This entry is part 21 of 23 in the series (Social) Contract form Below

By Nole Clauson AKA MtGNole

90x90 noleHello everyone and welcome to another edition of (Social) Contract from Below. This week I want to share an interesting conversation I had with a group of magic players that was outside of my usual playgroup and really opened my eyes to something.

As many of you know, I am a certified judge for the DCI. For the last two weekends, I have had the privilege of head judging both of the Wyoming state championships. I know for many of you, states is not a big deal, but with premium tournaments being a rarity in Wyoming, states tends to bring in a lot of players from around the state. It’s a chance for everyone to get together, mingle with old friends, and genuinely enjoy seeing each other, all while playing magic. It’s also a chance for TO’s and judges to mingle and learn from each other, as well as plug any events that they have coming up. It was one of these side conversations that I feel is worth repeating.

I was visiting with the TO for another store, and he was mentioning that he was looking at doing a food drive event in mid-November. Since the commander precons will be out, they want to make this a “commander-centric event” (this started out as a “commander tournament” however, I talked them away from that particular ledge). At this point, a lot of the people who were interested in coming to the event immediately lost interest in it, not because it wasn’t going to have a high payout, but because was a commander event and “they didn’t like/hated commander.” This prompted the conversation that I want to touch on here.

get on with it(I know, almost 300 words to get to the meat of an article, who do I think I am, Eric Bonvie?)

Of the players I talked to, the reason they did not enjoy commander was entirely based on things that were common misconceptions about commander. While I understand that some people will never like commander for various reasons, I feel like the comments I heard came from bad experiences with specific individuals rather than a problem with the format as a whole. Below you’ll find some of the more common comments about commander, as well as my rebuttal and how we (as players who like this format) should be responding.

1) “I hate waiting forever to take my turn.”

This is a fair argument. In a (typically 4 player) muliplayer game. A single player can only expect to be playing around 25% of the time. However, it’s very much the same case in 60 card formats when an agro deck plays against control. The best way to combat this is to make sure everyone keeps the game moving (I’ve ranted about slow play enough that all of you knew that comment was coming) as well as keep turn length in mind as you build a deck. If your deck is going to take a 20 minute, combo-filled turn to win the game, then perhaps it’s time to rethink your deck’s design.

2) “This is supposed to be a “fun” format, but someone always combos off in the first 3 turns.”

This person had been bitten by a social contract breaker. These are some of the hardest people to try the format again. The hardest part about this one, is that it is the commander communities fault. During Commander Precon week (Our third theme week of the season) I’m going to be talking about how to help new players break into the community, and raking them over the coals with a social-contract breaking deck is the worst thing you could do.

3) “EDH games take forever.”

This persons’ beef with the format was the exact opposite of the last person (there is something about not being able to please all people all the time here, but I’m ignoring it so I can make my point). His problem with commander is that, in the same time span of a typical commander game (for the sake of this argument, let’s call it 90 minutes) he can play 3+ games of any other format. For players that care about how many games they win in a certain amount of time, this can be relevant. My counter-point to that argument is that while yes, we are playing only one game, inside that game are several sub-games that you also win or lose. Was I able to prevent someone from flinging a Phyrexian Dreadnought at my head every turn with Brion Stoutarm and Sun Titan? Call it a win for me. In commander, we replace the quantity of games with the quality of the kind of games you can tell your friends about.

4) “It’s hard to get into.”

There is a barrier to entry to this format, just as there is to any other Magic format. However, when experienced players bring in what I call “99 staples” good stuff decks. It makes this format’s barrier seem much higher than it is. For us (as more experienced players) we know that a bunch of good cards will lose to a better designed, synergistic deck, but to new players, seeing the 5 color deck with all Beta Duals equals “a format I can never play” Now, I am not saying that you shouldn’t play that deck, however I feel it’s important to let new players know that it’s not the norm and by no means is a “price of admission.” Having a deck with mostly newer cards that is powerful enough to hang that you can use as a loner deck can help a bunch. I know I’m going to buy two of the Bant precons that are coming out, one to steal parts from and one to sleeve up to lend to new players.

5) “All the Commander players in [CITY REDACTED] are Douchbags.”

It’s been a while since #youmightbeanEDHbagif was a thing, so maybe it’s time for a reminder. Commander is meant to be fun. We are the spiritual successor to the kitchen table. We (as players) have come up with a format we love that has become so popular that WoTC has been forced to acknowledge us. We play this type of magic, not to win, but because it is fun. We are the equivalency of getting to play with all the coolest toys in this game, jam them into 100 card towers of power, and smash them together. However, the one thing that will condemn our format is players thinking that we are special because we are commander players. We should, at every opportunity, be trying to grow out community and be an advocate for it. If you’re finding enjoyment out of scaring people away from our format or being a jerk because you feel like you can, then the problem isn’t with the format, or with the new players, it is with you and I have two words for you. Get Out. Go find a different hobby because you aren’t welcome in mine anymore.

Part of you is probably wondering why I’m saying this now (other than that I just talked about it to my friends and that I have an article due). As you all know by now, the Commander precons are coming out soon. That means that a lot of new players are going to be entering the format and not knowing what to expect. It’s our job, as stewards of our communities and our format to make them feel welcome, make sure they are successful, and most importantly, make sure they come back. Cultivating a positive culture within our communities is everyone’s responsibility, and if there are things to fix within your playgroup, now (before all the new players try the format), is the time to do so.

I’d love to hear your comments on this. As always, you can contact me either through the comments section below, at my email @ or on twitter @MtGNole. Look for a new episode of Rival’s Duel (with my co-host Eric Bonvie) next Thursday and another article in two weeks.



Series Navigation<< (Social) Contract from Below 20- Melvin Edition(Social) Contract from Below 22- Teamwork V. Collusion >>