All About The “Commander Tax”

Hello all, and welcome back to Commander week! We’ve already talked about things that the command zone can do that it shouldn’t be able to, so let’s step things back a bit and use it for its intended purpose: casting and recasting your commander! (Looking at you, Oloro. Why don’t you come down here to the battlefield and take it up with me in person if you’ve got a problem with it?). This is going to be something of a lightning round, so let’s get straight to it!

The basics: you can cast your Commander from the Command Zone. To do so, you pay its mana cost, plus two extra generic mana for each time you’ve cast your commander so far this game (this is commonly referred to as the ‘Commander Tax’). So if you’re playing Isamaru Mono White Good Boy tribal, the first time you cast him he’ll cost a whopping W. If your opponent is some kind of monster and kills him, the second casting will cost 2W, then the third casting 4W, and you get the picture.

So that’s all well and good, but what if there’s something more involved going on? For example, what if you have Urza’s Incubator set to Hounds, making all your goodest boys 2 mana cheaper? Well, the general rule is that you apply all cost increases before any cost reductions, so that means you apply the Commander Tax to Isamaru first, then reduce the total cost by 2 generic at the end. So that makes no difference for the first casting, but for the second casting he costs W again- you add two for Commander Tax, then subtract two for incubator. Neat!

Okay, what about alternate costs? Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp lets you tap an artifact and pay 3U instead of paying his mana cost. Does that dodge commander tax? Alas, no, it does not. You choose whether you’re doing the ‘normal’ cost or any alternate costs, then apply increases like commander tax, then reducers- so if you have an Incubator set to Djinn this time, it still discounts his alternate cost, but you do still have to pay command tax. Ah well.

Finally, let’s talk about partners. What if you have two Commanders? How much tax do you pay on them? This one’s also fairly simple- commander tax counts how many times you’ve cast that specific Commander from your Command Zone. So if you’ve cast Okaun, Eye of Chaos 4 times but haven’t cast Zndrsplt yet, then Zndrsplt will still cost all of 4U. She may be partnered with Okaun, but they don’t share taxes!

So that’s the low-down on Commander Tax! Hope you’ve had fun, and until next time, keep casting commanders!

(Edgar Markov and Inalla, you’re on my list too. You know what you did.)

Today’s Rules Tip was written by Alistair Crook

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