MTG Background – Rules and Interactions Explained

Background is a new MTG enchantment subtype introduced with Battle for Baldur’s Gate. It’s closely tied to the choose a background keyword ability. In this article, we’ll talk about everything you need to know about it including:

  • What is MTG background?
  • How do you choose a background in MTG?
  • What does background mean for color identity in Commander?
  • And more!

We have quite a lot to talk about, so let’s get right to it.

How Does Background Work?

Background is an enchantment subtype. You can include this cards in your decks, and they’ll work just a regular enchantment would.

Some legendary creatures have a keyword ability “Choose a Background.” This means that if you choose this creature as your commander, you can use one of the background cards as your second commander.

This mechanic is very similar to the partner mechanic. You can basically have two commanders. The first one needs to have choose a background keyword, and the second has to be an enchantment with the background subtype.

Let’s take a look at an example.


Here’s Flaming Fist, a common enchantment with the background subtype.

Flaming Fist MTG Background RUles

You can include it in your deck, and it will work as you’d expect. For three mana you’d get an enchantment which gives your commander creatures double strike when they attack.

However, if you’re using a commander that has choose a background ability, you can also use Flaming Fist as your other commander. So you could use something like Erinis, Gloom Stalker as your commander alongside Flaming Fist.

Erinis, Gloom Stalker MTG Background Rules

In this case the color identity of your commanders is White and Green.

MTG Choose a Background – FAQ

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about background, and choose a background ability. If you don’t find the answer to your question, you can leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you.

Can you put a background card in your deck?

Yes, you can. The background card doesn’t need to be your commander. You can use it just like any other regular card.

Does Commander tax apply to backgrounds?

Yes, if a background card is one of your commanders, commander tax applies to it.

What does it mean to “choose a background”?

This is an ability that allows a legendary creature to have a background enchantment as a second commander. It doesn’t do anything when you actually cast the card.


Background mechanic was introduced with Battle for Baldur’s Gate, a set that borrows its lore from Dungeons and Dragons. If you’re familiar with the game, it comes to no surprise that every good character (legendary creature) needs a good background story (background enchantment).

That’s why the background mechanic makes a perfect fit for this set.

MTG Background – Interactions

Here are some interaction that background enables.

Color Identity

We briefly mentioned this before, but one of the more powerful effects of background is that it expands the color identity of your first commander. So if you have a Red legendary creature with choose a background, and a Blue background enchantment, you can now have cards with Red and/or Blue color identity in your deck

Faceless One in Draft

If you’re playing a Baldur’s Gate draft, there’s a special rule that you should know, concerning this next card:

Faceless One Choose a Background MTG Rules

If you somehow don’t manage to draft any better commanders for your deck, then you can use one or two Faceless Ones as your commanders. Now this will happen very rarely, since there are plenty of commanders in this set. However, Faceless One is there to help you in those occasions.


That’s all about MTG background. Now you should have a good idea on how it works, and how you can use it to your advantage. If you’d like to try your luck and open some cards with background and choose a background effects, you might want to buy a Baldur’s Gate Set booster box on Amazon.

Battle for Baldur's Gate Set Booster Box

However, if you’d like a guaranteed background commander, you’ll want to check out this article about Baldur’s Gate Commander decks. In there you’ll find everything four Commander precons, each one with a background Commander pair.

Until next time, enjoy Magic, and have fun playing your new background cards.

16 thoughts on “MTG Background – Rules and Interactions Explained”

  1. Is it possible for me to use one of these enchantments on a legendary creature and just use it as a regular creature enchantment in a game of modern, with a modern deck built from the baldurs gate expansion?

    • No, since Baldur’s Gate cards aren’t legal in Modern. (Unless they’re reprints and were previously legal in Modern.)

    • No, you can play a card that says choose a background, as a regular card in your deck, and ignore the “choose the background” part.

    • You could use it in a legacy deck, but since it references commander creatures, it wouldn’t do much, as there are no commanders in legacy. Creature being legendary isn’t the same as creature being a commander.

  2. Is it possible to cast more than one Background on my Commander? Not have two in the command zone, but cast from my hand onto the Commander.

    • You can have one background in addition to your Commander with Choose the background. The rest of the backgrounds, you have to include them in your deck and when you draw them, you can cast them as you would any other enchantment.

    • Backgrounds won’t be cast on any creatures, as they aren’t auras. However, when you cast them, they only work with commander creatures, as that’s what the cards specifically refer to.

  3. Does Commander background card has to start in the command-zone?, or can i start having the same background card inside my deck, and still consider it as my commander’s background?

  4. What happens if i have multiple instances of the same background. I.E two agents of the iron throne? Would the commander card have that ability trigger twice or would it be a redundant effect like two flyings.

    • Backgrounds are legendary, so it’s going to be hard to have multiples in play. Nevertheless, let’s say that you somehow got around that, and you have two Agent of the Iron Throne cards in play. Each one will give your commander its own instance of that ability, so yes, it would trigger twice.

  5. If i had the background in play, but not the commander, it work like the eminence mechanic? For example i cast agent of the iron throne, and had a lot of treasures, but my commander is on commander zone, when i sacrifice all that treasures, the enchantment will trigger?

    • No, it doesn’t work like eminence mechanic. In order to get the effect of Agent of the Iron Throne, your commander needs to be in play.


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