Commander is arguably the most varied format we have. It’s the sushi bar of formats—while you can stop at California rolls, nothing’s stopping you from loading up on different color plates and trying a little of everything, and there are constantly new things rolling around the belt. There’s are loads of ways to play, but today we’ll be focusing on five Commander decks you should eventually own.

Variety is one of the best parts of Commander, and most enfranchised players will have more than one deck to play. They’ll usually aim to cover a range of power levels, as well as hitting a wide variety of play-styles. Regardless of the situation, they’re sure to have something that they can bring to the table for a great game.

Before we start, let’s get one thing straight. Magic can be a very expensive hobby, and there is nothing wrong with having only one deck if that’s what your budget allows. We’re in no rush, so if you like the format and want to grow your collection, take it at your own pace. Building a Commander collection doesn’t happen overnight, and just like ordering sushi, your wallet won’t be able to keep up if you don’t pace yourself.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s dive into the article.

The Daily Driver

The first of the five Commander decks you should eventually own is the ‘Daily Driver’. This is your go-to deck, and is usually one of the first decks that a player beings to upgrade. It’s the first deck that really strikes a chord with you, getting you to keep coming back for more. This is the deck that springs to mind when you think of the format, and the one that you’re most likely to spend time working on and revising. As far as power level goes, it’ll sit in that sweet spot of around 75% of its potential power (around an 8/10, or ‘optimized’ deck).

It can be any play-style, but it’ll usually be your favorite colors and/or archetype. When you find the formula for how you want it to play with others, it’ll usually win about 25% of the games it plays, but over time, you could easily win more. Personally, I play Gahiji, Honored One as my daily driver. It’s a Naya creature combat deck that incentivizes players to attack each other and interact, and it’s my all-time favorite deck for the Commander format.

The Rube Goldberg Machine

Now it’s time to get weird. If you’re unfamiliar with the title, it relates to the eccentric machines of the inventor Rube Goldberg. They would use a chain reaction of events to complete a simple household task, such as turning on a light bulb. This deck is for that combo or wacky interaction that you’ve always wanted to pull off in Commander. The format has a plethora of nice card interactions for players to explore, and your ‘Rube Goldberg Machine’ should be your primary outlet for that style of play. For instance, a member of my playgroup loves the card Mirrorweave, and will find ways to transmogrify groups of creatures into something else. You could also build a deck that is based around alternative win conditions, and try to survive while you set up Simic Ascendancy or Revel in Riches. This deck isn’t always going to win, but when it does, it’ll win the most style points at the table. For my Rube Goldberg Machine, I play Ramos, Dragon Engine, and I try to generate a vast amount of mana to cast cards like Storm Herd or Door to Nothingness.

The Monocolor Experience

With the recent Banned list update, monocolor players can breathe a little easier. Now’s a great time to bust out a monocolor deck if you’ve been recently hedged in by Iona, Shield of Emeria in your playgroup! Playing monocolor can be a challenge in Commander, but it can really help you develop as a deckbuilder. Without the saving graces of an ally or enemy color, you’ll have to work hard to squeeze those extra margins out of your deck. A monocolor deck will obviously highlight the weaknesses of that color in the color pie, but there are plenty of benefits to be had as well. Necropotence[/mtg_card] and Cryptic Command are a breeze to cast, and mana doublers like Caged Sun and Extraplanar Lens really shine here.

It’s worth noting, too, that monocolor decks can be some of the cheapest to build, since their mana bases consist of a great deal more basics than their counterparts. For my ‘Monocolor Experience’, I like to play Gonti, Lord of Luxury. Monoblack allows for all sorts of fun shenanigans, especially when you get to cast spells from other players’ decks!

The Janky Tribal Pile

Sometimes, you’ll sit down for a game at your Local Game Store only to find your opponents are all fairly new, or playing the latest pre-constructed offering from Wizards. It’s a great moment to bring more people into the community, but if you don’t give them a good first experience, you can risk turning them off altogether. While pre-con decks are a great starting point in the format, they can run out of gas against their more optimized counterparts. To ensure that you’re never outclassing a person that brings a precon, bring a ‘Janky Tribal Pile’ to your playgroup.

With this, I’m not referring to things like Slivers, Elves, or Goblins, because those can be built to be fairly powerful. Instead, try something like Rogues, Treefolk, or even Snakes. With the recent printing of Morophon, The Boundless, there’s no excuse not to explore some fun tribal synergies. Cards like Coat of Arms and Door of Destinies give you finishing power, while pulling off an extra turn with Notorious Throng or flickering Treefolk Harbinger feels way too satisfying. For my Janky Tribal Pile, I like playing UW Birds with Kangee, Aerie Keeper, at the helm. Few things feel better than making your opponents respect a Keeper of the Nine Gales.

The Heavyweight

You may find the decks mentioned so far can be simply outclassed by others at the table. For that reason, it pays to have a higher-powered option in your back pocket too. The ‘Heavyweight’ is your most optimized, competitive deck, with no punches being held. These are the decks that are not only playing a variety of tutors, instant speed interaction, and plenty of recursion, but combos and ways to protect them.

It’s worth mentioning that your most competitive deck will probably be the most expensive, since competitive staples like Mana Vault and Mana Crypt are some of the most powerful cards available to us. However, these decks are a passion project for their players, and get updated with new pieces as they’re acquired over time. No one really goes out and swipes their credit card for a fully tuned Gitrog Monster combo deck the day they decide to start playing Commander.

If you’re looking to put up a fight against the more competitive decks in your group, my recommendation would be to build a control deck that is based in blue. Two easy options are Tasigur, the Golden Fang or Lavinia, Azorious Renegade. You may not be winning instantly from an infinite combo, but you’ll pack plenty of answers to keep your chances alive. For my most competitive deck, I play an Aggro/Combo version of Krenko, Mob Boss. For Krenko, the best defense against combo is offense – and in this case, offense comes in the form of huge chunks of damage before they can go off.

In Conclusion

Playing Commander is all about having a great time, and the best chance you’ll have of having fun is to play an appropriate deck. My ‘Five Commander Decks You Should (Eventually) Own’ isn’t by any means exhaustive, but a good starting point for exploring the potential the format has to offer. Many players find it easier to build more decks as they spend time with the format, and just observing other’s decks play out can be a great resource as you try to figure out more decks to invest in.

My personal sweet spot is keeping and maintaining twelve decks, since that’s the most that will fit in my card case on any given night. But in the end, the choice is yours. Why sample just one style when you can see ’em all?

Travis is a Connecticut-based player and writer, who has been turning things sideways since Starter 1999. He primarily plays Commander, Pauper, and Modern, and has a passion for introducing new players to the game. When he isn’t attacking with red creatures, he can be found mountain biking or playing the guitar. You can follow his exploits here on Twitter and Instagram.

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