The Top 10 Reasons Commander Sucks Right Now… And What to Do About It.

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Hey Magic players! I’ve had this column brewing for a while now. I used to go out of my way to play Commander/EDH, but recently, the game has felt like a chore to play, and even keep up with.

I think a line was crossed recently, and I’m starting to see content and videos talking about it. I’m going to dive right in and make it number 10 on the list. Here we go!

10. Treasure is Too Good

Have you heard the news? Treasure is broken, and people are catching on. I’m not sure exactly what did it, if it was a certain card (Bootleggers’ Stash), or a critical mass of cards printed recently. I think it’s the latter. We’ve had treasure be a prominent subtheme of almost every set since the Ixalan days. Especially recently. Let’s look at how many cards in each have the word treasure in their text box since Ixalan. Since we know there’s no specific treasure hate, this is all token creation or synergy:

  • New Capenna – 26 main set, 15 Commander cards
  • Neon Dynasty – 5 main set, 2 Commander cards
  • Crimson Vow – 1 main set (Old Rutstein), 1 Commander (Scion of Opulence)
  • Midnight Hunt – 0 main set, 1 Commander card (Visions of Ruin)
  • Forgotten Realms – 29 main set, 5 Commander cards
  • Modern Horizons 2 – 9 main set
  • Strixhaven – 9 main set, 5 Commander cards (Commander 2021)
  • Kaldheim – 8 main set, 0 Commander cards
  • Commander Legends – 6 main set (Hullbreacher is banned)
  • Zendikar Rising – 0 cards
  • Jumpstart – 4 Cards, 3 reprints and Corsair Captain
  • Core 21 – 1 main set (Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge)
  • Ikoria – 0 main set, 2 Commander cards (Shiny Impetus, Surly Badgersaur)
  • Theros Beyond Death – 0 cards (but we did have the Gold Token from The First Iroan Games)
  • Eldraine – 0 cards
  • Commander 2019 – 1 card, the extremely valuable Dockside Extortionist
  • Core 20 – 1 card, the really poorly named Rapacious Dragon
  • Modern Horizons – 0 cards
  • War of the Spark – 0 cards
  • Ravnica Allegiance – 1 card, the widely hated Smothering Tithe
  • Guilds of Ravnica – 0 cards
  • Core 19 – 0 cards
  • Dominaria – 0 cards
  • Walking Dead Secret Lair: 1 card, Negan, the Cold-Blooded.

That’s 125 cards, including 18 that can start in the Command Zone. 117 of which have come since Commander Legends. 89 since Modern Horizons Two. 41 in New Capenna. Watch out for Baldur’s Gate.

For comparison, Ixalan had 19 treasure cards, and Rivals for Ixalan had 8. Pirates clearly don’t own treasure anymore. Sharks and Whales do.

Did they have this ease of treasure-accumulation in mind when they printed Revel in Riches?

I think New Capenna’s contribution of 41 treasure-involved cards is excessive. Since they are all Lotus Petals. It’s not just the mana fixing, it’s the massive amounts of artifacts/tokens hitting the table. The massive amounts of sacrifice triggers. And the massive amounts of treasure generators make it really easy to make treasure. And all of this awesomeness is available the turn you make the tokens, not next turn, like the attacking ability of most big dumps of creature tokens. Which means if you’re not making treasure, you’re probably way behind.

What can you do? This is #10 on the list because it’s possible some authority will step in and make a blanket change to the rules. Commander is now the game of treasure tokens, and it’s more than Rule 0 should have to handle. But if it does, and the RC/Wizards do nothing about it, try these Rule 0 variants for treasure:

  • Treasure tokens come in tapped
  • Treasure tokens cannot be copied
  • Treasure tokens have a cap on how many a player can have or generate in a given turn
  • There is a limited supply of treasure tokens for the entire table to use
  • Treasure tokens may only be activated at sorcery speed

9. A Lot of Broken Cards Seem to Make it Through Testing

So how do they do it? How do they decide what’s right for a game of Commander? There are several heavily played variants, like 4-player casual, and 2-player competitive. There are no official tournaments, rankings, or ongoing metrics of a deck/card’s success, like with other formats. When a card is broken in Standard or Modern, there is data to back it up, plus the ‘eye-test’ of tournament coverage and Arena rankings.

There is no metric for Commander besides the personal experience of the decision-makers and designers. Do we know if they play the game? Do they have a meta? Do they recognize the various power levels of the format? Since so many Standard cards are now obviously designed for a multiplayer, legend-centric, bigger mana format, are those cards being designed and tested by the Commander people, or just left to the Standard people? Is there overlap?

Who knows.

There’s a very clear point, at the adoption of ‘FIRE’ design, where the power level of cards has gone up, the design has skewed heavily towards Commander, and the release volume of the product is non-stop. I can’t imagine a scenario where these cards are all tested properly. And this issue is too big for a banlist. What do we do? Some Rule 0 variants might help.

  • ‘Pre-FIRE’ where only cards from before Throne of Eldraine are legal.
  • ‘Post-FIRE’ where only cards from after Throne of Eldraine are legal. Lean into it.
  • ‘Standard Commander’ where only cards printed in Standard sets are legal.
  • ‘Retro Commander’ where cards from Modern Horizons and Modern Masters sets are illegal. Copies of those cards from their original set printings are legal.
  • ‘Masterless Commander’ where any card printed in a Masters set is illegal in any form, including its original printing.

8. The Deckbuilding Puzzle Has Mostly Been Solved

When I started in Commander, putting decks together was a puzzle. EDHRec was in infancy. Speculators were few. In order to find playable cards for what was a kind of clumsy, unwieldy and unpredictable format, you had to dig deep. Luckily, there were rewards for digging into the weird cards of Mercadian Masks and Prophecy.

The Magic community caught on pretty quick. Cards spiked as a result of demand. They were bulk and limited in print up to that point, and the spikes were juicy. Speculators pounced, and sites like EDHRec flourished trying to identify the weird old jank that would pop based on a new Legendary Creature.

Hook that all up with FIRE design and HasWizardsBro’s keen nose for a profit, and there has been an explosion of Commander supplements with questionable design and huge power increases.

So much so that those old cards are starting to be irrelevant, and those that aren’t are reprinted to sell Masters sets and Commander precons. There is no more poring over old lists, because they’ve been excavated and dissected, and the new cards are better anyways. Who cares so much about janky synergy when you can just clobber the table with Modern Horizons cards?

Those of us that enjoyed building those decks full of old gems can’t really explore those old frontiers in the same way, unless we do it artificially. There are plenty of ways to do that, and challenge ourselves. Try these challenges, and feel free to keep your manabase from the restrictions (it will probably make things smoother and more competitive):

  • Limit yourself to a single rarity, like uncommon, or a single Plane, like Innistrad.
  • Limit yourself to using the formats of yesteryear like Block Constructed or Type 2, or even a contemporary format like Pauper or Pioneer.
  • Limit yourself to cards starting with a single letter of the alphabet, or a specific artist. Maybe a couple of each. You can get even crazier with cards that are also song names or something like that.
  • Go to a site like EDHRec that lists the popular cards for each Commander and exclude the most popular ones.
  • Limit yourself to original printings only (expensive!), reprints only (less expensive!) or even cards with multiple reprints only (cheap… possibly!).

7. Cards are Expensive!

Right? Sure you can grab a precon and have a decent enough deck for casual play, but we’ve got a non-stop barrage of pretty Secret Lair variants, along with all sorts of supplements calibrated for high power play. You can log on to Youtube and see countless games played by people with cool decks with smooth synergies and pricey cards all over. If you like shiny things and sweet gameplay, you’re the market.

And once you realize that so many of your games will be lost and won – and feel good or bad – based on the state of your mana, you’ll see how the big cost behind good mana is making the game harder and harder to play for cheap. Sol Ring still costs $3-5 no matter how many times they print it. Fetchlands, Shocklands and even the new Triomes are all big hits and keep a high price tag.

Sure you can build mono-green and grab 36 Forests from the LGS or the box under your bed, but once you get into the multicoloured, fun Commanders, you either fix your mana or struggle to do stuff. Struggling in Commander sucks three times as much, because for every useless topdeck you draw, there are as many as three opponents doing stuff.

Let’s take a budget’s eye view here. You’re new to Commander. Say you get a precon. They’re $30-50 or so. We’re not considering building from some boosters or a box of boosters because they seldom contain enough staples or even reliably good Legendary creatures to build around. You play some games, and it’s good, but it clearly lacks synergy, and the mana sucks. You can’t really do much in games against tuned decks with mana plans.

You can fill up on cheap staples for your deck, but actually upgrading cards from precons usually starts with lands. Good lands are $5 and up. Really good ones are $10 and up. The ones you want to play, and make the best plays possible, are way more. Multicoloured lands like City of Brass and Mana Confluence are not only expensive, they’re not in great supply.

Imagine you’ve upgraded to a manabase with 10 basics, 5 budget lands ($1 or so), 5 good lands ($5), 5 fetches (assume at least $25 each), 8 really good lands ($10) and 3 premium lands like Cabal Coffers, let’s say you got them each at $40. Doesn’t sound so unreasonable, does it, Commander players? Decent, right?

That’s $355 for a single ‘decent’ manabase for a single deck. You could easily go crazy on wacky old lands or Expeditions or premium foil variants or Secret Lairs, and make $355 look like chump change.

Got any board games or video games with a $30 entry point that balloons to over $300 that easily? For something that is simply your infrastructure for doing stuff? That is no guarantee of success, and depending on how badly you built it, might not do much at all?

I think that’s the worst aspect of Magic’s high price point: that you can put a lot of time and effort into building a concept, only to find it doesn’t work, is no fun to play, or makes people mad at you.

There are plenty of sites out there that will give you tips on how to get cards on a budget, but the best strategy is to not need all the bling or powerful stuff to enjoy games. Here are some ways to challenge yourself while you save some cash:

  • Give yourself deliberate budget restrictions when deckbuilding. Only cards under a dollar or a total dollar limit are great ways to do it. If the deck is amazing, you can put money into it later.
  • Find a long-term Commander that will get cards from most product releases. A great example is Zombie tribal. There are zombies in almost every set, so a dedicated zombie Commander is one you can keep over a long period of time and tinker with.
  • Trade spiking cards in for lands. While trading with other players is tough during the pandemic, you can still trade into many game stores. It’s rarely a great deal, but if you’re trading in stuff that’s popular in Standard today for long-term staples like lands, you’re probably coming out ahead.
  • Proxy expensive cards until you’re sure you need them. If you have a playgroup that doesn’t mind, or wants to try and act as a sort of deck-lab, proxying that $30 card is a great way to find out it’s not as great as you think it is. Or that you’ll get all the hate when you play it. Or it doesn’t quite work like you thought.
  • Don’t sleep on the recent common and uncommon lands printed in New Capenna, Kaldheim, Modern Horizons 2 and others. You’re usually sacrificing speed, but gaining some ability that gets better if the game goes long. There are similar, cheap mana rocks to be had as well, though not as many.

6. Games are Predictable

Commander decks do enough of the same things that they can grouped as things like ‘Voltron Decks,’ ‘Go-Wide Tokens,’ ‘Stax,’ etc. A lot of decks revolve around sticking a key permanent and protecting it, or producing more resources/attackers than opponents can handle. As such, powerful, cheap targeted removal like Path to Exile is heavily played, as are sweepers such as Wrath of God. They’re easy answers to those strats. Voltron creature? Kill it with the equip trigger from Lightning Greaves on the stack. Horde of tokens, or creature wearing Lightning Greaves? Wrath the board and kill everything.

When play patterns become predictable, ‘necessary’ cards become a thing, and slots in your deck for fun cards, high variance cards, and multi-card synergies shrinks. You need your instant speed removal and board wipes, and you need a few of each, and suddenly a bunch of your deckbuilding decisions are made for you. And the games will homogenize because everyone’s playing the same small collection of ‘must-have’ cards. Since a lot are removal, it sets the meta in the same way that ‘dies to Lightning Bolt‘ does. Creatures that dodge wraths or spot removal have a leg up. Some equipment helps, so that equipment gets played heavily, and more of the cards in everyone’s decks are the same.

The more decks start to look and behave the same, the more games play out the same. Some people might like that, but unless you’re constantly on the winning side or interacting a lot, it might grind on you. And even if you are, the same game over and over might be boring, even if it is an interactive win.

There’s no easy answer, as while a playgroup can agree to keep things changed up and interesting, it’s tougher with random groups. There are a few options, which will work just as well with an established playgroup. Some of them are products you can buy. Try these game-changers out if you’re stuck in a rut:

  • Planechase is the classic way of shaking up the same old Magic routine. Players are provided with cards representing various Planes in the Magic multiverse, and their effect on game mechanics. You can purchase this supplement, but it’s expensive and tough to get, and you can print out your own versions of the cards instead.
  • If you want to do Planechase, but can’t get the cards and refuse to proxy them, you can build an ‘Enchant World’ stack. I put together a small stack of cards that are similar to the old Enchant World cards from Legends. They affect all players, or some aspect of gameplay. They function in the same way as Planechase cards, in that you can shuffle them up and change the way the game is played. You can use Planechase rules for changing Enchant Worlds or make your own. Some favourites are Dense Canopy, Ghirapur Orrery, Endless Whispers, Mesmeric Orb, and the un-card Topsy Turvy.
  • Similar to an Enchant World stack, putting together a group of Equipment cards, or ‘familiar’-style creature cards, or something like that, and randomly giving one to each player before the game could shake things up. Each could be cast from the Command Zone like a Companion, once per game. Artifacts would work best, as they’d be the least problematic with colour restrictions.
  • Like Planechase, Archenemy is a supplement that works well with Commander, turning one deck into a supervillain-like adversary for the others to battle. Like Planechase, you can buy it or proxy it. There’s a Nicol Bolas version, too.
  • Conspiracies from Conspiracy mostly missed the mark, but the base of the idea is solid. While it’s tough to adapt the existing ones to Commander, someone could do a new group of them, or use cards in a similar way to the Enchant World stack.

5. Games Play Out the Same Way Every Time

You know when your buddy Dennis finds his Ad Nauseam and goes and kills the whole table with Tendrils of Agony… again?

It’s one thing to have the games play similarly, and for decks to fall into patterns, but losing to the same card over and over isn’t really what the format is supposed to be. It’s a 100 card singleton format. How much clearer could the founders be that they wanted variance?

The main issue is tutors and fetches. Combos are a problem too, but easy access to them is worse. A card like Demonic Tutor is all of your best removal, one piece of all your combos, and that card you keep specifically because Dennis hates it. And there are so many tutors that having a few combos and pile of tutors and some disruption so your opponent can’t interact is a pretty good way to win Commander games. It sure works for Legacy and Vintage.

A focused, tutor-based plan is rarely ever going to see a focused, tutor-based response, in large part because most tutors are sorceries, and your opponent isn’t likely to be able to respond with one of their own for the answer. And not everybody packs their deck with all the answers they need for all the possible tutorable combos out there. How could they?

Banning tutors and fetches is contentious. Those cards were probably drooled over, and expensive. Maybe they were significant pack openings for that player. Maybe they’re too high a percentage of that player’s deck that they can’t really pull them all out and replace them with other cards they didn’t bring. Maybe it’s just one card, and they never use it to assemble a combo. There are no good answers here, because tutors and fetches are established chase cards, and Wizards will continue to print them and players will play them.

Here are some Rule 0 ways to manage tutors and fetches, to a degree:

  • Try limiting tutors and fetches to only be able to find cards that are allowed in multiples, like basic lands. This will nerf a lot of decks, so be careful with this one. It’s a great way to play Commander, though.
  • Try limiting tutors to the top X cards of a player’s library. Having a set number, like 10, is better than anything that changes as the game goes on because that’s tough to track.
  • Limiting players to a single search of their library per game turn is potentially restrictive, but decks that are constantly tutoring seem broken. Worth a try.
  • For multiplayer casual, try having another player cut the deck before someone searches it, and they can only choose one of the two halves. You can take this further, and make it so subsequent tutors on that turn, or even in the game, require a second or third cut from the other players, with the tutoring player choosing from the two cuts each time.
  • Combining some of these rules to find a balance is worth trying if no individual rule works. Personally, I’ve simply cut all the tutors and fetches and even Rampant Growth and Wayfarer’s Bauble from all my decks. It’s super liberating to only shuffle that huge stack once per game, and leave the Frantic Search to everyone else.

4. cEDH is Just Bad Lutri Legacy and They Love It!

Letting cEDH and competitive play define Commander is against the point of the format in the first place. It was meant to be casual, to be high-variance, and to specifically celebrate cards that were super cool but too slow and awkward for 60-card constructed.

Y’know, ‘Elder-Dragon Highlander’?

I do not have a high opinion of cEDH. I feel like the decks are just bad versions of Legacy decks using Lutri, the Spellchaser as their companion. They’re playing an awkward 1-of manabase, have 40 cards too many, and are playing 40 cards that try to make the deck behave like a 60-card deck with 4-ofs of good lands. And can’t cast Lutri because it’s banned in Commander.

But they play stuff like Brainstorm and all the other cantrips, and Force of Will and permission spells whenever possible. Plus the most efficient mana-base possible, using stuff that’s not even legal in Legacy.

I get it. Not everyone wants to play Legacy, and the bar for entry is high. The cards are expensive, especially in multiples, and some things like the OG duals, might not even be available in paper to all players, let alone be affordable.

And cEDH players have every right to say, ‘Well, this is a game. What are we supposed to do? Not win? Let every game go on for hours and create a massive stalemate of a board that nobody wants to resolve? Play bad cards on purpose?’

Well, yeah, kind of. Bad is contextual. Some of the most dominant Commander cards made no impact on Standard and were bulk, like Doubling Season. Skill can also make bad cards better. Not all of them, but some.

But cEDH players will do their thing, and they have fun, and who am I to crap on that? It’s better to know they’re out there and to try and meet in the middle. Here are a few ways casuals can play with competitors, besides having several different tiers of decks on hand at all times:

  • Play like a competitor. Not aggro or permission, but quick. Figure out your moves during opponents’ turns. Stay awake and alert. Don’t take forever to tutor, or figure out what you’re going to do, and definitely don’t take forever during your turn and then pass after doing nothing. Keeping the game at a brisk pace is a great idea.
  • Get familiar with how the stack works, and how it works different on your turn as opposed to someone else’s. I’m sure it drives competitive players crazy to watch casuals play loose with the rules because they don’t really know them that well, and grant them takebacks and leeway they would never give another competitor.
  • Bring extra casual decks if you can. Building a casual deck meant for competitive players is an interesting challenge, and could be something you pack regularly if you really get it right. A great starting point is avoiding decks that clog the board with blockable creatures.
  • Assign a points system to game actions that aren’t winning. A linear win-quick strat isn’t satisfying if it gets less points than the player who checked a bunch of random boxes, in large part because the player who did stuff… did stuff.
  • If a competitor accepts using a borrowed casual deck, or has one of their own, try using a time limit. If you’re still going after an hour, and the game isn’t near resolution, abandon it and start over.

3. The Realities of Deck Power Levels are a Pain in the Butt

Some common Commander intro lines:

  • I’m just playing a casual deck.
  • I’m playing a powerful deck.
  • I just like to draw cards.
  • This is my cEDH deck, but it’s the only one I brought with me.
  • I have 20 decks here, please roll this D20 for me to help me decide what to play, and if you don’t have a similar power-level deck, I’ll lend you one, just try not to bend my full-art foil Jeweled Lotus….
  • I’m new and I just bought this precon… what’s a Command Zone?

And so on. You get the picture. It’s not really a meta, it’s more of a wild west, where the participants meet up in front of the saloon to negotiate terms before going to duel.

Maybe I was wrong about it, but I felt at one point there was a legit casual Commander super-meta where you could sit down against any other random Commander decks and have a game, and it would be okay at worst.

What we actually have is a sort-of tier system that’s polarized by jank that does nothing at one end, and the semi-regulated, primarily 1v1 online cEDH at the other. And because they both use the same basic templating system, they’re expected to play together.

Maybe the expectation of a universal, drop-in casual format is just wishful thinking, and always was. But we can try and recreate that in a few suggestions that shift the emphasis from winning to deckbuilding and interactive play:

  • Establish a rotating ‘supermeta’ with your playgroup or even your LGS. It can even be confined to a single table there if there’s only a little interest. By ‘supermeta’ I mean a set of deckbuilding restrictions that keep things interesting, and rotating means it changes every month or so. Any of the many suggestions in this post can be used, but it’s very important to find a balance that doesn’t exclude big chunks of decks or player collections for no good reason, like demanding everyone use only cards from Tempest and Weatherlight.
  • Try a league system that tracks several kinds of game stats, like first damage, largest creature, etc. You can try several out until you find some that work best. Having these stats formally tracked over a longer period of time gives players things to shoot for besides winning, and you can even award points for those stats and create a unique competition system.
  • Explore a formal tournament system like that at The Connection Games & Hobbies in Vancouver – The Commander Challenge. In this system, players play rounds of games against rotating opponents. They play in pods of 4 if possible, and get a point for eliminating another player, and another for being last standing. However, at the end of each game, there is a secret vote, and each vote-getter gets 2 points. There is no criteria for voting, but it is definitely used to keep toxic play patterns and oppressive decks from taking over.
  • If your meta is a regular day/evening with enough players for 2 or more games at a time, try maintaining a stack of ‘achievement cards’ which give players conditions they need to try and achieve in one of their games over the course of the day/evening. Reaching these achievements can count towards whatever ongoing scorekeeping system you might use, be tied to a prize, or even have an in-game effect like drawing cards.
  • Form a Discord with local players, or any other sort of group messaging system. You can even host a website. Let people know what you think the best way to play is. Listen to their opinions. Compromise. Build the community you want to be in.

2. Always Competing Against Our Friends can get Old

Imagine good friends and Magic players Grover and Elmo. They’ve been playing together for years, and man, has Grover got Elmo’s number. Grover has more time to play and build decks, and makes more money. Elmo tries hard, but can’t compete or devote enough time or cash toward the game. Grover wins almost every time, and they’re both sick of it. Neither wants Grover to go easy on Elmo, but their dynamic is stuck.

Both Elmo and Grover love Commander and don’t want to ‘try a new format,’ especially because they’d have the same issues. They’d rather keep their Commander decks and try and make the best of it. Commander games are often 4 players, so they can tough it out. Their friendship is bigger than the game anyway, and they can both gang up on Cookie Monster’s obnoxious Muldrotha, the Gravetide deck to keep it from comboing off.

Sometimes friends would rather not beat up on each other. Co-op games are a thing. Dungeons and Dragons is a game closely associated with Magic, but it’s not competitive head-to-head dueling, it’s mostly collaborative. Silly party games, where nobody really wins, are also a thing. Magic could often use a dose of collaboration, or a dose of pointless fun, or both. Ideally using the Commander decks you already have on hand. Try these tension-breakers for when your Grovers and Elmos get frustrated with competition:

  • Co-operative Commander! I’ve been tinkering for a while with a neutral Archenemy AI system to play against using Commander decks. It can be scaled for difficulty, and uses cards that do not target or require a choice. I’ll do an update if there’s any interest.
  • Mini-games! Magic has released a small series of ‘Magic Mini-game’ cards with recent sets. While they’re not all great, they can be a good refresher. Many could be adapted to using players’ Commander decks instead of booster packs.
  • I wrote about a game that we play using cards with fun names, too. It’s called Wizards Against Apples, and if you get the name, you probably already know how to play it. Again, adaptable to using Commander decks.
  • A small group that plays together regularly could try designing decks to be played by the others. Who you build for could be picked in advance, or chosen randomly on site. The builds would have to be functional and contain the right amount of lands and things, or not if you wanted to also have some specific restrictions.

1. Value Gaming is the New Floor

Everything on this list contributes to bad games, but the worst kind of game is the non-game. That’s where you do nothing while at least one other player plays. I’ve sort of touched on that throughout, as a symptom of other issues, but there’s a big problem in Commander involving core game mechanics.

This is purely my opinion, but I feel like the base bar for interaction in Commander now requires drawing more than one card per turn, and ramping a couple of times in the first 6 turns of the game. Don’t do those things and you’re going to be crushed. Actually it’s worse than that. Don’t do those things and you’ll likely watch everyone else play the game while you do nothing.

In the past, only a handful of Commanders could pull off both reliable ramping and reliable card draw. Now there are enough enabling Legendary creatures, mana artifacts and sheer weight of redundancy of ramp and card draw that it’s easy. There have been so many Legendary creatures printed lately that almost every conceivable strategy has a ‘draw a card when’ option from the Command Zone.

Both ramp and extra card draw are in an awkward spot. They feel good. They’re Value Gaming. They enable your plays. And it’s generally not cool to target a player’s manabase. The fastest way to get people united against you is to cast Armageddon. When you play lands, then tend to stick around.

Both ramp and card draw have been pushed, and they are integral to success. This shouldn’t be a problem, but they’re tied to colour identity, significantly warping what’s playable and creating an arms race that excludes people with an older collection, or not much money, as well as a whole lot of Legendary creatures that no longer provide enough Value.

Essentially we’ve got the same problem that led Commander to be created in the first place: the fun, janky stuff is being pushed out in favour of cheap value and velocity.

Maybe we’re ripe for a new format. Maybe you’ll create it.

In the meantime, if velocity and value are getting you down, and you want some good old unpredictable interaction at a speed of a land and card a turn, try these alternate ways to play:

  • Creating a Cube is a great way to play with the cards you choose, and not the ones you don’t, in a closed meta. You can even draft Commander decks (probably more like Brawl decks) with a pool of Legendary creatures to draw from. Cube is a great way to regulate things like extra card draw and ramp, and decide if they’ll even be there at all.
  • Battlebox is another great way to level the playing field when it comes to extra cards and ramp, as each player starts with a set number of lands to play total, and is only allowed to play one per turn. Card draw is not restricted, but since you define the stack, it’s up to you how much to include and in what colors.
  • Be extra fluid with the rules. Experiment. Try non-creature Commanders. Try non-Legendary. Do enchantments one week, Planeswalkers the next. Do a creature plus an equipment. Make it mandatory to have two Commanders or a Commander and a Companion. Go silver-bordered. Don’t be afraid to create or stumble upon something new and awesome.


Commander went from being the little casual format that could, to the centrepiece and primary driver of record Hasbro multinational corporation profits. That’s not a change that happens lightly, or can be reversed. It is what it is, and it is what Wizards will make it in the name of money.

Yet the format has never been tied to monetization (besides streamers), and has no pro-tour or big prize payouts or global ranking system to brag about. People play Commander because they like it. Because it’s a good game. Because decks can built across a wide spectrum, and don’t have to win games to be worth playing.

No matter how things might suck, there’s an awesome game in there somewhere. It’s likely that my Commander experience just needs a little shakeup, and maybe yours does too. I hope you found something here that works for you. Thanks for reading!


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