27, Sep, 21

How Many Themes Should A Commander Deck Have?

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Don't go too overboard with your Commander decks or you'll lose focus, and then lose games.
Article at a Glance

Building a new Commander deck is always an incredibly exciting thing to do. While not everyone enjoys it, it’s impossible to deny the appeal of putting together old and new cards in new ways to make some new monstrosity to, hopefully, beat down your friends with.

Well, not always win, but win often enough that you feel good, but not so often that you become the prime target in each game before you even do anything, because that’s no fun for you either. One of the hardest things to do when building a deck though, is figuring out how many themes you can put in any deck.

How many themes is too many?

Now, let’s say you’re building a deck around Ezuri, Claw of Progress. Ezuri is a four mana green and blue 3/3 that reads, “Whenever a creature with power 2 or less enters the battlefield under your control, you get an experience counter. At the beginning of combat on your turn, put X +1/+1 counters on another target creature you control, where X is the number of experience counters you have.”

Ezuri offers up to themes straight off the bat. You can focus on making sure all of your creatures have a power of two or less, and you can focus on +1/+1 counters. Both of these are fun mechanics on their own, and it’s not all that hard to mesh them together because Ezuri basically does that on their own.

We can certainly talk about either of those themes, but there’s also a third theme here because Ezuri also happens to be an Elf, which means you could easily have them heading up an Elf deck too. However, at that point, you’ve got three potential themes. How many of those is too many? Well, we’d argue more than two is pushing your luck.

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Three’s a crowd

Now, it is possible to manage all three of these together, but it’s very rare that that’s the case. More often than not, splitting your cards between three different themes is too much to ask of one deck. Let’s say you’re playing 38 lands, when you add your commander in on top of that, you only have 61 cards remaining.

If you try and support three themes with that number of cards then you’re potentially only getting 20 cards per theme, which means only a fifth of your entire deck support it, and that’s not enough to make those themes viable. Instead, you’re far better off sticking to having one main theme, and then one subtheme. For example, you could focus on the Elf part of Ezuri while also hitting the two power or less, because most Elves simply don’t have that much power.

That would make Elves your main theme, and your subtheme would be creatures with two or less power, and that allows you to branch out a little bit and maybe look into interesting ways to use tokens. Those two work nicely together, and doing so means you can build an Elf deck that also happens to get some ridiculously large creatures thanks to counters.

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One or two here or there

That being said, you could certainly add in a few cards here that support +1/+1 counters specifically, but only because it’s part of the commander. If your commander allows you to dabble here and there without losing out on power or utility, then dropping in The Ozolith isn’t going to hurt your chances, because you should, theoretically, always be doing +1/+1 counter stuff anyway.

However, in most decks, that’s not going to be the case, and having one or two cards that support a theme isn’t going to be enough to make it worthwhile. Ideally, you play themes that complement each other, like playing Spirits with a subtheme of exiling cards, or playing Zombies with a graveyard subtheme.

You want as many cards as possible supporting the same game plan, and while you can always reach victory in a lot of ways within that, it’s best not to stretch yourself or your deck too thin, otherwise you’ll just end up losing.

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