The Best Burn Commanders For EDH – MTG

Highlights

  • Quality burn commanders are being released regularly in Magic: The Gathering, making it a great time to start playing with burn in the format.
  • These burn commanders come with unique abilities that enhance your deck’s power and allow you to take down your opponents faster.
  • Each burn commander mentioned in the article has a different playstyle and brings something unique to the table, such as dealing excess damage, providing card draw, or boosting the power of burn spells.

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Burn is one of the most quintessentially red archetypes in Magic: The Gathering. It’s about targeting your opponent’s life totals above all else, with the aim of burning your enemies to the ground before they have the chance to take you out. While burn isn’t nearly as popular in Commander as other constructed formats, quality burn commanders continue to be released year after year.

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There’s never been a better time to start playing with burn in the format. The power of your deck is greatly dependent on the abilities of your commander, and these burn commanders all come with unique abilities to take down your opponents.

Updated December 13, 2023, by Ryan Hay: There’s only so much burn your opponents can handle before they throw in the towel and with these Commanders, you can pick up the pace to burn them out a little faster than usual. Among these commanders are a new powerhouse, Ojer Axonil, Deepest Might, who is quickly taking the stop spot for best burn commanders in Magic. If you’re looking to throw together the best burn spells in the game, and then give them a little boost in strength, you’ll want to check out these cards for your deck.

19 Yurlok Of Scorch Thrash

Bringing Back One Of Magic’s Old Rules

Yurlok Of Scorch Thrash

Not a burn commander in the conventional sense, Yurlok of Scorch Thrash burns all players who are too greedy with their mana through an older mechanic that was colloquially called mana burn. The way this works is if a player has unspent mana in their mana pool, they lose that much life when phases change and that mana disappears. So if you have five extra mana hanging around after your first main phase, and you move to combat, you’ll be taking five damage.

Yurlok has a very silly way to damage all your opponents this way by tapping to give three mana, one black, red, and a green mana, to all players. If your opponents can’t make use of that mana, Yurlok will burn them out. If you have other ways to give players mana, through cards that are normally considered group hug cards like Heartbeat of Spring and Dictate of Karametra, you can deal some incidental damage that adds up over time.

18 Aegar, The Freezing Flame

Burn Them Out And Draw Some More

Image of the Aegar the Freezing Flame card in Magic: The Gathering, with art by Chris Rahn

Aegar, The Freezing Flame is an untraditional burn commander, as its ability doesn’t actually do any damage. Instead, it fits into Aegar’s Izzet (blue/red) color identity by rewarding you for dealing excess damage with some extra card draw.

While it can take a bit of work to make a burn theme work in an Aegar deck, the extra card draw is hard to pass up, especially in an archetype that can sometimes struggle to provide it. Aegar’s low mana value makes this ability easy to access, too, giving it an edge over many of the more expensive damage-based red commanders.

17 Syr Carah, The Bold

The Bold And The Burn

Image of the Syr Carah the Bold card in Magic: The Gathering, with art by Wisnu Tan

Syr Carah, The Bold is a commander that doesn’t do too much burning on their own. While it can tap and ping any target for one damage, the true power of Syr Carah is in its first ability, which rewards you with an extra exile-flavored card draw every time you cast an instant or sorcery.

This ties into burn brilliantly, rewarding you for using staple instants and sorceries like Chandra’s Ignition and Lightning Bolt by giving you access to even more spells. This can give you some wild turns, so long as you have the mana to cast the extra cards that Syr Carah will draw for you.

16 Imodane, The Pyrohammer

Spread That Damage

MTG: Imodane, the Pyrohammer card

Burning your opponents has never felt better than with Imodane, the Pyrohammer in play. Anytime you target a single creature with a burn spell, you get to deal the amount of damage it deals to each opponent as well. If you hit weak little Llanowar Elf with a Lightning Bolt to deal three damage to it, you get to send three damage to each opponent’s face, for a grand total of 12 damage being dished out total.

The best thing you can do with Imodane is modify the damage your burn spells do to maximize the amount of damage you spread across the table. Cards like Fiery Emancipation and Torbran, Thane of Red Fell both up the amount of damage you’re dealing, giving your burn spells a boost in power, which in turn also multiplies the amount of damage done to players once that spell resolves.

15 Toralf, God Of Fury

Give All Your Burn Spells Trample

Image of the Toralf God of Fury card in Magic: The Gathering, with art by Tyler Jacobson

Toralf, God of Fury, is a straightforward burn commander with an ability that triggers every time you deal excess damage to a creature or planeswalker. The effect of this ability rewards you for playing your stompiest high-power creatures you own by adding even more damage to their attacks.

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Toralf’s other side, Toralf’s Hammer, is a slightly inefficient equipment artifact that adds +3/+0 to a creature, with an added Lightning Bolt effect when you unequip it. While this side of the card isn’t much to write home about, its return-to-hand effect is a good way to get around the commander tax Toralf may have accumulated over the game.

14 Rem Karolus, Stalwart Slayer

A Little Asymmetrical Burn For Your Games

Image of the Rem Karolus Stalwart Slayer card in Magic: The Gathering, with art by Francisco Miyara

Rem Karolus, Stalwart Slayer is a card perched between burn and damage prevention. While it doesn’t have the best burn effect on this list, it makes up for it by striking a good balance between dealing damage to opponents and keeping you alive.

Its status as one of the lowest mana value cards on the list also means you can get it out early, putting up the barricade and setting up your engine before many players will be able to rival it.

13 Neheb, The Eternal

You’re Getting Mana No Matter What

Image of the Neheb the Eternal card in Magic: The Gathering, with art by Chris Rahn

Despite Neheb, The Eternal’s burn effect being secondary to its mana-generating ability, it’s still a great way to pick at your opponents as you ramp your way to more substantial damage.

Dealing excess damage is the most on-brand red mechanic ever, and rewarding you with Red mana for doing it adds much-needed red mana ramp in an archetype that often struggles to include it. Neheb’s mana ability is especially great in decks with a Dragon tribal subtheme, as the huge damage that the Dragons output produces enough mana to cast even more massive Dragons.

12 Gisela, Blade Of Goldnight

Double It And Pass It On

Image of the Gisela Blade of Goldnight card in Magic: The Gathering, with art by Jason Chan

Gisela, Blade of Goldnight has the most powerful effect of any card on this list. While its mana cost definitely reflects that, it’s still worth considering Gisela for your burn deck. Rather than just doubling damage to opponents, Gisela also puts in some work herself, as her status as a 10/5 flying, first Strike creature puts her a +1/+1 token away from knocking someone out from commander damage in just two turns.

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Gisela also affects enemies outside your own actions, as it’s not just sources you control that deal double damage to opponents. This makes her perfect for joining forces with the table to take out the player about to win.

11 Tor Wauki The Younger

Gain Life, Deal Damage, And Get Your 2-For-1s

Image of the Tor Wauki The Younger card in Magic: The Gathering, with art by Karl Kopenski

Sitting at five mana is Tor Wauki the Younger, a fun throwback to the Legends card, an absolute powerhouse for a burn deck. Tor Wauki boosts noncombat damage you deal to permanents and players by one. It also deals two damage to any target of your choice when you cast an instant or sorcery. Jamming your deck full of removal, burn, and life-stealing spells will turn Tor Wauki into a rapid-firing machine.

Keywords are always relevant on a card like Tor Wauki, and giving him both reach and lifelink is wildly flavorful. They are an archer, after all, and highly relevant, as the damage that Tor Wauki deals also keeps you alive.

10 Chandra, Fire Of Kaladesh

The Emblem Is The Goal

Image of the Chandra Fire of Kaladesh card in Magic: The Gathering, with art by Eric Deschamps

Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh is a low mana value commander that is all about low mana value red spells. Every time you cast a red spell, you can trigger Chandra’s tap ability again, pinging away at an enemy life total. While this pinging won’t add up to a huge amount of damage, it’s a great way to squeeze more worth out of each cheap red spell you play, such as a Goblin.

If you choose to trigger this ability three times, you also get to transform Chandra into her planeswalker form: Chandra, Roaring Flame. This planeswalker form is also based around burn, with abilities that focus on dealing damage to enemy life totals and permanents.

9 Urabrask // The Great Work

Can’t Stop Won’t Stop

Image of the Urabrask card in Magic: The Gathering, with art by Campbell White

The main thing you’re going to be doing with Urabrask and it’s saga side, The Great Work, is dealing a lot of little points of damage until your opponents are knocked out. A true death by 1,000 cuts style deck, Urabrask deals one damage to an opponent whenever you cast an instant or sorcery spell. The other key component to this commander is that you also get to add one red mana to your mana pool after every successful spell cast.

Your bread and butter in this deck is going to be setting up infinite loops to cast infinite spells and deal one damage an infinite number of times. One of the easiest ways to do this is with Dualcaster Mage and Twinflame. Twinflame makes a copy of Dualcaster Mage, who in turn, copies Twinflame. Each time you loop the two cards you deal two instances of one damage to an opponent, eventually both giving you an infinite number of creature tokens and an infinite amount of damage.

8 Firesong And Sunspeaker

Burn And Lifegain

Image of the Firesong and Sunspeaker card in Magic: The Gathering, with art by Zoltan Boros

Firesong and Sunspeaker put a unique spin on the burn archetype by introducing lifegain as a vital component of the deck. With Firesong and Sunspeaker on the battlefield, you can start burning opponents almost any time you gain life. While the methods through which you gain life have to be white cards to trigger this ability, most of the best lifegain cards are white anyway, so you’ll be activating this ability more often than not.

Firesong and Sunspeaker’s other ability is great, too, giving red sorcery and instant spells lifelink so that you can bolster your own life total as you burn down the table. This is particularly good if you use Boros (red/white) instants and sorceries to deal damage, such as Lightning Helix or Boros Charm, as then both effects stack: the red aspect gives you life, but it’s still from a white card to trigger Firesong and Sunspeaker’s own damage ability.

7 Purphoros, God Of The Forge

Bring Down The Hammer

Image of the Purphoros, God of the Forge card in Magic: The Gathering, with art by Eric Deschamps

A Commander that can be used to supply a steady supply of burn effects, Purphoros, God of the Forge’s main ability that makes it so good is its way to deal two damage to each opponent anytime you have a creature enter the battlefield under your control. The easiest way to spread the wildfires is to jam as many red token generators in your deck as you possibly can.

You can create a steady stream of tokens if you go with a Goblin kindred strategy thanks to cards like Krenko, Mob Boss and Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin, while you can also lean into boosting the burn Purphoros deals with damage modifiers like City on Fire and Virtue of Courage.

6 Ob Nixilis, Captive Kingpin

A Combo Piece In The Command Zone

Image of the Ob Nixilis, Captive Kingpin card in Magic: The Gathering, with art by Zezhou Chen

Despite being trapped on New Capenna since the loss of his planeswalker spark, Ob Nixilis remains as dangerous as ever. Whenever an opponent loses exactly one life, Ob Nixilis, Captive Kingpin gets a +1/+1 counter and then exiles the top card of your library. Until your next end step, you can play that card, whether it be a land or spell.

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There’s a super easy two-card combo with Ob Nixilis and All Will Be One that lets you just win the game as soon as any opponent loses exactly one life. But if you’re not looking to go infinite and just want some good value, cards like Orcish Bowmasters, Electrostatic Field, and Grapeshot all help dig through your deck and deals a ton of damage at the same time.

5 Ghyrson Starn, Kelermorph

Arguably Too Good Of A Card

Image of the Ghyrson Starn Kelermorph card in Magic: The Gathering, with art by Aaron J. Riley

Straight from the Universes Beyond: Warhammer 40,000 Commander sets comes Ghyrson Starn, Kellermorph. Ghyrson comes down early at only three mana and protects itself with ward two, taxing your opponents for two extra mana if they want to remove it.

With its Three Autostubs ability, Ghyrson deals two damage to a permanent or player so long as you deal exactly one damage to it, giving you a total of three damage to a target. There are a lot of ways to take this deck, but the most efficient is to use cards like Firebrand Archer and Kessig Flamebreather to ping your opponents for one damage with every spell you cast, upgrading it to three with Ghyrson out and then casting as many spells as you can to burn every player out of the game.

4 Obosh, The Preypiercer

What Are The Odds?

Image of the Obosh the Preypiercier card in Magic: The Gathering, with art by Daarken

Obosh, The Preypiercer is a constantly overlooked commander. While it’s not a great companion, its damage-doubling effect makes it an incredibly powerful commander. Many of the best spells in an Obosh deck will burn your life total as well as your opponents, leading to fast games where everyone is focusing on being the last player to run out of life.

Obosh is an incredibly easy commander to end the game with, as many decent Red spells become win-cons when paired with it. Heartless Hidetsugu is probably the most famous example, as tapping it immediately defeats any player with an even life total. Obosh’s Rakdos (black/red) color identity ties into this combo, with cards such as Necropotence allowing you to dwindle your life total to an odd number right before you tap Heartless Hidetsugu to kill everyone but you.

3 Solphim, Mayhem Dominus

A God In Name Alone

Image of the Solophim Mayhem Dominus card in Magic: The Gathering, with art by Chris Cold

The red god of New Phyrexia has quickly catapulted itself to the top as one of the best Burn commanders in Magic. Solphim, Mayhem Dominus takes all your noncombat damage and doubles it, no matter if you’re sending it to your opponent’s life total or a creature or planeswalker they control.

This means all your burn spells are twice as effective, either helping you burn out your opponent’s life total twice as efficiently or helping keep the board clear with damage-based board wipes. You can also upgrade Solphim by making it indestructible, though it does come at the high cost of discarding two cards to do so. Hold on to your extra lands and pitch them in response to an opponent’s board wipe or removal spell.

2 Torbran, Thane Of Red Fall

Every Burn Spell Gets An Upgrade

Image of the Torbran, Thane of Red Fell card in Magic: The Gathering, with art by Grzegorz Rutkowski

Torbran, Thane of Red Fell is the most popular burn commander, and it’s easy to see why. Its cheap casting cost and wide-sweeping ability give a Torbran deck a huge amount of versatility. Adding a bonus two points to every piece of damage your red spells deal is a hugely powerful effect, especially in decks where you’re swinging with a large army of small creatures.

Torbran upgrades pretty much every red burn spell, letting you fill your deck with punishing effects to let your opponents damage themselves. Cards like Ash Zealot, which deals three damage to an opponent if they cast a spell from a graveyard, now deal punishing five damage to them. Playing a Rampaging Ferocidon not only turns off their life gain but deals a brutal three damage every time they have a creature come into play under their control.

1 Ojer Axonil, Deepest Might

Scorched Earth Policy

MTG: Ojer Axonil, Deepest Might//Temple of Power card

Catapulting itself to the top of the charts comes Ojer Axonil, Deepest Might, a God from Lost Caverns of Ixalan that takes your smaller burn spells and gives them a massive upgrade. Much like Torbran and Solphim, Ojer Axonil modifies your noncombat damage to match the power of Ojer Axonil. So if you cast a spell like End the Festivities to deal one damage to all your opponents and their creatures, it now deals four damage to all those targets.

While likely not necessary given the power behind this commander, if you choose to modify Ojer Axonil’s power through counters, equipment, or auras, you also get to upgrade your burn spells. The slight downside to the commander is that if a spell would deal more damage than Ojer Axonil’s power, that spell doesn’t get a boost like other burn commanders.

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