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Building Your First Commander Step One: Choosing Your Commander


Hello awesome people! I hope that you are having an awesome day today!

Have you ever looked at the causal format called Commander and wondered how to get started with a 100-card deck and no more than 1 of each non-basic card? Has the price of some staples kept you out of the format? Don't know where to start? I got ya! Enter the next few weeks. What I want to do is to dedicate the next few weeks to building few popular decks and archetypes for you to show you how I do it myself, and then we'll wind up the series with three finished decks.

Remember that there are more than 20,000 cards in this game. I get it! There are also 1,668 legendary creatures that can lead your deck plus planeswalkers that can do so. There is no way we can do that easily.

Here's how this will work:

  • Deck #1 - Randomly Selected Commander from EDHREC.com's Shuffle Button.
  • Deck #2 - A Popular Commander Archetype from a Top Ten Archetype according to EDHREC.com
  • Deck #3 - A Popular Creature Type theme from the Top Ten over at EDHREC.com as well.

And then I also want three budgets for you too. One that doesn't care about cost, one that costs fewer than $100 and one mid-range deck with price but doesn't care about decent prices like a $10 card but won't run a Mana Crypt.

Today is the "Easy" one. Choosing our three Commanders. Remember in this format that you cannot run cards not in your colors if it has that mana symbol. So, as an example, if we choose a three-color Bant Commander, we cannot run Obelisk of Alara with other mana symbol tapping. Ditto a split card with a Red option like Fire // Ice or a hybrid cost too. The only exception is reminder text like the extort ability.

I'll also choose Archetypes and Tribes that are in different colors. First is the random one, and then we'll choose its budget first.

Deck #1 - Random Commander

See that "Shuffle" button looking like the same thing on my iTunes' player? That's what we are building around today. Let's get to it! I hit it, and what shows up?

Zareth San, the Trickster

Zareth is a five-drop 4/4 in the Dimir colored identity. It has three abilities and is a Merfolk Rogue. The first is flash, which is less useful in the Command Zone since we'll be telegraphing it as a combat trick, so you are unlikely to be able to flash him out and block kill a X/3 or smaller, but he's also likely to play keep away as long as you have mana untapped to flash him out. Then you can spend four to bounce an unblocked attacking Rogue to your hand to put him onto the battlefield tapped and attacking from your hand. This will not work from the Command Zone. Then when he deals combat damage to a player you can put a target permanent from their graveyard to your battlefield. We are building around the third ability. A combat damage trigger like this is referred to as a "saboteur" ability, so I'll be running him in a deck around combat damage triggers, with some milling support to make sure we have great recursion choices as well as a backup win con.

Zareth is just $0.49 here on CoolStuffInc.com so he could be my less than $100 deck too!

That gives me Dimir Saboteur. What are my other two choices?

Deck #2 - Top Ten Archetype

Now what? The Top Ten from #1 to #10:

  • Artifacts
  • Life Gain
  • Treasure
  • Equipment
  • +1/+1 Counters
  • Aristocrats
  • Tokens
  • Spellslinger
  • Wheels
  • Lands

I know what Archetype and color I want! Equipment with a Boros leader. I haven't used White, Red, or Green yet, so now we'll be back with just Green in the last deck. Equipment is the fourth most popular archetype, and then it seems like a nice place for my midsized budget since many equipment is pretty cheap, but key ones are expensive, like Sword of Fire and Ice I won't be able to run.

Who's my leader?

Let's go with a popular option:

Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist
Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh

This partner pair from Commander Legends is the most popular Boros option. Ardenn has the ability to send your Auras and Equipment to one dork on your combat step without paying equip costs. Rograkh is a partner and three keywords in first strike, menace and trample. The idea is to drop him turn 1 and then your land and then a mana rock or equipment or ETB tapped land. Then on turn two, land and equipment or mana rock if not. Then turn 3 Ardenn pre-combat and then move equipment to Rograkh for free and swing with two evasions unlikely to have two to block and stop the attack. So, you'll want cheap equipment or high equip costs in this brew. Hope that helps!

Deck #2 is done!

Deck #3 - Top Ten Creature Type Deck

And then there was one left. We need a creature type to build around that includes Green. Here are the top 10, in order.

  • Dragons
  • Zombies
  • Elves
  • Vampires
  • Humans
  • Goblins
  • Angels
  • Wizard
  • Slivers
  • Phyrexians

I could do:

  • Five-Color Dragons
  • Golgari or Mono-Green Elves
  • Selesnya Humans
  • Five-Color Slivers

I don't like the 5C options, since there wouldn't be much in the way of Green there other than ramp and a handful of that tribe. Let's do Elves or Humans. Both are Top Five, and this one probably won't be caring about budget. Let's do Elves since that'd be different, and we'll add in Black for Golgari.

Who is my leader?

The most common is Lathril, with more than 15k registered. Do that? The problem is his combat damage trigger we'd build around is similar to Zareth's, so instead we'll do one from Commander Legends as well:

Abomination of Llanowar

This three-drop Elf Horror has vigilance and menace to be hard to block. Then his power and toughness are equal to your Elf count in play and in your graveyard. With a fat leader with vigilance you can swing and stay back to block, great at killing with Commander Damage while keeping yourself closed for business. Then your menace will let you slip past single blockers for hits. It's powerful. We'll support it with some self-milling things to get a bigger Commander for a faster win.

And there we go!

Deck #3 is done!

Once again, here are my leaders, color, and budget and style:

  • Deck #1: Dimir Saboteur with Milling Backup around Zareth San, the Trickster; Budget Under $100
  • Deck #2: Boros Voltron with Partners Ardenn and Rograkh, Son of Rohgah; Budget-conscious
  • Deck #3: Golgari Elves with Abomination of Llanowar; No Budget Cares

Now next week I am out at Spring Break in Quito so we'll have a canned article for you, so see you in two weeks with Step Two: Mana and Lands, which will be the big one.

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