😊 Hi, there! If you’re quite new to Magic The Gathering and you wish to start playing Duel Commander, this guide is for you!

☝️ First, you need to know that Duel Commander is an “extension” format of Magic The Gathering. Therefore, you need to learn Magic The Gathering basics along learning how Duel Commander works.

To learn more about Magic The Gathering, please visit the official website first:

Then, once you got the basics, you’ll need to learn the few differences between a more classical Magic The Gathering game and a Duel Commander game.

👉 Playing Duel Commander for the first time?

That’s easy, actually!

  1. Pick a legendary creature you like. It becomes your commander.

  2. Add 99 other cards that are either basic land cards (as many as you need) or cards with no other symbol than the ones you see on your commander card that you chose in step 1 (but only one of each, not more!).

  3. Find a friend, or just someone who plays this too!

  4. Start the game with your commanders apart in the command zone, the rest of the game happens like any other Magic The Gathering game!

  5. Just know that you can play your commander from your command zone like you would play it from your hand!

  6. If your commander goes to the graveyard, to exile, to your library or to your hand, you can put it back to the command zone, but each time you do this, you’ll need to pay {2} mana (two generic mana, i.e. from any source) more to cast it the next time you want to do so!

  7. Enjoy! 😉

👉 Got the basics ? Let’s learn a little more...

👉 Building your deck

  1. First, a Duel Commander game, as its name states so, is played between two players exactly, who are opponents.

  2. Then, your deck has to be made of 100 cards, 99 as your starting library (the face-down pile you start the game with), and one is your commander (some cards in the whole Magic The Gathering World allow you to play two commanders instead, with 98 cards in the library).

  3. Duel Commander games don’t use sideboards. No need to think about that! But you can change your commander with another legal one from your deck in between games.

  4. You can’t have more than once the same card in your deck (based on its English version name, that you can check online), except for basic lands (Mountain, Forest, Plains, Island, Swamp, Wastes, “basic land” is written on it, which includes snow-covered basic lands). That also applies to your commander: you can’t have a second copy in your deck.
    On the other side: two valid cards can have the same effect but different names, it’s OK.

  5. Any playable Magic The Gathering card is allowed, except for the very few (around 70 cards in a total of around 20 000!) that are banned by the Rules Committee for balance reasons.

  6. Your commander is your first choice. You need to choose it wisely for your very own reasons: colors, flavor, statistics, type, sub-type, name, whatever you like! But once you chose it, you have to be aware of deck construction constraints. Your commander should be a Legendary Creature card or a card that explicitly states that it can be a commander. Non-creature legendary cards or non-legendary creature cards are not valid commanders.

  7. Your commander defines the colors of the other cards in your deck. That’s easy to understand: when you take the casting cost (top right information on the card) and the text box of your card (the non-italic text inside the lower frame or below the horizontal separator in that text box), note all the colored mana symbols. You can’t have any card in your deck that has a colored mana symbol that is not on your commander in these parts of the card.

    Look at the example below:

Examples of commanders

Karn, Silver Golem allows you to play no cards with a colored mana symbol on them.

Bosh, Iron Golem allows you to play cards with a red mana symbol on them only, or uncolored mana symbols.

Rafiq of the Many allows you to play cards with a green and/or blue and/or white mana symbol on them, or uncolored mana symbols only.

Pretty easy, ain’t it? ;)

✔ Building tips

  1. Your deck should be playable, so don’t try to use cards which total mana cost is too high (let’s say over 6 is a lot), or very few of them, otherwise you might be unable to play them before the end of the game.

  2. Your deck should contain between 35 and 45 land cards. Don’t forget to use basic lands, they’re always useful, simple to use and very stable.

  3. Don’t aim too fast for the cards that cost a lot (in terms of money). You might be changing your mind too soon and regret those investments. Test a lot before you actually get to upgrade your decks!

  4. Try to find interactions with your commander card, you will always like things when they work as a team!

  5. Lots of commander cards have other equivalents in the same colors. Don’t forget to check them out and compare them: maybe you’re missing something you’d like to play more!

  6. Mostly common archetypes of Magic The Gathering decks are combo (instant wins), aggressive (lots of creatures or damage dealt very fast), controlling (game management cards), beatdown (regularly adding damage), and mana-ramp (getting more mana to cast expensive but impressive cards). Maybe you’ll find out what your style is!

  7. If you don’t know how to find them all, there are currently around 1 000 possible commanders. Some are unplayable, some are absolutely great.
    You can find a list here:
    http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Search/Default.aspx?type=+[Legendary]+[Creature] (plus the few special Planeswalkers that explicitly state that they can be your commander).

  8. Building a deck that suits you well and that also works takes a lot of time. You’ll need to play it and test it a lot! So don’t hesitate to join your friends, local stores, communities and so to play more often and practice. You’ll also find your building/playing possible mistakes faster than ever!

  9. Your first problem will be to add more cards to the deck to gave one hundred. But, pretty soon, your problem will be to stick to that hundred of cards! That’s when the really puzzling challenge begins.

  10. Don’t let yourself get bored with your first tryout. You can build several decks at at time to make sure you never miss an opportunity to find something you like more and you didn’t really think about.

  11. If you like playing this format, you can also try the Multiplayer variant, which allows to play with friends for more fun in much richer games and you can also give a look at Tiny Leaders, another cool alternative Magic The Gathering format that will remind you of this one, or check out Magic The Gathering Online, an official software that allows you to play Official Commander rules virtually, or Magic: The Gathering Arena if you want to train more.

  12. Last but not the least, don’t be disappointed by defeats. You can play Duel Commander for fun, and you can play it in competitions. You’ll understand soon that building and playing strategies are sometimes not really the same there.

👉 Playing your deck

You play a Duel Commander game pretty much like a regular Magic The Gathering game, excepted:

  1. Players start with their commanders in the command zone, and the rest of the start is as any other game start. Be aware that this is not your hand, though.

  2. Players start with 20 life.

  3. Players may play their commanders from the command zone by paying their casting costs whenever the game allows them to play those cards (as it was in their hand). If commanders end up in another zone (like in players’ hands, for example) they can also cast it normally if the game allows them to.

  4. Every time a player plays a commander from the command zone, the next time they play it again, they will have to pay two generic mana (often written “{2}”) more than the last time they paid to cast it. Which means two more, then four more, then six more and so on.
    This only applies to the times it’s cast from a command zone. If you cast your commander from any other zone, like your hand, it only costs its normal casting cost, and does not add two more mana to the casting cost you’d pay the next time you’d cast it from the command zone.

  5. Be aware that this could change some game triggers. Also, the casting costs are affected by other game costs modifiers (though there are few of them).

  6. If your commander goes to the graveyard or exile, you can choose to put it back to the command zone after it ends up there. If your commander would go to your hand or to your library from anywhere, you can send it back to the command zone instead. But you can also choose to let it go to the zone it would normally go.

Don’t forget to search for more information with your friends, store keepers, community leaders, judges, and also online. There are thousands of online communities that help you improve and get more involved in the world of Magic The Gathering in general, as well as Duel Commander in particular!

If you ever need more information, you can find in our Facebook Notes those items:

Also, if you don't know where to start, you can browse decks on MTGTop8. We recommend that you start looking at those archetypes first:

The document you’re reading is based on the work of the Duel Commander Committee, which has changed over time, but the people who helped this existing and made this be brought to light remain. Please note that Duel Commander format is not affiliated to, maintained by, nor having any support from Wizards of The Coast.

Wizards of the Coast™, Magic: The Gathering™, Magic, Magic: The Gathering – Com- mander and their logos, the distinctive look of characters and of the symbols are the property of Wizards of the Coast LLC in the U.S.A. and other countries. U.S. Pat. No. RE 37,957.

We would like to thank everyone who made Magic The Gathering possible (because without Wizards of the Coast / Hasbro, we would certainly not be here today), but also the makers, maintainers and communities of Singleton formats, Elder Dragon Highlander and Multiplayer Commander teams, as well as some people who made this format possible, such as Kevin Desprez, Damien Guillemard, Claire Dupré and Daniel Kitachewski for their advice, their initial support and involvement. Though they’re not part of the committee anymore, people might remember the time they all spent in making this format be known. We also want to thank all the other people who got involved once into the Duel Commander Committee, those who are still involved in it, advisors and regional coordinators, and everyone who helps building the community.