This entry is part 4 of 8 in the series Spawning Pool
spEditor’s Note: So it’s been a while since I’ve put pen to paper for the site, and seeing as how we don’t have anyone else swimming in the pool today, looks like I’ll be writing tonight. This is an idea I’ve had bouncing around inside my head for a while, but have never put pen to paper. For the record, the time is now 90 minutes till this article has to go live. Consider this a thought experiment, can I put out something both worth reading and comprehensible is 90 minutes? You’ll have to let me know in the comments below.
(I’ll keep you posted on the clock as it ticks down: 80 minutes remaining)

By Nole Clauson AKA MtGNole

nolenew90Commander is an odd format. I do not mean in the strange, seemingly arbitrary but not really when you look at our format’s history and stated purpose, rules. I don’t mean in the sense that our banlist is seeming pulled from random, with some seemingly unobtrusive cards banned while others warp the format. I don’t even mean in the way our community divides itself in half over every issue that arises (I wrote for the better part of a year as one of them.)

I mean odd in the way that we as a group perceive our format. Specifically, in the fact that we take possession of it. Look at the above paragraph again. I was able to use a possessive pronoun (our) in that sentence and it did not feel strange at all. We, unlike any other format, own our format and nurture its health and even its morality. Take any other format (san perhaps Cube drafting) and put it in this sentence “I am a ______ player.” With any other format it means nothing more than “I play _______.” Now take the same sentence, “I am a commander player.” Does it feel a little different? Does it mean something different? It does to me.

Now this article, manifesto, thought experiment is not just for the die-hard EDH’ers who only play commander and scoff at going to FNM. This feeling of what it means to be a “commander player” is different for each of us, but it is undeniably unique to this format. Whether Commander is all you play or just something you do once in a while after FNM, Commander games are different and that feeling, that unique something is what makes us want to play. Below are the completely speculative guesses on why we get that feeling and therefore, why we play commander.

(60 minutes remaining)  

1.  Commander reminds us of how we used to play.

I first learned how to play at my grandma’s kitchen table and later with my next door neighbor, Travis. We both had the Green/Black Urza’s Destiny precon and we spent hours smashing each other over the head with Ancient Silverback. We’d table talk, openly show each other our hands to show each other how we were going to dominate each other, and after the game was done we’d laugh about it and go play Goldeneye on Nintendo 64. You know what? That was some awesome fun Magic. It wasn’t about winning, it was about playing the game and being friends. To me, Commander games feel like that. While I’m certainly better now than I was then, and winning is still a factor, Commander games are much more about hanging with my friends and enjoying playing against each other for the sake of having a good time.

(47 minutes remaining)

2. Commander is a format that creates stories.

I get the opportunity to watch a lot of tournament magic when I’m judging events. Those stories always end the same way. “I died to Pack Rat.” “His storm deck went off.” “I beat a pod player.” It’s all about the result. Commander games are different. For me at least, the stories I tell are the cool moments within games. The “I psyched out my opponent into getting him to pop maze early.” “I dug 15 cards deep and could not find an answer to Grimore of the Dead.” “I accidently combed off with Bloodline Keeper and my opponent’s Intruder Alarm. While the next sentence of these stories are all “and that is how I won/lost the game,” the stories aren’t about that. Rather, we talk about the great moments of the games, rather than the last thing that happened before we picked up are cards and went home.

(Phone went off during this part, 32 minutes remaining)

3. Commander is where Timmy, Johnny and even Spike can all find common ground.

I have a friend who loves to see just how big a dude he can make without going infinite. I have another who’s goal in life is to get Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker equipped to Nicol Bolas (You win if you can tell everyone how to do that in the comments. I have another friend who loves building an tuning decks till they run like clockwork, gradually improving every bit till it is perfect, only to be satisfied with it and take it apart so he can build something else. Commander has space in it for all of these people. We are a format where it’s truly come as you are. If you and your friends want to build the most cutthroat things you can and have 3 turn games that are an instant roller coaster, go for it. If you want to get together and plan on each being a slugfest for 3 hours till only one person remains, that’s fine too. Commander is a format that you can shape to be whatever you want it to be, while standard will be about the same no matter where you go, commander reflects the playgroup that it is born in.

4. Commander is universal, yet casual.

I can go to just about any card shop on the planet and find a commander game, and I will no doubt have fun. While my deck may not quite match what the local meta is used to (either being over or under powered), I can still find people playing a non-sanctioned, casual format. That is huge. The fact that there is a we have WotC making products for us, that we get (terrible) side events at GP’s and that there is universal saturation of players is truly an amazing thing. For something that was born out of boredom and a shortage of cards in Alaska (seriously, look up the origin story of Commander if you haven’t) we are now (arguably) the greatest and most popular casual format.

(I missed the last paragraphs timestamp. 14 minutes to go, let’s send this home.)

These are words I’ve been wanting to say for a while, despite the fact that there is no real deeper message to them. I would however, like to hear from you. Do you share my thoughts on Commander? If not, then what are your reasons for playing this format? I’d like to hear in the comments below. I’d also like to know what you thought about this style of article. Do you like these more reflective pieces or would you rather have something more hard hitting? Please let me know as I am beginning to plan for next season.

You can also catch me on my Podcast, Rival’s Duel, with Eric Bonvie, or email me at or catch me on twitter at @MtGNole. Thanks for reading.

(8 minutes to spare. Hope you enjoyed this 90 minute thought experiment. Now to go upload this to the site.)
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