Commander Draft: Other Players’ Perspectives

You got Sheldon’s take on the big Commander draft his crew just performed. How did the other builds turn out? What did others think of this format and the strategies within? If you’re a fan of Commander and Draft, you’ll love this format!

When last we talked about the Commander Rotisserie Draft, I offered some thoughts on how the draft went and the motivations behind my own choices. This week, I’ll bring you the thoughts of the other players, Keith, Michael, Shea, and Todd, on how they thought their own drafts went, in their own words.


Choosing Commanders

I wound up in Abzan, one of the two color groups I was aiming for (the other was Esper). This left me with six choices for my three commanders: Doran, the Siege Tower; Ghave, Guru of Spores; Karador, Ghost Chieftain; Anafenza, the Foremost; Teneb, the Harvester; and Daghatar the Adamant.

Ghave, Guru of Spores is an extremely aggressive commander and can get out of hand extremely quickly. I’m not looking to encourage four-against-one games or overwhelm one or two people quickly and make them watch for a half-hour. He might go in as one of my 99, though.

I dismissed Karador, Ghost Chieftain immediately. Having just played Meren of Clan Nel Toth in the last League, I am not looking forward to playing another (my) graveyard-reliant deck and have my graveyard hated all game long. If there doesn’t seem to be a lot of graveyard hate being drafted, I might make him #99, but he’s never going to be my commander.

Teneb, the Harvester is a good commander. A 6/6 flyer is strong, and I don’t mind picking from other players’ graveyards. If they want to exile their own cards, so much the better. He’s in.

One of my favorite decks to play is Doran, the Siege Tower, so he’s definitely making a home in the Command Zone.

So, one more commander. Anafenza or Daghatar? Anafenza is a solid commander at 4/4 for three, but her combat ability seems a little limited for me. Her second ability, exiling creatures when they go to the graveyard, no matter how they get there, is extremely strong, so she’s definitely going to make it into my 99.

Daghatar, on the other hand, seems to be a card I would enjoy playing. I love cards that can be used in unexpected ways–removing a counter from one player’s attacker to boost another player’s defender is just the sort of shenanigans I enjoy. Plus, I fully intend on drafting Horobi, Death’s Whisper, and killing two creatures for three mana seems pretty good.

So those are my commanders: Doran, Teneb, and Daghatar.

Pre-Draft Strategy

Each of us has a two-color combination that we own. Mine is B/G. This means I can wait until the end of the draft to pick any B/G or Abzan card I want. Unfortunately, I share W/B with Shea and W/G with Sheldon, and there are a number of cards I really want in those colors. Phantom Nishoba will play extremely well with my counters theme for Daghatar, so I’m probably going to take him within the first ten picks. Deathbringer Liege is great removal, a creature boost, and a fit with all three commanders, so I want him early as well.

I initially wanted to start with mana ramp (I intended on picking Solemn Simulacrum first), then get creatures, and finish up with utility and removal. However, I decided that to help myself the most (and probably derail some of Shea’s plans), I had to first-pick Erebos, God of the Dead. I planned to use my first or second wheel to snag two-color lands that Shea or Sheldon may want. Most of my ramp adds Forests or Plains to the battlefield; it’s nice if they make more than one color, like Temple Garden. I’m not that concerned with drafting all of my color-fixing lands early, since there are over 50 for me to choose from.

Overall, I want to build an 85-to-90-ish card base for my deck (including basic lands) and have a ten-to-fifteen-card package for each of my commanders that I can swap in and focus the deck specifically for that commander.

Draft Commentary

As expected, Shea cursed my first-pick Erebos; he was able to punish me by taking Sorin, Grim Nemesis, a card I wanted to pick second. Not too many things surprised me during the draft, but I was caught off-guard by a few picks, one being Sheldon’s seventh-pick Eldrazi Displacer, which I would have taken in the next pick or two. I should have realized when he sixth-picked Conjurer’s Closet that he was going to be playing his blinking games.

I was saved from becoming overly chatty about my strategies (I have lost many a Magic game to Todd Palmer by stating he was dead next turn and what could he do about it, only to have him go into the tank and find a way to pull out a win) when Sheldon mentioned that no one was drafting mill, so there was no reason for him to pick up certain cards. My Teneb package is based almost completely upon getting cards into my opponents’ graveyards. I got a bit quieter for the next draft round or two…

I tried to keep some focus on what cards were drafted when; when Todd picked Command Tower, I figured it was time to snag the better Opal Palace (we’ll disagree on the betterness of Opal Palace — Sheldon). When Sheldon took Greater Good, I knew I should get Momentous Fall within the next pick or two.

Post-Draft Thoughts

Of the 130 cards I preselected, I had to add only about five or six cards to the list, usually when someone’s pick would remind me of a card I needed (for example, a lot of card draw was being drafted, so I added Spirit of the Labyrinth to my card-picks). I was extremely happy to get the Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Emeria Shepherd synergy that Michael (ab-)used during our original League.

Overall, I was very happy with my picks: top four mana fixing/ramp spells, eight of my top nine mass removal spells, fifteen of my top eighteen creature picks … although, really, who else is going to pick Molder Slug or Phantom Nishoba? (Me, dammit!—Sheldon). I got enough nonbasics with basic land types to keep me happy (and Canopy Vista is still on the waiver wire).

I got 100% of my commander packages. I decided not to overload a lot of G/B spells, since I could take them at my leisure during the weekly waivers. Not enough removal? Draft Pernicious Deed. More creatures/card draw? The Gitrog Monster. Maybe Shea won’t snag that Eternal Dragon.

All-in-all, it was a lot of fun, and it should be very interesting to see how these decks play against each other.


I’m very happy to see how the entire process went. When the idea was bandied about, I wasn’t sure this style would fit the Commander format as well as it did. I recommend any group of friends to try this at least once. It is very interesting to see how each person goes about building their card pool. There are so many cards available that the possibilities are nearly limitless.

I went into the color draft determined to get Grixis. Grixis is, by far, my favorite color combination of all time. Mardu offers a lot of possibilities, but Grixis always has my attention. Having built several Grixis Commander decks in the past, I wanted to go in a completely different path. Thraximundar was off the list to start. Picking through my other thirteen choices, I could have gone so many ways that I wanted to find three commanders that could overlap a bit but still have their own decks.

I decided to go with Neuksar, the Mindrazer; Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge; and Marchesa, the Black Rose. The main reason is that each of these three can build decks that benefit their commander but are not dependent on having it in the battlefield. Each commander would have ten to twelve support cards in the pool, with some but not a lot of overlap.

I am starting with Jeleva because she was the most difficult to select cards for. She exiles a lot cards with repeated castings. So how do you turn that into a benefit? Well, start with Oblivion Sower. I had this card very high on my pick list due to seeing what it was able to do in our last experiment. Also, she is very dependent on everyone else’s decks to be outstanding. She is, unfortunately, the least likely commander for me to use with any consistency.

I also ended up cutting several other cards that I wanted to have to support her for some more important picks later. Urabrask the Hidden is my most powerful card alongside this Vampire.

Marchesa loves creatures. Lots and lots and lots of creatures, and even better, creatures with counters on them. Since the biggest creatures are not in these colors, I went with the Clone package for Marchesa. I ended up getting Tempt with Reflections (which I think was the wrong Tempt and I should have the black one), Mirror Match, Dack’s Duplicant, Clone Legion, Dimir Doppleganger, Evil Twin, Supplant Form, Phyrexian Metamorph, Gather Specimens, Body Double, and Rite of Replication.

The only Clones that are no somewhere in the pools are Clone and Quicksilver Gargantuan (it seems as though Michael lost his stomach for battling over the mono-blue Clones and mostly took the ones which I couldn’t, like the two-color ones—Sheldon). So it is going to be a copy fest. I picked up Endless Whispers and Grave Betrayal for a little bit of reanimation shenanigans.

That brings me to Nekusar, the Mindrazer.

This was my primary choice for build-around picks. I ended up a lot of group card draw, discard, graveyard shenanigans, and mill. I could not build the full Nekusar deck due to the constraints of the format, so I had to make some choices. Seizan, Perverter of Truth; Bloodchief Ascension; Anvil of Bogardan; and Teferi’s Puzzle Box all made the cut. Unfortunately, Font of Mythos did not. Wanting this deck to be effective, I took a Kozilek second and Reliquary Tower third. While a bit loose on the picks, I needed one of the Eldrazi titans out of the pool and Reliquary Tower needed to be in my deck.

I took a few fairly odd cards through the draft and I wanted to explain a couple of interactions.

Havengul Lich and Mindwrack Liege can make for an interesting turnaround when your opponents have Mystic Snake or Draining Whelk. This is also an interaction that Oblivion Sower helps out to a huge extent, as I still need that green mana to Resurrect Mystic Snake.

Aether Flash, Repercussion, Confusion in the Ranks, and Dictate of the Twin Gods are four fantastic red enchantments. Just the possibility of this had me drafting a little light on creatures and is the primary reason I picked Spawning Bed. Confusion in the Ranks turns Spawning Bed into “triple Threaten, forever.” With the quartet out (which I never expect to happen), this is what happens. Activate Spawning Bed. Confusion and Aether Flash trigger for each. With Flash triggers waiting to resolve, swap control for the tokens with three better creatures. Then Flash deals four damage to the token, killing it, and Repercussion deals eight damage to their controllers. Hey, a Grixis Mage can dream, right?

One thing I missed in this entire draft was the creature types of my generals. I did not even look at them until writing this portion of the article. They’re all Wizards! How could I miss this?

I look forward to seeing where the experiment ends. Mormir Vig would be proud. Nicol Bolas would be intrigued.


Hello everyone, I’m Shea—first-time writer, long-time reader. My main/pet deck is Karador, Ghost Chieftain. I also have Maelstrom Wanderer and Halfdane. I am looking forward to everyone’s feedback and the glorious battles.

Going into the color draft, I had two pretty clear ideas. I wanted to end up in Jund or Mardu; either would allow the ability to play one of my favorite old cards, Agonizing Demise (Phthisis could also be a thing—Sheldon). Check.

Now what do I want to actually play in red, black and white? My commander choices were limited; I knew I wanted to start with Oros, the Avenger, but who would fill into the other two slots? Typically, when I am building a new commander deck, I look at deck types and styles that I have not played or built in the past. With that in mind, I wanted to steer clear of heavy creature beatdown decks and at the same time wanted to be a little tricky, even though literally everyone will know what is in the decklist. The four other choices I have are all going to be creature decks if I build to the general. Zurgo Helmsmasher will have to be my threat choice and Alesha, Who Smiles at Death will be my throw-a-wrench-into-the-mix deck.

Keith blew me out a little with the Erebos, God of the Dead pick that early. I was not planning on taking it very early in the draft or that heavy of a lifegain payload at all after our last League, where I was able to steal a few games with Exquisite Blood and Sanguine Bond, which I felt very dirty for. I wanted to play something that was more indirect. Planeswalkers! Planeswalkers are the answer. And for good measure, a sweet Sunforger package.

As far as my picks go, Netherborn Phalanx, Massacre Wurm, and Sun Titan were the cards that I wanted to make sure that no one else was able to get away from me. I also just really wanted to play Sorin, Grim Nemesis. After taking those early, I heard both whispers of token hate and projecting that I was going to be on the token plan. Beyond knowing my first wheel picks, I did not plan much as far as order; I really wanted to go with the flow of the draft. I was in my own world. I had backup plans for my backup plans, which ended up hurting me a little more than helping me in the end. None the less I was able to get a very high percentage of the cards I would have hand-picked if I had been building in the more traditional ways.

After about Pick 20 or 30, I started to look ahead at my wheel picks; I also started filling in my sheet from the bottom up. By the time we got into the 60s, I had everything set unless a card got picked out from under me. I was pleased that I have so many playable cards. The group started in on the non-basic lands a little earlier than I had planned on, and with all the R/W non-basics to myself on the waiver-wire and Liliana of the Dark Realms for Swamps, I felt good with letting them pass.

I got the color combo I wanted. There are a lot of solid planeswalkers in Mardu and I am getting to run Agonizing Demise. I am looking forward to the games, but think I am going to need to hang out under the radar and get into the red zone with Zurgo or will need turn 1 Land Tax followed by turn 2 Blind Obedience a large amount of the time.


My preparation for the Commander Draft started with an evaluation of Commander options. Animar, Soul of Elements and Maelstrom Wanderer have high synergy in that they cheat on mana and want to play with the big-bigs! Riku of Two Reflections was just the third as he may be fun once in a while.

I did research through Gatherer and Commander decks online. Taking inspiration wherever I could and compiling lists based on groupings, I ended up with about three pages of notes with sections including first picks, high priority, utility, Animar creatures, Wanderer creatures, removal, and synergy. I did not formalize pick orders beyond what I felt were strong first-pick cards, as I had little I could expect from my table of drafters. I knew going in that I would be the most Spike-ish, followed by Sheldon. As he was the person I shared green and blue with, I knew we were going to be stealing picks from each other early.

I had ramp as a priority and creature ramp is particularly good with Animar or Riku. You can win with a lot of huge monsters in Commander. Getting to where you can cast them is the more important focus early, as premium ramp is a commodity.

I wanted to have a moderate focus on enters-the-battlefield abilities. They tend to be powerful Commander cards anyway, as you get some value from them entering the battlefield and then you have some monster left behind that your opponents have to deal with. This meant there was one card that I wanted to hate-draft that I could: Torpor Orb.

I knew Beast Within and Chaos Warp were high on my list, but I didn’t want them to be the only answers to something like Torpor Orb. Rather than bog myself down with Krosan Grip or other artifact hate, I wanted to just hate-draft it. Hushwing Gryff was not something I could hate-draft, but creatures are easier to kill. Cloudstone Curio and Conjurer’s Closet were considerations for me, but Sheldon took them earlier than I was willing to. I’m also not a huge fan of investing in artifacts that don’t do anything immediately and then relying on their survival for value.

On the day of the draft, I knew I just wanted to be adaptable. Sheldon picking immediately before me would set the tone. Solemn Simulacrum let me know that Sheldon and I were on the same wavelength when it came to importance of ramp. In hindsight, I would have rather taken Coiling Oracle or Farhaven Elf over Consecrated Sphinx, as I’m not sure how high Consecrated Sphinx is on the radar for Sheldon (I would have picked it about 13th—Sheldon) or Michael. I had two other major mistakes I was not happy with. One was letting Greater Good slip to where it did. I was going to take it shortly (actually, he telegraphed it; I am soooo far inside Todd Palmer’s head—Sheldon) and it was easily more important than any of the cards I had taken in the preceding few picks.

Mulldrifter is the other egregious misstep. I had crossed it off my list, thinking I had already taken it. This was a result of too much planning mid-draft and the pressures of the clock. While Big Daddy Drifts will be missed, this is not the end of the world. Bribery was half hate-pick, half value-pick. I think I have best deck to target with Bribery so I didn’t want to deal with that, but the card is also very good. It also lets me see what people are not playing!

Other than that, I focused on assembling my team of creatures with power and versatility in mind. I like having counterspell options, but I want them to be good cascades. Spelljack can counter Wanderer and then recast him. Value! Plasm Capture can pull a similar trick. Mystic Confluence can do other things than be a dead Cascade.

In the future, I’d be more willing to draft a more focused archetype. “Good creatures” is hardly a difficult deck to construct. I had contemplated an Intet, the Dreamer deck, but having piloted Sheldon’s version on numerous occasions, I knew Intet was a top-down design deck that really wanted certain pieces and would be sadder for losing them than Wanderer is for not having the likes of Greater Good. I’d be more willing to go for that Intet deck having a better feel for the process and when things get picked. Granted, new colors and new drafters would make it different every time. I guess that’s why Limited is such a popular format, huh?


Each of the Monday Night Gamers is on Facebook (Keith Bogart, Michael Fortino, Shea Rutenber, Todd Palmer), so feel free to ping them to discuss their choices, make suggestions, or in general share your thoughts about the draft. This is an extremely enjoyable project and we all love talking about it.

This Week’s Deck Without Comment is Dreaming of Intet, which Todd mentions above.

Dreaming of Intet
Sheldon Menery
0th Place at Test deck on 02-13-2014

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If you’d like to follow the adventures of my Monday Night RPG group (in a campaign that’s been alive since 1987 and this summer will be running a prequel to our saga The Lost Cities of Nevinor), ask for an invitation to the Facebook group “Sheldon Menery’s Monday Night Gamers.”