We’re generally very happy with the state of Commander at the moment. We wanted to wait for the release of Aftermath to make sure there wasn’t anything of concern in it, but it looks good and we’re excited for all the new toys that March of the Machine has provided.
We’re particularly interested in seeing how Battles play out in Commander, where the multiplayer dynamics should have some interesting impact on their usage. Throw them in decks and let us know how it goes.
Poison was raised as a concern after all the new Toxic and Proliferate cards in All Will Be One, so we kept an eye on it for a bit, We don’t feel that it significantly altered the landscape for poison and don’t have plans to make any adjustments. It remains a mechanic that is sometimes good at taking out one person, but struggles to take down an entire table.
We will have an announcement day with The Lord of the Rings. Traditionally we’ve made announcements the week before the release of Standard-legal sets, and LotR isn’t one, but it’s a significant set in the calendar cycle (with an accompanying MagicCon) which leads to an expectation that there’ll be one, so we’ll be back in mid-June with another update. Until then, enjoy March of the Machine!
Lots of new toys, Phyrexian and otherwise, to play with, and we aren’t seeing anything that’s currently threatening our goals for the Commander experience.
Some folks have been asking about the number of poison counters in the wake of Phyrexia: All Will Be One. We’ll obviously keep an eye out, but at the moment we don’t see a need to raise it; the mechanic has not historically been all that strong due to the need to go it alone in killing people. Once everyone has had a chance to play with the new cards and mechanics and the immediate enthusiasm for the current set has faded a bit, we’ll see if action is needed.
While Sheldon’s article may have raised some eyebrows about Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines, the RC has had no discussions about banning it. Some of us had concerns about the design: stapling a casual-popular mechanic onto a casual-dangerous mechanic comes with some risks that are unrelated to power level, but there’s absolutely no way that would lead to a zero-day ban, and we doubt any action will be needed in the future.
We’ve publicly had our eye on Dockside Extortionist for a while now, and have ultimately concluded that, unless there’s a sudden surge into more casual spaces – where it hasn’t really thrived due to the lower density of cheap, fast mana – we don’t anticipate taking action on it. It’s a ridiculously powerful card, but scales with the rest of the table, and at the point it becomes broken, plenty of other broken stuff is already happening.
We’ll be back with our next update on April 10th, with March of the Machine. Until then, come hang out with all the great people in the MTGCommander.net discord to talk about the format!
Back in February of 2015, there was a big debate about hybrid mana on MTGSalvation. As a semi-regular poster back then, I eventually waded in because it was getting quite heated on both sides and I figured an RC perspective might calm folks down. Since then, I’ve found myself pointing folks back to that post quite often when the subject comes up and people ask about the RC stance. Seven plus years later, the points remain relevant, but the examples – and some secondary references (such as the old color production rule) – are pretty dated. I figured I should rewrite it to be more up to date and put it somewhere where I didn’t need to dig it out of ancient discussion-board postings.
People sometimes ask why we discourage discussions about hybrid mana on the Commander Discord server. It’s not that we refuse to tolerate dissenting opinions; it’s that there’s no new ground being tread and recycling the same arguments over and over doesn’t actually make for an interesting server for folks to be on. If someone came in with a brand new take on hybrid that wasn’t “designer intent” or “mechanics of Magic” it’d probably be an interesting and welcome conversation.
Yes, designer intent was to make hybrid cards easier to play than traditional multicolor spells. Designer intent is a deep rabbit hole. Phyrexian mana was designed to make some cards easier to play in exchange for life. Force of Will was designed to be played without blue mana. In the early days of Magic, many large creatures were designed with no goal of casting them; they were reanimation targets and the actual cost of the card did not matter. There’s lots of designer intent in the game.
Yes, hybrid cards are unquestionably multicolored cards at all times. Mechanically, they function in-game exactly as they do in the rest of Magic. If you gain control of a creature with a hybrid activation, you can activate it, even if the cost contains a symbol not in your color identity. With the elimination of the color-production rule several years ago, you can even activate it using a color of mana not in your color identity! It’s always true that a Blade Historian can be Hydroblasted, whether you cast it with WWWW, RRRR or something in between.
Neither of these points are all that relevant in our calculus, because they are based around gameplay, but rule 3 (the color identity rule) is not a game play rule. Rule 3 is a deckbuilding rule. It matters when you are putting your deck together, not when you sit down to play. A deckbuilding rule is a restriction, designed to keep you from just throwing whatever you want in your decks. All formats have them – what sets are legal, how many you can put in your deck, etc, etc. They are used to shape a format. Many of them are mechanical. In Commander some are also aesthetic, which is something that helps distinguish Commander from other formats.
Commander cares about color, and always has. Yes, the rules have evolved over time, but that’s largely in parallel with the rules getting written down and slowly becoming more formalized in the first place. Trying to go originalist isn’t terribly useful – the rules were a somewhat contradictory hodge-podge when we started. But, from the very beginning deckbuilding has been based around restrictions that care about color, and “you can’t have mana symbols in your deck that aren’t on your commander” is elegant, easy to explain and aesthetically pleasing to us. (Yes, that only covers 99.9% of cases, so there’s another rule for color indicator because that obviously applies and yes, Extort is a little unfortunate. But, reminder text just can’t matter.) Given that rule, it’s very easy to see where hybrid falls. “Fixing” hybrid requires messing with that fundamental rule and the alternatives are more complex and less aesthetically pleasing (folks are welcome to disagree on that last one, obviously).
Making a change would require a compelling reason to violate that aesthetic restriction. Making cards available to more decks isn’t a good reason. Any change to the deckbuilding criteria would make more or fewer cards available, and making more cards available to decks in a format with so many cards already available is certainly not something we’re seeking to do. We think the format is better if mono-U decks and U/R decks might have to find different answers to problems. In general we like to be more restrictive in deckbuilding and more open in game play and that’s the philosophy that underlies how we handle hybrid mana.
We promised an update on Unfinity, because of all the crazy new things that have been introduced in the set.
In short: There are no rules changes. What this means is:
Cards from Unfinity without acorn stamps are legal to play by default in Commander. Cards with acorn stamps are not.
Stickers can be played; if you don’t have any, our understanding is that there will be an online tool to let you generate some sheets. A reminder that you can only sticker your own cards (or sleeves, in most cases).
Attractions are legal. This caused the most internal debate, as attractions really play in some spaces we are wary of in Commander. However, attractions are not defined as traditional cards, and don’t live outside the game, so they do work within the rules framework we have. Making them illegal would have required changing the rules quite substantially (or banning the entire class of cards), and we don’t think they are problematic enough to justify a change.
Our friends at Wizards of the Coast have provided us with a couple of free preview cards for the Unfinity set. When they asked us what kind of card we would like to preview, we said “Well, we’re big fans of Clones.” Somehow the email seems to have gotten garbled, because they sent us
We wrote them back that there had been some confusion and we were talking about copies. They apologized and sent us another card.
Buncha jokers over there in Renton, I tell you.
But Wait, There’s More
We have a special bonus card today!
I think they kind of missed an opportunity to make the Scryfall folks cry (well, another opportunity) by not naming this Very Cryptic Command. Looking forward to the textless version in a few years!
Unfinity brings some crazy new cards to the Commander table, some of which you’ll need to have pregame discussions about. Remember that cards with the acorn holostamp are not legal by default, but the rest (including the ones above)… go crazy. It’s clear that the folks at Wizards did.
Please join us in welcoming Olivia Gobert-Hicks and Jim Lapage to the Rules Committee!
After multiple rounds of interviews with some fantastic candidates, Olivia and Jim demonstrated a deep understanding of the Commander Philosophy, the right outlook for successfully managing a format, and a bunch of great ideas that we’re looking forward to exploring further. We’re excited to have them onboard and helping to shape the future of Commander.
Olivia was on the leading edge of webcam streaming of Commander, nearly a year before the pandemic and well before it caught on across the community, providing a positive blueprint for the practice. This is just one example of the kind of foresight and insight into the format that she brings to bear. Infused with the spirit of the format, her passion and power make her a significant representative for Commander to the groups that she will interface with as an RC member, from the wider community to design teams in Studio X. She is a leader in the truest sense.
Jim possesses one of the keenest minds in Magic. His ability to understand, dissect, and articulate difficult ideas, thoughts, and processes is unparalleled, uniquely qualifying him as one of the format’s primary architects. His work demonstrates a belief in the power of Commander as a social format and force for positive change. He is equally at home interacting and communicating with diverse groups, offering the opportunity to distill input from across the broad Commander player base. He is the type of thinker who will help chart a smooth course for steering Commander into the future.
We could spend a whole lot more time going on about Olivia’s passion for the format or Jim’s ability to break down a problem in great detail, but let’s have them say a few words about themselves.
I played my first game of Magic in an eight player two-headed giant Commander pod in 2014 and have never looked back. My enthusiasm for the format and love of creating cool things has led to me cosplaying Magic characters at events, streaming on my Twitch channel, co-hosting my own Commander show, and serving on the CAG since 2019.
I want to use my time on the RC to help assist players in having the best possible experience, provide resources and ideas to players to keep things fresh and engaging. My hope is that I can help others find the same sense of community, discovery, and most simply, fun, that the format has given me over the years.
Outside of Magic, I’m trained as a master jeweler – which may explain my love for artifacts! I have also worked on numerous political campaigns, and facilitated fundraisers for charities and causes close to my heart. In my free time, I enjoy playing Path of Exile, lifting weights, and making too many cool props for LARP.
I started playing Commander in original Innistrad when I discovered that Shield Sphere wasn’t legal in Modern, and that pretty well sums up my deck-building style. I value the freedom of exploration that Commander provides in Magic, specifically when building extremely unusual and sometimes powerful decks. In 2018 I started a Youtube channel showcasing a mix of casual and competitive social gameplay, combo explanations, and analysis of the strategic and social aspects of the format.
In the past I’ve used my platform to help destigmatize high-powered play and to showcase the unique experiences available in underexplored corners of the format. This often involved communicating my own motivations for playing the game. I’d like to continue this work by creating concrete tools and methods that event organizers can use to communicate realistic expectations about the play environment they’re creating. I want to use my role in format leadership to help others explore and appreciate the full breadth of experiences available in Commander.
In my spare time, I enjoy cooking and baking; crossword puzzles; escape rooms and logic puzzles; and camping and hiking. When not playing Magic I’m playing Slay the Spire, Diablo III, or any game from the Legend of Zelda series.
If you want to hear more of their thoughts – and you should! – they’ll be in the channel #rc-expansion-welcome on the RC Discord server starting at 11:30 AM Eastern for an hour or so. You’ll be able to find them, along with the rest of us, regularly in other channels on the server, always happy to talk about Magic’s Greatest Format.
Today’s Unfinity announcement included the introduction of the acorn watermark as the new method to distinguish what were previously silver-bordered cards.
We will be updating the rules for card legality to make the acorn symbol equivalent to silver-borders; they’re not allowed by default (but should be encouraged among playgroups!)
We considered allowing them – Commander is not a tournament format, so philosophically it aligns with Mark Rosewater’s points about un-cards – but while some of the classes of cards that get an acorn symbol would be fine (art-based abilities, for example) others are not (physical dexterity cards) and further trying to split would descend to specific card lists. Those might be viable as an optional addition, but not something we would look to make default.
Set looks like a ton of fun, though. Looking forward to it! As always, you’re welcome to join us on the RC Discord server to chat about it.
The back-to-back nature of the two Innistrad releases made for a very short announcement window and not one we want to take action in. We’re pretty happy with where things are and look forward to the influx of cards from Crimson Vow.
Our next announcement will be for the Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty release, on February 7.