Many people are fans of Competitive Commander. But many, many people are NOT fans of Competitive Commander. This article is for the latter group.
How you think you look:
How you really look:
Your Format: Competitive Commander
Nowhere in the history of Magic has there been a more entitled group of petulant children than in the cEDH community, which actually stands for Crying. Entitled. Detrimental. Hysterical.
No matter what you do for these people, they will 100% think that you are doing it to spite them. Print a Commander-specific set? Not enough good cards. Reprint dozens of staples with Mystery Boosters? They are not the cards they want. These people are like my toddler: "Daddy put on PJ Mask." So I do. "BUT I WANTED PAW PATROL." You can't win!
Recently Flash was banned because, after extensive discussion with the cEDH "heads of state," the Rules Committee decided that they made a lot of good points about how Flash was warping the format around a combo kill with Protean Hulk. Decks were winning on turn two! Mind you, this is a format that fancies itself "Vintage Light" and wants the decks to be as competitive as possible, but much like Vintage, there must be curation. That's why Flash was banned.
Let's talk about that for a minute.
I've seen a ton of cEDH games because I participated in them years ago and have a large contingent of cEDH players at my local store. They like intermingling with the casuals so they can kill them on turn four and explain in great length to children and teenagers about how when you cast Demonic Consultation and name "Jester's Cap" with a Thassa's Oracle's enters-the-battlefield trigger on the stack, you win the game. The three kids look on in awe as the master shuffles his cards back into his deck, and then go on playing.
"But I won," the cEDH player whispers.
"Don't care, dude, we came to play Magic," the 12-year-old says, thus shattering the delicate sensibilities of the competitive player who only wanted to win on turn four, but was kindhearted and won on turn five instead.
Now of course not all games play out this way. When you're in a pod with other cEDH players the games can be much longer and far more intricate. For example:
And there's always a person playing Tymna the Weaver in some way, shape or form.
Now you might be saying "Dangit, Mark, this is how they want to play Magic."
Commander is not, and it will never be, a competitive format for the vast amount of players that participate in it. That's not because of the social contract, or the spirit of the format. It's about dollar signs.
Wizards of the Coast cares about cEDH players about as much as they care about Vintage players. You don't make them money. You're not out there buying cases of the newest Commander products that are coming out, and that's ok. You have better things to spend your money on. That's fine. You don't especially care about Wizards' new products, so they don't especially care about your format.
Competitive Commander players want everything, and they want it now. There is a literal section of R&D full of people that are paid to design, test and market Commander cards. There is a rules committee made up of the greatest minds of the format, supported by a board of format experts and advocates from all types of Magic, and still…still that is not good enough.
Do not expect a small (but vocal!) sect of the community to be catered to when they aren't the engine that drives the car. Competitive commander players are like the "check engine light" that comes on to annoy the driver. How long do those get ignored? Pretty long, until there's smoke coming out of the hood, at which point it's the Commander players starting a small fire on Twitter until someone—ANYONE—will listen to them. (But if you're on the Rules Committee, don't you act on anything before it gets to that point. If you make any Commander changes without the grace of the cEDH community, there will be a riot.)
The banning of Flash was done later than it should have been, but that's mostly because the RC and Wizards are focused on the 9 out of 10 players that play regular, fun, semi-competitive games with focused lists, or who are just walking into a store to play after a few years out of the game. The ban list is for those people.
Speaking of which…
Your Banned List
Anytime something is banned in Commander it is 100% to spite the cEDH community... according to them.
"Banning Primeval Titan will kill green ramp decks." *Spits out coffee*
"Banning Sylvan Primordial will kill green ramp decks." *Spits out coffee again*
"Banning Leovold, Emissary of Trest has RUINED 1v1 Magic."
"Banning Paradox Engine will KILL COMPETITIVE DECKS THAT RELY ON IT."
"Banning Prophet of Kruphix? IT NEVER HURT ANYONE."
Either the banned list is too curated, or it isn't curated enough. It is literally Schrodinger's Banned List, simultaneously too extensive and not extensive enough.
The banned list will always be changed according to casual players, and almost never for competitive players. When it impacts Wizards' biggest market, that's when you'll see changes.
What's New that Sucks
Well, banning Flash means that a portion of the cEDH community is probably happy, and a portion of it thinks that a renaissance is on the horizon of new bans and changes to the format. They're either shaking in their boots or fighting mad, but they know that now they have an in.
The RC listened to competitive commander players and their cries that Flash be banned. The ones that yelled it loud enough, anyways. This means the loud voices are now agents of change. This instills great promise and great fear simultaneously. What if those voices go too far?
First they came for my Paradox Engine, and I did nothing because I can play a different deck.
Then they came for my Flash, and I did nothing because I can play a different deck.
Then they came for my Thassa's Oracle, and I did nothing because I can play a different deck.
Finally they came for me, because I am an oppressed competitive Commander player.
These people think they have all the power! It's hilarious!
What's Old that Sucks
The attitude, the elitism, and the "we have fun our own way" mentality. That's awesome. In all seriousness, if you're at a table where everyone wants to play 8 out of 10 power level decks and that's the social contract in your group—that's perfect. Play away. Spend all hours doing it. Enjoy yourself.
The reason that professional football players don't regress and go back to played high school football is because they have a different mentality and different skill set compared to their juniors. When you walk into a group of casual players trying to play long, ridiculous, and silly games and outright beat them with your very powerful deck on turn four, you're not actually impressing anyone. You're ruining the fun of people that have a different philosophy on the game than you.
In other words, stay in your lane and let everyone else (the majority of players) have their own fun.
What Might Not Suck
CFB Events are finally figuring it out. They're assigning "power levels" to decks and putting those players in pods together, so that those that want to play the same way they do get a chance to play together, instead of putting money into an event only to be killed in a few minutes. Now, people have a better idea what they're signing up for.
I've also seen competitive players ask a table prior to the match what level their decks are at. If told that the decks are very low on the power scale, they'll play something else or take the combo out.
A paradigm shift from competitive-cutthroat to competitive-compromising will continue as the format expands, which it will continue to do at a metric rate. Commander is the most popular format in Magic by a wide margin, and it will likely stay that way until Magic ends. Compromise is the key word here. The Rules Committee will continue to monitor situations involving regular and competitive commander, but being the group that wants to burn it all down any time something doesn't go your way is just…it's just sad.
See you in the comments, kiddies.