Standard Commander Gatecrash Archetypes and Example Decks, Part 1

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Author’s note: Since this article series was started, Born of the Gods has been released. Its addition alters the Dimir, Simic, and Gruul decks enough to warrant a revision of the example deck lists. Those lists will be included in part two of this article.

For a Standard Commander format, Gatecrash guilds are going to get an ever-so-slight advantage over the Return to Ravnica guilds when it comes to deck building. This is because Theros came with scry lands for all five of the Gatecrash guilds. However, Boros and Gruul do not have blue or black for card advantage options available in the Standard Commander card pool. This will make it more difficult for those guilds to perform smoothly.


Orzhov got two very interesting teaser creatures in Magic 2014 that combo with Theros‘s enchantment themes: Ajani’s Chosen and Blightcaster. This thematic control build focuses on maximizing casting enchantment creatures, board-controlling enchantments, and auras. With this in mind, the Orzhov deck is best served by using Obzedat, Ghost Council as its commander. The repeated incremental life gain will help keep the deck pilot alive while politically chipping away at the most threatening opponent.

Obzedat Standard Commander

The Orzhov player will most often seek to find and play Sphere of Safety or Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts, to defend his life total while playing key threats such as Blood Baron of Vizkopa or Obzedat, Ghost Council. The production of creature tokens will further assist in holding back opponents while working toward large life swings with Sanguine Bond or Vizkopa Guildmage on the back of a Blood Baron of Vizkopa or Debt to the Deathless.


A Standard Commander Boros deck is heavily saddled with some of the weakest mechanics for Commander: battalion, heroic, and, now, inspired. Separately, these mechanics require building a deck that is fast enough to kill opponents before they can interact with the board state. This strategy comes with clear disadvantages in a singleton format. Together, these mechanics require risking overextension into a board wipe, often for minimal damage gain. Furthermore, Boros decks are complicated by the greatest lack of card draw of any of the guild color combinations. Therefore, Boros is forced to handle its inherent weaknesses with the possibility of a voltron army strategy with Anax and Cymede or pseudo-damage doubling with Aurelia, the Warleader. Tajic, Blade of the Legion, could also be a voltron strategy, but there are not quite enough tricks in the Standard Commander format (i.e. Worldslayer) to ensure that Tajic gets to 21 commander damage consistently. These deck-building themes will probably lead to unsatisfying gameplay. Instead, a Boros deck could focus on having some of the best token creation in the format to gain resource advantage while hoarding cards in hand to recover. With this in mind, a semi-competitive Standard Commander Boros deck could look like this:

Aurelia Standard Commander

Creatures (6)
Token creature generators (7)
Creature buff (18)
Additional combat steps (1)
Card draw (1)
Creature removal (10)
Noncreature removal (4)
Artifact removal (4)
Enchantment removal (2)
Board wipe (4)
Mana acceleration (6)
Tutor (2)
Lands (38)

There’s certainly at least one Commander player who will still want to try a Heroic deck with Anax and Cymede at the helm for a voltron win. However ill-advised it may be under competitive stratagems and deck building precepts, Anax and Cymede could still win, fits a tighter budget, and improves its odds in a one-on-one Standard Commander format:

Anax and Cymede Standard Commander

Double strike creatures (4)
Heroic creatures (8)
Token creature generators (4)
Creature buff (14)
Auras (17)
Equipment (1)
Instants (7)
Creature removal (1)
Card draw (3)
Recursion (2)
Mana acceleration (2)
Lands (36)

This deck quite literally goes all-in on playing a heroic creature or two and relying on heroic triggers from auras and instants. Each aura in this list either draws a card, replaces itself in the event the aura recipient dies (via bestow), or causes some sort of recursion/resilience for its voltron target. Instants either scry, target multiple heroic or double strike creatures (twelve total including the general), or bump power by two or more. Five-Alarm Fire functions similarly to Umezawa’s Jitte, but with a slower activation cost. Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, has even been cut to streamline the deck’s mana curve while Silent Sentinel has stayed in order to recur enchantments if possible.

It is important to note that plays such as Madcap Skills followed by a Boros Charm after a turn three Anax and Cymede deals 14 points of general damage. The opponent has to be able to successfully eliminate Anax and Cymede on the next turn or be able to prevent further general damage to avoid losing quickly.

Once this particular deck enters topdeck mode, it will have an extremely difficult time winning if any other player takes the lead. Additionally, this deck has very weak removal. In this format, white and red are already short on ways to draw into cards that can handle indestructible gods. Without Angelic Edict, Trostani’s Judgment, or Revoke Existence, this deck simply is unable to deal with these threats.

Thanks for reading today! Please share any comments below.

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Kirsin Koch

Kirsin Koch

@duneecho     -     Email     -     Articles

Kirsin Koch works as an IT professional and trainer. As a Magic: The Gathering player since Revised in 1994 and one of the original founding members for CasualPlayers.org, he deeply enjoys Commander, Legacy, and Draft.
Kirsin Koch

About the author

Kirsin Koch

@duneecho     -     Email     -     Articles

Kirsin Koch works as an IT professional and trainer. As a Magic: The Gathering player since Revised in 1994 and one of the original founding members for CasualPlayers.org, he deeply enjoys Commander, Legacy, and Draft.

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