Building a Commander deck based on your favorite Dungeons & Dragons class is something I’ve been thinking about since Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. Now we’re hitting Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate, so there are even more ways to match class with Commander and showcase that in the 99.
I won’t be outlining a specific deck; what I want to do is share some ideas and inspiration (pun intended) that can set you on the path to a deck that matches the character you’ve been playing for three years, or the barbarian that died in battle because your DM rolled hot and you’re still mad. Because you’re a barbarian.
In fact, lets start there. Barbarian.
Playing a barbarian in D&D is all about channeling your rage to do maximum damage, smashing through opponents with melee combat and fumbling through your charisma checks. So how do we represent that in cards? With the color red, naturally.
Red embodies the fiery passion and smashy bashy sensibilities of a barbarian. You can absolutely pair it with another color to capture your alignment or a subclass, but I would steer away from blue. Black or white can push your barbarian toward being lawful good, chaotic evil or wherever you fall on that chart. Green is a reasonable way to show strength, so not a bad subcolor, but red is definitely the main ingredient, so we’re going mono-red here.
So who leads the charge? For me, the best barbarian commanders are those legendary creatures who embody strength gained from anger. That should, for me, be through combat damage. Barbarians don’t do tricks, so I think this discounts say, Toralf, God of Fury, who might otherwise be a nice fit.
For me the most barbarian of mono-red legends is Kamahl, Pit Fighter. He comes out swinging with haste and can just smash a creature or your opponent with his tap ability. Pure rage in a card, even the art matches.
If Kamahl isn’t your thing, you can also look at Lovisa Coledeyes, who supports Barbarian tribal. There’s Moraug, Fury of Akoum, who just wants to deal combat damage as often as possible. Torbran, Thane of Red Fell is a great aggro general who deals additional damage and flavor-wise, if not in art, Kediss, Emberclaw Familiar is a very, very angry creature.
Supporting your specific choice of Commander is up to you. Kamahl is pretty wide open, but the others you can narrow things down a bit. Moraug definitely wants cards that grant additional combat steps like World at War or Combat Celebrant.
Lovisa can lead the small tribe of Barbarians with some Warriors filling out the ranks. Adding Coat of Arms or Door of Destinies lets you build the tribal synergy for massive combat steps. Unfortunately, the available Barbarians aren’t great, so you’ll have to rely on warriors a lot.
Torbran is pure damage dealing aggression, throw in a Furnace of Rath and Dictate of the Twin Gods and you’re absolutely destroying the table incredibly quickly. Kediss is more of a Voltron creature, I think, and suiting him up in lizard barbarian gear gets you a big, bad, angry lizard in a silly hat. So not quite barbarian, but he’s doing his best.
Ultimately, whatever commander leads your deck, you should have some cards that support the theme. Barbarian Class is the most obvious, with cards like Temur Battle Rage, Crown of Fury, Fit of Rage, Frenzied Rage, Haze of Rage and anything along those lines doing a lot to showcase the rage ability of the barbarian.
Your goal with a barbarian deck should be to do as much damage as possible as fast as possible. That’s how barbarians fight in D&D, and how they should fight in EDH. It’s not going to be subtle, and it’s probably not the most powerful approach, but if you believe in the power of rage, then you should give it a try!