Commander rules have been updated. Sam delves into the changes and their implications.
Ladies and gents, the world has changed. We have received an update from the commander Rules Committee. This is technical talk time.
The rules for commanders getting put into your library or into your hand now have an added replacement effect which you may apply. This replacement effect allows you to put the commander in the command zone instead of either of those places. Additionally, you still get to choose where your commander goes regardless of who controls it when either of these things happen.
In the end, who does this update help? Who is the target audience? What does it mean for those besides the target audience? Answers are at the ready.
This update strategically benefits everyone who needs access to their commander at all times.
Combo commanders like Zur, the Enchanter, Maralen of the Mornsong, and Sharuum the Hegemon heavily benefit from this change as their ability to win hinges on having their commander available. Aggressive decks like Krenko, Mob Boss and Aurelia, the Warleader also love this update. Finally, voltron decks such as Uril, the Miststalker and Rafiq of the Many swoon over this change.
I will point out that many of these commanders, and strategies in general, did not need the help. The decks are good enough without the Rules Committee helping them out.
Making some decks better was not the goal of the change though.
The goal was to make it so players got to play their cards more often. The fact of the matter is that most players are not heavily invested in the Magic community. Most players do not come to shops to play Magic. Most players do not post on forums or decklist websites. Most players do not read articles. Many players already play Commander believing this rule change is how commander has always worked. These players want to play Magic more than they want to win games of magic.
Letting them have access to their commander more often accomplishes this goal.
With this knowledge in mind it makes perfect sense to implement this change. As someone who does all of the above community interactions however, I think this change will negatively impact my play group and many others.
What can playgroups who do not feel bad about shuffling a problematic commander do to compensate for the loss of such a simple and elegant solution?
The answer is simple; you can do almost nothing to replace these answers. Magic has very few solutions which will get around this. Some colors literally have no replacements for the cards they lost. Cards which could fill this gap include: Lignify, Song of the Dryads, Control Magic, and Arrest.
These may not be great solutions but if your group really needs answers to problem commanders these may be the best you can get.
Players can do a few things about the games themselves however. The players can talk about how competitive they want the upcoming game to be. My group has both very casual decks, like Tribal Sphinxes and Skip My Own Turns, and also has competitive decks like Zur and Krenko. We discuss competitiveness of the next game every time we play. This is easy for us as we collectively have around 15 decks to choose from every game night.
If all else fails and your group starts to get less fun you have one last bastion of hope, your words. Talk to your friends if the playgroup becomes less fun for you. Magic is a hobby after all and it is supposed to be fun and relaxing, not just competitive and challenging. Communication saves play groups.
Today, I sign off with a quote from my cousin Matt concerning the Rules Committee and their job of accommodating both casual and competitive players:
“The problem with Commander is that it encompasses so much of Magic. There are thousands of plays that are arguably degenerate, and no real way to distinguish what ‘crosses the line.’ They can’t draw their line in the sand without dramatically changing the game.”
See ya next week!