Alex: It’s been nearly two years since Dave & I wrote an article about Tiny Leader bursting into our hearts and mind. A lot has happened in two years since the inception, can you give our readers a quick recap of what Tiny Leader is?
Dave: Tiny Leaders WAS (I Guess for some people still is) this variant format of our favorite Magic variant format, EDH. Basically the same deckbuilding rules and restrictions applie, except no card can cost more than three mana mana, you start with 25 life, and decks are 50 cards instead of 100 (like 49 plus a general).
Alex: Hey Dave what happened since? Do you still see players playing?
D: I haven’t seen anyone have anything to say about this format since the first quarter of 2016, except for random mentions on Reddit, and MTGFinance guys making jokes about the parallel to Frontier on Twitter. My sense is small pockets of support remain, but overall the format didn’t have much legs. How about you Alex? Do you see players playing Tiny Leaders?
A: I’ve seen more people talking about the format than people playing the format around social media and at the local gaming stores. The format has become a late night running joke at this point. Whenever Wizards releases spoilers for new cards from an incoming set and a legendary creature has a converted mana cost of three or less, the first comment refers to “The card is good for Tiny Leaders,” as a pointless afterthought or inept punchline. Back to the question: zero, nada, zilch, nothing in the year.
Alex: What keys issues or event did you think contributed to the rise and fall of the format?
D: To my mind, Cassidy embodies the two shortcomings of the format, or rather his responses to it do:
- There was never much appetite for a more-competitive alternative to EDH beyond cEDH; and
- There was at the very least the perception that the format was quickly solved, whether or not this is accurate – which again, smacks of conventional, 60-card competitive formats and offers an element that nobody was looking for from EDH. Formats rely on a critical mass of players so….
A: I think Dave and Cassidy nail the point. Was there even space for tiny leaders to exist in the first place? So we had 1v1 French/Duel Commanders with its own metagame, rules committee and player base if we were looking for a singleton format that leans more on the competitive end of the scale. On the other end of the spectrum that leans towards sociability and ease of play, there was already Commander/EDH. Tiny Leader was stuck somewhere in the vacuum in between those formats and there were only so much space for magic players to breathe from.
In some ways, Tiny leader format falls in line with the first three stages of the “Hype Cycle.”
Tiny Leaders was born when a local playgroup wanted to try something new and different, ie the “Technology Trigger.” Then early adopters came, interested in the format & explored it. The early adopters (Like Dave and I) wrote and created content for Tiny Leaders to praise the format to the masses, thus inflating hype. However, interest in the Tiny Leaders format waned over time, the player base fell off, and the format is at its current malaise state in the trough of disillusionment. Could Tiny Leaders make a comeback? That’s a question I don’t think I can answer definitely.
Dave: How did this format impact plain old Commander and magic design?
A: It’s like I answered with the hype cycle from the question earlier. At the peak of interest in Tiny Leaders, there were ripples of changes to Commander and other formats. The hype of the format may have caused demand and shifted prices. At the height of popularity from February 2015 to July 2015, the prices of legendary creatures that were playable in Tiny Leaders increased suddenly. Let’s look at an example card that is only played in Commander, Toshiro Umezawa. The price increased to nearly four times the original value.
The price increase was even more dramatic on highly sought-after foil legendary cards as well.
Anything you want to add about the impact in magic design from Tiny Leaders, Dave?
D: For myself, the second half (magic design) is easier to answer. In the recently released Commander 2016 preconstructed product from Wizards, every deck contained a commander clearly designed with the Tiny Leaders in mind – a CMC of three or less and an ability that scales for longer games. I’m sure there have been other ripples that impacted how legendary creatures were costed in sets before C16, I just didn’t notice them as being that at the time. Also, there’s a set of Legendaries in Aether Revolt that also fit this MO.
To the first, (impacting Commander) for me at least, it has impacted my thinking somewhat, in that I build my decks with much lower curves now.
Alex: So what are the takeaways and lessons can we learn from Tiny Leaders?
D: The big lesson to me was that I underestimated how awesome Commander is, in that its ability to sustain, grow, and continue being SUPER DUPER fun is very impressive. When TL caught on, I didn’t initially recognize the width of this chasm. And yet, here we are, with zero TL decks and approximately 20 EDH decks.
A: I agree with Dave, for as much criticism there is for Commander, it has stood up well to the test of time. Two years since the inception of Tiny Leaders, I had to take a moment to reflect on my role as a content creator and as a consumer. As content makers, we need to not have our blinders up and ask critical questions. As consumers, we need to make the best value judgement with our time, emotion and money. A good lesson about Tiny Leader equates to hype. Hype will always rear its head in life. You just have to test the waters before you dive in next time.