The Commander’s Chair – Hmm, Upgrades

By now, the new Commander decks should be available to everyone. I hope everyone reading this is able to pick up at least one of the decks. After you are done playing with these decks against each other in their natural state, you will want to make some improvements, so that you can start playing against regular Commander decks.

Tweaking a Commander deck is an ongoing process for every Commander player. There is not a “best deck” available like you get with competitive formats. For most Commanders there is not even a best build for their deck. Today I will be going over the basic method for upgrading your Commander deck using the preconstructed deck Mirror Mastery as an example.

Step 1: Review

Before you can start making changes to a deck, you need to know what is inside the deck already. You want to lay out the deck into categories. Normally people lay out the deck by Creature, Spells and Non-Creature Permanents. I do not think that gives you enough of a view to see the whole deck clearly. I lay out decks I play by card types (Instant, Sorcery, Ect.), then I also will create categories I find relevant to the deck. I will commonly add a Mana Fixing or Removal category when I first lay out a deck I have not seen. When I lay out the Mirror Mastery deck it looks like this;



1x Animar, Soul of Elements


Creatures (24)

Instant (10)

Land (41)

  1x AEthersnipe 1x Brainstorm 1x Command Tower  
  1x Artisan of Kozilek 1x Colossal Might 1x Evolving Wilds  
  1x Avatar of Fury 1x Electrolyze 13x Forest  
  1x Baloth Woodcrasher 1x Fire/Ice 1x Fungal Reaches  
  1x Chartooth Cougar 1x Hunting Pack 1x Gruul Turf  
  1x Conundrum Sphinx 1x Invigorate 1x Homeward Path  
  1x Deadwood Treefolk 1x Prophetic Bolt 7x Island  
  1x Edric, Spymaster of Trest 1x Ray of Command 1x Izzet Boilerworks  
  1x Elvish Aberration 1x Spell Crumple 1x Kazandu Refuge  
  1x Faultgrinder 1x Tribute to the Wild 8x Mountain  
  1x Fierce Empath   1x Rupture Spire  
  1x Hydra Omnivore

Sorcery (9)

1x Simic Growth Chamber  
  1x Intet, the Dreamer 1x Call the Skybreaker 1x Temple of the False God  
  1x Krosan Tusker 1x Chain Reaction 1x Vivid Crag  
  1x Magmatic Force 1x Death by Dragons 1x Vivid Creek  
  1x Magus of the Vineyard 1x Disaster Radius 1x Vivid Grove  
  1x Nucklavee 1x Firespout    
  1x Rapacious One 1x Hull Breach

Mana Fixing (11)

  1x Riku of Two Reflections 1x Ruination 1x Armillary Sphere  
  1x Simic Sky Swallower 1x Savage Twister 1x Gruul Signet  
  1x Spitebellows 1x Vengeful Rebirth 1x Izzet Signet  
  1x Trench Gorger 1x Prophetic Prism  
  1x Valley Rannet 1x Simic Signet  
  1x Veteran Explorer

Enchantment (3)

1x Sol Ring  
    1x Vow of Flight 1x Cultivate  

Artifacts (1)

1x Vow of Lightning 1x Collective Voyage  
  1x Lightning Greaves 1x Vow of Wildness 1x Explosive Vegetation  
      1x Garruk Wildspeaker
1x Kodama’s Reach

Step 2: Identify underachieving cards

Once you have the deck laid out in front of you, you can start setting aside cards that you could live without. Not every card you identify will be cut from a deck immediately, but it is good to see how much room you really have to work with. You do not have to be good at evaluating cards when you are performing this step. Just think back to previous games with the deck and try and remember which cards you drew and were disappointed to see. When I think back to some of the games I have played with and against the Mirror Mastery deck, I found the following cards a little disappointing.

Step 3: Find the Tutors

Just for a moment, we will leave the deck how it is. Before throwing cards into a deck, you want to shrink the pool of possible cards to throw into the deck. The easiest cards to find that improve decks are tutors. As long as you know you have a few good targets for your tutor you can feel confident about adding it to the deck. I would go through and find all the tutors you might be interested in playing. Here are some of the tutors I found when looking for the Mirror Mastery deck;

Step 4: Packages

Just adding one card to your deck is not going to make a huge difference. Powerful Commander decks are not powerful because they can play 1 really good card. Decks get their strength from how well the pieces of the deck work together.

What you want to do is add cards into your deck in groups or packages. You want packages of cards that you believe work well together as well as working with the Commander or within the Commander’s color identity. The best packages are made up of toolboxes and game winning combos. Here are examples of packages that could fit in the Mirror Mastery deck;





Tooth and Nail Targets


The Alure of Combo


Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker

Deceiver Exarch




Tidespout Tyrant





Shrieking Drake




Blightsteel Colossus



Æther Adept

Fable of Wolf and Owl






Cloudstone Curio

Forgotten Ancient



Woodfall Primus







Phyrexian Metamorph




Essence Warden



Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger




Mana Echoes



Riku of Two Reflections




Genesis Chamber


Riku of Two Reflections

Worldgorger Dragon





Urabrask the Hidden

Blightsteel Colossus


Eternal Hatred


Phyrexian Metamorph



Eternal Witness

Tidespout Tyrant






Mnemonic Wall

Crystal Shard

Time Stretch





Academy Ruins

Cloudstone Curio



Eternal Survival


Survival of the Fittest






The T Mage Twins



Eternal Witness


Drift of Phantasms

Treasure Mage

Blightsteel Colossus





Vedalken Æthermage


Planar Portal



Squee, Goblin Nabob




Contagion Engine














Akroma’s Memorial


In case of emergency, add Curio and Aluren




Spine of Ish Sah


Momir Vig, Simic Visionary

Coiling Oracle







Wistful Selkie



Trinket Mage

Sensei’s Divining Top



Cloud of Faeries




Sol Ring







Brittle Effigy



Eternal Witness




Relic of Progenitus



Gilded Drake






Trinket Mage


Echoes of the Eldrazi



Viridian Shaman


Mana Echoes

Spawnsire of Ulamog

Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre


The Lesser Targets




Kozilek, Butcher of Truth



Edric, Spymaster of Trest



Myr Battlesphere

It That Betrays



Gilder Bairn




Artisan of Kozilek



Grazing Kelpie




Hand of Emrakul



Jungle Barrier




Pathrazer of Ulamog



Murkfiend Liege




Ulamog’s Crusher



Mystic Snake






Plaxcaster Frogling






Trygon Predator


Not so Lost and Seeking Blood



Winged Coatl


Azusa, Lost but Seeking

Crucible of Worlds

Walk the Aeons






Life from the Loam

Strip Mine







Constant Mists


Infinite Mana for Infinite Fun



Riku of Two Reflections






Mana Flare


The Pinacle of Destruction



Mana Reflection


Primeval Titan

Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

Prismatic Omen



Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger


Tolaria West










Making Plans


Long-Term Plans

Sensei’s Divining Top



Scroll Rack








Step 5: Reconstruction

Eventually you will have to put the deck back together with the new pieces you have found or bought. Between the tutors and the packages, you should have a pretty large list of cards you can add to the deck. Adding any of the tutors or any of the packages should give you a significant upgrade to the preconstructed decks. When I am buy cards or trading cards, I like to try and gather the pieces with all of this in mind.

Individual packages always seem to have one card that is harder to find, or more expensive than the rest. I prefer to see which key pieces I already own and include the packages that include those cards. For example, if I already own a Survival and an Aluren, I will grab as many pieces as I can from the “Eternal Survival” and the “Alure of Combo” packages and put them into the deck.

As time goes on, we can add packages that cross over with each other until the deck becomes streamlined. After a month or so of playing with Mirror Mastery you will find yourself with a much more powerful deck. Something that might look closer to this;



Animar, Soul of Elements


Creatures (35)

Instant (2)

Land (41)

  AEthersnipe Mystical Tutor 12x Forest  
  Anger Long-Term Plans 7x Island  
  Artisan of Kozilek   8x Mountain  
  Avatar of Fury

Sorcery (5)

Academy Ruins  
  Blightsteel Colossus Hull Breach Command Tower  
  Brawn Ruination Evolving Wilds  
  Deadwood Treefolk Tooth and Nail Fungal Reaches  
  Deceiver Exarch Time Stretch Gruul Turf  
  Drift of Phantasms Dizzy Spell Homeward Path  
  Edric, Spymaster of Trest Izzet Boilerworks  
  Eternal Witness

Enchantment (3)

Kazandu Refuge  
  Faultgrinder Defense of the Heart Simic Growth Chamber  
  Fierce Empath Survival of the Fittest Temple of the False God  
  Genesis Aluren Vivid Crag  
  Gilded Drake   Vivid Creek  
  Hydra Omnivore

Artifacts (5)

Vivid Grove  
  Intet, the Dreamer Lightning Greaves    
  Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker Cloudstone Curio    
  Krosan Tusker Mindslaver    
  Magmatic Force Sensei’s Divining Top    
  Man-o’-War Scroll Rack    
  Momir Vig, Simic Visionary    

Mana Fixing (10)

  Palinchron Gruul Signet    
  Pestermite Izzet Signet    
  Phyrexian Metamorph Simic Signet    
  Putrefax Sol Ring    
  Riku of Two Reflections Cultivate    
  Simic Sky Swallower Collective Voyage    
  Squee, Goblin Nabob Explosive Vegetation    
  Treasure Mage Garruk Wildspeaker    
  Trinket Mage Kodama’s Reach    
  Urabrask the Hidden    
  Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger      
  Wistful Selkie      

The list above is still far from a streamlined, cutthroat deck, but it is strong enough to give other decks a fair fight. I would expect that most Commander decks you will run into are close in power level to the new list. This process can be repeated any number of times and whenever you feel your deck needs a boost of strength.

One of the sites founders and administrators, Luis, has found himself in a bit of a cash shortfall. To try and afford going to GP Montreal, he is running a fundraiser to get the money he needs. The prizes you could win for helping him out include a promo Jitte and a Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas. Check out all the details here – HELP LUIS!

If you would like any help with a decklist, want to be featured in an article, or have any comments you don’t feel comfortable posting on this page I can be reached through email, Twitter, and Facebook. I love helping people with their decks as well as receiving feedback. So, don’t be shy.



About SwordsToPlow

I like building and tuning decks to make them more fun and more effective.

Posted on June 27, 2011, in Articles, The Commander's Chair and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. One thing I would have like for you to have discussed was upgrading the mana. In my opinion one easy way to make the deck more consistent would be to add some other fixing lands to replace the bounce ones, which I have always been wary of (too good of targets to get blown up, having to discard if play them early, etc.)

    • The first draft of the article had a whole section on mana, but I ended up taking it out. The problem I have with these mana bases, is that I dislike them so much that I recommend completely deconstructing the mana base and rebuilding it. Building a mana base is an article that I have delaying for awhile. I was hoping to find out that someone had done a good article about it already. Expect to see an entire article devoted to building a mana base for Commander to be coming in the next few weeks.

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