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I'll Be Your Commander – Kemba'll Be Your Answer


Writer's Warning:

As of this moment, I'm going to be using the new language for EDH. Why? For the people who are now getting into Commander, it will help them integrate easier. You're more than welcome to use the old terms, and I do in my everyday usage. It will only get more complicated if I switch between the two and it only make things more confusing than a David Lynch movie. Here's a chart of the terms so that we're all on the same page:

Format nameEDHCommander
Legend DamageGeneral DamageCommander Damage
Song of the FormatPrinces of the Universe by QueenCommander by Kelly Rowland feat. David Guetta

Today is a day that some of you have been looking for: building your own Commander deck. While it won't be a step-by-step "here's a full 100 card list," it's something to get you started and on your way.

There are two main ways to build a Commander deck: Around your Commander, or around your chosen colors. For the one today we're going to focus to build it around a chosen Commander (don't worry, next week we're building it the other way). Our lucky Commander:

Kemba, Kha Regent

Kemba, Kha Regent1ww

Legendary Creature – Cat Cleric

At the beginning of your upkeep, put a 2/2 white Cat creature token into the battlefield for each equipment attached to Kemba, Kha Regent.


I chose her for two reasons.

  1. She was a Commander that I've wanted to build a deck around for a while now
  2. Kemba is new and cheap in price that you can somewhat duplicate the results if you wanted to
  3. It was my wife's Birthday last week and she likes cats. No, I'm not building the deck for her, it was just a coindence (this is not the time nor the place to talk about trying to get her into Magic; I tried, she wasn't interested, life goes on).

To build around a Commander, you need to take a look and what He/She does and how you can exploit it. Here's a list of things that I can build around:

  • Equipment
  • Tokens
  • Creature type – Cat
  • Creature type – Cleric

Obviously the number of Cats you have on the battlefield will tie directly into how many equipments you have on the Commander, so both of those shall be a heavy focus. If I'm going have plenty of Cat tokens already, I might as well and make it a mini-theme deck and cram Cat cards in there as well. Luckily, the Cats on Mirrodin like equipment, so it's a great fit. Since creating a large army of Cats seems like a great way to win, I think that'll be the way to victory and I'll be a cat herder. My alternate path to victory will come out as I start to build my deck.

Quick aside on theme decks: They're a great idea if you're going the more casual route for Commander. They can range from Tribal (all one creature type) to life gain to what ever you want them to be. I talked a couple weeks ago about being cute and how sometimes it can get you in trouble; building a Commander deck with a theme is a great place to use cute cards. Just understand that when you play against new people who may not have a theme deck. /Aside

There are several different ways to go about how you want to start your deck once you know your Commander and what you can focus around. Some people like to go into Gatherer or Magiccards.info and do searches, and write the cards down. While this is great, I only see this as a supplement to helping me build decks. Others might go onto fourms and read what other people have built, and copy them word for word. I decided to go a different way: offline. By going through my cards, I can see what I have and buy/trade for what I would like to add to the deck later.

Building the deck is the hard part. Maintaining and tweeking it is much easier.

So, I decided to go through all my White and Artifact cards to see what cards match the criteria I mentioned above, AND general all around good cards to have in EDH (a topic I'll talk about in a later column, though I'm sure you can look around online and find several lists of them). Having options is great, so the more cards and the looser the parameters you have while searching means you might be able to find great sub-themes or cards that fit the concept of the deck well without coming up with those original search terms. Yes, I do this for every Commander deck I build, that's how I roll. After going through all of the cards, I come up with this:

Picture 1

Didn't expect pics, did you? I'm just full of surprises.

Sometimes you might not have a card and you'll think you can proxy it. Proxies are a dangerous topic when it comes the casual table. It's a great thing to do if you're getting ready for a tournament and you don't want to have to get all of the cards to playtest. For casual however, you won't always make friends. Having one or two is a deck is ok if you're like "It's in my other deck." Just don't proxy up 50 cards, from Revised dual lands to Jace 2.0 and go "That's ok, right?" Again, this is my opinion and it all depends on your playgroup so your leverage with this situation may very. Since there are some cards that I didn't have, I'll write them down in a list to trade or buy when I see them, and replace them with cards that haven't been working or temporary holders.

After now looking at the Magic search engines online, I found some more cards that fit. Here are some cards that I will consider to add to my deck that I don't currently have:

Coat of ArmsCoat of Arms

I'm a Spike/Johnny and so whenever I opened this Timmy card I'd always trade it away to those types of players. Yes, I'm a little embarrassed that I don't have this one in my collection but this is the first time I have decided I needed it. With all of the Cat tokens that Kemba is going to generate, this will be a huge benefit. Warning: If I see someone play this against me, I'm gunning for them and killing that artifact; it can only lead to trouble.

Konda's BannerKonda's Banner

Perfect in a deck like this since it hits both the creature theme of the Commander AND what the Commander wants to do. I only have one copy and it's in my Rafiq deck. Once it hits the table, it will change the game. A must have for anyone wanting to build a Tribal theme deck.

Taj-Nar SwordsmithTaj-Nar Swordsmith

It fits the cat theme and it fishes out equipment. Since I wasn't playing Commander way back in the original Mirrodin, I didn't keep my foil one of these. Great fit with the deck and an auto-include with the way this deck is shaping out. It also works very well with White's "Flickering" theme or some variation of it.

Golem-Skin GauntletsGolem-Skin Gauntlets

Obvious fit in this deck. Equip Kemba with this, and swing. Horary Commander damage! If nothing else, it gives +1/+0 to the creature. Clearly, you need more then that to make the card good. May, or may not make the cut if I get a copy.

The next step is I sort the cards out. This maybe something that I do, but I encourage you to do the same thing. It all depends on how you sort them. On MTGO, it allows you to sort them by card type, creature type, color, and converted mana cost. While all those help out (except the creature type because it's so literal), I don't think that's the best way. I sort them out by relevance/theme:

Picture 2

The glare was really bad, so that's why this is in a different light. Anyway, by looking at what I have in piles gives me a better sense of what I can do with this deck. The idea of having a ton of White's token producers was scrapped at this stage because I didn't feel I wanted to pull the deck in that direction. Such cards as Decree of Justice, Mobilization and Captain of the Watch were all taken out. Since Kemba doesn't produce Cat Solider tokens, that soldier sub-theme went away. If you're not careful, I'll be taking you into more sub-themes than Inception had dream levels.

It's here where you have to see what you have and start to make choices (like I did with the token theme). You need to make cuts. I like to have my Commander decks have a ton of synergy. I don't like decks that fit themselves over what it's trying to do. If a card wants to work one way, yet it fits somewhere else as well, I'll value it higher than a card that can only do one thing. If a card can give me options, I'll try and find it a home in the deck. Here's a couple that stand out:

Concerted EffortConcerted Effort

This is great for a whole gathering of creatures where if one of your creatures has flying, they all get flying. It's a very White card, but it gets even better in this deck. Because equipments grant the abilities to the creature, suddenly all your creatures become super powerful. Equipping Kemba will save all of her babies. Putting in equipment cards that grant Flying, First Strike, Double Strike, Protection, Trample and Vigilance will only make that card better..

Harsh MercyHarsh Mercy

One of Onslaught's "Wrath" variants (the other one, Akroma's Vengeance, we don't want to put in here). Because we have a theme of Cats in here, it should be a no brainer what creature type you want to keep. Yes, this will save your tokens and you Commander. For other players, unless they're playing other theme decks, this might wipe out their board. And just for 3 mana.

Blasting Station

Even though it's cute to use with combat tricks, there are several ways to exploit it. Naturally, in the lands we're going to include Emeria, the Sky Ruin, so this is a great way to keep triggering the enters the battlefield triggers of certain cards. But the real way this might come in handy is with Kemba herself. An old trick with Beacon of Creation is that when multiple creatures enter the battlefield at the same time, they all trigger separately. Say you have 5 equipments on Kemba, you'll get 5 2/2's at the beginning of your upkeep. However, if you need to do 5 colorless damage to something, you can sacrifice each one of those to deal 5 damage (the triggers work because it sees a new creature entering play so you can untap it and deal another damage, etc cetra.) It's so good that at the moment I'm keeping Nomad's Assembly and Conqueror's Pledge past this cut.

After the first round of cuts, I end up with these cards, separated into piles of 10:

Why piles of 10? Simple, you need to get down to 60 cards (including your Commander). If you use the same ratio of lands as a normal 60 card deck, which for argument's sake is 24 lands and 36 spells, you get 40% lands (24/60 = 40%). Since your Commander deck is 100 cards, a good baseline to start is with 40 lands. Of course, with how many mana accelerators you have and you mana curve, that will change, but it's a good place to start. With the nice round number, you can see the percentage of creatures in your deck, as well as different colored cards and so on and so forth. While there's no magic number of how many creatures you want in your Commander deck (it all depends on what you're trying to do), the 40 for lands is ok logic.

Right now I have 124 spells. I need to cut over half of the spells to get down to 60. This is where the cute cards start to look a little like they're going to get cut. I tend to move the cards around so that I have at least 6 rows of 10 cards; if I cut a card from there, I replace it. That helps my mind focus down to 60, rather then trying to add up each row every few minutes.

I continue to move around cards and see what else they work with. My opinion is that if a card doesn't search for a huge effect, isn't a huge effect, or interacts with at least 10 cards (10% of the deck), then maybe I should cut it. Swords to Plowshares is a huge effect, Blight Sickle isn't. Guess which one will last longer in the deck? It's at this point you just have to cut. Once you cut down a ways, mix the cards up, and see where other cards tend to go together.

At the end of this, I'm sure you're going to be looking for a decklist about what I chose. Only, I'm not going to tell you. Yeah, bad ending, but that's ok. Listen, if each of us were given the same pool of cards and told to build an EDH deck, we'd all come out with different lists. Yes, there might be a ton of crossover, but what I might consider fun and great might not jive with you. My list of 100, will be uniquely mine, I'd hope you'd want yours to be as well.

Hopefully you can see some of the cards in the pics above to see what I started whittling down to. If you have any suggestions about what should be in the deck, I'd love to hear what you think. If you have any deck building tips in general, please share them down below. Right now, this is something to get you started with deck construction. We're not looking at which cards are better in multiplayer nor hidden gems in the format. Pick a Commander, build a deck around Him/Her, and play.

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