Are there any limits to just how many Commander decks it makes sense to build? As you continue to add to your collection, there is bound to be overlap in concepts and cards. One of the best ways to have a large but functionally diverse collection of Commander decks is to build one per possible color identity. This brings us to exactly 32 potential decks.
Some of these decks will work out, and others won't. Anything that fails to function will be sidelined while I continue testing decks that work initially. Once I've gotten decks to a point where they function, I try and tune them to the approximate power level they should be. When I have time or when a table asks for lower-powered options, I will move on to some of my less-loved decks and see if they can be salvaged.
In this two-part article, I'll unveil my current picks for 32 functionally unique Commander decks. Today's piece will focus on single-, five-, and four-color decks. Next week, we'll unpack the three- and two-color pairings. But first, a bit more on "functionally unique..."
How Many Red Decks Run These Cards?
To elaborate a bit, assume you were going to build two different mono-red decks. Sure, you might choose to build Krenko, Mob Boss tribal Goblins and then have a Daretti, Scrap Savant artifact deck. These seem like two ideas far enough apart that the overlap would likely be minimal. I believe many players will eventually "optimize" both decks by making some of the same choices.
Take red removal. It's likely both decks end up playing Lightning Bolt, Chaos Warp, Blasphemous Act, and Vandalblast. For non-removal, it is quite likely both decks would run Deflecting Swat and even Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer. An overlap of six cards does not seem like that many, but consider also artifacts and lands.
Playing a few of the same cards in several decks is usually a non-issue. Seeing any one particular card is not likely considering the deck size in Commander. However, it is a world of difference when you have the exact same ten or so cards in multiple decks. For multi-colored decks, things arguably get worse, since they have access to even more must-play staples (the best in each color).
There are only so many of such staples in any given color, and if they are both thematic and powerful, it's easy to pick the same few cards over and over again for multiple decks. This becomes a problem when those cards crowd out unique ideas and sap a deck's identity in exchange for raw power.
Thus, when I build a deck for Commander, I prioritize answering two questions: "Is this deck going to play differently than my existing decks?" and "Am I going to have a unique play experience every time I sit down with this deck?"
With all that established, here are my 32 commanders of choice (one for each color identity).
This was my toughest choice, as there are not that many potential commanders. I've played with some of the Eldrazi before, and am looking for a different experience. What could be more different than going from a gigantic monster to a piddly 1/1? Hope of Ghirapur, I choose you!
I think my concept for this deck will be a beefed-up Hope Voltron using equipment. Not the most original idea, but it's something I have not done before. Killing people with a 1/1 does sound funny, too.
Dog and Horse form the ultimate team up to make a very aggressive mono-white weenie deck that comes out swinging turn two on. My vision is a very low-to-the-ground, combat-centric deck with the best one-mana cards available. This will allow me to play some unfair cards like Armageddon, Ravages of War, and Cataclysm.
Interestingly enough, I have a difficult time with blue commanders. It's hard to find a sweet spot between pure control and theme. With Svyelun, I will play a full-on Merfolk tribal deck and keep the control elements in check. That won't stop me from trying to achieve a win with Lullmage Mentor, although doing so will not be the deck's primary focus. I'll also do my best to include Merfolk from throughout Magic's history as a primary build restriction to keep things interesting.
Oh boy, where to begin? I've run numerous black or effectively mono-black decks in Commander for years. Where would I go from here? Simple, Arvinox, the Mind Flail. I've waited a long time to get this card, and the plan of attack is excruciatingly simple. Step one ramp, step two commander, step three steal, steal, and steal some more!
I look forward to figuring out how to improvise my way out of a variety of situations by using everyone else's deck as my own. Additionally, I will get to play some early cards like Cunning Rhetoric to give myself early- and mid-game presence and Victory Chimes and Spectral Searchlight to establish early-game diplomacy.
My current red deck is Norin the Wary, and I cannot see changing it. It's great for multiplayer and shows off just how good a card that originally did nothing has become many years later. I have updated this deck consistently and playing it is always an experience. Just like every other Norin deck, I play various Pandemonium effects and Norin blinks the table into submission. My version also runs lots of mass artifact and mass land destruction because that's fun for the whole table, right? I bring this deck out for tables that enjoy cutthroat mechanics and keep it away from casual games.
This commander struck me as particularly interesting. I already feel like I have a few concepts together, like using Greenbelt Rampager for bonus storm count, which also has synergy with say Thrasta, Tempest's Roar.
Of course, there's a literal storm theme here, and I'm going to continue to develop that concept with other notable green cards like Hurricane and Tornado. I refuse to use tribal Ooze, say that three times fast, and am focusing on the storm idea.
Currently an experiment between Kyodai, Soul of Kamigawa and the partner combination of Cecily, Haunted Mage plus Othelm, Sigardian Outcast. These commanders form a classic five-color "good stuff" type deck that seeks to draw the game out, literally, by playing and protecting Divine Intervention.
Kyodai is a little bit of everything, as players seem to be unaware that I can flash my commander in for a block or save. And later, it can be pumped up to make for a considerable 8/8 flying blocker. I can also use Kyodai to save an opponent's permanent, which can prove a game-winning diplomatic play.
On the other hand, Cecily and Othelm give me early- and mid-game plays while I'm setting up value pieces. I'll keep testing more until I'm happy with the feel. In either case, they are definitely more unique than the previous five-color commanders I've run.
These are decks made up of the other four colors. While there have been historical names for these combinations, the common consensus is to use names from the Nephilim cards printed in Guildpact. It's surprising that Wizards has not taken a more active stab at re-establishing a naming convention here. With the additions of partner and friends forever, more combinations are possible than ever.
Not-Green aka Yore-Tiller
Surprisingly enough, I have not yet had the chance to play this commander! Not new by any means, Breya was first printed in Commander 2016. It's easy enough to build a deck with artifact and token synergy, but I think I will try a life gain deck.
Even though red would seem like the odd color out, cards like Lightning Helix and Warleader's Helix stay on theme while serving as removal. There is a slew of life gain artifacts that I can get double or triple synergy out of like Zuran Orb and Fountain of Renewal. The ability to gain life, draw cards, or turn them into removal offers a lot of flexibility.
Not-White aka Glint-Eye
This feels like one of the least-loved four-color combinations. Outside of Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder, nothing strikes my fancy. What I have done in the past is play a five-color commander and simply omit one color's worth of cards.
I'm going to give Yidris a try this time and play as many suspend cards and cards with no casting cost as possible. On top of that, I'm going to try and pair it up with the "cast from exile" theme of the Exit From Exile Baldur's Gate Commander decks featuring Faldorn, Dreadwolf Herald and Durnan, of the Yawning Portal. Hopefully, this turns into a spicy brew worthy of an entire article on its own.
Not-Blue aka Dune-Brood
Saskia the Unyielding is a good commander and one I have played in the past. The replacement? Looks like a combination of Elmar, Uvenwald Informant and Wernog, Rider's Chaplain. I'm feeling a heavy artifact-style deck, giving opponents clues that can fuel Viridian Revel and Disciple of the Vault with a mixture of creatures that should have a sort of aristocrats feel. There are a fair number of blink effects in white I think would work well for my concept along with tons of reanimation for Wernog.
Not-Black aka Ink-Treader
Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis has been my preferred "group hug" style deck forever, and also my go-to deck for this color combination. However, I want to try something different. The problem? Very few choices. I'm not an A-Omnath, Locus of Creation player, and I don't want to be forced into a tribal Elementals deck.
I'm considering an artifact-heavy deck featuring Akiri, Line Slinger and Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix. This deck would turn every cantrip artifact into mana for Kydele and damage for Akiri. Utilizing artifact lands for a free boost to Akiri seems good. I think I can fit in a lot of different keywords throughout Magic's history, like metalcraft and affinity. I'm hoping it turns into a pretty cool deck.
Not-Red aka Witch-Maw
This is by far the most common four-color combination with heavy hitters like Atraxa, Praetor's Voice and the classic partners Thrasios, Triton Hero and Tymna the Weaver. My Atraxa deathtouch deck is undergoing a heavy revamp based around two Baldur's Gate cards: Nalia de'Arnise and Multiclass Baldric. I'm still going to maintain the deathtouch theme, but will also much more heavily incorporate a multicolored, party theme. This deck has continued to evolve and I am very happy with how it plays as a casual Atraxa deck.
Building a Bridge to Chapter 2
That's all for today. Next week, we'll look at the shards, wedges, and color pairs to round out this behemoth of a concept. Until then, do you ever find your Commander decks looking a bit same-y? Which deckbuilding solutions have you tried to remedy this issue? Or are you content to slam your very favorite cards over and over again in different shells? Let me know in the comments!