Building a Commander deck is a constant challenge for me. I love variety and trying new experiences, which is why I have some self-imposed rules to make things interesting:

  • Pull from a pre-sorted set of cards set aside specifically for Commander. My “Commander Box” might be missing some esoteric options, but with a limited selection I can process from base idea to completed deck much faster.
  • Use only one copy of any card across all decks. This means only one deck gets Sol Ring, or Damnation, or Solemn Simulacrum. Powerful cards fit into almost any deck, but using a wider variety of options leaves room for less-used alternatives and wackier choices.
  • Kill my darlings. The more successful and powerful a deck feels, the more likely I am to take it apart to repurpose some of its pieces. Good decks are still the goal, but once a deck gets “solved,” it’s time for a new puzzle to sort through.

Roilmage’s Trick | Art by Johann Bodin

The real challenge for me isn’t in crafting something new—I cranked out an Oloro, Ageless Ascetic deck the day before traveling to Gen Con this year—but working up what I want to try out next. There are hundreds of choices for commanders and plenty of themes I haven’t tried yet, so I’ve been apt to wait until the fancy strikes because there’s significant effort in physically pulling together cards on a whim.

Fortunately, friends can provide clever solutions.

After PAX Prime this year, I was able to catch up with Trick Jarrett, Global Communications Manager for Magic and someone I’m privileged to call a friend. He had a brilliant idea: create a Commander deck together, assisted by the community, then quickly iterate on it.

Crafting a new deck with digital help wasn’t just about asking online, but using one of the ways I get to play with Trick during the rest of the year when I’m thousands of miles away: Magic Online. There’s plenty of benefits to building Commander online—whether you’re collaborating or working alone—and it made perfect sense to mix the two.

Iterating a paper Commander deck is even more time-consuming than building. Shuffling, traveling to meet with friends, and then sorting the deck back out to adjust how things look is awesome but a clear time commitment. Magic Online meant not only could we quickly assemble the deck, we could also find players fast to give it a spin. Rapidly going from no deck at all to a relatively tuned option in just a couple hours sounded like science gone mad.

This is the result of that successful experiment.