The Necessity of Multiple Decks

So far Commander Clinic has been very rudimentary. It started with the equivalent of the ancient Greek expression, “Know thyself.” It then expanded into a mtg version of the quote from Sun Tzu, “Know thy enemy.” These two concepts help you play to your strengths and attempt to exploit your opponents weaknesses at the table. It also helps you focus in on having fun. A four player game of commander should have someone winning twenty-five percent of the time. Winning can not be the only reason to play magic and draw enjoyment. You must be able to enjoy the game play. the banter and interactions of the other players at the table. 


Let us be honest though, we all want to win as much as possible. Winning is far more fun than losing. This is why decks are constantly changing for both you and your opponent. Rats are very social creatures. Often in psychology, human behavior is compared to rat behavior. There is something we can learn about commander and winning by observing rats.

Research in rats has shown that if a rat does not win at least thirty percent of the time, then it will stop initiating play with the other rat.   This confirms our need to win but it also has a flip side. That is our opponents need to win some games as well or they will stop initiating play like the rats. This is why you can sometimes see players in more competitive commander environments attend less or stop coming all together. We all need that feel good payoff. Johnny may get a payoff when he builds a commander deck. When it wins there is a bigger payoff because what he built works. 

This brings us to our fourth level up moment. Every commander or EDH player needs multiple decks as they grow in the hobby. As a commander player you should own at least two decks. There are two reasons for this. The first is that is blurs what you will be playing in the meta. Second it Builds a vibrant meta.

The Advantage of Diversity

Multiple decks utilize different cards and has a different functions. This calls into question of what answers players will need against you. This uncertainty increases your chances of winning when all other variables are equal. Do not forget a concept preached here at Commander Clinic. While 99 cards is a lot of design space, a commander deck can not contain answers for everything. With multiple decks, it is more likely that your opponent wont have all the answers needed to stop your deck.

You may enjoy winning by attacking. A voltron deck and a swarm deck are two different archetypes. Voltron wants removal of hexproof, artifact destruction or pinpoint removal at instant speed. A swarm deck is countered by multiple board wipes. Switching decks from time to time helps prevent players from adding cards to stop you. They still may include answers to you deck, but they are not specifically adding them to hurt you.

For example, Bojuka Bog is a solid card and may be in any deck that runs black. If you are constantly playing graveyard recursion, then players may also add cards to stop you. FOr example Tormod’s Crypt, Rakdos Charm and a Nihil Spellbomb to counter your shenanigans with Meren of Clan Nel Toth. Even worse, they could add Agent of Erebos in their deck. With enough enchantments in the main deck, your graveyard could be exiled multiple times in a game. A second deck that does not focus on the graveyard helps set the meta that this does not happen.

Building a Vibrant Meta

The second reason is it helps keep a vibrant player meta. Commander is a casual format that anybody can play, both newer players as well as established vets. A meta where everybody has one fine tuned deck that is strong is not one that well receives new additions. If they do, often they will not stay long. There are cycles of life and people come and go in playgroups as life circumstances allow them. If new people are not entering the playgroup eventually it will die.

When you have one deck and it dominates others, you will find that often you will not be playing commander. Instead you will be playing a multiplayer format called archenemy. In this format you are by yourself and the rest of the table will form an alliance against you. This prevents you from winning. They often will do this because they feel that without doing this they have no chance of winning the game. Some people enjoy the challenge of winning in this sort of setting, but not everyone is wired that way. This also can create a more tense and stressful game play environment. This runs counter to the positive social payoff of the game for it’s players. Remember, every player needs to have some emotional payoff of winning.

In this case, a second deck that is not as optimized changes the meta. It provides a reprieve in the archenemy table sentiment. This occurs if the new deck provides an opportunity for others to have a chance at winning. But the table needs to learn that the deck is not as serious of a threat as your other deck. You may also find because the players are not forming an alliance against you versus this deck. When that happens, your odds of winning may go up as you are not targeted as much early game.  

Summing it all Up

In the end multiple decks provide diversity to the meta. It can help you achieve your winning goals while helping to keep a playgroup healthy.  It may cost more to build a second or third deck. It’s well worth it for the long term success of your playgroup and your winning percentage. Remember, without a playgroup there is no commander and there is no winning percentage.

Commander Clinic is dedicated to improving the commander community. If you have any questions or wish to comment on anything commander, feel free to email me at