The Commander’s Chair – Commander Weekend
Today marks a special day for our favorite format, Commander. Today, Wizards of the Coasts is releasing 5 preconstructed Commander decks. They chose to do this the same time of year that standard is the most defined and the least fun to play. We are seeing a massive amount of press for an entirely casual format. I can safely say that we are entering a new age of casual magic.
In the past, casual decks have primarily been defined by a competitive format. You might have a casual standard deck, a casual legacy deck or even a casual vintage deck. Commander is a format that defines itself, and plays fundamentally different that any competitive format. Commander players do not need to buy cards in playsets or worry about cards rotating out of the format. The Commander community can focus on just having fun.
With the introduction of preconstructed decks, we are going to be forced to look at our format differently. In the past, we had well established Commander playgroups that slowly absorbed new players. The decks we played were primarily of our own design and made to express our individuality. This weekend, we are going to see a massive increase in the number of players who play Commander. In addition, they will all be playing decks that they did not build themselves and have never piloted before. The change in environment is welcome, more players = more fun. With the new decks and the new players in mind, we have to change the way we react to certain subjects.
As a community, we tend to turn up our noses at the idea of including a large numbers Commander staples in decks. The fear is, if there are too many staples you end up having decks that only vary between a small numbers of cards. Now that there are literally hundreds of decks that are identical, we need to face our fear.
When new players are upgrading their prepackaged decks, they are bound to grab a bunch of staples. It is inevitable. When they evaluate cards, they are not going to take into account that Commander players, who have been playing for years, have already seen certain cards or combinations thousands of times. It is all new to them. There a plenty of cards that Commander players acknowledge as staples that are not played in any competitive format. New players need a chance to see how these cards work without worrying that they are breaking some unwritten social code.
We all like being spikes every now and then. Winning is fun. However, sitting down at a table full of new players piloting preconstructed decks while you run Arcum, Azami, Sharuum, Jhoira, Zur, Erayo, or ect is not acceptable. Those decks are only really acceptable if your playgroup is all on the same power level.
For a little while, we need to be careful about which of our decks we choose to play to introduce players to a new format. We want to get as many new players as possible. Let’s show them why we fell in love with this format.
There is an unwritten code of conduct known as “The Spirit of EDH” or “The Spirit of Commander”. The Spirit of Commander basically says that you should be trying to make sure each game is as fun as possible for every player, before you try to win. If players do not like combos, or prison lock, or mass land destruction, or extreme amounts of creature control or a ton of counterspells, you should respect that. All of these can be acceptable, as long as your group doesn’t mind. However, if your group hates a particular tactic and you continue to play it and ruin their good time, you are breaking the spirit of Commander.
With that said, new Commander players have never heard of “The Spirit of Commander”. When they build their first deck or modify their preconstructed deck, they may not realize they are building in a strategy you hate. Try and be patient with newer players and let them play their decks.
The best thing we can do is lead by example. Play with strategies that you do not mind losing too. Most of the ideas they get will be from playing against veteran players. When they ask for advice, and they will, guide them to the fun side of Commander.
I can admit, any time I see a Sharuum or Zur player, they are my primary target until they are taken out of the game. This was just common sense. When anyone playing that type of Commander knew exactly what the Commander did and why it was broken, they were a threat. With new players building new decks, we need to be more open to giving players a chance to play any Commander just for fun.
This applies to the other 99 cards in the deck as well. You can still take out threatening cards, just make sure not to jump the gun and take a player out of the game because you see 1 or 2 pieces of a combo they probably have never heard of. Keep a wary eye for combos, just do not make assumptions.
Be Prepared to Explain
I have a bad habit. I tend to think everyone has heard of every card interaction I play. I realize this is absurd. Make sure to explain to new players what your cards do and why they work in certain ways with other cards. Players may not know you can do things like using Dream Halls to cast you Commander.
There are a huge number of card interactions during any given Commander game. You will find yourself explaining basic Magic the Gathering rules and how it applies to what you are doing. Even if you have made a similar play a hundred times before, it could be new to someone who has never played the format before.
Hygiene and Behavior
Casual formats attract new players more than anything else in magic. We want more people to play Magic. It is hard for a lot of people to push past the ultra-geek stigma. What we can do, is not live up to that stigma.
Please, for the love of G-D or whatever you believe in, take regular showers and use deodorant. Brush your teeth, comb your hair, and wear clean clothing. It does not take a lot of people to stink up a small card store. No one wants to smell your 3-days-since-last-shower funk or your nacho cheese farts. If you want to play like this, just keep it to your kitchen table.
As for behavior, you should not have to try very hard. When someone walks into your store for the first time you represent all Magic Players. However you behave, they will correlate to all of us. Please keep profanities and offensive slurs in check. It is not impossible to believe that Commander will be the format people start using as an introductory format. We do not want to scare them off.
To The New Players
If you are a new player to commander and you are somehow reading this. Just keep one thing in mind, Commander is all about fun. You will love this format and this format will give you a whole new appreciation for Magic. There is no game out there that is quite like Magic and there is no format like Commander.
Thank you all for reading. I hope you get a chance to pick up at least one of the new decks. Wizards of the Coast supports products that make them money. The best thing we can do if we want to see more decks like these is to show our support with our wallets.
You can reach me for any reason at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow me on twitter @swordstoplow. You can reach me on facebook. I enjoy getting any feedback on any of the articles I write. I am also happy to help out with any deck list you would like help with. I primarily play Commander, but I suppose I could give my opinion on whatever format you like to play.
Have a great weekend!