On October 20th, Wizards of the Coast finally gave us the full decklists for the much-anticipated Commander Starter decks. Releasing on December 2, these five decks provide an inexpensive entry point for new and returning players to get into Magic’s (arguably) most popular format. The commanders themselves have been spoiled for a while, but we finally know what the 99 looks like. At about $24 each, these aren’t decks to make the collectors go wild, but they do represent strong deck cores that can be upgraded around for long-term growth within the Commander format. Even better, these decklists can easily take cards from recent sets or inexpensive older cards for quick powerups.
Wizards chose decent commanders for these precons. Some of them are on the expensive end of the mana value spectrum, but the commanders show very clearly what the deck is built around. Over the next week or two, I plan to drop some notes and hints for what new players or returning players might consider when picking up one of these starter Commander decks and sitting down to play.
First Flight – White/Blue Fliers
The White/Blue flyers deck, First Flight, is helmed by Isperia, Supreme Judge. She’s a 6/4 flier for six who lets you draw any time a creature attacks you or a planeswalker you control. Card draw and flying are two major features of the white/blue color combination, and the rest of the deck list supports that theme. While it’s not a tier decklist, it does offer a balance of in-tribe creatures, removal, card draw, and mana generation to establish the foundation of What A Commander Deck Should Look Like. It wants for tutors, and its mana base and curve are not wonderful, but as a starting point it is pretty solid.
Upgrades and Additions
Some decent replacements a new player might have already or come across as they open packs would be: Faithful Mending, from Midnight Hunt; Adarkar Wastes from Dominaria United; and Dream Trawler from Theros Beyond Death. For more serious, pricier upgrades I would suggest starting with the land base and picking up Hallowed Fountain from Ravnica Allegiance, Reliquary Tower, Deserted Beach from Midnight Hunt, and a Glacial Fortress from Ixalan. Other good additions would be Enlightened Tutor, Rhystic Study, Ghostly Prison and Propaganda.
At base, First Flight likes to draw cards, swing in over the opponent’s blockers, and control the pace of the game. As Commander, Isperia, Supreme Judge spells that all out pretty clearly. The deck does come with a lieutenant: Kangee, Sky Warden. Kangee has a mana value of 5, and where Isperia provides more card draw, Kangee promotes a more creature-centric plan of attack. After testing a few times, you may find that you enjoy Kangee’s swing big/block big strategy. If neither Commander quite fits, you could try picking up a copy of Grand Arbiter Augustin IV from Double Masters 2022 or Isperia the Inscrutable from Dissension. Neither Commander is particularly expensive. Isperia the Inscrutable will lean more into the fliers theme, while Grad Arbiter Augustin IV will let you start exploring the more control-heavy “stax” archetype.
If First Flight is your first Commander deck, here are some key words and phrases to know:
- Azorius: A guild from the plane of Ravnica. The guild’s colors are Blue and White, so veteran players commonly just call the Blue/White color combination Azorius.
- Tutor: A card which allows you to search your deck for a specific type of card.
- Tax: An effect that punishes your opponent for doing something by making them pay extra mana.
- Stax: A deck archetype which focuses on slowing down your opponents by making them pay more to do things like attack, cast spells and use abilities.
- Counter: Short for counterspell. This stops your opponent from casting a card and forces them to instead discard the card unless they can respond somehow.
- Bounce: To return a card to a player’s hand.
- Flicker: To phase out or exile a card, then have it immediately re-enter the battlefield.
- ETB: Enters the Battlefield. Usually used in the sense of an “ETB trigger” which is an effect that happens when a permanent enters the battlefield.
Are you picking up First Flight or one of the other Commander starter decks for yourself? For a friend? Let me know your thoughts on how those first few games went! Share your strategy and upgrade tips in the comments below, or hit me on Twitter @LiteraryMagpie!