Power levels…

You’ve probably heard of it if you’ve had experience in Commander, but if you’ve had a fruitful discussion about it, you probably would wonder why it sounds like a conversation about Dragon Ball or HunterxHunter. It’s been a pretty sizeable debate lately, and I want to really break down what it actually is, and what it means to and for commander players.

So, first off, what exactly is a power level in this context?

Power levels in Commander refer to a loose, but concise method of a given table’s rule zero. It’s an attempt to establish, maintain, and/or revise the strength of each given deck relative to another at said table. Often times, numbers are discussed to give a rough estimate of how strong a deck is. Of course, these numbers are arbitrary, and one person’s level 6 deck may be different from another’s level 6. The entire point is to gauge. Not define or judge or anything like that, but to refer and gauge.

Now, why do people use this method?

I mean, I don’t know.

Next question.

What are the upsides and downsides to discussing power levels in this sense?

Well, the upside was kind of already alluded to: You get to have some semblance of uniformity and measurement. The downside is that it starts to break down the higher, and lower you get in a table’s relative strength. The lower you get, the easier it is to miss discrepancies. If I, say, label my deck a 3, but I happen to have a fairly difficult to establish combo that is incredibly flimsy, it may not matter to the other players; That combo exists, therefore my deck cannot be considered that low of a power level. At higher power levels, you’re only a few staple ramp spells, sol-lands, or combos away from being considered cEDH (which is a discussion in and of itself), and even if your deck is powerful, but not cEDH viable, it won’t matter to the ones on the receiving end of whatever you’re playing.

So, is there a solution to this?

Not really. Again, this is all incredibly arbitrary, and the card pool of Commander is way too big to even attempt to set rules to any of this. This is definitely a step in the right direction though, and I’d rather have this than discourse about cards like Collector Ouphe every week.

Lastly, can we make it better?

I think we can. It doesn’t have to be exactly like this, but I can imagine a timeline where anything below, say, a 3 has no game winning combos of any card amount, but a 4-7 can have three card combos, 8-9 is anything goes except zero mana ramp and rituals, and 10 is firmly cEDH. I like this a whole lot more than a banlist being modified, but I also think it can work well in tandem with one that is routinely updated. Maybe it’s possible to have different banlists for the different power levels, up to and including cEDH? Maybe it’s possible to even incorporate modified rules based on power levels as well. It may be worthwhile to explore this, as it could make it much easier to establish a table or playgroup with more rigid guidelines, then free flow from there. If there’s one thing I learned about Commander players, it’s that they don’t like to follow rules or trends, unless you disguise it.

I’m mostly open to what could be a new wave of deck organization and evaluation. There are certainly hurdles to get through, but I would very much welcome a change of pace for our dated rule zeroing!

Anthony Lowry (they/he) is a seasoned TCG, MMORPG, and FPS veteran. They are extensively knowledgeable on the intricacies of many competitive outlets, and are always looking for a new challenge in the gaming sphere.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.