Author’s note: Since this article series was started, Born of the Gods has been released. Its addition altered the Dimir, Simic, and Gruul decks enough to warrant a revision of the example deck lists.
For the Standard Commander format including Return to Ravnica block and Theros block, the addition of the Born of the Gods set does bring some interesting inclusions, particularly for Dimir and Gruul decks. Also, with the release of Born of the Gods, Sylvan Primordial has been banned in the eternal Commander card pool. The Simic and Gruul decks in this article will reflect this in order to make the decks as compatible as possible with an unfamiliar playgroup.
Dimir is defined in this Standard Commander format, specifically in Return to Ravnica and Theros Limited, primarily by its slow milling abilities. Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker might have been an appropriately thematic commander, but Phenax, God of Deception really put a light onto a possible Standard Commander milling strategy. The main issue with Phenax is a heavy reliance on having multiple, non-attacking, and resilient creatures in play to tap. Alternatively, self-untapping creatures are possible inclusions. Phenax is also a prime candidate for a deck based on the inspired mechanic. Unfortunately, there are too few defensive inspired creatures in blue and black in the Standard card pool worth attempting to play in a Phenax deck outside of Pain Seer and some others that fit the above criteria.
So with Born of the Gods failing to offer support for a substantial commander to a Dimir deck pilot, Lazav, Dimir Mastermind is still best as the general. The Lazav player will need to play politically while protecting Lazav and capitalizing on milling effects and control elements. In true Dimir spirit, the player will direct attention elsewhere while setting up to stab someone in the back.
Lazav Standard Commander
This deck does not include Duskmantle Seer as a possible damage condition. With the amount of decks running Erebos, God of the Dead, this may be a mistake, but there’s also a worse possibility of a tenuous board state thanks to Duskmantle Seer itself.
Blue and green will quite possibly be the strongest color combination in a Standard Commander format. With mana acceleration to power card draw followed by speedy recovery after an opponent’s board wipe. The downside of the Simic color combination is the lack of quality creature removal.
Picking a Simic general is also going to result in quite different builds. Vorel of the Hull Clade is going to allow the deck pilot to focus on evolve, monstrosity, charge counters, and hydras. Timmy/Johnny players will find Vorel to be the most engaging. However, Spike players will enjoy the raw power that Prime Speaker Zegana brings to the table. In some games, just playing Zegana alone to draw two cards will be enough to pull ahead.
Zegana Standard Commander
Gruul deck pilots will get to pick from Borborygmos Enraged, Ruric Thar, the Unbowed, and Xenagos, God of Revels. Seek the Horizon as the only enabler and a lack of card draw eliminates Borborygmos. A reliance on Standard Commander creatures without extremely strong and/or fun creature combos eliminates Ruric Thar. Luckily, Born of the Gods brings Xenagos to the game, giving repeatable creature buff each combat. However, with Xenagos, trample becomes incredibly necessary to ensure the damage gets over chump blockers.
Xenagos Standard Commander
The Xenagos deck will suffer greatly from being an aggro deck without access to horizontal threat creation and global pump effects. The deck’s pilot will need to take out key enchantment threats such as opposing gods and use politics to encourage the group to gang up on the strongest player.
With the conclusion of the Gatecrash guild decks, this author has hoped to inspire some of the Standard players out there to consider an expanded use for their collections. With more than fifteen decks explored here, there’s certainly enough variety to play in a diverse environment. If there’s any serious criticism that can be leveled at a Standard Commander format, it’s the distinct lack of combo and the spells associated with that play style. Standard Commander will focus heavily on mid-range aggro and aggro-control strategies and encourages battlecruiser-style play. Fortunately, Standard Commander still has all the rest of Magic’s archetypes and can provide a continuously interactive game state for all active players. If a playgroup experiments with Standard Commander, any constructive feedback would be welcome.