Remove Useless Power

Force of Will, Deflecting Swat, Mox Opal, Cavern of Souls. These are just a few of the most potent and sought after staple cards for Commander.

What do these all have in common with the exception of price and popularity? Give up?

They are all specialised cards

What do I mean by that? Well, these spells are indeed extremely powerful but you have to fulfil certain conditions for them to work. Not every deck wants these cards for this reason.

Let us examine these cards and identify why we would not want to use them.

Example 1 — Force of Will

Let’s use Force of Will as an example, one of the most known and sought after counterspells in all of Magic.

Force of Will is typically well known as a ‘free’ counterspell, where the player does not need mana to cast it. This is indeed powerful, but where the fault lies is the alternate cost.

By exiling a blue card and paying 1 life, you can cast Force of Will without paying its mana cost.

This is where the fault in the card lies and why you would not want to play it in every deck. Let us take another look and see if you can see the fault of the card.

By EXILING A BLUE CARD and paying 1 life, you can cast Force of Will without paying its mana cost.

The fault in the card is that we are required to exile a blue card from our hand in order to cast it for free. If we are playing a deck with many colours or one that has little focus on blue, this card will usually just be a 5-mana counterspell, actually worst than the original Counterspell.

Example 2 — Deflecting Swat

Another powerful spell that can be cast for free, Deflecting Swat allows its caster to change the target of a spell or ability to one of their choices, usually used as a way to redirect removal, steal spells, or even counter counterspells.

What is the fault of this card? Well, its fault lies in its ability to be cast for free.

If you CONTROL A COMMANDER, you may cast this spell without paying its mana cost.

Controlling a commander may not seem like an issue, but what if you cannot cast your commander? What if you only ever cast your commander when you are about to win? Commanders like Inalla, Archmage Ritualist and The Ur-Dragon are usually used while in the commander zone for their eminence ability and usually are never cast as they are too much mana.

Example 3 — Mox Opal

When you hear of Mox Opal, you may think of the original Moxen, powerful artifacts that can be cast for no mana and tap for 1 of 5 colours. Mox Opal is a lot more powerful in that it can tap to make any colour of mana.

This sounds like all upside and no downside. The fault in the card is one that players skim over quite a bit:

Metalcraft — Activate only if you control three or more artifacts.

A small and simple condition that many players forget about. This means you should only be using this in decks with a heavy artifact count, close to at least 20.

This way of building is to help use the card, but in doing so you may be ignoring what your deck is trying to do. Changing a large section of your deck’s structure to accommodate a single card is not usually recommended.

Some commanders don’t even use artifacts and in fact use strategies to stop them, such as Sythis, Harvest’s Hand and Light-Paws, Emperor’s Voice.

Example 4 — Cavern of Souls

A land that makes your creatures uncounterable? Pretty incredible. Cavern of Souls is quite a sought after card by commander players, as getting one of your cards countered is one of great pain. Players like to use it to give their commanders the ability to not be countered.

There are some faults with the card that may tell you it is not for your deck.

As Cavern of Souls enters the battlefield, CHOOSE A CREATURE TYPE.

TAP: Add one colourless mana.

TAP: Add ONE MANA OF ANY COLOUR. Spend this mana only to cast a CREATURE SPELL OF THE CHOSEN TYPE, and that spell CAN’T BE COUNTERED.

As we can see, to use the land, we have to choose a creature type that we want to make coloured mana for. Once we do that, it can only make coloured mana and provide counter-protection of the chosen creature type. The rest of the time, it will only tap for colourless mana.

This means that if your commander is not a creature, this land does not help. It also means that if our deck is not heavily focused on the chosen creature type, the card will usually be worst than a basic land. Commanders such as Volo, Guide to Monsters and Teferi, Temporal Archmage cannot make proper use of Cavern of Souls.

This land is best used in tribal decks, where there is a heavy surplus of creatures that share a creature type.


The purpose of this article is to have you engage in critical thinking when building your decks. Not every powerful card should be put into every deck you create.

Sometimes they are difficult to justify slotting them into your deck. There may be other cards that do a better job.

Sometimes, you may be adding false power.


You Don’t Need Power to be Powerful

Power. It’s one thing that commander players both want and fear. There are specific cards that the commander community believe are extremely powerful and there is nothing better.

Unfortunately, a lot of these cards are usually expensive. This is the main problem that commander players find when trying to obtain these cards for their deck. Because of this, they may think their deck is not powerful enough.

The truth is these cards may increase a deck’s power, but a majority of the time it’s only by a small percentage. Real power comes from strategy, critical thinking and skill.


Strategy is a strong tool in your arsenal. The power-defining cards people look towards are usually great by themselves, which is why they are so sought after. If you look to cards that interact with your strategy, you may find they are more powerful.

As an example, take a look at the commander: Balia de’Arnise. A commonly sort after and powerful card most players would like to add to this deck would be Demonic Tutor. However, there is a card that works even better with the strategy the commander provides, Coveted Prize

Coveted Prize becomes cheaper for each creature type you have in your party, possibly becoming 1-drop spell. It also allows the player to cast a spell for free from their hand if they have a full party. When built around a sound party strategy, this spell runs circles around Demonic Tutor.

Remember coming up with a strategy is more powerful than any one card.

Critical Thinking

Sometimes players think their deck needs a powerful card. The truth is that’s not always the case. Depending on how you build and play your deck, sometimes a card is useless. Let’s take a look at Fierce Guardianship.

A very powerful and sort after card with the ability to counter non-creatures spells for free if you have your commander on the battlefield. However a lot players add it to decks that a majority of the time will even be able to use it’s free costing ability. Let’s have a look at a couple of commanders.

Inalla, Archmage Ritualist is quite a powerful commander, but based on the way her eminence ability works, most players will never bring her out of the commander zone. This means Fierce Guardianship is just a 3-mana counterspell for non-creature spells, and there are other cards that do the same effect but cost less in both mana and money.

Breya, Etherium Shaper is a great artifact commander. At first it looks like Fierce Guardianship is great for this commander, but it depends on the strategy. Some players will want Breya out on the field as a control piece, but others choose to create infinite mana and cast, sacrifice, and re-cast Breya to win the game. With the later strategy, Fierce Guardianship is quite useless as the commander never stays on the field for long.

Najeela, the Blade-Blossom is known as a very powerful commander, usually seen as commander that must be removed as the deck relies on her staying out on the field. This is where Fierce Guardianship is very useful and most games it will be cast for free protecting her. This justifies it’s use in Najeela’s strategy.

Let’s take a look at another card: Force of Will. It’s a strong counterspell that can be cast for free if you pay 1 life and exile a blue card, very useful for countering spells when your out of mana.

If we take a look at Inalla again, Force of Will can easily fit in as free counterspell since we play blue so we’re bound to have more than 1 blue spell in hand. The same goes for Breya as there are a lot artifact synergies in blue..

The one that makes Force of Will a mediocre card is actually Najeela. Most of the time Force of Will would be a 5 mana counterspell because Najeela is an aggressive 5-colour combat deck, so there is little chance of having a 2nd blue spell in hand.


Experience with a deck is just as important as power. There is a saying:

I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.

The same goes for Magic the Gathering. The more you’ve practiced with a deck, the more powerful you will become with it. The same goes for practicing with specific cards. The more you use them, the better you can utilize them.

We can even apply these to budget cards. If we know how to best use and abuse a card, we can push it into the correct situation to make it powerful. A card you know the ins-and-outs of is more powerful than a card you have just started playing it.

Commander is a format where even an intro deck can come out on top, given enough practice.

Final Thoughts

A lot of players seek out powerful cards to make their commander decks more powerful, although that is not always what is best. Commander, because of the chaotic and multiplayer aspect, is a format where even an intro deck can come out on top.

Before you invest into an expensive card, you should look to see if there are better cards for your strategy or do some critical thinking on the card to see if it will benefit your strategy. As long as you practice with your cards, you will usually find yourself getting better at the game more than what an expensive card would.

Just remember, sometimes the best way to obtain power isn’t from an expensive card.


The Glass Cannon Conundrum

Everyone enjoys playing EDH in their own way, usually building around their commander. Some players love refine their deck to the point where they build for speed over stability. This can be either a massive boon or bane. This is the ‘Glass Cannon Conundrum’.

What is a Glass Cannon?

You heard of the phrase “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”? It’s a similar premise, only that you are building for speed and efficiency over resilience.

This may seem like a huge issue and the type of deck to avoid. That could not be more wrong. Everyone enjoys playing commander their own way and glass cannon decks are just another strategy. They plan to be aggressive and prey upon playgroups who do not interact.

Glass Cannon Pros

Glass Cannon decks focus on one strategy and hone it to the point where there is a huge amount of redundancy. A large amount of tutor spells are found in the deck to help with consistency in finding and setting up their win condition.

This kind of strategy prefers speed above all else. This means an emphasis on low cost spells and fast mana, sometimes cards that can only be utilized once.

Glass Cannon decks prey upon playgroups with a lack of interaction. The less interactive your opponents, the higher chance of running away with the game. Because of this, glass cannons aim for setting up in their first few turns where most players are still setting up their boards. This is where they capitalise on their speed.

With all these benefits do come some downfalls.

Glass Cannon Cons

Taking a mulligan is common for starting the game. Glass Cannon decks specialise in achieving their strategy as fast as possible, so finding the right cards to start with is essential.

Removal hurts a glass cannon more than any other type of strategy as they are built for speed rather than endurance. They usually don’t add redundant cards to the board and focus on obtaining the next piece of their puzzle. Even single target removal can set back a glass cannon deck back turns or even push them out of the game.

Interaction is a common thing glass cannon decks lack. They have a redundancy of spells to push their strategy forward so they usually skip on common forms of removal. They are trying to achieve a win before most players can get into the game.

Most interaction they do play are ways to protect their own cards, whether that be counter spells, hexproof, protection from color, etc.

It is common for glass cannon decks to have a heavy reliance on the commander. Being removed from the field or even being unable to play the commander can stall the deck and leave it wailing about. Commander tax can also be a real hindrance for this reason, so it is best to summon the commander only when you really need it.

But not to fear, there are ways to help support a glass cannon strategy.

Ways to support glass cannon

One way to support this strategy is to include an additional strategy or 2 that can be added to the deck with little hinderance on the main strategy. Thassa’s Oracle and Demonic Consultation are cards that are used as an easy backup combo for glass cannon decks that can support blue and black.

Another way to a support glass cannon decks is to add additional cards to support the commander, so if the commander cannot be played, there are still cards that can be used. This however is not helpful for those players who don’t usually utilise their commander.

An example of this would be Marwyn the Nurturer. For a commander like Marwyn, it should include additional cards that also provide a large amount of mana based on elves.

The last way that you could improve a glass cannon strategy is to add resilience to removal, making it less effective on hindering your game plan. The downside to this is you will start to be sacrificing speed.

Final Thoughts

Glass Cannon decks can be very beneficial for players who love speed and consistency. Even though there are downsides, every strategy has its own ups and downs.

If you like fast and refined gameplay, a glass cannon strategy might be the way you want to go. If you don’t like being blown out from a single removal spell or prefer to interact with your opponents, I would not recommend this kind of strategy.


Floor and Ceiling

Many commander players find a card they think is powerful and could be fun in their decks. Most times, they usually find that the card doesn’t live up to their expectations. This is a common problem among casuals, having trouble evaluating a card.

This article will be talking about an advanced technique to help you evaluate cards: Floor & Ceiling.

What is Floor & Ceiling?

Floor & Ceiling is a quick description of a technique on how to evaluate cards. It takes quite a while to understand and difficult to master because of one’s own biased opinion.

It is is more focused on evaluating a card based on common and favorable game states.

What is the Floor?

The Floor is the most common thing a card can do by itself. Such as a creature with an effect at the beginning of your upkeep. At it’s core, the most common thing it can do is attack and block as there is no guarantee that it will survive until your next turn..

It is important to consider the most common game state the card will be put into. Not all cards survive a round of the table, or work in every situation.

What is the Ceiling?

The Ceiling is the best thing a card can do in the best case scenario. Sometimes it requires a lot of effort, sometimes not much at all.

Let’s say a card requires you to have cards in hand to increase the effect. It may be a crazy effect when there are more than 7 cards in your hand. This is where you can use your imagination to see what is the best possible scenario you can give the card.

Putting it into Practice

After we have evaluated Floor and Ceiling separately, we need to then check how easy is it to get the Floor to its Ceiling. The closer a Ceiling is to its Floor, the better a card is as you can achieve the best possible outcome more often.

Let’s put this to the test with a few examples.

Example 1 – Bone Splinters


  • Require creature to sacrifice
  • Needs a creature to target
  • Needs a creature to sacrifice


  • Destroy a creature

As you can see, even though the Ceiling is easy to fulfil, a lot is still needed to able to reach the Ceiling. This spell does one thing and one thing well, killing a creature for a low mana cost. If that’s what your after in a card, then this could be a good choice for your deck, even better if you want to sacrifice a creature.

Example 2 – Dockside Extortionist


  • Can block and attack


  • Can generate large amounts of mana to abuse

This card seems to be very hard to reach the Ceiling, but because Commander is a multiplayer format, this lowers the Ceiling immensely for the card as it gets stronger with the more opponents there are, allowing it to easily reach it’s Ceiling most games.

Example 3 – Jeska’s Will


  • Add less than 7 mana OR,
  • Ability to play 3 cards from the top of your deck until the end of the turn.
  • Sorcery speed


  • Add more than 7 mana AND ability to play the top 3 cards of your library until the end of the turn.

This one is tricky to evaluate, as the effect seems easy to get to it’s Ceiling. The problem behind the card is you need your commander in order to enable the Ceiling and have an opponent with large number of cards in hand. Your commander may not be out on the battlefield when you go to play this card or your opponents’ hands may be quite low.

However, if your only after 1 of the effects on the card, you may not need your commander out on the battlefield to get both effects. It all depends on what side/s of the card you want to use.

Final Thoughts

Evaluating cards is a tough process when you go in depth, but it is a necessary evil when we are refining our deck.

The next time you try evaluating a card, try using the Floor & Ceiling technique to define a card’s capabilities and see if it will be a good fit for what you need.


Refining Your Deck

When tuning your commander deck, you may notice that sometimes your deck seems to not function correctly or some cards don’t work with others. This is a common pitfall when it comes to deck building and tuning.

Pick a Main Strategy

You may find yourself adding too many strategies together, causing your core strategy to become lost in the mess. What do I mean by this? Well let’s give an example.

Let’s say your commander deck specialises in drawing cards to deal damage to your opponents. You think that since your drawing so many cards, you should add the ability to mill your opponents for each card you draw. This is an example of a Nekusar, the Mindrazer commander deck that I’ve seen players trying to make work.

You may notice that with this example your splitting your deck’s options on how to win the game, damage and mill. The problem with this is your damage and milling effects do not work together. Instead of a single strategy that can be built upon and strategies that accompany each other, you have included 2 strategies which cannot capitalise on one another.

With this issue, to make use of an analogy, you will find instead of a using sturdy finely tuned blade, you’ll have a flimsy distorted stick.

How do we improve this? You should look at a single strategy that you want your deck to focus on. Make sure a majority of your deck is applied to this strategy.

Taking our Nekusar commander example into account, we can capitalise on extra draw for opponents and extra damage-on-draw effects. Forcing opponents to draw to take damage is already what Nekusar is wanting to do. It may seem like an obvious answer, but with 99 cards in the deck, the main strategy can often be lost in the mess.

Now it isn’t a bad thing to add in other strategies into your deck. You just have to make sure they are further extending your core strategy. These strategies should increase the potency of your main strategy and not move away from it.

If we take Nekusar into account once more, we could look at adding double-damage and wheel effects. You may see how these 2 strategies are different from Nekusar’s main one, but they accompany it and further increase it’s potency by increasing damage from Nekusar’s draw effect.

Tweaking Draw, Ramp & Remove

In a previous article, we talked about splitting your deck into 5 piles, following the ’35-35-10-10-10′ rule. Three of those piles are 10 draw, 10 ramp, and 10 removal cards.

When you first build your deck, you may notice you shove what you have into the deck to make it as fast as possible. Let’s face it. Finding 100 cards for a proper deck is a lot of work and we like shortcuts. You may have just added generic cards to make up your draw, ramp and removal.

You can make your deck more powerful by finding alternative cards that can contribute to your main strategy. If we want an example, we should take a look at Edric, Spymaster of Trest.

This is a deck that loves to attack with creatures constantly as it core strategy. We could look at adding cards such as Harvest Season to ramp based on the number of tapped creatures we control. We could even include Aether Mutation to not only remove a threatening creature, but make more creatures to attack with.

You will notice both of these cards feed into each other, making each other stronger. Magic the Gathering has a massive card pool that we can abuse, finding cards that may be fringe or mediocre, but may be powerful in the right strategy.

Final Thoughts

Fine-tuning a Commander deck is quite an effort and time consuming, but don’t get discouraged. It is a rewarding process.

Remember to apply these techniques to help with your refining process and you will not only find your deck will become stronger over time, but you will understand your deck better, making tuning it that much easier.


The Commander Skeleton

Commander is one of, if not, the most fun way to play Magic the Gathering these days. Although it can be very daunting for a player to build a commander deck.

Many players trying to break into the format have trouble building their own decks, getting flustered and stressed when going through the process. There is no simple strategy online on how to build a functioning Commander deck, until now.

For years, I’ve been working on a commander skeleton that players can start with as a playable deck. This skeleton follows a simple rule:

35 – 35 – 10 – 10 – 10

I’ve drilled these numbers into my head for years, helping me build new commander decks for both my friends and myself. This rule relates to the 5 sections you should split your commander deck skeleton into:

  • Lands – 35
  • Ramp spells – 10
  • Removal spells -10
  • Draw spells – 10
  • Strategy – 35

Total: 100 cards. Very simple list to follow. This skeleton allows you to play your custom commander deck straight away.

Using this method, you can get in some great games and tune the list to your liking. You may find you need more ramp, or need less removal, and this is what the skeleton is for, to give you a general deck to start playing with.

I will go further into detail about the 5 skeleton points.

Lands – 35

Every deck needs lands to run. Some need a lot, some need very few. A lot of players skimp on their lands as they are usually the most boring part of your deck. The reason why we start off with 35 lands is so we can see how often we get stuck or flooded on land as we test the deck.

Try to use as few lands that come into play tapped. It’s just as bad as missing a land drop in most cases.

Note: A land that does not tap for mana cannot be considered as part of this 35.

Ramp Spells – 10

Commander is a unique format where ramp usually reigns supreme and increases your chances of winning greatly. Because of this, every commander deck needs ways to increase the amount of mana they can produce each turn.

Mana rocks, mana dorks, rampant growth effects and rituals are all powerful ramp effects in the format. Be sure you look into ramp effects under 4 mana so you don’t fall to far behind your opponents.

Removal Spells – 10

A lot of strong decks in commander usually focus a few cards, that when combined, provide a large advantage and win the game, most of the time into a game ending combo. The best way to stop your opponents from achieving this is through removal. Removal counts as any spell or effect that can remove or delay a problem. This can be anything from counter spells, exiling, destroying, or even bouncing.

It is usually best to find removal spells that can hit more than 1 type of card so you can react to a wider range of strategies.

Draw Spells – 10

With all the spells you’ll be playing a game, you will find you are running out of cards in your hand really quick. Keeping a constant flow of cards coming to your hand helps you find answers and ways to progress your board state. You want to look for spells such as cantrips or spells that draw you more than 1 card.

The best kind of draw spells are permanents that can draw you cards constantly over time.

Strategy – 35

This is where you start making your commander deck do it’s thing. You have an idea of what you want your deck to do, so you have 35 cards to work with. Your commander/s are included in this 35.

You can fill in this space with tutors, combos, game changing cards or anything you want your deck to do.

You may also find that cards you are adding may fall into one of the other categories. This is alright because the more consistent your deck, the smoother it will run.

Putting It All Together

This method helps turn complex deck building into a simple practice.

Remember though, this is the start of a deck, not the final result. You can now playtest your own custom commander deck idea and make adjustments as you see fit.

Now that you understand the concept, how easy does this method look to you? Does it make you want to build a deck right now?


The Win Condition

A lot of players I’ve met who have been playing commander for under 6 months tell me they struggle winning their games or even getting their deck working the way they want. I’ve noticed the issue time and time again, when I get a weird look from them when I ask them, “What is your win condition?”.

Commander is a fun format, but to get better, you have to figure out how you want to win. This is when you have to plan out the way your going to win.

  • What is your deck’s goal?
  • What is it trying to achieve?

In Commander, decks can have multiple ways to win, but you should focus on your main one first and worry about including others later as you see fit.

Combo Wins

Some decks focus on powerful combos involving 2 or more cards interacting in a certain way, usually winning them the game. Your whole deck can be built around forming this combo as fast as possible and even adding ways to protect it.

An example of one of these combos includes Thassa’s Oracle and Demonic Consultation.

When Thassa’s Oracle enters the battlefield, the player holds priority, then casts Demonic Consultation, naming a card not in their deck. This then exiles every card left in their deck at instant speed. After that spell has resolved, the Oracle’s enter the battlefield trigger resolves, causes that player to win the game.

Abusing Your Strategy

Focusing your deck to do one thing and one thing well can be used to your advantage. One of my favourite commanders, Edric, Spymaster of Trest gives you the ability to draw a lot of cards by allowing each one of your creatures that hits one of your opponents to draw a card.

So I want to draw as many cards for as little mana as possible, so each mana I spend on a creature should be as little as possible. To maximise on this idea, I have a number of unblockable and flying creatures and, with Edric, draw a card for each one that can land a direct hit.

To multiply the draw power, I added extra turn spells into the deck. This allows me to reset my turns, attack again, filling up the board with more evasive creatures. I can effectively have 5+ turns with 30+ creatures out, and that’s more than enough to kill my opponents. So I turned my strategy of drawing cards for as little mana as possible into a win condition.

Overpowering the Enemy

Sheer power is another way to win a game. A favourite commander among a lot of players is the sheer power of Kaalia of the Vast. She is meant to be played aggressively, hindering your opponent’s by destroying their resources and cheating out massive threats.

Unlike other commanders, if Kaalia is not playing as aggressive as possible, she usually will fall behind her opponents. Her main focus should big heavy hitting angels, dragons, and demons with powerful effects that overwhelm your opponents, taking out the most threatening player first.

Wrapping Up

There are many ways to win a game of Commander. The ways we have discussed are just the common strategies players implement to help define their deck’s strategy and come up with their win conditions.

If you are having trouble winning, try giving one of these strategies ago, even try throwing your own spin on it.