Adjusting the 8X8 Theory for Commander Clinic Featuring Chun-Li
Like this 8 wheeled monstrosity the 8X8 theory helps you tackle all terrain in commander.

Recently, as I was doing research on a new deck list, I ran across an older theory called the 8X8 Theory. I read about it years ago and put it off to the side as interesting but not exactly doing what I wanted to do in deck building. It is an excellent starting point for those beginning to build their decks. Its concept is simple and it provides a framework for deck construction that you can tweak as needed. 

What is 8X8

Simply put, choose eight things your deck wants to do. Then allot 8 cards to each of those things. Add 35 lands and you commander. Then you have a quick commander deck. In searching up more about the theory the word “framework” came up. Think of this theory as a way to create a quick framework. If you want a little more in depth on the topic you can read about it here or watch the YouTube video below.   

One of the positives of the 8X8 theory is that you are setting up card packages and then selecting cards to go in those packages. You use exactly that number of cards. No more or no less. This is similar to what Commander Clinic preaches, except we think that some packages deserve more cards and some packages like win conditions deserve less. It’s a great way to start thinking about deck packages. The concept just needs to be tweaked a little bit. 

Setting Some of the Initial Packages

Just as in BLU #9 Your Deck has Packages, using the 8X8 theory to build decks will want packages for Card Draw, Ramp and Removal. Also, it will want what I call the commander package. This is the package that your commander would fit in if it was inserted in a package. It’s the package that contains cards with what your commander wants to do. There is the reason why you chose the commander to be the leader of the deck. This package contains cards to accomplish those things. 

Finally the deck will want a Miscellaneous package This is the package that contains odds and ends of cards that will enhance what the deck does, or cards where you don’t necessarily need eight cards dedicated to it. The example I keep pointing to is win conditions. Usually three cards devoted to win conditions or an alternate win condition card will fit in this group. Sometimes combos will fit into this grouping as well. For example, in Navigating Infinite Mana neither card in the combo ramps you so it would be unwise to put in in the ramp package. Instead the cards used can fit into the misc. category. 

Tweaking The Packages

Five packages are already selected for your deck at eight cards each. However Commander Clinic suggests a minimum of ten cards each for card draw, ramp and removal with a preference to one of these categories having fifteen cards so that you statistically see a minimum of two of these cards in your opening hand. Therefore, we will use two of the remaining three packages to reflect this recommendation. 

Card Draw

Using the 8X8 theory we will make a second package of card draw. This is because you can draw into more ramp cards but you can not ramp into more card draw cards. If we are short on ramp (8 cards) we can draw into it quicker with additional card draw. Allotting sixteen cards towards card draw assures you will have cards to play and that you will not be top decking hoping it is a card that you can use. 

Also, with the additional cards it allows us to use tutors in these packages to help assure us of the cards we need to advance our strategy. We can use up to seven of these cards for tutors but we don’t have to use seven tutors for the deck. Sprinkle the tutors to taste. This theory will always place fifteen cards in the card draw category. There is one additional card left in the 8X8 packages and we will use it to add an additional land bringing our land count to 36. 


For more casual builds I have a tendency to cut removal. This sometimes can be fatal as removal is critical for a deck. One of the quickest ways to strengthen a deck is to add more cheap removal. Additional removal removes the threats to keep you in the game even if you do not have the most efficient staples in the deck. This is why we will add a second package of removal. 

The first removal package is for single target removal. These will be instant speed cards that help take out threats that will either win the game on the spot or if left unchecked will take over the game and make winning an eventuality. Make sure the package has ways to deal with all permanent types. If possible, choose instants that have multiple choices. The more versatile the single target removal the better.  

The second package of eight cards will run more single target removal and board wipes. The amount of each you run will be dependent on how many tutors you run that can fetch a board wipe. When you need a board wipe it is critical you have it. For this reason the number of tutors and board wipes should equal eight (keeping with the 8X8 theme) any extra cards left in this removal package can be allotted to additional single target removal. For example if I run five tutors in a Chun-Li Deck that can fetch a board wipe, then I can add an additional five cards that are single target removal. 

The Final Package

The final set of eight cards is some strategy that synergizes with what your commander wants to do. This varies from deck to deck and it can be anything. While all the other packages are quick and easy to come up with, this one sometimes takes a little thought. Feel free to take a day or so and think about your commander and what it wants to do. Let the ideas percolate in your mind and just dream about different scenarios and cards that work with what the commander wants to do. There can be several options for this package. In the end look for an idea that will synergize well with what the commander package wants to do. 

A note about creatures. 

Many but not all decks want creatures. In some cases in a tribal deck it is pretty simple that your final package will be that specific tribe. Eight extra elves in this package plus eight from your commander is still light for a tribal deck. Whether tribal or not, you will need more creatures. In this situation make sure that in the other packages that you have selected or in the miscellaneous package you insert several creatures that will help protect your life total and keep you from losing the game. 

Example Using Chun-Li

Chun-Li is a new card that will be coming out in the Street FIghter Secret Lair. She has multikicker and the more you spend on your commander the more cards you can exile and you can gain value from copying the spells and then casting them whenever you attack with Chun-Li. We will use this commander as an example on how we can use the 8X8 theory tweaked to build a deck.

 We start with the commander and lands

  • 1 Commander
  • 35 Lands

Then there are 8 total 8 card packages commander, card draw, misc., ramp, and single target removal are all full packages. Chun-Li is an instant matters commander so our commander package will be full of instants or cards that synergize with them. We start our 8X8 packages with the following 

  • 8 Commander (instants matters) 
  • 8 Card Draw
  • 8 Miscellaneous
  • 8 Ramp
  • 8 Single Target Removal

Then we have the two packages we will break apart. Card Draw breaks into 7 draw and one land. Of those seven cards we will allot Mystical Tutor, Fabricate, Merchant Scroll, and Solve the Equation. If we make sure we include one boardwipe like Nevinryrral’s Disk or Oblivion Stone that is an artifact, then we can use all four tutors to count towards board wipes.

The second package then breaks down into four board wipes and four additional single target removal cards 

The final package is simple. We need a lot of instants in our deck to make Chun-Li work so we will include another instants package. We need to protect Chun-Li so we will prioritize protection spells and cards that will make her unblockable. 

The Final Framework

This updates the list to 

  • 1 Commander
  • 36 Lands
  • 8 Commander (Instants Matters)
  • 15 Card Draw (4 Tutors)
  • 8 Miscellaneous
  • 8 Ramp
  • 12 Single Target Removal
  • 4 Board Wipes (1 needs to be an artifact)
  • 8 Additional Instants focusing on unblockable and protection

Summing It Up 

Now we would fill the packages with the allotted number of cards. This is the framework for building Chun-Li. An actual Chun-Li deck is another article that is coming on the way so you will have to wait to see the nuts and bolts of it. It will be coming out shortly. 

Notice in order to adjust the 8X8 format we need to have an idea of how many tutors we are going to use. Heading into the process. If you know what you have in your collection it’s a great help. You can also arbitrarily set the number of tutors you will use in the deck while setting up your packages and then make sure you fill those card slots accordingly.

Chun-Li will also bring some difficulties to what we build. We will tackle what they are and how to solve them when we release out Chun-Li First Look Deck Teck. For now this sets up a template on how to build Chun-Li as well as illustrate how using the 8X8 method can help you set up your decks packages to build a solid deck. It’s simple and quick. It is also a vital step to make sure your deck functions to have a fun game of commander. While not a part of the deck building boot camp it certainly highlights one of the important aspects of it.

Contact Us

Have you ever used the 8X8 method? Did you use it as is or adjust it a little. Leave a comment below or give us an email at We want to hear from you.

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