A Commander Player’s Lament


Commander, or Elder Dragon Highlander (EDH), was designed as a casual format of Magic where players choose a legendary creature, called the general, and build a 100 card deck with no doubles other than basic lands. The format was created by a player to create longer games and force social interaction between people that probably wouldn’t have spoken to each other otherwise. EDH has its own specific banned list and cards in decks are limited to the color identity of the general. It’s a creative format, where players can take a bunch of cards that don’t normally see play together and find their own strange synergy. As the only Magic format I play, I absolutely adore the format. Recently Wizards of the Coast recognized the format, renaming it Commander, and began supporting it. Their support was a welcome event, with players rejoicing after an announcement of Commander products.

The first Commander product was great. A cycle of four decks, each being three colors, with a multitude of new legendary generals and new cards for the format. Then came Commander’s Arsenal. Where WOTC made a super limited print, super collector’s edition, set of a few cards played in a casual format. This made them inaccessible to the majority of casual players and caused a decent amount of backlash. Now they’ve announced the next product: five new commander decks, 15 new cards per deck, 51 total new cards, and each deck is three colors. They even gave us two of the new legends for the decks:

This is where I start to worry. What I see here is a (possible) cycle of generals that can easily outclass most of the existing generals in their colors. With the past products, and even with the Primordials from Gatecrash, the cards released for Commander could see it play in other formats, but that doesn’t mean they would be particularly useful. With the new generals, it’s doubtful that anyone would even want them for a casual 60-card deck. The Command Zone is their best friend as the more times you cast them for more mana, the more powerful they become. Now, I ask, what other general has that kind of re-usable advantage? The power creep could be a sign of the end of the fun, variance, and interactiveness of EDH. If WOTC begins designing cards with the mindset that they are meant to only see it play in EDH, it’s going to cause a massive power creep in the format. And I feel that these new legends are the perfect example of that.

I’m sure the primary argument for my concerns is going to be Mark Rosewater’s classic response: If you don’t like the card, there is a good chance it wasn’t designed for you. But, as a casual Commander player, this was designed for me and players like me. Commander is a unique format in that rarely are any two EDH decks exactly the same, even if they use the same general. The large card pool mixed with the deck restrictions allow for original builds that are extensions of their pilot. But once we add in WOTC designing strong cards meant only for the format, the variance dies. This is something I’ve been seeing with people attempting to make “competitive” Commander decks. With this, the fun of the format dies. I play Commander, and only Commander, because it’s fun, interactive, and social. Commander isn’t about winning, it’s about playing the game and testing its limits. I know that every Magic player freaks out when the game changes and evolves, screaming about the sky falling. From what I can tell, these legends are the beginning of the very power creep that WOTC tries to avoid with every other format.

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