Old Faithfuls

Posted in Top Decks on August 22, 2013

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

What makes a deck your favorite?



Planeswalker's Favor | Art by Rebecca Guay


Everyone has their own tastes and preferences for decks. There's an endless list for the combinations of features, functions, cards, colors, commanders, and other attributes that can be used to define it. Even if I had a clever way of gathering every minute difference in our collective tastes, making sense of it all would be impractical.


But what does make sense are decks.

That's why I asked you to share your favorite Commander deck, one that's not only stood the test of time (with plenty of updates along the way) but is still in active use. Your "go-to deck" says volumes about you as a player: Aspirations, objectives, processes, plans, styles, and more. It's dense with the things we want to express, and built to do it how we envision it happening.

This is a cross-section of decks you shared, and it covers a remarkable breadth of our styles. Let's go big and get home.

Hugs and Politics

There's one type of deck that, if personified, would be the closest thing to Commander's mascot: The Group Hug deck.

Phelddagrif | Art by Amy Weber

Phelddagrif is a strange creature that holds a stranger place in a multiplayer games. It isn't a killer unto itself, and it's abilities mostly affect opponents in beneficial ways. It plays at what Commander is all about: creating a social game experience. Phelddagrif can fix many things:

  • Need lands? Here, draw some cards.
  • Low on life? Have some points to spare.
  • Need a block? Saprolings make fine pets.

When you craft a deck around all of these beneficial-for-opponents effects, you get Group Hug:

Lou's Relentless Hugs

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The deck has no real win condition; it exists just to hug. The rest of my decks are more traditional and aim to win. After combing out the table with Jenara, Asura of War or Kresh the Bloodbraided, I usually feel dirty all over and pull out the hippo.

Everyone having twenty+ land by turn three is not uncommon. Only in Commander.


The Impossible Made Possible

Some experiences aren't easily moved to Commander. If you like burn decks—packed with Lightning Bolt and Searing Spear—then you'll find the 60 or more life you need to deal with daunting. Just as challenging is the "mill" strategy: causing opponents cards to be put into their graveyard from their library so that, eventually, they fail to draw a card for their turn and lose.

For some of you, Commander is the format that begs for the impossible to be made real.

Ben's Kami of the Crescent Moon

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This is my favorite Commander deck, mono-blue "Kami of the Crescent Mill."

The deck has several defenders which buy time and feed Doorkeeper's mill. Plentiful mana is gained by mana-producing/land-fetching artifacts, which are in turn fetched by spells and Tezzeret the Seeker. This mana is then used to funnel into big spells like Blue Sun's Zenith, or used on one of the many mill creatures that litter the deck.


Kami of the Crescent Moon comes in early, and is rarely killed, as he "benefits" both sides of the board. But his relentless card-draw only makes their decks smaller, and feeds my hand with Meishin, the Mind Cage and Venser's Journal. By drawing so much it's easy to get critical cards like Forced Fruition, Jace's Erasure, and Teferi's Puzzle Box, which tends to severely disrupt any opponent.

Proteus Staff, Void Stalker, Declaration of Naught, and several bounce spells make sure that enemy commanders don't stay on the board for long, and better, can be forced to be shuffled into an opponent's library instead of going to the command zone.


As a personal design choice, I only use cards with the modern frame, which leads to some creative thinking in deck building.


Rainbow Affects

While it's clear that monoclored decks can shine in Commander, most decks lean toward using two or three, like Anax and Cymede or Maelstrom Wanderer.

And then there's going for broke.

There are a handful of commanders that use all five colors, but they're a surprisingly common choice for the format.


The deck I've had the longest is definitely my 5-Color Progenitus build. Originally, the objective was to take advantage of my minimal collection (I was pretty poor in the beginning, so scraping together a ninety-nine-card singleton deck was pretty tricky), and also play up my absolute love of the 5-Color Control deck that was popular in Standard at the time. It started pretty shaky, missing most of the staples and top-tier mana fixers, but it gave me a great perspective on just how effective basics can be in Commander (even in a 5-Color list!), and how powerful cards that would otherwise be pretty much trash can be, too.

Over time the deck has gotten a lot of good ol' TLC, and it's gotten pretty pimped out too. Going from a deck with a suite of bounce lands (which took Strip Mines every time D: ) and basics for lands now has original duals, shocks, fetches, and all the other nice fixers. I've boosted my collection too, so now it's taken 5-Color Goodstuff to its logical conclusion: a "Planeswalker Super Best Friends" party. Oh, not to mention it's split off into a companion deck (Karona, False God-Enchantress—I'll skip that list, though) that shares the mana base. A third is even in production.


So, I'd say this deck really represents my growth and investment as a Magic player. Without further ado:


James's Grixis Bear Hug

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Other (10)
1 Commander 1 [decklist] 1   1 Bearly Hanging in There 1 Commander is multiplayer, and multiplayer formats come with some different rules than duels. The words "each opponent" and "each player" weigh much heavier than in two-player Magic, and incorporating effects that affect everyone is an easy way to boost the power of a deck on Commander without otherwise changing the duel dynamic. 1 Group Hug decks find effects that are mostly beneficial to apply to everyone. But there's a dark side to the pink hippo of joy: Bear Hug. You might still hand out cards, creatures, and life, but you'd also follow it up with cards that punish players for receiving those gifts. 1 Bear Hug is the idea of a double-edged sword applied to an entire Commander deck. 1 The deck that I play the most in Commander is what I call "Group Hate." The idea of the deck is to use "hug" cards like Howling Mine, Font of Mythos, and Horn of Greed to get the card draw flowing, then punish it with cards like Spiteful Visions, Underworld Dreams, and my personal favorite (and all-star in the deck), Phyrexian Tyranny. There's also a few cards like Sire of Insanity and Hive Mind that just change the game entirely. The deck functions really well, and can win out of nowhere (I won once when everybody was at ~40 life because I played Time Reversal with Hive Mind and Phyrexian Tyranny out). 1 A few cards that I consider to be my "special tech" are Teferi's Puzzle Box and Exquisite Blood. Teferi's Puzzle Box is one of the best cards in the deck for two reasons: Disrupts hands and causes massive pain with punisher cards out. Exquisite Blood is in the deck solely so I don't kill myself on accident. 1 The commander for this deck is kind of irrelevant. I alternate between Thraximundar and Crosis, the Purger depending on what decks I'm playing.
187 Cards


Island Fortress


Commander isn't exclusively wacky decks and weird angles. Many of you enjoy taking what you may already enjoy about typical Constructed formats—Modern, Legacy, Standard, etc.—and applying it on a larger scale.

Just because you can't play multiple copies of one cards doesn't mean you can't play multiple cards that are all close copies.

The most common take on "the Constructed" approach has to be building a controlling deck for Commander. Mass removal, spells that steal others' things, and plenty of card-drawing effects, all taken in combination, can allow a player to keep up with an entire table of enemies.

This is my Sol'kanar the Swamp King. The theme is "What's yours is mine, what's his is mine, what's mine is mine, and what's dead is... well, it's probably also mine." The deck steals, commandeers, controls, and swipes creatures, spells, libraries, graveyards, turns, you name it, and likes to repeat things (thus, things like Charmbreaker Devils and Sheoldred).


There's some basic mass removal, and Clone isn't as good now as it was pre-legendary change, but it's still solid. Gather Specimens has gone in and out of this deck a lot, but may go back in soon. Also, Memory Plunder is one of the most undervalued cards for Commander—I'll just cast your Wrath, now, as an instant, when you're attacking me, thanks. This deck's affectionately referred to as the "Hive of Scum and Villainy." The deck almost wants to be a Nicol Bolas deck, but Sol'kanar and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is just a handy backup to have around, and helps gain life to make up for the early hits you take.

Main Deck

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