Coldeyes.

So there is a format of Magic called "Commander"... 

...but us older players call it "EDH" which stands for "Elder Dragon Highlander". Confused? Here's the scoop. Commander is a fan created (mostly) multiplayer format that has been making the rounds on the Pro Tour since the mid 90's. A less competitive format, this is as much a "beer and pretzels" social event as it is a game. Players are encouraged to bring fun cards to the table and decks solely focused on the win or "going infinite" are strictly frowned upon. Let's take a look at this awesome alternative to the standard game and one of my favorite decks!

Deck construction in Commander is slightly different than normal Magic. Players choose a legendary creature to lead their army and construct a 99 card deck around them. All cards in the deck must match that creatures color identity, which is based on its casting cost and their activated abilities. So for example, if you choose a commander that costs a blue and two colorless mana to cast and it has an activated ability to give all of your creatures +1/+1 for one red mana, then your commander's color identity would be blue and red.  In addition to this color restriction, decks may include no more than one copy of any card (with the exception of basic lands).

During play there are differences too.  Players start the game with 40 life instead of the normal 20. The "commander" card is not shuffled into the deck put placed to one side in the "command zone".  This card can now be cast at any time during the game when the player can cast a creature. This insures that the creature will always be accessible to the player, which allows them to reliably build a deck around the card.  If this card is destroyed it is set aside once again in the command zone where the player can then recast it for its original cost plus two additional mana. This cost goes up by two every time the commander is re-cast onto the battlefield.  End game is different too.  You lose the game if your life total reaches zero or if you take 20 damage from any single commander.  Last commander standing wins!

Then why "Elder Dragon Highlander"? Glad you asked! In the early days of the format your commander had to be one of five Elder Dragons that were printed in the "Legends" expansion and "Highlander" came from the single card restriction.  Ya know, "There can be only one".... Whatever you call it, this is a casual, social version of Magic that allows you to play cards from across Magic's history and its an incredible amount of fun.  If you are interested in the early days, here is a great Reddit AMA from one of its earliest players.

Without further adieu, let me introduce you to my commander - Lovisa Coldeyes!

"Were they to reduce us to ash, we would clog their throats and sting their eyes in payment." ~ Lovisa Coldeyes, Balduvian chieftain

"Were they to reduce us to ash, we would clog their throats and sting their eyes in payment."
~ Lovisa Coldeyes, Balduvian chieftain

Flavor-wise, Lovisa is the strong female leader the barbarian tribes of Balduvia on the plane of Dominaria. She inspired her troops on the battlefield to victory against the necromancer Lim-Dul. Mechanically, she is a mono-red legend with a casting cost of two red and three colorless. She gives all Warriors, Barbarians and Berserkers +2/+2 and Haste. This means as a deck designer, you are creating a tribal deck so make sure you take advantage of this global effect far better than anyone else on the table. Here is my full list if you are interested, and user Airithhne on MTGSalvation has written the definitive primer on the subject. Go read her page - this is the best advice I can give you for building this deck.  It is a solid read and the thread is filled with fans of Lovisa making for fantastic inspiration. Let's take a look at few of the cards in my build that differ from her list.

Coat of Arms - A fun old-school card that gives every creature +1/+1 for each creature in play they share a type with.  Commander loves splashy game altering effects and this is sure one of those.  Like Lovisa, this effects everyone's creatures, so it is going to have some fans when you play it, but you may want to make sure it is in your best interest before you throw it on the table.

You will be running primarily Warrior, Barbarian and Berserker creatures to capitalize on Lovisa's ability, so Coat of Arms will fit right into her plans. A quick search on Gatherer will show you that you have a pool of 265 choices. Of these, the lion's share are warriors, so you probably want to place your focus there so you can take advantage of the many cards like Coat of Arms that have single tribe effects.

"Let those who bear the brand receive no shelter, no kindness, and no comfort from our people." ~ Lovisa Coldeyes, Balduvian Chieftain

"Let those who bear the brand receive no shelter, no kindness, and no comfort from our people."
~ Lovisa Coldeyes, Balduvian Chieftain

Aggravated Assault - Look someone has to win sometime right? Lovisa is a deck that walks a fine line in Commander. You don't want to be so aggressive that people dislike playing with you, but big splashy effects like Aggravated Assault are pure Commander. Take your horde and attack not once - but twice in a single turn! Magic has a handful of cards in red that do this, and any of them will play well in a Lovisa deck, but this one is the best. This is a staple of the Lovisa Coldeyes deck, so unlike my other picks you will find this in almost every list.

"What tries to crush our spirit only strengthens our resolve." ~ Lovisa Coldeyes, Balduvian chieftain

"What tries to crush our spirit only strengthens our resolve." ~ Lovisa Coldeyes, Balduvian chieftain

Godo, Bandit Warlord - Not all your creatures have to be warriors, and you should cherry pick the best from your other tribes. That includes Godo. In Commander, your creatures have to scale to threats. Equipment is a great way to achieve this, and Godo allows you to select the most needed piece of equipment out of your deck and put it right on the battlefield when he comes into play. He's a fantastic choice, and an incredibly underrated card. Godo makes a great commander as well.

"Peace will come only when we have taken Varchild's head." ~ Lovisa Coldeyes, Balduvian chieftain

"Peace will come only when we have taken Varchild's head." ~ Lovisa Coldeyes, Balduvian chieftain

Darksteel Plate - Well here is an odd choice, in an aggro decklist full of swords why a defensive card? Look, Lovisa is going to be a target as soon as your opponents figure out that +2/+2 is a big deal with all your other enchantments on the battlefield. You really need her in play to keep your game on a stable keel and she gets really expensive, really fast if you have to keep re-casting her. This card puts an end to most of those hi-jinx, and you can even tutor for it with good ol' Godo.

"The folk of the Karplusan mountains are impossible to ambush." ~ Lovisa Coldeyes, Balduvian chieftain

"The folk of the Karplusan mountains are impossible to ambush." ~ Lovisa Coldeyes, Balduvian chieftain

So now you only have to make about 95 other choices! 36 of these are land - and the majority of that are mountains (I run 26). Some weaknesses to consider as you get started are spot creature removal and permanent removal (artifacts and enchantments). With one flyer in the build I run a small amount of burn to stop the creatures that I can't block. Thunderbolt and Beacon of Destruction are two lesser used options that I like here. The former spell does 4 damage to a flyer which can surprise an opponent, and the latter shuffles back into your deck after it is used. For artifact removal I like to use Shattering Spree and Pillage, but there are a lot of choices to accomplish this in red. Enchantments are a tougher nut to crack in our color. Look at Chaos Warp or artifacts like Spine of Ish Sah to get you out of this jam.

This is a great introductory Commander deck because it is very simple to pilot and avoids creating complex board states. This is an aggro deck at its heart (even when Lovisa is not in play), so when in doubt, attack! Just don't be a jerk doing it. That is not what Commander is about.

If this deck is't for you there are hundreds of possibilities for you to discover.  If you just want to dip your toe in the format I suggest going and buying one of Wizards pre-constructed decks.  They are fantastic for beginners and even contain some of the "staple" cards of the format.  

Enjoy the deck!