So I was thinking of ways to get rid of Commanders other than destroying and exiling them. I found that some cards just plain out remove creatures and other permanents from game entirely. I was wondering if its possible to remove them that way because it's not like it went to the graveyard or exile.

3 Answers 3


As @Dopplegreener mentions, all cards that said "remove ... from the game" has been errataed to say "exile ...".

The problem with getting rid of a commander permanently is rule 903.9:

903.9. If a commander would be exiled from anywhere or put into its owner's hand, graveyard, or library from anywhere, its owner may put it into the command zone instead. This replacement effect may apply more than once to the same event. This is an exception to rule 614.5.

This rule lets the commander's owner put it back to the command zone no matter what happens. Well, almost no matter what happens.

Ways to Nullify a Commander

  • The rule doesn't apply to phasing. If you phase out a commander, such as with Vanishing, and have Stasis in play, their commander will be out of play until stasis is removed (phasing happens during the untap step, so Stasis prevents their commander from phasing in). You can also have the commander out of play for most of the game without using Stasis by activating Vanishing as soon as their commander phases back in (their commander will exists for only a brief window at the beginning of some upkeeps).
  • If you take over their turn, such as with Mindslaver, and exile their commander on their turn, such as with Unmake, you chose whether or not to apply the replacement effect and can choose to have the commander be exiled rather than go to the command zone.
  • You can turn their commander into something else, such as with Song of the Dryads or Imprisoned in the Moon. (Note that causing a commander to lose all abilities, such as with Lignify, isn't sufficient to nullify the commander against some decks, as a commander with no abilities is still a commander and can still deal commander damage.)
  • You can prevent them from casting their commander, such as with Meddling Mage
  • You can take control of their commander, such as with Empress Galina (your friends might not play with you if this is your commander) or Aethersnatch (it pains me that Commandeer doesn't work on most commanders; it can only target the few planeswakers that say "can be your commander").
  • You can eliminate the player that owns the commander, such as with Door to Nothingness. When a player leaves the game, all objects owned by that player leave the game.

At the end of the day though, short of eliminating the player, you can't permanently prevent someone from accessing their commander1. Any permanents you use to lock down their commander can be destroyed. Any other tricks you pull can be negated through some combination of Pull from Eternity, Elixir of Immortality, Mastermind's Acquisition, and Brand. There is always a way to get a card back, no matter where it has gone, unless it's owner has been eliminated from the game.

1. @ThomSmith found a way to permanently prevent a player from accessing a commander but it requires you to concede the game.

Joke Answers

There are a handful of cards not legal in the format2 that can either permanently remove a commander or that deserve honorable mentions:

  • The silver-bordered cards AWOL and Look at Me, I'm the DCI can put their commander into a zone not referenced by any other card in Magic.
  • Bronze Tablet (an ante card, not legal in any format) is one of the few cards that can change ownership of a permanent, nullifying rule 903.9.
  • During a subgame of magic, from Shahrazad or Enter the Dungeon, a commander is only available to a player if it was in the command zone at the start of the subgame ("719.2c As a subgame of a Commander game starts, each player moves their commander from the main-game command zone (if it's there) to the subgame command zone.") or if they pull a card from outside the game ("719.4. All objects in the main game and all cards outside the main game are considered outside the subgame (except those specifically brought into the subgame).")
  • If you make their commander a copy of the silver-bordered Chaos Confetti (such as by animating Chaos Confetti with March of the Machines and then using Cytoshape), take control of their turn (such as with Mindslaver) and activate the Chaos Confetti ability on their commander, you could destroy their commander card permanently (by ripping it to pieces).
  • Using the silver-bordered R&D's Secret Lair, you can remove cards from the game by playing an older version of a spell that exiles (such as Unmake) and ignoring the errata that changes this text to "exile".
  • If their commander is Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker or Hokori, Dust Drinker, you could attempt to claim ownership of it via the silver-bordered Ashnod's Coupon (you'd probably need a judge to rule on this one). If drink ever becomes a creature type, Ashnod's coupon will gain additional potency via cards such as Amoeboid Changeling and Unnatural Selection.
  • The silver-bordered Spike, Tournament Grinder lets you use any of these other banned cards (if only it weren't banned as well).

2. Some of these cards were briefly legal between Dec 1, 2017 and Jan 15, 2018.

  • 1
    While delightfully funny, Drinkers are not drinks. Still getting an upvote.
    – Adam Klump
    Feb 8, 2019 at 5:00
  • 1
    Excellent list. Surprised you didn't have "steal control" which is my personal favorite way to stop excessive commander shenanigans....
    – John
    Feb 8, 2019 at 15:29
  • @AdamKlump I think it would be up to a judge. They do literally have "Drink" in the name. You would have to pay them the cost of the card of course (unless you had R&D's Secret Lair in play)
    – Zags
    Feb 8, 2019 at 15:31
  • @John Good point. I've added a point on stealing their commander, as well as an example of how that can be undone.
    – Zags
    Feb 8, 2019 at 15:35
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    @Zags You mention research as an ability to pull cards from exile, but you can't actually do that anymore. "The exile zone is a part of the game, so you can’t get exiled cards." I only recently learned about this when trying to get Exiled cards using Masterminds Acquisition in MTGA
    – Malco
    Feb 8, 2019 at 16:33

It sounds like you're describing cards that say "Remove (thing) from the game", like Unmake. Those are old cards from before the concept of Exile existed, and they now exile things instead. In the Magic 2010 rules change the Exile zone was introduced to the game, as was the action of exiling. With the same change, all cards that referenced "remove (thing) from the game" received errata to say "exile (thing)" instead. There are no current cards in the game that refer to removing anything from the game.

You can see that errata in cards that were reprinted later. On the left is the original pre-2010 printing of Unmake, on the right is the post-2010 printing with the instruction to "Exile target creature":

You can also see the current Oracle text of Unmake if you visit its Gatherer page, which is always the official source of what a card is truly considered to say, including all errata. You'll see that errata is reflected even on visiting its original Eventide printing:

"card text: exile target creature"

Commanders can't get "removed" permanently very easily at all: that's part of the point of the format. Typically if removing them to the Command zone isn't enough, you instead lock them down via auras such as Darksteel Mutation, Song of the Dryads, or One Thousand Lashes, or you steal control of them—but that only lasts until the player finds appropriate removal.

  • 1
    The most permanent way to get rid of a commander (not counting AWOL) is probably to shuffle the commander into their library while you're controlling your opponent's turn. Since you control your opponent's actions you can choose to skip the option to move the commander back to the command zone, and once it's in the library they can't get it out without tutoring or drawing it. Feb 8, 2019 at 2:23
  • @ArcanistLupus If the game allows you to control that effect then yes, that would work, but in that case just allow unmake or some other permanent exile to resolve on the commander, don't even let it go back into the deck.
    – Andrew
    Feb 8, 2019 at 14:47
  • 1
    @Andrew Oh, good point. Feb 8, 2019 at 15:02
  • 1
    @Andrew Oh hey you're right, I somehow thought they specifically left that reference in without errata for exile, but they must have added that errata with the Unstable silver bordered oracle updates. :P Feb 11, 2019 at 22:24
  • 1
    @Andrew Yeah, with the release of Unstable. I thought they deliberately left that part of AWOL un-errataed, but evidently I was mistaken. Feb 11, 2019 at 22:33


Can this sequence of events cause a commander to be permanently phased out?

Specifically, you can cause another player's commander to phase out and never phase back in as long as that player is in the game. This means that the commander is totally inaccessible; there is no sequence of actions that could put it back into play.

Suppose that you have a three-player Commander game. The players are Alice, Bob, and Carol. Bob's commander is Isamaru, Hound of Konda, a vanilla creature.

On Alice's turn, she:

  1. Casts Dominate to gain control of Isamaru.
  2. Casts Song of the Dryads to turn Isamaru into a colorless Forest land (that's not a creature).
  3. Activates the first ability of Memnarch to permanently turn Isamaru into an artifact (an Artifact Land — Forest).
  4. Casts Bludgeon Brawl, turning Isamaru into an Artifact Land — Equipment Forest.
  5. Casts Grizzly Bears (a vanilla creature) and equips Isamaru to Grizzly Bears.
  6. Casts Donate to give Alice control of Isamaru.
  7. Casts Reality Ripple to phase out Grizzly Bears.
  8. Concedes the game.

When Grizzly Bears phases out, Isamaru phases out indirectly (702.25f). Because it phased out indirectly, it will not phase out by itself. Instead, it would phase in at the same time as Grizzly Bears. When Alice concedes, Grizzly Bears ceases to exist without ever phasing in.

If Alice had not Donated Isamaru to Bob, then rule 702.25m might have caused Isamaru to phase in during the next player's untap step. However, Bob controlled Isamaru as it phased out, so 702.25m does not apply.

Obviously, this is highly impractical — but it does work.

Before the C17 rules change, there was a slightly easier approach. Instead of equipping Isamaru to Grizzly Bears, Alice could attach it to a token. Under the older rules, tokens ceased to exist when phased out, so Alice would not have to concede. Under the current comprehensive rules, tokens do not cease to exist when they phase out, so this approach would not work. As far as I know, the only way to prevent a permanent that phased out directly from ever phasing in is for the permanent's owner to concede the game, which limits this approach to a multiplayer game.


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