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Commander Deck Full? Here’s Five Tricks to Beat the Limit

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You have a new deck idea and get to building. At first there are piles of cards, many different themes, and so much promise. After your first round of cuts, there are always cards you wish you could add, but simply do not have the space.

Even though Commander gives you 100 cards to work with, it often feels like you still need more slots. Fortunately, with some creative thinking, there are a few tricks to get the most out of your 100... or play with even more cards! Here are my five favorites.

#5: Cut Lands for Rocks, Dorks, and Utility

Because of the extremely generous free mulligan rule, you get two chances at your opening hand to dig for Sol Ring and a couple of lands or mana rocks. According to EDHREC, 20 of the top 100 cards are mana rocks. How many lands are in the top 100? Zero.

On top of those 20 rocks, there's another 20 cards that are either ramp spells or creatures that make mana. Clearly, the trend of cutting lands and replacing them with other mana-producing sources is well-known. But mana is not the only reason for these replacements.

There are several mana-producing artifacts with big upsides that are great substitutions for almost any deck. Cursed Mirror is an excellent Clone in red, and serves as a rock at worst. At best? This card doubles another doubler and makes you combo off harder and sooner.

Liquimetal Torque is drastically underplayed as a two-mana rock with a huge ability. At worst, it allows for the entire table to target a threat with artifact removal, and is a massive tool for diplomacy. But it can also be used to create combos, secure metalcraft, or even kill Illusions that die to targeting.

Staff of Compleation is a low-cost rock that can do a ton of different things or simply add mana. Savai Crystal and the like are a mana rock if you need them to be, or a new card if you don't.

Removing a few lands for a few rocks with abilities allows you to support more concepts in a deck but also fixes and accelerates you. The cost is running a few less lands. However, the potential for bad openers is smoothed out by the free mulligan.

#4: Prioritize Charms and Commands

Charms have been in Magic a very long time, and have seen play at all levels. Two currently appear in the EDREC Top 100. Few cards approach the incredible flexibility of any of the Charms or Commands, and they are always worth considering for those last few deck slots.

When you are looking to trim cards, that is sometimes the wrong mindset. Really, what you should be thinking about is how many effects of each type you need. If you can substitute an Izzet Charm as both a counter and discard slot, you have created a free slot. Charms, Commands, and other modal spells open up space for other cards while maintaining healthy counts of various effects.

#3: Make Use of Sometimes-Lands

The double-faced cards are significantly underplayed, and also an easy solution for decks that need a few more slots. Some of them, like Malakir Rebirth // Malakir Mire, have seen a high amount of play, but I think nearly all of them deserve slots in most decks. In short, you are adding a land that is sometimes a removal spell, sometimes a mana dork, and sometimes a value generator, and the cost is only half a deck slot for great options. The mythic rare DFCs are powerful spells that also can enter play untapped, so they are the freest of free includes.

DFC removal effects help free up space. Hagra Mauling // Hagra Broodpit is effectively Murder and Swamp. If Bedevil, Terminate, and Mortify are top-100 cards, Mauling is close, and those other cards can never be a land when you need one.

Bala Ged Recovery // Bala Ged Sanctuary takes my vote for the most potentially powerful and flexible DFC. How often do you need a Regrowth effect? Not that often. But when you do need one, paying three instead of two is almost never a deal breaker. Really, it's more about being able to have deck slots to support Regrowth, Noxious Revival, or Reclaim. Recovery gives you the option at the low cost of changing a Forest into a Sanctuary.

Finally, Ondu Inversion // Ondu Skyruins is a boardwipe that replaces a Plains. Eight mana may seem like a lot, but both Ruinous Ultimatum and Eerie Ultimatum make the top 100 despite being extremely difficult-to-cast seven-mana spells. Recovery and Inversion are not equivalent in power to the Ultimatums, but getting "diet Ultimatum" is sometimes good enough.

#2: Turn It Up to 11 with Companions and Attractions

While each companion imposes a restriction upon deck creation, it does not count as a card in the deck, so you get a free card! Currently, the "best" ideas for decks with companion synergy are fairly well-established. However, look to new sets like The Lord of the Rings and March of the Machines for additional ways to build around companion.

There's also the attraction deck, which does not count as part of your 100. Commonly, attractions are played in a dice-rolling archetype, as attractions give you more chances to roll. This means that you can cut the worst dice-rolling cards and instead count on attractions to do some heavy lifting.

#1: When All Else Fails, Cheat and Steal!

That's right, just cheat! If your play group is alright with silver-bordered cards, you can always access more cards via Cheatyface and the most fair tutor ever made, Booster Tutor. While this option probably won't work for all of you, it's worth mentioning.

Alternatively, there are tons of theft effects in Magic. Sometimes you do not have the right answer in your deck, but an opponent does. Decks like Xanathar, Guild Kingpin or Arvinox, the Mind Flail are not 100-card decks; they are 400-card ones! If you want to play the most cards possible, these are your go-to Commanders. But you don't have to play specific commanders to access some of the best theft effects, like Praetor's Grasp or Villainous Wealth.

Case in Point

But even if your deck doesn't feel like it needs more space, it still can be tweaked. As an example, take my mono-white partner deck with Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful and Keleth, Sunmane Familiar. One of my first concepts with the deck was to keep it very low to the ground, with casting costs up to two, but few higher than that. Because of that choice, I found workarounds by including cards like Cast Out, Eternal Dragon, Sunblade Samurai and Kabira Takedown all at the expense of land slots.


At first glance, all of those cards are more than two mana. But their abilities make them effectively modal removal/draw/ramp/rocks, by paying two to get a land or being a land themselves. Next, I added even more cycling lands, and even a Flourishing Fox once I saw the obvious synergy.

In the building process, I found an additional sub-theme that went well with everything I was already doing, so it was win/win! Furthermore, if the deck doesn't work out, I'm eyeing both Lurrus of the Dream-Den and Kaheera, the Orphanguard for a followup build.

Imposing this kind of "deckbuilding restriction" can actually open you up to cards you never thought you'd play that functionally expand the size of your deck. And, of course, lead to a unique and fun experience.

All the Choice in the World

While I am a firm believer that restrictions breed creativity, it's nice to know that there are so many ways to work around, bend, or completely shatter those restrictions. By including just a few key cards for flexibility and consistency, you can safely create space for more interesting cards. On top of that, there are many mechanics from companions to attractions that allow you even more game space. And there's always the route of playing everyone's deck.

Have you had a hard time cutting decks down to 100 cards? Or do you think Commander needs to add sideboards or wishboards for even more design space? Let me know in the comments. Until then, happy building!

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Joe Mauri

Joe has been an avid MTG player and collector since the summer of 1994 when he started his collection with a booster box of Revised. Millions of cards later he still enjoys tapping lands and slinging spells at the kitchen table, LGS, or digital Arena. Commander followed by Draft are his favorite formats, but, he absolutely loves tournaments with unique build restrictions and alternate rules. A lover of all things feline, he currently resides with no less than five majestic creatures who are never allowed anywhere near his cards. When not Gathering the Magic, Joe loves streaming a variety of games on Twitch(https://www.twitch.tv/beardymagics) both card and other.

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Posted in Commander, Creative, Deck Building, Design, Free, Strategy, Zendikar RisingTagged , , , , , , , , ,

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