Beginner Planeswalker Guide: CommanderOctober 25, 2018
This is an ongoing series of Magic articles aimed at welcoming people into Magic: The Gathering!
Commander (originally entitled Elder Dragon Highlander or EDH) is one of the most popular Magic formats played in stores and around kitchen tables. Commander is a multi-player format perfect for casual games with friends and many Magic players have a Commander deck on them at all times.
First things first, let’s discuss how to build a Commander deck. Deck building for this format is unique because you will have 1 card as your Commander. Your Commander must be a Legendary Creature and has completely different casting rules than any other card. Generally, players build their entire deck around their Commander, which adds a fun element to the format. If you have a favorite color combination or a favorite Legendary Creature already, you are well on your way to constructing your first Commander deck.
It’s important to have a cohesive strategy for your deck. As an example, if Glissa was your Commander, you would want to have a good amount of artifacts in your deck and potentially ways to get artifacts into your graveyard.
Another interesting rule for Commander decks is that every card in your deck must align with the “color identity” of your Commander. Color identity is defined by the cost of the card and any mana symbols in the cards’ rules text. Glissa’s color identity is Black and Green. This means that you would only be allowed to put spells in your deck that are green, black, or colorless and basic lands that are Swamps or Forests. You can use colorless lands or lands that have black and/or green mana symbols.
Commander decks must be 100 cards exactly, including your Commander card. Commander is also a singleton format, meaning that every card (besides basic land) must be unique. This is a great opportunity to play with your favorite cards that are in your Commander’s color but make sure any cards you use are cohesive and synergistic to the rest of your deck. The ratio of lands is going to vary based on your deck, but you’ll want roughly 32-40 lands.
Pre-built Commander decks also exist! Ask about them at your local game store.
Once you have a Commander deck ready to play, you’ll need to know the unique rules of the game. Players all begin with 40 life instead of 20 and everyone draws on their first turn, including the first player. Different playgroups play with different mulligan rules, so be sure to ask how to mulligan in the particular group you are playing with.
Note: Keep track of damage you receive from each Commander in the game and how much Commander damage you deal to each opponent. 21 points of Commander damage from one Commander is lethal.
Your Commander begins the game in what is called the Command Zone. This is the most distinct feature of this format. Generally, your Commander lives in a spot just above your deck. Make sure all players can see your Commander. You can cast your Commander from this zone during any main phase the same way you would cast it from your hand.
If your Commander dies, gets sent to the graveyard, into your library or exiled, you choose if it goes back into the Command Zone instead. Each time your Commander goes into the Command Zone it will cost you 2 additional mana of any color to cast your Commander again. Usually, you use a die to keep track of how many times your Commander has been returned there.
It’s recommended to play Commander with 2-6 players, but I think it’s best at 4.
I hope this was helpful for building your first Commander deck and playing in this awesome format!