Constructing Commander: Commander Analysis and Type Classification

Hello, everyone. It’s me, Hispanic! At the Disco, again for another Constructing Commander segment. I previously discussed commander selection when talking about constructing the Core of a commander deck, but I never went into detail about how to make a decision on a commander and direction that you want to go. Granted, there are hundreds of commanders in Magic’s 27 year-old history, and I cannot review all of them in my Commander Analysis series. As such, I’m going to provide an outline for assessing the strengths and weaknesses of a commander, along with how I personally classify commanders while covering my CMC preferences and different commander types. Because of this, this article may be long, but it’s a dive into my commander selection process and it may prove useful to those of you who know a type or build, but have no idea who they want at the helm.

First off, I want to talk about converted mana cost real quick, while any CMC of commander, even 10 cmc (Looking at you Kozilek), can function well, it is preferred to have a low CMC. While this seems straightforward at first glance, it’s actually fairly difficult to assess “What is low?” when you are looking at specific archetypes. For Example: the top 6 Mill commanders are all CMC 5-6 in Blue/Black or just Black.

These commanders are notably expensive in comparison to other archetypes, but this is average for this archetype. This means that picking an archetype comes with a level of “Opportunity cost” involved as higher CMC commanders will end up providing you with less of a chance to cast them, or the inability to cast them multiple times in a game.

As such, the highest CMC of commander I typically go for is between 5-6 mana, as this gives me just enough room to potentially cast them twice in a game. If my commander gets removed enough that I have to cast them more than that, then I will dig for alternative win conditions or value engines from my 99, or the game is already coming to a close for me.

This also means any commanders with high CMC can make up for this detriment by having access to green. The large ramp package in green allows for a higher CMC commander, such as Maelstrom Wanderer, to be cast more often than others may expect, making up for the weakness of high CMC.

Next I want to clarify something involving how I classify commanders. There is a difference between a commander type and a commander archetype. Commander archetypes often tell you what the deck does or wants to do. This could often be considered stuff like mill, wheels, tribal, voltron, combo, etc., where a commander type is what the commander brings to the table to help with this archetype’s gameplan. This could be thought of with categories such as toolbox, card advantage, engine, etc. (Note: A commander can have multiple commander types, much like a commander can play towards multiple archetypes).

As such, I’m going to clarify what these commander types are, what they do, and show a few examples of each.

Commander TypeDescriptionExamples
Card AdvantageCard Advantage commanders are all about getting you access to more cards, whether it is from your deck, graveyard, or your opponents’ decks and graveyards. The name of the game with these commanders is to look at as many cards as possible to get you the most flexibility.Meren, of Clan Nel-toth
Arcanis, the Omnipotent
Barrin, Tolarian Archmage
Karador, Ghost Chieftain
Etali, Primal Storm
Gonti, Lord of Luxury
Neyith of the Dire Hunt
Board AdvantageThese commanders are all about getting your board big. Often in the form of tokens, cheating creatures onto the battlefield, or pumping your battlefield. As long as your board is big and scary, these commanders have done their job.Edgar Markov
Rhys the Redeemed
Ilharg, the Raze-Boar
Xenagos, God of Revels
Najeela, the Blade-Blossom
Mana AdvanageThese commanders are all about ramping you out of control with ritual effects or by generating absurd amounts of mana.Marwyn, the Nurturer
Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy
Selvala, Explorer Returned
Ramos, Dragon Engine
Karametra, God of Harvests
InteractiveThese commanders interact with the board state or deny your opponents their resources to slow them down, nurture the game into a favorable position, and control what your opponents can and cannot do safely. These are the commanders that often annoy opponents the most, as they have the ability to just tell your opponents “No.”Vaevictus Asmadi, the Dire
Breya, Etherium Shaper
Grand Arbiter Augustin IV
Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer
Kambal, Consul of Allocation
EngineThese commanders often feed into themselves by following the theme of the deck and covering multiple other commander types on this listUrza, Lord High Artificer
Selvala, Heart of the Wilds
Chulane, Teller of Tales
Lord Windgrace
Golos, Tireless Pilgrim
Do-NothingAlthough the name seems like the commander doesn’t do anything to help with the game plan, sometimes it’s just a matter of running the commander for access to more colors, or running the commander as a beatstick while the deck is built to support the commander, instead of the other way around.

This can even include very powerful commanders who simply don’t do anything on an empty board.
Isamaru, Hound of Konda
The Haunt of Hightower
Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice
ToolboxThese commanders get the pieces you need, when you need them. Often these are considered extremely potent due to their ability to grab answers from either your deck or graveyard, depending on commander. Even then, since these commanders care about having a lot of answers, the more colors you have, the better.Feldon of the Third Path
Captain Sisay
Sisay, Weatherlight Captain
General Tazri
Scion of the Ur-Dragon

Picking a commander type for a given archetype will always heavily impact gameplay patterns, and can often be a big determining factor on why you want to pick Commander A vs Commander B, even if they are the same archetype with similar colors. It’s why people debate between Korvold and Prossh  as Food Chain commanders. It’s why I picked Oona, Queen of the Fae vs Phenax, God of Deception. Even if you are experimenting with a new archetype, as long as you are familiar with your commander type, you will likely be able to transition into the new archetype very cleanly and have a lot of fun.

I hope this article has been useful in your assessment of commanders and figuring out what decks you want to build. You can follow me @HispanicattheD5 on Twitter, or just join the Conviction Community via Patreon and hit me up in our Discord.

Feel free to tag me and talk to me, I’m always down for some chat about gameplay.

Published by Hispanic! at the Disco

Writer and Co-Host of the Conviction Gaming Podcast. Massive EDH Brewer and Player. Addicted to cardboard crack.

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