Choosing the best MTG Lord of the Rings commanders is a tall order; this long-expected set contains a whopping 85 new cards that can be your commander, plus a further 40 in the supplementary commander decks. Thank Eru Ilúvatar for Wargamer, then, for we’ve dug through them all to bring you this definitive list of the ten best Tales of Middle-earth commanders to build around.
If you’re interested in Magic: The Gathering‘s Commander (a.k.a. EDH) scene, you might also take a gander at the current MTG Commander banlist, our guide on how to build a Commander deck, and our introduction to the other MTG formats.
For now, though, go take that first step out your door, Samwise Gamgee – and just see where you’ll get swept off to…
The best MTG Lord of the Rings commanders are:
- 10. Gandalf the Grey
- 9. Saruman, the White Hand
- 8. Eowyn, Shieldmaiden
- 7. Bilbo, Birthday Celebrant
- 6. Lord of the Nazgul
- 5. Saruman of Many Colors
- 4. Aragorn, The Uniter
- 3. Sauron, the Dark Lord
- 2. Shelob, Child of Ungoliant
- 1. Tom Bombadil
10. Gandalf the Grey
Arriving precisely when he means to is Gandalf the Grey. Gandalf comes with four abilities, you can choose each one until you’ve chosen them all, each time you cast an instant or sorcery spell. His first ability lets you either tap down one of your opponent’s key blockers to swing in for that critical attack, or untap one of your own blockers to surprise your opponent during their combat step.
Dealing 3 damage to each opponent might not seem like a lot in a 40-life format like Commander but, considering the amount of times we’ll be able to reset this ability, that’s undoubtedly going to add up. Copying an instant or sorcery spell is best reserved for when you’ve got a critical spell in hand, like an extra-turn spell. Taking two extra turns is likely to surprise even the most cunning forces of Mordor.
Finally, the last ability puts Gandalf on top of your library. He did always have a habit of disappearing at key moments, but we can get around this with a blink spell to return him to the battlefield. All in all, it’s a flavourful card which earns a spot on this list.
9. Saruman, the White Hand
In ninth place we have Saruman, the White Hand. Saruman is similar to Gandalf, in that his ability triggers when you cast a non-creature spell as opposed to instants and sorceries.
However, that flexibility in casting comes with a lack of flexibility in payoff, with Saruman allowing us to amass Orcs equal to the Spell’s mana value. This means that, before long, we’re going to end up with a huge Orc Army token which Saruman will then give Ward 2.
Saruman is a much more straightforward commander. He’s a reliable payoff that’ll consistently help attack your opponents or guard your own life.
The flexibility of this ability triggering from non-creature spells means you could very easily run Saruman as an artifact or enchantment commander, opening up interesting deck-building options while keeping to the flavour of this key villain.
8. Eowyn, Shieldmaiden
Eowyn, Shieldmaiden comes in next on our list. Like the headstrong, heroic Eowyn of Rohan we know and love from the books and movies, she functions perfectly at the head of an army of humans. While no slouch in combat herself as a 5/4 creature, her ability triggers at the beginning of the combat step, rewarding you for each Human that’s flocked to her banner.
If you’ve had one Human enter the battlefield this turn (including Eowyn herself, on the turn you play her) will reward you with two more Human Knights with Trample and Haste.
Then, if you have six or more humans, you’re also drawing a card for your troubles. Eowyn brings you halfway to this total; by casting her alone you’ll have three humans by the end of the turn. Repeat this next turn and you’ve already hit six.
It’s not hard to see how this deck can snowball out of control, putting more power on the table than your opponents can put up with. Eowyn’s MTG debut is a very welcome one indeed, you’ll be seeing her at more than a few tables.
7. Bilbo, Birthday Celebrant
Didn’t you know? It’s his one-hundred-and-eleventh birthday! Running Bilbo, Birthday Celebrant as a commander puts a cheerful reveler in your deck, whose ability adds extra benefit to all of your sources of life gain.
Bilbo’s effect is generically good, helping Lifelink creatures; creatures that cause you to gain life when other creatures enter the battlefield; and huge spells.
His activated ability, however, is perhaps the absolute coolest ability on this whole list. For five mana he’s able to exile himself, pulling every single ‘Party Guest’ card from your deck and putting them all onto the battlefield! Make sure one of those creatures has the ability to grant haste – or that you’re already packing haste enablers in your deck – and you’ve an easy win right there.
6. Lord of the Nazgul
The Lord of the Nazgul is a sneakily powerful commander. First of all, the card comes with two forms of evasion. It’s Flying, so it’s able to attack your opponents nice and easily over your opponents’ blockers. The lord effect of giving all of your wraiths protection from Ring-bearers is not only flavorful, but effective against many other commanders from this set.
Finally, the Lord of the Nazgul ranks so highly on this list because you’re getting a 3/3 Wraith with Menace every time you cast an instant or sorcery spell, which is amazing!
You can fill this deck with draw or removal, and you’ll be merrily committing creatures to the board each turn, while expanding your own board state for free. No matter what you cast, you will still end up as one of the more threatening players at the table.
5. Saruman of Many Colors
Our second Lord of Isengard of this list, Saruman of Many Colors, is a little more devious and cunning than the last: if you’re able to cast two spells in one turn, he rewards you by dumping cards into your opponents’ graveyards, but giving you an enchantment, instant, or sorcery from among them to cast for free.
4. Aragorn, the Uniter
Aragorn, son of Arathorn joins us at the number four position with Aragorn, the Uniter. He’s four colors, packs four abilities, and is a 5/5, making him a rock solid card based on stats alone.
However, Aragorn’s strength lies in tying your deck together; he can be put at the helm of any deck really, and will still do good work for you once he’s on the field. That rare level of flexibility lands him so high on this list.
But if Aragorn the Uniter isn’t for you, then there are four more Aragorn MTG cards to choose from – click that link to see our tier list.
3. Sauron, the Dark Lord
What list of Commanders from Middle Earth would be complete without the Dark Lord himself? Sauron, the Dark Lord boasts remarkable abilities, sure to draw the ire of the table – but with built-in protection to stave off their advances.
His Ward ability means your opponent has to sacrifice one of their own legendary artifacts or creatures if they wish to target him with a spell. He also amasses orcs in response to your opponent’s spells – any of them.
Once you’ve generated an Army for free from your opponent’s spells, attack with it, and you’ll get to engage with the Ring – and if that wasn’t enough, you can even discard your hand and get four fresh cards. Sauron is bonkers good, which makes sense for the doom of Middle Earth, right?
2. Shelob, Child of Ungoliant
We’re sticking strictly in Mordor territory with Shelob, Child of Ungoliant, who provides something truly unique to the game of MTG. Spiders are a MTG creature type that’s had a sprinkling of creatures in most every set. Shelob allows you to tie them together by acting as the commander of your deck.
She has Ward 2, Deathtouch, and passes this ability on to each spider you control, acting as a lord for your horde of spiderlings. In addition, if your spiders kill any creatures in combat, you get to turn them into Food tokens for incidental life gain!
Not to mention all of the shenanigans you can pull in Golgari MTG colors by dropping artifacts on the table while your opponents are focused on your army of spiders. Shelob rocks!
1. Tom Bombadil
Taking the top spot… Old Tom Bombadil is a merry fellow! Bright Blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow! Tom Bombadil, the ‘God Bard’ (yes, you read that right) is a very powerful commander. A 4/4 for one of every colour of Mana he provides a home for all of the amazing Sagas printed in the sets of Magic.
As soon as you have four Sagas in play, old Tom Bombadil becomes a big problem for your opponents to deal with, gaining hexproof and indestructible. It can be worth casting him tactically, when you already have four Sagas on the field so he can’t be immediately removed, by the by. Once he’s Hexproof and Indestructible, he’s basically staying that way.
When each of your Sagas would go to the graveyard, his second ability means you can flip cards from the top of your deck, putting the next Saga you find into play. Because, at the house of Tom Bombadil, the story never ends.
Not kept up with all the Magic x Middle-earth news? Check out our MTG Lord of the Rings guide, or else read our writer Matt Bassil’s take on why Black Aragorn really, really shouldn’t bother you. Alternatively, you can grab an easy stack of free cards in Magic’s digital sibling with our guide to the latest MTG Arena codes.