Magic is one of our favourite card games, and Commander is our favourite format for casual multiplayer fun, but choosing a new commander to build can be tough. There are 1,946 commanders currently legal in the format at the time of writing, with more being released almost monthly, so in this article, we’re going to take a look at some methods you can use to find the right commander for you by using some useful Scryfall search functions.
1. Finding All Commanders by Type
The first thing that’s important for our searching is narrowing the list down to commanders. The best and easiest way to do this is to add this to the front of all our searches on Scryfall:
This will return every single commander currently legal in the format, including weird commanders such as backgrounds! To filter this just to creatures, we add a creature filter:
By adding the creature type, we filter all our results to creatures we can use as our commander. If we wanted to find backgrounds later because our chosen commander has “choose a background”, we can simply swap “t:creature” to “t:background”.
You can also use this to search for any card types, for example if you wanted to search for artifact commanders who are also humans (it’s surprising how many there actually are):
This is an important thing to remember about Scryfall searches – all additional properties you add are considered “AND” searches unless you tell Scryfall otherwise. This means to add more conditions to filter down, you simply put another query on the end of your search!
2. Filtering by Colour Identity
One of the most important aspects of your commander is which colours it supports. The basic syntax for this is to use “id”. For example to search for all commanders with the Red, White, or Blue colour identity, we can use:
This will return all cards that have these colours in their identity. Notice how blue is always “U” – this is because “B” is already taken by Black. Identity isn’t just the pips in the mana cost, it’s also the colours in their rules text box, which all contribute to the commander’s identity. Notice that this search is looking for any cards with these three colours. If we want to only find cards with all three, we simply swap to an equals sign instead:
This instead returns all commanders with those colours as their exact identity, instead of cards with any of those colours. These identity search tools will give you a great way to find cards for your deck later as well (simply remove that “is:commander” search to find all cards that are legal in those colours!), so give them a go and see how they work.
Notably, if you’re a more experienced player, you can also use colour names, for example:
This will return the same results as the above, as Jeskai is the commonly accepted name for decks in those colours. This only makes sense if these names come more naturally to mind than the colours themselves, however, so don’t worry if those names mean nothing to you!
3. Searching for Mechanics and Keywords
Another way to search is by searching the card’s rules text, commonly known as the Oracle text, as Oracle is the official place where the current version of a card’s rules is kept (it just has an awful, awful search engine, so we use Scryfall instead). To do this, we use the “O” search syntax. Let’s search for a commander who cares about noncombat damage, for example:
This can be extremely useful if you’d like to do something super specific with your deck, but bear in mind that you should try variations on your theme. For an example of this, the search above shows 5 commanders, but they’re far from the only options for a noncombat damage (commonly known as burn, my favourite deck archetype) theme. For example, you might also want to try a search like this one:
This is as much art as science, so try variations on your searches to see what you can find until a Commander speaks to you and excites you. These searches can be stacked together as much as you like, so for example an interesting more complex search could be something like:
The more specifically you know what you want, the easiest it is to find, but you might need to refine down the number of words you use to ensure you don’t accidentally use a slightly different syntax to the words on the card. If we don’t know exactly what we need however, that’s where we can use “OR” searches.
4. Using “OR”
OR is a simple piece of logic that we can use to dramatically increase the complexity and breadth of our searches when we’re not quite sure what we need or have a few things that could work. For example, let’s take that longer search above where we’re essentially looking for a commander with Blue in its identity that cares about flying, combat damage, and drawing cards. Let’s instead amend that, remove the identity restriction, and look for more than just flying:
This is a beefy search, but you can see encapsulated within the brackets is an OR condition. We’re essentially saying to find us:
- A Commander – is:commander
- That is legal in the Commander format – legal:commander
- That has the rules text “flying”, “can’t be blocked”, or “menace” written on it – (o:”flying” OR o:”can’t be blocked” OR o:”menace”)
- That has the rules text “combat damage” written on it – o:“combat damage”
- That has the rules text “draw” written on it – o:“draw”
By surrounding our OR statement with brackets, we make it clear to the search exactly what the conditions are. This search effectively gives us a great pool to draw from for commanders who are evasive and care about punching people in the face, though obviously there are other forms of evasion that you could add to this search to be sure.
5. Finding Weird Hipster Commanders
If I said I didn’t sometimes pick commanders just to be weird and different, I’d be lying, and sometimes it’s nice to turn up at a table with something that nobody’s ever seen before. There are a few tricks you can use to find that weird commander.
The first, and easiest, way is to adjust your Scryfall search results by EDHrec rank in descending order:
In the example above, we’re looking for Green commanders who are used the least in decks indexed by EDHrec. As you can see, they’re… pretty bad and specific. This is why nobody uses them, at the end of the day. This is the price we pay for weird greatness. For the low cost of $42 (at the time of writing), you can be the owner of a Zuo Ci, The Mocking Sage deck, with only a whopping 19 decks indexed on EDHRec.
Let’s assume we’re probably not going to want to play that, and take a look at what happens when we add a price filter. This can actually be ideal when looking for weird commanders, as with the exception of some super old cards that have never been reprinted (like those ones up there), the more a card is played, the more expensive it gets. To add a price filter, we can use the following Syntax:
This works for USD prices on TCGPlayer, and you can also use EUR from Cardmarket, though honestly the idea is we’re looking for cards, not to buy them right now (you can buy your cards later once you’ve found it), so either works as a guideline:
Either of these searches give us all commanders that cost less than 2 of their respective currencies. We simply continue to refine our search, and sort it once again by descending EDHrec rank, and we’ll find our weird hipster commander. By doing this, odds are you may never see another player rocking your deck, and if you do, you’ll probably become best friends.
There are a million ways to search Scryfall, and we’ve barely scratched the surface. For full details on what you can do, check out the Scryfall Syntax guide. If all this is too much for you, you can also use their Advanced Search UI, but bear in mind that it’s less flexible than building your own queries!
This is a lot to play with, so we’ll wrap this up for now, but if you find a cool commander you want to build, or you’ve got some Scryfall tech you want to share, then leave a comment down below to share it with the rest of us!