The Philosophy of Commander

Commander is not a traditional format of Magic: the Gathering. Where other formats are managed to create an environment where continuous improvement and zero-sum gameplay are desirable and incentivized, Commander offers an environment where those goals are not the only things to aspire to. The Commander Rules Committee’s decisions are informed by a gameplay philosophy that is expressed and reinforced by its rules and ban list. 

This philosophy is defined by three principles:


Commander is social. Each game is a journey the players share, where every player is considerate of the experiences of everyone involved. Magic is a competition in the same sense that all games are competitions, but whenever the act of competing comes into conflict with a social atmosphere, Commander prioritizes and protects the social atmosphere. Format management decisions are intended to:

  • Encourage positive, communal experiences where people can bond over the shared experience of gaming
  • Help players communicate their preferences and arrive at a shared set of expectations


Commander is a format for creative expression. It’s the format where players can use nearly the entire catalogue of Magic’s history to build decks rooted in lore, showcasing art, or telling stories. It is also a place where players engage with the mechanical aspects of the cards like a puzzle, discovering novel and exciting configurations as they explore. Format management decisions are intended to:

  • Promote an environment where players are not pressured to conform to any specific method of deckbuilding
  • Maximize the available card pool
  • Incorporate new official Magic content into the format as it is created


Commander is stable. Commander players become emotionally invested in their decks through play and personalization, and that bond is an important part of the experience. Players who build Commander decks should be confident they will be able to play with them over long periods of time. Format management decisions are intended to:

  • When necessary, make changes, even large ones, but not for the purpose of defining a metagame, “shaking things up,” or in reaction to the hot topic of the day 
  • Minimize changes that require players to actively maintain their decks

The role of the Commander Rules Committee is to preserve these principles when they come into conflict with other goals or philosophies, and balance them against each other when a possible decision requires prioritization.

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