Saturday, November 9, 2013


Commander [kuh-man-der]
1. Magic the Gathering. Originally known as EDH, literally "Elder Dragon Highlander", this is an increasingly popular multiplayer format in Magic the Gathering that centers around a legendary creature called "The Commander".

EX. The Commander 2013 product hit the streets last Friday and, since then, between myself and my friend Matt, we've picked up all five of the decks with three copies of the same deck, one is a gift to a third party, and two copies of another deck.

These purchases seemed necessary because the last time the Commander product hit the streets it was a limited run and it quickly became a coveted collector's item. The price quickly rocketed as players of Commander, and other older formats that could use the cards competitively, scooped up the cards for themselves. This time I made sure I was one of these collectors, for better or worse, before it was too late.

After all, I still regret that I didn't invest in 2011 in these products, but I had just started playing and it seemed pretty overwhelming. While I'll admit that Commander can be overwhelming, given it can deal with cards from the last 20 years of products stretched out in 100 card minimum decks amongst, usually, at least three players but as many as you can get together to play, but I think the basic rules of the format are pretty easy to learn, for veterans, easy to break.

I actually got around to playing my first true Commander game yesterday and, to be frank because I plan to expand on the experience later, it was a ton of fun.

For you my magic playing comrades, I will break down the basics of the rules and provide examples to illustrate the more nuanced parts of the rules.

If you're not interested in the rules but still want some Magic the Gathering content, continue on to the bottom of the article for some more excellent content.


1. Each player chooses and sets aside a Legendary creature as their "Commander" or "General". They can have other Legendary creatures in their deck, but there is only Commander per player. For your convenience and to prevent confusion, we will refer to the card as the General throughout the rest of the rules.

For example, pictured above for the examples throughout the article, is the new General from the Commander 2013 deck, Mind Seize, Nekusar, the Mindrazer.

2. Then build a deck of 100 cards including the General. The deck must consist of exactly 100 cards and, EXCEPT FOR BASIC LANDS, a player may not include more than one copy of any card in their Commander deck.

3. Of these cards, none of them may contain a color identity that is not a subset of the color identity of the General. The color identity consists of every colored mana symbol that appears on that card--whether in the mana cost or the rules text.

So, if your General is Nekusar, Mindrazer (pictured above), your General's color identity is Blue, Red, and Black; therefore, no card in your deck may contain a color identity that is not blue, black, or red.

Hybrid mana is considered to be both colors, therefore a creature with a hybrid mana cost that include both white and black mana symbols, like Divinity of Pride (pictured directly above), are considered to ALWAYS be black and white. Therefore, despite including black in it's mana cost because it contains white you could not use Divinity of Pride in a deck where Nekusar, the Mindrazer as your General.

This rule is not exclusive to the mana cost. If there is an example of this color identity in the rules text that contradicts the General's color identity, the card is also not allowed in the deck. For example, while Copper Myr is colorless but, because it contains a Forest (green) symbol in his rules text, he has a green mana symbol in his color identity and he could not be included in a deck where Nekusar, the Mindrazer is the General because Nekusar has a red, blue, and black identity.

4. In most cases, no sideboards are allowed, but players may agree to allow a ten card sideboard for use after the player's declare their Generals.


1. Before play begins, each player places their General in the Command Zone.

2. Players start with 40 life.

3. So-called "Partial-Paris" mulligans are allowed after each player draws seven cards. This involves the player taking any number of cards and exiling them, face down, from their hands. They then may draw that many cards minus one.

4. If a player would produce mana of a color that is not the same as their General's color identity, they would instead produce colorless mana.

5. A player may cast their General from the Command Zone.

If a player's General is put into a graveyard or exiled for any reason, a player may choose to return their General to the Command Zone. If a player's General is put into their hand or their library, if using the larger versions of the Commanders, they must put the standard-sized version of their commander in their hand or library respectively.

A player may recast their General from the Command Zone, but each time that a General is sent to the Command Zone, it's mana cost, to cast it from the Command Zone, increases by two colorless mana.

For example, if Prossh, Skyraider of Kher (pictured directly above) has been returned to the Command Zone once, it would cost an additional 2 colorless mana to cast from the Command Zone. If Prossh, Skyraider of Kher has been returned to the Command Zone twice, it would cost an additional 4 colorless mana to cast it from the Command Zone.

6. Finally, there is a special win condition unique to the format: if a player is dealt a total of 21 damage from any single General, they lose the game. The General does not have to be in continuous play and gaining life does not effect this win condition.

And those are the basics of arguably one of the best and inarguably the most popular casual format to emerge recently in Magic the Gathering.

For information about the format or on the most recent Commander products, check out the following two links:

Would you believe there are not just one.... but TWO funny web series on the on-goings of Magic the Gathering players?

Top Decking is about Becca, a frazzled young lady who can't get a job even at her Father's office, turning to the unfamiliar world of a shop that sells collectables, primarily Magic the Gathering, and Hello Kitty paraphernalia. In this fish out of water story, she quickly finds herself in the vortex of awkward drama that takes place at a card shop; crime, comedy, romance, drama, and tragedy ultimately make this series an excellent one to watch while you're building your next deck.

On the other end of the spectrum, is the quirky comedy of Friday Nights that involves a fairly established group of Magic the Gathering players covering a new topic every week that is part advertising and part informal sitcom. The characters are fairly diverse and the fast-pacing means they can cover many different angles of the same subject in a week, like covering Commander and Cube-Building in the same episode.

Lastly, make sure to check out the first Commander Deck I built in the link below:

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