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10 Card Types for Commander in Magic: The Gathering

Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.

How to Play Commander Format

Arguably the most popular format outside standard, commander has players build 100-card decks from any sets where you can't duplicate cards except for basic lands. Additionally, you begin with 40 life instead of 20 and start play with a legendary creature (your commander) in the command zone.

Your commander dictates which colors you can include in their deck, and you can recast them from the command zone by paying two extra mana. Beyond that, Magic's the same as ever, but you'll find some cards better suit commander's extended games—which reign supreme? Here are ten perfect card types for commander format in Magic: The Gathering!

Avacyn, Angel of Hope mtg

Avacyn, Angel of Hope mtg

1. Legendary Cards

Of course, your commander has to a legendary creature (some planeswalkers also work), so there's one legendary already. But you'll often want to fill the rest of your deck with other legendaries because their biggest disadvantage (not being able to control duplicates without sacrificing) isn't an issue in singleton formats like commander.

Legendary cards tend to offer a bit more power for their price, so take advantage of their strength to quickly overwhelm foes.

2. Lieutenants

Some creatures have "lieutenant" abilities that trigger as long as you control your commander. Of course, these cards are practically unplayable in other formats, but they're powerful tools in EDH games, offering ongoing bonuses just by fielding your leader.

Plus, you'll often get these bonuses at the start of combat on your turn, meaning that (unlike many spells), you don't have to wait until your next turn's upkeep. Highlights include the extra draws from "Loyal Drake" (a staple in my own decks that costs less than a single dollar!) and the +1/+1 counters from "Loyal Companion".

3. Miracles

Miracle spells generally have an expensive base price, but if drawn as your first draw of the turn, you can reveal one to instead cast it for its reduced miracle cost. This drastically discounts your spell, often accessing it for just one or two mana.

Since commander decks jump from 60 to 100 cards (99 after your commander), your chances of drawing miracles in your opening hand (which you don't want) decreases, giving a better chance of utilizing their ideal prices later. Be sure to browse their best members, like "Revenge of the Hunted", "Terminus", and "Temporal Mastery".

4. Life-Based Effects

Since commander games grant you double the normal starting life, why not exploit your surplus with cards that reward increased health? For instance, take "Divinity of Pride", a 4/4 with both flying and lifelink who gains an additional +4/+4 while you have at least 25 life! Unless you've been badly wounded from your initial 40, that offers a monstrous aerial beatstick.

Even nastier, take Serra Ascendant, a single-cost unit who adds +5/+5 and flying to 1/1 lifelink while you have at least 30 health, letting you potentially swing with a 6/6 on turn two! Also consider spells like "Phyrexian Arena" that offer benefits at the expense of life, a lesser evil since you'll have health to spare.

5. Infect

The feared infect ability lets creatures deal damage to other creatures as -1/-1 counters (permanents debuffs that don't fade) and to players as poison counters. Players lose when they collect 10 poison counters regardless of their life, making infect a fierce way to circumvent EDH's boosted life totals.

Even if you don't employ infect yourself, watch out for creatures that have a variant called poisonous, and remember that players can proliferate poison counters just like any other counters, making commanders like "Atraxa, Praetors' Voice" especially potent.

6. Planeswalkers

Some planeswalkers (like "Daretti, Scrap Savant") can be used as your commander, but I generally advise against this because doing so negates your chances of winning via commander damage (you force a loss on a player once your commander deals them 21 total combat damage).

Instead, try using them as regular deck members. Since EDH games have bigger life totals and longer matches, you'll have a fighting chance of increasing planeswalker loyalty high enough to access their ultimate effects. Pull off the final ability of units like "Liliana of the Veil" and you've very likely won.

7. Extra Draws

Card advantage is important in any Magic game, but especially so in longer commander matches—ideally, you'll have a land drop every turn as well as something to play. To reinforce your hand, use cards that provide extra draws. These are most common in blue, but search hard enough and you'll find them anywhere.

For instance, green's "Sylvan Library" and white's "Land Tax" both provide low-cost ongoing extra-card abilities worth mention. Blue's got dozens of tempting options, ranging from the cheap-but-delayed "Ancestral Vision" to the city's blessing-based "Secrets of the Golden City".

8. Tutors

Commander's singleton rules keep things interesting by ensuring you're constantly seeing different spells, but they can make it hard to find needed cards. This makes spells that pull selected units (called "tutors") especially valuable in commander, finding key players without having to riffle through your whole deck.

Spells like "Demonic Tutor" add a chosen card directly to hand, others (like "Mystical Tutor") place it on top of your deck instead. Either way, most only cost a few mana and help find whatever's needed to win you the game.

9. Board Wipes

Sure, removals are important in any format, but they're especially needed in commander. You know you'll be up against at least one legendary creature (and very likely more), so you'll want field-devastating board wipes like "Wrath of God" and "Blasphemous Act" when opponents swarm the field.

And don't overlook the importance of board wipes for other permanents; "Back to Nature" eliminates all enchantments, "The Elderspell" can destroy any number of planeswalkers, and "Cyclonic Rift" can bounce all opposing non-lands when overloaded.

10. Eminence/Partner Commanders

Commander became so popular that some legendary creatures were tailored to the format. If you pick a leader with an eminence effect (like the above "The Ur-Dragon"), you'll get an ability from the command zone without even needing to cast your commander! In Ur's case, your other dragons will cost one less mana.

Or, you can have two commanders instead of one by using creatures with partner. Some partners, like "Thrasios, Triton Hero" can partner with any other partner, while others, like "Rowan Kenrith", only pair with a specific card ("Will Kenrith" in her case). But either way, you'll score two guaranteed creatures per game instead of one, giving more tactical options and blending whatever colors you prefer.

Playing Competitive Commander

Commander games create deliciously-chaotic multiplayer matches, but today's card types can give you a needed edge by utilizing the format's specifics. Start by choosing a competitive commander and then building around them; you've got plenty of tempting options from each color.

Feel free to share your own experiences with commander-preferring spells, but for now, as we await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion of EDH staples, vote for your favorite card and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!

© 2019 Jeremy Gill