EDH IMHO: The Year Wizards almost killed Commander

Image result for george lucas jarjar

When you see this image, how does it make you feel?

Oh wait, this is the internet, so I already know. This dude…he pisses you off, doesn’t he?

That’s the thing with George Lucas. Sure, he created the most successful film franchise of all time. He made something you probably adored. Chances are there is something incredible about one of his stories that inspired you at a young age; a story that was truly creative and inspiring.

And then he destroyed it. And why? Because he, like most of mankind, just doesn’t know how to leave something alone.

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Welcome to EDH: IMHO. A diverse haven for passionate, casual weirdos who want to create stories with their friends through a game of Commander!

I hate sequels. You know why? Because they rarely ever suceed in raising the profile of a franchise. More often than not, they actually diminish it.

Boondock Saints. Pirates of the Caribbean. The Matrix. Countless franchises whose sequels are so truly bad that they almost make you regret seeing the usually-very-good original.

Sure, there are occasional exceptions. (Terminator 2 rules, duh) The Dark Knight – Editor
But in general, I’m tired of seeing great movies get ruined by poor sequels. As a writer, you do the hard work of creating a great story, amazing characters, and a captivating plot. All that’s left is to leave it alone and let history enjoy your work.

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You’ve done the hard part: now just finish it.

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This gif was brought to you by  Cars 2 aka I Guess Pixar really CAN Make a Bad Movie.

All this to say…sequels are tricky, guys.

Commander 2011 was a smash hit. The generals ruled, the decks had tons of staples, the mana-fixing was decent, and a great amount of fun was had by all.

Wizards were so taken aback by the success of Commander 2011 that they weren’t prepared to release a commander product in 2012. Nevertheless, a standard was set, and Commander would eventually begin having a new pre-constructed decks on a yearly basis.

The thing is….sequels are tricky, guys.

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Just to be clear, these precons did very well commercially. Wizards is at a point where they have to try pretty hard for a release to be a financial failure.

That said, in terms of fun, I can comfortably say no release has ever done more damage to EDH.

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We could talk about how True-Name Nemesis, a practically useless commander card, was such a legacy chase piece that it made one of the precons nigh-impossible to attain.

We could talk about how they didn’t print nearly enough of the decks, running out of supply when demand rolled into fervor.

But to express how badly this hurt the format, I don’t have to do that. I just have to talk about the five commanders they chose to lead each of these decks.

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic


Even before Oloro, Commander had become a format where you often just played certain colors to enable your combo, without ever actually casting your commander.

So what did wizards do? They printed a general that actually incentivized leaving your commander alone for the entirety of the game. If that wasn’t enough, Oloro gave already passive decks a way to not openly durdle, but build up a life total to hold off other players until they could Diabolic Revelation into all their combo pieces for the win.

…and to prolong that suffering as long as they possibly could.

Derevi, Empyrial Tactician


Oh, wonderful. Look, its Deveri. Like Oloro, Derevi it took a strategy that was already one of the most hated in the format (because who doesn’t love Static Orb, right?) and gave them the perfect general for the occasion.

On top of that, add in that she combos off with just about everything. (My name is Azami, Lady of Scrolls; I heard there was some fun for me to smash?)

As bad as Derevi is practically, she is even worse fundamentally. One of the first things a person learns about EDH is how commander tax works. It is so foundational that it seemed to actually subvert the very essence of the format when a card like this can just ignore it. To make matters worse, cheating commander tax just isn’t enough for Derevi: she has to embarrass it. Derevi doesn’t just skip the tax: she does it at instant speed.

What fun.

Jelava, Nephalia’s Scourge


Ok, well, this ones not too bad. Jeleva is pretty fair, all around. Let’s just make sure there aren’t any other strong generals in this deck….


Oh, yeah. Look, a general who is already roughly half of your game-winning combo! Huzzah!

Oh well, if they printed this, surely its gotta be the only combo piece general in this set…..

Prossh, Skyraider of Kher


http://www.thecoli.com/media/undertaker-chair-throw.4298/full

Last of all, the single most destructive commander ever printed:

Marath, Will of the Wild


Ok, just kidding. Marath is fine. He just hangs with the wrong crowd.

Marath aside, when you look back at Commander 2013, you see a murderer’s row of un-fun generals. Like any legend, there are totally fun ways to build all of these decks. (except maybe Derevi…who has fun playing Derevi?) I built a Derevi and unblockables deck, and then realized that I had lost all my friends – Editor

In general, Wizards whiffed bad enough on these products that they came perilously close to undoing all the goodwill they created with casual commander two years previously. As you know, the most popular generals in the format tend to be the ones from the most recent set of precons, meaning people were actually suffering while learning about how to cause suffering for others at the same time.

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So, here’s the good news. Wizards learned from Commander 2013, and their yearly precons were marked improvements.

No more legacy chase cards. No more underprinting.

Most of all, they created some truly fun commanders. In 2014, just one year after this fiasco, Wizards released mono-colored commander decks. They made what was, in my opinion, the single most fun set of commander precons that were ever printed.

Not only were the decks fun, but the generals from Commander 2014 succeeded in changing the game in a way that was still fun. This set was the first to create planeswalkers that could be the general of a deck, a concept that would have been very easy to muddle, but ended up creating enjoyable new twists in casual gameplay.

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Not only that, but they actually refined some of their design shortcomings. In 2017, they debuted Eminence, allowing commander to affect the game from the command zone, but still incentivizing their pilots to actually play their generals. This mechanic was seen as a huge success, and showed that they learned from what they tried to do with Jeleva and Oloro.

Wizards has always seemed to just barely-kinda-sorta understand Commander. When you hear Mark Rosewater talk about Commander, it  feels like he just doesn’t understand how it is supposed to work, and that shows in the company’s design. For every Commander 2011, there seems to be a Commander 2013.

That said, the idea of creating cards for a casual format is a monumental challenge when you consider how much thought has to go into every single set. The truth is, more often than not, Wizards nails it. Yes, these generals still plague casual groups to this day, but Wizards did a great job of making sure there was only the one bad sequel.

So…basically the Dollars Trilogy. Commander is the Dollars Trilogy.
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AkabaneRowsdower 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.

2 comments

  1. I’ve had most of these decks assembled, and dismantled them not long after. Recently I’ve put Derevi at the helm of my tribal merfolk deck, mostly for colors, and also because they have sone tap/untap shenanigans, so she fits. Otherwise I have no desire to play any of these again.

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