Posted by Robert

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For many Commander diehards, there’s little better than introducing the joys of our illustrious format of choice to a new generation of players. Unfortunately, building a Commander deck can be daunting, and a lot of people don’t know where to start or may not have the collections at their disposal that more seasoned players might.  Whether you’re building decks to use as loaners or looking for your first Commander, I’m going to go over several great options for new Commander players today.

I’ve focused on cards that have been printed in the last few years; the oldest cards on this list are from Alara block. For a newer Commander player, I can recommend Rubinia Soulsinger all I want, and it may be affordable, but if they don’t have access to that card at their LGS, they’re not going to be able to play with it anyway, so I may as well not waste the time.

Kemba, Kha Regent

This is the only monocolored choice I’m presenting today. Monocolored decks can be easy to build on the land base, but they do tend to stretch the collections of some players who are newer to Magic. However, white is a very popular color amongst newer Magic players and one of the most versatile colors in Commander, and Kemba is fun and easy to build around. As an added bonus, she costs about twenty cents.

Kemba obviously loves Sword of Fire and Ice and its brethren, but her ability doesn’t discriminate. Quietus Spike is just as capable of spawning a Cat token, and it’s a lot cheaper but still powerful. There are a lot of super budget equipments that can really shine here from the added value Kemba provides. Things like Skyblinder Staff, Mask of Avacyn, and even the lowly Kitesail can provide some surprisingly powerful little boosts if you choose to attack with Kemba, but none of them are inherently threatening enough to draw a lot of hate. There are a lot of great commons and uncommons from the Scars of Mirrodin block that are great inclusions, too.

White does have access to lots of great tutors and equipment/artifact enhancers, not to mention the token and weenie boosters. Crusade or Honor of the Pure can make your kitty army instantly threatening, and if you can get a copy of Stoneforge Mystic or Steelshaper’s Gift or even Taj Nar Swordsmith, then you can tutor for the appropriate toolbox equipment at a moment’s notice.

White does have a bit of a weakness drawing cards, but this can be mitigated by using things like Journeyer’s Kite, Druidic Satchel, Crystal Ball, and Trading Post.

Wrexial, the Risen Deep
“Bruise” is a popular color pairing, and Wrexial is exactly the kind of creature that Commander is known for: he’s a large, splashy creature with a great ability. As a bonus for the newer Commander player, he encourages attacking and exploring the possibilities that Commander Damage opens up.

You can use things like Whispersilk Cloak, Tricks of the Trade, Cloak of Mist, and Artful Dodge to get Wrexial through the red zone. Better yet, cards like Plague Wind, Mutilate, and Killing Wave can be used as uneven sweepers that clear your opponents’ fields but not Wrexial!

Because Wrexial has Swamp and Islandwalk, you can use cards like Spreading Seas and Contaminated Ground to force his abilities to be useful against opponents that aren’t playing those colors.

Cipher cards from Gatecrash will be a natural inclusion here, too, since you’re trying to get Wrexial to connect anyway.

Mayael the Anima

He heard you liked big creatures. Let’s toss all our dragons, wurms, hydras, and angels into one deck; then, let’s cheat them into play. Mayael is actually a combo deck disguised as a “big creatures” deck, but it certainly likes to bring the fat to the table. In order to maximize Mayael’s ability, you’re going to want to run lots of ramp, both so you can activate her ability as soon as possible and also so you can eventually cast those huge creatures in your hand.

Things like Rings of Brighthearth or the newer Illusionist’s Bracers allow Mayael to go off twice in one turn, which is pretty insane. Add in Warstorm Surge, Where Ancients Tread, or Pandemonium and all of a sudden you have big creatures that don’t even need to attack to deal damage!

There are some choice cards from the Alara block that take special advantage of the “power five or greater” theme, such as Rakeclaw Goliath or Vagrant Plowbeast. There are also overlooked cards like Meglonoth that fit right into this deck with ease and shine rather brightly.

Because you’re going to have fat creatures stuck in your hand on occasion, I’d like to point out some Spellshapers that can let you ditch them for a useful effect. Greenseeker and Silverglade Pathfinder can turn your large creatures into useful lands early in the game; Arc Mage and Devout Witness are useful repeatable removal spells; and Stampede Driver can let you cast a mini-Overrun repeatedly. These are all older cards, but most of them are cheap and can be found in commons boxes with relative ease.

Riku of the Two Reflections

Normally, I recommend two-color Commanders to newer players, because they’re easier to play and build and easier on the mana base. Riku of the Two Reflections is a great three-color option, because he can take a random bunch of cards and actually shape them into something cohesive.

Regarding nonpermanents, cards with Storm are an obvious inclusion, and while they’re all older cards, there are several that can be found in bulk bins with a minimum of hassle: Grapeshot, Empty the Warrens, Hunting Pack, Ignite Memories, Sprouting Vines, and Temporal Fissure can all be backbreakingly powerful, especially when you can copy them repeatedly. They’re all less than a dollar.

Sprouting Vines really should be played in more decks, mind, as a really good ramp spell that isn’t seen in every deck. In this deck, Cultivate, Kodama’s Reach, Farseek, etc. are all going to help you ramp up so that you have the extra mana to copy things.

Riku is one of the decks that can make special use of the Primordials from Gatecrash; try stealing multiple creatures, destroying multiple permanents and fetching multiple forests, or snagging multiple spells from people’s graveyards, in addition to a good-sized body.

Lots of creatures that you’d probably want to play anyway get better when used with Riku on the field; examples are Izzet Chronarch, Acidic Slime, Augur of Bolas, and Eternal Witness. In addition, throw in a Deadeye Navigator and try playing around with that!
This is probably the first article where I feel I’ve provided you with a good amount of content. Still, there are a lot of other great options for newer Commander players; leave your favorites in the comments.

Next week I’ll be discussing VVGs. 😉