Commander is a format in which the players can unlock the full potential of even the most obscure [card Black market]Magic cards[/card], which dramatically shifts the color balance. Blue, for example, is thought to be the best color in Legacy, while red is probably the worst. Does this hold true for Commander? If not, what determines whether a color is good? Let’s take a look at each of the five colors and evaluate its contribution to the world of Commander.
I would rank white as the worst color in Commander, although this essentially becomes irrelevant once it gets paired with other colors. My goal as a Commander enthusiast is to create a deck for every possible color combination (currently 27). I began this epic endeavor by making all five mono-colored decks. Red was first, followed by black, blue and green, and then all that was left was white. I started this project over a year ago and still haven’t crafted a quality mono-white Commander deck. Why can’t I make one! It’s so simple. Let’s take a look at white’s strengths and weaknesses.
- Mass removal – White is hands down the best at this. It is capable of killing every nonland permanent in play several times if needed, and this is exactly the kind of card advantage that works best in Commander.
- Exiling things – Surprisingly, exiling cards instead of putting them into the graveyard is quite important in Commander. Graveyard themes are more prevalent and making sure your opponent’s Palinchron is gone forever will put your mind at ease.
- Drawing cards – Sadly, white is very poor at drawing cards which is why I think it is at the bottom of the rankings. Sure you can kill all of your opponent’s permanents, but all they have to do is cast a Stroke of Genius and they are back in the game.
- Effective threats – White has some [card baneslayer angel]sweet angels[/card], but overall the creatures are weak and cheaply costed. The lack of good mono-white legends is also a reason why I haven’t made a white Commander deck yet.
I’m certainly not saying never to use white in Commander, because it does play a very important support role. White is probably the most reactive color, allowing you to deal with almost anything your opponents throw at you, but it will have problems keeping those kinds of cards in your hand due to its lack of card draw. White’s best role is as a support color that deals with threats while other colors go in for the kill.
I rank blue at number three in the color hierarchy. This is surprising, due to its authority over the other colors in other eternal formats. Blue is kind of weird in Commander because as soon as you want to be even somewhat competitive with it you end up comboing every game, whether it be with Palinchron or a horde of wizards drawing infinite cards. Blue does, however, synergize very well with artifacts, which is fun.
- Drawing cards – Blue is hands down the best color if you want to draw a ton of cards, which is quite a good strategy in Commander. You just have to make sure you can use those cards to win, because drawing more draw cards by itself isn’t getting you anywhere.
- Denial – Counterspells! A solution to nearly every card your opponents throw at you. Some are better than others, but a well placed Counterspell can sometimes win the game.
- Theft – Blue is good at borrowing your opponents cards and killing them with them. Some all-stars are Treachery, Bribery, and Desertion.
- Effective threats – Just like white, blue doesn’t really clog the battlefield with monstrous creatures, which is why competitive blue decks end up comboing off.
- Dealing with permanents – You can only steal so many. There are essentially no blue cards that can kill enchantments or artifacts and very few that actually kill creatures. Blue usually has to settle for temporary solutions like Capsize.
If you are playing to win, blue is quite good at it, but no one does that in Commander, right? If blue plays fair it is another quality support color, keeping your hand full of those juicy [card Craterhoof behemoth]green beasts[/card] or exciting [card bogardan hellkite]red dragons[/card], and maybe even borrowing some of your opponents’. Blue pairs well with all the colors except white because of the lack of threats. Blue/White decks will have to rely more on equipment and using card advantage to deploy a horde of smaller creatures.
I put black at number two, with blue close behind. Black is personally my favorite color in Commander because I really enjoy utilizing [card grave pact]death themes[/card]. My current mono-black Commander deck is led by Toshiro, Umezawa and makes use of a ton of instant-speed removal spells and a horde of demons to destroy my opponents.
- Tutors – Black loves to bargain. “Your soul for this Thran Dynamo? Deal.” What makes black best is the fact that you almost always have the best cards in your deck. However, this also leads to redundant games, which can be boring.
- Killing creatures – Black loves this. Damnation, Decree of Pain, Plague Wind, the list goes on. There are a ton of mass creature removal spells as well as fun enchantments that cripple your opponents’ creatures.
- Reanimation – Black does wonderful things with the graveyard. Reanimation effects are far more potent in Commander when the average converted mana cost of creatures is six.
- Destroying artifacts/enchantments – Gate to Phyrexia… that’s it. Black just can’t kill artifacts or enchantments which is quite annoying in some situations. You’ll have to rely on other colors to fill this role.
Black is a very good primary color in Commander. It has adequate threats, card draw, and can deal with any creatures your opponents play. Its large mass of tutors also allows you to find whatever you need to deal with most situations, and including other colors in your deck only strengthens this. Just be sure you can deal with pesky [card doubling season]enchantments[/card] and [card akromas memorial]artifacts[/card].
Outside of Commander, red is by far the worst color in eternal formats, but Commander breaks all the rules. Red has all the time in the world to amass a horde of dragons to swiftly devour your opponents. Still, it has many shortcomings that put it at number four on the list, but not far behind blue and still quite far ahead of white. Also, I think red encompasses the spirit of Commander the best, and I believe it is the most entertaining color to play.
- Threats – Red has many quality threats which are very important in a multiplayer format in which players start with 40 life.
- Breaking artifacts – Red has the best artifact destruction of any color and this turns out to be very powerful in a format where artifacts are so prevalent.
- Drawing cards – Overall red is quite weak at drawing cards. Sure there’s Wheel of Fortune and Reforge the Soul, but those help your opponents as well.
- Destroying enchantments – A problem that both red and black share is dealing with those pesky [card Moat]enchantments[/card].
Red is a quality primary color, but should almost always be supported in order to function well. It can pump out major threats, but may have trouble staying in the game after a wrath. Another strength one might include is red’s ability to destroy lands, but this is usually frowned upon in Commander, so I left it out.
Finally we get to green, the best color bar none. In a format where large creatures rule, and a full hand of cards is essential, green shines brightest. Everything that works best in Commander green does very well.
- Mana ramp – This is the strength that sets green at number one. Being able to play your high cost threats several turns early is key to victory. A lot of the most powerful Commander decks have green simply to ramp and fix mana.
- Threats – Green is also very good at amassing a horde of monsters to quickly crush your opponents, and due to its mana ramping capabilities, it can reliably do this several turns before any other color.
- Destroying noncreature permanents – Another clutch strength is to be able to efficiently deal with enchantments and artifacts that ruin your game plan.
- Destroying creatures – There aren’t too many green cards that deal with creatures directly, so usually you have to rely on your large green monsters to overwhelm whatever creatures you opponents may cast.
Green contains some of the most powerful cards in Commander and the ability to accelerate them out early. Pair this with a color that efficiently deals with creatures and you’ll have a quality Commander deck.
Don’t think that any particular color or combination of colors is bad in Commander. Some just work more effectively than others.
This article was meant to be more of an overall judgment of each color and the roles it plays. I could have broken each color down into it’s strengths and weaknesses as they relate to themes. Blue, for example, is exemplary and almost necessary when it comes to an ‘enters the battlefield’ theme (my second favorite Commander deck theme). Maybe a theft theme sounds fun. What other color does this well? Red! Or a graveyard theme, or tokens, etc. The thing that makes Commander fun is that there is always an interesting theme to take advantage of.