Raised by Giants
15, Sep, 23

What Is Background in MTG?

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First seen in Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate, Background is an unusual type of enchantment in MTG. Only affecting Commander creatures, rather than everything on the battlefield, Background Enchantments are certainly unique. So much so, in fact, that they could possibly change the way you play Commander!

Inspired by Dungeons & Dragons lore, Background Enchantments certainly have the potential to be a lot of fun. Unfortunately, however, they’ll also take some getting used to since they’re a twist on the traditional formula. Thankfully, we’re here to make sure you don’t get caught out! 

To make sure you’re prepared for seeing Background on the battlefield, here’s everything you need to know about this Commander-specific mechanic!

What Is Background in MTG?

Backgrounds are new Legendary Enchantments, introduced in Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate, that can be in your second Commander. Like most Enchantments, Backgrounds can provide a variety of powerful effects and bonuses. Unlike traditional Enchantments, however, these benefits are only applied to “Commander creatures you own.”

Similarly to the Partner mechanic, to have a Background card as your second commander, your first commander must facilitate it. Currently, 32 cards do this, each with the text “Choose a background.” When choosing a Background, players have 30 options to choose from.

All but one of the Background cards contribute to the color identity of your Commander deck. This can be a great way to personalize your deck or add in a few secondary color spells. If you really wanted to, you could use a Background for solely this purpose, however, there’s obviously a huge benefit to playing Background cards too.

What Are the Rules for Background in MTG?

While Background Enchantments are thankfully fairly straightforward, there are some important rules and interactions to keep in mind. For instance, the Background card in the Command Zone is treated as its own entity. This means that it is subject to its own Commander tax should it be put into your graveyard, exiled, or otherwise leave the battlefield.

Additionally, when another card refers to a player’s Commander, it means either the Legendary Creature or the Legendary Background Enchantment. This means that cards such as Command Beacon may affect either the legendary creature or the legendary Background. 

Conversely, cards that refer to “Commander creatures,” typically Background cards themselves, will not refer to the Background enchantment unless it is also a creature. Faceless One is the only Background that is, by default, a creature. Opalescence also can turn all enchantments into creatures, allowing you to create an army of buffed Background creatures. 

How to Use Background in MTG

As we noted in our guide to creating a Build-a-Bear Commander, Background has some ludicrous possibilities in MTG. With 27 Background cards to choose from, one effective strategy is cramming every single one into your deck. This can create an utterly devastating Commander creature that’s capable of one-shotting opponents!

As fun as this may be, unfortunately, getting 27 Backgrounds into play isn’t very consistent. Subsequently, we’d recommend only using them as intended. After all, there are plenty of other, better, enchantments in MTG if you’re looking to build a buff-focused deck.

Unfortunately, while the possibility of Background cards is incredibly enjoyable, they haven’t really caught on. This is thanks to the Commanders which feature “Choose a Background” not being very popular in the MTG community. That being said, however, the recent release of Baldur’s Gate 3 did revive some interest in these otherwise underutilized cards.

If you’re a fan of this game, now may be a better time than ever before to build a Background-themed MTG deck. Not only would you get to play with fan-favorite characters like Karlach, Fury of Avernus but you can customize them with a Background too! Alongside obviously making them stronger, it also allows you to include even more of your favorite party members!

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