What a crazy past week. Literally everything has conspired to wreck my ability to publish, from work to family to Mother Nature herself.  The latter is responsible for two full nights – last night included – with no power, and at least two major roads in this area washing clean out. It’s damn-near biblical in these parts, if that’s your thing. 

Anyway, there are a lot of things on my mind that I’ve been dying to talk about, and the power is back on, so I’ll do just that with no further ado…

-The Banned List

Another set release is upon us, and with it, the standard release of the Banned and Restricted List Update. It appears that Commander is on a roll and in a good place, because we’ve once again managed to dodge any changes to the format. Per EDH Overlord Himself Sheldon Menery via the Official Forums:

NO CHANGES

The most recent meeting of the Rules Committee was long and productive. We discussed quite a bit about theory and a number of cards (to include our now-regular exercise of specifically debating bringing a card off the Banned List). Once again, we find the format brisk and healthy with no particular areas of alarm and no need for change.

We continue to monitor the community’s discussions regarding the format in general and specific cards. We encourage you to continue engaging in reasonable, civil debate. All of us are thoroughly excited about M15, which we believe to be one of the best sets for Commander in quite a while.

There’s a lot happening here for a non-announcement.

First off, I have to agree – I think our wonderful format seems just fine as is. Call it “local blinders” or whatever, but it’s been a really long time since I’ve been particularly troubled by any single card enough to want it gone. Yeah, that includes things like Deadeye Navigator and Prophet of Kruphix amongst others.

Maybe it’s just our group, but I just don’t see enough of an issue to axe anything at all. Some of you see it differently, and I respect that; the thing is, neither of these is anywhere near as oppressive every time it hits play as something like Sundering Titan. Honestly, that’s the criteria I want to see used when it comes to showing cards the door in this format: Does it suck every single time it enters the battlefield without any exception? Is it easy to abuse? Is it hard not to? Good…kill it with fire. As much as I hate to see Deadeye hit play for the most part, it isn’t an auto-game killer in every case. It just doesn’t fit the same bill as something like Worldfire.

Exercise your Social Contract muscles, folks. If it really sucks that badly, let the offenders know. You’d be surprised at the list of cards that see no play in our metagame because we do this regularly.

That aside, I’m a little concerned with one area of the announcement. There’s this:

We discussed quite a bit about theory and a number of cards (to include our now-regular exercise of specifically debating bringing a card off the Banned List).

…Which is all well and good, especially in the face of clear proof that the Rules Committee won’t be unbanning things just for the sake of doing it. Really, this is a minor blip on the radar for me, but I’d extend caution here – there’s no need to shake things up and break a process that isn’t broken just for the sake of doing so. It works right now…don’t rock the boat.

-M15

In related news, there’s’ also this in the announcement:

All of us are thoroughly excited about M15, which we believe to be one of the best sets for Commander in quite a while.

Did I miss something? Great looking set, sure. More exciting than the last few Core Sets for Commander by a country mile. But in general, is this really more exciting than the whole of Theros block, which (among other things) brought us the Gods? Does Commander 2013 not count as a “set” here? What about the flood of shocklands and cool new generals from Return To Ravnica? Even Innistrad block, for as little as I really cared for it, brought a decent amount of new stuff.

Looking at M15, I can’t help but wonder if we’re just mesmerized as a whole by the sheen of the Shiny new Thing©. I mean, limited play seems exciting and new, but it always does, and that always fades within a few short weeks. The generals this time around seem kind of underwhelming, especially when compared to the impact that Odric, Master Tactician, Krenko, Mob boss, and Yeva, Nature’s Herald. The planeswalkers seem kind of flat for Commander purposes too, although the new Garruk is kind of cool in a “Jam him in my Doubling Season!” kind of way…

And don’t get me restarted on the Soul cycle. Hopefully I’m wrong, and these things end up being cool and prolific, but I just don’t see it. If the high-water mark is really Soul of New Phyrexia, I’m going back to sleep, all the while dreaming about Spearbreaker Behemoth and Boros Charm.

To me, the real value in the set comes from the quiet role-players, which isn’t terribly exciting. Things like Chief Engineer and Perilous Vault are the kinds of interesting new things that will see a good chunk of support play, but they seem few and far between, and aren’t particularly flashy either.

What am I missing here? My preorder for this set included about nine or ten cards, and more than half were commons and uncommons. M15 is exciting, no doubt, but I think it ends up being a bit overstated at the same time. (Please hit me up in the Comments section to let me know what I’m missing here.)

-The Shirei Experiment

A while back, our very own Black Sheep @SwordsToPlow posted his budget deck roundup, which can be found here. The Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker list caught my eye in particular; I’m of a firm belief that anytime a general allows you to put anything on the battlefield for free for any reason at all, it’s got potential to be a powerhouse. When I did my recent culling of decks and ended up with an open slot in one of my Fat Pack boxes, I decided to start with Sean’s suggestion. (For the record, I’m ultimately taking your suggestions and using that slot to rotate through some builds that I’ve typically steered clear of over the years – stay tuned in the near future for both black/blue and red/white builds.)

I have some solid playtesting behind me at this point, and while I don’t want to spoil it here (It’s easily a few full articles’ worth of material), this deck is turning out to be a heck of a learning opportunity. In specific:

• I’ve never played a deck with more raw synergy. Every moving part works with everything else.
• I’m learning social lessons like crazy from this. I’ve never played a deck that draws hate harder due to the perception that it’s doing something scary even in the face of pretty mundane action.
• This deck is living proof that the designer and the metagame play huge roles in how a deck will work. Sean is positively baffled by some of the results I’m getting with it.

Anyway, stay tuned for the detailed experience in a near-future article or two. My plan is to document the stock play experience, and then modify the deck to a place that will work better in my metagame and see how well that goes.

-GDC Is Growing!

Before I head out to pump water out of my basement and rebuild my washed out driveway, I wanted to drop a note regarding the recent Twitter call for new team-members. Man, what a response! We were literally flooded with a ton of replies, and have been feverishly discussing the submissions and talking to the candidates.

Long story short, we’re growing in a big way, and it will be happening very soon. In the upcoming weeks, we’ll be introducing you to several new members of the GDC team. We’ve got some great new voices, tons of great new ideas, and many more cooks to jump in and mess up the kitchen. What does this all mean for you, the dedicated and much-appreciated reader?

-More content. We’re looking at new feature articles and new series ideas along the lines of Dave’s benchmark Three Cards Deep.

-More meeting of deadlines! Yeah, I know. It’s hard to make this thing run as smoothly as it should sometimes. We’re re-dedicating ourselves to a focus on the publishing schedule, making sure that we have tons of content for you regularly and as many times a week as we can jam in.

And yes…this also means less missed content during flood warnings and power outages that seem to be kicking my ass lately… 

-More podcasting! Multiple new candidates have solid recording backgrounds, so we’re going to move toward rejuvenating the GDC Podcast and making it a more regular thing. I’m personally really excited about this one.

-A new look for GeneralDamageControl.com. With all of this, we’re going to start working on a new look for the site. After all, it’s been a year, and I can’t sit still for long with anything. We’re compiling a list of things we want and improvements to make, and we’ll be digging in on this as soon as we can. (By all means – if there’s anything you want – or specifically don’t want – Please let us know. You drive this as much as we do, after all.)

So yeah…pretty exciting times here. We’re going to come out swinging on all of this, so sit tight and enjoy. And thanks again…we’re here because of you.

-Cass
@GDCCommander