There are many ways to play Magic in our vast community, and today I want to briefly discuss with you one of such ways: Duel Commander.
Bringing the competitive idea to a format which is mostly casual can sound a bit weird - but don't be scared, because in this article I'll try to show you how Duel is fun, and how it is built.
Duel Commander Rules
Before anything, we must know: what is Duel Commander?
The format is based on a one-on-one match which, despite having its own banlist (something we'll discuss soon), follows the standards of a traditional Commander game. Which means, you'll have a commander which will lay down your deck's colors and a 99 card deck with no more than 1 copy of each card that isn't a basic land, which is quite similar to its multiplayer counterpart.
The first changes are to the match's initial life points: contrary to 40 points, you start with 20 life points.
This change has a very simple and direct goal: to make the game a bit more urgent and dynamic, after all, you only have one focus - bringing your opponent's life points to zero as fast as possible.
As it is a game style different from the standard, Duel has its own banlist, aiming at making the game fairer for both parts. It mostly excludes positive mana rocks and extremely oppressive cards.
It is natural for Duel Commander's banlist to be constantly updated, because, as it is a format which is played with almost all existing sets in the game, there is a considerable array of interactions that can become outliers in terms of balance as more cards are released, or as more synergies are discovered.
In this article, we'll consider the French banlist, which is currently the most popular one.
Cards Banned as Commanders
These cards are banned as commanders, but they can still be used in your deck.
Cards Banned in the Format
These cards can't be present in your Command Zone or in your deck at all. They are:
This might be the most significant difference between formats. While in casual multiplayer deckbuilding has space for different creations and can, at times, be focused on fun, the build of a Duel Commander deck doesn't allow that. Our format encourages deckbuilding focused on victory in the most consistent way possible, favoring cards and strategies which look for maximum efficiency.
Just like any other competitive format, Duel Commander has its meta, which means staples are constantly present in decks. That many times ends up forcing some decks to always bring certain cards, due to their unquestionable quality.
It is interesting to observe one of the main motivations to invest in a Duel Commander deck are the store tournaments, which encourage and give out prizes to the best ranked players.
It is common to have prizes such as store credits, possible promo cards for the top 8 players, and, finally, there are even higher-tier tournaments, in which prize pools can even include one of the 10 original Dual Lands.
Duel Commander Decklists
Now that we have already explained the format and discussed its compositions a bit, it is interesting to study a few DC decks. Next, I'll present to you a few Duel Commander decks. Some go for a more preliminary approach of the format with "lower investment", and others are more advanced, 100% focused on optimization.
It is valid to remember the decks presented below are merely presented as bases, and any alteration for them to fit into your personal game style or your pocket is valid.
Feldon, Ronom Excavator
The idea here is simple: Feldon, Ronom Excavator guarantees us a certain card advantage (something red sometimes fails to do), and can even be a target for our damage spells. Meanwhile, the whole deck is built in a completely aggressive way, trying to finish the game before our opponents can gather enough resources to turn it back around.
Skrelv, Defector Mite
With a more aggressive look, this deck tries to finish the game through combat as fast as possible.
Despite this deck working exactly as the Mono Red deck quoted above in terms of execution, Skrelv, Defector Mite and its list have a small control package, with land destruction, exile and cost taxes - which can make this deck seem more control, aside from the aggressive behavior present.
Balmor, Battlemage Captain
Balmor, Battlemage Captain has a unique game style, because, at the same time it behaves as a control deck, looking for answers through cards such as Ponder and Brainstorm, it represents constant board pressure with its creatures, which at each spell cast become more powerful.
Ertai Resurrected brings to its strategy an idea focused entirely on undermining your opponent's resources through control plays, with punctual removals and/or counterspells, setting up a game state in which the enemy's strategy becomes so outdated that they can't play anymore.
Despite being a deck with a huge learning curve, it tends to be quite consistent and dangerous.
Yoshimaru & Bruse
Currently one of the most striking commanders in the format, Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful is a machine capable of synergizing well with the number of legendary cards available to trigger its effect. With white's protection support, and red's damage boost, our legendary doggy is quite the monster.
It is important to note that, as per the rules of the format, when there is more than one commander in the deck, you can cast only one of the cards per match, which highlights Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful's strength even more.
Raffine, Scheming Seer
Another giant in the format, Raffine, Scheming Seer is a dangerous mix of a commander capable of creating value while it controls and punishes the opponent.
With a list that combines perfectly control elements with constant aggression, this strategic sphinx can punish the enemy severely as it advances its own game plan and deals damage.
Counting with a small Reanimate package, Raffine, Scheming Seer is unquestionably a powerful commander.
Despite having its problems, the biggest one being the price of deck lists, Duel Commander is a very fun format, which has an active and receptive community, so don't be shy. If you have any interest in it, don't hesitate to play!
I hope you enjoyed getting to know a bit more about the most receptive competitive format for EDH enjoyers! See you next time.