Introducing Pauper Commander

I’m always looking for new ways to play Magic, especially variants of the best format in the game: Commander. There is just something exceptionally fun about picking a legendary creature to build around and crafting a deck full of single copies of all your favorite cards. However, many players (myself included) are increasingly looking for a more budget-friendly way to play, and I believe I’ve stumbled upon the best solution: Pauper Commander.



An Uncommonly Good Time

The traditional Pauper format involves making 60-card decks using only common cards. Pauper Commander adds a bit of Commander flavored spice- you build a 100-card, all-common singleton deck with an uncommon legendary creature as your commander (or two uncommon partners, or an uncommon legend and uncommon background). The original pauper EDH format, or pEDH/PDH, allowed the use of any uncommon creature as your commander, however I’m going to only focus on legendary creatures. This way, your Pauper Commander deck is still legal in Commander– making it perfect for Pauper vs. Pauper games or low-powered Commander tables!

Syr Konrad, the Grim

Gilanra, Caller of WirewoodBrinelin, the Moon Kraken

Gut, True Soul ZealotInspiring Leader

Power Within Budget

Traditional, 60-card pauper is a lot of fun in part because of the surprisingly high power level of many of the game’s commons. Pauper Commander further highlights this strength of Magic: The Gathering by allowing you to further warp your deck around the specifics of your chosen commander. You may be sacrificing some consistency and some “pure” power by building only around commons (you won’t be finding much in the way of fast mana or tutors here), but there are still combos aplenty and some Timmy-sized beaters to be found.

Ghostly FlickerArchaeomancerPeregrine Drake

Ulamog's CrusherMyr EnforcerSeeker of the WayGurmag AnglerLightning ShriekerExperiment One

Ever-Evolving Meta

Finally, one of the best things about any common-focused format is the rate at which things change and even more strong cards are printed. Purely by the numbers, more common cards are introduced into the game than any other rarity, which means there are many more opportunities for great cards to enter the format or to see interesting down-shifts in rarity. Take Mortician Beetle as a killer example- that was a rare when it was originally released! Pauper Commander in particular evolves even more set by set, as uncommon legendaries have been an increased focus of recent design. This means we regularly see interesting new build-arounds!

Cormela, Glamour Thief (Showcase Golden Age)Lagrella, the Magpie (Showcase Golden Age)Mr. Orfeo, the Boulder (Showcase Golden Age)Queza, Augur of Agonies (Showcase Golden Age)Rocco, Cabaretti Caterer (Showcase Golden Age)


13 thoughts on “Introducing Pauper Commander”

  1. I think this is exactly what I need to get back into Commander. I’ve been losing intrest with the sheer glut of product that’s been coming out for it and as the amount of content for it just grows, it just seems to exacerbate the problems I see in the format.
    But this seems like a brrath of fresh air. Several Commanders I play now are uncommon such as Araumi, Ich-Tekik/Armix, and Firja; so changing them over will be a fun challenge and good starting point.
    Thanks for this!

    1. Hey Carson, glad I can help you keep interest in the best format around. No better way to beat product fatigue than to pick out the best budget options in the flood.

  2. My playgroup has been playing Pauper Commander since the original Commander Legends came out, it is by far my favorite format to play. We do things a bit differently than the prescribed version floating around the internet (any uncommon creature, different life total/commander damage, separate ban list). Like you, we allow only legendary uncommon creatures. At the time of Commander Legends you had about 600 options to choose from (including partner combinations) and its been supported every since (Kaldheim, Strixhaven, and Capenna all brought great new additions). In a pre-commander legends era it makes sense to have any uncommon creature as a commander – there just wasn’t much to choose from. Now that there is I think we can close the door on allowing any uncommon. We also use 40/21 life/commander damage, and adopt the same ban list as regular commander ie. if its common and on the regular commander ban list (conspiracy cards, etc.). We’ve adopted this ‘simplified version’ of Pauper Commander for reasons just like you said – you can port your Pauper Commander deck into lower-powered regular Commander pods! End of the day it is still commander and I haven’t heard any compelling reasons to change a good thing in this way.

    But why I specifically like pauper commander; 1) Budget: I have decks ranging from $30-$180 and that’s awesome. We originally got into Pauper Commander to have something that is accessible to everyone. But why not play budget commander? Well prices change (a lot!), so your $100 deck might not be $100 next month, we wanted a firmer restriction so you don’t have to constantly keep tuning your deck to meet a budget (and de-optimizing it in the process); 2) Play patterns: we wanted a format with a lot of interaction where little decisions matter (like Limited!) With new cards constantly being printed, Commander feels like its being squeezed by the weight of the card pool where good stuff and big splashy things matter most in mid-high powered pods.; 3) Restriction breeds creativity: there’s not much pEDH content out there at the moment but its growing. Its a space that is generally unsolved which gives you lots of room to stretch your creative muscles. There’s something attractive about trying to see just how powerful a deck you can build using only a bunch of commons. I’ve always preferred building decks that are greater than the sum of there parts.

    Anyways, thanks for writing this article! I hope it brings more attention to my favorite format!

    1. Lots of solid info here, the flexibility of the format is a big draw. Unsurprisingly I also want to bring more eyes on the format, so you’ll be seeing plenty more on it from me soon!

  3. Hey there folks, I’m Ryan and I go by PapaPauper on Discord.

    I’m super glad to see some light being shed on this AMAZING format – its growing by leaps and bounds both in in it’s player base, exposure and power level of cards at common that continue to enrich the already vast card pool available to us. The last few sets have offered a broad array of very playable new cards and powerful downshifts that keep the casual and competitive Pauper Commander metas incredibly dynamic and interesting. I’ve been intensely interested in PDH for two years now, to the degree that this week (6/22) I’m hosting my 2nd 6-week cPDH League in my local area. I also help manage and curate the community-driven cPDH Deck Database listed below alongside my four colleagues.

    If you’re looking to get involved and engaged in Pauper Commander I have some great community recommendations and some excellent resources for deckbuilding and assessing the breadth of what is available at common.

    Pauper Commander (PDH) – https://www.pdhhomebase.com/rules
    Pauper Duel [1v1] Commander (PDC) – https://www.pdhhomebase.com/post/announcing-the-pauper-duel-commander-rules-committee

    The largest online PDH community operates out of the PDH Homebase – https://discord.gg/6W7e9hZw9Q
    There’s also a significant online cPDH community at The Tryhards – https://discord.gg/tpdxukvKyA

    cPDH Deck Database – https://budgetbrews.club/deck-lists/#pauper
    cPDH Tierlist – https://deckstats.net/decks/109502/2093238–cpdh-tier-list
    PapaPauper on Moxfield – https://www.moxfield.com/users/PapaPauper

    Feel free to find me in either server if you have any questions, I look forward to getting some games in with you on Discord.

  4. This is awesome! By only focusing on uncommon legendaries though, you miss out on what really makes the format special to begin with. A focus on uncommon creatures give you over 4,000 available commanders – versus only the 214 legendary uncommon creatures.

    1. Hey there Clay! I definitely love the classic pEDH format and thoroughly recommend people give it a try. My Gray Merchant of Asphodel deck is a good time (for me, maybe less so for the rest of the table), though I think keeping your deck legal in “normal” Commander is a huge advantage for pick up games, sparking interest, or having the ability to “upgrade” it into a standard Commander deck later.

  5. If anyone is interested in what games of pauper commander (lovingly called PDH) look like, then check out the PDH Pals on Twitch!

    We stream 4-player PDH games every Tuesday and Thursday at 7pm EST and we also stream set reviews. We like showcasing decks we’ve built along with highlighting potential new commanders in upcoming sets while discussing new commons the may muscle their way into the format. It’s a lot of fun!


  6. I’ve been following the PDH Pals for years, it is amazing that the format is getting some more traction. With the all of the uncommon legendary creatures available it was only a matter of time before it caught on! Anyone who read this article or just glossed it should really check out the PDHpals stream on twitch it is an absolute blast!

  7. As of today I believe there are >1000 legendary uncommon commanders to choose from if you include all the partner and background combinations. Lots to explore!

  8. My playgroup has always focused on just the legendary creatures that come up as common or uncommon. With 30 partners and 20 legendary creatures that can partner with Backgrounds and the Backgrounds themselves, you get 234 legendary creatures, partners get you another 435 permutations, and Backgrounds gain you another X permutations (that I don’t have the formula handy for). I don’t see the reason you’d really need to include non-legendary commanders to have a fairly deep format. You’d certainly need non-legendary commanders to provide more combo options though.

  9. I would love to see a Pauper EDH tab in the commander room of MTGO. Pauper is my main focus in regard to Magic the Gathering Formats. I just wish I had more time and people to play cards with. It’s not a huge format in my area. I have been trying to years and years. It might get a few nights of organized play but then it trickles off. Constructed Pauper is my number one with PDH coming in second. I do play “regular” EDH and some modern, but will always prefer budget formats over really expensive ones. We should really try to put some kind of cPDH deck list report together. Get a spot on Top* or MTG Goldfish. I’d love to see tournament results for pEDH decks.

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