In response to my last article, I received some interesting feedback. Bat suggested a Commander ranking system, and Rob suggested a system that would give each player one free exile each game. Let’s look at these options, and see how they might evolve the format.


First off, let’s look at the ranking system. It would probably be somewhat easy to accomplish, and I think the key would be to give synergy bonuses on top of individual card bonuses. For example, if you’re playing original duals in your deck, each one would count for 10 points. If you’re playing fetchlands, each would also count for 10 points. Play both together, though, and there’s a 25-point bump for the synergy. Obviously the numbers would have to be tuned a bit, but it would be a good way to separate all those Reveillarks that are played for value from the ones that are just another combo piece, and it would be easier to hate out cards like Cabal Coffers that may just be too powerful for a casual format.


I love this card. It’s so weird and unique.

Of course, for a system like this to work you would need to put a tremendous amount of effort into preparation, both for the group of people who would put the system together (which I think we can assume would not be Wizards) and for the individual players who, best case scenario, would have to input their decklists into a points calculator. As I’ve been writing this column for a while, let me tell you, there are many more pleasant ways to spend your time than writing down a bunch of your 100-card singleton decklists.


This card would be so much fun, were it not for all the ways in which it combos to win the game.

It’s the institutional prep work that would take some serious effort. I’ve been researching Commander combos for an article that should be going up later this month, and let me tell you, there are a lot of synergies out there. Sure, the popular combos would be fairly easy to tie to point values, since everyone knows about the Melira chain and Splinter Twin/Pestermite, but you also need to allow for the weirder things that are out there, like Dovescape/Guile or Pili-Pala/Grand Architect.


I enjoy playing this duder in 60-card Magic, and I think EDH would be a worse format without it.

But how do you rate combos that don’t win the game, or require another piece to win the game? Gisela, Blade of Goldnight/Manabarbs seems like a vicious combo that would be very difficult to beat, but it doesn’t win the game the same way Bloodchief Ascension/Mindcrank does. And that’s just the two-card combos… there are a lot of game winning combos in the format that require three or four pieces, many of which are very useful on their own. For example, there are a ton of Sun Titan combos. Does that mean that Sun Titan should get a high point score on its own, should it only get a boost when it’s with specific synergistic pieces, and should there be an increased multiplier for each different permutation of those combo strategies? I don’t know, and these would be the types of questions we would need to answer before a system like that gets off the ground.


In short, it’s a great idea that I don’t think we can expect to see happen any time soon. Theoretically wonderful, practically a nightmare, and all that such a combination would entail. So let’s move on to the other idea, free answers.


Rob posited that each player have access to the following card (or some reasonable facsimile), that they could cast once a game from their Command Zone:


Commander’s Scorn (2)
Commander’s Scorn can only be played from the Command Zone.
Exile target permanent or spell.
If a card exiled with Commander’s Scorn would be put into the Command Zone, it remains in exile instead


The problem with such a powerful answer as this one is two-fold. First, it would mean a massive reprioritization of commanders when people are deck building. If your Commander can get permanently exiled from the game by your opponents reliably each game, well you’re going to build decks less tied to your commander’s theme or identity. Some people would probably appreciate this outcome, but I am a little more hesitant. I think that one of the things that makes Commander such an interesting format is the flavor that a commander gives to its deck. Moving away from that seems less than ideal. Second, I think there’s the real danger of a card like that ending up being used primarily by the person in the lead to protect their victory. If your opponent is manascrewed, you exile their best land to keep them from catching back up. If you have your combo piece, your opponent now needs two pieces of disruption to beat you, not just the one. And this is not to mention the practical issue of making this a card and not a quirk of the rules; would people who didn’t have the card not have access to the ability? These are legitimate concerns.


I wish Gatherer included the promo versions of all these cards, because as much as Therese Nielsen is a wonderful artist, this card could be more legible.

Bat suggested a modification of this rule that works better with color identities. His idea was for a cycle of Force of Will-style cards tied to the color identity of the deck you are running. Blue decks would get Force of Will, white decks would get Force of Wrath of God, green decks would get Force of Krosan Grip, red decks would get Force of Final Fortune, and black would get Force of Hymn to Tourach. Again, a lot of playtesting would be required to get the color identities right, and again there is a concern that such an ability would disproportionately advantage the person who is ahead in the game. But at least here there’s the neat idea that multi-color decks would only get access to one of these effects, chosen ahead of time, and your opponents wouldn’t know which one to play around until you use it. It’s a cool concept, but I don’t know that the solution to the slow descent of Commander is turning it into a 101-card format.


I don’t know how to save Commander, and its possible that it’s not even in as bad a place as it seems. Perhaps the underlying tension stems from the idea that one can even been a casual Magic player; the game, as a whole, is pretty damn competitive, and competition breeds arms races. That’s why I think increasing the ban list is the solution. But, as you’ll see in the upcoming weeks, the wide range of combos in the Commander format makes that task daunting as well.


Jess Stirba is a poet, unbeknownst to her.

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