Four Magic Commanders I Struggle To Build (And Why)

Ever find yourself blocked when building a Commander deck? You’re not alone! Chase Carroll shares four MTG commanders that have defeated them… for now.

Lord Windgrace
Lord Windgrace, illustrated by TATAMEPI

I like to say that deckbuilding is like a muscle. The more you work at something, ideally, the better you get. This can be applied to colors, themes, and yes, even commanders. Now, I know what you’re thinking. ‘Chase, you’re literally amazing at everything you do. You’re like the Gordon Ramsay of deckbuilding.’

First, I know. Thank you. Second, I prefer to refer to myself as the Guy Fieri of deckbuilding, but references aside, even I struggle with certain commanders and archetypes. In fact, it’s normal to struggle when deckbuilding. In this week’s piece, I wanted to share with y’all some commanders that I am desperate to build around but either am intimidated by or have failed at previously in the past.

Queen Marchesa

Oftentimes I am asked what color combinations I find difficult to brew around, and the one I will always say is Mardu. I have no idea why, but I am pretty sure that these three colors when combined hate me. Seriously, I think they’re allergic to me, because every time I try to make something in these colors, I end up swinging too hard and missing altogether. 

An example of a miss is when I tried to brew Queen Marchesa. I was still very early in my Commander experiences, about two years into the game. I pulled a Marchesa in a random booster pack and thought she was the it-girl of commander.

Queen Marchesa

That feeling hasn’t left completely. I love everything about this card’s design, from the mana value all the way down to the token she makes. I was in love and knew I had to build her.

What Went Wrong

My fatal flaw was copying and pasting everything EDHREC. EDHREC is a great resource for average data that combines multiple lists onto one digestible page. I did not realize this and assumed it was gospel. I wrote down every card in the High Synergy and Top Cards section. Imagine my surprise when I found out my list was double my intended budget and consisted purely of value.

My Marchesa value deck had no personality. It told no story, didn’t flow or synergize. It just ran good things, and that manifested in my gameplay. I was running Island Sanctuary but I didn’t really know why. Xantcha, Sleeper Agent confused me greatly. Why was I giving her away? I wanted a 5/5!

I’ll admit, I think I bit off more than I could chew. This was my own fault, not EDHREC or the card design. I was inexperienced and eager to try something I felt was a journey into a ‘serious’ commander. Now, I will say I have taken a stab at another Mardu commander about two years ago, Negan, the Cold-Blooded, and instead swung too hard, creating a deck that felt incredibly unfun to play against. Because of these two experiences, I find myself hesitant to wade into Mardu waters, even after my seven years of experience. Can I build a cohesive Marchesa deck now? Maybe, but I still feel that burn. 

Lord Windgrace

Lord Windgrace is probably the most straightforward commander on this entire list. You look at him and you just know that he is a land-based commander. However, straightforward doesn’t mean it’s not intimidating. I find land decks to be a bit intimidating, and this is coming from someone who used to play a high-powered The Gitrog Monster deck. 

Lord Windgrace

Land decks are incredibly in-depth and synergistic, and they often require a lot of the same pieces. This homogeneity makes me less inclined to want to take a stab at another land deck. But then came the Secret Lair, that damn Secret Lair. Art makes the card and as soon as I saw that cute little kitten, the spark ignited and I really wanted to brew Lord Windgrace.

Cuteness overwhelming.

So why haven’t I? It all comes down to the monolith that is the land theme. It’s just a lot to tackle, especially after I sold the majority of my lands-matter pieces when I took Gitrog apart. To start back up again is incredibly expensive, time-consuming, and overwhelming. So much goes into a land deck, and restarting feels like I am Sisyphus. Maybe one day I will scratch the itch that this cute little kitten made, but until then he will have to remain within my Sisay deck…lying dormant…angry. 

Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist

Commander Legends is an incredibly nostalgic set for me. I got my first preview card here, and so many iconic pieces came from this set. From Jeweled Lotus to Akroma’s Will, this set gave us a lot. However, even the lesser known pieces from this set still packed a punch. Case in point: Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist.

Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist

I fell in love with Gor Muldrak the moment I saw him previewed. I knew there was something there and I was biting at the bit to brew him. So when it was time to stream my deckbuilding show on Twitch, I did…or at least tried to. 

What Went Wrong?

This was the first time I ever gave up on a brew, and I felt so ashamed. I was about half a year into streaming my deckbuilding and I felt very confident in my abilities, and Gor Muldrak was like, “Sike, get rekt nerd. Suffer!” I wasted twenty minutes on camera trying to find ways a way to tackle this brew in a way that sparked joy. Chat was recommending that I do a sort of copies, group-hug-style brew and I was adamantly against it. I wanted to give everyone a bunch of Salamanders and then find a way to steal all of them, such as Peer Pressure, and swing for lethal. I was stumped.

Because I got stuck in my desire to do something that felt impossible at the time, rather than going with the flow and bending to the theme, I instead scrapped the idea and moved on to another brew. I know for a fact that Gor Muldrak is not an impossible commander. He is far from it, but I haven’t revisited him since. I think I am hesitant to return to this fun design because I want it to do something it can’t. My desire to brew this guy still remains strong, but ultimately I feel a return to this brew would be futile for me and only diminish my appreciation for it. 

Kenrith, the Returned King

Kenrith, the Returned King is just one of those commanders that I haven’t touched but think is just the bee’s knees. He is, after all, the number two five-color commander on EDHREC, after The Ur-Dragon. He does a lot…he does everything. Card draw, lifegain, counters, keywords, and recursion: that’s basically everything in Magic (change my mind). Everything is a lot of things, and while having options is definitely nice, it can be overwhelming.

Kenrith, the Returned King

To me, Kenrith represents paralysis of choice. The fact that he is five-color has nothing to do with it either, as I have a five-color Sisay deck. No, what intimidates me is the fact Kenrith himself does so much. His themes on EDHREC are endless. Pod, Politics, Group Hug, Human Tribal, Lands, Monarch, you name it. The list goes on and on, and one can get intimidated by this excess of themes. It’s me, I am one. I really want to brew around and eventually build Kenrith, but ultimately he has continued to be a loose single lying on my desk, only making the cut in the 99 of my Morophon The Thing deck. Maybe one day I will bite the bullet and brew Kenrith, but until then I will continue to explore the thousands of themes in hopes of finding one that sparks joy. 

Revealing Failure

As someone who builds decks consistently, I share a lot of my brews as part of my content. However, I realized that I haven’t been showing y’all a key aspect of this process: failure and hesitancy. I don’t succeed at every commander I tackle. Sometimes I don’t even tackle pieces that I desperately want to because I feel intimidated by the card or that I am not smart enough to talk about it in a constructive fashion.

Failure and fear is a normal part of the deckbuilding process that I feel isn’t shown too often. I fail a lot, but I don’t show it. Just because I write for Star City Games doesn’t mean I am a master deckbuilder. It’s okay to struggle with a brew. As Jake the Dog said, “Dude, suckin’ at something is the first step to being sorta good at something.”

Happy failing, deckbuilders.