Category Archives: Rules Updates

2021 April Update (Strixhaven)

No Changes.

Commander is in a pretty good place right now, considering waves hands at everything, and we don’t feel the need to take any action.

We do have our eyes on some cards, but want to wait until we have more in-person play to get a sense for how they would impact the format. While webcams have been amazing for getting through the pandemic, the online environment isn’t the same as traditional paper play. As it looks like things will start to reopen over the coming months, it makes sense to take a wait-and-see approach.

While there are no rules changes, we do want to highlight a couple of features that Strixhaven brings and how they interact with the Commander rules.

1) Any card that has a legendary creature on its front face can be your commander, but in the case of Modal Double-Face Cards, you can cast either side. Both sides are subject to the same Commander Tax; it looks at how many times you have cast the card, regardless of which side you chose to cast. Strixhaven introduces Legendary creatures with sorceries on the back side. For example, you may cast Search for Blex, but it’ll cost two more mana if you cast Blex, Vexing Pest earlier in the game. Perhaps you shouldn’t have lost him the first time!

2) Learn cards cannot retrieve Lesson cards when they are cast. We are not interested in introducing sideboards into Commander, and are not comfortable with defining outside the game as all cards you own (it was defined this way years ago and led to a lot of problems and arguments.) However, the alternate mode of discard and draw works fine, as the restriction is limited to the part of the card the looks for a Lesson. Playgroups that want to make Lessons work are encouraged to define a set of rules that works for them.

We’ll be back for Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. In the meantime, we’ll continue to stream twice weekly on the RC Twitch channel (http://twitch.com/CommanderRC) on Thursdays at 8PM EDT and Sundays at 2PM EDT. Come hang out!

April 2020 Rules Update

Companion

When we first saw the companion mechanic, our immediate reaction was “well, this is cool; it won’t work in Commander.” But, looking at the mechanic, there was nothing problematic about it. It was actually the kind of thing we really like to encourage. Brew with restrictions! Since we want the rules of Commander to match up to Magic where possible and healthy for the format, we took a second look.

We still don’t think Wishes and the other get-other-cards-from-outside-the-game are something we want in Commander. We outline our stance on wishes in the FAQ and none of the concerns we have with them applied here. The only issue was that the mechanic referred to outside the game. If the companion started in the Command Zone or Exile, it would have been fine. Since that’s clearly an arbitrary mechanical distinction, how could we adjust the rules to reflect this?

It turns out that it was easy. The problem with all prior mechanics which used outside-the-game was their open-endedness. They brought cards in from a giant unbounded set. All we had to do was change one word in Rule 11:

11: Abilities which bring other card(s) you own from outside the game into the game (such as Living Wish; Spawnsire of Ulamog; Karn, the Great Creator) do not function in Commander.

Companion now works within the framework of Commander – it’s bringing itself in – and nothing else changes. Similar mechanics will be fine in the future as long as they remain self-contained (though if we think they’re problematic, we’ll obviously take another look and ask ourselves why).

We recognize that this does let you go past the 100 card rule that is iconic to Commander. However, a single extra card you have to jump through serious hoops to get is philosophically okay in the same way that a tiny number of cards (like Relentless Rats) are able to violate the even-more-important singleton rule.

Lutri

That left Lutri. We hate the idea of banning a card prior to release. We gave serious consideration to announcing that the card would almost certainly be banned with Core 2021 and letting it be legal rather than break our stance that all cards should be given a chance.

The argument that finally won the day was that not everyone would see that announcement. Many people would buy a legal Lutri as it goes alongside every deck with red and blue in it. Knowing that it would certainly be banned, we were uncomfortable setting up those folks, who are in many ways our primary audience, for far greater disappointment. Better to bend our stance.

This is where we say that it was a one-time thing and we don’t expect it to happen again, but that might not be entirely accurate. Wizards is free to explore weird spaces, and, as demonstrated here, those spaces may occasionally do something really problematic. If another card comes along that also does something novel that is incompatible with the format, we’ll ban it immediately. Note that “stupidly powerful” is not novel; those cards will get their chance to prove themselves.

Flash

Speaking of exceptional decisions, we are banning Flash (the card, not the mechanic). Enough cEDH players who we trust have convinced us that it is the only change they need for the environment they seek to cultivate. Though they represent a small fraction of the Commander playerbase, we are willing to make this effort for them. It should not be taken as a signal that we are considering any kind of change in how we intend to manage the format; this is an extraordinary step, and one we are unlikely to repeat.

We use the banlist to guide players in how to approach the format and hope Flash’s role on the list will be to signal “cheating things into play quickly in non-interactive ways isn’t interesting, don’t do that.”

We believe Commander is still best as a social-focused format and will not be making any changes to accommodate tournament play. Taking responsibility for your and your opponents’ fun, including setting expectations with your group, is a fundamental part of the Commander philosophy. Organizers who want to move towards more untrusted games should consider adding additional rules or guidance to create the Commander experience they want to offer.