This entry is part 7 of 23 in the series (Social) Contract form Below

90x90 noleHello everyone and welcome back the (Social) Contract from Below.  As always, I am your host Nole Clauson and I will be walking all of you through the fine print that is written on the social contract that makes our format so unique.

This season on Social Contract, I want to try something a little different. While we are still going to be talking about the social contract, I want to take some time this season to tackle a single issue. In doing so, I’m going to need your help.

I’ve noticed that one of the most common barriers to entry to the format is the fact that most people do not have a commander deck.  With the commander precons two years old (and the few online being super expensive), breaking into the format can be quite a challenge. While my theory holds that if people try this awesome, crazy format they will find that they love it enough to build a deck, taking that initial plunge is a big enough turn off to many.

It’s important that a “my first Commander” deck (with credits for this name to Cass and Mr. P over at do certain things and not do other things. Without further ado, here are my thoughts on building a good deck for new commander players.

1. A beginning commander deck has to be easy to understand.

Let me be clear, this is not a commander deck designed to teach someone to play magic (TBH, using commander to teach someone magic is probably not the greatest idea), this is a designed to teach how commander works. That being said, the biggest problem I have handing my decks to someone is that my decks all take some explaining. If you cannot summarize what your deck “does” in lungful or two of air, it’s probably not one you should hand to a new player.

2. A beginning commander deck should teach what Commander is about and what is “good” in commander.

It would be easy to build a five color, Child of Alara, goodstuff deck and call it a day, however that would be a disservice to the player. A good first commander deck will teach players about things like using your commander wisely, about how a deck can be shaped around a commander, that a commander deck should be more than just a pile of good cards (seriously people, play more enchantment hate!), as well as teaching about what kinds of effects are good in Commander.

3. A beginning commander deck should appeal to a wide range of players.

I will admit that I enjoy being the control player in my commander games, regardless of the colors I’m playing. Some people I know have the opposite problem and every deck they have is hyper aggressive. A good deck for new players should fall somewhere in the middle. While I am not saying that a my first Commander deck has to be midrange (though that is acceptable), on a scale of 1 to 10. With 1 being all-out aggro and 10 being complete control, a beginning deck will fall somewhere in the 4-7 range.

4. A beginning commander deck needs to be aware of the social contract (as the player will not be).

It is safe to say and completely forgivable that a new commander player will accidentally break the social contract. It is important, however, to not make breaking the contract the “correct” play and to keep the opportunities to accidentally break the unwritten rules to a minimum. In this regard, a “my first Commander deck” should do things like keep the tutors to a minimum, avoid hated strategies like prison, mass land destruction, and infinite combos, and not create overly complicated decision trees that take forever to process.

5. A beginning commander deck needs to be able to run with the big dogs.

Nobody likes playing a game where they expect to lose. A beginning commander deck needs to have a chance to win against a field of players. Should a person expect to win their first game of commander by playing this kind of deck? No, but they should at least have a sporting chance.

By now I’m sure you are wondering why I’ve spent a whole article talking about this. Well here is the exciting part. This season on (Social) Contract I want to (with your help) build a “my first commander” deck. I find that most of the decks I create tend to a) be overly answer-filled and b) feel like a deck that “Nole made” so I’m hoping that by all of us working together we can create something cool. Once we get a deck together, I will build and test it and let you know how it goes. However the real test of our collective mettle will come in the final week when I hand the deck off to someone who has never played commander before and we see how he does.

Next week (BTW (Social) Contract is a weekly column this season!) we will be choosing what general we want to build around. I have limited the choices from the 400+ legendary creatures to 4. However, there is still one seat at our table. If you think you know a good general for a my first Commander deck, then either send me an email at, hit me up on twitter @MtGNole, or state your case in the comments below. If looking forward to getting this project rolling. See you next week when we choose our Commander!


P.S. In an effort to strike up some speculation the 4 Commanders I have chosen I leave you the following clues. The four generals I have chosen are:

  • A lady Gaga look-alike
  • The card voted “Most likely to be mistaken as being from the commander precons”
  • A lady in love with elementals
  • The Dragon’s Maze maze runner most likely to listen to C.W. McCall (“we crashed the gate doin’ 98 I says let them truckers roll 10-4”)


Series Navigation<< (Social) Contract from Below 6- Commander Sideboards(Social) Contract from Below 8- There Can Be Only One! (Did you expect any other joke here?) >>