Who the Commander is gets a lot of attention. This makes sense in most cases, but what happens when your true commander, the card your deck is built around, is nestled somewhere in the 99? Meet the idea of the Hidden Commander. I will fully admit this isn’t my original idea, but it’s something I use regularly.
What Is It?
A great example can be found if you listen to The Command Zone. If you listen/watch regularly you’ve heard Josh talk about his 5-color Nekusar, the Mindrazer deck. It’s not a Cromat deck with a Nekusar in it, but is built around Nekusar. He went to full WUBRG to access effects outside the UBR color pie. I do something similar in Sedris, the Traitor King where I use a variety of cheat into play effects and lean more on Feldon of the Third Path than I do on Sedris. In my eyes, a Hidden Commander has some significant pros and cons.
The main pro is easy to see. The deck has access to colors it normally wouldn’t. The added flexibility can shore up the deck’s weaknesses or improve its strengths. The flexibility can also make your deck feel different from other similar decks. Build around Commanders can feel the same no matter which playgroup you see them in, but adding colors can differentiate your deck from the pack. Who doesn’t want their Commander deck to feel unique? Another pro is that it can hide what your plan is. If your opponents get a wrong signal they can utilize their resources in a way that can be beneficial to you. Sure winning isn’t incredibly important in casual, but the revelation moment can make for a good story.
There are two important disadvantages to the Hidden Commander idea. The first is that you don’t have regular access to it like you would a traditional Commander. Sure you can simply add tutors, or more tutors if you already run them. I don’t like many non-land tutors in my deck, if I run them at all. I want my games to feel varied. If you love tutors, cool. We can talk about that another time. The second disadvantage deals with the vague Spirit of EDH/Commander. The color identity rule is one of the foundations of the format. The restriction can be annoying, like when you want a hybrid card in your mono-colored deck, but the restriction breeds creativity. It can push deck building and card selection beyond the best N effects. By adding colors there’s a bending of this rule. There is another possible con. If your playgroup really runs with this idea, it can make decks feel homogeneous. I understand that the this sounds like it contradicts one of the pros above, but if everyone switches to 5-color it can lead to every deck playing the same 10+ cards, because they’re simply the best.
So what do you think? Do you think that the Hidden Commander idea is bending the rules? Is the power upgrade worth it? You can always find me on Twitter @KyleCCarson. Until next week, happy brewing.