Trying Out New Cards in Commander

Chris Hoffman
April 14, 2023


When throwing together a new Commander deck it's not always about synergy or optimal play patterns, there is a lot to be said for just playing a bunch of cards that you like. I first experimented with this with Progenitus and Horde of Notions. They are both big dumb creatures, but the important part of these is that they are both affordable 5 color commanders. Without limits on color identity, the next stop is the trade binder.

Progenitus (MMA)

You ever look through rares and think “This is a reasonable card, why have I never played it?” Now is the time. Doesn't have to be synergistic, doesn't need to be on theme, just cards you like. Think of this as a bulk rare paradise, or all stars of standards past. I've gone through my binder to find some examples that I like and go over some of the thoughts behind them.


Gods Dragons And Vampires Oh My

When the original Theros block was in standard I had the fortune of opening the “god pack” where all 15 gods in standard were in one pack. Soon after this almost every one of them made their way into one Commander deck. Since then MANY more god creatures have been added to the game along with the land The World Tree. Throwing all of them in there is certainly a powerful approach to a deck, but it will be surprisingly expensive. So pick some favorites! Personally I like Karametra, God of Harvests, Both Thassas, and The Scarab God. But the God creature type is still quite limited. Very much unlike:

Some classic dragons. There has been concerted effort to put dragons in every color. Ramos, Dragon Engine is your guy if you want to go way into dragons but there's no reason you shouldn't look into the binder to see mythic dragons of standard's past. Dragon's like: Goldspan Dragon, Thundermaw Hellkite, or  Dragonlord Atarka. There's almost always a big dragon in every set. Most don't make it through a standard format, but there's no reason not to try them in Commander. Plus, while most of these dragons are red there are still dragons coming out in every color. Not every tribe is so lucky in this regard.

Vampires are popular. I think this is still a true statement, they aren't nearly as ubiquitous as they once were but are still a very popular tribe. Hence, Edgar Markov is a very popular Commander. If you're like me and don't want to spend the money for one, just throw some vampires in the shell to see if you even like the concept. Not every vampire is Blood Artist. But Blood Artist is one of my favorite cards of all time so that's not fair.


Quick and Easy Fixing 

In our hypothetical “5 color nonsense deck” the mana will probably be bad. There are some options to help fix this that won't destroy your bank account though. In green you have things like Rampant Growth and Farseek as well as Gatecreeper Vine to get guild gates. Do not knock guild gates, they are CHEAP and have some synergies, like with mazes end. Arcane Signet and Sol Ring are classics in the format and are helpful in deck building. Another personal favorite is Burnished Hart. It's a reasonable blocker and ramping two lands in any deck is very strong. I will talk more about Burnished Hart more when I talk about Trading Post sometime in the future. 

The followup to looking at fixing is “what lands do I play?” Play bulk common duals and plenty of basics. EDH all stars, Terramorphic Expanse and Evolving Wilds still find their ways into plenty of my decks. If you play a lot of basics, who's to say you can't throw in some nonbasic hate in your build. Not necessarily Blood Moon but if you're playing Wave of Vitriol and have plenty of basics maybe some one sided board wipes could be in your future.


Just Weird Stuff

Ever feel like being mean? Ever heard of the card Tsunami? It's just as unexpected as casting Boil but almost nobody has heard of it. How about Notion Thief? It's a great way to take out jealousy of your friends drawing cards. Until someone plays a Consecrated Sphinx and you MUST draw your deck. Then there are stranger combos like giving Izzet Staticaster deathtouch. I used to do this with Nightshade Peddler, but Basilisk Collar works just as well. Shadow of Doubt hasn't seen play in years but is a funny thing to do when your friend casts a tutor for a combo piece. If you are into that kind of thing maybe look into making a prison deck of some variety. Will you have fun? MAYBE? Will your playgroup? Probably less. Maybe you play a Robber of the Rich and like the idea of playing your opponents deck. There's a deck for that. Making tokens, there are decks for that, The point is, you might find your next deck by just trying a card you've never thought about before.


Play Odd Legends

Finally, playing a deck like this can be a test bed for Commanders. A bunch of new legends were just announced as mashups of old characters. There's some interesting deck building to be found there and we will check those out soon. But I mean STRANGE legends. Like Xira Arien, A jund creature that just has the ability to draw a card. Try out some old weirdos, like horsemanship all star Lu Xun, Scholar General or legends with odd mechanics like Kodama of the West Tree. Will it be good? You'll only find out if you try it. It's commander, have fun with it.