Commander Decks to Play at Magic Events

Commander Decks to Play at Magic Events

Janel SantaCruz CampbellCommander, Events

Spell Table’s ability to let people play Magic over the internet is a fantastic benefit for the community, but it can be tough to enjoy some Commander archetypes this way. Whether you’re searching an opponent’s library or playing creatures out of their graveyard, it can be hard when opponents are across the screen. That’s why the return of Magic events is so great — they are the perfect opportunity to bust out your most interactive decks. 

Since there’s a packed schedule of events that bring thousands of Magic players together these days, we figured it might be worth recommending some decks that make the most of these special occasions to play in person. Enjoy these Commander decks and the ease with which you can play them in person!


Zedruu the Greathearted rewards you for giving permanents to your opponents, and that’s far easier to do at an in person Magic event. While it seems a bit goofy to fill your opponents’ board up with cards, Zedruu makes for a truly interactive deck.

The best way to take advantage of Zedruu’s ability to give permanents to your opponents is by looking for cards with positive enters-the-battlefield effects and negative leaves-the-battlefield ones. Delusions of Mediocrity is the perfect example of this, granting you 10 life right away and saving you from the downside of losing said life once it is destroyed. The card is even better if you can blow it up with your own cards, like Return to Dust.

That said, there aren’t many cards with both benefits you can take advantage of and drawbacks for your opponents after handing them over. As a result, sometimes it’s just better to hamstring your opponent with cards they won’t really want.

Rust Elemental and Steel Golem are two particularly goofy artifact creatures to give away. The former will force opponents to sacrifice their other artifacts, and drain them if they can’t. In some cases, this can completely shut down an opponents’ game plan. Meanwhile, Steel Golem just closes off an opponent’s board to creatures entirely. 

Just be sure when you’re playing these two that you don’t give them both to same player. This isn’t Jon Irenicus — opponents are free to sacrifice what you give them!

That said, there are plenty of ways to give away permanents without using Zedruu’s ability. Cards like Vedalken Plotter are perfect, as lands are just as permanent as creatures, artifacts and enchantments. Bazaar Trader, meanwhile, lets you handoff whatever you’d like (as long as it isn’t a Planeswalker, I guess). Bother cards are also cheap to cast, meaning you can sometimes pair them with either cards to give away or extra activations of Zedruu’s ability.

While you’ll be handing over plenty of permanents to your opponents, you’ll also want to play cards that support your win-con in Zedruu. Because Zedruu grants you life gain and card draw at the beginning of your upkeep based on how many permanents you own that are controlled by opponents, you’ll want to make the most of those rewards. 

Paradox Haze is a great way to double your card draw and life gain, as this aura enchantment affords you another upkeep to trigger Zedruu’s ability. And as you continually gain life, you’ll want to weaponize that by using something like Aetherflux Reservoir to drain your opponents of theirs.


I once played against a Pako and Haldan player who said they are his favorite Commanders to play when he wants to get to know someone’s deck for the first time. He learned my deck pretty well, casting my own Omniscience against me! 

That is indeed the potential of Pako and Haldan’s ability to exile your opponent’s cards and cast them as your own. And while it’s possible to play this deck over Spell Table with a product like Infinitokens, theft archetypes really shine in person.

If you’re building this deck, though, you’ll want to load up on as many ways to play your opponents cards are possible. Etali, Primal Storm is tailor made for this sort of situation, granting you a similar amount of value as Pako and Haldan without having to spend any mana to get the cards. 

Meanwhile, since you cast the cards from exile, something like Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald makes for a great support card to help add another dimension to your gameplan. Plus wolves and dogs are like cousins, so it makes sense for them to work together.

That said, would you believe me if I said stealing your opponents’ cards is the easy part of decks like this? What’s actually hard is keeping your Commanders alive long enough to use their abilities. As it turns out, people really don’t like having their cards used against them. 

The good news is there are plenty of cards in Temur that can protect your game plan at instant speed. Snakeskin Veil and similar effects are the cheapest option for targeted removal, though technically Deflecting Swat will be even more effective if you have the budget for it. 

Meanwhile, Narset’s Reversal will give opponents another chance to cast their spell — but at least you’ll get to use a copy yourself for your troubles.

With plenty of protection in tow, you’ll rest much easier enjoying the variety of decks you’ll run into at a Magic event first hand. Dogs are truly man’s best friend.


One of my favorite decks to play in person is Negan, The Cold-Blooded deck. Regardless of how some may feel about Universes Beyond, the sheer mechanics on this card are naturally fun. The secrecy of you and an opponent choosing a creature they control and revealing at the same time makes for some serious poker face action across the table. Also, you’ll be making treasure, and lots of it. 

Using mana rocks and early treasure creators like Ragavan or Dockside Extortionist can make for quick ways to cast Negan from your command zone, but Kalain, Reclusive Painter is a solid, cheap alternative. And once Negan is out, we have to continue to trigger his ETB ability by blinking him over and over again. Conjurer’s Closet is an excellent artifact for this purpose, as you’ll be able to trigger Negan at each of your end steps.

White has plenty of blink support, though, which lets you get more than just a single activation per turn at best or maintain consistency at worst. Playing cards like Flickerwisp and Charming Prince help get the job done, and they even give you alternate targets for your Conjurer’s Closet. Plus, with backup options like Teleportation Circle, you can go really nuts and get rid of every creature your opponents try to play. 

Why not combine everything Negan wants into a single card, though? The Eternal Wanderer is perfect for its ability to blink Negan, create your own sacrifice fodder and wipe the board exactly how you like. The invasion of New Phyrexia may have been rough on the multiverse, but Negan sure benefited from it.

That said, there are other cards from Phyrexia: All Will Be One that go great with this Walking Dead villain. 

Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines (colloquially known as “Panharmommycon” for its Panharmonicon-like effect) will not only give you another instance of Negan’s ETB effect but will shut down ETB benefits from your opponents. And for anyone that’s read a bit of Junji Ito manga, his showcase from One is sure to strike a bit of fear at the table. 

Alternatively, Mondrak, Glory Dominus is another Legendary Creature that will not only double your treasure rewards but also double sac fodder you may need, like creating double Bitterblossom Faerie Rogue tokens or doubling Soldier tokens for Bastion of Remembrance’s ETB.

Getting back to getting paid, let’s talk about ways to win with treasure. Forge, Neverwinter Charlatan is a new Secret Lair card from Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves that gets bigger the wealthier you are. And while his toughness doesn’t scale alongside his power, Menace helps you get past the rare occasion your opponent still has a single creature left on the board. 

If you’d rather keep your hands clean, Revel in Riches makes winning with Negan trivially easy. Not only does this enchantment reward you with treasure when an opponent’s creature dies, but you just win the game on your upkeep if you have 10 or more treasures.

But why exactly is this deck better to play in person? Players can sacrifice their creatures pretty easy over Spell Table.

Well, you don’t have to just leave your opponents’ creatures in their graveyard. With cards like Ancient Brass Dragon and Portal to Phyrexia, you’ll be able to put those cards to good use (for you). And that’s far easier to do across the table as opposed to across the internet. 


Whatever deck you decide to play at your next MagicFest, it’s truly a joy to be able to play paper Magic in person again. So go forth and play your wackiest, most interactive decks. And be sure to grab your tokens before heading out the door to leave your opponents with some Generous Gifts.