One of the big draws of Commander for many people is the ability to customize your deck. Whether you’re a lover of janky tribal, have an appreciation for a favorite artist, or just really love a particular archetype, there are plenty of ways to put that personal stamp on your build.
Adding a personal touch is an easy way to celebrate what you’ve become attached to, and it’s one of my own favorite ways to enjoy the format. Whether giving Aurelia the Boros mana base, sleeves and deck box she deserves; adding Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation lands to Rhonas the Indomitable and Neheb, the Eternal; or selecting my favorite basic Plains for Lyra, it’s really rewarding.
If you’re looking for inspiration on how to give your decks that little extra wow-factor, then you’re in the right place. Today, let’s look through some of the easiest ways to bling out your builds — showcasing some great examples from the community.
Alters are one of the most artistic ways you can give a deck some bling. Many players enjoy using them to add a little humor to their cards, like this great Haldan & Pako / Brion Stoutarm mashup by alter artist @Patricio_Soler.
Alters can inject a lot of personality to a card, and can even be used to help bring to life entire deck themes. One of my pet projects for a long time has been creating a Lord of the Rings-themed Kenrith, the Returned King Commander deck. Choosing matching cards has been a lot of fun in itself — with Ballyrush Banneret and Preeminent Captain standing in as my Merry and Pippin — but getting some altered cards has really helped the deck flourish.
The Arcane Signet as the Evenstar pendant given to Aragorn by Arwen was painted by AK Altered Art on Facebook, and the basic land alters were done by @pluch1016. It’s a really fun project and I can’t wait to add more alters to it!
Sleeves are another great way to add some personality to a deck. While it’s useful to run the same sleeves between your decks in order to shuffle around expensive one-of cards, having unique or matching sleeves on a deck can give it little character. Whether that’s just picking matching sleeves for the aesthetic, like my opting for Copper Dragon Shields for my artifacts deck — they’re brown, get it?! — or going for something a little more focused, there are plenty of options.
Matt M answered the call on Twitter and shared with us his Gishath and Ayula decks. The matching sleeves on Gishath are a sight to behold, and definitely inspire terror from across the table. Matt also showcased another way to alter cards, here: the 3D alter. These alters are built up step by step with dozens of copies of a card layered to add depth to the art. Really impressive! The artists for these two were @KeithulhuCards and KiyosCards.
If you’re not a fan of painting over the original art, and you don’t really fancy cutting through multiple copies of cards to create a 3D card, then there’s another easy way to add some personality to your cards: alter sleeves. Alter sleeves are exactly that: alters on sleeves. By printing a high quality design on an inner sleeve, they allow self-expression and creativity without sacrificing the original card to do so.
Dan shared some of his favorite alter sleeves on Twitter, and I’m always impressed with just how pleasing they look. They manage to replicate the alter aesthetic in a cheap and easily accessible way. I find alter sleeves especially attractive as a way to spice up the cards in a deck which can’t be foiled out — Commander only cards, for instance, or reserved list cards.
I was recently sent a Sword of Sinew & Steel alter sleeve to try out by the kind folks at AlterSleeves, and aside from loving the design, I have to say the packaging was superb. Check out damarideneurommancer’s artist page on AlterSleeves’ site to see the full set of Swords she’s got on offer.
One of the easiest and cheapest ways to give a deck some real flavor is in the mana base. Theming your basic lands is a surefire way to impart that personal touch, and it’s something I’ve done for a number of decks in my collection.
After a little deliberation, the Charles Urbach Plains from M12 was the homerun choice for my Lyra Dawnbringer deck. The warm sunny tones in the art are a great match aesthetically, and many of the cards in the deck use a similar color palette; picking up foils was the obvious choice to really add the bling factor. While a lot of lands can be expensive, foil basics or even just matching basics can often be a very affordable way to get started.
@GodardHazard over on Twitter shared their Karona, False God deck. It uses the Theros Stargazing Gods in combination with an altered Karona, but the icing on the cake is the Theros full-art basic lands. They look magnificent, and would be a pleasure to play against across a table.
Deck Boxes are one of the most popular ways of showing off customization, and there are plenty of ways to do it, ranging from the tried and tested staples all the way up to bespoke commissions.
One way I do this is to use the Ultimate Guard Boulder cases in a “mix-and-match” fashion to denote the colors of my decks.
For my two-color decks, it’s simple: mixing the two halves gives an easily identifiable color-paired box. For decks with more colors, I tend to opt for what makes sense: Purple for Jeskai, and Yellow for “Gold” decks with lots of colors. It’s a great way to keep track and remember what’s in each box.
On the other end of the spectrum, custom deck boxes can really up your game. This Sensei’s Divining Top by Leifkicker is especially impressive, and they have a bunch more designs over on their site.
Tokens & Accessories
Tokens and accessories are also another way to round out a deck. With many of the deck boxes on the market offering space for some number of tokens on top of your EDH deck, there’s no excuse for rounding out your deck with the game pieces it needs.
Wizards have stepped things up in recent years by offering more foil tokens than ever, and there are many, many artists that offer great tokens, too. There’s even a plethora of Card Kingdom-exclusive tokens on offer in the store.
If anyone was going to take the prize for accessorizing, though, Andre Garcia surely knocks it out of the park. When I posted up on Twitter asking for people to showcase their decks, Andre delivered. With everything from trade binders to dice bags, foil tokens to Amonkhet Invocations, it’s a real treat to behold. Check out more images of this impressive feat here.
Commander has always been a format about expressing yourself, and that expression doesn’t have to end with your decklist. There are countless ways to really take that to the next level that can suit every budget, from matching basic lands right up to custom deck boxes. How do you express yourself in Commander? Catch me on Twitter and let me know to continue the discussion.
Kristen is Card Kingdom’s Head Writer, and member of the Commander Advisory Group. Formerly a competitive Pokémon TCG grinder, she has been playing Magic since Shadows Over Innistrad, which in her opinion, was a great set to start with. When she’s not taking names with Equipment and Aggro strategies in Commander, she loves to play any form of Limited.