Magic Basics: What is Commander Damage?

what is Commander Damage in MTG and how is it calculated?

Magic Basics: What is Commander Damage?

Commander damage is unique only to Magic: the Gathering’s Commander format, and is tied directly to each player’s Commander card. It offers an alternate way of beating a player, apart from the usual getting a player’s life to 0, or by Milling their entire Library.

Because Commander Damage is tied closely to the format, many players have fond attachments to that strategy and may even build an entire deck based on that win condition. Here are some of the common questions surrounding Commander damage:

How Much Commander Damage is Considered Lethal?

21 combat damage done by a single Commander will be considered lethal to a player, regardless of how many life points the receiving player has. For example, if your Commander has dealt a combined 21 combat damage over 3 separate attacks, the defending player has lost the game, even if they are not at 0 life points.

Can a Planeswalker Deal Commander Damage?

Some Planeswalkers, like Animatou, the Fateshifter and Lord Windgrace, can be your Commander. However, since Commander damage is always only dealt through combat, these Planeswalkers are not normally able to do so. However, the new Equipment Luxior, Giada’s Gift has the unique ability to turn equipped Planeswalkers into Creatures. If it attacks and does combat damage, that would count as Commander damage.

Using the Equipment Luxior is currently the only way to have Planeswalker Commanders deal Commander damge.

If an Opponent Steals My Commander, Is Commander Damage Reset?

Let’s say Player A’s Commander has dealt 10 Commander Damage to Player B. Player C gains control of Player A’s Commander through Control Magic, and subsequently attacks Player B with it for another 11 damage. Because it is the same physical card hitting Player B, the total Commander Damage dealt is now 21, resulting in Player B losing the game.

If I Have 2 Partner Commanders, How is Commander Damage Calculated?

There are a number of Commanders with either Partner, Partner With, or Friends Forever that let you pair 2 of them together in the Command Zone. However, when it comes to Commander damage, each is calculated separately and are mutually exclusive. For example, if Haldan, Arcane Archivist has dealt 10 combat damage to Player A, and Pako, Arcane Retriever has dealt 11 combat damage to Player A, Player A has not lost the game, because the 10 and 11 damage counts do not add up.

Partner Commanders deal and check Commander Damage separately.

If a Commander Leaves and Reenters the Battlefield, Is Commander Damage Reset?

If your Commander dies, or is blinked by a card such as Acrobatic Maneuver, Commander Damage is not reset as it is tracked by the actual physical card. When you attack again with the same Commander, its Commander Damage will be added on to the previous tally.

If 2 Players Have the Same Commander, is Commander Damage Calculated Together?

No. Each Commander will keep track of its own Commander Damage. For example, if Player A’s Tajic, Legion’s Edge has dealt 5 damage to player C, and Player B’s Tajic, Legion’s Edge dealt another 6 damage to Player C, there is no combined tally of 11 Commander Damage.

If a Commander Has Infect, Does the Defending Player Take Damage or Poison Counters?

A Commander with the keyword Infect deals damage in the form of Poison counters, and the opponent does not receive any damage. Thus no Commander Damage is taken as well.

End Step

These are some of the most frequently asked questions about Commander Damage. Are there other scenarios you’ve come across, or have more questions about the topic? Leave a comment below!

After playing from Tempest to Urza's Saga block, Ted took a 20 year break from the game before returning to the classic Plane of Dominaria in 2018. His favourite formats are Commander, Draft, and, grudgingly, Standard.

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