How to Play Pauper EDH

Deck Structure & CARD LEGALITY
  • 100-card format, only one copy of each card, except for basic lands.

  • 99-card deck (98 if using Partners), must be all commons and within color identity as commander(s).

  • Commander(s) must be an uncommon creature, but doesn't have to be legendary.

  • Card rarity includes both online and paper rarities but a card must have at least one physical printing.

  • No sideboards.

Gameplay Specifics

Multiplayer (Pauper Commander)

  • Multiplayer format, ideal for 3 - 4 players.

  • Games start at 30 life, with 16 commander damage.

  • The commander is placed in the command zone, and can be cast from there at any time, as if in hand.

  • When commander changes zones, it may be placed back into the command zone.  After the first cast, there is a 2 mana additional cost, for each time it was already cast from the command zone.

  • If a commander deals the full commander damage to one player over the course of the game, that player loses, despite remaining life total.

1v1 (Pauper Duel Commander)

  • Games start at 25 life, with 21 commander damage.

  • The first mulligan taken every game is not free (mulligan to 6 cards)

  • The player who goes first does not draw a card on their first turn.

  • The remainder of the rules are the same as for multiplayer (see Banned List for exceptions)

Format Specifics

Due to the fact that none of the cards we use as commanders were ever designed as such we occasionally get confusing interactions with the command zone.​

Take Cycling for example. The comprehensive rules are quite clear that you can only use the activated ability if the card is in your hand:

702.28a Cycling is an activated ability that functions only while the card with cycling is in a player’s hand. “Cycling [cost]” means “[Cost], Discard this card: Draw a card.”

However its easy to see how someone might get confused. Hence this section is less about format rulings and more about clarification.


What can be a commander?

The commander must be a creature spell. Dryad Arbor for example is a creature but not a creature spell. It can not be a commander. So no need to worry about how commander tax interacts with cards that are not actually cast but only played as it would be the case with Dryad Arbor.

What about alternate casting costs?

If the commander has an alternate casting cost then you can cast him for the alternate cost. Note however that commander tax is applied to that cost.


For example you can play a Mulldrifter from the command zone using evoke. If you play the Mulldrifter for the second time the evoke cost would be 4 generic and one blue mana. It doesn't matter if you cast the Mulldrifter for its regular or evoke cost the first time you cast it. Commander tax only cares about how many time the commander has been cast. Evoking will also increase the tax for the regular cast. So if you evoke it for three mana and then want to cast it again without evoke it would cost seven mana not five.


The same applies to other forms of alternate casting costs such as affinity. 


What about alternate casting modes?

If the commander has an alternate casting mode then you can in general cast either mode from the command zone. For instance a commander with morph can be cast as a morph. Commander tax applies to the alternate casting mode and again regardless of what mode the commander is cast in the commander tax will go up for any future casts in any mode.

So you can cast Brine Elemental either face up for six mana or as a morph for three. Regardless of what mode you cast it for the first time, the second time you cast it it would cost eight to cast face up or five mana as a morph

What about Adventure?

The alternate casting mode had not been a big point of confusion for a long time but the new adventure mechanic with its many and complex rulings had brought up a lot of questions and discussion regarding this. So to clear them up here is the official Rules Committee statement on how the adventure mechanic works from the command zone:

"The commander attribute is designated to all parts of a commander"

That means that both the adventure and the creature are effected by commander tax when cast from the command zone.

If the adventure would be put into a graveyard, in exile or any other zone the commander can be put into the command zone as a replacement effect the same way the creature part can.

If the creature is cast from exile via the adventure mechanic the commander tax does not apply to the creature.

Both the adventure and the creature share the commander tax, caring only about how many times combined they were cast from the command zone. You have cast the adventure twice and the creature once? To cast the adventure or the creature once more the cost is increased by six.


What does Partner With do?

Cards that have the ability Partner With will function the same as EDH commanders. Two commanders that partner with each other may be used as partner commanders. (2 commanders, 98 other cards, separate commander tax) 


Can you use Background cards as commanders?

Commanders that have "Choose a Background" allow you to have a Background as your second commander. Due to the rarity restriction of PDH, only uncommon Backgrounds may be used as a commander. Don't forget that the common Backgrounds can still be used in the 99 of your deck.

BannED List

The following cards are banned in Multiplayer PDH:

The following cards are banned in Pauper Duel Commander:​

  • All cards that refer to the ante mechanic (full list here)

  • All cards that Wizards has removed from constructed formats (full list here)

A further review of the format will take place later in 2022 and other cards may be banned at that time.

House Rules

PDH is at its heart both a casual and a player made format. As such we fully endorse the use of any house rules you like and have fun with. The official rules are the common ground we stand on and we can use when meeting new PDH players. 

It is important for us as a format to have clear and official rules but that does not mean it is wrong to play in any variation you want.