by Kelce Casey
Thursday, 14 May, 2020
Many magic players are familiar with the psychographic profiles of Timmy, Johnny, and Spike, introduced by Mark Rosewater in this article. The idea that our personalities can influence the way we play our games is nothing new to either MTG or the gaming community at large.
Commander as a format best exemplifies the influence of personality on gaming choices. I want to explore personality and Commander, particularly commander choice. The metric I decided to look at may be familiar to many – introversion vs extraversion.
In a game of Commander, there’s an internal/external world dichotomy at play. Your deck and its inner workings are a representation of an internal world. Any interaction with your opponents is interaction with the external world.
Certain commanders play into working with your own deck and battlefield versus that of others. I therefore decided to see if introverted and extroverted people were drawn to commanders that allow them to interact with the respective “worlds” in which they’re most comfortable.
But what theory are you trying to test by electrocuting your own head?
Defining Introversion vs Extroversion
You may have seen someone online proclaim themselves an introvert or an extrovert, maybe with a chart detailing the specific struggles of each group. These terms have taken on a life of their own in the general public as another example of human obsession with categorization. However, they do have slightly more weight to them than what Animal Crossing villager or Harry Potter combo-house you were matched with in an online quiz.
When you retake a quiz several times because dammit you are NOT Pietro
There is a misconception that extroverts are excitable puppies inserting themselves into every social situation they can, while introverts are skittering cave creatures hoarding their precious energy reserves. The truth is, everyone needs people to some degree, and everyone needs time alone to recharge occasionally. It’s a part of being human.
A better definition of an introvert vs an extrovert is showing where you typically put your focus. Introverts are more focused on the internal world, while extroverts are more focused on the external world.
It’s honestly hard for me to make definitive statements here, because so much of human behavior is complicated, fluid, and not fully understood. But putting in all the caveats would make this article much longer.
Gathering Data From Nerds Online
I sent out a poll to both r/mtg and r/edh asking for people to list their top 3 favorite commanders and for them to rate themselves on several personality aspects, one being an introvert / extrovert scale. In total, I got 123 responses, with roughly 369 favorite commanders to compare with personality metrics.
The people I polled did lean overall introverted. Whether this is indicative of people who play Commander, regularly visit Reddit, or a combination of these factors, I can’t say.
This just in, nerds are socially awkward on average
Commanders with a Strong Extrovert Correlation
From all of the data, only one commander stood out as the top commander for extroverts, with far more results than any other. That commander was Edgar Markov.
I’m led to believe this is #squadgoals
Edgar encourages an extroverted playing style by rewarding aggressive builds. Additionally, vampires are already an aggressive tribe, and Mardu is typically an aggressive color combination. Edgar decks are constantly attacking opponents to build up to a devastating blowout.
This is you dealing with the external world of your opponents, making note of blockers they have and other effects on their respective battlefields. In a multiplayer game, you also typically can’t take everyone out in one swing either. At the very least you would be controlling the boards of your opponents over time to clear the way for your flung through timely wraths or social discord.
If your table doesn’t look like this four hours into the game, are you really playing Commander?
Commanders with a Strong Introvert Correlation
A few more results popped up for introvert commanders, with enough data to support a trend. The top commanders for introverts included:
- Atla Palani, Nest Tender
- Kess, Dissident Mage
- Muldrotha, the Gravetide
All three of these work within an introverted playstyle for very much the same reasons. They deal exclusively with your deck, graveyard, and board. Atla Palani encourages you to tend an egg garden, while Kess and Muldrotha both mess with your graveyard. Though these decks can be built with interaction in mind, they lean more towards sitting in a corner doing your own thing until you win out of nowhere.
How I wish I could dress during quarantine
Other Data on Extroverted/Introverted Commander Choices
Of course, one problem with gathering data on favorite commanders is the fact that there are a wide variety of options. It can be difficult to find clear trends with specific commanders.
To the one person who put in Cao Cao: never change
I decided to include the below results for commanders who didn’t have quite enough data for me to examine further as possible correlations, but when they did show up they did so exclusively on one or the other side. I also included a few of my thoughts on why these results might fall in line with my theory about extroversion and introversion in Commander.
For extroverts, we had:
- Arcades, the Strategist / Aurelia Warleader / Doran, the Siege Tower – These commanders seem popular with extroverts for similar reasons – they lend themselves to quick and aggressive decks. Players need to deal with combat decisions frequently.
- Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons – She requires you to deal damage to your opponents in order to use her ability, and you’ll typically want to put -1/-1 counters on your opponents’ creatures. All of this involves direct social interaction.
- Mathas, Fiend Seeker / Teysa, Orzhov Scion – Both of these commanders directly deal with opponents’ creatures and making decisions based on the board states of others
- Mogis, God of Slaughter – Because of this commander’s punishment effect, players will often need to remind others of the trigger.
- Queen Marchesa – Interestingly, this one opens you up to interactions with opponents through her Monarch ability, rather than making you directly interact with them.
For introverts, we had:
- Emrakul, the Promised End – While the main ability requires you to gain control of an opponent, you’re arguably not actually interacting with that opponent during that time, plus the cost discount encourages you to fill your own graveyard, building your own sand castle.
- Inalla, Archmage Ritualist – This commander encourages a strategy of playing around with enters the battlefield effects of your own wizards.
- The Scarab God – While this commander can steal creatures from other graveyards, this isn’t a requirement, and Scarab God players will likely build their decks in such a way that they can simply work off their own graveyard.
- Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder – Does require players to hit an opponent, but in my experience as a Yidris player, you only need to do it once.
For fun, some examples of commanders that showed up fairly equally for both sides included:
- Aminatou, the Fateshifter – While most of her abilities deal with your side of the board, she’s general enough to be useful in a variety of deck types, whether you want to control the board or durdle to a combo.
- Prossh, Skyraider of Kher – Prossh is an aggressive commander, but in many decks he requires very few actual instances of combat to win.
- Tasigur, the Golden Fang – Tasigur lets you shuffle around your graveyard, but the “opponent’s choice” caveat can lead to political games.
- Zur, the Enchanter / Grand Arbiter Augustin IV / Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice- These commanders are both interesting cases in that their abilities seemingly lend themselves to an introverted “combo” deck, however, their degeneracy is so well known that opponent interaction is inevitable.
I’ll call that last one the “Collective Table Groan” exception
Looking at Commander from Another Perspective
There is a lot of debate about what makes Commander a “fun” format.Some work has been done to try to define levels of competitiveness among decks to encourage better games, but maybe creating a cohesive and fun Commander experience means looking at it from a different angle.
“Hey are Uncards ok for this game?”
If a play style that is inherent to a player’s personality or personal definition of fun is regularly punished in some way, that can easily lead to problems within a playgroup. Someone with a self-contained deck may find it difficult to shine against a group with decks that are constantly attacking and/or making political deals. Someone with an interactive deck might find themselves facing uninteractive walls seemingly playing their own games to conclusion. Any consistent group of players should look at not just how competitive their decks are relative to each other, but how these decks might communicate with each other.
Hopefully, this can spark some conversation about what people’s goals are in Commander outside of the typical competitive/casual comparisons.
Kelce Casey (theambivalentagender) is an SEO Analyst by day and a writer of articles and fantasy stories whenever time allows. They have written and directed plays, contributed to “The Dragon’s Horde” third party Pathfinder supplemental, and are always putting out irregular content on their website, DragonClawWritings. They started playing Magic: the Gathering in 2012, picking up an obsession with Commander soon after in 2013. They live in too-sunny Southern California with their partner and their two cats, Engima and Axiom.