A 'tutor' in Magic: the Gathering refers to a card that allows a player to search their library for any card they desire. The term derives its name from the card. Tutors search for a card and put that card into a more accessible zone, such as the player's hand, on top of their deck, or even put it card directly into play. Some tutors provide a specific limit or boundary to the types of cards that may be searched for, while others are more open-ended. Tutors are available to every color in Magic.
As a general rule, tutors that allow a player to search for any card do not usually force players to reveal the card they choose. Tutors that allow a player to search for a card of a specific type (for example, searching specifically for a creature card) will always force the player to reveal that card before putting that card into a hidden zone, such as their hand. This distinction may sometimes be used by players to help keep information hidden from their opponents.
Tutors in Commander
Tutors are generally considered to be more powerful in Commander than in other formats. There are two primary reasons for this: the singleton nature of the format, and the increased size of players' libraries.
Because the format only allows one copy of any card in a deck (excluding basic lands), games of Commander tend to have much more variance than in other formats that allow up to four copies of a card. Tutors provide players with the ability to find unique cards and play them more frequently in each game, which can give the deck's strategy more consistency.
The increased deck size from 60 cards to 99 also means that players may struggle to naturally draw cards that allow them to respond effectively to the acts of their opponents. A player may have one or two 'silver bullet' cards in their deck that help neutralize a powerful enemy, and tutors can offer players the ability to find those cards more easily.
Some deck archetypes may find themselves more naturally inclined to play tutors than others, but tutors are not a necessary mainstay of any Commander deck. Some players specifically opt not to play tutors, even if those tutors would make their decks more consistent or more powerful, because they prefer the high-variance nature of the format, or because they do not enjoy the increased time spent shuffling that tutors introduce to the game.
Tutors in the Color Pie
Every color has access to tutors, each with their own unique identity, strengths, and weaknesses.
- White's tutor effects commonly allow it to search for artifacts or enchantments, particularly Aura and Equipment cards. It also occasionally may search for small creatures with low power, toughness, or mana costs. White is also currently the only color that may explicitly search its deck for planeswalker cards.
- Blue's tutors allow it to search for instant and sorcery spells. It is also able to search for artifact cards, often putting them directly onto the battlefield.
- Color Pie Breaks:
- - Can tutor for anything, but makes you wait unless you can draw additional cards
- Black is the most versatile color for tutors, and does not commonly restrict the type of card a player may search for. Black is also able to take cards directly from its own library and put them into the graveyard.
- Red is the most limited color for tutoring, and its tutors tend to be more niche than other colors. It may occasionally search for artifacts, creatures of a specific tribe, or it may allow a player to search for any card, but does so by adding an element of randomness as a drawback.
- Green excels at tutoring for both creatures and lands. Creature tutors in green will often put that creature into play.
- Though green may search for lands, cards that search for lands are not generally called 'tutors' if they put those lands onto the battlefield (such as the card ). Because of the significant mana advantage those spells provide, they are instead referred to as Ramp spells, and not tutors. Cards that search for lands are more likely to be called tutors when they allow a player to search their library for any land card, including nonbasic lands, and put them into their hand, rather than putting them into play.
Card Quality vs Card Quantity
Tutors allow players to increase the quality of card they have in their hand by allowing them to search for whichever card they need at the current moment. However, while tutors increase card quality, they traditionally do not increase card quantity, and in some cases may even incur a net loss of card advantage.
This is most common with tutors that put cards on top of their owner's library, such as. Though this card will allow a player to find any creature they need, it requires that a player spend a card in hand to go and find that creature, which they will not put into their hand right away, resulting in a net loss of one card. Players who prioritize the use of tutors too highly may find themselves with powerful cards, but fewer cards overall.
As a point of comparison, card draw effects will increase a player's card quantity, but may not always increase their card quality, since they are accumulating random cards from the top of their deck which may not turn out to be helpful to them at that time. Navigating the relationship between card quality and card quantity, particularly by balancing out the use of tutors with effects that also accrue more traditional forms of card advantage, is a key component of using tutors effectively in Commander.
Tutors are extremely common in Competitive EDH, also called cEDH. Competitive games of Commander feature strategies that allow players to win the game as quickly as possible, often through the use of infinite combos. Tutors are a crucial piece of competitive decks to help eliminate variance and allow players to find important pieces of these combos more efficiently.