Clones see a lot of play in Commander, and are often considered one of the utility effects that should be in every deck (where possible). Like removal, they always have an application, provided there are creatures on board. While removal might deal with a problem, sometimes you’d rather become a part of the fun instead!
Clones are a subset of copy spells that typically only copy permanents. The original Clone came out all the way back in Alpha, alongside the similar Vesuvan Doppelganger. These effects have always had a level of playability in most formats, but they really shine in Commander; being able to copy the most powerful permanent on the board can be a potent ability, especially when you have four boards to choose from. Because of this, most decks that can run a clone effect in their colors will usually find a spot for at least one.
It can be difficult to choose the right clone for your deck, however. There are dozens of clone-like cards now, maybe even hundreds (depending on how strict you are with the definition). This is a guide to help you find the right clone for your deck. While there are some subtle differences between some of them, there are some broader strokes that can help break them down into specific categories.
Temporary clones are single-use effects that usually last until the end of the turn they’re cast, after which they either exile themselves or revert to their original state. These effects are primary in red and secondary in blue, and can have a lot of flexibility due to their temporary nature.
Masterful Replication may look restrictive, as it just copies artifacts, but it can turn each of your mana rocks into a Blightsteel Colossus if you really wanted to. My favorite trick with this is to use Liquimetal Torque to turn something into an artifact so you can copy it!
These are the closest to a “true” clone you’ll get, including Clone itself. They’re primarily blue, and there are a lot to choose from. Spark Double is perhaps the best clone in recent years, allowing you to copy any of your creatures or planeswalkers while also removing the Legendary supertype. This lets you copy your commander without the legend rule coming into consideration.
Clever Impersonator is arguably the most flexible clone, with the ability to copy any nonland permanent in play. This is great as a sort of “catch-up” mechanic: you can copy an opponent’s Dockside Extortionist or Smothering Tithe to keep up with them, or even make it a duplicate of an opposing Ghostly Prison to keep you safe.
Phyrexian Metamorph is one of the most popular choices, as it’s one of the most efficient. You’re often more than happy to pay two life instead of the extra blue mana, so it effectively costs three mana while also being able to copy artifacts or creatures. It’s hard to beat that rate!
There are some copy effects that can be reused or reset, giving you great flexibility over the course of a game. The downside is that they’re usually slower or cost mana to activate.
Mirage Mirror has been showing up more and more over the past couple years, and it has proven to be an all-star in Commander. You can copy a Maze of Ith to defend against an attacker on one turn, then copy an opposing Tatyova, Benthic Druid to gain some extra value on the next.
Vesuvan Shapeshifter is a nod towards Vesuvan Doppelganger, and a clever way to almost reprint a card that’s currently on the Reserve List. For just two mana, you can morph Shapeshifter to copy any creature on the battlefield, and you can “reset” it on every upkeep. As with all morph cards, it can get a little complex with rules interactions, but its flexibility more than makes up for it.
Mimic Vat isn’t exactly a clone effect in the traditional sense, but come on, it’s a literal clone vat! The ability to have a repeatable Heat Shimmer is exceptionally powerful, and the downside of the creature needing to die to copy it is trivial in Commander. This is one of the better cards to slot into decks, thanks to being colorless and being able to copy any key pieces that get removed.
Naturally, as there are an abundance of clone effects, there are dedicated clone decks! These tend to be on the more chaotic side of things, but their unpredictability can often lead to wild games. They’re also great at any power level, as they usually rely heavily on other players’ cards for their strength. If you wish to build a clone deck, there are a few cards that can really boost the strategy.
Mirror Gallery, Mirror Box, and Sakashima of a Thousand Faces all remove the legend rule, which allows you to go to town copying legendary creatures. There’s nothing quite like making multiple copies of an opponent’s commander!
If you’re looking for a way to actually win the game without relying on the other decks at the table, Biovisionary is a fantastic choice. Making four copies of any creature is no trouble for a clone deck at all.
Lastly, Gyruda, Doom of Depths can make for an exceptional companion to clone decks. Not only do many clone effects cost four mana, but the clones can copy Gyruda to repeat the process. If you trigger Gyruda’s ability enough times, you can use a Thassa’s Oracle to win the game!
The Mirror Gallery
Choosing the right clone for your deck can be a tough task. That’s why I’ve made a reference table with 30 of the most popular clone effects to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. This covers their card type and mana value, whether they can copy creatures or noncreatures you do or don’t control, as well as if they’re temporary effects or not.
Clones are one of the higher variance card types, but their floor is rarely low. After all, they’re only as bad as the best thing they can copy! I hope this has helped to show the depth and variety available to you through clones, and maybe you’ll find the right kind of clone for your deck.
Do you have a favorite clone? Are there other effects you’d like to see me cover? Let me know over on Twitter – I’d love to hear from you. Happy cloning!
Scott is an Irish content creator and the Head of Budget Magic for the Izzet League. He focuses on affordable decks in Pioneer, Modern, and Pauper, particularly ones that stray from the mainstream. When he’s not writing about his favorite decks, he can be found talking incessantly about them on Twitter and on The Budget Magic Cast.