Magic: the Gathering is a game of interactions. You can’t usually just play your deck while ignoring everything else going on at the table – you need to respond to threats accordingly as they appear.
Oftentimes, however, removal spells and counterspells simply move an opponent’s spells into their graveyard. It’s far from impossible for your enemies to retrieve such cards from their graveyards and cast them again.
So, what else can you do? The answer is exiling, and that’s what we’ll be looking at today in this MTG Commander exile rules guide.
What is Exile?
When you’re playing Commander in Magic: the Gathering, the tabletop in front of each player is divided into a number of zones: the command zone, player’s libraries, graveyards, battlefields, hands, the stack, and, of course, exile.
Typically, when a temporary card like an instant or sorcery is cast, it goes into the graveyard. The same is also true when permanents (artifacts, lands, creatures, enchantments, and planeswalkers) are either countered prior to entering the battlefield or destroyed after entering the battlefield.
Unlike in reality, however, the graveyard in Magic: the Gathering doesn’t mean the end. Cards in your graveyard can often be cast again, or in some cases even just placed back onto the battlefield without being cast. Decks with graveyard recursion oftentimes treat their graveyards as second libraries.
If you’re looking to get rid of a card permanently, your best bet is moving it into exile with cards like the above-pictured Path to Exile. It’s important to mention, though, that there are some cards that allow you to interact with the exile zone temporarily. For instance, some cards, like Angel of Serenity only exile other cards until they leave the battlefield. Still other cards might flicker a card into exile and out of it, which can be used to protect you from a board wipe.
For the most part, though, exiling is essentially removing a card from the game.
What Happens if a Commander is Exiled?
The concept of exiling raises a few interesting questions in relation to Commander/EDH. One of the biggest questions is how exiling works with your Commander itself.
Generally, whenever your Commander leaves the battlefield, it goes back to the command zone instead of the graveyard. But what happens if, rather than destroying or killing it, someone else exiles your Commander?
At that moment, the Commander’s owner has a choice. They can allow their Commander to be exiled, thus preventing them from casting it for the rest of the game, or they can simply put it back into their command zone.
This actually applies to any situation in which your Commander is leaving the battlefield, whether it’s to go to the graveyard, your hand, or exile. You have the option of choosing to put your Commander back in the command zone instead.
Can You Permanently Exile a Commander?
Not really. As we discussed above, it’s possible for a player to choose to let their Commander go into exile when someone else exiles it, but there isn’t really a compelling reason to do so at this point in time.
If your Commander is about to be exiled, you have the choice of moving it to your command zone instead. Strategically, this is oftentimes the better choice, as your Commander then remains in the game.
That being said, there are always exceptions to the rules. Perhaps one of the most interesting exceptions is Squee, the Immortal. As you can see, Squee, the Immortal can be cast either from exile or the graveyard.
This means that, if you were using him in a Commander deck, it wouldn’t matter to you whether you allowed him to go into exile or the command zone. In fact, it may even be beneficial to let him go to exile to avoid incurring the commander tax when you cast him again.
The problem with Squee is that, aside from his unique ability, he’s just not a very strong goblin. There are plenty of other goblin commanders to choose.
Related Article: 10 Best Goblin Cards in MTG
Can a Commander be Removed from the Game?
The vast majority of the time, you cannot remove another player’s Commander from the game. Remember, anytime a player’s Commander would leave the battlefield, that player gets to choose whether their Commander goes into the command zone instead.
There are some extremely niche circumstances in which you might be able to remove a player’s Commander from the game, though. You just need to be able to make that player’s decisions for them, then make the choice of letting their Commander go to exile.
One way to achieve this is with Mindslaver. Mindslaver allows you to make all choices a player would normally make on their turn, including things like casting spells, activating abilities, and who they target. Since players decide whether their Commander goes into exile after an exiling spell is cast on it, this means you can make that choice for them, too.
This is a complex strategy entirely dependent on chance. Since you’re controlling the player on their turn, you need to know that they have an exiling card in their hand…or you need to have an instant exile in yours that you can play on their turn.
If your objective is to prevent a Commander from being used, there are far easier ways. For instance, counterspells are a great option.
Many people craft Commander decks without thinking about the way they’ll make other players feel. Even if there are some incredibly niche strategies that effectively neuter an opponent’s Commander/EDH deck, you should give some thought towards sportsmanship.
In our opinion, it’s much more fun when everyone can actually participate in the game. Losing fairly is one thing but preventing someone from ever playing at all is another thing entirely. If you’re the type of player who constantly uses sophisticated combos that stop players from partaking at all, you’ll likely find that there aren’t many people who want to play the game with you.