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[Article] The Joy of Commander

I’ve fallen in love with Commander.

If you don’t know what Commander (AKA Elder Dragon Highlander) is, it’s a constructed multiplayer Free-for-All format. The differences between other formats are as follows:

– The decks are singleton 100 card decks. (Singleton meaning only one of each card other than basic land).
– Players use a “Commander” which is a Legendary Creature in Magic that you build your deck around. It usually presents some sort goal for your deck (or at times, a theme) and is played from an area other than your hand called the Command Zone. Each time the commander is put into the graveyard or exiled, you can return it to the Command Zone instead where it will take an additional two colorless mana to cast him/her for each previous time it has been cast from there. (However, you can shuffle other player’s commanders into their libraries).
– A player can only have cards using the same color identity as their Commander in their deck. For example, if you chose Brimaz, King of Oreskos as your Commander, you would have to make a Mono White deck. If you chose Daughter of Autumn as your Commander, you would have a green and white deck. Any color symbols appearing on the card count towards the color identity of the card.
– Players start with 40 life rather than 20, but if a player is dealt 21 or more points of damage from a single commander over the course of the game, that player loses the game.

Other than that, it uses typical Free-For-All rules.

It was only yesterday (at this time of writing) that I played my first Commander games but I’m already a huge fan. Just from looking at the decks and playing the games, I can see why so many people are attracted to it.

Don’t worry, I’m not leaving beloved Standard behind, but as someone who’s only focused on one format since he started playing Magic, it’s nice to have a breath of fresh air; and to be honest, I’m not a super competitive player so casual formats do appeal to me.

So, to hopefully tempt more of you to try it out, here are my top 3 reasons (in no particular order) Commander is something worth trying out.

1. It is accessible

Because it’s a singleton format it makes use of any loose cards you may have lying around in your collection.

Have a random Archangel of Thune lying around because they’re too expensive to get more? Throw it in your commander deck!

These types of cards are very powerful and in more competitive constructed formats, will usually require you having at least 2-3 of them. This makes Commander generally cheaper than other formats. Of course, there are exceptions to that since you could have singles of a ton of expensive cards and at 100 cards, that can still add up. Commander players also love “pimping” out their decks by foiling large portions of their deck but that’s personal preference.

However, Commander is still a casual format meaning every set is legal! (The “Un” sets can be exceptions at times). This also increases the accessibility of the game, especially if you’re a long time player and have lots of older cards in your collection that aren’t getting any use. Now, you can build a deck with them without worry of legality!

I should point out that there is a ban list for certain cards. Even though it’s not a tournament format, there are cards that are very oppressive in Commander that make the game not fun.

You can view the banned list HERE

This brings us to my next point:

2. It is a casual, multiplayer format

Because it’s a casual multiplayer format, it makes it can make games more fun to play since you’re usually playing in a group!

Commander just oozes fun since a large portion of it is social interaction with your group, whether it’s creating alliances, talking about cards to add to your decks, or everyone surprised by a huge bomb card. There is of course still some stress in trying to win but overall, the format is all about having fun rather than winning.

Since there are more than just two people battling, it also makes the games go on longer. This means that rarely is there one person that is shut out and everyone has a chance to do something huge to the game. It also makes the games much more back and forth and while one person may start coming out ahead, you can be sure the other players are going to be gunning for him or her!

3. The deck building

Since almost all the cards in Magic are legal to use in Commander, it opens up hundreds of thousands of possibilities in regards to deck building. It also makes for a nice challenge because you only get one of each card; you have to find other cards that do a similar effect. The fact you’re using 100 card decks gives a lot of breathing room to fit in a variety of different cards unlike other constructed formats where staying as close to 60 cards as possible is the goal and going through the grueling process of cutting cards isn’t that bad in Commander.

The Commander is a really cool spin on Magic as well; since it is the focal point of your deck you can be pretty expressive through the decks. It also appeals to all types of players.

One player may love lore, or flavor in Magic and have only cards that are properly themed with their Commander. Another person may be more focused on the interactions between other cards and making the Commander stronger through mechanics and synergy.


Commander is a breath of fresh air, and if you haven’t had a chance to try it I highly recommend persuading some friends to join you! It keeps Magic interesting and it is a format that appeals to every kind of player out there.

What are you waiting for? Grab a Commander and get going!

– Michael Y.

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