Introduction & Local Play GroupsTable of Contents
Introduction & Local Play GroupsDuel Commander Ban List & RulesTips for DeckbuildingThread Changelog
Welcome, everyone, to the Duel Commander Primer on MTG Salvation! In a nutshell, Duel Commander—formerly known as "French" from where it was popularized—is a variant format of Commander specially designed for 1v1 competitive play. The fundamental differences are as follows (many more details below):
Duel Commander uses 20 life instead of 40The Duel Commander banlist is balanced for 1v1 play instead of for multiplayer
With players all around the world and regularly occurring tournaments, the diverse metagame has been host to multiple dozens of viable decks, still retaining a welcoming element to Commander players with stylish pet builds while also holding appeal to Legacy and Modern players who enjoy fine-tuning to an ever-shifting metagame. MTGTop8 shows us results from recent Duel Commander tournaments as well as aggregating data on the most commonly played cards, and you can see for yourself how much diversity and competitiveness exists in Duel Commander, which sustains nearly every kind of Magic build under the sun. With each newly released Commander, the metagame can and does shift dramatically, keeping the format fresh and exciting.
Regional Duel Commander Facebook Groups
Duel Commander Italy Facebook GroupDuel Commander BR Facebook GroupMTG Duel Commander - USASouth Texas Duel Commander Players Facebook GroupMTG DUEL COMMANDER PHILIPPINESToledo Duel CommanderAdditional Regional Duel Commander Groups
Duel Commander Ban List & Rules
Ban ListMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
The following cards are banned in Duel Commander:1 Ancestral Recall1 Back to Basics1 Black Lotus1 Channel1 Chaos Orb1 Chrome Mox1 Dig Through Time1 Eidolon of the Great Revel1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn1 Entomb1 Falling Star1 Fastbond1 Food Chain1 Fireblast1 Gaea's Cradle1 Gifts Ungiven1 Grim Monolith1 Hermit Druid1 Humility1 Imperial Seal1 Karakas1 Library of Alexandria1 Loyal Retainers1 Mana Crypt1 Mana Drain1 Mana Vault1 Mishra’s Workshop1 Mox Diamond1 Mox Emerald1 Mox Jet1 Mox Pearl1 Mox Ruby1 Mox Sapphire1 Mystical Tutor1 Natural Order1 Necrotic Ooze1 Oath of Druids1 Polymorph1 Price of Progress1 Protean Hulk1 Sensei’s Divning Top1 Shahrazad1 Sol Ring1 Strip Mine1 Sulfuric Vortex1 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale1 Time Vault1 Time Walk1 Tinker1 Tolarian Academy1 Treasure Cruise1 Vampiric TutorAnte Cards are also banned in Duel Commander:1 Amulet of Quoz1 Bronze Tablet1 Contract from Below1 Darkpact1 Demonic Attorney1 Jeweled Bird1 Rebirth1 Tempest Efreet1 Timmerian FiendsThe following cards are also banned from being played as a commander:1 Breya, Etherium Shaper1 Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder1 Derevi, Empyrial Tactician1 Edgar Markov1 Edric, Spymaster of Trest1 Erayo, Soratami Ascendant1 Geist of Saint Traft1 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy1 Marath, Will of the Wild1 Oloro, Ageless Ascetic1 Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary1 Tasigur, the Golden Fang1 Vial Smasher the Fierce1 Zur the Enchanter
Go here for explanations about the most recent Ban List changes: http://duelcommander.com/last-banlist-changes/
Official Rules (Copied From the Official Website Rules Page)
Duel Commander follows the exact same rules as classic multiplayer Commander, except for the following.
First, players start the game with 30 life (Note: on November 11th, the starting life total officially changes to 20.)
Second, in addition to the ability to put the Commander back into the Command Zone if it would go to the graveyard or be exiled, you may do so also if it would be put into your library.
Third, new cards are legal on release day (Friday following the pre-release).
Finally, there is a specific banlist.
Matches are best-of-three.Since games can take more time than smaller formats, we recommend a time limit of at least 55 minutes.No sideboards are used.
Apart from the points mentioned above, all the rules of Duel Commander obey the rules of classic multiplayer Commander. This includes poison counters rule (10 counters needed to kill a player).
Why specific rules for Duel Commander ?
When you play a game with more than two players, social interactions, diplomacy and negotiations usually prevent a player from taking a huge advantage at the start of the game. Indeed, if a players becomes the main threat at the table, it is likely that he will become the top priority target for other players. Such a player should have to face several opponents at the same time, which brings balance in the game. Multiplayer games tend to be balanced by diplomacy.
When only two players are facing each other, this cannot be done. If a player takes a great advantage early in the game (example : turn one Island, Lotus Petal, Mana Crypt, Jace the Mind Sculptor), his opponent won’t be able to get back in the game. That is why we banned certain cards which lead to extraordinary early game advantages from which an opponent cannot recover (Mana Crypt, Sol Ring…). Some cards are banned as commanders for this purpose : those cards can still be played in your deck, but can’t be chosen as a commander. We also removed certain cards which can easily lead to degenerated combos, such as Hermit Druid.
Sometimes a tournament is organized for Duel Commander. Such events need to put a time limit in rounds, generally 55 or 60 minutes per round. Considering the time restrictions, we banned Sensei's Divining Top and Shahrazad, because they tend to make games last considerably longer, leading to numerous unfinished games at the end of the round.
You can find more complete explanations in the Duel Commander Rules Summary.
Reasoning behind the banlist can be found in this article.
Tips for Deckbuilding
First, I should mention that traditional 4-player decks adhering to the default ban list will almost definitely perform poorly in Duel Commander for the following reasons:
1. Your deck's curve may be way too high for a faster format with 20 life
2. You may have engines in place that take multiple cards and turns to set up but won't have enough time in this variant
3. You may be running too many broad, slow answers and little to no pinpoint removal
4. Your general might be a big dud in Duel Commander, which usually has to do with the converted mana cost
That said, I don't want to discourage you if your favorite commander has a long way to go before the curve is lowered and there are more efficient answers and overall "better stuff" in the deck. I personally got my start in this format as a very casual Captain Sisay player, delighting in games taking hours so that I could assemble my Legendary Khaldra avatar and try to produce infinite Overruns with Kamahl, Fist of Krosa. Despite being your fairly average Selesnya casual Commander player, I was stuck on my general for budgetary reasons and decided to learn the Duel Commander meta to tailor my general for maximum duel efficiency. Sisay became a success.
Although not all commander can make the jump and be tournament-ready all-stars, there's a good chance that your commander can be disruptive if you're building for the meta and parting ways with [presumably (overcosted)] pet cards. Even the ramp-centric combo decks in this variant are saving room for several cards that attack the meta and shore up weaknesses, and what weaknesses you need shoring up will be determined mainly by your colors but also by the cost of your general, the number of desired creatures you want to play, the amount of redundancies you want to include, and other factors.
Even though there are always exceptions, it's worth your while to compare this format in some ways to Legacy (indeed, the ban list more closely reflects Legacy) and to include certain "Hate" cards in your maindeck (there's no sideboard) that can deal with otherwise difficult-to-interact-with builds. This primarily means making allowances for graveyard hate (Scavenging Ooze), tutor-heavy builds (Aven Mindcensor), weenie swarm (Pyroclasm), and draw-go (anything that can't be countered or has protections from blue/black or hexproof). Unless your deck is very "all-in" you'll almost certainly want to have at least one card that addresses archetypes that can quickly build an overwhelming advantage.
Now, this doesn't always mean having cards that cantrip, but it's generally advised to favor hate cards that can replace themselves, depending on the CMC. Generally, the best way to build a deck in this format is to have as few dead draws as possible. Yes, that is a pretty impossible goal, but getting as close to that goal as possible will provide amazing results. You should almost never be drawing cards that can't in some way apply to the matchup or that require 12 other cards (or turns) to make them excel.
Again, generally speaking, this is a very "good-stuff" heavy variant, as the good-stuff from Legacy tends to do excellently here, too. Some of the challenge is finding redundant cards that fill your needs (for instance, running Sylvan Safekeeper as well as Mother of Runes or running Rhystic Tutor as well as Demonic Tutor) to keep your gameplan consistent. That's just one approach, but often you'll find deckbuilders who are filling their decks with the best things and there's quite a bit more variety in their builds. It depends on your goals which approach you'll want to take.
Lowering your curve is all well and good, but more important than anything is to make sure you're running an optimal mana base. There are no hard and fast rules on the correct or optimal amount of lands (some run as few as 32 lands while others run 42 or more with either running as many as 10 mana dorks or ramp cards); you really just need to test heavily and see what works best for you, but I prefer having a liberal amount of land searching effects and fixers myself. I would advise playing all of the best fetch lands and the best dual lands with the fewest drawbacks, running some land destruction cards, and just making sure you're running enough lands/fixers so that your losses aren't attributed to mana screw more than 5% of the time. That may sound very difficult--and it is!--but making sure your mana base is near-perfect will put you ahead of 9 out of 10 other decks out there, no matter what commander they're playing. Most new deckbuilders struggle with suboptimal mana bases.
When building around a commander, it's generally unwise to put in more than 12 cards maximum that specfically compliment the commander, but it depends. Even hexproof commanders or those with built-in protections need backup plans, and the more commander-centric cards that clutter your hand while your commander is sitting in the command zone, the more games you will lose. Even a Sisay toolbox doesn't want too many Legends, and Iname is only playing the best handful of Spirits. Likewise, a Voltron general is still only going to want the best few equipments with plenty of other threats and answers.
Generally, the amount of removal (mass, spot, and counterspells) you run is proportionate to the casting cost of your commander. As an example, Gaka's Damia deck (a 7cmc general) is almost entirely removal. Abnormality's Thraximundar deck plays out similarly. Dragon commanders also fall under this banner. The "later game" your commander is, the more you have to be prepared to stop faster decks, which means scaling up the amount of disruption you run.
If you're noticing an "it depends" theme here, that's because there are a wide range of viable decks out there. Generally, they curve low. Generally, you can get away with a few "pet cards" or those with high CMCs and awesome effects. But you'll find way more valuable tips and advice through watching matches and reading Primer threads than you'll find in a generic tip section. I'd recommend looking on Salvation for a pre-existing thread on your commander and joining in on the discussion. If one doesn't yet exist, create one!
Changed the title/branding away from the old "French 1v1" branding.Added clarification to the Legend/same-commander rule in the Special Rules section.
Completely overhauled the thread from the ground up
Clarified the special rule about the replacement effect for generals (thanks, fzian!).
Changed the "Tournament Results" section to "Metagame Breakdown" section, linking to the MB site.Changed the "Competitive Decks" section to "Sample Decks" to further avoid politics. =)
Dramatically edited down the amount of content and sections, but adding links to regional Commander groups on Facebook.
Quote from LemonbusterNice thread! I've been waiting for something like this. Thanks for putting it together.
One nitpick though; Tiers are based on popularity iirc, not power, so putting Sisay under A Tier seems a little biased I only remember seeing her top 8 once in all those French Tournament results, unless these are based on a 'Trice meta as I don't play there. Also, has Evergreen's Iname list started seeing a lot of play online from anyone other than him? I've goldfished the deck a bit. Quite nasty.
Quote from MagicrorRiley, thank you very much for doing this.
It looks quite tight already.
I think one thing the old Compendium had that was nice for deckbuilder's was an extended list of sample decklists of the top tier decks. Hopefully we can have some of these up after a bit. But awesome so far!
Quote from frozen_braskaminWhat's "S Tier", never heard of that before. I guess it's super or something based on the fact that's it's placed above everything else but it could use clarifying. Could you point me to a good flying men 1vs1 Edric list?
Tantarus: It didn't make the gaka greifer level, so it should be fine
Quote from GakaThe best of the best. I wouldn't consider Edric to be in a class by itself, but it sure can be close. Edric is incredibly annoying.
Quote from BewareI definitely have to disagree with the notion that Edric is S tier (especially that both versions are). Not only that, but for them to be the ONLY S tier commanders is certainly false. Doran is absolutely A tier. Sisay is definitely not. Zur hasn't been A tier in years. Since when is Lyzolda relevant? You didn't even mention Merieke. Is Ruhan actually making waves (I ask because that would be my deck)?
I also feel creating a "Dev Competitive" section is not at all conducive to what this thread tries to accomplish. There are always dozens of "Developing Competitive" lists floating around. Trying to track them is not helpful to anybody new to the format and most veterans are already paying attention to that sort of thing.
Your general tips section is actually a little misleading. If we run with the assumption that people trying to get into this format have a deep enough understanding to not run sweepers in decks like Edric and Ezuri, then we must also run with the assumption that they know everything else you have written there. There are many, many decks that do not ever want sweepers and this should be mentioned. Your tips also push tempo decks a little hard, in my opinion. They make up a significant amount of the format, but your mini-guide pushes people to build these kinds of decks instead of build to beat them.
Quote from Maurice_ChocoSuisseIMHO, the Tier list is interesting, but it should stay objective and be based on facts (tournament reports).
High performance and high popularity should both be taken in account.
Here is my proposition :
1 point for each attendance
3 additional points for each top 8 list
3 additional points for the winner
Here's an example : last French Commander National (64 players)
6 Edric, maitre espion de trest
2 Grand arbitre Augustin IV
5 Doran, la tour de siège
1 Rhys l'affranchi
2 Ezuri, chef renégat
5 Wydwen, the Biting Gale
4 Jenara, Asura de guerre
6 Zur l'enchanteur
3 Geist de saint Traft
2 Animar, âme des éléments
2 Scion de l'Ur-Dragon
1 Radha, héritière de Keld
1 Karadar, ghost chieftain
2 Clique Vendilion
1 Oliria Voldaren
5 Rafiq of the many
3 Kaalia de l'immensité
2 Isamaru, chien de Konda
1 Dralnu, seigneur liche
1 Cranebruyère, la tombe ambulante
1 Sygg, surineur de rivière
1 The Mimeoplasm
1 Nin, l'artiste en souffrance
1 Teysa, Orzhov Scion
1 Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund
1 Captain Sissay
1 Iname, aspect de la mort
2 Jenara, Asura de guerre
1 Edric, maitre espion de trest
1 Wydwen, the Biting Gale
1 Doran, la tour de siège
1 Ezuri, chef renégat
1 Grand arbitre Augustin IV
1 Edric, maitre espion de trest
And here is what we get with this system :
Edric : 12
Jenara : 10
Doran, Wydwen : 8
Zur : 6
Ezuri, GAAIV, Rafiq : 5
Rhys : 4
Kaalia, Gheist : 3
Clique, Isamaru, Scion, Animar : 2
Iname, Skythirix, Sissay, Karrthus, Teysa, Nin, Mimeoplasm, bad Sygg, Olivia, Radha, Karador, Dralnu, Skullbriar : 1
Another solution would be to reward high performance but not high popularity :
1 point for each top 8 list
2 additional points for the winner
And here is what we get with this second system :
Edric : 3
Jenara : 2
Doran, Wydwen, Ezuri, GAAIV, Rhys : 1
By cumulating data from several tournaments, I'm sure we can get a good tier list...
In gaming, a tier list is a list that ranks each character in order of their potential to win under tournament conditions, based on analysis of the metagame. Tier lists are commonly made for competitive fighting games, as well as strategy games that involve a selection of usable characters, such as Pokémon. The metagame of each game in the Smash series encompasses all currently known techniques and strategies that have proven useful during tournament matches, thus, the tier list for each game ranks and measures the expected competitive performance of every character, based upon analysis of these techniques and strategies. The most widely accepted tier lists in the english speaking community are those produced by the Smash Back Room.
Individual matchups affect, but do not ultimately determine characters' tier list rankings. Often, a particular character will carry a supposed advantage over another character who ranks higher on the tier list — such a matchup is known as a counter. For example, suppose Pichu held an advantageous matchup against Fox but suffered from matchups poorer than Fox's against every other character in Melee. While it would be considered a counter to Fox, Pichu would still be ranked lower than Fox on the tier list. Thus, if two players at the top of the known metagame played a match with Fox and Pichu, the tier list alone could not predict the outcome of the match. Furthermore, tier lists do not rank characters relative to the numerical average of their matchup scores.
Quote from gmaGreat thread! Makes me want to convert people in my group to playing by the French Rules ;-)
Qne question, though: what does "S" mean in "S Tier"? Could somebody please explain?
Quote from BlackJack68 »But whomever your commander is, Cabal Coffers is really in charge.
Quote from Feaor30 starting life allows aggressive decks to actually exist and makes red a lot stronger because burn becomes a lot more meaningful. The jump for 30 to 40 life basically kills aggressive decks from being competitive because trying to deal 40 in a short period of time is really really hard.
Quote from ticker
Really though, I was more concerned about the reasons behind the special tuck rules. I find it hard to believe that theyre legitimate.
Quote from tickerDoes someone know the reason why there is a special rule regarding tuck effects? And the 30 life?
My theory: I believe there is a strong correlation between the types of commanders that are successful in French 1v1 and the fact that tucking is useless as an avenue of dealing with generals. In other words, decks that are heavily reliant on their generals (i.e., Edric + most of the "tier A generals") are in positions of unequal power in large part because of their easy access to key, low-cost commanders which simply cannot be interacted with in any meaningful way.
To a player who mainly plays with normal EDH rules, I see tuck effects as very necessary ways to interact with generals like Edric or Zur or Rafiq or any similar style of deck that over-relies on its access to a cheap commander. Usually these decks rely extremely heavily on their general and countermagic and do very little without their general, yet nevertheless attempt to prevent their opponents from, essentially, meaningfully playing the game. Removing the weakness of a particular deck style promotes homogeneity among the style of decks that players bring to the table and this is reflected in the displayed tournament results. Variety is highly valued in commander, as it is at its roots, a casual format wherein the deck-building/general picking process
is often just as interesting as the gameplay itself. In this way, I don't understand the appeal of artificially conforming a format's rules to favor a particular style of play.
The 30 starting life is also significant in that it further caters to these style of incremental advantage type of decks. Though it seems somewhat arbitrary, the reduction of the starting life total no doubt aids the cause of decks such as Edric.
Perhaps it is just my first response to this modification on the EDH format, but French 1v1 seems boringly unintuitive and uncreative. In a format that prides itself on its variety and high level of interactivity, modifying the rules to give special prowess to generals which are inherently un-interactive seems highly uninteresting and an unbalacing of an otherwise fairly balanced, fun format.
Maybe the French like seeing the same commanders all the time and their games homogenized, but everyone in my playgroup would rather have more interactive games. Just my 2 cents.
Burn is really not a meaningful strategy on its own above 20 life. Especially in multiplayer. Burn relies on multiple copies of the same spell like lightning bolt for a sturdy early advantage and cards like browbeat to keep the pressure up. While I would agree that red is highly under-rated in its ability to kill creatures regardless of type or color, its loses many of its main strengths, which are speed and efficient creatures. Instead, it is a pretty reliable removal color that has a lot of blow-out spells and the coveted ability to destroy problematic lands. Sure there are good burn spells, but most that are good in EDH are multipurpose, like comet storm or bogardan hellkite.
Quote from tickerThere are plenty of aggressive decks that are viable. Aggro-control translates perfectly well to EDH, as do other aggressive strategies (as the strength of decks like Isamaru or other voltron decks attests to). So i completely disagree there.
Quote from Candies
1. Having a commander be the theme or centerpiece of the deck adds a lot more variety to this format than the usual "pick some cards out of the top 50 cards of each color" that I usually see multiplayer edh decks quickly become.
2. Although you could argue that playing around a tuck effect on your general increases interactivity, it also effectively could basically end the game turn 2 - turn 3 if every person isn't playing only "good stuff from top 50 cards of each color" deck. From what I've seen, the french list emphasizes avoiding things that swing tempo advantage a ridiculous amount in the first 2 turns (Sol Ring, Mana Crypt, Mana Vault, Mana Drain, Strip Mine/Crucible).
3. Additionally, I find this french list to have many times the level of interactivity of multi-player lists. If you have actually observed the french deck lists and actual games being played you would see that every deck plays a variety of actual answers that actually affect the game state in meaningful ways toward an actual victory.
4. Rather than playing 50 Bomb, 13 mana accel, 36 land deck, the current french meta supports playing an actual game over waiting to draw/tutor for insurrection/exanguinate for infinite, genesis wave for infinite, overwhelming stampede, tooth and nail, etc.
5. Honestly, after playing countless multi-player games where everyone ends up doing absolutely nothing besides mana ramp and card draw until their game-winning bomb from their good-stuff-only general-only-for-colors decks, French EDH is a very refreshing format.
6. You should maybe see the format in action before judging it.
Quote from Sensei"s Divining Tech
Most importantly, French is a 1v1 format. It is a variant of a variant. Arguing about which 100 card singleton format is better is like arguing whether two hand touch or flag football is better. They are really supposed to tackle. We are really supposed to use 4 cards. In a casual format the point is to have fun. If your format was really as awesome as you say, you probably wouldn't be in our thread in our subforum telling us that our format sucks.
Quote from VirtusI just wanted to post my thoughts on the proposed ban list changes for March, and to see what others in the community think.
Banning Loyal Retainers over Survival of the Fittest:I seriously think that the French committee is trying to keep Survival around so that all the French Karador players can keep their toy. What are they thinking? Have we not learned anything from the Bitterblossom banning? We shouldn't just ban stuff that help out the problem,* we should ban the problem itself. Otherwise, we're just going to see Survival banned in the future just like Bitterblossom was. A bigger ban list doesn't make a better ban list.
Banning Umezawa's Jitte:The thought of having this card banned infuriates me. Jitte and Winter Orb are the two cornerstones of the French meta. Banning either one just seems wrong.
Banning Ancient Tomb:I can see why the French rules committee would like to see this go, but it shouldn't go before something like Demonic Tutor.
What do you guys think of these proposed bans?
*Banning the turn one tutors back in the day was a good idea, but that doesn't compare to Loyal Retainers being banned over Survival.