Posted by ‘BRIONNE’ aka ‘FORK OF DOOM’

No matter how much we might wish it were otherwise, we have to acknowledge that Wizards of the Coast does not make Magic simply because they care about the game. Their main purpose is to make money. The steep price tag on Commander’s Arsenal is a reminder of that. There has been a lot of outrage in the community about the $75 MSRP, which is about $40 more than that of any From the Vaults set. Price tag aside, any product made for Commander comes under close scrutiny.

There are several perfectly good reasons for that. Other formats are regulated by a combination of ban lists and what cards are printed in new sets. Commander has a ban list, and we are affected by new cards to a lesser extent. In those respects, we are not very different from sanctioned formats. The difference is the singleton nature of EDH. Any card chosen for a deck is limited to one copy, so that (assuming no dedicated abuse of the card) no new card will radically change the format. One Stoneforge Mystic in an EDH deck is helpful, four copies of Stoneforge Mystic can turn entire formats on their head. The perceived danger is that Wizards might have the same ability to affect Commander. The printing of Sol Ring in the Commander set is a good example. Players who showed an interest in the format while these boxes were readily available were waved in the direction of the display. “Pick of one of those, it’s a good starting place,” we’d say. Every newbie showed up to the table sporting a Sol Ring. Not only did this cement Sol Ring’s place as a “staple”, it might have secured it a permanent spot off the ban list. Keep in mind that I am not making an argument either way for the banning of Sol Ring, I am merely pointing out that the Rules Committee is unlikely to ban a card that was sold as an iconic Commander must-have.

So it comes back around to the overpriced bling in Commander’s Arsenal (a.k.a. From the Vault: Commander). At this point there are few spoiled cards, but among them are a normal-sized foil Mimeoplasm and oversized foil Azusa, Lost but Seeking. These are two generals that are unarguably good in EDH. The speculation on other cards that might be included got off the ground right away, hampered only by the obligatory complaints about the price tag. Commander players are going to bed at night fearing Zur the Enchanter under the bed and Grand Arbiter Augustin IV in the closet. The last thing most players want is for the traditionally broken generals to see wide play. By printing cards in a Commander specific set, new players might come to view them as staples. This is unlikely to be a problem with Commander’s arsenal, because these cards will be a limited print run and carry a hefty price tag. The fear is that more accessible Commander sets will not have this obstacle.

From the Vaults and the Commander sets are obviously targeted at us, but what specific cards in expansions are is harder to determine. The two years that I have been playing EDH have seen the printing of some of the best cards in the format, including Consecrated Sphinx, Primeval Titan, and Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. The problem is, they are also good in other formats. Were these powerhouses intended for Commander players, or was it just a happy accident that they are so good? However much we might speculate, there is no way to tell.

Still, the vanity of Commander players has us believing that every new fatty, every splashy spell, is intended for our use. The big question is, are cards targeted at us helpful or harmful to the format? It’s been talked about on the podcast several times, so I only mention it because it’s relevant to the topic at hand. No matter what broken cards Wizards does or does not print, this format will have staples. It is to be expected in an eternal format. If newer, better cards are not printed, the older standard would still be the staple. If Consecrated Sphinx had never been printed, I’d still be putting Arcanis the Omnipotent into all my blue decks. Those players, such as myself, who tend to prefer the best cards available will continue to play the best card. The creative minds will still continue to build fun, unique decks. That does not change, no matter what the current staples are. New releases cannot harm the format. It will keep going on the same as it always has, but with different cards that are “best” and “staple”. Cards that are too powerful might or might not get banned. If they do, then the format gets a tad bit healthier. If not, then it’s just another broken card in a format full of them.

With all the gloom and doom that accompanies new product, there is the unarguable fact that the Commander expansion has brought some fresh blood to the format, both in the card pool and player base. It has given potential new players an easier way to overcome the initial barriers to entry. I am actually excited at the prospect of having a new Commander expansion every summer. I’ll take the good and the bad, simply because both make the format more interesting.