Thanks to our friends at Wizards of the Coast for this free preview, we’re delighted to show you Kethek, Crucible Goliath:
We understand that the new toxic ability from Phyrexia: All Will Be One has folks asking about raising the number of poison counters in Commander. We’ll keep an eye on how it goes, but don’t see a need to take action before we’ve experienced the cards out in the wild. Back when he was a member of the Commander Advisory Group, Jim did a great video on the topic, which pretty much still encapsulates how we feel.
As always, if you’d like to discuss this (or any other topic), head over to the RC Discord, where there are specific channels to do just that.
The asterisk on Administrative Changes is a reminder that we added two folks, Olivia Gobert-Hicks and Jim Lapage, to the Rules Committee. Then all six of us descended on Magic 30 in Las Vegas. We embraced the opportunity to get out into the crowd and not just play, but talk Commander with a fairly large number of people.
The overwhelming sentiment that we found at M30 is that Commander is in a pretty healthy space. There are still a few anxieties, like how to make the best of playing in games with strangers. We continue to work internally on brainstorming just how we might help relieve those fears. We also continue to encourage you to have good pregame conversations with folks who you have just met. The best games are the ones in which everyone is on the same page.
As far as cards are concerned, nothing has crossed the line into being dangerous enough across the broad spectrum of the format to warrant a ban. We’ll continue to keep our eye on hot-button cards, like Dockside Extortionist. If it or any other card creeps out of the corners of the format to have a large-scale negative impact, we’ll take action.
As always, please drop by the RC Discord server if you’d like to talk about format philosophy or any of the myriad topics we have there. It’s the place you’re most likely to catch one of us, just hanging out and ready to chat.
We’ll see you in January for Phyrexia: All Will Be One. Until such a time, let The Brothers’ War begin!
Thanks to our friends from Wizards of the Coast, we get to share with you this most excellent free preview from The Brothers’ War, which we revealed last evening on the Commander RC stream. Behold Slagstone Refinery:
May you make many Powerstones and enjoy them in good health!
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.
- Squirrels still rule.
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.
Commander Advisory Group (CAG) additions
At the moment, there are no cards which we feel need banning. We recognize that there has been a fair amount of discussion of both Dockside Extortionist and Thassa’s Oracle. For the moment, we believe that both of these cards have been self-selected to the appropriate tables. Dockside Extortionist is far closer to the line due to the recent uptick in Treasure-related cards; it will remain firmly in our sights. Thassa’s Oracle remains distant enough that we don’t consider it a serious cause for concern. When it comes to evaluating cards for banning, it’s not just what a card does (its power), but what a card does to the broader format (its impact). We don’t currently see a negative enough impact
Quite a bit of energy has gone into discussing one of the community’s most talked-about issues, untrusted games—those in which you don’t know the other people you’re sitting down with. This is a tough nut to crack. Foremost, we don’t believe it’s an issue that we can ban our way into solving. What we think we can do is help not just players, but LGS owners/managers and event organizers, with some best practices and other advice on how to craft the kind of Commander environment they want. There isn’t a single, homogenized view among all the people who are running Commander in various places, so one of our new efforts going forward will be to provide those folks with some living documentation that will help them get to where they’d like to go.
One of the other things we’ve spent time on is RC expansion. We’ve conducted two rounds of interviews over the last few months and are on the verge of making a decision. We aren’t going to make it at the moment, but we expect to announce the addition(s) before the next quarterly update–likely some time in the middle of September. As we’ve been thinking about RC membership, we’ve taken the opportunity to talk with some folks that we’d love to hear more from.
To that end, welcome three outstanding individuals onto the Commander Advisory Group: Rebell, Benjamin Wheeler, and Tim Willoughby. Rebell brings deep knowledge of the format across all levels of play and she combines it with an insatiable drive for building high-quality, inclusive communities. Few people know community-built formats better than Wheeler, who was responsible for crafting both Canadian Highlander and Gladiator, then bringing them to the Magic forefront. His propensity for building oddball Commander decks is now legendary. Tim was an early adopter of EDH, jamming games with Sheldon and other judges as early as 2005 in the after-hours of professional Magic events. His essay on why each card is banned is commonly regarded as the best of its kind and will be adapted for inclusion on the RC website. Each of our new members brings to the table a unique voice paired with a first-rate Magic and Commander mind. We look forward to their advice on both existing and new projects. You can check out their bios over on the RC website.
There’s a specific channel on the Commander RC Discord server dedicated to discussing the quarterly updates. We look forward to you stopping on by and discussing it, as well as a host of other topics, with now more than 7,000 friends.
In recent years, Magic: the Gathering has offered Commander players many unique experiences to enhance the game—the creation of fresh new card types, mechanics, strategies, and, dare I say, “power levels.” Tapping creatures to crew Vehicles like Consulate Dreadnought enabled a new way to turn creatures sideways. Mutating Commanders such as Nethroi, Apex of Death allowed players to amplify creatures’ abilities while retaining the inherent beastly modes of already powerful creatures. Modal Double-Faced Cards (MDFCs) presented a choice between two modes as they are played, essentially netting you the possibility of having a second card, or even more as in the case of Valakut Awakening // Valakut Stoneforge, for the price of one. Partner Commanders have enabled combinations to build the ideal color identity would not be possible otherwise—Vial Smasher the Fierce and Thrasios, Triton Hero come to mind. The overwhelming use of Treasure token generators like Dockside Extortionist and Smothering Tithe presented a new challenge to players, forcing them to unearth older cards like Corrosion or Energy Flux to prevent Treasures from being used on later turns. What a time to be alive!
I want to shift away from gameplay for a moment and draw your attention to an aspect of Magic that has provided yet another unique experience for our format’s players. This experience involves the allure of playing with alternate artwork versions of our favorite cards. By no means is the concept new—we’ve seen different card arts on pre-release foils, FNM promos, reprints, and in more recent years, Expeditions, Invocations, Masterpieces, and Secret Lair products. Alongside these developments over the last decade, are the increased number of hand-painted versions by “alters artists”. Upon request, these artists modify the original art on the card and replace it with fan artwork of any type that suits a client’s request. Hand-painted alters gives Commander players a unique experience by personalizing their decks, providing visually captivating encounters, and also brings different life to the game.
In 2021, I combined my position on the CAG with my position at Sablan MTG Alters (a.k.a. The Painter’s Servant on Twitch), and organized a fun project involving 16 different hand-painted alters by 16 different artists worldwide, one for each member of the CAG and RC. I was able to round up a number of these artists from across the globe to create art for each of the RC’s and CAG’s favorite Commanders. Holding these cards, we can very easily see that personalizing a commander brings something unique to its owner.
How personal? Take a look at three alters done on Karador, Ghost Chieftain by Luke Emmerton of Luey Dragons MTG Alters, Cromat by Sally Stokes of S2 Alters, and Breya, Etherium Shaper by Brandon Brown of Modfly Alters. Luke and Sally did a phenomenal job recreating Sheldon and Josh Lee Kwai’s portraits. The recreation of Olivia Gobert-Hicks’ favorite Commander is one that speaks to her profession as a jeweler, with Jet, Ruby, Sapphire and Pearl jewels to match Breya’s color identity!
In personalizing three alters done on Zedruu, the Greathearted by Catherine Berthiaume of Level Up Alters, Kozilek, the Great Distortion by Eddie James of Djsteps Alter, and Titania, Protector of Argoth by Kumi Kanda Yoshino of Sablan MTG Alters, each of the artists took into consideration some of the recipients’ interests and incorporated reference material in their works. Recall the Magic Lampoon article “It is the Will of Zedruu” that Toby Elliott is very fond of, and how the references in the alter include goblins, a parking ticket, a sandwich, and of course Howling Mine. And then there’s Rachel Agnes, whose outside Magic interests include the movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Shivam Bhatt whose anime and manga interests include Oh! My Goddess as seen below:
Professional Alters Artists take pride in their handpainted renditions and no matter what side you are on a battlefield encounter, seeing their alters can be breathtaking. In stating that, an artist’s expertise is easily misunderstood by most players; any of these artists will tell you that painting on a 2.5” x 3.5” canvas is nothing to laugh at, and many hours goes into every alteration. These artists leverage many tools to strive for perfection, such as extreme detail, thinness of paint, likeness of reference, variety and matching of colors, all in service of the recipient’s desired intent on a flat surface. Take, for instance, the below works on Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder by Michiko Kanda Sablan of Sablan MTG Alters, Nin, the Pain Artist by Toriy Abdel of Magic Fantasy, and on Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle by Marisa Capitao of Captain Magic Altered.
The Ydris alter is not unlike Marvel’s Wolverine as seen in this Jim Lee cover with Omega Red—Michiko’s foil embellishment on the adamantium and carbonadium parts is exquisite. Jim LaPage’s off-Magic pastime is in playing Legend of the Zelda video games, and Toriy did a splendid job trying to capture as many of the game’s characters on the canvas — the detail looks excruciating! On the right, Scott Larabee’s ever-dreadful Kraken is a beautiful rendition of a card he once designed and plays often on the RC’s twitch stream. Marisa use of tromp l’oeil and color contrast conveys a unique sense of magnitude and grandeur. Imagine if there was an actual octopus of that size! Achieving these levels of excitement is always a goal for professional alters artists.
The last facet of hand-painted altered artwork I want to capture is how each individual alter on a card, within the 99 or at the helm, brings life to a Commander game. While alters already provide enhanced visual appeal, they also have the ability to draw out its owner’s passion and its deck’s purpose. As I continued to work with each of the alters artists in this project, the artists were able to communicate with the RC and CAG and articulate their desires to the team. The typical process when commissioning an alter is for a client to either be very specific about what is desired on a card, or allow the artist to use their own imagination to paint what they believe is requested. At the end of the process, both the artist and the client should be satisfied with the new art — any artist who considers this to be a profession will work hard to spark joy for their clients. In that respect, the below are the remaining original hand-painted works as interpreted by the artists in their respective styles:
Catherine Chandler-Tressler of her Alter Lab completed Adam Styborski’s Slimefoot, the Stowaway as a border extension with Saproling images added to the front of the ability box. Michelle Lizak of Mllizavx MTG Alters was requested by Charlotte Sable to redraw Alesha, Who Smiles at Death as if she were reaching into the abyss of creatures that may have been previously Buried Alive. Michael Beausoleil of MRB Alters took Rachel Week’s personal love of Pheldagriff and gave it a Dr. Seuss flavor in art and prose!
Jom Semah of Jom Alters transformed DeQuan Watson’s Rith, the Awakener using his personal vibrant color style and shading while highlighting the dragon’s ability to create Saprolings in the form of petals. Istvan Bukovski of Art Dark envisioned for Elizabeth Rice a new take on Memnarch—with a Phyrexian-like, sinister look which as lore has told, was a result of a Mirari incarnation driven mad by a mysterious oil that he is holding in his hand. Maria Sondergaard Petersen of MSJ Alters MTG Art reproduced her signature, and always surreal, pastel color palette onto Kristen Gregory’s Aurelia, the Warleader. Lastly, Annalisa Forghieri of Shivan Altered Art, went above and beyond and took on the challenge of doing a double-sided full art replacement for Gavin Duggan’s Avacyn Avacyn // Avacyn, the Purifier. She then challenged herself even further by applying a stained glass technique to both sides, fully accentuating the ethereal flavor of the devastatingly beautiful angel.
If you are not already familiar with altered artwork in Commander, hopefully this gives you a peek into the why and the how. Gameplay aside, the Commander experience continues to change but players will always find a passion for their decks and enjoy their Commanders in different ways. Altering cards helps set the foundation for a personalized and unique build, enables a visually captivating experience, and breathes imaginative life into the game we all love. As we often say, Commander isn’t necessarily about winning. Rather, it is a game where a social contract exists to allow players to enjoy the game in many ways. Having altered artwork, especially on the Commander, is one way method of calling attention to the card at the helm.
In closing, I would like to express special thanks again to all of the alters artists who painted such wonderful works. For more information on the artists, contact information, and worldwide locations spanning Asia, Europe, Australia, and North America, feel free to see visit the official Commander website gallery for the images here.
Check out these sweet preview cards sent to us free by our friends at Wizards of the Coast. The first was an early icon of the format since it came out in Planar Chaos. It looks sweet in any treatment. The second will slot nicely into a deck led by the first.
Intet, the Dreamer, art by Dan Scott
League Guildmage, art by Svetlin Velinov