For those of you not familiar with the format of kings you’ve been missing out. I’m not going to bother telling you all the ins and outs of the format as I’m sure many helpful people elsewhere on the internet have already done much to explain the rules and format. No... I’m here to give you a much greater instruction.
My love of Commander runs deep. It’s the format that helped me fully appreciate everything that Magic could be and do, and for a long time it was the only format I would play. I am the proud owner of no less than nine fully loaded Commander decks, each lovingly crafted and packed to the gills with fun cards.You’ll notice I used the word ‘fun’ there and not the word ‘powerful’. That’s because something that some of you seem to forget sometimes is that Commander is a casual format and as such your goal should always be to have the most fun, as opposed to rushing to victory as fast as you can or locking your opponents out of the game. Sometimes it appears to me that some of you have forgotten how to do that, and so it falls to me to educate you with my five tips for having a fun Commander game:
1. Start it Slow, Play it Long:
With its increased starting life and bigger deck sizes Commander is a format that is obviously designed to have longer games than usual. A proper game of commander should take entire evenings with each player having their chance to have an impact on the game as the power balance shifts back and forth.
In Commander you want every spell you cast to make the biggest impact possible, so throw everything you know about mana-curve out the window. If there was ever a format for your Clone Legions and your Void Winnowers Commander is it! Let those bonkers game changing cards make the splash they were always meant to.
Remember that Commander is a multi-player format and more often than not the player who breaks out ahead is targeted, so if you just spend your first five or so turns building up mana (or graveyards if you’re a necromancer like me) it is unlikely that you’ll attract attention from your opponents. Start slowly and build up the kind of field you want with beneficial enchantments and such. Don’t be too quick to knock out your opponents or bring the game to a close. Let it develop, see where it goes. Commander is the not only the format where legends are in command but also where legends are born!
2. Make it Political:
Commander is also a format that is made by its politics and the interaction it encourages between players. Half the fun is in creating a situation in which your opponents must make difficult decisions and watching their faces contort with anguish. To this end, cards like Choice of Damnations and the ‘Tempting Offer’ cycle from commander 2013 are perfect.
Remember also that sometimes the best spell you can cast is a well placed comment. If the hammer is about to be brought down on you, it never hurts to draw their attention to some of the other threats on the board.
It’s also worth your while to make yourself and your cards indispensable to the table; symmetrical effects like Zhur-Taa Ancient and Primal Vigor will not only provide massive advantages to you but you may sometimes find that your opponents are enjoying the benefit so much themselves that they’ll avoid going after you just to keep the good times coming!
3. Give it some Flavour
Between the guilds of Ravnica, the shards of Alara, Khans and dragon broods of Tarkir, Phyrexian spheres, Suns of Mirrodin and Gods of Theros, Magic is a game which is richer in flavour than a lobster bisque. Few formats give players such ample opportunity to jump on this and build around it than Commander. Not only when you are building your deck but also playing the game, try to put yourself in the shoes of a duplicitous Dimir agent or a feral hunts-person of the Atarka brood. If you’re playing a Simic deck and trying to pick the best target for your spell, ask yourself ‘What would Momir Vig do?’
4. Control But Don’t Inhibit (No One Likes a Blue Mage)
There is nothing worse in a commander game than being locked out of playing by your opponent, cards like Iona, Shield of Emeria and Opposition are strictly not fun and if they appear on a table I’m playing at I will promptly quit the game, further to this counterspells and extra turn spells while tolerable in moderation should be kept to a bare minimum. If you don’t want your opponent to be able to play don’t invite them over. Commander is about giving everyone a chance to make an impact and when you inhibit their game,You are robbing them of a good time.
It’s that simple. So try to keep your grip on the game tentative and let your opponents do what they want to do. Keep your answers close to your chest and play them only when you have to. If everyone at your table does this you’ll all have a much more enjoyable game.
5. Do Something Legendary
With no prizes at a causal Commander game the best thing you can hope to walk away with is glory and good story; all my best stories from playing Magic have come from the crazy out of control games of Commander I’ve played: dealing 120 damage in one go to the smug life-gain player who thought they were untouchable, keeping myself in the game by flashing in a Mimeoplasm as nothing more than a flying-chump blocker, spending the whole game staying in the background filling graveyards before re-animating everything with a Grimoire of the Dead and suddenly becoming the biggest threat at the table. The list goes on, and it’s these stories that make Commander the format it is.
So build a deck with cards that all come together with a single purpose of creating as mad a game as you can. Spit out swarms of tokens, draw bushels of cards, combo and ally and trigger your way into the history books with as epic a game as you can make it.
So there you have it. Follow these five simple rules and I guarantee you and your friends a much richer Commander experience. Let me know in the comments how you get on.