Magic Monday: Command Decisions

Wherein Szpirs reads the MTGO Tumblr and promptly looses his mind. Mark, Stew, and Devon try to talk him down from the edge. Changes to the EDH/Commander format are mulled over and speculation about its future in casual and competitive MTG ensues. Will we see a Commander Grand Prix? Friday Night Commander? Much better ideas than these await in this week’s Magic Monday.

Szpirs: OMG, you guys! They changed the rules for 1v1 Commander! 30 life, bro! 30!

Stew: What? So now MTG is trying to copy Hearthstone?
Szpirs: I swear, I read it in a Wizards press release or something…can’t seem to find it now…
Mark: A likely story….
Devon: I’m confused. This is a change for two-player Commander in casual games? Let me get caffeine in me so my brain works then make words.
Szpirs: Not sure, D. Imma try to find the link again but let’s assume it’s real for now. Is this…good? Why is this happening?
Mark: The EDH rules aren’t on the MTG website. It’s not an official MTG game. The OG webiste is:
Szpirs: Wizards has an official page for the format but it’s all under the Commander branding. I bet they’ve been working on it since they started releasing preconstructed decks for Commander.
Mark: Nothing on either site about a life amount change…
Szpirs: I swear, I saw it. My stupid browser history is like a gorram labyrinth.
Devon: So, assuming this is correct, the only reasons I can see in making the starting life total 30 are either to speed up two player games – in particular games that don’t involve top tier decks – or to make it harder to end the game with cards like Aetherflux Reservoir.
Devon: Could it have to do with the French Commander Rules? Two player games start at 20 life and the ban list is diffrent.
Szpirs: Found it! It was on the official Tumblr for MtG Online!
“R&D determined that [the] format is better off with a starting life total of 30. At one point we had planned to introduce this change as well as league support and a modified banned list today, but later decided to instead introduce it during Amonkhet season. Unfortunately, in this process the life total change did not get taken out of this build… – Lee”
Devon, Mark, and Stew:
Devon: It looks to me like WotC it looking to bump Commander into an official, sanctioned format which would be cool to see. Imagine a Grand Prix or Regional Pro Tour Qualifier with Ccommander as the main format.
Szpirs: I feel like we’re a ways off of that…but it would be cool if Commander was being acknowledged as an official format.
Stew: It’s not as far off as you think, Szpirs.
Devon: I agree with Stew on this. It seems to me it’s one of the most popular formats around the world and bringing it to centre stage would be a great way to declare it as an official format.
Mark: It’s one of the few formats where a 1v1 deck can work well as a multiplayer deck and vice versa. The same deck can be fun-competitive or casual.
Stew: Commander has been around for about 10 years now. The format has been a sanctioned format for the past 5 years with WotC but doesn’t have tourney level support for pvp play. Group commander has been played at Grand Prix before.
Mark: One of the things Commander also does is change which cards are sought after. The main reason WotC wants people to play Standard so much is that it sells the most cards.
Stew: Yeah, I don’t think WotC has been showing too many stories on it as it was a format created outside of the company. That’s why EDH is branded as”Commander” on official sites. Competitive decks in EDH rarely vary, though. The official banned lists for EDH makes combos way too easy in pvp play. So, expect to see the banned list double quickly.
Devon: Exactly, Stew.
Mark: The secondary market (buying single cards from a store) loves Commander because it rejuvenates interest in older cards. I cite the fact Doubling Season sells for about $65 on websites now.
doubling season
Stew: Oh, of course, but so does Legacy and Vintage. EDH forces you outside of the regular constraints like,
“I want 4 brainstorms!” “No, you get one”.
Mark: True. It also adds an element that any deck can beat any other. Any one, individual card (usually) becomes less of a problem in Commander.
Stew: That’s where we differ in opinion. Tier 1 decks for EDH can be brutal. Combos are rampant and it’s very hard to stop. At most LCS you will have a core group playing for fun, until the guy with a tiered deck comes in and its win percentage is 33% after turn 2 with 9% incremental increases after that… it’s not fun.
Szpirs: Stew, aren’t combos kind of neccessary to win in Commander?
Stew: There’s combos and then there’s COMBOS. When it’s for fun and profit at others’ expense, it gets ugly. It’s a deck that starts with a 2-3 card maneuver but manipulates the other dependencies to complete without giving opponenets much of a chance to respond. Case in point: Tendrils of Agony.
Szpirs: TENDRILS! tendrils of agony
Stew: In normal play, you would storm count 10 spells (cast 9 spells in 1 turn before playing tendrils to be the 10th spell) to make you lose 20 life and I gain 20 life.
In EDH, some combos are more infinite – like Metal Worker and Staff of Domination. If it goes off, you’re not topping it. These two combos don’t even compare to what’s being used in EDH now. Hell, Worldgorger Dragon/Raise Dead can barely keep up.
Szpirs: Gross.
Stew: Indeed, it is. WotC may try to level the playing field if they move to fully sanctioned play. I predict the banned list will grow after the first World Championships with it.
Szpirs: Basically, WotC is looking to capitalize on the good will for EDH to keep players in the game but are kinda dragging their feet because it doesn’t feed the secondary market as well as standard?
Stew: Yeah. In EDH, I only need one of each card to build any deck. In Standard and Modern, I need four of each.
Devon: What Stew said.
Szpirs: Sure…but if I’m at WotC and I’m seeing the Commander preconstructed decks sell out year after year, maybe I’m seeing that these players are more prone to buying Modern Masters….maybe they do other Commander-specific products as well. After all, WotC makes $0 off resale or the secondary market, so what’s the difference to them if someone buys four brainstorms or one so long as that person is still buying boosters?
Mark: The more copies of a card that are required (especially rares or mythics), the more packs that have to get opened, right? Whether it’s you, or the LCS opening them for a singles buyer, makes no difference to Wizards, as long as they get bought.
Devon: Pretty much. Retailers are essentially buying more packs to fuel the secondary market. Although the player may not buy extra packs, the retailer is.
Szpirs: So, bottom line: do you think this is this a signal from WotC that they’re considering moving EDH into the tournament circuit as a main-event format?
Stew: Yes.
Devon: That’s my guess.
Szpirs: Is the 30 life total a good change for 1 on 1?
Devon: I think the potential benefits outweigh any downside. That said, at least half the community is going to be up in arms because strategies they bank on are no longer as strong.
Stew: It think so for two reasons;  Aetherflux Resevoir and that stupid 40 life upkeep goat thing you win automatically with.
Devon: Felidar Sovereign?
felidar sovereign
 Stew: Yeah, that’s it.
Mark: The economics of hobbies / nerdery is something I’ve been getting more interested in; specifically when it relates to cards. Remember the furor anytime a class would get nerfed in World of Warcraft? Same thing.
Stew: OMG, the community will blow this out of proportion and say, “you’re going to kill magic” like they always do.
Mark: “It’s my only trick, how can it be unfair!?” Weep weep weep. Remember when the adjusted the rules around Mogg Fanatic? People lost their minds. Or hearing people right after they banned affinity? Especially the doods who just spent $400 on a set of Arcbound Ravagers…hehehe…BANNED!
Stew: LOL
Devon: As gamers who take a serious stab at top tier play, you have to chance the power cards of your format. The risk is always going to be that those cards or whatever are too powerful or create an interaction that is bannable.
Stew: …but it’s all chase with no reward. So, you get a standard deck and you get four of everything you need and the format changes… looks like I’m blowing more money really soon for 4 more cards I need…and what you have is no longer worth 1/2 of what you paid for it.
Devon: For the most part, you are absolutely right. Spend money to stay relevant and hope the cards retain some value down the line
Stew: Yep, that’s hard for anyone… I don’t know how Pokemon players do it.
They have no other format then Standard.

Well, that’s it for this week. Leave comments, be awesome, have a magical Monday.

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