Commander is a Magic:The Gathering format which emphasises multiplayer play, social interactions, interesting games, and creative deckbuilding.

These are the official rules for Commander. Players often play with house rules, and are encouraged to, but this consensus version exists so that players know what to expect if they join a game outside their local play area.

  1. Commander is designed to promote social games of magic.

    It is played in a variety of ways, depending on player preference, but a common vision ties together the global community to help them enjoy a different kind of magic. That vision is predicated on a social contract: a gentleman's agreement which goes beyond these rules to includes a degree of interactivity between players. Players should aim to interact both during the game and before it begins, discussing with other players what they expect/want from the game.

    House rules or "fair play" exceptions are always encouraged if they result in more fun for the local community.

    More details on Commander philosophy

Deck Construction Rules
  1. Players choose a legendary creature as the "Commander" for their deck. Details

    Players may choose any legendary creature as their Commander, although some choices may be met with disapproval by other players. Two players in the same game may choose the same Commander, and other players may include that card in their Deck even if it's not their Commander. Commanders are subject to the Legend rule just like any other legendary creature.

    The Commander is the principle around which the deck is built. It is more easily available than other cards in the deck, and decks will ususally want to leverage their Commander's strengths in their plans.

    A deck's commander is also known as its "General" for historical reasons.

  2. A card's colour identity is its colour plus the colour of any mana symbols in the card's rules text. A card's colour identity is established before the game begins, and cannot be changed by game effects. Details

    • Lands whose type includes swamp, island, plains, forest and/or mountain (e.g.: basic lands, shocklands, dual lands, Shadowmoor special-basics, etc) also have the corresponding colour identity. As such, they may not appear in a deck unless the Commander is also of the appropriate identity.
    • While hybrid mana symbols may be played with either colour mana, they contribute both colours to the card's colour identity. Therefore they may only be played with a Commander whose identity includes ALL of the hybrid symbols' colours.
    • Basic land words (swamp, forest, etc) in the text box of a card do NOT represent a coloured mana symbol. They are not restricted to a Commander of the same colour identity.
    • Reminder text is not included in the colour identity of a card.

    Cards in a deck may not have any colours in their color identity which are not shared with the commander of the deck. (The identity of each card in the deck must be a subset of the Commander's) Examples

    A deck with Phelddagrif (Casting cost 1UWG) as the Commander may not contain any cards whose colour identity includes red or black.

    These cards would all be illegal in a Phelddagrif deck:

    Our Phelddagrif couldn't use any of these lands:

    Phelddagrif may not call upon Boros Guildmage for help

    Phelddagrif IS allowed to use:

  3. A deck may not generate mana outside its colours. If an effect would generate mana of an illegal colour, it generates colourless mana instead.

  4. A Commander deck must contain exactly 100 cards, including the Commander.

  5. With the exception of basic lands, no two cards in the deck may have the same english name. Some cards (e.g. Relentless Rats) may have rules text that overrides this restriction.

Play Rules
  1. Players may mulligan using the modified "Partial Paris" method.

    Partial Paris Mulligan rule

    Because Commander games are long and usually not played in multigame matches, the format uses a modified mulligan rule designed to alleviate mana-light hands without significantly increasing the odds of finding individual cards. This is also known as the "Brittany" mulligan rule.

    1. In turn order, players may exile (face down) some or all of the cards in their hand.
    2. Each player then draws one less card from their deck than the number they exiled.
    3. Players who exiled at least one card may return to step 1 and repeat the process, drawing one less card each time.
    4. Players shuffle all exiled cards into their deck.

    It is worth noting that even with this form of mulligan, decks playing an insufficient number of mana sources will routinely draw poor hands or insufficient mana as the game progresses.

  2. Players begin the game with 40 life.

  3. Commanders begin the game in the Command Zone. While a Commander is in the command zone, it may be cast, subject to the normal timing restrictions for casting creatures. Its owner must pay {2} for each time it was previously cast from the command zone; this is an additional cost.

  4. If a Commander would be put into a library, hand, graveyard or exile from anywhere, its owner may choose to move it to the command zone instead. Details

    • This is a replacement effect. It applies last and may apply multiple times to an event.
    • The creature never goes to the original destination zone and will not trigger abilities that trigger based on going there (e.g. "dies" triggers).
  5. Being a Commander is not a characteristic [MTG CR109.3], it is a property of the card and tied directly to the physical card. As such, "Commander-ness" cannot be copied or overwritten by continuous effects. The card retains it's commanderness through any status changes, and is still a commander even when controlled by another player.

  6. If a player has been dealt 21 points of combat damage by a particular Commander during the game, that player loses a game. Details

    • This is an additional state based effect.
    • Commander Damage is cumulative throughout the game; nothing can reduce the amount of damage a Commander has previously done to a player.
    • Because it is a property of the card and not a characteristic of the game object, a card is still the same Commander even if it leaves the field and returns.
    • While effects can raise a player's life total, it doesn't reduce the amount of damage previously taken from a Commander. (eg: Beacon of Immortality)
    • Conversely, combat damage can be reduced, prevented, or replaced as it is taken, in which case it was never dealt and doesn't count towards the total taken from that Commander. (eg: Fog or Captain's Maneuver)
    • Commander Damage is specific to each Commander/Player pairing, not combined across all Commanders.
    • A player can lose if he or she is dealt 21 points of combat damage by his or her own Commander (ie: under someone else's control).
  7. Commanders are subject to the Legend rule; a player cannot control more than one legend with the same name.

  8. Abilities which refer to other cards owned outside the game (Wishes, Spawnsire, Research, Ring of Ma'ruf) do not function in Commander without prior agreement on their scope from the playgroup.

House Rules

Commander is designed first and foremost for social players. It cannot be all things to all people and the official rules reflect one specific vision for the fomat.

Some play groups like to alter their games in a way that they find more fun. Below, we have collected some of these alternate approaches in case other playgroups want to explore some of these spaces.

Because of the optional nature of house rules, none of them should be used without explicit permission from the rest of the playgroup beforehand.

Other house rules that have been suggested are gathered in the House Rules thread. Some suggestions there will occasionally be added to this page.

  1. Mulligans

    Many variations on mulligans exist, from strict to casual, and it's a common area for local tailoring. Among the options:

    • Set aside the seven just drawn, repeat until you get a playable hand. (Don't abuse this)
    • First mulligan free (then falling back to partial paris or normal mulligans)
  2. Alternate Victories

    Most commander games are won by the last player standing. However, a group may choose to use an alternate method by keeping track of points accrued throughout a game. Points may be awarded for

    • Most combat damage dealt in a single turn
    • Biggest mana pool
    • Commander Damage kills
    • Most mana paid for a Commander
    • Etc.

    Another approach is to award victory by democratic vote - each player votes on who they enjoyed playing against the most, and those votes are weighed against the other scoring criteria at the end of the game.

  3. Sideboards

    Some more competitive groups add a sideboard to bring flexibility to their decks and combat some of the degeneracy. The most common structure of sideboards is:

    • Players may bring a 10 card sideboard in addition to their 99 cards and 1 Commander.
    • After Commanders are announced, players have 3 minutes to make 1-for-1 substitutions to their deck.

    In groups whose members all use sideboards, they can also be used to wish for cards that are outside the game.

  4. League Play

    A League is a regular group of players who maintain the same decks across multiple play sessions. Within a given league, Commander are allocated first-come, first-serve and are preserved between meetings/games. No player may have, in his or her deck, the Commander of any other player in the game; it should be replaced with some other card before the game begins.


Commander is played in many languages, and the rules are localized by native speakers.

When true to the same spirit and content as these English rules, links will be posted here to a translation in each language available. These rules may not be up to date in all recent changes to the rules/suggested banned list; if you see out of date translations please inform Genomancer on the forums by PM.

Last updated Nov 10th, 2015
  1. All card names, artwork, and intrinsic Magic the Gathering game concepts are copyright Wizards of the Coast.
  2. "Magic:The Gathering - Commander" is copyright Wizards of the Coast, 2010. Used with permission.
  3. Graphical theme elements copyright Daniel St. Jules of
  4. Background art images by Steve Argyle
  5. All content not previously copyright by Wizards of the Coast were
    • created and copyright (2005-2015) by Gavin Duggan
    • released under the terms of the Academic Free License (AFL) as of April 24th, 2007.
    • available for public reuse only with attribution, as per the terms of that license.