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The Gift of Commander


Here’s the important thing about this new Commander product: you don’t have to buy these cards to play Commander.

But I suggest you do.

This isn’t some propaganda because I write for a website backed by an online store that sells this product. [Slides briefcase full of money from Wizards behind his back.] I don’t buy everything that Wizards puts out; I didn’t buy Archenemy, since that’s something that doesn’t interest me very much, and I only got into Planechase over the past six months.

This is interesting territory that Wizards is playing with, printing new cards that aren’t legal for newer formats (Standard/Extended/Modern/Overextended). However, they did have one caveat in mind: These cards were meant for play in the Commander format. Not only these cards, but the product in general, was focused for two reasons: (1) giving support to the people who already play Commander and (2) introducing new players into this format.

I fully believe that Wizards fully succeeded on both fronts.

The WotC employees who put this product together play Commander. They didn’t just select random people and hand it off to them. It was a team of employees who took this format seriously, which helped them to take this product seriously as well. The Commander groupies expected quite a bit. But just like anything that happens when you have a rabid, mostly geeky fan base, they’re going to complain. Let me calm these fears down:

A Sol Ring in Every Deck and a Car in Every Garage

Listen, they were either going to put Sol Ring in all the decks or none of the decks. If you were around for Betrayers of Kamigawa, you can tell me which precon you wanted to buy. If you answered Rat’s Nest, you know you could pick up a Umezawa's Jitte in there. Yes, really. Guess which precon was sold out everywhere while the other ones sat on the shelf?

If you put a highly desirable card in one precon, one players believe to be a staple, you’re going to get demand for that product that is way out of whack and completely distorts the numbers. For Sol Ring, it was either going in all of the decks or none of them.

Sol Ring, even though kinda broken, is better when more people have access to it. Even if you’re not going to put it in every Commander deck you have, at least having the option of owning one instead of having to shell out $20 is a much better option—just like how WotC keeps putting in Dark Ritual in almost every Black-oriented precon they print.

I still don’t believe that it’s something that every deck needs, though I understand most players want it in there. This isn’t Wizards saying that it should be there or else you’re an idiot, but rather just putting in a card that gives players deck-building options. At the moment, CoolStuffInc is selling them for $10, the cheapest I’ve seen them in about two years. And isn’t that a good thing?

You’ve Got Legacy in My Commander

Legacy players, listen up: Just because a product is Legacy-legal doesn’t mean that it’s made for Legacy. Sol Ring is an awesome reprint, but doesn’t get Legacy players excited because it’s not legal in their format. Some of the other cards I heard were on Legacy player’s wish list for reprint in Commander:


Onslaught fetch lands

Snow-Covered new dual lands

Force of Will


In a product costing MSRP $30, you want these cards in there? I understand the lands from a Commander point of view, as sometimes lands are the most expensive part of a deck, but that answer was solved in a brilliant way (more on Command Tower in a few minutes). The whole symbiotic relationship between the fetch lands and the duals means we either got both or none.

Looking at the Sol Ring example, they went the other way instead of putting in there. Imagine the demand if there were new “true” dual lands in these sets. How many of them would get bought up by Commander players, and how many by Legacy players only wanting one card and ditching the rest of the deck?

And if Sol Ring would cause a sell-out of one product, imagine if the card in question were Force of Will!

So, ignore all those cards, as they never had a chance of being put into one of the decks. But what about cards designed for Legacy? This would be a great chance to print cards for the Legacy people without screwing up Standard. It’s not like many Standard cards see play in Legacy anyway . . . right? That sentence was sarcastic, and you know it. I only see one, maybe two and a half cards that Legacy players might use. What gives?

Commander was designed for Commander players.

You want me to repeat that? No?

This was a chance for Wizards to design multiplayer/Commander-only cards in a set that most players don’t need to buy. A large majority of players hate opening up those cards in their normal packs, so why not regulate those “dumb rares” to a product designed for those players? My preview card, Trench Gorger, is one of those cards that would sit in most people’s binders and not get played. I know that, Wizards knows that. Printing it here gives it directly to that target audience.

I mean, look at Command Tower:

This card does nothing outside of Commander. People are complaining. Because you can’t use this in Legacy? “What about my other casual decks?” Yeah, what about them? It’s not like you don’t have a ton of other options for your other casual decks. Can’t Commander players enjoy a little goodness on their own without raining on their parade?

Yeah, But They Forgot This

And of course there’s the “missed opportunity” crowd. To be fair, I’m part of this, too, though not to the crazy extent that I think Force of Will should have been in there.

The most obvious omission is Doubling Season. Only printed once, this is a $20 card thanks to casual and Commander. If printed here, especially in the Counterpunch deck, which makes complete sense, it would help lower the price of that card and give more players the opportunity to play with that card. It wouldn’t mess up Standard with planeswalkers and is the Johnny/Timmy card that Commander players fawn over.

There’s the issue of it only being in one deck and not all, but I don’t believe that it would see too much more demand than a Sol Ring; after all, there are some pretty nice chase cards in this product. Am I flipping over cars like the Hulk because I’m angry? No, but it would’ve made perfect sense.

I was predicting tri-lands, like the Shards of Alara lands, but for the wedge colors (the colors of the three-colored Commanders). But Command Tower took care of that issue much more elegantly. You can have one land fit into almost all decks rather than a set of five that can only fit into six decks (their wedge color and a five-colored Commander). While Command Tower doesn’t add colorless mana (the world’s smallest violin plays for Karn players), it’s a much better card for the format.

Solemn Simulacrum is finally reprinted, though in only one of the decks. Hey, it’s a start (I’m an active lobbyer for SS to be reprinted anytime, anywhere, and thought WotC had the perfect chance in Scars of Mirrodin with the cross-block synergy of Landfall). Mind's Eye was looked over, but I bet the core set would love that one again and as a cute foil to Jace. Instead of the Onslaught fetch lands, they could’ve printed the Mirage ones (another candidate for a core set in my opinion).

And some have taken issue that another “staple,” Sensei's Divining Top, is absent. I don’t think you need it, and I’m happy that it’s not there. A Top isn’t fun, and that’s what these decks are about.

Huey Lewis and The Good News

I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer. Like I said before, when you have a fan base like Magic has, there will always be people who will say it could’ve been better. I think this is one of the best products that Wizards has ever created and organized.

Hands down.

They created five 100-card decks that look and (I hope) play differently from each other. If you want to be all political, there’s a deck for you. Tokens? Yeah, they got that. They created fifteen new Commanders, all of them with enemy color combinations. Fifteen! I’m sitting here like it’s Christmas and I can’t wait to play with all of my new toys. There’s so much I want to do, so many decks I want to build.

Wizards knew that some people would keep these decks together and use them to springboard into an introduction into the format. Jeremy Blair already went through and suggested some great cards for you to add to these decks if you want to make them even better. They also knew that players, like myself, were going to tear them apart and use them for spare parts. And they built them so they can work both ways. They built these for Commander players.

But they also knew that these would be hugely sought after. This isn’t distributed like the From the Vault series where every store only gets a couple. They’re printing this for a while. They want players to have these cards, to get into the format and to play. You can buy these here at CoolStuffInc.com [Slides briefcase full of money from CoolStuff behind his back.], but they’ll be sold at your local game stores and such box stores as Target and Wal-Mart—pretty much any place you could buy the Planechase or the Archenemy products, you can buy Commander.

If you have a chance to get to a Commander release event tomorrow, I would highly suggest you do that. Not only do you get your hands on the new cards quickly, but you’ll meet a bunch of people who have the same passion for Commander that you do. Bring your trade stuff and meet new people. With the big prerelease events gone, this might be the best chance in a long while to gather with those like-minded gamers. Trade e-mails and phone numbers; stay in touch. It’s with events like this that you can grow your playgroup.

Or, even better, bring someone who’s curious about getting into Commander. Let him buy one of the new decks; it’s only $30, and if he doesn’t like it, he can certainly trade away the pieces or dismantle it for parts. Let him see what the fuss is about, why you’re so excited to get him to play this format. It’s taking the place of the normal FNM, so you might as well enjoy it just for one night. Just as long as you’re nice to the new guy.

You earn a passionate fan base because they care about the game, especially with regard to Commander. They are rabid and get other people introduced into the game. That’s great for the long-term health of not only Commander, but Magic.

This product is Wizards’ thank-you present to us. Let’s go and enjoy it.

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