What Makes A Toolbox?

Commander is known for big plays, massive board states, and swings of power from one player to another.  That’s why reacting is such a big part of the game.  Whether that’s countering your opponent’s spell, removing their threatening creature, or destroying the enchantment that’s keeping you from swinging for lethal.  But how can you ensure that you’ll have the right card at the right time? I know that I don’t want to be staring down a Lord of Extinction with a Naturalize in hand.

The best answer – a toolbox. A toolbox deck has all the answers you need to take down your opponent’s biggest threats.  But in order to make a toolbox function properly, you need good tutoring.  Each color has strengths and weaknesses when building a toolbox, so choosing the right colors is imperative.  Since commander is limited to the cards in your general’s color identity, choosing the right general is key.

Below is a breakdown of each color and what they are best at tutoring, as well as their tutoring limitations.

  • White: White has limited tutoring when it comes to searching for creatures, lands, and instants and sorceries. But, it shines when it comes to Artifacts and Enchantments.  Specifically, equipment and Aura enchantments.  Since white creatures are historically small, it makes sense to be able to search for swords for your soldiers. Think of Enlightened Tutor, Idyllic Tutor, Stoneforge Mystic, Stone Haven Outfitter, and Open the Armory.
  • Blue: Like most other things in blue, tutoring has a catch. The number of tutor cards is limited, and they typically only allow the player to search for instants or sorceries (Think Personal Tutor, Merchant Scroll, Mystical Tutor) and sometimes artifacts, such as Transmute Artifact Reshape and Fabricate. Blue also has the ability to transmute cards by paying the transmute cost, discarding them, and searching for a card with the same Converted Mana Cost as the one discarded (Muddle the Mixture).  A few rare blue tutors can find any card like Archmage Ascension or Library of Lat-Nam. While Blue tutoring poses limitations, when combined with Blue’s strong draw spells and filtering options it is a viable color when building a Toolbox.
  • Black: Black has the best tutoring package of any of the colors. Cards like Vampiric Tutor, Demonic Tutor, and Diabolic Tutor are the reason why we call cards with the ability to search for others “tutors” to begin with.  If you want to build a toolbox deck including black is almost a must. There are a ton of inefficient but still solid Black tutors such as Rune-Scarred Demon and Diabolic Revelation. Black also has access to some transmute cards.
  • Red: I can honestly say that my first thought was of crickets chirping when I thought of red tutors. However, Red has one the best tutors if you feel lucky.  Gamble is a great card, but it’s not enough tutoring to fill a toolbox.  If you want to build Goblin or dragon tribal, there are options such as Sarkhan’s Triumph and Goblin Matron/Goblin Recruiter to help you out.  Other than that red has very limited tutoring and tries to rely on the luck of the draw most of the time. If you want to bling out your deck you can get a Imperial Recruiter.
  • Green: Green’s tutoring is pretty straightforward. You want to find lands to play big creatures, and find those big creatures.  By far, green is the best color at finding lands and putting them into play. These lands can be found specifically via Sylvan Scrying or through traditional ramp like Rampant Growth.  Other than that, green can find you creatures through Chord of Calling, Green Sun’s Zenith, Survival of the Fittest, Natural Order, Eldritch Evolution, Birthing Pod, Yisan, the Wanderer Bard and Primal Command. This is the start of a long list of cards that can find the creatures you need.
  • Colorless: I know it technically isn’t a color, but since the advent of wastes, building a colorless commander deck has become a more viable option. Most of what very limited tutoring is available in colorless searches for big eldrazi, such as Conduit of Ruin and Eye of Ugin. One of my all-time favorite budget tutors is a colorless artifact – Citanul Flute – which is worth a look for budget players who are looking to build a creature-based toolbox. There are also cards like Expedition map and Planar portal. Maze’s End is colorless and can fetch you guildgates.
  • Multicolor: There are some really unique effects/creatures that you can employ in your deck like Captain Sisay, Wargate or Eladamri’s Call.


All that’s left to build a toolbox is to pick a commander with colors to find the card types you want to use.  Two of the current go-to generals for toolboxes are Meren of Clan Nel Toth and Zur the Enchanter because of their access to black/green and their natural ability to recur or tutor directly from your deck. Captain Sisay is also popular as a tutor commander. Then put together a set of cards that can deal with all of the cards you opponents might play, naturalize for artifact and enchantment removal, Dismember / Path to Exile for creatures, or Grafdigger’s Cage to fight against reanimator decks.

The possibilities are as endless as your imagination. Building a good toolbox takes time and lots of play testing to get a good balance between tutors and threats. Good luck and happy shuffling!



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