Building a Commander Deck Part 4: Building a Focused Commander Deck

What is a Focused Deck?

A focused commander deck is perhaps the platonic ideal of a Commander deck. That’s right, even after my discussion of a maximum power deck, telling you straight up that I play it regularly and enjoy it, I’m telling you that no, this is the Commander deck you want to play, you should be attempting to build, and that will result in the most fun and memorable game play.

How do you want to win?

This deck says, “I really like 2/2’s for 2”. That’s not a bad place to be in limited Magic, after all. For those that didn’t watch the gameplay video, there’s a running gag in Loading Ready Run sketches where Graham would claim to have a Bear Force One commander deck that was in bear tribal. This was the defictionalization of that deck, which truly became possible with the release of Modern Horizons.

Ramping: this time in Green

Green obviously has the best ramp suite in the game, so color me surprised when I find that Graham…doesn’t really take much advantage of it? He only runs three rocks: Emerald Medallion, Moss Diamond, and the obligatory Sol Ring. Admittedly, Arcane Signet didn’t exist when this list was published. That part isn’t too surprising: rocks aren’t really how Green wants to ramp. Green wants to find lands to hit its land drops, play extra lands for turn, and play mana dorks.

Interaction: It’s not easy being Green

Green has the best ramp suite and the second best card advantage suite, but it has the worst interaction suite. It’s not even close. In terms of creature removal, you get fight effects and you get combat. For planeswalkers, it’s combat. At least you can destroy any kind of artifact or enchantment, and you can smite fliers like nobody’s business.


Graham did build in significant card draw, much to nobody’s surprise. Green can draw cards like nobody’s business, second only to Blue.


This deck doesn’t run combos. That’s actually fairly normal for a focused deck. There are lots of players who simply do not like combo wins, as they get repetitive and boring after a while. They are probably right, too, but that doesn’t stop me from playing combo decks all the time.

Vanilla Creatures

Graham is running a lot of vanilla creatures. Normally, that’s more draft territory: you usually want your creatures to be doing something in commander. However, he is using a commander that effectively gives them useful ETB triggers. What’s more, he’s in a moderately-supported tribe, and playing moderately-supported tribal decks means that occasionally, you’ll need to put in some vanilla creatures. Ayula really made Bear Tribal possible, though — without her, the archetype would be firmly in Precon tier.

Other deck options to consider

I played this Baral list for a very long time. It gave me stories like the time I dragged a game out for 3.5 hours before finally winning by blue creature beats. That’s just not a thing that should happen, but it did. In fact, that was perhaps the most fun I’ve ever had playing Magic. The problem was that everybody thought I was running this Baral list, which is about as optimized as you can take mono-Blue counterspell tribal. Being the jerk I am, I totally blew a bonus on the optimized variant. It was better back then thanks to Paradox Engine, and the Paradox Engine ban led me away from the list.

Next time: Mechanical Decks

I will also promise to leave the land of mono-color decks — and my favorite play styles — behind. This is mostly because the next deck I’m going to talk about is the deck I ultimately started thinking about deckbuilding for.



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