depending on your playstyle and preferences, one elf on this list may work better for you than the others. On the other hand, a completely different person may find that another elf on this list is a better fit for their needs.
One of the most powerful elves on this list, however, is Ezuri, Renegade Leader. He can protect your elves from destruction and give them all a massive boost in addition to trample. He’s perfect for helming a large army of elves and can often be used to finish the game.
Elves are, without a doubt, one of the most powerful and prolific tribes in the game. As far as tribal decks, you’ll have plenty of options when it comes to building with elves.
They’re certainly not the only tribe in MTG, though. If you’d like to try checking out another tribe in similar colors, read our guide to the best cat cards in MTG.