Magic: The Gathering – What Are Backgrounds?

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  • What Are Backgrounds?
  • How To Use Backgrounds
  • What Colour Are Backgrounds?

In Dungeons & Dragons, your character’s past shapes them almost as much as their actions in a campaign. Were they a noble lord who threw away their title for a life of adventure? Maybe they were the acolyte of a Draconic Cult, or grew up in the wilderness?

In Magic: The Gathering’s Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate, your commander can now have a background of their own. The new Background enchantments can be tricky to understand at first, but getting to grips with them can open up all kinds of new decks to build.

What Are Backgrounds?

Backgrounds are a type of enchantment introduced in Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate. Designed for the Commander format, these enchantments give your commander specific buffs and abilities. More importantly, they can serve as a secondary commander for your deck.

If a legendary creature has the keyword “Choose a Background”, you can use a Background enchantment as an additional commander. Your commander and background choice is made during the deck building process, whether that be during a Commander Legends draft or when building a more traditional Commander deck. By the start of the game, you’ll have both decided and a deck ideally built around both cards.

Like similar mechanics like Partner and Friends Forever, each card is considered a commander individually from the other. That means things like commander tax – which requires you to pay an additional two generic mana for each time you’ve cast that card from the command zone – and commander damage are tracked separately. The last point is particularly important for the one Background creature in the set, The Faceless One.

Importantly, you can only use a Background as a commander if you already have a commander with the “Choose a Background” ability. You cannot use Backgrounds with commanders with Partner or Friends Forever, and you generally can’t run two Backgrounds as commanders. The only exception is The Faceless One, which is both a Background and has “Choose a Background”.

When building your Background Commander deck, remember that the combined colour identity of your legendary creature and the Background dictate the colour identity. For example, as the monored Karlach, Fury of Avernus has “Choose a Background”, you can partner it up with any Background, like Master Chef. The resulting colour identity of this Karlach/Chef deck is Gruul: the red from Karlach and the green from Master Chef.

How To Use Backgrounds

Backgrounds are notably weaker than the partner commanders we’ve seen in other decks, but there are still ways to make great use of them.

Their main role is to help when drafting Battle for Baldur’s Gate. Backgrounds ensure you can get the colour identity you’re aiming for. For example, if you’ve been building a monored Karlach deck but want to splash into green, finding that Master Chef, or a Raised by Giants, Hardy Outlander, or Cloakwood Hermit gives you access to the colours you wanted.

In constructed Commander, you will want to be more selective on which Backgrounds you use with the potential commander you’re looking at building for. Each Background synergises better with a specific legendary creature than others, such as Scion of Halaster’s ability to put cards into your graveyard working perfectly with Viconia, Drow Apostate and her requirement of having four or more creatures in your graveyard.

You don’t have to run a Background as a commander; you could just put it into the deck itself, and often that may be the better idea. This is a great way to get the benefits of a Background alongside a more powerful, non-partnerable commander: as an example, imagine using Cloakwood Hermit in a Chatterfang, Squirrel General deck as a way to produce even more squirrels.

What Colour Are Backgrounds?

As Backgrounds are meant to shore up the colour availability of a Commander Legends draft, they’re found in all five colours.

As of Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate, there are 26 Backgrounds, and all but one are monocolour. Among the remaining 25, it is a perfectly even split with five white, five blue, five black, five red, and five green Backgrounds.

The final card is the colourless Faceless One. Though technically you give it a colour at the start of the game, it has no inherent colour of its own and costs five generic mana.

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