Unburden - In Search of a True 100-Card Commander Deck

(Wall of Fortune | Art by Tom Babbey)

All That Glitters Isn't Gold

Commander is, in theory, a format with 100-card decks, one of which is a legendary creature designated as the commander. In practice, it is a format of 100 cards, plus dice for rolling or representing counters, coins for flipping, sleeves to protect your cards or obscure the back of double-faced cards, and tokens (either a wide variety and number of specific tokens, or a healthy supply of Infinitokens).

I was struck by the urge to build a deck that contained and used exactly 100 rectangular pieces of cardboard, with no additional game pieces or accoutrements. Such a deck might play a little faster, feel less fiddly, or be easier to transport, but mostly I just wanted to see how different things look in a world without accessories.

This being the "Magic Data Science" column, I of course went to the data!

First, I attempted to identify every card that required or implied the existence of a non-card game piece:

  • Any card referring to tokens: Treasure, Clue, Powerstone, Creature, copy, or otherwise
  • Any card referring to counters: +1/+1, -1/-1, loyalty, ability, shield, or any of the myriad hyper-specific counters
  • Any card referring to dice or coins
  • Any card requiring you to make a note or secretly choose
  • Any card referring to dungeons/venture, initiative, day/night, the monarch, etc
  • I also excluded any double-faced cards, in a maximalist effort to eliminate any need for supplies other than just cards
  • Finally, I excluded any Un/acorn cards and digital-only cards, because, obviously

All together, this comes to about 6,128 excluded cards. Out of the 25,000ish unique cards in existence, that's actually a smaller proportion than I would have guessed!

The next, most obvious step for me was to look at which commanders run the fewest accessory cards, and which run the most.


Least-Accessorized Commanders

Among commanders with a reasonable number of EDHREC decks to their name, these are the ones who run the lowest proportion of "accessory" cards, and the highest proportion of lone rectangle cards.

commander 1 rectangle accessory
6.8% accessories
Sol Ring
Command Tower
Arcane Signet
Sway of Illusion
Azorius Signet
Distorting Lens
Scuttlemutt
Shifting Sky
Orzhov Signet
Blind Seer
Arcane Sanctum
Dimir Signet
Tidal Visionary
Stormscape Familiar
Wash Out
Warped Devotion
Counterspell
Smothering Tithe
Propaganda
Ashiok, Nightmare Muse
Mystic Remora
Generous Gift
Hengegate Pathway
Stormfront Riders
Wandering Archaic
Swan Song
Venser, the Sojourner
Brightclimb Pathway
Clearwater Pathway
Call for Unity
Shadrix Silverquill
Soulherder
Midnight Clock
Dauthi Voidwalker
7.3% accessories
Rancor
Command Tower
Shield of the Oversoul
Ethereal Armor
Armadillo Cloak
Spirit Mantle
Sol Ring
Ancestral Mask
Unflinching Courage
Winds of Rath
Enchantress's Presence
Sythis, Harvest's Hand
Mesa Enchantress
All That Glitters
Bear Umbra
Satyr Enchanter
Sram, Senior Edificer
Setessan Champion
Beast Within
Sigil of the Empty Throne
Generous Gift
Mayael's Aria
Siona, Captain of the Pyleas
Starfield Mystic
Calix, Destiny's Hand
Branchloft Pathway
Smothering Tithe
Sticky Fingers
Hero of Iroas
Cragcrown Pathway
Needleverge Pathway
Archon of Sun's Grace
Mana Crypt
Rhythm of the Wild
7.4% accessories
Gemhide Sliver
Command Tower
Manaweft Sliver
Sliver Hivelord
Cloudshredder Sliver
Harmonic Sliver
Crystalline Sliver
Sliver Legion
Quick Sliver
Sol Ring
The First Sliver
Necrotic Sliver
Heart Sliver
Sentinel Sliver
Shifting Sliver
Galerider Sliver
Bonescythe Sliver
Sliver Hive
Brood Sliver
Sliver Queen
Virulent Sliver
Door of Destinies
Tempered Sliver
Fungus Sliver
Smothering Tithe
Biomancer's Familiar
Mana Crypt
Swan Song
Hive Stirrings
Mystic Remora
Beast Within
Rhythm of the Wild
Frenetic Sliver
Maskwood Nexus
7.7% accessories
Blue Elemental Blast
Douse
Hydroblast
Sway of Illusion
Flash Flood
Sol Ring
Willbreaker
Hibernation
Wash Out
Llawan, Cephalid Empress
Distorting Lens
Dismiss into Dream
Shifting Sky
Scuttlemutt
Well-Laid Plans
Tidal Visionary
Heartstone
Master of Waves
Mind Harness
Midnight Clock
Pongify
Mystic Remora
Guile
Propaganda
Rapid Hybridization
Curse of the Swine
Talrand, Sky Summoner
Sword of Body and Mind
Swan Song
Sword of Truth and Justice
Sea Gate Restoration
Baral, Chief of Compliance
Mana Crypt
Narset, Parter of Veils
7.8% accessories
Sol Ring
Telepathy
Glasses of Urza
Seer's Vision
Megrim
Command Tower
Arcane Signet
Dimir Signet
Geth's Grimoire
Counterspell
Zur's Weirding
Gitaxian Probe
Peek
Syphon Mind
Sunken Hollow
Recoil
Perplex
Waste Not
Tergrid, God of Fright
Narset, Parter of Veils
Propaganda
Tourach, Dread Cantor
Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage
The Haunt of Hightower
Quest for the Nihil Stone
Mystic Remora
Bloodchief Ascension
Ashiok, Dream Render
Clearwater Pathway
Dauthi Voidwalker
Swan Song
Banshee of the Dread Choir
Bone Miser
Mana Crypt
8.0% accessories
Command Tower
Gemhide Sliver
Cloudshredder Sliver
Manaweft Sliver
Harmonic Sliver
Sol Ring
Sliver Hivelord
Sentinel Sliver
Quick Sliver
Exotic Orchard
Crystalline Sliver
Sliver Legion
Venom Sliver
Arcane Signet
Striking Sliver
Heart Sliver
Bonescythe Sliver
Sliver Hive
Virulent Sliver
Brood Sliver
Tempered Sliver
Sliver Queen
Profane Tutor
Door of Destinies
Fungus Sliver
Mana Crypt
Rhythm of the Wild
Ancestral Vision
Mystic Remora
Forbidden Orchard
Swan Song
Smothering Tithe
Beast Within
Vivid Grove
8.2% accessories
Gemhide Sliver
Harmonic Sliver
Cloudshredder Sliver
Command Tower
Sinew Sliver
Two-Headed Sliver
Manaweft Sliver
Sol Ring
Necrotic Sliver
Homing Sliver
Arcane Signet
Quick Sliver
Sentinel Sliver
Fury Sliver
Sliver Hivelord
Winged Sliver
Predatory Sliver
Virulent Sliver
Sliver Hive
Fungus Sliver
Brood Sliver
Tempered Sliver
Sliver Queen
Enduring Sliver
Hive Stirrings
Maskwood Nexus
Door of Destinies
Sliversmith
Beast Within
Rhythm of the Wild
Search for Tomorrow
Coalition Relic
Vampiric Sliver
Smothering Tithe
8.2% accessories
Gemhide Sliver
Command Tower
Manaweft Sliver
Harmonic Sliver
Cloudshredder Sliver
Sentinel Sliver
Predatory Sliver
Sol Ring
Venom Sliver
Quick Sliver
Crystalline Sliver
Arcane Signet
Bonescythe Sliver
Sinew Sliver
Megantic Sliver
Two-Headed Sliver
Spiteful Sliver
Virulent Sliver
Sliver Hive
Brood Sliver
Fungus Sliver
Tempered Sliver
Hive Stirrings
Sliver Queen
Door of Destinies
Beast Within
Rhythm of the Wild
Smothering Tithe
Vampiric Sliver
Enduring Sliver
Maskwood Nexus
Skyclave Relic
Frenetic Sliver
Vivid Grove
8.4% accessories
Sol Ring
Sage's Reverie
Battle Mastery
Command Tower
Ethereal Armor
Steel of the Godhead
All That Glitters
Eldrazi Conscription
Azorius Signet
Open the Armory
Arcane Signet
Auramancer's Guise
Sovereigns of Lost Alara
Winds of Rath
Heliod's Pilgrim
Prairie Stream
Righteous Authority
Corrupted Conscience
Archon of Sun's Grace
Ajani's Chosen
Smothering Tithe
Hengegate Pathway
Propaganda
Starfield Mystic
Sigil of the Empty Throne
Hero of Iroas
Generous Gift
Swan Song
Mystic Remora
Mana Crypt
Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr
Keeper of the Accord
Invocation of Saint Traft
Ordeal of Thassa
8.5% accessories
Command Tower
Finest Hour
Sol Ring
Qasali Pridemage
Noble Hierarch
Sublime Archangel
Swords to Plowshares
Cathedral of War
Sovereigns of Lost Alara
Arcane Signet
Steel of the Godhead
Swiftfoot Boots
Seaside Citadel
Shield of the Oversoul
Giltspire Avenger
Rogue's Passage
Hallowed Fountain
Beast Within
Generous Gift
Blighted Agent
Smothering Tithe
Swan Song
Shalai, Voice of Plenty
Grunn, the Lonely King
Branchloft Pathway
Barkchannel Pathway
Umezawa's Jitte
Tamiyo, Field Researcher
Hengegate Pathway
Mystic Remora
Elspeth, Knight-Errant
Winged Boots
Mana Crypt
Lion Sash
9.0% accessories
Overgrown Battlement
Wall of Denial
Axebane Guardian
Wall of Blossoms
Command Tower
Stalwart Shield-Bearers
High Alert
Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive
Wall of Omens
Sunscape Familiar
Sol Ring
Assault Formation
Slaughter the Strong
Tower Defense
Dusk // Dawn
Crashing Drawbridge
Hover Barrier
Shield Sphere
Wall of Roots
Beast Within
Teyo, the Shieldmage
Towering Titan
Wall of Shards
Huatli, the Sun's Heart
Generous Gift
The Birth of Meletis
Barkchannel Pathway
Colossus of Akros
Hengegate Pathway
Branchloft Pathway
Wall of Kelp
Rigo, Streetwise Mentor
Unbreakable Formation
Hornet Nest
9.0% accessories
Sol Ring
Command Tower
Arcane Signet
Freed from the Real
Vizier of Tumbling Sands
Thousand-Year Elixir
Swiftfoot Boots
Counterspell
Azorius Signet
Pemmin's Aura
Dimir Signet
Aphetto Alchemist
Arcane Sanctum
Swords to Plowshares
Fatestitcher
Orzhov Signet
Hallowed Fountain
Smothering Tithe
Mystic Remora
Nightmare Shepherd
Propaganda
Swan Song
Generous Gift
Mana Crypt
Soulherder
Athreos, Shroud-Veiled
Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset
Dauthi Voidwalker
Hengegate Pathway
Brightclimb Pathway
Clearwater Pathway
Spark Double
Narset, Parter of Veils
Corrupted Conscience
9.0% accessories
Command Tower
Sol Ring
Gemhide Sliver
Manaweft Sliver
Cloudshredder Sliver
Crystalline Sliver
Harmonic Sliver
Sliver Legion
Arcane Signet
Sliver Hivelord
Necrotic Sliver
Heart Sliver
Sliver Overlord
Chromatic Lantern
Lavabelly Sliver
Quick Sliver
The First Sliver
Sliver Hive
Brood Sliver
Virulent Sliver
Mana Crypt
Smothering Tithe
Tempered Sliver
Parallel Lives
Anointed Procession
Beast Within
Biomancer's Familiar
Doubling Season
Mystic Remora
Swan Song
Door of Destinies
Fungus Sliver
Forbidden Orchard
Rhythm of the Wild

There are basically four categories here: Slivers, Auras, Throwbacks, and Others:


Most Decked-Out Commanders

These are the commanders whose EDHREC decks are composed of the largest proportion of accessory cards - that is, those that produce tokens, counters, and so on.

commander 1 rectangle accessory
63.6% accessories
Command Tower
Sol Ring
Arcane Signet
Seaside Citadel
Exotic Orchard
Canopy Vista
Swiftfoot Boots
Prairie Stream
Rishkar's Expertise
Flooded Grove
Brokers Confluence
Brokers Hideout
Fortified Village
Brokers Charm
Port Town
Skycloud Expanse
Temple of Mystery
Agent's Toolkit
Slippery Bogbonder
Crystalline Giant
Damning Verdict
Resourceful Defense
Denry Klin, Editor in Chief
Nesting Grounds
Karn's Bastion
Evolution Sage
Avenging Huntbonder
Contractual Safeguard
Midnight Clock
Tezzeret's Gambit
Gavony Township
Everflowing Chalice
Generous Gift
Vivid Grove
60.3% accessories
Command Tower
Sol Ring
Yavimaya Coast
Temple of Mystery
Hinterland Harbor
Cultivate
Breeding Pool
Arcane Signet
Simic Growth Chamber
Simic Signet
Flooded Grove
Rejuvenating Springs
Counterspell
Growth Spiral
Rampant Growth
Kodama's Reach
Reliquary Tower
Evolution Sage
Fathom Mage
Karn's Bastion
Tezzeret's Gambit
Thrummingbird
Simic Ascendancy
Incubation Druid
Flux Channeler
Beast Within
Contentious Plan
Inspiring Call
Merfolk Skydiver
Gyre Sage
Everflowing Chalice
Forgotten Ancient
Herald of Secret Streams
Rishkar, Peema Renegade
58.0% accessories
Sol Ring
Counterspell
Paradox Haze
Mind Stone
Arcane Signet
Reality Shift
Solemn Simulacrum
Sky Diamond
Mystic Sanctuary
Reliquary Tower
Thought Vessel
Strionic Resonator
Trophy Mage
Negate
Fuel for the Cause
Sphinx of the Second Sun
Decree of Silence
Kiora Bests the Sea God
Power Conduit
Time of Ice
Chronozoa
Ferropede
The Mirari Conjecture
Clockspinning
Mystic Remora
Glen Elendra Archmage
Medomai's Prophecy
Tezzeret's Gambit
Mazemind Tome
Flux Channeler
Midnight Clock
Cauldron of Souls
Everflowing Chalice
Musician
56.5% accessories
Command Tower
Sol Ring
Swords to Plowshares
Canopy Vista
Beast Whisperer
Cultivate
Arcane Signet
Selesnya Sanctuary
Sunpetal Grove
Rampant Growth
Temple Garden
Krosan Verge
Avacyn's Pilgrim
Temple of Plenty
Return of the Wildspeaker
Heroic Intervention
Path to Exile
Inspiring Call
Armorcraft Judge
Abzan Falconer
Good-Fortune Unicorn
Felidar Retreat
Conclave Mentor
Rishkar, Peema Renegade
Gavony Township
Renata, Called to the Hunt
Fertilid
Cathars' Crusade
Mikaeus, the Lunarch
Champion of Lambholt
Forgotten Ancient
Incubation Druid
Beast Within
Unbreakable Formation
56.3% accessories
Sol Ring
Toski, Bearer of Secrets
Heroic Intervention
Return of the Wildspeaker
Rishkar's Expertise
Beast Whisperer
Swiftfoot Boots
Lightning Greaves
Llanowar Elves
Kenrith's Transformation
Shamanic Revelation
Boseiju, Who Endures
Fyndhorn Elves
Harmonize
Nature's Claim
Krosan Grip
Elvish Mystic
Evolution Sage
Beast Within
Inspiring Call
Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
Forgotten Ancient
Champion of Lambholt
Avenger of Zendikar
Rishkar, Peema Renegade
Roaring Earth
Renata, Called to the Hunt
Scavenging Ooze
Loyal Guardian
Managorger Hydra
Retreat to Kazandu
Gyre Sage
Hardened Scales
Armorcraft Judge
56.1% accessories
Sol Ring
Arcane Signet
Command Tower
Prairie Stream
Azorius Signet
Swords to Plowshares
Port Town
Swiftfoot Boots
Azorius Chancery
Temple of Enlightenment
Glacial Fortress
Hallowed Fountain
Skycloud Expanse
Path to Exile
Counterspell
Myriad Landscape
Panharmonicon
Wingspan Mentor
Avenging Huntbonder
Damning Verdict
Splendor Mare
Resourceful Defense
Tyrite Sanctum
Contractual Safeguard
Nesting Grounds
Keensight Mentor
Grateful Apparition
Boon of Safety
Elspeth Resplendent
Thrummingbird
Luminarch Aspirant
Herald of Secret Streams
The Ozolith
Avian Oddity
56.0% accessories
Rogue's Passage
Sol Ring
Rampant Growth
Swiftfoot Boots
Ram Through
Return of the Wildspeaker
Harmonize
Cultivate
Return to Nature
Llanowar Elves
Hunter's Insight
Colossal Majesty
Reclamation Sage
Elvish Mystic
Fireshrieker
Rishkar's Expertise
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Hydra's Growth
Invigorating Surge
Snakeskin Veil
Forgotten Ancient
Evolution Sage
Ancient Animus
Retreat to Kazandu
Inspiring Call
Ordeal of Nylea
Jiang Yanggu, Wildcrafter
Beast Within
Pollenbright Druid
Hardened Scales
Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
Ivy Lane Denizen
Opal Palace
Courage in Crisis
54.3% accessories
Sol Ring
Command Tower
Arcane Signet
Swiftfoot Boots
Izzet Signet
Chaos Warp
Blasphemous Act
Temple of Epiphany
Robe of the Archmagi
Izzet Boilerworks
Rogue's Passage
Talisman of Creativity
Sulfur Falls
Shivan Reef
Training Center
Counterspell
Reliquary Tower
Barbarian Class
Delina, Wild Mage
Wand of Wonder
Wyll's Reversal
Hoarding Ogre
Vexing Puzzlebox
Component Pouch
The Deck of Many Things
Sword of Hours
Brazen Dwarf
Thunderwave
Pixie Guide
Chaos Channeler
Reckless Endeavor
Treasure Chest
Contact Other Plane
Netherese Puzzle-Ward
54.0% accessories
Command Tower
Sol Ring
Kiora's Follower
Simic Growth Chamber
Cultivate
Temple of Mystery
Simic Signet
Counterspell
Hinterland Harbor
Breeding Pool
Reliquary Tower
Swiftfoot Boots
Seedborn Muse
Growth Spiral
Yavimaya Coast
Murkfiend Liege
Arcane Signet
Fathom Mage
Simic Ascendancy
Everflowing Chalice
Evolution Sage
Gyre Sage
Master Biomancer
Forgotten Ancient
Astral Cornucopia
Deepglow Skate
Herald of Secret Streams
Karn's Bastion
Tezzeret's Gambit
Thrummingbird
Inspiring Call
Fertilid
Incubation Druid
Zameck Guildmage
53.7% accessories
Sol Ring
Cultivate
Heroic Intervention
Kodama's Reach
Castle Garenbrig
Beast Whisperer
Elvish Mystic
Llanowar Elves
Eternal Witness
Lightning Greaves
Rampant Growth
Karametra's Acolyte
Three Visits
Swiftfoot Boots
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Asceticism
Return of the Wildspeaker
Nissa, Who Shakes the World
Garruk, Unleashed
Evolution Sage
Beast Within
Vivien Reid
Forgotten Ancient
The Ozolith
Garruk, Primal Hunter
Vigor
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
Renata, Called to the Hunt
The Great Henge
Garruk, Caller of Beasts
Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
Incubation Druid
Inspiring Call
Rishkar, Peema Renegade
53.5% accessories
Sol Ring
Command Tower
Swords to Plowshares
Arcane Signet
Path to Exile
Canopy Vista
Esper Sentinel
Cultivate
Bountiful Promenade
Rampant Growth
Avacyn's Pilgrim
Fortified Village
Swiftfoot Boots
Llanowar Elves
Nature's Lore
Sunpetal Grove
Temple Garden
Abzan Falconer
Mikaeus, the Lunarch
Karn's Bastion
Inspiring Call
Champion of Lambholt
Damning Verdict
Felidar Retreat
Evolution Sage
Hardened Scales
Unbreakable Formation
Conclave Mentor
Armorcraft Judge
Beast Within
Gavony Township
Forgotten Ancient
Grateful Apparition
Gyre Sage
53.4% accessories
Command Tower
Sol Ring
Sandsteppe Citadel
Evolving Wilds
Arcane Signet
Cultivate
Putrefy
Rampant Growth
Terramorphic Expanse
Blossoming Sands
Swords to Plowshares
Scoured Barrens
Jungle Hollow
Despark
Mortify
Golgari Signet
Orzhov Signet
Abzan Falconer
Inspiring Call
Corpsejack Menace
Winding Constrictor
Tuskguard Captain
Abzan Charm
Abzan Battle Priest
Ainok Bond-Kin
Conclave Mentor
Hardened Scales
Ivorytusk Fortress
Armorcraft Judge
Mer-Ek Nightblade
Fertilid
Good-Fortune Unicorn
Hagra Constrictor
Evolution Sage
53.0% accessories
Sol Ring
Command Tower
Arcane Signet
Izzet Signet
Reliquary Tower
Counterspell
Izzet Boilerworks
Temple of Epiphany
Chaos Warp
Talisman of Creativity
Blasphemous Act
Evolving Wilds
Thought Vessel
Frostboil Snarl
Negate
Sulfur Falls
Goblin Electromancer
Pixie Guide
Barbarian Class
Contact Other Plane
Delina, Wild Mage
Feywild Trickster
Hoarding Ogre
Brazen Dwarf
Wizard's Spellbook
Component Pouch
Aberrant Mind Sorcerer
Chaos Channeler
Earth-Cult Elemental
Diviner's Portent
Power of Persuasion
Netherese Puzzle-Ward
Treasure Chest
The Deck of Many Things

These can also be binned into a small number of categories: Counter Variety, +1/+1 Counters, and Dice-Rollers:


Variety: The Spice of Life?

I've always liked +1/+1 counters, going wide with tokens, and even Superfriends decks, but I thought that focusing on bare cardboard alone might lead to a more essential Magic experience. Though after doing this exercise, I'm fairly convinced that the "essential Magic experience" is a theoretical construct - impossible to define and not worth chasing. And, to the extent it relies on de-accessorizing your decks, not particularly compelling.

So, as compelling as it can be to build with restrictions, I'm not going to shy away from decks that require large stacks of tokens, boxes of dice, or literal dollars' worth of pennies. If you're going to spend literal hours playing a game, you might as well accessorize!


Thoughts? Questions? Critiques? Suggestions?

Let me hear them! I'm curious about the practical aspects of accessory-heavy decks: do you have the right tokens for your deck? How many of each do you bring? Or do you use dry-erase tokens as an outlet for your artistic expression? Do you use dice for +1/+1 counters, or something more bespoke? Have you ever built a deck that really leaned into a truly massive number of tokens or counters? I'd love to see the lists and hear about your experiences! As always, if you aren’t already, please follow me on Twitter.

MtGDS (AKA Magic Data Science) is pretty new to the game, but is trying to understand it as best he can through data. He loves making graphs and finding new ways to measure things. You can read his non-Commander articles at http://mtgds.wordpress.com, and he's worth a follow on Twitter @MtG_DS.