This entry is part 25 of 41 in the series In General

Grandpa (Eric)

By Eric, AKA Grandpa Growth

 

There’s a tradition that dates back to when I first started authoring Commander content on The General Zone: each year, in the last weeks of December, I look back at how things went over the year. I talk about the major happenings, my favorite sets and cards, the biggest hits and misses on the site, and share New Year’s resolutions. Here are the previous installments from 2013 & 2014. Now, on to this year’s edition:

 

Transitioning from TGZ

Back in March Uncle Landdrops and I packed up our things, submitted a tombstone post, and left the old blog behind to join the crew here on CommanderCast…and everything was great, the end.

 

In all sincerity, Aaron and I had been struggling for a long to implement our plans for expansion on The General Zone. The readership was growing steadily month-to-month, but we didn’t have the proper people in place to capitalize on it. I had grand ideas about how I wanted to expand our content offerings, add staff, and develop the blog into a thriving business, but without the right support and management, that ship was never going to leave the dock. Eventually, we made the decision to join forces and I couldn’t be happier with the way things have turned out. Now I have time to focus on what I’m most passionate about–writing strategy articles–and there’s a diverse team of contributors that can specialize in other areas. This complementary model allows us to present a consistent schedule of compelling Magic content.

 

Any businessman worth his salt can tell you that a strong network is the most valuable asset you can have. I feel confident about the cast of characters we have here and I’m excited by our plans for the future. Special thanks to Mark for keeping my articles error-free (and bullshit-free), Calvin for his audio work, and Aaron for his work in updating the site structure. These guys do a ton of work behind the scenes (as well as in front of them) to improve the overall quality of our product here at CommanderCast.

 

Hits and Misses

I used to spend entire articles discussing the accuracy of predictions from my set reviews. Now that I’m not doing review articles anymore, I no longer have to embarrass myself by talking about how wrong I am all the time. In fact, the only real prediction I made this year was that Norin is one heck of a Commander and I think I proved that conclusively. Instead, I have space to talk about some superlatives from the last year in Magic.

 

Favorite Product Release: Battle for Zendikar

The draft environment is pretty flat. The Standard format looks like a double rainbow all the way across the sky. You can get away with just about any color combination you want. Sadly, casting Jace and Siege Rhino in the same deck is probably not a sign of a healthy metagame. The Aggro decks and Control decks are just one big tangled mass. For long-time casual players, though, this set is chock full of value.

 

The golden ticket expeditions are exciting to collectors and provide a way for newer players to open cards that will be relevant in older formats. It has an awesome new cycle of dual lands. It offers us the expectation of a full cycle of enemy color Manlands to be completed in Oath of the Gatewatch. And there are gigantic new Eldrazi… in various flavors of terrible. All around, this was a pretty sweet set and was certainly more exciting than the all-you-can-eat dragon buffet that was the conclusion of Khans block.

 

Top 5 Favorite Cards from 2015:

5) Kolaghan’s Command

4) Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

3) Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy

2) Tasigur, the Golden Fang

1) Battle Lands

 

There’s no single criterion that explains why I’ve ordered these cards in this way. It’s just a list of cards that I was most excited about at the time of printing. Some are obviously more playable than others, but these cards all have an exciting role to play in Commander. While I may not be enthused about having another $80 Jace to acquire, I’m thrilled with the printing of the Battle lands. If you’re a newer player, or on a limited budget, these lands stand as viable alternatives to traditional dual lands and shocks. This, combined with the reprint of the Onslaught fetchlands in Khans of Tarkir last year, means that eternal mana bases have never been more affordable. When you lower the price barrier in a format, you create a greater incentive for new players to experiment with that format and potentially become contributing members of the community.

 

Favorite Article I Wrote: “In Response: Mana Curves

This was very recent, but I think that it really is my best work yet. Many of the articles in the Decksplanations series had similar levels of quality technical analysis. Since joining the site, I’ve been consistently improving the quality of my articles. The number of articles posted that aren’t in good order has gone down dramatically. because I have a capable editor to polish up each piece before it goes live (thanks again, Mark). The subject matter has also become more specialized, because I share space with other authors that service other topics. This has allowed me to really dig into a niche that I’m passionate about: the minutia of Commander strategy and theory.

 

I understand that the mana curves article was monstrous in length, more detailed than necessary, and included math, which limited its appeal to the general public. Doing math on the internet isn’t the way to build an audience, unless of course you are Brady Haran. However, for the genuine enthusiast of Commander theorycraft, what I consider my core demographic, this article was a Ph.D. level course on building better decks through a process based on simple assumptions and massive data collection…which is pretty much my fetish.

 

Worst Article I Wrote: Important Cards That Cost One

I firmly believe that this has been my best year yet and here on Commander Cast I’ve really been able to hit my stride. That’s not to say that everything I’ve done this year has been perfect, though. It would hardly be fair to comment on my successes without giving mention to my shortcomings, too.

 

On balance, this is a pretty average article, if a bit unexciting. Some time ago, I would have thought of that idea as a success in its own right. However, I’m delighted to say that my standards have increased dramatically over the last year.

 

This piece gets my “worst of” pick for a couple of reasons, but chief among them is that this topic was just about beaten to death by the time I got around to it. The “Important Cards” series is a good place to start for people who are just beginning to analyze the format strategically. A color-by-color examination was the most logical place to start, but not necessarily the most functional. I chose to break down the series by color because it would be easy for readers to conceptualize and digest. However, it misrepresents the format substantially. Each of the five colors are not equally represented in the Commander metagame. There are also a decent number of the most common decks that have a particular color in their color identity, but don’t really play along the normal pathways of that color. For example, Animar, Soul of Elements is Blue, but it doesn’t play out as a counter-heavy control deck.

 

For this reason, I think that the series would better represent the format if the entire suite of articles were designed with a turn-by-turn architecture rather than being divided by color. I expect I’ll revisit this at some point in the future, because it always pays to examine the same ideas from a different perspective, but as it was originally printed, “Important Cards That Cost One” is just a black sheep. It feels like the beginning of an as-yet unwritten series rather than the natural conclusion of the work it was preceded by.

 

Resolution

Well, another year has passed by and I still haven’t fulfilled my promise to add compelling video content to the site. However, I’m delighted to inform you that vindication is finally coming in the new year. What we were really lacking back at The General Zone was the resources and personnel to pursue new projects. Now that we can collaborate with the entire team here at CommanderCast, I’m excited to announce that I have partnered with Mark to bring you gameplay videos. These video sets will include commentary and discussion from both Mark and myself, and will feature a number of different casual Magic formats, but will of course feature Commander gameplay.

 

I can’t stress enough how excited I am to be a part of the CommanderCast team. I have greatly enjoyed by first year here on the site and I look forward to even greater things coming in 2016. Once again, a huge thank you to the contributors and the team behind the scenes here.

 

Of course I must also thank you, the community of loyal readers and listeners. Without your support this wouldn’t be possible.

 

See you next year.

 

-GG

“In General” is the place where I share my ideas on unconventional topics that are often only tangentially related to Magic. This column is a mixed bag where I collect and present ideas that don’t have a home anywhere else. If you want a column about strategy, psychology, design, economics, philosophy, internet culture, and referential humor, you have come to the right place.

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