As we all know, Commander is a fun format that dominates the casual landscape of this game we know and love. Back in 2007, when I created the Magic: RPG variant, Commander was still more of a niche format, and multiplayer was still mostly chaos with 60 card decks and duels were pretty c common. So, I created a variant that tapped into that, and the Magic: RPG was formed.
In this variant of the game, you create a planeswalker with a limited access to cards, life, and such. You have to slowly, over time, level up with XP to gain higher starting hand, better life totals, and a number of Skills and Traits to give you useful in-game abilities while also purchasing access to more cards so your deck would be increasingly powerful. Balancing all of those is awesome, and the format tracks your games and rewards you with that precious experience as you play. Both multiplayer and normal duels were rewarded with points you could invest in improving your character over time.
I believe this was the most significant addition I made to the game during my time as a writer. I wrote a few additions to the game over time, and then left it as is for a couple of years.
At the beginning of this year, I was really inspired to write a large network of updated and streamlined rules for the game. I envisioned an entire quintet of articles for 2017, spread out over the year to let people play the game and try things out as they played:
This was the big challenge. Could I make Commander and the Magic RPG work together? What would happen from my own initial play-testing? How could I marry these two together? Today is the result of that challenge . . .
I have introduced the entire rules package below for the Commander RPG. And then I have pushed and included all of the pertinent Skills and Traits from all three articles so you can have them all in one place here, in an Appendix at the end. This way we have a one stop shop for you.
Do you love Commander? Then why not give this marriage of Commander and the Magic: RPG a spin?
I will be recreating the core rules, with Commander oriented rules. I have already incorporated the rules changes from the two Expansions for the Battle Mage Stat and the Beginning of the Game Phase. All Stats and Traits from the first three articles are legal for this format, and we’ll have some new Commander ones below. Then we’ll follow with a multiplayer supplement in December that can be used for Commander or for normal multiplayer. Of course, those can be used for duels as well, they are just designed for multiplayer or Commander.
Due to the nature of the RPG format, there are a few rules and terms you need to know. Much like Commander has the Command Zone, we have a few odd terms as well for you to know, prior to reading the actual, proper rules.
Glossary for You
Access — Just like a Planeswalker may start out life knowing only a few spells, the Commander RPG requires Access before you can play a card. In a normal Magic format, you have Access to all of the cards that are legal in that format, and the rules of that format determine which cards you can play. The Standard format, gives you Access to only the most recently released sets as defined by that format, with a banned list as well. But in The Magic: RPG, anything legal in Commander is legal here. But you have to have purchased Access to the card in order to play it, and you’ll have to purchase Access later to cards with different avenues. All Traits and Skills that give you Access of any sort have been bolded in Purple, as it’s my favorite color.
You begin the game with Access to all Modern Legal Commons and all Standard Legal Uncommons. You do not have to spend any Mage Points to get this Access. You also begin the game with Access to one legendary creature of your choice, that you can use as your Commander. You may purchase Access to other legendaries later and use them as your leader instead, or you can have multiple decks with multiple leaders, each using the rules of the Commander RPG and your character.
Stats, Skills and Traits — A Stat is one of your four core values, and measures things like your starting life total, your power, how many cards you can have in your deck, and more. However, you can also get Skills and Traits. Now a Skill is something that, when you have learned it, you can grow and develop over time, like playing a piano. So, as you grow and develop as a Planeswalker, you may also improve a Skill you already know to be a lot better. You can also purchase a Trait, which as the name implies, is a one-time purchase that gives you an ability immediately, but cannot be improved over time. Like being ambidextrous. Note that unless they say otherwise in the description, these various abilities only work for you and your stuff, but a lot will work for everyone, and some of those are in this Commander article. At the end of this article, in an Appendix, I will copy and paste all existing Traits and Skills from the other previous articles, with any edits needed for Commander so you can have them in one place.1
Beginning of the Game Phase — A number of Skills and Traits will have a choice required to be made in the Beginning of the Game Phase, before game begins, cards are drawn, and so forth. Most of these Skills and Traits work on everyone, and you can switch a deck if it becomes too hard to play after the decisions are made.
The Beginning of the Game Phase:
Begin on the Battlefield — A few Skills or Traits will let you actually begin the game with a certain card already out on the battlefield. That card does not count for your deck limit, so if you normally have to have 140 cards in your deck, then the card in play does not count for that 140. But it does count for your number of each card you can have total in your deck. If you start the game with Savannah Lions on the battlefield, then you still have to have 140 cards in your deck. Much like your Commander, you cannot play another copy of the Lions.
Naturally Has — Many Skills and Traits will mention a card that “Naturally Has” a particular feature. This means that the card has, printed on it, that feature, not being affected by other Skills, Traits, cards on the battlefield, or anything else. A card that Naturally Has Unearth is not one affected by Sedris, the Traitor King, but instead something like Fatestitcher that has it printed on the card.
Draw From — A few Skills or Traits may grant you the ability to replace a draw with something else, other than the traditional draw. This will replace a draw that you were already going to take, such as when you tap an Archivist or draw on your draw step. For example, the Skill Necromancer lets you grab a card from your graveyard, instead of your library. In terms of rules, this replaces the draw completely, not unlike Words of War, that replaces your draw with something else, and therefore does not count as a draw in terms of cards that card about drawing. Details of this draw replacement can be found in the ability description.
Actions — A number of Skills are known as Actions. For each point you invest in that skill, you may, once per game, take a certain Action. These Actions have a few things in common. First, I’d recommend using a 6 sixed die to reflect how any you have, and then tick it down each time. They do not use the stack and cannot be responded to in any way, except by another Action. If your foe uses an Action to respond, then regular timing rules re-commence, but just for Actions. If it matters, they are considered coming from a colorless Planeswalker source, and do not target. I have designated Actions in Orange, because, orange is my second favorite color.
Commander Rules — Unless otherwise noted below, all standard Commander rules apply to the Commander RPG. Only cards legal in Commander are allowed in this format. Color Identity still matters. You have a Command Zone to play your Commander from including a 2-mana Commander Tax for each time after the first you play your leader, and more. Most importantly, Commanders still can kill with lethal Commander Damage of 21. That is an important brake on the excesses of this format.
In order to start making a character you will begin with 15 Mage Points (MP). You can spend those to create your character. You must spend at least 10 of these MP on your starting four Stats, but how you do is up to you!
The Four Stats
These are your key four Stats. 3
Mental Fortitude — How strong is your Mental Fortitude? Planeswalking isn’t easy mentally. How fit are you mentally? How capable are you with facing the various challenges that will be coming your way? That’s what Mental Fortitude is all about. For each MP you spend in Mental Fortitude, you begin the game (and your max hand size) with one card in your opening hand. So if you have 5 Mental Fortitude, then you shuffle, draw 5 cards to start the game, and then have a max hand size of 5. Most Mages have a Mental Fortitude of 7 in order to have a flexible number of options both beginning the game and later.
Physical Fortitude — And it’s not just your mind that is tested, but your body as well! There are a number of physical trials that you will face and encounter during your journey. Building up your body and physical acuity is important to deal with the trails, combat, and more than you will face. Therefore, for each MP you spend in Physical Fortitude, you begin the game with 10 life. So if you spend 3 MP here at character creation, you will begin with 30 life.
Constraint — One of the hardest principles for an early Planeswalker to understand is how to cut out the noise, how to constrain the things they have learned and know, and their own level of self-discipline and control is vital to their long-term success as a Planeswalker. At the beginning of the game, with a Constraint: 0, you have to have precisely 150 cards in your deck, including your Commander. But, for each MP you put in Constraint, your starting deck size is reducing by 10 cards. With Constraint: 2, that’s 130 starting cards for you. You cannot have more than Constraint: 5, which would give you 100 starting cards for your deck.
Battle Mage — You begin with Battle Mage: 0. For each Mage Point invested in this Stat, you gain 1 power. During the non-first strike damage phase, you deal damage equal to the creatures that got through equal to your BM score, divided as you choose among the attackers. This is considered a colorless Planeswalker source of damage, as well as combat damage.4
Summation of Rules Changes from Previous Magic RPG Editions:
One of the goals here is to take what Commander players enjoy doing already, and then make that better, or to help deal with challenges of the format.
As a reminder, all Skills may be purchased multiple times, and Actions are orange and Access is purple.
Back from Exile — This Action lets you, once per game, pull any card you own from the exile zone and place it into your graveyard.
Coptic Jars — At the beginning of the game, for each Mage Point spent in Coptic Jars, search your library for a creature with embalm or eternalize and put it into your graveyard.
Psionic Lance — For each MP spent, as an instant, you may discard a card from your hand to deal X damage to target creature where X is the number of points you have put into Psionic Lance. This damage is considered colorless and from a Planeswalker source.
Wield Before Battle — When you select this Skill for the first time, choose a creature type. When a creature of that type enters the battlefield under your control, you may attach one piece of equipment to it without using any mana, for each Mage Point you put into Wield Before Battle.
As a reminder, all Traits may only be purchased once. Access options to cards are in purple, while Actions are in orange.
Aether Orb — Any spell you cast from your hand with a natural casting cost of 6 or more without any cost reduction costs 1 generic mana less to cast. You could not further reduce a Myr Enforcer being dropped with affinity, as an example. Also as a “natural casting cost” it does not reduce the play cost of an X spell or a spell with a mode like kicker, entwine, or splice onto arcane that could take the overall cost over 6, but just natural spells, cast from your hand naturally, like dropping a Desert Twister, Rith the Awakener or Opportunity.5
Aurimancy — You have learned the very rare, but very valuable, magic of transmuting things to gold! During each of your first five upkeeps, you get a Gold artifact token.6
Cyclical Renewal — Whenever you cycle a card, you may put the bottom card of your graveyard onto the bottom of your library.
Elementalist — When you select this trait, choose an element. (The choices are Water, Air, Fire, Earth) Any sorcery or instant with that element in its name costs 1 generic mana less. Any creature with the Elemental creature type with that element in its name gets +1/+1.
Frenetic Astrolabe — You have discovered a rare and priceless artifact from the plane of Kaladesh! Whenever an ability would give you energy, you get one more.7
Leader Affinity — You know how to set an example for your troops and show what leadership is really about. As long as your Commander is on the battlefield, any creatures you control that share a creature type with your Commander gain all of the keywords your Commander has.
Ley Gardener — Many people know how to garden plants or fungus or even some rocks. But you are different, and you have learned how to grow and enhance the very leylines themselves. Whenever you search your library for a land and put it onto the battlefield, it will enter untapped, and you gain 2 life.
Lignamorph – You have gained the ability to turn your allies, minions, and creatures into trees, and then you can use them to change them back quickly and ambush someone! Gain Access to Ambush Commander. As long as you control a Forest, your creatures have shroud.8
Long-Forgotten Tome — The pages on this ancient and lost tome are so worn with age you can barely make out their secrets, which requires more mana to use, but the ability is quite potent. All of your cards have a Cycling cost equal to 3 generic mana + 1 mana of each color they are (including colorless). So, a Plains could cycle for C and 3 generic, and a White Knight could cycle for and a Storm Spirit for .
Mana Orb — You have traded for a powerful orb through which to funnel your magic at the city of Paliano on the plane of Fiora. Your Commander’s casting cost is a hybrid 2/X, and you can spend 2 generic mana for each color casting cost in order to cast it with the mana you have. This does not change the color identity of the card, and it’s similar to how Beseech the Queen works. A Selenia, Dark Angel could cost , , , or .9
Plane Render — Some destroy people; you destroy worlds. Gain Access to the five Hours from Hour of Devastation, and every card with either Apocalypse or Desolation in its title.
Presence of the Deity — You are a friend to the Gods. You gain Access to all of the five Amonket monocolored Gods and every card that has one in its title.10
Quick Response — Understanding you need to respond quickly is one thing. Making it a part of your central make-up is something else entirely. While in your Command Zone, your Commander has flash.
Sign of the Giver — It’s great to be born under the Sign of the Giver. Gain Access to Howling Mine, Temple Bell, Rites of Flourishing, Mana Flare, Heartbeat of Spring, Noble Benefactor, and Veteran Explorer. You begin the game with Veteran Explorer on the battlefield under your control.
Sign of the Hermit — You have developed powerful Hermetic understanding in your travels, as a result of the Sign you were born under. During your upkeep, if your Commander is in your Command Zone, discard a card and then draw a card.
Unseen Majesty — You do not need to be seen to be felt. Whenever your Commander attacks and is not blocked, it gets +1/+1 until the end of the turn.11
Here is the Commander RPG Memory:
Memory — There have been a lot of creatures, artifacts, spells, lands, and more out there. How many can you actually bring to mind? As you learn and explore, you find large groups out there to harness, often simpler concepts. When you select this Skill, choose one of the six Eras of Magic (I will show you the list below). You can Access to all of the commons in those various blocks and sets. As a reminder, you already have Access to all Modern Legal commons.
- Graveyards and Tribes Era: Onslaught Block, Seventh Edition, Odyssey Block
- Golden Era: Invasion Block, Sixth Edition, Masques Block
- Overpowered Era: Fifth Edition, Tempest Block, Urza’s Block
- Fire and Ice Era: Mirage Block, Fourth Edition, Ice Age, Alliances, Homelands, Chronicles
- Ancient Era: Beta, Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends, The Dark, Fallen Empires
- Portal Era: Portal, Portal: Second Age, Portal: Three Kingdoms, Starter
Commander is usually played in multiplayer, but you can get points for duels or multiplayer, whatever works. As you play, you will gain Experience Points (EXP), so track them as you play. You will always get EXP for playing, even if you lose, but the system below rewards you more for winning, and even more for winning against someone with a higher level than you.
As you gain more EXP, you can level up. When that happens, you gain 3 more Mage Points, to spend and further strengthen your character. When you spend these, at least 1 must be spent for Stats and 1 for Traits or Skills.
How do you figure out the assignment of EXP for games?
- You get three points for winning a multiplayer game. Congrats!
- You get two points for coming in second in a multiplayer game. Good job!
- You get one point for playing a game that you did not win, or come in 2nd. Thanks for playing!
- You get two points for winning a duel. You Rock!
- You get one point if you won in a duel or multiplayer game versus an opponent two or more levels higher than you.
- You get bonus points for winning or getting 2nd in a multiplayer game with six or more people. X/2 – 2 where X is the number of people, rounded down. (So if you had 8 players, then that’s 8/2, or 4 - 2, so 2 additional points for 1st or 2nd.12
And there you have it. Now how do you know if you level up?
The Experience Chart:
- Level 1 — 0 EXP
- Level 2 — 10 EXP
- Level 3 — 21 EXP
- Level 4 — 33 EXP
- Level 5 — 46 EXP
- Level 6 — 60 EXP
- Level 7 — 75 EXP
- Level 8 — 91 EXP
- Level 9 — 108 EXP
- Level 10 — 126 EXP
- Level 11 — 150 EXP
Each level after that is 25 more EXP. So level 12 is 175 EXP, then 200EXP for 13 and such.
And that’s it!
I hope that you enjoyed this article! Let me know your thoughts or any questions below!
We are about to see all of the various Skills and Traits from the first three articles below. Enjoy!
Appendix: First Three Articles
Below are the various Skills and Traits from the first three articles, combined. Some that made no sense, (Like Sign of the Twins) have been removed, and others changed to fit the new game. Enjoy.
As a reminder, all Skills may be purchased multiple times, and Actions are orange and Access is purple.
Aethermage —This is an Action. For each Mage Point that you spend in Aethermage, once per game, you may Exile your entire group of creatures, and then return them to the battlefield at the end of this turn.
Affinity for Artifice — For each Mage Point you give Affinity for Artifice, you can cast a non-artifact creature of that converted casting cost (Or less) for colorless man and as though it were an artifact creature. It will arrive, on the battlefield, with all of the incumbent strengths and weaknesses of being an artifact creature version of the creature. You may do this just once per turn. So if you have A4A: 2, on turn one, you can tap a Forest, and play that Savannah Lions for one colorless mana as an artifact creature. On turn two you can use your mana and cast a Grizzly Bears as an artifact creature. (they still have their various abilities, and color) But you could never more than one creature per turn this way, nor could you do more than your A4A skill level.
Ally — Making alliances, finding people on these planes to work with is one of the keys to success. Each time you take this select a Non-Planeswalker character from Magic-dom such as Tahngarth or Hanna. You gain Access to any card with that character’s name in the title. Thus, if you had Hanna you could play Hanna's Custody but not Fact or Fiction which merely depicts her. If you are not sure if a character is or is not a Planeswalker please look it up online first.
Anti-Magic Cloak —This is an Action. For each MP you give this, then once per game, you gain shroud and protection from a color of your choice, until the end of the turn.
Awaken the Earth — Are you skilled at using the earth for you? Can you hear and awaken it’s call? For each Mage Point you have spent on Awaken the Earth, at the beginning of your upkeep, you can turn one of your lands into a colorless X/X Elemental creature named “Feldspar” that still counts as a land, where X is your Awaken the Earth score.
Dedicated Study — Choose any set when you choose this Skill and note it. You gain Access to the rares in that set. (This does not count mythic rares, just rares)
Druid —For each Mage Point you invest, you may, once per game, draw a basic land from your library. Search your library for a basic land, reveal it, and draw it into your hand. You can use this with your opening hand, so if you have Druid: 3, and you draw serious gas in those first four cards and want to ensure it’s a real hand, then draw three basics from your library and you are Druid to go.
Duplication Machine — This is an Action. For each MP you spend, once per game you may cast an instant or sorcery as if it had replicate, with the replicate cost of 2 life and a cost equal to the casting cost of the spell as you cast it.
Experienced Warrior — For each Mage Point spent in this Skill, during your upkeep, you may put that many +1/+1 counters on any number of creatures, divided as you choose. (With Experienced Warrior: 3, you could put a +1/+1 counter on three creatures, three +1/+1 counters on one, and so forth.) This does not target.
Flourisher — For each Mage Point you have invested in Flourisher, at the beginning of your upkeep you may put on target permanent you control that that many counters. This only puts counters on something that mentions counters in its text, or the loyalty counters on a Planeswalker. With a Flourisher:2, you could put two loyalty on Sarkhan Vol or two brick counters on Oracle's Vault. You can put +1/+1 counters on a creature that mentions them, like Mindripper, but not on a Silver Myr or another creature.13
From Problem to Plan — You know how to take the best schemes and plans of your foes and turn them upside down. All that is left is a momentary impulsive attempt to regain momentum. This Skill is an Action. Once during the game, for the rest of the turn, whenever a player would search their library for a card, instead they only search the top four cards.
Gifted Aura — When you purchase this Skill, choose an aura that could normally target a creature you control. You gain Access to it. If you have at least BM: 1, you may enchant yourself with that aura. For each Mage Point you spend here, you can choose another Aura to Access as well as use to enchant yourself. You may not have more points in this skill than you have points in Battle Mage. Additions to your power are considered bonuses to your BM while enchanted, and bonuses to your toughness are considered extra health until the aura is gone, and then your health drops back down to its pre-auraed version. You may not grant yourself an activated ability, and then tap to use it, like Arcane Teachings or Fallen Ideal.14
Herbalist — This is an Action. For each point of Herbalist, you may, once per game, use a regeneration shield for any permanent you control. This regen effect is so powerful that it will even regen something that would normally disallow regeneration. Take Terror as a good example. You can use Herbalist to regen up a Shivan Dragon and keep it out, even when Terror would normally disallow regeneration.
Honor by Pyre —This is an Action. For each MP you invest, you may one time exile one graveyard from the game.
Honored by the Tribe — Each time you take this Skill, choose two sorceries or instants you already have Access to with the name of a creature type in the title of the card. Those two cards gain Tribal — Type, and gain the type of the creature concerned. For example, you could make Goblin Grenade a Tribal Sorcery — Goblin or Elvish Fury a Tribal Instant — Elf.
Inviolable –This is an Action. Once per game per point you have spent, until the end of the turn, your life total may not change, and you cannot lose the game due to any effect.
Illusionary Strike — For each Mage Point you spend in Illusionary Strike, when you attack with Raider, put a duplicate token into play attacking another target, such as a planeswalker or another opponent in multiplayer. You will deal your normal Battle Mage score in damage to your targets you engage in, but you will not take any damage dealt to the Illusion token.
Magic Adept — For each Mage Point you sink into Adept, choose a Block of Magic and write it down. (You may also choose one set, if it’s not part of a block, so Homelands could be taken). You gain Access to all uncommons from that Block or set of your choice. Note that Ice Age block includes Coldsnap and Alliances and not Homelands. This will usually get you just half the cards that Memory but you can choose the block or set yourself instead of being forced to use a predetermined list. Note that you can choose Portal sets as well as silver-bordered sets with this if your playgroup normally allows the silver world.
Moon Kissed —For each point you have spent in Moon Kissed, on your turn, as an instant, you may flip a flip card to the other side. You may not flip that same card again until your next turn.
Mythical Pedigree — Some Planeswalkers either were born with a strong pedigree, or trained under someone strong and powerful. Each time you purchase this Skill, choose any set from Shards of Alara on. You gain Access to the Mythical Rares from that set.
Necromancer — For each point you drop in Necromancer you may once during a game replace a draw by drawing from your graveyard instead of your library.
Object Liberation — This is an Action. For each Mage Point invested in Object Liberation, once per game, when you deal damage to a creature, Planeswalker, or player, with Battle Mage, you may gain control of an artifact that player or permanent’s controller controls. Note that this does not target.
Oneiromancer — During your upkeep, you may Scry: X where X is the number of Mage Points you invested in Oneiromancer.
Pack Leader — When you choose this Skill for the first time, choose a creature type and color. For each Mage Point you invest into this Skill, when you Attack with Raider, put into play, attacking the same target, a number of 1/1 token creatures with the chosen type and color equal to your Pack Leader score.
Pact Among Equals —Skill takes 2 points to purchase each time. Allying with locals on the planes is one thing, but getting other Planeswalkers to join your cause is going to be a lot more fruitful. Select a Planeswalker character and jot it down. You gain Access to every card with that Planeswalker in the title, including their own Planeswalker cards. Examples include Jace or Chandra or Urza or Serra.
Pyromancer — Boom goes . . . well . . . everything really. Want to blow stuff up? If a spell or ability you control would deal damage to a player or creature, it deals 1 additional damage instead for each Mage Point you spent in Pyromancer.
Regional Affiliation — This Skill takes 2 MP to purchase each time. Choose and note a region in Magic-dom, such as Llanowar or Shiv. You gain Access to every card with that region in its title.
Sage — For each point of Sage, choose one card in Magic. You gain Access to that card. If you like, you may select one card that is normally banned in Commander as your Sage, or one Silver Bordered card, but you must do so with the unanimous permission of your playgroup. (Commander has a few cards that make no sense being banned here in the Commander RPG, so this is one way to get them as long as you are being fair with them).
Savoir Faire —This is an Action. For each point of Savoir Faire you have, you are able to, once per game, counter a spell, put it back in that person’s hand, and they cannot cast that spell for three turns.
Sign of the Jester — For each Mage Point you invest, at the start of the game, you may take a free mulligan that no one else can use. Shuffle up and try again!
Solicit —This is an Action. For every point of Solicit you have, you may once per game exile a card in your hand. When you do choose a creature, and you gain control of it.
Touched by the Gods — Each time you select this skill, choose three creatures with a casting cost of two or more you already have Access to and note them. They are now enchantment creatures with a bestow cost equal to twice their casting cost, and they give the bestowed creature all of their abilities, and +X/+Y for their stats, equal to their own power and toughness.
Vernal Mastery —Every sorcery you play gets split second, if it’s casting cost is equal to, or less than, your Vernal Mastery score.
Veto — You know how to shut down a fellow Planeswalker from ever knowing or casting a certain spell. The power is intoxicating. As explained above, a Veto is a temporary ban on one card for that game for anyone playing it. During the Beginning of the Game Phase, you may issue an edict against any non-land card, and that card cannot be cast that game. Considering how valuable and useful MP are, you usually don’t see someone carrying around a Veto unless there is something that it needs to stop.
Wall of Thorns — For each Mage Point spent in Wall of Thorns, creatures that attack you get -1/-0. So if you have two points here, they get -2/-0. Your opponents are unaffected should they attack with Raider.
Tactician — You have developed a level of cleverness and understand of battlefield tactics that is pretty strong. Every time you choose this Skill, select one of the keyword abilities listed here. All of your creatures gain that ability: Flanking, First Strike, Provoke, Absorb: 1, Vigilance, Reach, Banding, Wither, Fateseal: 1, Prowess or Bushido: 1.
Master Tactician — Wow, you have gotten even better than a normal Tactician. You are really pushing your team now! These keywords take an investment of 2 Mage Points, instead of the normal 1, to illustrate how much more training is needed, but you are an admitted master of tactics. Your options include — Lifelink, Flying, Intimidate, Trample, Ingest, Skulk, Unleash, Bloodthirst: 2, Exalted, Fabricate: 1, Devour: 2
Genius Tactician — There are those that are masters at the art of war, and then there are pure geniuses, and the top of their craft and trade. It takes a lot to get here, and you have to spend 3 MP for one of these keywords, but they are truly something special. (If you level up and want to spend your full 3 MP you gain at that level for GT, you may, and you can skip the rule that requires you spend at least 1 MP on Stats each time you level). Your options include: Double Strike, Battle Cry, Deathtouch, Haste, Evolve, Shadow, Landfall — (This gets +1/+1), Hexproof, Persist, or Regeneration: 2 (spend two colorless mana to regenerate it).
As a reminder, all Traits may only be purchased once. Access options to cards are in purple.
Accomplished Artist —Your creatures that naturally have prowess now get +2/+2 instead of +1/+1.
Agriculturalist — You begin the game with a Wall of Wood on the battlefield, and you get Access to it as well.
Alliance with Bandits and Raiders — You gain Access to the 11 Bandit cards. (Charging Bandits, Scarwood Bandits, Cunning Bandit, Godo, Bandit Warlord, Hall of the Bandit Lord, Geier Reach Bandit, Harbor Bandit, Noggle Bandit, Mountain Bandit, and Stinkdrinker Bandit) and the 25 Raiders (Erg Raiders, Wei Night Raiders, Bog Raiders, Mons's Goblin Raiders, Mudbrawler Raiders, Merfolk Raiders, Raiders' Spoils, Rubblebelt Raiders, Cache Raiders, Gathan Raiders, Pheres-Band Raiders, Goblin Raider, Goblin Sky Raider, Mogg Raider, Lavastep Raider, etc, everything but Prossh, Skyraider of Kher and Smokebraider with the “raider” string in it.)
Ambush —Unless your foes have Ambush as well, you always take the first turn. (If they do have Ambush, choose turn order normally)
Animate Corpse —All of the creatures in your graveyard gain unearth equal to their casting cost plus one colorless mana.
Armorer —Choose a helmet, piece of armor, shield, boots, and gauntlets and gain Access to them. (Gauntlets can be gloves, helmets can be hats, and so forth). That’s a total of 5 cards you can gain Access to with this Trait. Now go out there and smash!
Break Through —Your creatures with a natural power of five or greater may deal damage to defending player as if they were not blocked.
Bound with Weapons — Whenever you deal BM damage to a creature, that creature does not untap during its next untap step.
Bureaucratic Delay — Using the nature of structures to delay and slow down various processes can also prove useful on the battlefield as well. Even the most chaotic of mages and effects must respect the rule of law at times. Whenever a nonland permanent would enter the battlefield, if it has an “enters the battlefield” trigger, that triggered ability resolves during the next upkeep.15
Caltropping the Field — You know that controlling the battlefield will control the result. You have a sharp mind for battle. You have seeded the area with Caltrops, and sure, everyone is impacted, but you are expecting it. You want to force people to spend time shaking off the caltrops. Whenever a creature attacks, it does not untap during its controller’s next untap step. This includes yourself if you attack with Raider.
Censor — You are a skilled lawmage who knows how to shut down things when they get out of hand. Gain Access to Abeyance, Silence, Orim's Chant, and all cards with the text of either, “Counter target activated ability,” or “counter target triggered ability.”
Channeller —Whenever you cast a spell or use an ability that cares about the number of basic land types you control, such as Tribal Flames, it will always be 6.
Chivalry — Your creatures who naturally have first strike now have double strike.
Chromatic Specs —When you cast a creature from your hand that is naturally all five colors (including Transguild Courier), then that creature arrives to the battlefield with 5 +1/+1 counters.
Eldritch Specialist — Gain Access to all Timeshifted cards from Time Spiral (with the purple hourglass symbol) and the promo cards.
Enraged — This removes the restriction on Battle Mage for creatures like Thorn Elemental or trample, and the Break Through Trait that resembles the above abilities. Now, this still requires you to split damage. So, if you took any damage from a trampler, and had two unblocked creatures snipe you, then you can deal your BM damage to any of those three, divided as you choose. The trampler just becomes an option whereas it wasn’t before.
Familiar — Choose a creature with a converted casting cost four or less with the word Familiar in its title. You gain Access to it. You may begin with that Familiar on the battlefield and then resolve any CIP/ETB abilities such as Raven Familiar’s draw or Owl Familiar’s ability.
Filterscope — During your Beginning of the Game Phase, choose a color. Your basic lands can tap for that color this game, as well as their normal color.
For the Good of Many — Every instant or sorcery you play has Bolster: 1.
Gambler — If you would clash, add two to the total of the converted casting cost card you reveal. If you would flip a coin, flip two instead and ignore one. If you are playing with Un- cards and are rolling a die, add 1 to your result. When you roll to determine who goes first, add 1 to the die roll. Whenever you lose a clash, coin flip or a die roll, you lose two life. (If you lose the die roll to go first in a multiplayer game, you still just lose two life, not more).
Gird with Alacrity — Once per turn, you may equip as an instant.
Good Tidings — Your Planewalkers arrive with +1 loyalty.
Guildmage — Choose a guild when you purchase this. You gain Access to all cards with that Guild’s name in their title. You also gain access to the four legendary creatures that represent that Guild in the Ravnica and Return to Ravnica Blocks. (For example, if you choose Simic, then you would get Access to every card with Simic in the title, and Momir Vig, Simic Visionary, Experiment Kraj, Prime Speaker Zegana, and Vorel of the Hull Clade). Due to the nature of Ravnica, you obviously cannot choose more than one Guild.
Harvest from Others — Sometimes, at night, you try to slip out and take untapped resources from others without notice. At the beginning of your upkeep you may reveal the top card of your library. If it is a land, draw it. You got away! If not lose 4 life, because you got caught. Sorry!
Haughty Memorium — Not every Planeswalker is ready with happy snacks and welcoming to other colors. What value is there in other colors? Why taint yourself? They have taken this arrogance, and filtered it into a weapon that works against others too. During the Beginning of the Game Phase, choose a color. During each player’s upkeep, they lose 4 life if they control a permanent that is of a different color than the chosen one.
Higher Ground — At the beginning of your fourth turn search your library for a basic land and put it onto the battlefield tapped under your control. Then shuffle up.
Hunting the Greatest Prey — You are up for battle against the biggest and most powerful prey in the multiverse — Planeswalkers. When you attack with Raider, any BM damage you deal to a Planewalker permanent will destroy that permanent. (This does not include your opponent)
In Defense of an Ally — Whenever an opponent attacks a Planeswalker permanent you control, if you have In Defense of an Ally, then you can block that attack. You have to expose yourself to do so, so you will take double the damage instead of that permanent, and any Battle Mage you have will deal damage like normal. As normal, you may only block one attacker.
Incognito — Your face down creatures get +1/+1, because you can make the most of them.
Insubstantial — All creatures you control with a natural landwalk ability are now unblockable.
Interchangeable Parts — All of your creatures that enter the battlefield with +1/+1 counters now have both graft and modular. All creatures you control that naturally had modular can now give their counters to any creature upon death, and not just artifact ones.
Ley Harvest — You have learned how to tap into an increased harvest of a few ley lines that others can’t keep up. This allows you to get more benefit from the lands and mana connections you have made. During the end of your upkeep, untap two lands.16
Levy — Players cannot attack you, or a Planeswalker you control, without discarding a card. Unlike other taxing effect, they only have to do this once per turn.
Martial Artist — Any keyword you give your team through the use of Tactician, Master Tactician or Genius Tactician Skills you also gain. For example, if you give all of your creatures first strike, then you get it too and you would deal damage in the first strike round, not the latter one.
Null Void — You have learned how to push your foes mystically into the Void where the fight can be a lot tougher on your foes, especially if they are unprepared. During the Beginning of the Game Phase, choose a card type other than land. For this game, whenever someone casts a spell of that type with a converted mana cost of 3 or more, they must spend an additional 1 generic mana to cast it.17
Oracle — With this Trait purchased, whenever you cast an instant or sorcery (not from an ability), that lets you look at or reveal the top X cards from your library, you may add 1 to that number. You can dig one further with scry, or see four cards with Ponder. Note that this only works on your library. It also does not work on effects that are unknown. You aren’t revealing an extra card from Erratic Explosion. Only set abilities get another.
Orb of Ice — During your Beginning of the Game Phase, choose a number. For this game, all spells with a converted casting cost equal to the chosen number cost double instead. So a Llanowar Elves would cost if the Orb were set to 1, and an Elvish Archers would cost if it were set to 2, and so forth. This effects every player at the table, including the person who tossed the Orb.
Pact with Demons —Starting on turn three, at the beginning of your upkeep, and every turn thereafter, place a 4/4 flying Demon token into play with the ability, “During your Upkeep, lose life equal to the number of Demons you control.” (You’ll note that each token gets the same ability, so you will lose life geometrically. So with one out, you’ll lose 1 life, then 2 gives you 4 life, then 3 into 9 life, etc).18
Peaceful Repose — You have learned how to let death and the dead rest for a while in a peaceful solace. Cards in graveyards lose all activated abilities, but retain continuous and triggered ones.19
Pet — Choose any creature that has a casting cost of 1 or less that resembles a real animal. Gain Access to that card. You may begin with it on the battlefield. Examples include Spore Frog, Suntail Hawk, or Jackal Pup.
Pledged to a Deity — Choose one and write down one of the Deities in Theros. Gain Access to every card with that God in their name, including the God itself.
Psychic Regroup — At the end of any turn on which you were attacked, draw a card and then discard a card.
Quickcast — When you attack with Raider, you may cast spells during combat as though they had flash.
Racial Purity — When you take this Trait, choose a creature type. When you attack with Raider, if all of the other creatures you control have that type, then every other attacking creature deals double combat damage to creatures that do not share that creature type.
Raider — You may attack, and try to isolate your opponent or some of their minions in a 1:1 battle with yourself. I would recommend using a token, and set your BM as power and your starting life total via Physical Fortitude as your toughness. Tap yourself when you attack. You may be blocked, and exchange damage in battle as normal. Any damage you take is removed from your life total. Any damage you deal to an opposing Planeswalker permanent in combat will also strip off loyalty counters equal to your BM score. If you are blocked, just like normal, the defense will choose how your damage is dealt. Damage you take yourself from your foe (if they have invested in BM as well) will lower your life total.
The Raider Trait will turn on a lot of new Traits and Skills. They will read, “When you attack with Raider, do X.” The Autumn Wind is a Raider.
Reader of Fortunes —All of your creatures get, “1, Tap: Scry 1” where 1 is one colorless mana. Gain Access to Crystal Ball.
Rebellious Nature — All of your creatures with the word, “Rebel” or “Renegade” in their name gain the Rebel creature type. Write down three non-legendary creatures with the Rebel creature type, and you can Access to them. (Yes, those can include those given Rebel by this Trait, so you could get Access to Ramosian Lieutenant, Whipcorder, Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero, Quicksmith Rebel, Vithian Renegades, and more)
Rings, Staffs and Wands —You gain Access to one Ring, one Staff, and one Wand, and finally one other magical non-weapon and non-armor, such as an Amulet, for a total of 4 cards from this Trait.
Seer — If you have Seer, then at the beginning of your upkeep you may do one of the following determined each upkeep:
- Look at the top three cards of target player’s library;
- Look at target player’s hand;
- Look at a face-down creature; or
- Look at a face-down exiled card.
Once you have completed that task, continue on with your turn you Seer you.
Shardist — Choose a Shard, and then you gain Access to every card with that Shard’s name it in, such as Bant or Grixis.
Sifting Mind –At the beginning of your first turn, draw two cards, and discard two cards.
Sign of the Spy – Every Planeswalker can use powerful predictive artifacts, spells, or allies to tell the future and give them a leg-up on the competition. But you were born under the Sign of the Spy. You can do it even stronger. (Or, you can make the requisite sacrifices to pledge fidelity to the Sign of the Spy), and thus turn mere knowledge into a tool for winning. Whenever you would scry, instead fateseal an opponent for that same number of cards.20
Signature Weapon — Choose any one non-mythic weapon equipment. You gain Access to it. If you have at least BM: 1, you may equip yourself with that weapon, in addition to your creatures. (Weapons include something like a Sword of Vengeance, a Loxodon Warhammer or a Shuriken, not Lightning Greaves, or Skullclamp, or Swiftfoot Boots.) Additions to your power are considered bonuses to your BM while equipped, and bonuses to your toughness are considered extra health until the equipment is gone, and then your health drops back down to its pre-equipped version. You may not grant yourself an activated ability, and then tap yourself to do it, like with a Heartseeker.
Slowed Response – You’ve cast a spell over the battlefield that slows things down of a certain race. Good job! During the Beginning of the Game Phase, choose a creature type. Creatures of that type enter the battlefield tapped. This includes your own.
Strength from Within —During your upkeep, you may spend the casting cost of a creature you control to put a +1/+1 counter on it. You may not do this more than once per creature.
Summoner —One per turn, during your own upkeep, you may put a creature directly from your hand onto the battlefield, if it’s converted casting cost is less than the number of lands you control. For example, if you control 6 lands and you have a Durkwood Boars in your hand, you could drop it for free during your upkeep. This is typically at least a delay of two turns after you could have played the card. (Take the Boars as an example. On turn five you have five lands. You could tap and cast it then. On turn six, you have five lands during your upkeep, you have to drop your 6th land, and then pass. Finally, on turn seven, you can play the Boars for free).
Symbiotic Synthesis — Learning how to evoke the same reaction that someone did again you took months, but it was worth it. When someone attempts to damage you, they cannot do so without also hurting themselves similarly. Whenever a nonland permanent you control is targeted and destroyed by an ability controlled by an opponent, that opponent sacrifices a permanent her or she controls that shares a type with the permanent destroyed.21
Temporal Lattice – You have created a mystical lattice of temporal control, disallowing anyone from changing time or modifying the speed at which it flows. Whenever any player would take an extra turn, instead they draw a card.22
Totemic Shaman —When you select this, choose a creature type. Your creatures of that type get +1/+1.
Traited – Who are you? Or at least, who do you pretend to be? Choose one race and one class of a creature type when you take this. You gain both creature types. (Examples of races include Elf or Dwarf. Classes are Shaman or Knight). As long as you are alive, you count as those types, as the battlefield has one of them out for spells that care.
Virtue — Your creatures that naturally have bushido now have double their bushido ability.
The Ode Cycle:
The Ode Cycle of Traits23 were created as fun-multiplayer abilities that can be exploited by the user like all symmetrical effects, but which still have the ability to give away fun times!
You have learned a powerful dose of magic. You know how to turn the natural aspects of war-music into a cadence that directly impacts the battle mystically. War chants, battle drums, skald singing, combat quartets, and more are all used by people to bring rhythm, direct troops, and more. And you can do it with an entire battlefield mystically, with an Ode that resonates with everything in the battle.
Ode to Brilliance — During the Beginning of the Game Phase, choose a number between 1-3. At the beginning of each player’s first turn, they draw that many cards.
Ode to Creation — During the Beginning of the Game Phase, choose a permanent type. Whenever a permanent of that type would enter the battlefield with counters, it gets an additional counter of that type.
Ode to Harmony — During the Beginning of the Game Phase, choose a number between 1-5. At the beginning of each player’s first turn, they gain that much mana of any combination of colors into their mana pool that lasts until the end of the turn.
Ode to Joy — During the Beginning of the Game Phase, choose a creature type. All creatures of that type get +1/+1 for the game.
Ode to Majesty — During the Beginning of the Game Phase, choose a basic land type. At the beginning of each player’s turn, they put a land of that type into play under their control, untapped. This land does not come from their library and is placed under their control.
1 Examples of this include increasing the life cost for Duplication Machine and making Guildmage more powerful since you already had Access to many guild cards as you began with Access to commons from both Ravnica Blocks.
2 The payment for a mulligan to a new deck used to be a lot bigger, but after playtesting, I dropped it to this one MP cost.
3 Recall no longer exists in Commander RPG. After all, as a format, it disallows more than one more of a card other than basic lands, and Recall as a Stat increases that to up to 4 copies of each card.
4 One of the reasons I introduced Battle Mage in the first supplement was to have a 4th Stat in this game, due to the exclusion of Recall. Some rulings for you: Even though you have power and exist, and even though you may have invested heavily in Battle Mage (BM), you still may not be targeted by any spells or effects that would normally target only a creature or permanent, like Terrifying Presence or the effect of attacking with a Zealot il-Vec, but you do count as a “defending creature” for various non-targeting spells, such as Fog. It doesn’t work on creatures that dealt combat damage to you but were blocked, such as those with trample.
5 Because I am taking the game seriously this time, this ability is not called Sign of the Timmy. ?
6 This originally made Treasure tokens, which are weaker than Golds because you have to tap them to sacrifice them. It also originally made one token every upkeep for the game. But Treasure was too powerful with Revel in Riches and getting one free artifact was too abusable for pretty much every artifact deck ever made. Thus, you get just five, for the first five turns, and just Gold tokens. This is still a strong Trait even with those changes.
7 This was originally written to give you one more token of whatever you were getting, other than poison, so it would work with any future energy variants, but I wanted to keep it simple. If that happens, and the next set has counters you can get as a player, then Frenetic Astrolabe can be considered to grant you one more if they are positive (or neutral).
8 You get a big giant prize if you can guess where the inspiration for the Lignamorph ability came from. No? The Massmorph spell in Dungeons and Dragons that does something similar.
9 This was originally a much more powerful ability that made all of your Commanders hybrid mana. So a leader like Selenia, Dark Angel would be 3, B/W, B/W, but that was way too powerful in testing so we dialed it back. This ability is meant to give you options for casting your leader without worrying about screwing up and not having the right color to cast. But, this one enables an interesting take on a mono-colored build like the first one, but to a lesser degree due to the escalating cost, and thus there are some interesting ramifications for building, and you can run more high quality colorless producing lands, for instance.
10 It’s not as many cards as it seems at first. Bontu, for example, just has herself, the Monument, and her death. Some of these cards you already have Access to as they are common. But given as the Gods here work together and are different, here you get them all, the precise opposite of Theros.
11 The goal of this is simple, increase the speed at which you can kill with Commander Damage. The high rate of life gain with Physical Fortitude needs an answer. This is it. It really helps speed along smaller Commanders, but is barely noticeable to larger ones, so Commanders already intending to Voltron up aren’t drawn to this weak addition, but others find it pretty useful.
12 If you are math phobic, then here is a quick chart:
0-5 players – No additional EXP are scored for 1st and 2nd
6-7 players – 1 EXP more
8-9 players – 2 EXP more
10-11 players – 3 EXP more
12-13 players – 4 EXP more
13 This has been one of the most abusable of the Skills in the first game in casual play, so I weakened it for Commander RPG.
14 The result of a Gifted Aura or Signature Weapon is interesting. Imagine a Holy Strength on you. Now you get +2 health and +1 damage to your BM score until it’s removed. But note that if your life dropped to 1, and then the Holy Strength was removed, you would die as a state based effect, just like a creature would. Note that it is very, very easy to find an answer for this with just one point spent, if someone invests in this too much and gives themselves the craziness.
15 For example, I cast a Mulldrifter. Then I don’t draw the cards after it arrives on the battlefield until the next upkeep, which will likely be another player’s. This was meant to be a brake on severe ETB abuse. I wanted to leave open the option to use it positively on your own cards as well as hurting another. Because it doesn’t shut stuff down totally, it’s an easier brake.
16 That is not a typo. This trigger occurs at the end of your Upkeep, not at the beginning? Why? So you can spend the mana and then untap, as well as using the abilities after you see everything else that is happening. This Trait is also designed as an anti-tempo Trait to fight stuff like Stasis or Winter Orb if you need it.
17 As an example, if you chose Instant, then if someone wanted to cast Chastise, it would cost 4W instead of 3W.
18 Initially, I wanted to weaken this Trait for the higher life total format of Commander RPG, but after thinking about it, I liked that Pact with Demons is a lot stronger here, so I left it unchanged and even increased the power of the Demon token to 4/4.
19 I considered a lot more heavy handed graveyard Trait that could answer serious problems, but we can exile the entire thing once a game with the Action Skill Honor by Pyre which lets you Tormod’s Crypt once/game for each MP you spend in it. So this is for a crazier environment out there, and I wanted to not prevent graveyard-friendly decks but just to have a tool to nudge them back on track if they got abusive.
20 Fateseal is a reverse Scry that works on opponents and was introduced in Future Sight. Sign of the Spy is one of my favorite new abilities here. It’s designed initially to be a bit of an answer to combos and top-of-the-library shenanigans your opponent might run, but does so in a very intriguing way.
21 I wanted to leave enough hoops in this obvious homage to Karmic Justice, that it was not a ubiquitous answer. Just a road block. They choose what goes, instead of you. And it has to be targeted by them, not just something they control, so a Wrath of God or Diabolic Edict gets around this, it just worked on things like Nekrataal, Lightning Bolt, Disenchant, and such. Again, this is meant to be a light brake.
22 The flavor of this Trait is encouraged by extra turn cards with names like Temporal Manipulation, Temporal Trespass, Time Walk, Time Warp, and such.
23 I think the Ode cycle is pretty cool, and has room for more Everybody Wins concepts that uses the mechanics of the Beginning of the Game Phase to help everyone rather than hurt everyone which is what it was designed for.