Is the Commander format being handled well?

Commander (EDH) forum

Posted on Sept. 20, 2022, 1:21 p.m. by legendofa

I disagree with how WotC is handling the Commander format, and legendary creatures in general, and pretty much everyone I've personally talked to is in the same camp on at least one point. Basically, I think that Commander is starting to consume the game, there are too many legendary creatures, and it's starting to have a problematic effect on the game's design as a whole. (Trivia: More than half of all legendary creatures with a five-color identity got their first print within the last three years.) I'm curious if anyone here thinks that the Standard set + Commander set structure is a good idea, or if there are an appropriate number of new legendary creatures being made, or anything else about how the Commander format is currently being handled.

I freely admit that I'm a very casual Commander player, and a good chunk of my decks are more geared to messing around and having fun than to actually winning.

Profet93 says... #2

You state it will have a problematic effect on the game, you mention 5-color legendary printing timeline.

How do these 2 points negatively effect the game? I am unclear, perhaps I am missing something.

September 20, 2022 1:35 p.m.

Profet93 I would assume legend is referring to that point as a way of pointing to the growing way that Commander influences the format. 5-color legendaries aren't necessarily an issue; however, when those legendaries are incredibly pushed to cater to a specific format, it undermines the efficiency of Standard and makes power creep that much worse. Jodah, the Unifier and Go-Shintai of Life's Origin are recent examples of this.

September 20, 2022 2:12 p.m.

legendofa says... #4

As my opinion, the influx of five-color legendary creatures has diluted the importance of being five colors. It feels like being five colors has gone from being "This character is important and powerful" to "This card can lead any Commander deck." This next statement is third-hand, so a grain of salt may be in order, but I've heard of people using pre-ban Golos, The Tireless Pilgrim as the commander of a mono-red deck, and specifically adding more Treasure cards to use Golos's ability, because "it's objectively the best option." When Go-Shintai of Life's Origin can do everything Ghen, Arcanum Weaver can, plus add two additional colors (ignoring the additional Shrine ability), it effectively removes Ghen from any sort of contention.

This creates a centralizing effect, where every five-color commander is scrutinized to see if it's the single best option. Kenrith, the Returned King is the current leader, allowing aggro, combo, control, or just five-color goodstuff. Esika, God of the Tree  Flip and Sisay, Weatherlight Captain/Jodah, the Unifier also can lead virtually anything, as long as it has creatures and planeswalkers or legendary creatures, respectively.

I presented the five-color timeline as a bit of objective fact. The consequences of that fact are that "five-color-ness" for legendary creatures is increasingly meaningless, acting as more of an opportunity than a hard restriction, and that the high production numbers are reducing the story and mechanical impact of each one.

September 20, 2022 2:20 p.m.

EnbyGolem says... #5

While I don’t personally love the way new commanders are made, I solve this by simply not playing with them. I find it way more fun to find random weird cards from 2 decades ago. It doesn’t bug me that others play them though, quite the opposite in fact.

I work is a public school district hat serves families with very limited resources. I run an after school club and regularly teach middle school and high school students how to play the game; it’s awesome to see them be able to crack literally any new pack and find a commander to start crafting a deck around. While I agree the novelty of the Legendary creature type is lost, the benefit comes in terms of greater accessibility.

A great example is last year my partner and I were able to run a small sealed tournament for the kids using the then brand new Streets of New Capenna set. Every kid got several packs to build a deck, compete with, and then take those cards home. After the tournament, the vast majority of them of them took one (or several) of the variety of legendaries they cracked and then created new EDH decks that they still play today.

September 20, 2022 2:29 p.m.

The five-color problem is definitely the most obvious symptom of the over-focus on Commander; far from the only one, but definitely the most obvious.

There's also the problem of just too many incredibly strong legendary creatures. Dominaria United had this issue in particular. When you print a vast number of strong legendary creatures without branching into new design territory, you risk making swathes of past strategies entirely invalid by creating a commander that, like legendofa said, can do everything another can, but has more colors and more abilities. Mono-colored commander is quickly becoming obsolete with the exception of obscenely broken commanders that are a normal part of the design process (like Tergrid, God of Fright  Flip), and that shouldn't be the standard for what cards are allowed to dominate the stage of mono-colored decks.

EnbyGolem also makes a valid point by considering that this is really only an issue at the upper eschelons of play, where power creep is a major issue and something that needs to be constantly kept up with. At low-power tables, the effect is negligible and the influx of new products is perfectly reasonable as it expands the card pool and allows for some new strategies.

September 20, 2022 2:32 p.m.

This talk of "printing legendaries that makes other invalid" is ridiculous.

This is a casual format. The main draw, the primary attraction, to this format is that there isn't a wrong way to do it as long as you're having fun. I play Savra, Queen of the Golgari because I enjoy her, even though Meren of Clan Nel Toth and Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord and Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest exist. None of them made her invalid as a strategy.

There's this weird feeling in the room like everyone wants to min/max their casual commander decks, and it's that idea - that there's a wrong way to play, and "why would you play X when Y exists" - that's actually toxic to the format. It's not about the new cards. A new card ALWAYS gives MORE options, not fewer. And as much as I may miss the "specialness" of getting the once-a-year precon sets, greater access to this game in the form of more cheap commanders and more preconstructed decks is a feature, not a bug.

September 20, 2022 3:34 p.m.

PhotogenicParasympathetic it's more a discussion of the higher tiers of play than the casual side of play. As I mentioned, casual will never experience dangerous power creep just by its very nature.

The discussion we're having is the normalization of overabundance in the format and the standardization of competitive play. Casual doesn't really factor in to this discussion, as it's not impacted by the releases, as you said.

I totally agree that in casual, the idea of min/max-ing your decks is incredibly toxic, but only to the extent that you min-max-ing your deck makes it at least optimized if not competitive and therefore (usually) not suitable for casual.

Commander is a casual format at its heart, and a good portion of people will play it as such, but we feel that the creativity of decks at optimized and competitive levels is slowly being leeched, and that oppressive and ubiquitous strategies are being allowed to flourish more than they should due to the incredible power creep that is occurring within the format.

Of course, there is the valid criticism that this line of thinking that I am using is somewhat elitist, as it prioritizes the experiences of established, more competitive players over those of the more casual newcomers who just like seeing new cards being printed and don't really care about the concepts of things like the metagame.

In that case, I am still evaluating the deficits of that argument. However, it is worth mentioning that even for me, the number of new cards being released is overwhelming, so it might be even worse for a new player. Again, I can't step into the shoes of a new player, as I started playing Magic before the rampant release of Commander products, so that is admittedly a blind spot in my thinking.

September 20, 2022 4:54 p.m.

legendofa says... #9

PhotogenicParasympathetic In principle, I 100% agree. As long as you're having fun, you're doing it right.

But I personally think Commander has lost the essence of what it was. With four new sets being printed for it every year, I can't consider it any less pushed than Standard, and somewhat more than Modern. That level of pushing, to me, indicates that WotC intends for it to be at least semi-competitive, at least as much as Standard. When there was one set a year, interspersed with Archenemy, Planechase, and other unquestionably casual products, that was a casual game. It completely eclipsed the others, and is now one of very few promoted "casual" formats--I would suggest that Jumpstart is the only other one.

I said in my original post that I was very casual, and I stand by that. I think Commander has become less casual as more dedicated sets get printed for it.

September 20, 2022 5:21 p.m.

I didn't think about it from the angle that standardization makes even the more casual side of the format impacted due to its heavy endorsement from Wizards, but i can definitely see what you're saying legendofa. Well said.

September 20, 2022 6:08 p.m.

The problem, in general, isn't the commander format. It's the fact that Hasbro bought Wizards and is pushing the company to be more profitable. What once was a pure thing is now a vehicle for corporate greed.

A further example of this is how Brawl was intended to be a formal Tiny Leader format but when TL was more or less solved Brawl kind of fell apart. Now it's an arena only format meant to mimic EDH.

Another example is how they've made Arena only cards (seeking through a spellbook or perpetual effects, preposterous mechanics that ruin the game, imo) to push that market.

One could argue that the death of M:tG began when the pen scrawled the acquisition agreement.

September 20, 2022 6:42 p.m.

I agree that a lot of the symptoms are being caused by attempting to make the most money as possible, but I also believe that it could be possible to allow Hasbro to make maximum profit while also enabling healthy release patterns for the game as a whole. Currently, MTG seems to be on a path of self-destruction in higher levels of play, which definitely wouldn't be healthy for their bottom line.

September 20, 2022 6:58 p.m.

Niko9 says... #13

I mean, I do remember the days when there just wasn't a commander for the strategy or colors that you wanted to play, but at the same time I remember those days fondly : ) Now you can get the exact commander you need for whatever you want to do, and it lets you build so many more decks, it's just that it also kills your need to experiment. So many of my fav decks started off as one thing and evolved into something else over time and play, and the constraint of what commanders were available and what colors they were in was a way to make you dig deep on every deck and make it yours. I think I'll miss that if I ever make another EDH deck.

And yep, legends do feel like they've lost a bit of their flavor as more commanders get thrown into the pot. It's like that old(ish) saying, "If everyone is Han Solo, then no one is Han Solo."

Overall I'm a bit in the middle on it, but my group has been playing more with 60 card multiplayer anyways. Being able to get quicker games, switch decks, and to do politics between games to gang up on stronger decks is good fun : )

September 20, 2022 7:04 p.m.

I agree that they could.

I argue that they won't.

The B.R.I.C.S economic blocc is threatening to upset the US dollar globally but corporations continue to outsource labor to India and China.

Apples to oranges? Perhaps but my point is that greed traditionally has little foresight.

September 20, 2022 7:13 p.m. Edited.

I think Niko9 really hit it on the head here.

We can sit here and hyper-analyze how the metagame has shifted and how color identity is becoming blurred and all of that, but ultimately it comes down to this: do we have fun when we sit down to play Magic?

Currently, the answer is still yes, at least for me and I assume most of you. Yes, we have valid concerns about the routes that certain releases have taken, and those may even impact us in the long term. But ultimately I think it's important not to worry too much, as Magic is a wonderfully diverse game with so many amazing people playing it that no matter what happens, I think it'll turn out alright.

September 20, 2022 7:13 p.m.

Niko9 says... #16

TheOfficialCreator Thanks : ) It's definitely good to bring up these topics, especially in EDH, just because the majority of games are happening locally and players have to voice opinions any way they can to get the word out there. In formats with competitive play I feel like wizards can get a lot of input from pro players, but EDH is more players with much smaller voices, so open discussions about what is happening to the format is so important.

That being said, wizards can only ruin your fun if you let them. I think that, personally, I'm slowly coming to terms with the fact that I really only like 1-2 sets a year, or 1-2 legends a year, even if I'd want to like more of them. The game is great : ) It's like legos that you can build and then play against your friends. But the design, even in just the last year or so, it seems to have no cohesive plan, and that's so clear in what legends look like now.

I think that wizards used to have a more bottom up design approach when it came to cards, where the people involved in making the game were the ones who decided how a set was constructed. Now it's definitely top down, with someone from the business side is telling design to make more legendary creatures and then they have to scramble to make these legends feel relevant.

Maybe part of what makes me feel weird about the last year and change is that I played one game for years and years, and it's still the same game, but every spoiler season it looks so, I don't know. It looks like Jurrasic World when what I really want is more Jurrasic Park.

September 20, 2022 9:23 p.m.

legendofa says... #17

I appreciate the thoughtfulness of everyone on this thread so far. Even if I disagree with you, thank you for presenting your thoughts in a reasonable way.

September 20, 2022 10:33 p.m.

Gidgetimer says... #18

I don't really care about the number/function/color-identity of legendaries. The lore hasn't been good IMO in 7 years. I only build a commander deck if I think the commander does something fun. Ideally, but not always, it also does something interesting.

I do, however, not like the release tempo of commander decks. I understand that this is for completely selfish reasons. Tying commander decks to standard sets means that they are super narrow in the cards that they select because they are trying to highlight the standard set. This makes them uninteresting and not a product that appeals to me. I don't play standard or limited beyond pre-release. So standard sets hold little appeal. I'm a grown man with a family to support and other hobbies so whale sets are unappealing. So I am left with no product that is "for me". I really wish that they would go back to one commander precon release a year. Or at least untether one of them from the standard set each year.

Tin foil hat time-

I think that they originally intended there to be a brawl pre-con release coinciding with standard set releases and when the Eldraine ones were sold out quickly but cannibalized for shocks and arcane signets for commander decks instead of sparking interest in a rotating singleton format they decided to abandon brawl and just add 40 cards to the decks they had planned for the next 2 years and call them commander decks. And now we are stuck with this accelerated release schedule.

September 20, 2022 11:37 p.m.

That.. would make a lot of sense. I do think that it is a little strange though, because iirc Eldraine's brawl decks were almost exclusively made with native Eldraine cards and didnt have many commander staples, while the new Commander sets are stocked full with them and don't have many native cards.

Still, it would make sense that Wizards abandoned paper Brawl for that reason.

September 21, 2022 7:05 a.m.

Ravenrose says... #20

I think that the Commander format has not been handled well for a while now due to a myriad of factors. The primary ones being: Hasbro doesn't care about the player base, only the money and because of this, the ethos of Commander is slowly eroding from the team creating the cards. TheOfficialCreator correctly pointed out that unique cards to the Commander decks have been severely reduced; one of the reasons that I was drawn to Commander in the first place. But the reason in my mind that the Commander format is not being handled well, is because we have a Commander deck for almost EVERY SET.

Now, I know that some of the decks are new and fun and some kicked butt ... however, it was the once a year Commander decks that had the most magic - in my opinion. They were memorable! I wanted to buy and play them. And then, we got our own Commander sets and more Commander decks with every set, which oversaturated everything. The Commander format isn't being handled well because Hasbro doesn't care about treating our format well. They see us spending money on it, and they try and capitalise on it.

One of the things I actually hoped with this Commander-deck-with-set stuff is that we could have ended up with Gorgon tribal or Centaur tribal or Siren tribal or a full Underworld deck with the Theros set. And then - lo and behold! - nothing! The one set that could have given love to some neglected tribes, missed that bloody boat!

Why? Because Hasbro likely didn't want to waste anymore time and money on Theros. Sorry, rant over on that part.

Another factor why I think the Commander format is not being handled well, is because of the imbalance in the differences between the prices of the desks and the inflating prices. I understand everything is becoming more expensive due to wars, pandemic aftermath, etc, but after seeing that Commander decks for 20 bucks were still as good as those of 50, I just cannot unsee the ridiculousness of this situation. I would love to be able to just buy a new Commander deck that I like, without fearing that I may be taking grocery money away from my mouth for a week. I am not in a good financial position right now so I am not spending too much money on Magic anyway, but even if I were in a good position, I would be very reluctant to just buy a deck. I started playing Commander when the Emminence Commander cycle came out. I first bought Edgar and then the Ur-Dragon because I was advised to start with the vamps and then buy the dragons later due to their landbase issues.

The point is, I could do that on a student budget of 1099 euros a month that I got from my student loan because the decks were around 25 or 30 bucks. I can't do that anymore because the new decks are around 40 bucks! It's insane.

That is all I have to say. Apologies for rambling.

September 21, 2022 8:06 a.m.

SpammyV says... #21

It's kind of funny how not even Unfinity is free from the Legendary Creature overload of recent years. They're not even all legal cards, which still leaves me confused about what the point of this is.

September 22, 2022 12:04 p.m.

Gleeock says... #22

I think I'm ok with release rate & more options (I don't have product fatigue because I am a specialized player in a few narrow fields). What I get VERY eye-rolling on though, is how EACH DAMN set has this synthetic MSRP price balloon to a few cards, some sets will have varying quality but it seems like every set just HAS to throw a few $30-50 range cards whether or not that value is realistic... Though alot of that is on us as consumers. I for one, am being a choosy consumer & not feeding the beast unreasonably, but I do think this level of informed consumerism requirement will eventually be a big deterrent to new entrants to the game. I get a bit cynical about the amount of greed machine WUBRG they keep releasing as well, they know that the land-base alone for WUBRG is a ridiculous cash cow... I'm sure they see a bunch of tertiary sales skyrocket with these. & yes, if they keep doing this, then why not make WUBRG enchantress? it'll be inherently better than enchantress, for eg. Apply that to any number of archetypes & you may end up with an expectation for every EDH player to have some sort of token WUBRG "best of ___" deck; that is healthy for the dollar line, but not for the format. Particularly not good for the format for new entries if WUBRG decks are status-quo.

September 22, 2022 11:10 p.m.

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