The Complete Commander – Designing Commander

Complete Commander - CoverAuthor’s Note: Just as a quick update, my daughter that was born 15 weeks early is doing fantastic. She’s still in the NICU and will be until sometime in March; she’s only 8 weeks old. Catherine is now over 3 pounds, which is up dramatically from her birth weight of 1 pound 5 oz. All she needs is more time and to gain more weight, but we’re on the right track.

The exciting news coming out today is the release of Bennie Smith’s new Commander eBook: The Complete Commander. I was able to get an early copy of it, and it’s fantastic. If love Commander or want to get started, get this book. Bennie and MJ Scott did a wonderful job putting the book together and with all of the artwork from James Arnold (that awesome artwork you see on GatheringMagic.com) it just blows you away.

Do I want a hardcover of this book? Yes please.

What Bennie and MJ have done is gathered a ton of Commander related content and jammed it into this book. You want sample decklists? Done. How about strategy? In here too. Commander Deckbuilding 101? Got you covered. Maybe a little short story fiction? Right there with you. A glossary and a list of Commander staples? Yes, this book has everything.

And it’s $10. $10? That’s less than a booster draft. It’s criminal of you not to own it at that price.

But it’s not just Bennie’s words in this ebook. Just as Commander is a community format, this is a community book. There are a ton of players who have written in with their favorite Commander moments. Other members of the Commander community have written short stories, just like Star City Game’s Vorthos expert John Dale Beety. Gathering Magic’s Content Editor and Daily MTG’s Command Tower author Adam Styborski wrote the introduction. Level Five judge and “Godfather” of Commander Sheldon Menery wrote the foreward.

Oh, I wrote something as well.

I was very honored when Bennie and MJ asked me if I would like to contribute to this very unique project. I jumped on board quickly and then they showed me the early draft of it I was blown away. Seriously, I’m not getting kickbacks nor paid for this (at least I don’t think I am). It was very easy to see that this book is a labor of love and a dedication to the format. The least I could do was contribute to this with two of my favorite aspects of Magic: Design and Commander.

I’m not going to rehash what I wrote about in the book, because I want you to get the book (again, I doubt I’m getting a kickback). I do want to touch on the subject about how Commander fits into the much larger role of Magic design. Rosewater touched on the topic here. Just an FYI, that article was printed in the early design cycle of Theros but still trying to figure out the theme. Legends were a part of Theros (a mini-Legendary block), but you could tell that this was a true argument on how design/development saw Legends.

If you just take a look at the game of Magic in a world where you only play competitive constructed, then the design of Legends kinda makes sense. Going “Pre-M14” Legendary rule, a Legendary permanent meant that there could be only one in play but be destroyed when another one entered the battlefield. This means that the card could be more powerful because A) It was limited by the number of them on the battlefield at a time and B) the opponent had a kill spell in their hand.

Most games of Magic aren’t played at a PTQ or Pro Tour. They’re played at the kitchen table with imperfect decks. But it’s not just casual Magic, but limited and all of these other variants that have sprung up over the years, including Commander. The basic rules of the game that all of these formats draw from means the rules and concepts have to work there too. Obviously this is a different feeling when you’re actively trying to win at all costs than say you’re at the kitchen counter. Just using your awesome creature to cancel out your opponents is just an awful feeling. Yes, It’s the better play but it doesn’t always feels like it.

When the rule change was made, I feel like it made an improvement. Some Vorthos players might get mad, but I think it improved gameplay for the majority of players. Legendary doesn’t matter in limited very often, unless you have a large number of Legendary permanents in the set. Commander took advantage of the restriction and built off of the old rule that you could only have one Legendary creature in your deck. While it’s an antiquated rule, it defines this format.

Story gets a nod here when it comes to deciding what’s Legendary, not just game play. Over the years, WotC has tried very hard to make the Legendary creatures special when it comes to the storyline, and this is one of the things that I cover in the book. Let’s just say that Planeswalkers have allowed Legends to become more of what they were intended to be.

Isamaru, Hound of KondaCreating a Legendary Creature is both a burden and a badge of honor. A Legendary Creature has to makes sense for gameplay; a 2/2 for W is Legendary because multiple 2/2’s for W might be too much for the game to handle. Add a mana to make it a 1W and suddenly it’s a common creature. With the rise of Commander there has been a larger segment of people wanting more Legends to make as Commanders. While WotC does have to balance it with gameplay (though the Supplemental products such as Commander and Planechase do a fantastic job of keep Legends being a bit less restrictive), it’s now become in vogue to be Legendary.

Players complain now when a cool creature is Legendary. The ability to do wild and crazy effects for a much larger causal population means that it give WotC more options when it comes to trying out a card. If something seems too dangerous, hike up the mana cost and make it Legendary; I’m sure there will be fans for it. That’s not always the answer for everything, mind you, but it’s a good place to start.

Being Legendary isn’t a crime anymore and, with the old cards, isn’t a sign that most people won’t play you. A Legendary Creature might not always see the top tables of a Pro Tour, but it will see the kitchen tables of many fans. And isn’t that what’s important about a card: having fans and seeing it be played?

I’m just starting to get back into the swing of things around here, so I apologize for the shortness of this post. Basically, go out and buy the Complete Commander. It’s really fantastic. Really. See, here’s what I said about it on the quote page:

“This is a must–have for any Commander player—no, any Magic: The Gathering enthusiast. The title says it all: everything that you wanted to know about Commander is beautifully presented. Interested in the format or still call it EDH? Yeah, this is for you. Now you just need a deck!”

Reading is good for you, especially when it comes to Magic. Now go read.

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