So You Want To Play Commander - Here Is How To Start!
Let’s set the scene.
It’s your first day, you’ve watched some of the videos, and you’ve decided to play Commander as it’s the easiest format to get into as a new Magic The Gathering player. While you’re filled with excitement, you start to think to yourself ‘where do I start?’ or ‘what kind of deck should I use?’
Suddenly, you begin to feel overwhelmed and start to doubt yourself. Well, you’re in luck, I’m here to help! I know that overwhelming feeling when starting and this article will make that journey to Commander much easier.
1. Know how you want to play the game
Everyone has different playstyles and this will affect how you play the game. Figure out how you want to win, then work your way from there. Your inspiration doesn’t even have to come from other games you play. If you’re someone who plays board games, use that as well.
If you’re someone who plays Chess, ask yourself: what strategy did I use in that game, and how can I translate that to Magic The Gathering. Maybe you like controlling the board or going all offensive. Commanders like Najeela, the Blade-Blossom are good for both control and offensive strategies.
If you’re a history buff, how did your favourite leaders win their wars and conflict? Did they manipulate the enemy? Did they negotiate or wreak havoc? Take inspiration from that. Cards like Kenrith, the Returned King would be great if you want to have some negotiations in your game.
The game of Commander is on leadership and strategizing. Your commander is the leader, and the 99 cards are your armies, pawns, and battalion.
2. What is your favourite card?
We all have that favourite card or tabletop piece. Find out what makes it special. Why you like using it.
In chess, I like the Rooks because there is a checkmate that I can pull off if done right. But this takes and will involve using both of my Rooks. How I would translate this to a game of Commander is that I’d like to build up my win condition in secret, before having both my Commander and win-condition card out on the field. So a commander perfect for this type of strategy would be Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord as all I have to do is slowly build up my graveyard to make use of his effects.
So figure out how you like to win your games or why that game piece is your favourite.
3. Pre-made Commander Decks
One of the great ways to learn and get your toes into Commander is buying a pre-made Commander deck at your local Good Games. Each deck is designed to give you a taste of different strategies on how you can play the game. You also have the option to upgrade the deck. You can even use them as a resource, rather than something to play with, as you can look at what makes them unique.
Some good pre-made decks I’d recommend are the ‘Magic The Gathering: Commander Legends Commander Sets, as they give off two basic strategies when playing the format.
4. Build the deck you want to play
Don’t build decks just because you think they will give you an easy win. Build decks because you want to play with them. Playing a deck that will guarantee a win will get boring eventually and you will probably lose interest.
You want to earn your victories, not just have them handed to you in a silver platter because it was an easy win.
Currently, I’m building a faerie deck using Alela, Artful Provocateur because I like faeries. I’ve got some inspiration from kids shows that I used to watch as a kid and wanted to build a deck similar to those themes. Do I think I can easily win with this deck? Of course not! But I want to try anyways and will put in the time and effort to do so! And so should you when building your first commander deck.
5. Test it out with a friend
Play your new Commander deck with someone. It doesn’t have to be your friend, but someone in your local area that you can play with. There, you can test out your deckbuilding and game strategy. Check your local Good Games stores to see when their next casual Commander meetup is happening. The staff and players will be happy to help you out!
6. Attack slowly and strategize
Just like chess or any other strategy game, Commander isn’t always an offensive game. It’s strategic so think carefully. Think about your opponent’s moves, what are they doing? Look at your hand and see if they can give you answers or solutions.
One important thing to be aware of is your opening hand. A good opening hand will allow you to do something for the first 3 rounds without drawing a card from the library. So think about how you want to set yourself up for victory and what you can do to protect yourself from the enemy.
This is an example of a good opening hand. 3 lands for me to use, plus cards that can provide me with mana. I also have cards that synergize with my commander’s effects and something to use if my opponents use an enchantment.
7. Don’t be afraid to use your Life, Graveyard, and cards in Exile
Sacrificing your cards or your Life can sometimes help you win a game. Yes, it sucks that you will be one step closer to death, but some mechanics can allow you to use that to your advantage.
Remember, 1 is not 0.
8. Upgrade the deck
The first try after using your newly built deck may show you some flaws and can allow you to think about how to improve on them. So do not hesitate to get new cards and replace the ones that might not have worked as well as expected.
Pro-tip: make most of your cards have a mana count of 4 or less. That way, it’s easier to summon what you need. Cards like Dark ritual or Amulet of Vigor are some good examples of some potential card upgrades as they give you some type of advantage such as mana gain or having some of your permanents come into play immediately rather than enter in tapped. And those are just some of the options you could choose from.
Always think about how your cards will give you an advantage in your game.
9. Play your friend’s deck
There’s nothing wrong with playing with your friend’s deck as you get to learn what makes their commanders effective. You get to learn new strategies and understand how they were able to win the last game. Your friends can also give tips on how to make your cards work better with your commander.
Playing each others’ deck is a good way to learn and improve your knowledge of the game.
10. Have fun
The point of Commander is to have fun and try new things. Experiment, improve, and see what works for you. You learn from your experiences so don’t be upset if you lose. So just learn from your losses and enjoy the game.
Ps: Don’t forget to use sleeves to protect your cards.
I wish you the best in your Commander adventures!
Any other tips and advice you can give to new players? Let me know in the comments below!
Erielle has been playing Magic The Gathering since 2019, under the commander format. Prior to MTG, she used to play Yugioh and Club Penguin's Card-jitsu. Her goal is to hopefully make new players entering commander feel at ease and less intimidated. You can follow her on twitter @Cutiejea1, Instagram: @cutiejea, YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/cutiejea1 and Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/cutiejea