Can a Planeswalker Be a Commander: [Rules, Exception] | Cardboard Keeper (2023)

Magic the Gathering is a very popular card game, but many rules apply. Because there are so many rules that apply, you may be wondering: can a planeswalker be a commander?

A planeswalker can be a commander if the card says that they can be a commander. Most planeswalkers cannot be a commander because the rules committee banned them from being commanders. However, Wizards makes planeswalker cards that can be commanders, so they are the exception.

Now that you know why planeswalkers both can and cannot be commanders, you may be wondering what the exceptions to this rule are.

What is the Difference Between a Commander and a Planeswalker?

Commanders are legendary creature cards that lead your army into battle by serving as the commander of their deck. The color of the commander’s card dictates the other cards in the 99-card deck that the player can use during the game.

When playing a commander game of Magic the Gathering, you can only have one commander card at play. When they are in what is called the ‘Command Zone’, commanders can’t attack. However, when commanders are outside of the command zone they act like normal creature cards, and their abilities can be used against other players.

Planeswalkers are powerful cards that can traverse the Multiverse’s planes, which is why they are called planeswalkers. Planeswalkers used to be allowed to be used as commanders, even without the card saying that they can be used as a commander. Planeswalkers are not considered to be legendary creatures, and this separates them from the commanders.

Planeswalker cards are basically allies that you can use to help you fight battles during the game. They are very similar to creatures, artifacts, and enchantments, although they are not legendary creatures. Planeswalker cards are permanent cards, so they stay on the field when you play them and you can control them and their powers. Planeswalkers have a text that determines whether or not the player can use the card as a commander for a deck; otherwise, it will have to be included in the other 99 cards.

Why Can’t Most Planeswalkers Be Commanders?

Regular planeswalker cards that do not say they can be a commander can’t be a commander because the rules committee made a rule that says planeswalkers can’t be commanders, so only legendary creatures can be commanders.

When the rule committee banned planeswalkers from being commanders, Wizard started creating planeswalker cards that said that they could be played as commanders.

However, there is an exception to this rule. Planeswalkers can be used as commanders if you and the people with who you are playing want to use planeswalkers as commanders. Most people do not use planeswalkers as commanders because they are powerful cards, and using a planeswalker as a commander would make the game go even longer and become drawn out, which can become tiring if it happens repeatedly.

If you do use a planeswalker as a commander and you cast them, they act and have the same abilities as a regular planeswalker, even if they had a more powerful role earlier on in the game.

Can a Planeswalker Be a Commander: [Rules, Exception] | Cardboard Keeper (1)

The Exception: Grist, the Hunger Tide

Grist, the Hunger Tide is the exception to the rule that planeswalkers can’t be commanders in Magic the Gathering.

While Planeswalkers that don’t explicitly say that they can be commanders can’t be used as commanders, Grist has a special ability that allows him to circumvent those rules.

Grist can be used as a commander even though he is a legendary planeswalker because he has a static ability that means he is a legendary creature when he is off the battlefield. That ability reads:

As long as Grist, the Hunger Tide isn’t on the battlefield, it’s a 1/1 Insect creature in addition to its other types.

Grist, the Hunger Tide

This ability works because it happens before the game even begins; so during deck construction, Grist is a 1/1 Legendary Insect Creature, allowing him to be your commander. Even though he is a planeswalker when he is on the field, that static ability enables Grist to be your commander.

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List of Planeswalkers That Can Be Commanders

Below is a list of other planeswalkers that can be commanders.

However, the “banned” cards list changes periodically and Wizard releases more cards yearly, so the complete list of planeswalkers that can be commanders may be slightly different based on what changes are made and what new cards are released.

Can a Planeswalker Be a Commander: [Rules, Exception] | Cardboard Keeper (5)

Aminatou, the Fateshifter

Aminatou, the Fateshifter is a white, blue, and black planeswalker that allows you to draw a card and put a card from your hand on top of your library, as well as blink creatures you control.

The ultimate is a real game-changer, too, as it causes everyone to gain control of the permanents (other than Aminatou) of the player either to the left or right of them.

Aminatou’s first ability is really good in a Miracles-style deck, as you can use it to draw a card and put a card with Miracle on top of your library, such as Devastation Tide to send the board back to their owner’s hands, Entreat the Angels to make a lot of angels, or Temporal Mastery to basically play Time Walk.

The second ability enables all sorts of fun blink shenanigans with cards like Hostage Taker, Cloudblazer, and more.

Aminatou, the Fateshifter costs only one white, one blue, and one black mana to play, so it can be a powerful threat early on.

Can a Planeswalker Be a Commander: [Rules, Exception] | Cardboard Keeper (6)

Daretti, Scrap Savant

Daretti, Scrap Savant is a mono-red planeswalker costing 3 colorless and one red that is very artifact-focused.

Its first ability allows you to discard up to two cards and draw that many cards. Faithless Looting and Faithless Looting style effects are quite strong, especially in a deck like Daretti wants you to build.

For its second ability, you sacrifice an artifact and can return an artifact from your graveyard to the battlefield. This is incredibly strong, especially when paired with Daretti’s first ability. There have been many games where my opponent sacrifices an Ichor Wellspring and gets back a Wurmcoil Engine or Mindslaver and just runs away with the game.

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Daretti’s ultimate is incredibly powerful. It reads:

−10: You get an emblem with “Whenever an artifact is put into your graveyard from the battlefield, return that card to the battlefield at the beginning of the next end step.”

Daretti, Scrap Savant

With cards like Mindslaver and no interaction from the rest of the table, this emblem is a complete game-ender. If you ever play against a Daretti deck, never let them get to their emblem.

Can a Planeswalker Be a Commander: [Rules, Exception] | Cardboard Keeper (7)

Estrid, the Masked

Estrid is a Bant commander that focuses on enchantments.

All of her abilities have to do with enchantments, and specifically enchanting permanents you control. Her ultimate mills you 7 cards and then returns all enchantments from your graveyard to the battlefield.

Can a Planeswalker Be a Commander: [Rules, Exception] | Cardboard Keeper (8)

Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury

Freyalise is all about elves.

Her +2 gives you a Llanowar Elves and her ultimate draws you a card for each green creature you control; which, when you are playing elves, just gives the “elfball” even more momentum and power.

Can a Planeswalker Be a Commander: [Rules, Exception] | Cardboard Keeper (9)

Jeska, Thrice Reborn

Jeska, Thrice Reborn is a red planeswalker that can triple the damage that one creature deals, which is especially deadly seeing as Jeska can partner with a creature commander and make it deal massive amounts of commander damage, easily enabling one-shots.

Additionally, Jeska can deal direct damage to any three targets, but considering how that will likely kill your Jeska and not make a huge impact on the board, due to her not having a plus ability, it just isn’t really worth it.

Can a Planeswalker Be a Commander: [Rules, Exception] | Cardboard Keeper (10)

Lord Windgrace

Lord Windgrace is a Jund planeswalker that synergizes with lands.

Lord Windgrace provides card advantage like no other and can ramp you to cast your big spells. His ultimate will deal with any troubling permanents and give you an army of 2/2 cats with forestwalk.

This cool cat is one of the more powerful options on this list and can absolutely dominate when built well.

Can a Planeswalker Be a Commander: [Rules, Exception] | Cardboard Keeper (11)

Nahiri, the Lithomancer

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Nahiri, the Lithomancer is a white planeswalker card that costs 5 mana to play.

Nahiri, the Lithomancer allows you to use any equipment card that you have and place it on your battlefield, even if it is in your graveyard. This is very useful if one of your powerful equipment cards (or a Kaldra piece, we aren’t judging) was destroyed but you want to use it again.

Nahiri, the Lithomancer also allows you to create Kor Soldier tokens and attach an equipment that you control to it. Nahiri’s ultimate creates a Stoneforge Blade with Indestructible that gives the equipped creature +5/+5 and double strike and has an equip cost of 0.

Can a Planeswalker Be a Commander: [Rules, Exception] | Cardboard Keeper (12)

Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath

Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath is a black planeswalker. He costs 5 mana to play. Ob Nixilis’s +2 drains each opponent for 1 life, which feeds his -2 ability which gives you a 5/5 flying Demon token at the cost of 2 life.

His ultimate reads:

−8: You get an emblem with “1Black, Sacrifice a creature: You gain X life and draw X cards, where X is the sacrificed creature’s power.”

Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath
Can a Planeswalker Be a Commander: [Rules, Exception] | Cardboard Keeper (13)
Can a Planeswalker Be a Commander: [Rules, Exception] | Cardboard Keeper (14)

Will and Rowan Kenrith

Rowan Kenrith is a red legendary planeswalker card that costs 6 mana to play.

Rowan and Will are the first Planeswalkers with the Partner mechanic. She is a partner card to Will Kenrith, so you can have both as your commander at once, but she can also be used as a commander alone.

Rowan’s +2 makes a target player’s creatures attack if able, while her -2 deals 3 damage to each tapped creature a target player controls. Her best ability is her ultimate:

−8: Target player gets an emblem with “Whenever you activate an ability that isn’t a mana ability, copy it. You may choose new targets for the copy.”

Rowan Kenrith

This ability is absurdly powerful, as it doubles any ability that isn’t a mana ability, including planeswalker abilities!

Will Kenrith is the partner to Rowan Kenrith. While Rowan is red, Will is blue, allowing you to utilize both colors in your deck if they are both your commander. Will Kenrith also costs 6 mana to play.

His first ability removes all abilities from 2 creatures and leaves the creatures as 0/3 until the end of turn. His -2 ability is far more powerful. It allows the target player to draw two cards (you can target yourself of course) and makes all instant, sorcery, and planeswalker cards that player casts cost 2 less to cast. This ability can be used to get Rowan out faster but can also be used to storm off and cast a lot of instants and sorceries.

Will’s ultimate is like Rowans, only it copies instants and sorceries, which is also incredibly powerful.

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Can a Planeswalker Be a Commander: [Rules, Exception] | Cardboard Keeper (15)

Saheeli, the Gifted

Saheeli, the Gifted costs 4 mana (two colorless, one blue, and one red) and is a fun commander to use for an artifact deck.

Her second ability gives the next card you cast affinity for artifacts, which can be really strong in an artifact deck. Her third ability allows you to create a copy of each artifact that you have and control, although you have to exile the copied tokens at the beginning of the next end step, so they will not last for long.

But at that point, you are probably winning the game anyways.

Can a Planeswalker Be a Commander: [Rules, Exception] | Cardboard Keeper (16)

Teferi, Temporal Archmage

This blue planeswalker costs 6 mana to play, but he is very powerful.

His ultimate gives you an emblem that allows you to use the loyalty of all of the planeswalkers you control at instant speed, even when it is not your turn.

Not only does it allow you to use them at instant speed, but you can still use them once per turn, meaning you can activate your planeswalkers’ abilities each turn of the game.

Can a Planeswalker Be a Commander: [Rules, Exception] | Cardboard Keeper (17)

Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools

Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools is another planeswalker with the Partner mechanic.

His ultimate ability allows you to control all of the commanders that are being used in the game, even if they are controlled by your opponents, and place them on the battlefield from the command zone.

Here are some of my favorite TCG Accessories.

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful on your TCG journey. After 20 years of being in the Trading Card Game community, I commonly get asked what my recommendations are on X products. To help save everyone a bit of time, I’ve listed below my top picks as a TCG collector that I hope you’ll also find helpful.

These are affiliate links, so if you do decide to use them, I’ll earn a commission. But in all honesty, these are the exact accessories that I use and recommend to everyone, even my own friends and family.

Sleeves: If you want the best for Magic and Pokemon cards, I really like Dragon Shield Matte Art sleeves. They have an excellent shuffling feel to them and have great durability, so you don’t have to worry about them breaking on you. If you want my full thoughts on these sleeves, check out my written sleeve review.

Binders: For competitive Magic and Pokemon players, go with the Vault X 12 Pocket Binder. I’m a big fan of 12 pocket binders for keeping playsets of 4 together and this binder is good quality without premium prices. For the pure TCG collectors, I would recommend Dragon Sheild 9 Pocket binders.

Deck Boxes: If you are looking for a solid deck box, then you can’t go wrong with Ultra Pro Towers. Fantastic protection at affordable prices, everything you need. If you want to get a bit fancy like me, go with the Gamegenic Watchtower.


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