Last updated on April 1, 2024

Command Tower - Illustration by Ryan Yee

Command Tower | Illustration by Ryan Yee

This may be a controversial opinion, but I strongly believe Commander is the best format to help teach Magic to new players. Thanks to being a multiplayer format, there are more players to give you advice, and they’re more likely to do so when you’re one of their three opponents instead of the only one. Commander games are also, theoretically at least, less competitive than most one-on-one formats. I personally introduced my friends to Magic through Commander, and it helped keep the game more fun when they were able to strategize together while they got the hang of things.

If you’re looking to start playing Magic or want to introduce someone to the game through Commander, you’re going to want the right decks to do it with. You don’t exactly want to hand them your Phage the Untouchable deck and just say “figure it out.” Instead, it’s probably best to start with decks that are easy to understand but also have some hints of more complexity so they can begin working towards higher levels of play.

Budget is also a big concern when it comes to starting out. Nobody wants to throw down hundreds of dollars just to see if they like a game. Even if you’ve played Magic with a borrowed deck and enjoyed it, the idea of having to pay a ton of money just to get started might be enough to kill your enthusiasm. Because of this, when looking for the best decks for beginners, I decided to choose ones that are as friendly to your budget as they are to your brain.

What Are Beginner Commander Decks in MTG?

Arcane Signet - Illustration by Dan Scott

Arcane Signet | Illustration by Dan Scott

Beginner Commander decks are decks that are good for people who are just starting to learn the game. They should be easy to understand, cheap, and most importantly fun to play with. If someone starts playing Magic and their only experience is being mana screwed or not understanding how to play their complicated cards, they’ll probably decide the game isn’t for them. These decks are a good way to both learn the game and have fun doing it.

I also put an extra emphasis on decks that you can buy already made. When a new player can buy everything they need in a single box as opposed to having to chase down singles, it makes things a lot simpler.

Honorable Mention: Universes Beyond Commander Decks

Whatever your thoughts are on Universes Beyond products, it’s hard to deny that they’re a great way to introduce new players to the game. I know a lot of people who weren’t interested in Magic initially but were easily persuaded to buy some of the Lord of the Rings Commander decks because of their love for Tolkien.

Between Lord of the Rings, Warhammer 40,000, and Doctor Who, there are already a good number of products that can get new players excited about playing Magic thanks to their love for the other IPs. It seems like Wizards is going to keep printing decks for nerdy fandoms. Even if there isn’t one out now that you or your friends are into, stick around, because I’m sure one is on the way.

These decks range in how complicated and powerful they are, but I’ve found people are more willing to learn when they’re excited about playing as Frodo or Aragorn.

#9. Draconic Destruction Starter Commander Deck

Atarka, World Render | Illustration by Camille Alquier

Atarka, World Render | Illustration by Camille Alquier

I think all of the Starter Commander decks are pretty solid entry points for players. They were intentionally designed to be pretty straight-forward, and they’re a lower price point than some of the other preconstructed decks. Draconic Destruction is the deck out of the four that I thought was the strongest right out of the box.

It has some solid dragons like Steel Hellkite and Tyrant's Familiar. There are also typical dragon support cards like Dragonspeaker Shaman and Dragon Tempest. These cards aren’t only good pieces for this deck, they’re good inclusions for any dragon deck, so if you want to update this deck you already have a good start.

Cards like Vandalblast and Cultivate are also format staples in general, so if you’re looking to start a collection, you’ll have some cards here you can pull out and put into other decks.

#8. Grave Danger Starter Commander Deck

Gisa and Geralf - Illustration by Karla Ortiz

Gisa and Geralf | Illustration by Karla Ortiz

While Draconic Destruction is probably the most powerful Starter Commander deck, I think that Grave Danger is a lot more fun. It’s a zombie reanimator deck built around Gisa and Geralf and has several other ways to put creatures into your own graveyard like Liliana, Untouched by Death.  This deck is a good way at showing players that Magic isn’t as straight-forward as it might seem at first. They’ll get used to seeing the graveyard as a resource and self-mill as an opportunity.

This deck has some solid cards like Cemetery Reaper and Gray Merchant of Asphodel. It also has Feed the Swarm, a card any player who wants to build a mono-black deck probably has a use for.

The strategy for this one is a little more complicated than some of the other Starter Commander decks, which I actually see as a huge positive for beginners. Even if you aren’t winning, you’ll feel like you’re doing a lot, and you’ll start to get a hang of how cards interact with one another. It’s a good way to bypass thinking Magic only has to be about playing the biggest creature to swing with.

#7. Stalwart Unity Precon

Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis - Illustration by Willian Murai

Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis | Illustration by Willian Murai

The reason I think Stalwart Unity is such a great precon for beginners is because of its group hug mechanics. Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis is a commander that players like to see on the field, regardless of who owns it. This means a new player with this deck is less likely to be hated off the table and have a bad time. Your opponents may even want to help you out or make deals with you to help keep you around longer so they can ramp or draw cards.

As a 4-color deck, you’ll also get a good sampling of what other colors and color combinations do. There are even some solid commanders in the 99 of this deck like Zedruu the Greathearted. You also have good cards like Swan Song, Lurking Predators, and Benefactor's Draught.

You’ll also get a healthy sampling of lands like Forbidden Orchard, Opal Palace, and several Ravnica bouncelands like Izzet Boilerworks.

The one downside here is that this deck is pretty old and could be a little tricky to track down. However, if you have a local store with a big selection of old precons, you could get lucky and snag one. There are also copies available online which are still less than buying each of the cards individually.

#6. Buckle Up Precon

Kotori, Pilot Prodigy | Illustration by Aaron J. Riley

Kotori, Pilot Prodigy | Illustration by Aaron J. Riley

The Buckle Up precon from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty is a solid precon thanks in big part to its powerful alternate commander, Shorikai, Genesis Engine. Nothing kills interest in Magic faster than getting a crappy draw and not being able to do anything for several turns. Shorikai’s ability allows players more chances to draw into cards to play or at the very least makes them feel productive because they’re creating creature tokens.

This deck also has a good sampling of different card mechanics that help new players to learn more about Magic organically. Cards like Thoughtcast and Organic Extinction teach players that if a card seems too expensive at first, there’s probably a way to get around paying full price. These cards along with something like Dance of the Manse also show the importance of having a cohesive theme in a deck, in this case artifacts.

This deck also has a lot of good interaction with cards like Swords to Plowshares, Access Denied, and Generous Gift. This helps players learn threat assessment and also helps them feel like they’re never out of a game just because an opponent played a strong card.

#5. Necron Dynasties Precon

Szarekh, the Silent King | Illustration by Anton Solovianchyk

Szarekh, the Silent King | Illustration by Anton Solovianchyk

Perhaps in an effort to prove Universes Beyond wasn’t simply a cash grab, Wizards seems to have put a lot of effort into developing the Warhammer 40,000 Commander decks. In particular, the Necron Dynasties deck was one of the better precons to be released since Commander decks stopped being a once-a-year product. This deck is great for beginners who want to just open a completely made deck and be able to keep up at a Commander event at their LGS.

A quick recommendation from my and other players’ experiences with the deck is to swap the face commander, Szarekh, the Silent King, for the alternative commander Imotekh the Stormlord. This deck includes recursion like Lychguard, revival like Cryptek, and plenty of unearth creatures like Triarch Praetorian. Since your creatures are also artifacts, you’ll be making a lot of tokens with Imotekh while playing this deck.

#4. Krenko Goblins

Krenko, Mob Boss - Illustration by Karl Kopinski

Krenko, Mob Boss | Illustration by Karl Kopinski

Krenko, Mob Boss is the kind of commander that’s easy to understand. You want to play a lot of goblins so you can make a lot of goblins. While there are plenty of Krenko decks out there, I chose this build as one that is very beginner friendly for a few reasons.

One reason this build stood out to me is that it’s very creature heavy. Creatures are some of the simpler cards to understand in the game and don’t require as much of an understanding of sequencing as something like a spellslinger deck. New players also want to feel productive, and being able to cast a creature or attack on your turns is a good way to stay engaged.

Because the land base is all Mountains, it’s very easy for new players to manage their mana base. It also means less chance of frustration over being mana screwed, which can happen when you start dipping into multicolor decks or include a lot of colorless utility lands.

This deck is also very budget friendly. Many of these cards cost less than a dollar, meaning it won’t be much more expensive to buy this than some preconstructed decks. Having a low price of entry is very important for attracting new players. This deck then also has room to grow, meaning that if a new player wants to try their hand at deck building, they can start by upgrading this one.

#3. Oloro, Ageless Ascetic

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic - Illustration by Eric Deschamps

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic | Illustration by Eric Deschamps

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic is a great commander for learning to play a control deck. Its abilities alone show players that they don’t need to necessarily just rely on attacking to get ahead of their opponents. Like Oloro, sometimes the best strategy is to sit back and wait for your moment.

This Oloro build shows players how powerful seemingly small tax effects on cards like Archon of Absolution can be, especially once you start to use them together. It also gives players a strong understanding of why they need to diversify their tactics in the game. If you watch a card like Hushbringer absolutely dismantle an opponent’s game plan, you’ll understand the need for removal and interaction.

Approach of the Second Sun illustrates the payoff of playing a control deck like this. It very much encapsulates the idea of keeping threats away until you’re ready for your game-winning play. It’s also just kind of exciting for a new player to see a spell that says, “you win the game.”

There are two downsides to this deck that I feel are important to mention. One is that it won’t be very fun to play against. If you’re a new player who’s starting up a playgroup among friends, you probably don’t want a deck that’s going to make people less excited about playing. A lot of the cards in this deck are also big targets for removal, and it can be kind of a bummer to feel targeted when you’re first starting to play. However, I think this deck is a really good tool for teaching how to play control and for showing new players an alternative way to win besides just playing big creatures.

#2. Sythis, Harvest’s Hand

Sythis, Harvest's Hand - Illustration by Ryan Yee

Sythis, Harvest's Hand | Illustration by Ryan Yee

Sythis, Harvest's Hand is a very beginner-friendly commander. It has a low casting cost, meaning you can rely on having it on the field early and benefit from its ability. The extra value it provides helps keep your game more consistent while also teaching a valuable lesson about building a deck around a specific theme or card type.

This deck isn’t super powerful, but it’s probably comparable to some of the Starter Commander decks or some other precons. If you’re starting to play with a casual group, you shouldn’t have too much trouble keeping up.

Many of the cards in this deck are also very cheap, and you could easily pick this up for less than $50. There are some easy next steps for this deck, like grabbing a copy of Sterling Grove. This gives you the opportunity to either upgrade the deck or just try out Magic and not spend too much money if you don’t enjoy it.

#1. Marwyn, the Nurturer

Marwyn, the Nurturer - Illustration by Chris Rahn

Marwyn, the Nurturer – Illustration by Chris Rahn

Elf ball decks like this Marwyn, the Nurturer build can be very exciting for new players. Even if you don’t win, you get to do awesome things like snipe a big creature with Jagged-Scar Archers or tap Elvish Archdruid multiple times thanks to Wirewood Lodge to play your entire hand.

Even if you don’t use this exact Marwyn build, I think it’s one of the best starter commanders. It’s strong, it helps keep you on track with mana, and Marwyn can also be very budget friendly. While this build is a little more expensive, I’ve seen some Marwyn decks that are under $30.

I also think mono-color decks can be a bit easier for new players because they’ll avoid the frustration of not drawing into all their colors. Knowing what hands to keep is one of the biggest learning curves early on, so making things simpler in that department can be helpful when you’re just starting out.

Commanding Conclusion

Tidy Conclusion - Illustration by Bastien L. Deharme

Tidy Conclusion | Illustration by Bastien L. Deharme

While these aren’t the only beginner-friendly decks out there, these are ones that I think strike the perfect balance between power level, price, and ease of play. They are also all decks that I think show hints at more complex gameplay or that could be upgraded if players are ready for tips on building Commander to delve deeper into the game.

What was your first Commander deck? Did you start with a precon or build your own? Was Commander your first format? Let me know in the comments or on Draftsim’s Twitter/X.

Thank you for reading and see you next time!

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1 Comment

  • Avatar
    Geolord15 December 10, 2023 2:41 pm

    I mostly played precons at first, my first build was a Zegana, Utopian Speaker +1/+1 counter build.

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