A couple years back, I quit buying booster packs. I was living on my own for the first time, and I decided that I could really only afford to spend money on cards I knew I would use.
This was before commander really exploded in popularity. At that time it was known as the ‘cheap,’ format. The dollar rare box was your best friend. My decision to abstain from boosters was definitely the right decision for the time, considering what most of my card needs were.
But still, there was something missing.
Whenever my friends got packs, I begged them to let me open one of them. Sure, I wasn’t going to keep the cards, but there was something inside me that missed that sound of peeling plastic, and the surprise of unveiling its contents.
It’s why we wrap presents. It’s why the bean-boozled challenge is a thing.
We love to take a risk, holding our breath in anticipation of the sheer excitement of finding out just what’s inside.
Welcome to EDH: IMHO. A diverse haven for passionate, casual weirdos who want to create stories with their friends through a game of Commander!
Redundancy. When you play some form of ‘regular’ magic, you are taught that redundancy is important. Redundancy allows you to pre-plan your turn based on your anticipated draws, and allows the best cards in your deck to occur frequently.
The obvious problem is that redundancy is spun on its head in a format where you are only allowed one of each card.
For someone who has only played normal “four-of” limit magic, this is a frequent hang-up when they give commander a try. To be fair, this isn’t really surprising. Chances are they have come from playing a format where the less redundant the deck, the less often they win.
Every time I have brought someone into commander from another format, their first instinct is to jam in as many tutors as possible.
Unfortunately, that instinct can often result in a lot of this:
Even if you don’t have a crazy broken combo, tutors just seem perfect in a format where so little is guaranteed. It ensures you always have an answer, or can access to your wincon when the moment is right.
This leads perfectly to the final question you should ask your playgroup:
Question #4: How many tutors is too many?
As I said before, tutors act as a crutch for players new to commander. Tutors link them to magic-as-they-know-it. Tutors help new commander players slowly wade into the deep end.
I am fine with this. But after a couple games I usually encourage them to see how many tutors they can cut. Not because tutors are egregious (although I do wonder how many times you can Tooth and Nail and still have fun). The real reason I do this is that I think a player running a lot of tutors is missing out.
Missing out….on the glory of chaos!
My booster pack deprivation may be to blame, but in my opinion drawing a card might be the best moment in all of magic. I absolutely live for that moment, wondering how the game might pivot.
It’s actually even better in commander…because you have to wait for it. So much happens between two turns in a commander game. That causes some long waits while the board changes, and changes again. All the while, you look at your hand, carefully planning your move for that anticipated moment when it comes around to your turn again.
Untap. Upkeep. You’ve been waiting for this. Your plan is set, all you need to do is draw, and when you do….
Stop everything. The plans have changed. All of a sudden, I have something more awesome to do.
That, right there; that is the moment that keeps me coming back to magic.
Magic takes skill, and planning, and foresight. But sometimes it takes luck (known in some parts of the world by another name: chaos). If skill was everything, I’m not sure I’d play. It’s that delicious, fervent rush of chaos that makes this game so very rewarding.
That’s why I always challenge commander players with this: replace every tutor you have with card draw, and see what happens.
It’s undeniably weaker, and you shouldn’t do it if you want your deck to be at its “best.” But for me, winning bows down to the throne of stories.
Come to think of it, I’m not sure anything more perfectly epitomizes my deck-building philosophy than the act of replacing a tutor with a draw spell.
You see, tutoring is a sniper rifle. Card draw is a shotgun.
One gets the job done. The other creates STORIES.
As always, this is only my opinion. Talk to your playgroup and come up with your own conclusions. If they aren’t the same as mine, that’s awesome. No matter what you choose, you are working together to make the kinds of games you want to have. For me, that’s what EDH was always meant to be.
The entire point of these last four weeks has been to encourage talking with your playgroup; I hope you have! When it comes to tutors, talk about it with your friends. If you are like my group, I think you’ll find that your games will become more epic when you’re not even sure what is going to happen next.
For people who have only played “four-of” magic, chaos is a pit.
In Commander, Chaos is a ladder.
Kyle Somerfeldt is an avidly casual player of Commander. He loves movies, Japanese pro wrestling, and Sphinx Ambassador. Every week, he uses EDH IMHO to share his rambling philosophy regarding the format he loves.