Updated: Aug 14
After the recent release of Double Masters, a mere year and a half after the Masters series was discontinued, it got me thinking about the increasing amount of Magic: The Gathering product being released each year and how it impacts commander players!
In 2020, along with the return of the Masters series, we have seen the addition of new stand-alone sets (Mystery Booster and JumpStart), more premium product (VIP boosters and Secret Lairs) and a huge increase in commander goodies (9 pre-cons, Commander Collection: Green and commanders very own set). And with it all comes plenty of positives and negatives for our beloved format.
“So why is this such a big deal for commander players???”
Unlike other popular formats like Standard and Modern, EDH has access to (almost) every card ever released. So, the ever-flowing stream of new sets, new cards and new decks is seeing more and more of the same responses from commander players; “it’s overwhelming and hard on my wallet!” For many players this means choosing between sets, losing track of what’s making waves in the format and feeling generally disheartened with the game. And no wonder it’s become too much when even Wizards of the Coast don’t seem to be sure what’s actually in their own products, with a multitude of recent tweets clarifying and correcting their information regarding the rares and mythics found within the Double Masters VIP packs (contrary to the information found on the actual packs).
“Please Adam, tell us the good news!!”
As a player who believes that Magic should be accessible to everyone, very few things make me happier than reprints! And boy have we been getting our fair share of reprints this year. With the likes of Mana Crypt, Doubling Season, Grim Tutor, Ugin and many others, the casual EDH player has been inundated with staples previously out of budget and a fresh wave of excitement has been palpable throughout the community as we all consider the new deck building possibilities afforded to us. Now, I understand that many of us already own versions of these cards and see them as an investment, but as much as we love to collect rare cards and see our collection rise in value, at the end of the day Magic is a game and should be playable for anyone regardless of income or social status.
However, like most things from WOTC, these reprints are a two-sided coin. The increase in product does bring an increase in reprints, which is refreshing for the format, but a worrying trend that’s emerged this year is the fact that the needed staple reprints are being found in the premium product. So those of us that like the excitement of cracking packs and finding cool pulls for our decks, are having to still stretch the pockets to enjoy all of our favourite aspects of Magic.
“My old decks are struggling to keep up!”
One of the biggest points of discussion for Magic players during recent years is the slow rise of power level with the release of each new set, of which the knock-on effect is the increasingly blurred lines between casual and competitive decks. After racking my brain for the simplest way to demonstrate this I decided to turn to everyone’s favourite elven planeswalker… Nissa!
Arguably the most powerful card in 2014 was Nissa, Worldwaker, a 5-mana mythic planeswalker that ticks up to turn lands into 4/4 Elementals or untaps 4 Forrests and has an ultimate that dumps all of your basic lands out of your library as even more 4/4 Elementals. A huge playmaker of a card that will often enter the battlefield, untap 4 lands and then be swiftly followed by some protection or a blocker to help keep her on the battlefield. Jumping forward to the release of War of the Spark and we have Nissa, Who Shakes the World; she has awakened the world and now she’s back to shake it down for what she’s owed (Poor joke? Don’t care). Another 5-mana planeswalker, this time only a rare, with a similar uptick that turns a land into an Elemental and an ultimate that grabs the Forests from your deck.
However, there are several key features that make this Nissa far more powerful than her 2014 self. Firstly, with the introduction of static abilities, she now adds an additional green mana to each of your forests just by existing. Secondly, her elementals may only be 3/3 but their power and toughness comes in the form of +1/+1 counters that can be proliferated and also have vigilance and haste for good measure! So not only are you swinging these bad boys right away but you can tap them for mana after combat for even more value. And finally, her ultimate may not make the lands into Elementals but instead are given an unremovable emblem making them indestructible and also takes a turn less to get there!
This might not seem like that big of an increase over a 5-year period but when you consider all of the micro-advantages that are gained with the use of many of these new cards it’s easy to start accusing Nissa of hitting the steroids. So, a format like commander that can ‘play cards from any era of Magic’ has to keep re-evaluating power levels (turns out the deck that you thought was a 7/10 is now a 5/10) and regularly update decks to keep up with the table.
“But what does it all mean?”
It seems that those impacted the most here are the new players and it has never been more overwhelming for a person looking to get into Magic than it is right now. Within the sea of possibilities though, there are plenty of positives for new players; the continuing reprints have made commander much more accessible and the push of more pre-cons will most certainly be the main entry point for many. With the upcoming release of Zendikar Rising, word on the street is that the Duel Commander decks will be priced at around £$25 - $35 each. A great price for beginner players and may be a worthwhile grab for seasoned players of the format. it will certainly be interesting to see what staples are included for the price and how well they hold up against pre-existing decks.
At the end of the day it is all relative to you and your playgroup. The beauty of EDH is the way it has been crafted and shaped by the players and I’m a strong believer that as a collective we will continue to do so. If the community isn’t happy with a product then it won’t see play and Wizards will always be playing catch up with what is popular among the people. One thing that is for certain and has always been true of a game with such a diverse player base is that you can’t please everyone.
I could spend all day speculating on the pros and cons of more product, so I will finish this article with a quote from my good friend Jon; “The cards don’t matter, I beat you with my $40 deck all the time.” … Yeah, thanks a lot Jon!