New Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published on October 17, 2013. We’re flashing back to some of our best from the past several years every Friday, because what’s old is new again. It feels like we’ve known and loved Sean (@SwordstoPlow) for ever, but there was a time when Cass and I (Dave) debated if he was too competitive to be a good fit. Now he’s a big, feel-good softy working at Card Kingdom and an essential spirit animal at GDC. 

(Editors’ Note-

Today, we’re officially welcoming a new writer to the GDC family.  Many of you already know Sean Patchen (@SwordsToPlow) from his time writing for, or his own Serious Tryhard Podcast on  As you’ll see, Sean has an outlook that is a bit different than what most of us here possess, but nonetheless, we’re glad to have him onboard, as he is as fiercely proud of defending the social contract as we are. 

Sean brings a perspective that will challenge us as much as we intend to challenge him, and I have no doubt that we’re looking at an exciting broadening of our horizons as a whole.  It’s good to challenge the status quo, as it can be easy to forget that no matter the perspective, we all love the format at the end of the day. 

Sean, welcome to GDC.


The problem I have with most information sources is inbreeding.  People naturally want to work with friends, and this doesn’t escape the online avenues for information.  It leads to people writing articles and posting stories where the only disagreements they see are in the comments sections.  Those disagreements often get written off as ‘trolls’.  If no one ever challenges an ideal, there is no real way to tell if the ideal is true or not.  Without challenge, someone could go their whole life believing in something that simply isn’t true. is run on the principle of upholding the social contract. Most of authors here have beliefs on what plays in Commander can be considered to be fair, and which ones tear apart the social contract.  I have a contrasting belief.  I honestly believe that there isn’t a single card by itself that ruins the social contract.  Cards don’t kill playgroups, people do.

The reason anyone plays Commander is to have fun.  The ideal of a social contract for Commander is the ideal that everyone playing has an equal right to have fun in the format.  This means while it may be important to one individual that they are having fun, disregarding how anyone else feels will break the idea of a social contract.

Denying players’ fun out of the game is just as bad as denying players’ fun in the game.  Let’s take land destruction for example.  Many people (not all, regardless of what angry internet people say) dislike mass land destruction as part of a tactic.  They advocate having no one play it, ever.  Taking that tactic away is like pissing in the cornflakes of a player who likes Armageddon.  Telling someone not to play a tactic they enjoy is really telling those people not to play at all.

What could be less fun in Commander than not playing?

If a social contract is supposed to be something where everyone is treated equally, why is it that most advice given is about stopping people from doing something they like?  When a player in your group uses a tactic you didn’t enjoy being beaten with, you need to come to a social compromise that can keep both players happy.  Maybe find a way that he can continue to use the tactic, but less often.  Or, try and figure out what it is about mass land destruction that really makes you upset.  I guarantee it’s not just the loss of mana resources by itself.

From what I have observed and heard complaints about, the situations people like the least are:

  • Games where nothing happens for a long time
  • Games where one player is playing and the other players are just watching
  • Games that are over before a player got to do anything.

In general, mass land destruction is hated because it can cause all three situations.  If someone plays it at the wrong time, the game restarts and takes a long time to pick back up.   Played at the right time, but with an only slightly advantageous board state, it can turn into watching the player who cast it slowly kill the board over many long turns.  Played early on, it can possibly end a game before it has even begun.  However, if later in the game someone casts Armageddon and then continues to win the next turn, people usually don’t mind.

Even though I will be advocating tactics that many other authors on this site may be against, I want you to know where I am coming from.  I am 100% for people having fun and keeping with a social contract in Commander.  I just don’t believe that tactics need to be thrown out for that to be possible.

I’m glad to be here as a part of GDC, where we uphold the social contract.