Jim Casale – Long-Term Plans: Choosing a Commander

Just when it looked like our commander deck might be guilded, the shard/wedge monster came up and delivered the finishing upper cut. Before we start looking at some sweet Commanders, I want to take a step back and address a comment made regarding part one of the series.

Mark wrote that he preferred three-color decks because they give you more flexibility. I believe this is a misconception. Generally, adding more colors allows you to do more things; however, you can often find artifacts that perform color-specific functions but at a slightly higher mana cost. It’s not hard for artifacts to perform many important color-specific roles (card drawing, sweeping, or ramping, for example).

Now with that out of the way, let’s talk about Commanders! I like to classify Commanders in one of two categories: build-around (or synergy) Commanders and value (or good stuff) Commanders. I currently have one of each type in my two decks. [card]Melek, Izzet Paragon[/card] is a synergy Commander because he is the centerpiece of the deck: the entire deck’s plan revolves around having him in play as often as possible. Generally, you end up playing cards in a deck with a synergy Commander that you may not play in other Commander decks because of how well they interact with the Commander.

Value Commanders are the complete opposite. These decks are filled with “good stuff” to complement a Commander that doesn’t need any support to be effective. My value Commander is [card]Prime Speaker Zegana[/card]. She just requires you to play lands and big creatures to be effective. We’re playing Commander, so those things are already in our deck anyway.

Now for the fun part, the Commanders! I have picked seven legendary creatures from which you can choose. But wait, you think, isn’t that a lot of choices for a poll? Well, of course it is. So I’m giving you a choice of colors, not Commanders. I have picked three pairs of shard-colored Commanders, and one wedge-colored Commander (as there are fewer choices). At the bottom of the article you can vote for one shard or wedge. We will use one Commander for our budget deck and one Commander for our bling deck!


[card]Maelstrom Wanderer[/card]

So let’s start with our first contestant. At first glance, this guy seems like a very value-oriented Commander, and he is – but he can also find a great home in a synergy deck. There are a number of very interesting reasons why you should pick this card as your Commander. Although it’s arguable, in my opinion, blue and green are the most powerful colors in EDH. Having both of those available in your Commander’s color identity is huge. The card drawing in blue and mana acceleration in green cannot be matched by any other color. [card]Maelstrom Wanderer[/card] is also extremely resistant to counterspells and removal. It’s one of very few Commanders that can provide significant card advantage through multiple castings. [card]Maelstrom Wander[/card] can be placed in a value deck that casts him to basically “draw (and play) two spells” or in a synergy deck with cards like [card]Momir Vig, Simic Visionary[/card], [card]Mystical Tutor[/card], and [card]Worldly Tutor[/card].

Naya (RGW)

Naya Value: [card]Gahiji, Honored One[/card]

Naya Synergy: [card]Hazezon Tamar[/card]

Okay, so I have some spicy ones for Naya. We’re avoiding [card]Mayael the Anima[/card] or [card]Uril, the Miststalker[/card], two of the more popular Naya Commanders.

No siree, we’re using [card]Hazezon Tamar[/card], a card for which you should probably read the oracle text because the card text is pretty unclear. Basically, he makes tri-colored sand warrior tokens during your next upkeep after he comes into play, so the deck plays a lot of ways to sacrifice or kill him before the tokens come into play – if he dies first, you get to keep your tokens. This deck also thrives on token enablers like [card]Beastmaster’s Ascension[/card] and [card]Doubling Season[/card]. Probably the most important card in the deck is [card]High Market[/card].

[card]Gahiji, Honored One[/card] is a more diplomatic card that incentivizes your opponents to attack each other. It’s also a pretty sweet combo with creatures, and man, does Naya have a lot of those.

Jund (BRG)

Jund Value: [card]Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund[/card]

Jund Synergy: [card]Kresh the Bloodbraided[/card]

Ah yes, Jund, the king of value (if you played the Standard deck last season, you know what I mean). Now, Jund is an interesting color combination because it has access to a lot of the most powerful and versatile removal spells in the game. This naturally leads its decks to be very value oriented, but we can include a lot of synergistic cards with [card]Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund[/card]. [card]Kresh the Bloodbraided[/card] loves killing things and there are a few combo cards you can use with him ([card]Fling[/card], for example), but Karrthus can bring the pain by stealing your opponent’s dragons, too! I mean, Commander is also sometimes called “EDH,” or Elder Dragon Highlander, so the chance of your opponents playing dragons is pretty high.

Grixis (UBR)

Grixis Value : [card]Nicol Bolas[/card]

Grixis Synergy: [card]Nekusar, the Mindrazer[/card]

And to round out our list of sweet Commanders, we have a more controlling combination: Grixis Commanders. I felt like including an Elder Dragon was a necessary choice, so [card]Nicol Bolas[/card] joins us here as the most fearsome of them of all (and coincidentally the only surviving member in recent lore). He is a tried-and-true value Commander that bring a fearsome ability and a large flying body into the fight. [card]Nekusar, the Mindrazer[/card] is a newer Commander, but is just oozing with potential synergy goodness. His abilities are similar to those possessed by “group hug” Commanders, in that they are both beneficial and detrimental so it will be difficult for your opponent to decide if they should kill him or not. Being both blue and red allows his decks to play all of the [card]Wheel of Fortune[/card]-style effects, forcing everyone to draw and discard tons of cards. There are plenty of ways to take advantage of this and he would make for a great multiplayer Commander.

This is a Democracy!

Now that I’ve outlined a few of the Commanders I think we can bring to battle, it’s up to you to decide which shard or wedge to use! Please vote below. Feel free to leave comments if you feel I’ve left out any good candidates. Let me know if you have any questions or thoughts!

[poll id=”4″]

About the Author
@Phrost_     -     Email     -     Articles Jim is a software developer and an avid blue planeswalker. He spellslings in Jacksonville, Florida, and you can feel free to contact him on Twitter at @phrost_.

5 comments on Jim Casale – Long-Term Plans: Choosing a Commander

  1. Sander van der Zee says:

    Choose Your Own Commander Adventure! I certainly voted for Grixis, mostly because I want to see the Mindrazer in action. He seems like a pretty swell dude, sitting on his iron throne like an undead bad-ass, likely trying to burn everyone alive as they draw cards out of his exuberant tax-funded vaults.

    Overall pretty sweet to see how this pans out.

  2. Jason Alt says:

    All of my favorite edh decks are RUG. Riku and Maelstrom Wanderer are amazing. RUG Lyfe, yo.

  3. Jason Alt says:

    Some dude on Reddit thinks you should change the name of your article series to “Casuale Magic”. I guess what I really need now is for you to talk me out of trying to make you do that.

    1. Jim Casale says:

      I’m not quiet sure I get the joke but you’re the boss man, boss man.

      1. Jason Alt says:

        Your name is kind of close to “casual” and he cleverly combined the name “Casale” and the word “casual” to make a new, better title.

        Is that who I am, now? I’m “the man?” Bummer. I’m going to go listen to “The Ascent of Stan” and cry bitter tears now.

Leave a Reply