Commander has always been known as a multiplayer game, with an emphasis on multiplayer. Every single deck, every single metagame, every single power level and competitive development and tournament has, and probably will always have multiplayer in mind. Even when Commander was in its first iteration, we all jammed four, maybe even three player games.

But 1v1? It’s not really a thing right now.

Sure, there is a metagame if you look hard enough, and people definitely play it, but in my experience, it’s definitely a rarity. People who play 1v1 Commander are mostly just using their multiplayer Commander decks against one other person, not actually trying to build for it. When I first started playing way back when, we would definitely have games where we just jammed against whomever, and 1v1 was certainly on the table. No one really batted an eye or complained or had an issue with it. It was great.

I don’t want to sound like the “Back in my day” kind of person, but I think back then, we were a lot more ambivalent towards how we played Commander. If we wanted to play a very specific way, we would just play the format that best fit that. We had draft going if we wanted to; someone would bring packs one day and we’d just jam. If we wanted to play competitively, we’d go to a local or a playtest session. I do place partial blame on the pandemic. People were much more willing to go out and actually play, and nowadays, with the pandemic still going on, it’s much tougher. 

Even with the pandemic taking away from people wanting to go out and play in the first place, I do think it contributes to people wanting to get as much out of the recreational time they do make when they do go out. Board games, for example, are incredibly good ways of having fun in a small social group.

And guess what resembles board games the most? Multiplayer Magic.

So when you take the popularity of a board game, apply it to traditional Magic, and compound that with a format that lets you play anything you want, without much restriction, you get the perfect storm that is Commander as we know it today.

Additionally, I think the multiplayer aspect of Magic can’t be replicated in any other format. The amount of layers you have to go through for even a single turn can be daunting, and this facet, alongside just how damn fun it is to mingle with three other people, is how cEDH became popular. We can get our 1v1 experiences anywhere, but it’s extremely hard to replicate the potential that can go into a cEDH game.

Lastly, there’s the actual effort you’d need to put in, especially competitively. I think if 1v1 Commander was a thing, then it would shine the most in competitive environments. If that’s the case, why would I want to invest in that when I, a theoretical average Commander player, am here for a combination of socializing, and just seeing cool decks? As previously said, there are so many ways to play the game competitively, and I don’t think we need another one, even if it is in one of my favorite formats to deckbuild in. 

1v1 Commander will probably never catch on in a way that I would like. It’s unfortunate, because I think it would be super great. I just don’t think the audience is there, and it’s a shame. It’s possible that it could catch wind at a bigger event, maybe as a side thing, but unfortunately, it would be hard to garner interest.

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.

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