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February 2011

Building your first Commander Deck by Jake 

So there you are your local card shop or perhaps at the kitchen table and your friends tell you about this new format taking the casual world by storm. This format known to most as Elder Dragon Highlander. Wizards of the Coast is now referring to this format as "Commander". All rules in Magic:the Gathering apply as well as:

  • Commander decks have 99 unique cards, not including basic lands and 1 "Commander" card
  • Your commander must be a legendary creature
  • Your Commander has a color identity which include all colors of mana found on the card(examples: Bosh, Iron Golem has a red color identity, Rhys, the Exiled would be black and green)
  • Your deck must not use or produce colors outside your Commander's color identity
  • Special way of winning involves producing 21 or more combat damage with your Commander to the opponent.
  • Your commander card starts in the commander "zone" You may play your commander at anytime you could play it from your hand, if your commander would go to the graveyard you may instead remove it and place it into the commander zone to be played again for an additional 2 more colorless mana.

That last rule seems complicated but basically if your general is Rhys, the Exiled, the first time you play it it'll cost 2G, the second time it will cost 4G, etc.

So you've watched them play and think to yourself, this could be fun but how do I build one? How can I be competitive? How do I know what to use of all the cards?

Well I start with a Legendary creature and go from there. Let's say you've opened up a Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon this week drafting, it's a great choice for your first commander.
Note: By definition of Infect this Commander only needs to deal 10 damage instead of 21 or more.

I then think of what would be good with this Commander. I read the card and realize that it likes a lot of black mana at your disposal. It can gain haste and regenerate which will make it very powerful when it hits play. Because of it's 4 power and infect giving it +1/+1 and double strike can win you the game in a turn if you're also able to give it haste. Just giving it +6/+6 and swinging can get you a win. It's a dragon. It's a zombie. It's color identity is black. This will limit your deck building by quite a bit. Although going monochromatic can open up other cards to be better(hello Cabal Coffers!).

So to start with we need a mana base. This is a great reason to start with a mono color general. I hate math to make mana bases just like you do! Good rule is 40 mana sources for your 99 card deck. This includes land fetching cards and mana producing artifacts.

An important thing to remember when building is redundancy. Your 60 card constructed decks work well because in "most" cases you have four of a card. You don't have that luxury here so having tutors to get cards is like having two of a card. Luckily for us, Black is the color of tutors. I'm going to go with a "Swamps Matter" type of theme. There's tons of cards in Magic:the Gathering this deck is just an idea for a Skithiryx deck. You could take it different ways or replace cards with more expensive ones that perform the role better. e.g. Dark Confidant instead of Dark Tutelage.

Commander: Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon

37 Swamps
1 Cabal Coffers
1 Crypt of Agadeem
1 Shizo Death's Storehouse

These lands will help us accel our mana. Other lands you could add would be Dark Depths and Inkmoth Nexus. We'll keep to our basics to make it swamp heavy for our theme.

1 Magus of the Coffers
1 Dread
1 Reiver Demon
1 Pestilence Demon
1 Thrashing Wumpus
1 Shriekmaw
1 Korlash, Heir to Blackblade
1 Nirkana Revenant
1 Twisted Abomination
1 Bane of the Living
1 Helldozer
1 Graveborn Muse
1 Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
1 Puppeteer Clique
1 Vampire Hexmage
1 Kagemaro, First to Suffer
1 Wurmcoil Engine

Creatures that help you destroy others creatures/planeswalkers or benefit from lots of black mana. Graveborn Muse looks nice in this deck with the amount of zombies we'll run.

1 Grave Pact
1 Dark Tutelage
1 Necropotence
1 Phyrexian Arena
1 Leyline of the Void

All enchantments end up either giving you card advantage or hurting your opponent for targeting your creatures.

1 Mimic Vat
1 Mirari
1 Sol Ring
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Nim Deathmantle
1 Contagion Clasp
1 Contagion Engine
1 Gauntlet of Power
1 Nevinyrral's Disk
1 Oblivion Stone
1 Expedition Map
1 Journeyer's Kite
1 Sensei's Divining Top

A lot of these artifacts are just Commander Staples. Mimic Vat plays nice with any cards with comes into play triggers. Proliferate works with our infect general damage. Mirari can copy any of our big X spells.

1 Liliana Vess
1 Sorin Markov

Planeswalkers are always powerful in any format.

Instants and Sorceries:
1 Mind Sludge
1 Mind Shatter
1 Night's Whisper
1 Hatred
1 Sign in Blood
1 Decree of Pain
1 Plague Wind
1 Mutilate
1 Damnation
1 Snuff Out
1 Tendrils of Corruption
1 Corrupt
1 Ambition's Cost
1 Beseech the Queen
1 Diabolic Tutor
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Consume Spirit
1 Profane Command
1 Consuming Vapors
1 Dregs of Sorrow
1 Beacon of Unrest
1 Black Sun's Zenith

total deck cost: approximately $200.00

Most of these cards work with our Swamp Matters theme or sweep the board. Black Sun's Zenith also stops persist! Hatred can make blocking very difficult when ur general's out. They either lose blocking your Commander and you pump your unblocked creature or by blocking one creature and leaving you with your dragon pumped by hatred to poison them out.

Often when I build a Commander deck I go online and research others. There's an overwhelming amount of cards legal in this format and it's only natural you don't know them all. Many sites have hundred of Commander decks in databases for you to check out. The internet is a valuable tool for building a commander deck, use it. Luckily many Commander cards are easily traded for instead of shelling out the price for the total deck. Remember you only need one copy of each for this format so you can trade your extras. Hope you enjoyed my take on Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon Commander.

Jake Hughes coldfire720@yahoo.com


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