Commander (format)

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DCI Sanctioned
Paper {Cross}
Magic Online {Cross}
Magic Arena {Cross}
Type Constructed
Multiplayer {Tick}
Add. rules Commander
40 life points
Singleton deck:
Exactly 100 cards
Dedicated Products
Products Commander series
Scryfall Search

Commander, as officially titled by Wizards of the Coast (also known as Elder Dragon Highlander or EDH), is a casual multiplayer format for Magic: the Gathering. It is a Highlander-variant format with specific rules centered around a legendary creature called the commander.[1][2]

Description[edit | edit source]

Created and popularized by fans,[3] the Commander variant is usually played in casual Free-for-All multiplayer games, although two-player games are also popular. Each player starts at 40 life, and each player's deck is headed by a legendary creature designated as that deck's commander. A player's choice of commander determines which other cards can be played in the deck (while except for basic lands, each card in the deck must have a different name).

An official banned list for the Commander format is maintained by the Commander Rules Committee at, not by Wizards of the Coast, though Wizards does approve of any changes made to it by the rules committee. The 1v1 Commander format on Magic Online used to follow the same banned list[4], but it now has its own.[5]

A player's commander works differently from other cards in the game. Before the game begins, each player sets his or her commander aside in a special zone, the command zone. You may play your commander from the command zone for its normal costs plus an additional {2} for each previous time it has been played this way. If your commander would move zones outside the command zone, you may instead put it back in the command zone; this is a replacement effect. In addition to the normal Magic loss conditions, if a player is dealt 21 points of combat damage from a single commander over the course of the game, that player loses the game.

This format was created in the early days of Magic. Its originators used commanders only from the Legends set, especially the Elder Dragons, such as Chromium and Nicol Bolas, hence the original name for the format, Elder Dragon Highlander. Over time, the format grew in popularity, especially among judges, who would play it following days officiating at Pro Tours or Grand Prix events. It soon became mainstream and is now a favorite format of casual playgroups everywhere, from the kitchen table to Magic Online to Wizards of the Coast headquarters.[6]

Deckbuilding rules[edit | edit source]

  • When choosing a commander, you must use either a legendary creature, a planeswalker with the ability to be commander, or a pair of legendary creatures or planeswalkers that both have partner. The chosen card or pair is called the commander or general of the deck. Decks may contain other legendary creatures and planeswalkers within them as well.
  • No cards in any player's deck may have a color identity that does not match or is not a subset of the color identity of the commander(s). The color identity of a card is composed of its colors plus the colors of every colored mana symbol that appears on the card—whether in its mana cost or its rules text, though not in any reminder text. (Hybrid mana symbols count as each half's color for this purpose. For example, if a player uses Isamaru, Hound of Konda as their commander, they cannot use Kitchen Finks in the same deck. In the same vein, any player who uses Bosh, Iron Golem as their commander may put Lightning Bolt in their deck.)
  • A player cannot have more than one copy of any individual card in their deck unless it is a basic land or a card that specifically states otherwise (e.g., Shadowborn Apostle).
  • Each deck must contain exactly 100 cards, including the commander(s).

Rules[edit | edit source]

From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (January 24, 2020—Theros Beyond Death)

1. A casual variant in which each deck is led by a legendary creature. See rule 903, “Commander.”
2. A designation given to one legendary creature card in each player’s deck in the Commander casual variant.

From the Comprehensive Rules (January 24, 2020—Theros Beyond Death)

  • 903. Commander
    • 903.1. In the Commander variant, each deck is led by a legendary creature designated as that deck’s commander. The Commander variant was created and popularized by fans; an independent rules committee maintains additional resources at The Commander variant uses all the normal rules for a Magic game, with the following additions.
    • 903.2. A Commander game may be a two-player game or a multiplayer game. The default multiplayer setup is the Free-for-All variant with the attack multiple players option and without the limited range of influence option. See rule 806, “Free-for-All Variant.”
    • 903.3. Each deck has a legendary creature card designated as its commander. This designation is not a characteristic of the object represented by the card; rather, it is an attribute of the card itself. The card retains this designation even when it changes zones.

      Example: A commander that’s been turned face down (due to Ixidron’s effect, for example) is still a commander. A commander that’s copying another card (due to Cytoshape’s effect, for example) is still a commander. A permanent that’s copying a commander (such as a Body Double, for example, copying a commander in a player’s graveyard) is not a commander.

      • 903.3a Some planeswalker cards have an ability that states the card can be your commander. This ability modifies the rules for deck construction, and it functions before the game begins. See also rule 113.6m.
      • 903.3b If a player’s commander is a meld card and it’s melded with the other member of its meld pair, the resulting melded permanent is that player’s commander.
    • 903.4. The Commander variant uses color identity to determine what cards can be in a deck with a certain commander. The color identity of a card is the color or colors of any mana symbols in that card’s mana cost or rules text, plus any colors defined by its characteristic-defining abilities (see rule 604.3) or color indicator (see rule 204).

      Example: Bosh, Iron Golem is a legendary artifact creature with mana cost {8} and the ability “{3}{R}, Sacrifice an artifact: Bosh, Iron Golem deals damage equal to the sacrificed artifact’s converted mana cost to any target.” Bosh’s color identity is red.

      • 903.4a Color identity is established before the game begins.
      • 903.4b Reminder text is ignored when determining a card’s color identity. See rule 207.2.
      • 903.4c The back face of a double-faced card (see rule 711) is included when determining a card’s color identity. This is an exception to rule 711.4a.

        Example: Civilized Scholar is the front face of a double-faced card with mana cost {2}{U}. Homicidal Brute is the back face of that double-faced card and has a red color indicator. The card’s color identity is blue and red.

    • 903.5. Each Commander deck is subject to the following deck construction rules.
      • 903.5a Each deck must contain exactly 100 cards, including its commander.
      • 903.5b Other than basic lands, each card in a Commander deck must have a different English name.
      • 903.5c A card can be included in a Commander deck only if every color in its color identity is also found in the color identity of the deck’s commander.

        Example: Wort, the Raidmother is a legendary creature with mana cost {4}{R/G}{R/G}. Wort’s color identity is red and green. Each card in a Wort Commander deck must be only red, only green, both red and green, or have no color. Each mana symbol in the mana cost or rules text of a card in this deck must be only red, only green, both red and green, or have no color.

      • 903.5d A card with a basic land type may be included in a Commander deck only if each color of mana it could produce is included in the commander’s color identity.

        Example: Wort, the Raidmother’s color identity is red and green. A Wort Commander deck may include land cards with the basic land types Mountain and/or Forest. It can’t include any land cards with the basic land types Plains, Island, or Swamp.

    • 903.6. At the start of the game, each player puts their commander from their deck face up into the command zone. Then each player shuffles the remaining 99 cards of their deck so that the cards are in a random order. Those cards become the player’s library.
    • 903.7. Once the starting player has been determined, each player sets their life total to 40 and draws a hand of seven cards.
    • 903.8. A player may cast a commander they own from the command zone. A commander cast from the command zone costs an additional {2} for each previous time the player casting it has cast it from the command zone that game. This additional cost is informally known as the “commander tax.”
    • 903.9. If a commander would be exiled from anywhere or put into its owner’s hand, graveyard, or library from anywhere, its owner may put it into the command zone instead. This replacement effect may apply more than once to the same event. This is an exception to rule 614.5.
      • 903.9a If a commander is a melded permanent and its owner chooses to put it into the command zone this way, that permanent and the card representing it that isn’t a commander are put into the appropriate zone, and the card that represents it and is a commander is put into the command zone.
    • 903.10. The Commander variant includes the following specification for winning and losing the game. All other rules for ending the game also apply. (See rule 104.)
      • 903.10a A player that’s been dealt 21 or more combat damage by the same commander over the course of the game loses the game. (This is a state-based action. See rule 704.)
    • 903.11. Brawl Option
      • 903.11a Brawl is an option for a different style of Commander game. Brawl games use the normal rules for the Commander variant with the following modifications.
      • 903.11b Brawl decks are usually constructed using cards from the Standard format.
      • 903.11c A player designates either a legendary planeswalker or a legendary creature as their commander.
      • 903.11d A player’s deck must contain exactly 60 cards, including its commander.
      • 903.11e If a player’s commander has no colors in its color identity, that player’s deck may contain any number of basic lands of one basic land type of their choice. This is an exception to rule 903.5d.
      • 903.11f In a two-player Brawl game, each player’s starting life total is 25. In a multiplayer Brawl game, each player’s starting life total is 30.
      • 903.11g In any Brawl game, the first mulligan a player takes doesn’t count toward the number of cards that player will put on the bottom of their library or the number of mulligans that player may take. Subsequent mulligans are counted toward these numbers as normal.
      • 903.11h Brawl games do not use the state-based action described in rule 704.5v, which causes a player to lose the game if they’ve been dealt 21 or more combat damage by a commander.

Obsolete terminology[edit | edit source]

From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (January 24, 2020—Theros Beyond Death)

EDH (Obsolete)
An older name for the Commander casual variant. See rule 903, “Commander.”

Commander damage[edit | edit source]

A player that has been dealt 21 or more combat damage by the same commander over the course of the game loses the game. This is an additional state-based effect. Note that gaining life won't affect this total in any way.

Summary[edit | edit source]

  • Before play begins, each player's commander is placed in the command zone.
  • Players start at 40 life.
  • Players may cast their commander card from the command zone. However, each commander costs {2} more to cast for each time it has been cast this way. (If a commander ends up in a player's hand, they may cast it as normal, and it neither costs more nor affects the cost to play it again later.)
  • If a commander would move zones outside the command zone at any point during a game, its owner may put it back in the command zone instead.
  • Effects that refer to cards owned outside the game (Wishes) do not function in Commander without prior agreement on what cards can be brought into the game with them.

Banned list[edit | edit source]

Usually all Vintage-legal cards are allowed for tournament play. While cards may be banned or allowed by specific playgroups or tournament organizers, in most games,'s banned list is used as it is considered the most well-known banned list for the format. This list is used by WotC when making their Commander-related products. There is no hard enforcement of this however, due to the format not being DCI-sanctioned, leaving tournament organizers the option to make their own banned lists for events.'s banned list contains the following cards (as of July, 2019):

In the past, there was a separate list that banned cards from being used as the deck commander. This rule was abolished by on September 12, 2014.

As celebration of the release of Unstable, silver-bordered cards were made legal From December 1, 2017 until January 15, 2018 by An additional banned list, as well as a list of cards that are not banned, but not recommended (or at least must be used carefully as to avoid trouble) was also created for those cards.[7] [8]

Promo[edit | edit source]

A special Sol Ring Commander promo (foil and non-foil) with new art by Mark Tedin was released at Grand Prix Las Vegas, just before the release of Commander 2019.[9] It will also be available at several other Commander events at MagicFests in 2019, as well as some events in 2020.[10]

Magic Online[edit | edit source]

May 10, 2017, Magic Online launched tournament play for 1v1 Commander consisting of two-player queues and a Friendly Constructed League, and created a separate banned list for Magic Online's Commander format.[11] 1v1 Commander received a starting life total of 30, but multiplayer remained at 40. Both formats share this banned list.

External links[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. The Ferrett (December 11, 2007). "Mixing It Up". Wizards of the Coast.
  2. Mark Rosewater (June 20, 2011). "Word of Commander". Wizards of the Coast.
  3. Brian David-Marshall (February 23, 2016). "The Godfathers of Casual". Wizards of the Coast.
  4. Wizards of the Coast (October 22, 2013). "Commander 2013 Edition Release Notes". Wizards of the Coast.
  5. Bryan Hawley (May 3, 2017). "MTGO 1v1 Commander Starts May 10!". Wizards of the Coast.
  6. Wizards of the Coast (August 11, 2008). "Casual Formats". Wizards of the Coast.
  7. (December 1, 2017) SPECIAL UNANNOUNCEMENT: December 1, 2017.
  8. (December 2, 2017) UNRULES UPDATE - NERF WAR BANNED.
  9. Gavin Verhey (July 1, 2019). "Did y'all see this sweet new Sol Ring promo". Twitter.
  10. Gavin Verhey (July 1, 2019). "New Sol Ring promo to be available at MagicFest Las Vegas. Both foil and non-foil.".
  11. Bryan Hawley (May 3, 2017). "MTGO 1v1 Commander Starts May 10!". Wizards of the Coast.