Last updated on August 3, 2022
Ancient Bronze Dragon | Illustration by Johan Grenier
I’ll examine some key differences between normal drafting and Commander drafting and go over some strategies to approach the latter. Ready? Let’s get into it!
Commander Legends Draft Rules
Dynaheir, Invoker Adept | Illustration by Caroline Gariba
Commander drafting first became a thing in November 2020 with the release of Commander Legends. WotC had to make changes to many normal things in Draft to make the experience of drafting a Commander deck a little easier:
- Commander Legends draft boosters have 20 cards in each pack compared to the normal 15 (one of which is an irrelevant basic).
- Rather than picking one card per pack you pick two cards at once. The reason for this that’s mentioned on prerelease materials is to “ensure coherency of decks, as players will need to conform to the color identities of their eventual commanders, and for speed.”
- The deck you’re drafting is a 60-card Commander deck. You need to pick at least one commander (more on that later) and can only play cards in the color identity of your commander(s).
- Commander Legends and Battle for Baldur’s Gate both feature core mechanics that allow you to play more than one commander (partner and choose a background). These mechanics are key to facilitating what’s mostly a 2-color Draft environment.
- 3-color commanders are available at rare in both sets, with 10 total (one for each trio of colors) appearing in both sets. There are no 4- or 5-color commanders, so you can never play more than three colors in a Draft deck.
- These sets have a higher density of legendary creatures to facilitate this. Each pack contains one legendary creature or planeswalker (rare or mythic rare in 31% of boosters) and one legendary background (rare in 1 of 12 boosters).
- But in the event you don’t have a commander or are missing a partner/background, you can choose to play The Prismatic Piper or Faceless One even if you didn’t Draft them.
- After your draft, you split off from your draft pod into a 4-man game pod and then battle it out.
- Each player starts with 40 life, not the usual 20.
- Commander damage is a thing, just like in regular EDH. Any player who takes 21 or more damage from the same commander over the course of the game loses.
- There are no official alternative mulligan rules for Commander Legends Draft, but given that you’re only playing one game rather than BO3, my playgroup gave everyone one free mulligan.
So how do you approach this strange format? Well, the micro-level specifics vary based on whether you’re playing Commander Legends (2020) or Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate (2022). I also want to touch on some macro-level concepts that apply to both sets plus any future Commander Legends products.
Each set is laid out like a normal(ish) Draft set, with 10 2-color signpost uncommons that showcase what each color should be doing. These aren’t exhaustive but give you a taste of themes represented in many commons in the set that are perfect to build a deck around.
Here are the signposts and their corresponding archetypes from both sets:
- Captain Vargus Wrath: Izzet () Pirates
- Hamza, Guardian of Arashin: Selesnya () Counters
- Kangee, Sky Warden: Azorius () Skies
- Reyav, Master Smith: Boros () Voltron
- Araumi of the Dead Tide: Dimir () Encore
- Abomination of Llanowar: Golgari () Elves
- Juri, Master of the Revue: Rakdos () Sac
- Imoti, Celebrant of Bounty: Simic () Ramp
- Thalisse, Reverent Medium: Orzhov () Tokens
- Tuya Bearclaw: Gruul () Stompy
Battle for Baldur’s Gate
- Lozhan, Dragons’ Legacy: Izzet Dragons/Adventures
- Cadira, Caller of the Small: Selesnya Tokens
- Oji, the Exquisite Blade: Azorius Flicker
- Commander Liara Portyr: Boros Myriad
- Rilsa Rael, Kingpin: Dimir Initiative
- Kagha, Shadow Archdruid: Golgari Self-mill
- Mahadi, Emporium Master: Rakdos Treasure
- Korlessa, Scale Singer: Simic Dragons
- Minthara, Merciless Soul: Orzhov Sacrifice
- Thrakkus the Butcher: Gruul Dragons
One concept worth focusing on to help your drafting endeavors is overlap. Overlap refers to the degree to which cards for one archetype could be useful in other archetypes. This is an important thing to be aware of to get the most of your Drafts in general, but it’s especially valuable in Commander Legends thanks to its heavy archetype focus.
I’ll give you some examples focusing on the most recent set, Battle for Baldur’s Gate.
Izzet, Simic, and Gruul also have uncommon signposts that reward you for playing dragons. They each function a bit differently but all have this in common, meaning that good common dragons like Young Blue Dragon and Scaled Nurturer will be great in any of these (eligible) decks. There’s also an extremely good rare dragon (Miirym, Sentinel Wyrm) that fully ties the room together and lets you play dragons from all three!
Flicker is a classic Azorius strategy where creatures like Roving Harper are combined with cards like Blur for impressive value. “Take the initiative” being present on so many cards really increases the density of ETB effects, which makes flickering more likely to matter.
Myriad is Boros’s core mechanic in this set and has obvious but great synergy with Commander Liara Portyr. What might be a bit less obvious is how well myriad works with Mahadi, Emporium Master, Minthara, Merciless Soul, and instant-speed sacrifice like Deadly Dispute. It’s a fantastic way to facilitate cards that care about combat, attacking players, things dying, and more!
Cadira, Caller of the Small clearly cares about tokens, but what might be less clear is how open-ended of a commander it can be! Your normal 1/1-maker effects like Recruitment Drive and You’re Confronted by Robbers are great with Cadira, but it’s also effective with Treasure tokens and myriad, which is an easy way to have extra tokens on attack.
Another approach to building a deck in Commander Legends is to start with a mono-colored legendary that has either partner or choose a background. This will give you whatever second color you want to complement your initial commander choice. There are some linear partners like Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator that clearly play off a signpost’s theme as well as more flexible cards like Anara, Wolvid Familiar that aren’t so obvious to build around.
Backgrounds change up this format a bit by being legendary enchantments that complement your commander rather than just another commander. They’re still treated as a second commander rules-wise, but they play out differently as difficult-to-remove permanents with varying bonuses for your commander.
As mentioned earlier, both commander sets have 10 3-color commanders. Each commander has a specific thing they want you to do, but there are varying degrees to which their theme can realistically be pulled off in a Draft environment.
For example, it’s much easier to build a Draft deck around a p1p1 Gorion, Wise Mentor than Mazzy, Truesword Paladin. This is because there are 16 adventures in Gorion’s colors but only five auras in Mazzy’s.
It’s also important to keep in mind that not every commander is as strict as either of those. The gods in Battle for Baldur’s Gate have more open-ended deckbuilding goals that can be accomplished in a number of ways.
There are some universal strategies that can be applied to the drafting process in either set. For starters, Commander Legends booster packs always contain these cards:
- 1 legendary creature or planeswalker (rare or mythic rare in 31% of boosters)
- 1 legendary background (rare in 1 of 12 boosters)
- 1 non-legendary rare or mythic rare card
- 3 uncommons
- 13 commons
- 1 traditional foil card of any rarity
So it’s impossible to have a p1p1 where you don’t have a legendary available, but that doesn’t mean you have to take it and force a deck around it. If you have a rough idea of what kind of archetypes you’re willing to play you can start your draft by taking the two most powerful cards that fit that frame.
For instance, instead of taking Cadira, Caller of the Small and Roving Harper, I could pick Thunderwave and Wrathful Red Dragon instead of worrying about starting with a commander. Both are excellent cards that will play well in just about red deck, and the Dragon ties into one of the best supported themes in the set.
It’s also more than possible to just p1p1 a sweet legend and immediately start building around it. This is most common with 3-color commanders which would like you to draft some mana fixing and often have very specific requests.
For example, p1p1 Dynaheir, Invoker Adept means you’ll want to draft your deck around activated abilities that cost four or more. This means that cards that would normally be filler like Bane’s Invoker, Steadfast Unicorn, Tymora’s Invoker, Bhaal’s Invoker, and Universal Solvent can all take on a new direction with Dynaheir.
The nightmare in Commander Legends is to be building a pirates deck to the left of someone doing the exact same thing. A lot of the narrower archetypes lean on a critical mass of certain card types and don’t branch out well.
So if you’re interested in avoiding this scenario, it can be useful to learn to read your Draft pod. This is done fairly similarly to how it is in normal Drafts: late notable cards and tabling specific cards are signs that certain colors and archetypes aren’t valued. But special focus should be given to legendaries.
The simplest way to get the go-ahead to draft a Gates deck with Nine-Fingers Keene in a pod of four is to get passed it after three players have declined to take it.
Concerning Battle for Baldur’s Gate: Murder isn’t a premium common in this set. Lightning Bolt will likely be great but still might be a bit overrated by your table. These normally blasphemous statements are a simple reflection of how multiplayer affects Limited drafting and deckbuilding.
Normal bread-and-butter focuses like curve and removal should fall to the wayside for synergy, ramp, card advantage, and splashy finishers. You don’t want to be too clunky (I’d still like to spend my mana consistently), but mana should be spent building up resources and a game plan and not on Grizzly Bears– and Nessian Courser-type cards.
Spot removal is worse in multiplayer because you just can’t kill everything important your opponents play. Murder is there to answer fliers, slow down annoying commanders, and control the pace of the game, but you won’t be consistently 1-for-1ing three players. Conversely, sweepers are even betterthan they usually are in Limited. You’ll have a lot of time to soak value out of cards, and mass removal is a nightmare for go-wide archetypes like elves and tokens. I still want some spot removal in every Commander deck, but telling the pod “I have five Murders” doesn’t produce the same sugar high as it does in a normal draft.
Another class of card that gets weaker in Commander Legends Draft is mana fixing. This may seem a bit surprising but remember: you can’t splash bombs in this set. You’re always limited by your commander’s color pair and can’t splash Raphael, Fiendish Savior in your Baba Lysaga, Night Witch sacrifice deck.
While players with 3-color commanders should highly prioritize mana-fixing, those who are just playing 2-color (i.e., most players) should not. I’ll play a couple Evolving Wilds if I can get them, but even curve filler is a higher priority.
On the other hand, mana ramp is very good! You want to be planning for the long game, with lots of big turns and hopefully a smooth climb to your deck’s late game. Simple cards like Nature’s Lore, Mind Stone, Arcane Signet, and Navigation Orb are excellent ways to pull ahead of the table.
I want to touch on value and bombs. Both are essential! This is a casual multiplayer format where games tend to drag on forever. You’ll want tons of card advantage to weather spot removal, sweepers, and combat trades while building towards some kind of win condition or value plan based on your commander.
I like to focus on large fliers if I can’t get any premium bombs. They aren’t especially fancy, but they demand answers.
Cadira, Caller of the Small | Illustration by Alexandr Leskinen
Hopefully you enjoyed this read and learned a bit more about Commander Legends drafting! I’ll be back soon with a comprehensive guide to the new Battle for Baldur’s Gate set.
For now, focus on staying in archetypes, opening sweet cards, and having a good time! These Commander sets are a rare treat that combines the great gameplay of Draft with a more casual feel, so relax your inner Spike a bit and get some games in. And feel free to let me know how your Commander Legends Drafts go in the comments below or over on the Draftsim Twitter.
Until next time, may your pod always focus someone else!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: