Tutorless Commander?

Commander (EDH) forum

Posted on March 14, 2023, 6:58 p.m. by Niko9

I mean, there are some super broken things in EDH that have just been grandfathered in at this point (sol ring, partner commanders, thoracle) but none have that feeling of bending the rules of commander quite as much as tutors, to me at least : ) It's like, cool, lets sit down with 100 card decks, of all single copies, with 3 friends to interact with, and then lets tutor up the exact cards we want at the exact time we want them. Can you even call Demonic Tutor and the rest commander cards? I almost kind of feel like it should be something different. Like ice cream and frozen yogurt, both are good, but it's not like anyone is ordering a scoop of one and the other.

So, I don't know, maybe it's a crazy idea, but what do you all think a commander format without tutors would look like? Would card draw just rule? Would graveyard strategies that give card selection see way more play? Would it even add any more randomization into a format that was designed to play differently every game? I really have no idea, and just kind of something I've been thinking about. I've definitely had decks that tutored so much that they felt almost the same every time, and others where tutors were just a nice splash, so hard to say really : )

And, I'm only thinking of this for casual EDH. Competitive should absolutely be able to do broken things to their absolute heart's content.

griffstick says... #2

The problem comes down to, what exactly qualifies as a tutor. This topic was a discussion many yrs ago. And it just gets lost in "What's a tutor" there are levels to tutors. Cultivate is a tutor.

March 14, 2023 7:54 p.m.

Niko9 says... #3

Good point, how about, for the sake of argument, anything that searchs the entire deck for a nonland, nonspecific card. Things like Elspeth Resplendent don't one card bust randomness, and things like Elspeth, Undaunted Hero are made for very specific archetype decks that function around this effect, rather than a generic deck that uses tutors simply to thin the deck, whether that be to force combos or to have one card be ubiquitous interaction because it can search any interaction.

And I guess what I meant to say in the post was, what would the format look like? I don't mean to be overly critical of tutors (sorry!), more to explore what the format would look like in their absence.

March 14, 2023 8:19 p.m.

enpc says... #4

Niko9: A lot of people build 75% decks which specifically exclude cards like tutors, so there is a decent cross section of what "tutorless" commander looks like.

I understand that this wasn't a poo-poo on tutors, but then it also raises the question about functional reprints. For example, in a slower more casual meta you could run Cancel and the fifty billion differnt varaints of it which again decreases variance but without adding tutoring at all.

March 15, 2023 12:45 a.m.

kortioznikas says... #5

Why play tutors in any other formats at all? I mean, just play 4 copies of card you want to play, you will have decent chance to draw it (end of sarcasm).

When it comes to casual EDH, you can always discuss additional rules with your local playgroup, although I am not a fan of this. I mean, if I show up with tutorfull deck and my gameplan is always the same and cards I play are persistent every game, opponents can easily workaround this since now they know what key cards they should counter and get rid of.

Hard tutors that allow to search for any card are just another form of deck optimization. And without card draw there are other mechanisms that could help you draw cards you want: scry, surveil for example. Without hard tutors perhaps there would be less combo decks that rely on very specific cards to win the game.

March 15, 2023 8:25 a.m. Edited.

Caerwyn says... #6

Commander night at my LGS is already effectively turorleas Commander. By unspoken understanding, the better players and deck builders keep their decks to a tuned-but-not-fast level, ensuring the many younger and newer players can still pull out some wins. Eliminating tutors is one way that is accomplished, as it increases the variance in games, ensuring the best cards are not always forthcoming.

speaking just for myself, I do not have a problem with tutors in decks that should be using them. Combo decks that need to find their pieces or something heavily reliant on a certain card makes sense to run tutors. A casual stompy deck where maybe some creatures are better than others, but they’re all effectively interchangeable? I probably wouldn’t bother adding tutors. That’s not for some “purity of singleton” stance—-I just really hate shuffling and will avoid adding cards which shuffle the deck if I think I can get away with it.

March 15, 2023 8:43 a.m.

DreadKhan says... #7

You can always try to make your own meta I guess, and hope other people's interest is piqued in your area/online? In my idea of Casual play there are very few tutors, mostly decks uses them to have a way to close games if their board is consistently insufficient. Not everyone plays casual the same though, so you can still run into people who run very pushed decks (but obviously not cEDH capable) and call that 'casual', hopefully you can explain the situation if it isn't quickly obvious to them and they'll play something else.

In my attempt to build a Commander meta (I built 5 decks to playtest/have variance) I used Legends beaters as Commanders, meaning that you still get to have a figurehead Commander, but you get some of that Gladiator feel as the deck is very 99 driven. Combine unimpressive Commanders with 99 driven decks that don't use tutors (or use a small number of subpar ones, and only if they are absolutely necessary to find a win con for a control deck) and you get a new feeling meta. Technically it doesn't use any special rules or Rule 0 stuff, so I can loan decks for a game (or just play one vs a normal pod, hoping that Tobias Andrion avoids a bit of attention), I guess if your group liked your idea for a meta they might each build a deck to play games that way, who knows?

March 15, 2023 8:59 a.m.

Gleeock says... #8

My meta just naturally plays near 0 tutors... It is beautiful & glorious. In my meta it leads to alot more midrange impact moves, without the temptation to just move straight to the endgame.

I do enjoy limited "tutors" & they have to be able to do something else for me Urza's Sylex is an example of one where I use the tutor function but the primary purpose is boardwiping. That same deck uses Niko9's aforementioned Elspeth Resplendent - limited tutor with another effect.

I keep pulling them & seeing better gameplay consistency, particularly the midgame back-&-forth stuff.

I find myself pulling even my limited tutors & replacing them with lands. I am taking Enlightened Tutor out of my Naya enchantress deck, for example, because most the targets are midrangy & the tutor doesn't really do anything else.

So, I guess I am saying; that in my case removing the non-restricted tutors has just lead to more midrange-focused games. I don't even feel that the power level is all that impacted, just gameplay pattern.

March 15, 2023 9:08 a.m.

Gleeock says... #9

Like Caerwyn I find shuffling distasteful. For me it is mostly a cognitive loading thing though.

March 15, 2023 9:16 a.m.

Niko9 says... #10

Gleeock now that's really interesting, especially about the power level and play patterns. It's awesome to hear that your group gets into fun midrange games and adds to diverse games : ) I had a combo deck that used lots of tutors, but took it apart recently because of that weird feeling of having a broad tutor where it's like, well I either purposely play suboptimal or get the same piece that I got last game and the game before. Would definitely rather have the challenge of making a more cohesive deck where every piece works : )

March 15, 2023 11:02 a.m.

Crow_Umbra says... #11

I don't think tutors are inherently bad or OP, especially if your play group knows to anticipate them. Even then, I think that with the variety of tutors available, they aren't necessarily created equally and offer a fun decision making space in terms of selection for speed and tutoring specificity. My friends say that I am the "tech-y" player of our meta in terms of running tutors and meta specific removal/interaction.

I'm not running Demonic Tutor in every deck that can run it, and use my one copy in my Anhelo, the Painter deck, which can make it even more pushed. For other decks, I tend to use slower, more specific, and generally sub-optimal tutors. In my old Alesha deck, I utilized Goblin Matron to grab Murderous Redcap or Sling-Gang Lieutenant to help complete a combo loop. Eventually that got upgraded to Imperial Recruiter once the price dropped after reprints.

I do like "tutors" that also present modal uses in their utilization, so they aren't necessarily a tutor 100% of the time. Muddle the Mixture and Sterling Grove are both tutors that have other primary uses, and force me to evaluate which mode will be more beneficial in the moment.

All that being said, I think my meta adjusted to anticipate my occasional use of tutors, and either started packing more counterspells, or learned to save their removal/interaction for whatever got tutored up. Some of the tutors I previously mentioned have multiple built-in drawbacks, such as having to reveal what I tutored for, giving my friends the opportunity to anticipate whatever was coming next. Every time I've used a tutor, I usually get focused pretty hard by everyone else at the table, especially if I have to reveal what I found.

A tutor-less format would likely place much more emphasis on draw power and midrange strategies, and would likely make all of the strongest draw engines that much more necessary.

March 15, 2023 11:39 a.m.

Pedrodamus says... #12

Tutors are an inherit part of the game that have been around from the very beginning. If your playgroup has an ironclad "no tutor" policy, then more power to ya. My playgroup doesn't play by those rules, but I, personally, have been limiting the tutors I include in my decks in lieu of new cards I want to test out. My tutor inclusion depends entirely on how strong I intend the deck I'm building to be.

That being said, I've limited a few of my decks to a single tutor. Like, my Rith, the Awakener runs a lot of enchantments, so I have an Enlightened Tutor in there. I run a Mystical Tutor in Neera, Wild Mage because it's just fun to search up a fun big spell to the top in response to her trigger. In contrast, I run quite a few tutor effects in my mono black Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed and mono green Omnath, Locus of Mana decks because they're meant to combo out. I think this tutor sentiment depends entirely on how a playgroup feels about it.

March 15, 2023 2:01 p.m.

Gleeock says... #13

Crow-Umbra funny you should mention Sterling Grove as an example of what type of tutor I keep around, because that was one of the other ones I left in that same deck for that exact reason :) . I rarely pop it for its' tutor ability.

Hard to say card draw compensation occurs hard (maybe a little), hard card draw is one thing I see popping up in our low-tutor total meta, but we actually usually see more: "to the battlefield" bombs to make up for suboptimal setup-fixing at times.

Last outing, I won about 3 games of 6 with suboptimal min-tutor decks & they were mostly back-&-forth affairs which could have gone either way (the best environment for little incremental damage pieces). One game I won after an Obliterate by the skin of my teeth by opting to pull Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger instead of another land & then gambling that my opponent would discard his last 3 life :) . The other game I caught up in a big way with flashback on Storm the Festival & that put me over-the-top to overcome early game enchantress removal. Lastly, my Breena deck somehow ran roughshod over everyone with Heliod vigilance-ing all my white weenies. So a lot of aggro & midgame fun in that playgroup with a smattering of catchup spells instead of tutors.

March 15, 2023 2:29 p.m.

I put two tutors in my Torture deck, contrary to my normal personal “no tutor” rule, because I kept both the “punish large hand size” cards and the “punish small hand size” cards in the same deck. It lets me have a little more flexibility in functionality. Where I play people are pretty good about not eating a ton of time up with searching, shuffling, playing, searching again, etc. The larger problem, in my opinion, is a little broader with “additional hands.” Tutors sort of become unimportant when your graveyard is also your hand, and you have a stack of cards exiled from your opponents’ decks that you can cast too. It ends up being a LOT of reviewing and heming and hawing over what the best play would be. Having one player like that can be slow... but if you have two it’s almost unbearable.

March 15, 2023 2:40 p.m.

Niko9 says... #15

Gleeock The fact that you even said a white weenie deck ran over everyone makes me smile : ) That's awesome!

March 15, 2023 4:38 p.m.

nhhale says... #16

I am probably on the extreme side of this argument in that I think it would be reasonable to ban all tutors (yes, including cultivate).

What would the game look like? Well, we would definitely see fewer 3+ color decks, landfall would be gone, combo strategies would be much less powerful, and various other strategies would vanish. It’s almost not worth speculating about, since wotc would never do this, but I think the meta could definitely settle into a healthy state. Games would move faster and be more fun with less shuffling. It could also go horribly awry and lead to a stale meta with only a few viable commanders and a ton of fringe picks.

If you ask me, I think the only tutors which actually hurt the creativity of EDH are the cheap ones like Demonic Tutor. I like the game how it is, with the exception of a few cards that I feel like most of us hate anyways. My playgroup doesn’t really use them anyways, but it definitely wouldn’t hurt the meta to ban a few cards.

March 15, 2023 4:55 p.m.

Gidgetimer says... #17

The removal of tutors would do irreparable harm to the format in my opinion. It would kill combo and that is the archetype that I enjoy the most. I dislike people trying to prescribe some ideal of how a format should be played. I don't care about creativity, and I actively dislike variance. For me Magic (and by extension Commander since that is how I choose to play) is about interactions with your opponent and formulating a strategy.

This brings us to the great part about Commander. Everyone can play how they like. I think that every single "unfun" game of Commander comes from a player not conforming to the expectations of the table. This is often because of mismatched expectations due to poor communication. Less often it is because of more nefarious reasons like a desire to pubstomp.

Because of the necessity to conform to various expectations when playing at a LGS I take a selection of decks with me. I have fun with all of my decks, but the games that bring the most joy and keep me playing Magic are filled with tutors, attempts at winning, and foiling attempts at winning.

March 15, 2023 10:14 p.m.

Gleeock says... #18

Niko9 to be fair I used quite a bit of board-wiping to get me there & the dream-scenario of punishing some amazing mono-style overextension with Urza's Sylex. But that all felt very "right" for weenie style to not be able to outstomp mono without a little help from its' boardwipe friends.

It was one of those bizarre games where somehow Heliod & "poop tier" vigilance was proving near insurmountable.. Leaving everyone scratching their heads :) Kindof fun when the deck's majority composition is superfriends & you basically have to roll with going all in on goofy growing +1/+1/lifegainy agro. Also fun when you are just playing into whatever randomness you are drawing into without alot of option to just tutor into your "prime strategy"

March 15, 2023 10:49 p.m.

Niko9 says... #19

Vigilance is such an underrated mechanic in commander. I feel like just a single Serra Angel will average 12 damage or so per game, and that's really not bad at all : )

And yep, I hadn't seen Urza's Sylex but that looks pretty nice. If I still had my elf deck together that would absolutely annihilate the mass creature ramp strategy.

March 16, 2023 8:44 a.m.

DreadKhan says... #20

There is a 'famous' (by cEDH standards he's famous) named Charles, aka the Mono White Guy, and he often takes Mono-White to tournaments, yet he is a consistent performer, he even placed high with decks that skimp on mana rocks. He has a famous Heliod, God of the Sun deck built around making Vigilance even more useful via Stax. I'm not sure if an average cEDH player could do anything with his list without tons of practice, but obviously skilled players can do well with Mono-White at the most competitive tables.

March 16, 2023 9:44 a.m.

Madcookie says... #21

For me the problem is not in tutors but the lack of communication. Before the game starts players should discuss what is what: What is your estimated power level, do you run fast mana, do you have a combo, do you play many tutors to find that specific combo and not just to be able to answer threats?

Personally I bring 2 edh decks with myself one usually has a combo and the other being on the more casual side. Another thing I do is for example I prefer to play combo decks, but due to...monetary reasons I don't have fast mana and the best tutors. Since I can't win ultra fast, my decks tend to have a back-up strategy of either being more control-y or more grindy. When I sit to play if people say they don't want combo, it is quite easy for me to remove my 1-2 combo cards and add some other cards I've prepared for such occasion without breaking the deck completely (think one mana rock and a draw spell for example, or 2 extra vehicles in my vehicles deck).

TL;DR people need to discuss more with their playgroup and try to bring the average power level of the decks played closer to one another.

March 16, 2023 5:19 p.m.

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