How to Make a Commander Deck | Magic Arcanum


Welcome to Magic Arcanum. I’m Ryan Gomez and I’m so glad you’re
here because it’s Story Time! Commander is a hugely popular way to play
Magic, and with Modern Horizons giving us so many new and cool cards that are perfect
for the format, I thought we’d take a look at how to tackle building your first deck. We did this a little while ago with our video
on How to Make a Magic Deck, and you guys seemed to really like how we blended game
advice with the lore behind the cards, so that’s what we’re going to do again here
today. First, what IS Commander? Well, it’s a way of playing Magic that bends
some of the normal rules. For example, your deck must be exactly one
hundred cards and contain no duplicates other than basic lands. Within those hundred, you must have a Commander,
which can be almost any legendary creature from the entire history of Magic, or one of
a select few specific planeswalkers who have this ability spelled out on their card. That Commander will then dictate which colors
of cards can go in the rest of your deck. So, every Commander has its own restrictions
which can lead to decks that are unique, flavorful, or downright silly. Looking at you, Phelddagrif. And, your Commander does not get shuffled
into your deck. They start the game in what’s called the
Command Zone, and you can cast them from this zone exactly as if they were in your hand. You can even send them back there when they
die, and recast them again for a slight upcharge. This means you can build a deck around taking
advantage abilities that happen when your commander enters the battlefield, or, synergize
with your commander’s creature type or other abilities. For inspiration, you can visit our friends
over at EDHrec.com. The link beneath this video will take you
to their page listing some popular commander options, so go check them out. Oh yeah one more rule to know: Life totals
start at 40 and combat damage dealt by Commanders is tracked because it only takes 21 points
of damage dealt that way to knock a player out of the game, no matter how much life they
have at that point. Commander is best played as a multiplayer
format with all your friends. It’s kinda geared more towards a casual
environment where you can just do wacky stuff and build a deck the way you want to play. Ok so with all that in mind, where do you
even begin to start making a Commander deck? Well, as it so happens, we’ve got a great
case study here, thanks to my good friend and yours…Nicole. Nicole came to me one day, holding a foil
copy of Ishkanah, Grafwidow, and asked if we could use it to build her first Commander
deck. I of course said yes, and we got started right
away. Ishkanah comes from Eldritch Moon, a set that
took place on Innistrad, a plane where it’s basically Halloween every day. A deck with her as the Commander would get
to be green and black, since she has an activated ability with a black mana symbol, while her
casting cost has a green one. This makes up what we call the “color identity”
of the card. Any colored mana symbols in the casting cost
or text box matter, and that’s true for both your Commander and every other card going
into your deck. Ishkanah has a great enters-the-battlefield
ability, which is one of my favorite things to build around in Commander, since you often
get to cast your Commander more than once per game. It triggers based on delirium, a mechanic
which rewards you for having four or more different card types among cards in your own
graveyard. I knew if we could build a deck that took
advantage of delirium and was able to cast Ishkanah more than once, Nicole would be happy
to run her opponents over with a wave of icky spiders. Spiders have been a part of Magic since the
very first set, back in 1993, with Giant Spider. This one set a precedent that almost every
spider for the next twenty five years would follow. Out of the 51 spiders in the game today, nine
of them have equal power and toughness, two have more power than toughness, and the other
forty have more toughness than power. This makes spiders pretty resilient and geared
more toward defensive strategies. They also tend to do well against red decks,
who often struggle to deal enough damage with their burn spells. I gotta tell you, there isn’t much in life
that scares me like an oversized fireproof arachnid. …just have to nuke them from orbit, I guess. The other thing most spiders in Magic have
in common is the ‘reach’ ability, which lets them block flying creatures. This is pretty handy, especially in Commander,
when you tend to see a lot of dragons, angels, and other airborne attackers. While spiders started out as just green creatures,
they eventually found their way into every color except blue. I thought Aquastrand Spider was blue until
I looked it up and nope! No blue spiders. Not that we could use any in a deck commanded
by Ishkanah anyway. In fact, we couldn’t use any of the red
or white ones either. We still had plenty of choices among green
and black though, so our next step was to create a document and start outlining ideas. I like to keep things organized with Google
Sheets, and you can find a copy of my original plan for the deck along with a blank version
you can copy and use yourself down in the description for this video. Remember our How to Make a Magic Deck video? We talked about the Rule of Nine and how you
can use it to give your deck some structure. Well, you can’t quite do that in Commander,
but you can get pretty close. I picked nine things I felt Nicole’s deck
would need to support her use of Ishkanah. I budgeted about seven cards for each of these
nine things, leaving myself room to make changes as the deck came together. So for example, the first category of cards
I picked were what I called “big finishers.” These would be our payoff cards. If we played them while we had any sort of
board presence, we should be in a good spot to win the game. Nicole quickly wrote down Craterhoof Behemoth,
which is a good example of the kind of card we wanted for this slot. A couple of small spider tokens could suddenly
become a massive army of eight-legged doom. Decimator of the Provinces provides a similar
ability at a much easier on the wallet price tag, and that’s one of the cool things about
Commander. There are so many cards out there, some are
going to be much cheaper than others, and it’s ok to use placeholders or budget options
as you build your deck over time. Decimator is also from Eldritch Moon, and
I find that often times, cards from the same set or block as your Commander are going to
fit the themes and goals of the deck well, so if you ever find yourself stuck, try looking
at the full set list to get some fresh ideas. Overrun, Overwhelming Stampede, and Beastmaster
Ascension also provide ways to make our spiders into real threats. Our deck also wants a variety of card types,
like creatures, sorceries, and enchantments, to help get that delirium ability online. But you know what? For any of these to work, we need more spiders. So the next two categories were devoted just
to spiders, big and small. Deadly Recluse is cheap enough to cast early
but I wouldn’t be embarrassed to play it much later in the game – it can hold back
an Elder Dragon or just about anything else your opponent can throw at you. While we’re talking about Elder Dragons,
here’s a fun bit of trivia. Commander as a format was created by a group
of event judges who wanted a way to unwind after running tournaments all day. They came up with something they called Elder
Dragon Highlander, or EDH. The original decks were all ‘commanded’
by Elder Dragons, and the Highlander bit is from the Highlander movie, in which there
is a quote about how “there can be only one,” referring to the title character,
and also establishing there can only be one copy of each card in your deck. That’s also why you die after taking 21
commander damage. Those Elder Dragons all had 7 power and the
creators figured three hits from one of those monstrosities should be enough to kill anyone,
and so that’s a rule that stands today. When Wizards of the Coast got on board with
the format and realized how popular it was, they had to change the name because they didn’t
own the rights to Highlander and wanted to avoid any legal trouble. So, it was rebranded as Commander, though
longtime fans of the format still call it EDH out of tradition. Anyway, back to the spiders! Nyx Weaver would help get some cards flowing
into the graveyard and ensure we’d hit delirium by the time we were ready to cast Ishkanah. The frame on this one is neat because it’s
an enchantment creature, from Journey into Nyx, which takes place on Theros, a plane
where powerful gods make their presence felt through a lot of enchantments. This also means a Nyx Weaver in the graveyard
counts as two card types, being both a creature and enchantment. This helps us achieve delirium just a little
easier, and that could make the difference when Ishkanah hits the battlefield. Finding subtle synergies like this can really
help make your Commander deck as efficient as possible. Moving up into the mid-sized and larger options,
we find Graverobber Spider, who’s also going to benefit from Nyx Weaver putting bodies
six feet under, and then Silklash and Skysnare Spiders offer impressive defense that can
hold back any attack while we set up our own gameplan. This gave us a good core group of spiders
that would help Ishkanah reach big numbers when activating her ability to make our opponents
lose life, but if we wanted our Craterhoof payoffs to really work, we would need even
more bodies swarming the board. So, the next category would be token makers. These are cards that can create two or more
creatures at once, which makes them ideal for our needs. Spider Spawning and Arachnogenesis were a
natural fit, but we even added Crawling Sensation and It of the Horrid Swarm to get bonus bugs
on the battlefield. …how did that line get through proofreading?! Bonus bugs on the battlefield? Ouch. Anyway, slamming your own creatures down onto
the table is great, but sometimes you have to be able to remove your opponent’s creatures,
no matter how good yours are. The next two categories were devoted to creature
and permanent removal. Black and green are perfect colors for this
and we were able to give the deck a lot of powerful options like Hero’s Downfall, Putrefy,
Abrupt Decay, and Go for the Throat. We also found room for Mwonvuli Acid-Moss
and Bramblecrush for when you need to destroy a Rogue’s Passage or other troublesome land. Ok, that’s six out of our nine buckets that
are filling in nicely. We’ve got spiders all the way up our curve,
and some ways to drop multiple tokens down too. We have big payoff cards for when our board
is full and we’re ready to make our game winning strike, and we have a variety of powerful
removal spells to keep our opponent’s creatures from harassing us too much. What else does this deck need? The remaining three categories ended up being
kind of hybrids that gave our own creatures a little more support and further disrupted
our enemy’s plans. For example, in what I dubbed the “ramp
and draw” section, we put some general card draw with Harmonize and Ancient Craving, and
a little bit of mana acceleration with Deathcap Cultivator. Normally I don’t put a lot of creature-based
mana ramp in a commander deck but since the Cultivator can easily have deathtouch later
in the game, he’s still dangerous despite the weak stats. Our “Protection and Support” package is
also a mixed bag. Assault Formation would turn those highly
defensive spiders into absolute tanks, and Bow of Nylea would turn everything into a
Deadly Recluse while attacking. The Bow is another card from Theros, and is
both an artifact and enchantment, making it a useful delirium enabler, once again. The last section was titled “disruption”
and was intended to include ways to mess with our opponent’s hand, graveyard, or library
in some way and just make them struggle to execute their own gameplan. Whispers of Emrakul is a good example because
it is cheap and effective and also plays into our delirium theme for Ishkanah as well. So there you go. By starting with a Commander we wanted to
build around and then figuring out the nine key things we wanted this deck to do, we were
able to find cards to fill all those slots. Is this a highly tuned competitive deck? No, of course not. We had to make concessions to budget. We probably have a few spiders in here that
are sub-optimal. We’re kind of weak to sweepers and don’t
have enough card draw but you know WHAT? We’ve got a fun deck that didn’t break
the bank to put together, and it gets played once or twice a week at lunch, and that’s
what Magic is all about. Over time, Nicole will make changes as she
gets experience playing with the deck. Cards that under-perform will come out and
new ones, like maybe Webweaver Changeling from Modern Horizons, will go in. If you’re still overwhelmed, you really
should check out EDHrec.com because they make it easy to see which cards are popular and
work well together with a given Commander. How do YOU approach building a Commander deck? Tell me about it down in the comments. Or, if you need some tips for a deck you’re
working on, hit me up on Twitter and I’ll reply with my thoughts. Then, make sure you like this video and subscribe
to the channel so you don’t miss the great stories you’ll only find here on Magic Arcanum. I’ll see ya!

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