Achievement Unlocked - Building a "Rule 0" Deck

(D00-DL, Caricaturist | Art by Ralph Horsley)

Rule D00-DL

Have you ever made a Commander bucket list? Welcome to Achievement Unlocked, where we take a look at the cool and unique things you can do in this format other than just winning.

Rules are designed to be broken. One of the best parts of Commander is being able to play the way you want rather than just what is "viable" in a format. Sometimes what you want to do might be a little outside the rules. Luckily, the Commander format accounts for this and sometimes you can bend the rules (with the permission of your playgroup, of course). Let's take a look at how it's done and see if we can build a "Rule 0" deck.

What is Rule Zero?

First things first: what is "Rule 0"? If you've spent any time in the Commander community, you may have seen this term get thrown around a lot. The Commander Rules Committee specifies Rule 0 on their site here:

Commander is designed to be a malleable format. We encourage groups to use the rules and the ban list as a baseline to optimize their own experience. This is not license for an individual to force their vision onto a play group, but encouragement for players to discuss their goals and how the rules might be adjusted to suit those goals.

Basically, we can bend the rules if our group is willing to let us. So how do we ask without hurting any feelings or taking away others' fun?

How to Do This Well?

The point of "Rule 0" is to increase fun, so it should never be done at the expense of fun. It's important that we have a discussion with our playgroup about what is and is not okay. Never assume your group is okay with you bending the rules. These conversations can be awkward, and nobody really knows what to say or how to describe the power level of their deck, whether it's on a 1-10 scale or a Lasagna tier deck. There is no "right" way to have this discussion, but there are a few steps we can take to have better experiences.

First, you are asking others to be flexible, so you should be willing to be flexible yourself. Maybe your friends don't want to play with a "Rule 0" deck, so consider having a backup deck or cards that you can swap out. Don't expect players to always let you bend the rules, but also communicate if you feel your playgroup never lets you try something outside the box. It may be worth finding an additional playgroup to experiment with your wacky decks. 

Second, some people like surprises, but usually not in their Commander games. If you're going to bend the rules, it is crucial that you communicate this beforehand. Let the other players know what you want to do and why you want to do it. It is important to have a good reason. Wanting to try something wacky, new, or breaking a rule for "flavor" are good reasons. Breaking the rules to build an optimized and powerful deck is usually not a good reason unless all players in your group are playing that way. A great example of a fun Rule 0 “flavorful” build would be a player who wants to play with two copies of Brothers Yamazaki. Not only is it thematically appropriate, but perhaps even more importantly, the rule you want to bend still puts your deck at a reasonable power level.

Third, Rule 0 is not an excuse to do something broken. If your playgroup wants to play that way, then by all means, go for it, but most groups will quickly turn their nose up if you try to convince them to let you play with Mana Crypt in the command zone. It is important to be reasonable with your requests.

I frequently discuss decks that I've built according to some sort of deckbuilding restriction. This helps breed creativity, but it can also serve to stifle power level. Power level transparency is already tough to quantify, but that part of the Rule 0 discussion is increasingly important when we're already asking our opponents to allow us to bend the rules. It is smart to air on the side of caution and play at a slightly lower power level, and one easy way to achieve this is by placing a deckbuilding restriction on yourself.

Choosing a Commander

I wanted to build with one of the new Unfinity commanders with abilities slightly too wacky to function normally within the format. D00-DL, Caricaturist caught my attention for a few reasons. First, there is a built-in drawback of being a colorless deck, immediately limiting the power level this deck can achieve. Second, this maximum power level is still rather low. Even if you could guarantee the fully keyword-ed token each time, the card could still reasonably be printed into the format. Third, this deck is the perfect excuse to show off one of my favorite MTG products: Infinitokens.

This Deck is a Work of Art

Colorless decks are a unique challenge, but we are not short on options for cards to play with. Let's start with the land slots. We have no color requirements, meaning we can throw in tons of utility lands. We want to focus on using cards that enter untapped but provide some additional upside. Rogue's Passage will help us push through damage, in particular with the token our commander creates. Our commander is on the expensive side, so it's helpful to throw in a Command Beacon in case the commander tax is too prohibitive.

We can also use these land slots to fill in some of the gaps in our game that come courtesy of playing a colorless deck. Card draw can be hard to come by, but Bonders' Enclave can do the trick, and Inventors' Fair and Urza's Saga can even tutor for specific cards. Finally, it may not come in untapped, but Field of the Dead is a must-have in any deck with this much land diversity.

That land-base is a solid start to our deck, but how do we intend on winning the game? Crucially, the token that our commander makes is NOT legendary. That means effects that can blink our commander or create copies are huge in this deck. Sword of Hearth and Home, Golden Argosy, and Conjurer's Closet can all repeatedly trigger our commander's enter-the-battlefield ability. If that's not enough, Helm of the Host and Blade of Selves can create additional copies when we go to combat.

Now that we have all these tokens, how will we close out the game?

These tokens have a myriad of keyword abilities, making them great options to send into combat, but we can make them even more deadly. Colorless gives us access to almost all of the best Equipment, including all of the "Sword of X and Y" cycle. Sword of Feast and Famine and Sword of Fire and Ice are old favorites, but the brand new Sword of Forge and Frontier will really stand out in this deck providing us with additional ramp and card draw. If you want to add more "Rule 0" fun, ask your playgroup if you can play with Sword of Dungeons & Dragons. It is powerful, but reasonable enough that it could likely be printed in a future set and become legal since dice-rolling is now a part of Commander.

Those are the only weapons in the armory. For one thing, this deck is the perfect excuse to run the Kaldra cycle: Sword of Kaldra, Shield of Kaldra, and Helm of Kaldra. These aren't exactly high power level, but they present an achievement to unlock all on their own.

Some of these Equipment have prohibitive equip costs, so it's important that we add in cards such as Hammer of Nazahn and Brass Squire to lighten the load. Additionally, artifact cost-reducers, such as Cloud Key and Foundry Inspector, take an additional burden off our mana costs.

Colorless decks are also not short on potential combos. I chose to avoid them to keep the power level of this deck at bay, but there is one combo that is both powerful and, more importantly, flavorful, that I almost included. For a deck built around an artistic commander and Sketch creatures, it was hard to not think of the Painter's Servant and Grindstone combo. Once banned, Painter's Servant is a massive flavor win in this deck. This two-card combo is hyper-efficient, and we can even find parts of it with our Inventors' Fair or Urza's Saga. If you do chose to add a combo to this deck, I can think of no better place to start.

In Conclusion

Building a Rule 0 deck is a great way to practice the social interaction part of your gameplay. When done well it can increase everyone's fun. As you may notice, the deck features very few cards that are not legal in the format. This can help make the Rule 0 conversation easier, and it's less of an ask of my opponents. In case I have to switch out my commander, I can always keep a Traxos, Scourge of Kroog sleeved in my deck box. This is a great alternative with the same color identity that works well with the Equipment in the deck.

Remember when building a Rule 0 deck to prioritize fun for everyone! This is a must-have on anyone's bucket list, and I encourage anyone interested to try a Rule 0 deck to risk the socially awkward conversation for the potential fun of playing a wacky deck!

Check out my full deck below!

A Work of Art

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Commander (11)
Artifacts (241)
Creatures (51)
Instants (10)
Sorceries (16)
Enchantments (11)
Lands (201)

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Ben is a Michigan native who fell in love with Magic just a few years ago in 2019. He loves making big splashy plays in Commander as well as crunching the number to optimize his decks. Outside of Magic, he works in marketing and loves a great cup of coffee to start each morning… maybe with a splash of hot chocolate for his sweet tooth.

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