Defending the Commander Social Contract

Category: social issues

Flashback! Not-a-Guest Post: Political Cards

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published on January 5, 2015. We’re flashing back to some of our best from the past several years every Friday, because what’s old is new again. It’s always worth thinking about how to “play your opponents,” even if you happen to believe that “all politics is really just managing and distorting threat assessment.” So what do you think?


Have you ever met a person who wins most of their Commander games? And by ‘most’, I mean they win more than 50% of their games, despite playing at four-person tables, where, given a roughly even distribution of wins among participants they should only win around 25% of the time. Some people chalk this kind of win ratio up to having a more complete collection or having built technically superior decks with stronger win mechanisms. Or, more likely, they’re actually just a blowhard and don’t really win 50% of their games. Perhaps they count “wins” in terms of their personal body count instead of as “technical victories” (which is being the last player standing). Some people even count kingmaking as winning, but there’s no accounting for another’s ambitions.

But, okay, some people DO win most of their games, and they don’t necessarily have superior collections or unflinchingly use ungentlemanly tactics and stratagems. Rather, these players not only know how to play Magic, but also know how to play their opponents.

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Back To Basics

Though I was a bit bummed when GDC went on hiatus, it wound up being a silver lining. After my last article, I had a wave of good fortune in the form of a couple of jobs opportunities, but ones that were going to be extremely time intensive. I wound up needing all of the time we had off to complete the applications and gather all of the necessary paperwork.  I’ll know more about my prospects later in the year, but in the meantime I’m going to be back here at GDC in a more limited position.

In the midst of this, I also changed regular work schedules, so I’ve been adjusting to working afternoons now. It has been fine for the work aspect of it, but it is going to eat into my EDH playing time, as well as my other activities. I’m down to playing once a week for a few hours, and it pains me every time I see my group setting up an alternate EDH night because I just can’t make it during weeknights anymore.

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The Problem With New Commander Players (From A Grumpy Old Players’ Perspective)

There’s a very real learning curve that most Commander players will follow as they become acclimated with the format. It’s safe to assume that most everyone reading this will be somewhere on this timeline right now; put simply, everyone starts with a preconceived notion of what Commander is, and that view then changes the longer they play the game.

Usually, this vision is most affected by what is and isn’t acceptable to those people a player shares a metagame with; put simply, the longer you play Commander, the more you develop a feel for what you want out of a game, and that should shine through your communication, deck construction, and actions, until everyone in your metagame reaches a rough parity. This is the Social Contract at work.

That said, what happens when a new school of players enters into an older metagame? Well, it can often be problematic. (Ask me how I know.)

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Generals That Deserve Their Bad Reputation



“Ugh, Arcum? OK Fine. Every body kill him first.” Ever heard something like that?

In early May, in the midst of a flurry of public debate about reputations and Magic players, I received a request for an article about Commanders that have bad reputations, how those generals earned the rap, whether it is deserved, how to fight against these commanders, and ideas to play differently using them to improve their reputation.

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Black Sheep – HOSTING!


My wife and I recently decided to dedicate ourselves to dancing again. We met in a Latin dance club and it has always been an activity that we share a passion for. Thanks to a foot injury that is entirely my fault, we had to give up dancing for most of last year. To get ourselves back into the groove we decided to go back to a dance studio to get refreshed and learn some new moves and styles. As luck would have it, the classes are only available on the night I had previously set aside for Commander. The other two local Magic nights also landed on days where we planned to go to the clubs to use our newly rediscovered love for dance. This left me with a large problem; how could I play Commander?

The solution?

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Black Sheep – Newer Year, Magical-er Resolutions

Last year, I wrote a New Year’s resolution article on this site:

In summary my resolutions were:

  1. Fill my deck box
  2. Update and finish decks
  3. Double the size of the local commander group
  4. Promote players to veterans
  5. Get GDC mentioned on a major site

Let’s see how I did.

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Playgroup Evolution: Dropping Discrimination

Welcome back, esteemed readers! Let’s talk about discrimination in our games, shall we?

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article discusses and references some derogatory and offensive terms.  Please be warned.)

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