CommandFest 2 took place online this weekend. Kristen thinks it was pretty great—how was her experience?

Magic events haven’t been on the radar for quite some time, and as I write this, it’s been a whole year since MagicFest Vegas and the CommandFest that took place there. We’re all itching to see our friends, play our brews, and enjoy our favorite game. With the global pandemic, chances of an in-person MagicFest within the next 24 months are at an all time low.

A year ago, I wrote an article asking “Where Does Commander Go from Here?,” in which I ruminated on the popularity of Commander, what we needed, and ultimately that we should put our trust in Gavin to deliver. And honestly? I’m stoked to say that many, if not all of the things I mentioned have been addressed. Reprints I mentioned like Mana Echoes, Massacre Wurm, Oracle of Mul Daya, and Mana Confluence have been reprinted or announced as reprints—with Mana Confluence being the Buy-a-Box promo for Commander Legends. My suggestion that we needed to evolve the Signature Spellbook series into a Commander product has also been ticked off the list with Commander Collection: Green.

And, with the growth of the CommandFest format into its own series of events on the Calendar, we’ve culminated with the brilliant decision to run CommandFests online as a way to bring Magic events to people at home. ChannelFireball have done a great job in recognizing and capitalizing on this demand, and this weekend’s CommandFest 2 was, in my opinion, a complete win. A win that we all needed right now.

Commander Legends

Commander Legends, to me, is a perfect product. I love drafting, I love Commander, and this is a great hybrid of the two. It’ll never be a perfect mash up, as the two formats are simply too diverse to iron out every kink; but from how it was explained, I think the design team are on to a winner. Collector Boosters now seem to be a mainstay in the product line up, and whilst to many this will be frustrating, I’m not sure what the issue is. You don’t have to buy them, and overall, they bring singles prices down. Commander players are the most obvious audience for a product like this—if you expected anything different, I’m not sure what to tell you.

David wrote an excellent summary of the streamed panels, so if you’re wanting a complete rundown of what was revealed, head on over to read our recap. As for the things I personally want to shout about, I think the most obvious to my long time readers may be that we got some confirmation that Wizards are continuing to buff mono-white.

The first preview from Commander Legends, Keeper of the Accord promises us that whenever an opponent Cultivates, we’ll be able to grab a land at the end of their turn too. We’ll also get to make a token if they have more creatures than us. Honestly, it’s not exactly the design I had in mind—I think White should be seeking to break parity more often than trying to re-establish it. The issue here is that the better played White cards in EDH like Land Tax, Sword of the Animist, and Burnished Hart will always work toward this effect not triggering. I guess it’s in keeping with White’s schizophrenic identity, though; flood the board, NO, wipe the board! I think if this had been a two drop or three drop with a good keyword and only the land ability, it would have been perfect.

On the other hand, Partner is back. This is a move that has sent ripples of fear through the community, and it’s easy to understand why. The last cards with Partner were so strong that since 2016, we’ve only seen “Partner with” as a more tame expression of the mechanic. This time around, it’s being used to balance the Limited environment, and I think I’m okay with that. It seems almost necessary to facilitate the set being draftable, and is an elegant solution to the ebb and flow of what colors are open in a draft.

The thing is, most Commander players aren’t as concerned with Limited; they’re instead dubious about the 40 new mono-colored Partners impacting the format as a whole. I’d by lying if I said I wasn’t also wary, but it’s far too early to call. Plus, with the likes of Sheldon Menery playtesting these cards, I think we can have confidence that even if there are a couple of broken designs, it shouldn’t permeate through the whole set. I’m quietly hopeful. If R&D do indeed learn from their mistakes, then it’ll be a huge confidence boost in general to the state of design when it comes to formats like Standard.

I won’t go on, but I’ll just add that printing the Enemy Battlebond lands in this set has me all kinds of happy. Go read David’s recap if you’re itching for more info, including a rundown on the new foil treatment we’re getting.

Having panels at CommandFest was a great move, and both the news panel and the ones ran by community members all delivered. They were fun, community driven and ultimately managed to deliver a slice of what we’re missing: passion for Commander at events.

CommandFest Weekend

ChannelFireball very graciously invited me to attend CommandFest 2 as a featured guest, and it was a real treat to be able to play a feature match. On the Sunday, I got to play a Tribal match versus the great Sheldon Menery & Scott Larabee of the Rules Committee, and Tomer, everyone’s favorite Budget Commander. The match was great fun, and chat were out in full force supporting the Boros Legion; I was playing my Aurelia tribal Angel Reanimator deck. The chat were so generous, in fact, that I was able to tutor multiple times and treat myself to some extra treasure tokens. This was made possible thanks to the fundraiser for the weekend. Viewers were able to donate for in-game effects, with all proceeds going to the NAACP LDF. Over $6,000 has been raised in total, with over $350 from our game alone. The NAACP is a great cause, and it was an honor to help raise funds for them in our games.

The feature games weren’t the only games I got to enjoy, though. Games happened all weekend, organized through the CommandFest discord, and I got to play a lot of really great magic. From being crushed by Kalamax the Stormsire, to playing (and winning!) with Winota, Joiner of Forces against Jim from the Spike Feeders, there were all the highs and lows you can imagine, but one thing connected them all: people were here to have fun and hang out. I got to chat with Jim about cEDH, and ask him his thoughts on Winota, a deck I’ve been developing for some time. The atmosphere was casual, sociable, and moreover passionate. People wanted to gush about their favorite cards and cool plays. I know what I always remember most are the cool plays; getting hit with a Whirlwind Denial to stifle Winota triggers was backbreaking, and watching friends cast cool spells you’ve never heard of that you have to read and read again is something that’s unique to Commander.

Whilst the true architect of our feature match may have been Tomer with his Tribal Tribal list—an inspiring list that’s a work of art, really—I thought I’d share my current Aurelia list here as I know there are people who would love to take a look. Thanks to the help of chat, the deck ran very consistently to say the least, managing to take home the win in short order. I think anything less after two free tutors would have been a let down, though!

My Angel Reanimator decklist is a fun build, and seeks to ramp out in the early game and eventually use splashy effects like Emeria Shepard, Marshal’s Anthem, and now Underworld Breach to have blistering comebacks from the graveyard. You can do this in stages too, running effects like Nahiri, the Harbinger and Geier Reach Sanitarium to discard Angels, with Karmic Guide and Bruna, the Fading Light able to bring them back. It’s also running my favorite Boros tech—wheel effects and Smothering Tithe. It’s become a pet deck, and getting to show off my foil Boros basic lands and full-art Stoneforge Mystic always makes me happy. My original primer on Boros Recursion goes into how to pull this off. The deck in this iteration likes to use Altar of Dementia to escape exile removal and set up the yard, and can combo with Adarkar Valkyrie and Aurelia.

If you’re wanting to take the deck a step further, then consider cutting the Angels theme for more good stuff. I’ve been testing cards like Fiery Emancipation lately, and there’s no better feeling than cracking an Enlightened Tutor to put it on top in advance of an Etali, Primal Storm trigger. Cards like Glorybringer, Firemane Avenger and Tectonic Giant are also hilarious with triple damage; and if your opponents are running fogs, you can just get attack triggers and burn them out that way. I’ve also been enjoying Catastrophe as a way to end games; having modal land destruction ensures you only fire it off at the right moment. If you want to check out a build that pulls fewer punches, try this on for size.

You’ll need to adjust your manabase to add more Red, but in doing so, you unlock cards like Mana Geyser, a great back up to blistering turns. Land Tax and Waves of Aggression is another great combo available to you too. I think my next card to test in this build will be Hellkite Igniter, as in combination with treasure this thing can be lethal in no time at all. I also still need to fit in Heliod’s Intervention, to be honest!

In Closing

CommandFest 2 was a great experience. I got to play with a ton of people I wouldn’t normally get a chance to play with, and using Spelltable was as seamless an experience as ever. The fact Spelltable exists allows CommandFest Online to exist, and it’s no surprise Wizards has acquired the software and the team. I’m truly grateful for Spelltable; in conjunction with the burgeoning online communities, it’s allowed us to keep in touch, play Magic, and forget for a moment about the harder parts of life in 2020. For all of the people I did get to play with, there are dozens more I need to add to my future schedule. It’s not quite Vegas, but I think we did a good job with what we had.

I can’t wait for Commander Legends, and I can’t wait for CommandFest 3. The year of Commander indeed!

I’ve love to hear about your experiences this weekend too. Let me know on Twitter what you got up to, and your highlights.

Based in the UK, Kristen is a lover of both Limited and Commander, and can most often be found championing the Boros Legion when called upon to sit down and shuffle up.

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