Y’know, I was thinking…
Shiny New…Ah, Whatever…
I may be in the minority here (I probably am), but I’m totally uninterested in the official Commander offerings coming down the pike in the upcoming next few months. Given my documented dislike for theme decks, the announcement that Commander 2017 would be a set of four tribal decks caused me to immediately disengage with the product. Even the spoiling of a few spicy cards wasn’t enough to dredge up any interest. My fear here is that we’re going to get a pretty front-loaded selection of new commander faces that will be augmented with a who’s who of tribal cards (Yeah, yeah…it’s great that Belbe’s Portal and Door of Destinies are things…) and not nearly the mana base support we’ll need to make them playable. I mean, five-color dragons? How does that realistically work for an MSRP of $34.99?
Speaking of, prepare for the griping to begin. What, they *didn’t* reprint Cavern of Souls in this set? What the hell? Where better to fit it in? Who’s making the decisions in Renton these days? Oh, wait…they *DID* put it in? Well, great…now these things are going to instantly sell out at Target and WalMart and my LGS will price them at $75 a piece. Who’s making the decisions in Renton these days?”
(Tangent – Sometimes, I think that the sub-set of Magic players (myself included) that tune in to the internet for content thrive off of complaining. So much so that Wizards needs to market it as an added feature.)
From there, we’ve got the Commander Anthology. Somehow, I totally missed this announcement. And then, I tuned in and saw that it features four reprinted Commander Pre-Con decks, three of which (Meren of Clan Nel Toth, Kaalia of the Vast, and Derevi, Empyrial Tactician) are pretty universally-reviled as un-fun decks when built with your average EDHREC.com recommended build.
Well, at least it’s a reasonable $164.99. But hey…sweet life counters, right?
Like I said…complaining is worth the price of admission.
Speaking of…MTGOnline. Man, was I enjoying the hell out of it for about a month there. All apologies to the people that may have enjoyed my first article on getting into Commander Online, but once Wizards demonstrated that they don’t particularly feel like supporting traditional Commander anymore, I checked out and sold my collection. I’m just not interested in keeping up with two different effective formats that don’t mirror the cardboard world, varying life totals, another application of questionable ban lists…it just goes on and on.
The ease of play is (for me) a pretty huge upside, but I’m over it. Damn shame that we can’t see some Commander unity applied here, because while there may be a thriving 1v1 Competitive Commander following out there, I’m pretty sure that the last thing most fans of a casual format want is to have to track three different effective iterations of the same format.
And speaking of the Banned List…here’s my thought on it. Erik wrote an excellent piece after the recent Banned List announcement that looks to figure out where the current thought process goes wrong, and aims to apply a new, upgraded logic to hopefully create a better end product. I was intending to write a rebuttal…kind of a companion piece of sorts, but I didn’t want to blow up the internet again (Apparently, ‘for/against’-style Magic articles are explosive…who knew?) , so I’ll sum up my statement like this:
If anyone is at GenCon this year, look for this shirt. We’ll play some fun games.
…You want more? Okay…here’s my philosophy. Commander is a casual format. There are no existing datasets that support any bans of any type; all we have is a Rules Committee that does (in my opinion) a good job of trying to shepherd this format in a way that is both hands-off and as casual as EDH itself, with the express goal of helping all of us to simply do the good thing – have fun, and help others do the same.
Well, that’s apparently too hard for quite a bit of the Commander community regardless of what is said and done. As it turns out, people need structure. And that’s fine. But the thing is, that is problematic in the face of the lack of concrete data to back up cutting cards out of the pool. It’s tough to say that, for example, Sundering Titan is a maliciously-abused presence for *everyone* if it never shows up at your local LGS. Deadeye Navigator is a superb example – the GDC team is nearly evenly divided between those of us who think it needs to go and those of us who could care less. I’m in the latter group – even when I was playing regularly, I simply never saw it.
My solution is very simple. There’s already a palpable divide in the community between competitive players and casual ones, so we need to do exactly what Sheldon Menery recently said would be a possible potential solution – Create a ‘Competitive Commander splinter group’ (and let Bruce Richard name it!) that manages a real ban list for that kind of play. Let them figure out what data (maybe it’s MTGO?) supports their cuts, let them formulate a list and philosophy, and then get Wizards on board to support the split for any official tournaments (think GP side events and the like.)
For us casuals? Wipe the ban list clean. Completely. Let us have the entire sandbox. Let Sheldon and Co. retire, but not before simply imparting one concise statement:
“Uphold the Social Contract”
That’s it. That’s all we should need. This should easily cover everyone, from tight-knit home games to regular game nights at the LGS to casual tables at big events. It should *never* be difficult to USE YOUR WORDS, even when faced with players from other stores, towns, states, or countries. Introduce yourself, have a seat, and say, “Hey…what kind of a game are we playing here? Personally, I don’t really like infinite combos or land destruction, but I’m cool otherwise.”
It’s not hard to take a mature approach here. We shouldn’t need our hands held by anyone just to be able to sit down to play a game and have fun. I mean, I have a 5-year old son who does this automatically when we play with his Pokemon cards. “Dad, PLEASE don’t do that special attack with Blastoise on my basic guys. It always kills them before I can do anything.”
If a five-year old gets how to casually game, I don’t want to hear a single further argument from anyone who plays Commander. Ever. End of story.
These Things Are Relevant To My Interests
Speaking of Banned Lists and GenCon – if you caught a read on Dave’s article here, you know that the GDC crew descending upon Indianapolis for the Best Four Days In Gaming this August are engaging in a little experiment. One day in our team Slack chat, someone asked aloud if it was possible to make a fun deck with a totally unrestricted Commander card pool. No Banned list, silver borders are fine, and play your dexterity cards and Shahrazad to your heart’s content.
So I will.
Mad props to #TheProxyGuy for another batch of extremely awesome foiled –out goodness. If you’re in Indy for GenCon, you may catch a glimpse of our decks in action. I’m sure we’ll be doing write-ups afterward, and posting lists too. (I can’t spoil mine yet; suffice to say I’ve got something special cooked up that really deserves a supreme surprise factor.)
If you’re really up for a challenge, make a deck and find us (hint: we’ll be watching Twitter and regularly Tweeting out when we’re playing games in the Convention Center.) The only rule is simple – Prove that Commander can be fun without any cards getting banned.
We’ll see you there.