Well hey there everyone! Thanks for stopping by again for another news update. Wizards of the Coast announced (another) update for their Commander support on Magic Online. There is lots of good news to go over for all you MTGO players, so we’ll get right to it!
From the announcement here:
With the July 5 downtime, Commander is splitting into two different formats. “Commander” will be focused on multiplayer play, and will be using the banned list available at mtgcommander.net. “Commander 1v1″ will be focused on 1v1 play and its banned list will be managed by Magic R&D.
Events for Commander on Magic Online will be using the Commander 1v1 format and banned list. In the open play rooms, nothing will prevent players from creating multiplayer matches with Commander 1v1 or 1v1 matches with Commander, but we recommend using them as intended.
What a start! For those of you who didn’t play MTGO for head to head play, this is a great step forward. Now we don’t have to worry about playing 1v1 Commander rules when we’re playing 4+ player games. This change will only get better over time as well since Wizards has committed to and done a decent job at staying active with the 1v1 banlist. As the format gets leaner, the less and less it will look like the paper Commander banlist so the split into separate rules lists is only going to make everyone happier.
Still from the announcement:
Since our last update to the Magic Online Commander format, a few troublesome trends have solidified. The unmatched success of disruptive blue decks has continued, and separate (though related) to that is the rise of Vial Smasher the Fierce
Vial Smasher the Fierce is banned.
Decks headlined by Vial Smasher have been an increasingly dominant part of the environment. While usually paired with Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus, it’s clear that Vial Smasher is the dominant factor in the success of these decks, providing too much damage for too low a cost. She is a clear rival to many of the Commanders already banned given her ability to win games essentially on her own backed up with a constant stream of disruption.
A philosophical aside:
Before diving into the next set of bans, I’d like to restate that our primary goal for the Magic Online Commander 1v1 format is to make the most fun experience possible. Color balance alone isn’t a reason to alter a format, but lack of variety in play experience is. Our intention is to try and trim excess power from clearly dominant decks to open up space for a variety of decks to succeed, not to introduce churn by adjusting the ban list.
A little extra to digest there, but the point is that they are trying to keep the games from playing out too similarly every time you get matched up. Anyone who has played against Vial Smasher the Fierce knows that the damage can pile up quickly and in 1v1 it could be described as downright filthy.
Also from the announcement:
Ponder is banned.
Preordain is banned.
Brainstorm is banned.
There have been a variety of blue Commanders that have shown success with the same core game plan, and in aggregate they mean that the variety of gameplay in the metagame is lower than we’d like. In our May 24thupdate we took an incremental step towards weakening these decks, and this is a similar step. Further constricting the ability of these decks to power through their library should lower their consistency somewhat.
Treachery is banned.
Aside from strong card selection, Treachery is one of the few cards played in nearly every blue deck, largely from its sheer power. When drawn, it’s a card that provides a tempo swing that’s often impossible to recover from, and when looking for ways to weaken this style of deck it’s a clear enough outlier in strength to warrant a ban.
It only take a quick search to see that blue decks are pretty dominant in the format. Counting the previously mentioned Kraum/Vial Smasher decks that received a specific ban, seven of the top eight performing decks are blue, with two of them being mono-blue. Cantrips and card selection make the decks incredibly efficient and it seems that Wizards is trying to keep everyone on a level playing field. Kudos to them.
It is sad to me personally seeing Treachery get the ban though. I personally love this card since you only have to have six mana to steal anyone’s best creature. But it is an incredibly powerful card like they stated, so I’m not really surprised.
Biorhythm is unbanned.
Limited Resources is unbanned.
Painter’s Servant is unbanned.
Trade Secrets is unbanned.
At the inception of this format, the ban list was intended to support both 1v1 and multiplayer Commander, and these cards were banned for multiplayer consideration. Since this list now exclusively applies to 1v1 play, they are being removed. It’s worth noting that despite being listed in the multiplayer category of the initial ban list, Sensei’s Divining Top remains banned for the same logistical reasons that caused it to be banned then.
Well…this is interesting. Paper Commander players see these cards being legal and are sure to get the heebie-jeebies. Biorhythm is banned in dang near every format it WOULD be legal in, and Limited Resources is a real chokepoint for so many games. With the given explanation I don’t think Wizards is wrong for wanting to give these changes a shot. They all are certainly less devastating when the players only have to worry about what one player is doing as opposed to a table full.
I said this last time we saw some changes to the ban list and I will say it again: I like that Wizards is being fairly active with trying new things out regarding the format. There seems to be a great turnout for the format online so whatever they are doing seems to be working. They’re taking calculated chances and tinkering with different cards being available. Hopefully this means they’ll do the same with other formats and take better care of the stability, but that’s another story.
Hour of Devastation prereleases are coming up this Friday night! These might be one of my favorite ways to play Magic since everyone is on level ground and having a great time. New interactions come out and new players come into the game. If you’re a busy trader and looking for some new Commander goodies for your own decks, EDHREC did color reviews for Hour of Devastation so be sure to check them out if you want some ideas on what to look for.
In case you missed them, check them out here!
Thanks for swinging by again everyone! Be sure to comment and let us know what you think of the new banlist changes or if you have your eyes on anything spicy at your local prerelease events. See you next time!