Welcome back to EDHREC new at noon! As part of our continuing efforts to cover all things 100-card formats we wanted to cover the recent announcement on 5/2/2017 by Bryan Hawley from Wizards of the Coast. This involved the introduction of a new banlist and structure for play on Magic’s online client, Magic Online.
Wizards of the Coast(WotC) announced yesterday that they are releasing a new banlist for Commander play in attempt to make 1v1 play more balanced. They announced this “format” as 1v1 Commander, which will be treated separately from the French and other paper rulesets traditionally used for head-to-head play. This is interesting in itself since it’s the first time WotC is venturing into managing their own Commander banlist.
From the announcement
“For some time now, the large majority of Commander play on Magic Online has been 1v1 play. Much of the social element of multiplayer is lost in the digital translation, so this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
The format has also been growing lately, and it’s clear that 1v1 Commander is something that players enjoy and a format that we think is worth supporting. That said, this growth has prospered despite that the banned list Magic Online has been using is heavily slanted toward multiplayer play, and the resulting 1v1 format is relatively imbalanced.”
Magic Online (or MTGO for those that know) has long been one of the easiest ways to play our beloved game online with anyone around the world. It seems that WotC has taken notice of the growing player base, not just in the competitive formats but the more casual ones as well.
You might be wondering why all this is news worthy. Well…
“Starting May 10, Magic Online will be launching tournament play for 1v1 Commander consisting of two-player queues and a Friendly Constructed League, and we will be changing the official banned list of Magic Online Commander to the list that will be detailed below. On Magic Online, 1v1 Commander will have a starting life total of 30, but multiplayer will remain at 40. Both styles of play will be using this new shared banned list. This banned list and rules set is intended to support both experiences, but the banned list leans toward optimizing for the 1v1 experience.”
Not only are they introducing a new way to support the format, but they unveiled a whole NEW ban list to go along with it. This is something that we as a player base have long wondered what would happen if WotC took over management of the format. Since the Rules Committee still makes the major decisions for Commander, WotC rolled out a variant for their 1v1 player base.
Bryan Hawley covers most of the details explaining their philosophy for the banlist, so I will just point out some of the big differences here:
I know this is a lot of information to take in at once. The new banlist is obviously VERY different from what paper players are used to, and naturally drew very strong reactions from the community. At first glance there are some real head scratchers included in the banlist. Call me crazy, but I don’t know if Moat is worthy of banning. It may be a great prison card, but I think enough decks have some sort of ways to get around or remove it that it’s hard to see why it makes the cut.
On the other hand, Upheaval!?!?! REALLY!? What the heck guys? I will gladly play this in any hypothetical deck I play in this format. Especially when you’re giving me Leovold, Emissary of Trest right back! Some of these exclusions seem almost as odd as the inclusions. I guess in this format there is some blue/green player rejoicing that they can play Prophet of Kruphix, Sylvan Primordial, and Primeval Titan all in the same deck. The content of the list for both banned and unbanned seems wild to me and I’m sure after a few days of digesting it might become even more insane.
1v1 Commander is basically legacy-light. Making bans through that lens is inappropriate to the format.
I do not like it.
— Josh Lee Kwai (@JoshLeeKwai) May 3, 2017
@JoshLeeKwai So.. we now have four versions of commander? French, MTGO 1:1, MTGO Multiplayer, and Paper? Just… why? In all seriousness, why?
— Eric Landes (@ProggyBoog) May 3, 2017
I actually think Wizards taking over the B&R list for Commander would be a good thing. Question is if paper will play by the rules.
— Saffron Olive (@SaffronOlive) May 3, 2017
As you can see, there are some greatly differing opinions on what this means for the format. Some respected voices in the Magic community seem divided with their initial reactions. Reddit seems to want WotC to leave Commander alone as a multiplayer format and steer clear of 1v1. This reaction is a fast 180° from the clamoring last week for Sheldon Menery, founder of the format and the Rules Committee, to pass control over to Wizards of the Coast for governing the format. Speaking of Sheldon, his perspective on this announcement is probably worth reading so I’ll bring it here.
I personally really like Sheldon’s thoughts here, which are mirrored in the article stating that the goals of the different banlists are also different. Paper Commander under the Rules Committee is intended for multiplayer play and to encourage the social interactions, which Sheldon has long defended. The new 1v1 banlist is intended for, you guessed it, head-to-head combat. The player interactions also vary GREATLY, as one could imagine. It doesn’t take much effort to find how bad the MTGO chats can be, so the social aspect of the 1v1 Commander format can almost be ignored.
Short answer? Right now it doesn’t. Long answer? If you don’t play Commander on MTGO already it probably doesn’t. Wizard’s article mentions that they “respect the community roots and oversight of the Commander Rules Committee, and the creation and support of this format is in no way intended to impact paper Commander.” This comes with an immediate comfort to me. This banlist is only intended for the tournament structure that will be featured on MTGO and is meant to stay separate from paper Magic.
Some might say this is WotC’s first step in taking OVER the Commander format and that it may be inevitable until whatever banlist Wizards of the Coast supports is the one of choice. Having multiple different formats within Commander can pose an issue though. Many players that I personally have interacted with enjoy playing Commander because they don’t like having a different deck for every format and they only want to build one or two decks at a time. If we see these banlists diverge and start to specialize it may fragment the player base into the “I’m a 1v1 list player,” and “I only build decks for the RC banlist.” The format then would encounter the same problem 60-card formats face with certain players only playing certain formats, preventing the social interaction that Commander was intended for.
Obviously we have no idea what this means for the format long term, but we can make educated guesses. Ultimately, whether you play cEDH, 1v1 Commander or kitchen table Magic, there will always be a game for you. I have long thought that to be one of the more beautiful things about the game, that it can mean something different to everyone. Some players I’m sure will see this as an invasion of their favorite format to sit down with friends and a pizza every Thursday. Others might be ecstatic about the move towards a 1-on-1 experience since they aren’t a fan of the politics and sometimes long turn cycles.
What do you think? Are you excited to see Sway of the Stars playable in a Commander deck now or are you leery of the direction of the format going forward? Do you possibly think the banlist has potential with a few tweaks? Let us know in the comments below, we’re always happy to hear what you think.