Category Archives: Announcements

Low-traffic category containing changes to the rules, banned list, official site, etc.

April 2024 “Quarterly” Update


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Document Updates

The format philosophy document is perhaps the most important page on the Commander site, serving as a north star and communication tool.  The RC, led by Jim, has spent the last few months updating and revising that document with the aim of making it clearer for both the community and the RC.  We’ve had extensive conversations about what we want the format to be, how to get there, and how to know if we’re making progress.  

The new version does not change any fundamental tenets of the format, nor is it a change in vision.  What it does is be more specific about what we’re trying to do, so that our decisions are easier for enfranchised players to understand and relay to the larger, less enfranchised community.  Transparency was something we set out to improve in last year’s state of the format, and we think this is a concrete step in that direction.

An updated philosophy document is now live, and we’ll schedule office hours on the Commander Discord server later in the month for anyone who’d like to discuss the changes.

Outlaws of Thunder Junction Rules Notes

There aren’t any major implications for Commander in the mechanics of OTJ.  There are a few things like the timing of crime-triggers (on cast, before the targeting object resolves) that are worth remembering and reminding newer players of, if they ask.  Good luck out there, partners!

February 2024 Quarterly Update


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Murders at Karlov Manor has some returning mechanics, so here are some rule refreshers:

Face-down cards are in the set, so a reminder: normally, you don’t have to reveal what any face down card is, but if your Commander is turned face-down, it is still a Commander card that deals Commander damage. You do need to make the other players aware – no surprising anyone with lethal Commander damage from a face down card!

Surveil is also returning in this set, and some older cards have been errata’d to have the keyword “surveil” in the rules text (like Search for Azcanta.) Worth checking out things that had the effect (but not the keyword) if you’re playing a Commander like Mirko, Obsessive Theorist.

Split Cards are back as well! Seasoned Commander players are likely already well aware, but for anyone that’s new, the color identity of BOTH spells on split cards must fit with your Commander’s Color Identity.

The example here of Cease//Desist is an Abzan card, requiring WBG to be in your Commander’s Color Identity, even if you only want to cast one side. 

Slime Against Humanity joins the illustrious club of “Can Run More Than One of This Card In Commander” along with Relentless Rats, Shadowborn Apostle and Persistent Petitioners, among others. While it allows you to ignore the singleton rule, it does NOT allow you to ignore Color Identity. 

General Commentary

The format continues to be in a pretty good place overall, and MKM doesn’t appear to contain any cards that challenge or detract from our vision for the format. 

Our next update will be Monday, April 15th after the Thunder Junction prerelease! 

State of the Format 2024

Continuity and Process

This year we’ve been forced to grapple with a lot of change and transition. Sheldon’s passing left huge holes in our hearts, and much of our work this year involved structural, behind-the-scenes things to ensure continuity. We want to honour Sheldon’s legacy through a format that remains vibrant and social.

To that end, we’re going to continue posting annual State of the Format articles in late January of each year, with two key changes. They’ll:

  • be posted here, on rather than their traditional home on Star City Games as part of Sheldon’s weekly articles;


  • follow a more structured format, focusing on accomplishments of the previous year as well as setting goals for the upcoming year

We’re hoping that this will provide a better look at what we’re seeing, where we think we can improve, and the concrete steps we’re taking in service of our goals.

Snapshot of the Format

Complexity and Diversity

Commander in 2023 was marked by an often overwhelming injection of new cards into the format. The format gained a little less than 2000 new cards (which is slightly less than 2022), and 398 of those were legendary creatures.*

*Huge thanks to @mtg_ds on twitter for helping to gather this data

This has led to a pretty drastic change in player behaviour. Ten years ago, for example, it may have been possible to maintain an encyclopedic knowledge of every new card, as well as the most common strategies associated with common commanders. Today, that’s nearly impossible. The deluge of new cards – combined with their complexity – has even the most experienced players asking what cards do multiple times per game. This has three predictable outcomes, all of which we’re seeing today:

  1. The format has a steeper learning curve and higher cognitive load;
  2. The format is more diverse than it ever has been;
  3. Even more gameplay is improvised on the spot rather than practiced for.

Diversity doesn’t mean that there’s a total lack of cards that land in a majority of decks – simply that the format is drastically different than it was 5 or 10 years ago, when plenty of people could rattle off the entire list of 5-colour legendary creatures off the top of their head.

When cards do land in the majority of decks, they often seem to be cards that were designed specifically with Commander in mind. This does carry a benefit in that newer cards tend to be more available and more readily reprinted, but it does run the risk of eroding Commander’s charm and personality. This isn’t necessarily a problem to be solved, but it is something we’re aware of. If you’re reading this, one way you can help to preserve Commander’s charm is to dig deep and play weird cards just because they don’t have a home elsewhere. 

All the new cards make it ever more likely that you’ll find some perfect card that your opponents will have to read and try to figure out what to do with. That idea was inherent in the origins of Commander – a place to play the cards that weren’t seen in other games, giving the format a more improvisational feel. Though the underlying cause is slightly different, the net effect is similar; in 2024 you’ll need to play around cards you have to read.

Although Commander today has a steeper learning curve than it did in years past, there are no shortage of avenues to get people to start learning and playing. Widely available, well-built pre-constructed decks can allow anyone to sit down, enjoy a game and begin to grasp and learn all the concepts of magic gameplay. While Commander will never be the ideal way to learn the basics of Magic, a focus on the fun of the game goes a long way in carrying a player through that initial confusion.

We’re really excited by the idea that you can pick up a preconstructed deck from your LGS and – with a little luck and skill – be able to hang with the folks who show up to play or the friends who have invited you to join their hobby. We are conscious, though, that as preconstructed decks become more powerful, people might skip over the experience of digging through bulk boxes for niche cards to upgrade or customize their decks. As ambassadors to the format, we love to share the joy of creativity and self-expression through deckbuilding, and we don’t plan on shutting up about it.

Events Galore

In the past year, we’ve been thrilled to see numerous events spring back up across the globe, allowing people to play Commander in every way imaginable. We’ve seen packed Local Game Stores, CommandFests and MagicCon Command Zones filled with players representing the entire spectrum of Magic play. We love that folks are able to find like-minded people to enjoy the game with in a way that they enjoy, no matter the power level.

Feedback to Wizards

A lot of people didn’t realize prior to 2023 that we give regular feedback to Wizards R&D on card design. This isn’t new, but it’s worth mentioning because we feel it’s an important part of managing the format. Our job is not to fix problems with card or game design, nor to tell Wizards what they have to change (they have many concerns to balance, while we have only one!) We’re able to help them identify potential problems so their skilled game designers can make informed decisions. Additionally, we highlight cards we are excited by and spaces we’re excited to see them exploring. We continued to provide feedback this year, and while we can’t talk about what’s been discussed, remain very happy with our relationship with the Casual Play Design team, with whom we work closest.

Banlist Explanation Project

One of the key principles we focused on this year is documenting institutional knowledge – capturing an enduring record of the things we have in our brains, so they’re not exclusively communicated (and often distorted) by word of mouth. 

Years ago, we identified an opportunity to do this by modifying the official Commander banlist page to include short, easy-to-understand explanations for why each card earned its spot on the banlist. Previously, the best way to research these topics was to dig through our old banlist announcements, or read articles written by Sheldon or the other members of the Rules Committee.

Today, we’re happy to announce that these modifications have been made to the banlist page. We drew heavily from archived announcements on MTGNexus, outstanding articles by Commander Advisory Group members Kristen Gregory and Tim Willoughby, and the collective recollections of folks who were involved at the time. We compiled the explanations with the assistance of  Commander Advisory Group members Rachel Weeks, Charlotte Sable, and Shivam Bhatt. The resulting explanations are by no means comprehensive or exhaustive, as one of our goals was to keep them pithy enough for a mouseover-style interaction. We did our best to focus on important elements of each card and the play patterns that led to their removal from the cardpool.

Although we consider this project to be complete at the moment, we may modify these explanations in the future if we find that our brevity has come at the expense of clarity.

Status: Complete

501(c)(3) Status

As an organization, one of our goals is to be sustainable. We have expenses such as web hosting costs, and want to make sure we compensate our Official MTG Commander Discord moderators for their time and efforts, along with anyone else who provides us with their valuable services. Historically Sheldon handled many of these expenses out of pocket, resulting in a disruption with his passing. We are taking steps to get these finances on a firmer and more structured footing. We’ve historically had people and organizations reach out to us to offer help and financial support for the things we do, but it’s important for us to avoid selling access or influence, or even the perception of doing so.

To this end, we’ve started work on establishing a 501(c)(3) – a nonprofit organization with appropriate oversight and financial transparency. Our goals here are to ensure that:

  • our financial obligations continue to be met during periods of transition;
  • any fundraising efforts we undertake are accompanied by appropriate disclosure;
  • the Rules Committee as an organization exists independently of any of its constituent members.

We want to express our gratitude to Don Miner of EDHREC and to his staff for helping us navigate the legal waters on this project. His help has been tremendously valuable.

This project is well-underway, but there are still some administrative tasks we need to complete in 2024.

Status: Ongoing

Goals for next year

In keeping with this more structured approach to the State of the Format, we’d like to share some goals we have for 2024, with the intent to revisit them in next year’s article.

  1. 501(c)(3) admin tasks
    Complete all administrative and tasks related to the establishment of the 501(c)(3).
  2. Philosophy and Operations
    In last year’s State of the Format article, Sheldon shared a preview of some potential changes to the format philosophy. It doesn’t represent a shift in the philosophy – we will always be the format that focuses on creativity, self expression and having fun – but see opportunity for improved articulation of our goals and priorities. This work is ongoing, and requires a bit more polishing before it’s ready for publication. 
  3. RC Stream
    Our Thursday games at continue to be some of the most direct contact the RC has with the online player base.  Going into the new year, we’re aiming for a more consistent schedule involving faster-paced games featuring the entire RC along with special guests from across the community. We’re looking for more opportunities to grow and interact with the great community who join us on these streams.



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No changes, but here are some helpful tips regarding specific cards and mechanics in the set:

Hakbal is one of the face commanders of the new Lost Caverns of Ixalan preconstructed Commander decks.

Hakbal of the Surging Soul

Remember when you’re playing it that you choose the order for each creature to explore, but they all explore during the resolution of the trigger – no player gets priority in between each creature exploring!

Some creatures in this set also utilize finality counters.

Uchbenbak, the Great Mistake

If your Commander somehow gets a finality counter on it and it would die, it will be sent to exile instead. Once it’s there, you’ll have a choice to send it to the command zone as outlined in Rule 7:

If a commander is in a graveyard or in exile and that card was put into that zone since the last time state-based actions were checked, its owner may put it into the command zone. If a commander would be put into its owner’s hand or library from anywhere, its owner may put it into the command zone instead. This replacement effect may apply more than once to the same event. 

General Commentary

The format continues to be in a pretty good place overall, and LCI/LCC don’t appear to contain any cards that challenge or detract from our vision for the format.

Although this will be our final quarterly update for 2023, we’re planning on continuing Sheldon’s annual tradition of a STATE OF THE FORMAT article in early January, prior to the release of Murders at Karlov Manor in February 2024. Typically Sheldon released these on StarCity Games, but going forward we’ll be releasing them here on


We have four preview cards for you today. When I first opened them, my immediate reaction was “I have to explain Trenzalore?” Yikes. The Matt Smith era was definitely high on the timey-wimey stuff. But more on that later. We’ll start with… relatively easier stuff and go “chronologically.”

The first card we have today is a phenomenon, which is a special kind of Planechase card that acts like a triggered ability. You walk to it, something happens, then you walk away.

We’re seeing a significant event late in the Tenth Doctor’s run. Donna Noble (his companion at the time) has, in desperation, touched the severed hand of the Doctor, which is at the time filled with regeneration energy (which is itself all a long story).

But as a result of that, Donna changes. She gains all the knowledge of a Time Lord (and, as we’ll learn later, gets her DNA rewritten some, too.) This is actually a gigantic problem as she can’t actually contain all that knowledge, but for a brief while she’s superpowered and saves the day.

The phenomenon essentially creates DoctorDonna, the merger of the two.

The second card is from a beloved episode of the series titled “The Doctor’s Wife,” written by Neil Gaiman himself. It’s a standalone in which the TARDIS’ consciousness (yeah, it’s sentient) is trapped in a mortal vessel. Yes, it’s so that another being can drain all the life from it, but while the Doctor has to figure out how to save it, it’s an opportunity for the Eleventh Doctor to have a heart to heart with his longtime travelling companion.

The card represents Idris, who had her mind wiped for the purpose, hosting the TARDIS for a brief period. Warning: it doesn’t end well for Idris.

Lake Silencio is the location that kicks off the main plot of the second season of the Eleventh Doctor’s run with a mystery that will last the season.

The Doctor meets with his companions (Rory, Amy and kind of River at that point) and an astronaut rises out of the lake. The Doctor orders them not to intervene and goes to talk to the astronaut who he seems to know and, a moment later, the astronaut shoots him. He’s dead, for real (and they even burn the body for good measure.)

But then the doctor steps out of a back room in a local diner and the mystery commences. And there’s time travel involved, of course. Learning the identity of the astronaut and why this is all happening occurs over the course of the season, and by the time we return to Lake Silencio with all the details… I won’t spoil it all here.

But, part of that mystery requires that Lake Silencio be a fixed point in time, which you can’t change with time travel. And the plane reflects that perfectly by giving everything split second. No putting things on the stack to retroactively alter events that have already happened!

And then there’s Trenzalore. I’m not even going to try to explain Trenzalore to you; it’s the culmination of the entire Eleventh Doctor run, tying together plot threads from the whole series. We’d be here all day.

But the design of this card is beautiful, so let’s try to give you enough context to understand why. The Doctor essentially retires to Trenzalore and lives there for 900 years, fighting off a series of alien invaders (the planet is the last link to Gallifrey, where Time Lords hail from) until he’s no longer capable of doing so.

But he’s out of regenerations. And old. And the final enemy, is, of course, the Daleks. So he goes to the top of the clock tower to do what he can to stave them off. But before he does, he is given a poem that, in part, reads:

Eleven’s hour is over now,
The clock is striking twelve’s.

In the final confrontation, he makes a connection to Gallifrey and the Time Lords grant him a new cycle of regenerations (and thus the strength to defeat the Daleks). And this card reflects that, giving you a new hand to help your Time Lord defeat their enemies as the clock ends the eleventh hour and strikes twelve.

Thus far, Doctor Who looks like a design slam dunk, and we’re excited to see the rest of the cards. If you haven’t had the chance to play Planechase with Commander, give it a try. It will certainly add to the chaos!


Sheldon passed away last night after a seven-year battle with cancer.

We all strive to leave behind a lasting legacy. It is a measure of Sheldon that he did it twice.

He first picked up the judge program and instilled a vision of fairness and proper behavior in competitive Magic that carries on to this day. Until his retirement from judging in 2011 he was the face of the program; the judge that all the other judges aspired to be.

And then, there’s Commander. Though he was always quick to credit Adam Staley as the creator, without his efforts we would not have Commander. He saw the potential of the format as a vessel for social play and tirelessly advocated for it as a way to make and spend time with friends. Along the way, he picked up many of them and unlocked a tidal wave of a community that had often been ignored. He championed that diversity, always looking for a way to raise up underserved voices in the community.

He faced down the challenges of his cancer with the relentless verve of one of his beloved Shakespearean characters, refusing to let it stop him living life to the fullest for as long as he could. Even a week ago, he refused to rule out getting to Las Vegas for MagicFest because he so wanted another chance to make his fans, friends, and everyone else happy as they celebrated the game together.

Sheldon always said a great leader planned for a future without them, and took the steps to ensure that the RC and CAG could continue after he was gone. We will deeply miss his wisdom, but look forward to honoring his mission.

Goodbye, friend. Safe travels.



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Wilds of Eldraine brings with it two Adventure commanders. Here’s how this card type interacts with the rules of Commander!

Commander Tax
Refer to Rule 6:
Commanders begin the game in the Command Zone. While a commander is in the command zone, it may be cast, subject to the normal timing restrictions for casting creatures. Its owner must pay {2} for each time it was previously cast from the command zone; this is an additional cost.

If Beluna Grandsquall is your commander, you have the option to cast it or Seek Thrills from your command zone. In either case, you must pay commander tax according to how many times it has been cast from the command zone so far in the current game. If you choose to cast Seek Thrills, exile it as it resolves and you have the option to cast it later from exile without paying commander tax.

Colour Identity
The colour identity of a legendary creature with adventure includes the colour(s) of any mana symbols in the adventure’s casting cost. Kellan, the Fae-Blooded has a colour identity of WR.

General Commentary

In our June update, we singled out two cards – Orcish Bowmasters and Mirkwood Bats. In the last 2 months, players have started to play with them and against them. Orcish Bowmasters in particular appears to be very strong. From what we’ve seen and from what people have told us, it doesn’t appear to be making as big of a splash as many had anticipated. This aligns with our initial expectations, and unless something changes we don’t foresee either card causing problems that warrant immediate action.

We’ll be back with our next update on November 10 in advance of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan!