Out of the many MTG formats available, for better and worse, Commander is typically the slowest out of the bunch. On one hand, this is a major downside of the format, as not everyone has the time to sit down for an hour to play a game. Especially not if that hour is up against a Stax opponent who’s determined to ruin your day.
Despite the potential problems of a horrendously grueling match, the pace of Commander is also a major upside. For those with the time, Commander’s slower pace, and fast mana, allow for an insane number of cards to be playable. Alongside the diverse competitive and casual landscape, this makes Commander one of the most creative formats around!
Thanks to the immense freedom on offer, it can be rather hard to go too far in Commander. Sure, a deck can be a touch too strong for a table, however, that issue can be easily mitigated. No matter what problem you throw at Commander, it seems capable of shrugging it off. Subsequently, it’s no wonder that Commander is the most popular MTG format around!
Saying that, however, recently, it appears one, or rather many, MTG players have managed the impossible. Throughout what sounds like a grueling five-hour match, MTG players may have finally pushed Commander too far!
Commander Battle Royale
Even without the luxury of being omniscient, it’s safe to say that over the weekend, a lot of Commander games were played. Since it’s MTG’s most popular format this should hardly be a surprise to hear. In keeping with tradition, the majority of these games were likely multiplayer, featuring three or four players. Allowing for enhanced engagement and social enjoyment, this average player count is arguably ideal.
Despite Commander’s history as a four-player Multiplayer format, this last weekend, one group pushed the limits. According to Reddit user u/FellowGreendalien, last weekend a monumental 32-player game of Commander was hosted and even finished!
Unfortunately, outside of the claim that this game took place as a “going away party for an employee of the store I play at,” details about this event are rather few and far between. In fact, FellowGreendalien only stated that this game was dubbed the “Commander Battle Royale,” and was “Quite a Ride.” Outside of those details, MTG players across Reddit have been left wondering what on earth happened.
Thankfully, while FellowGreendalien didn’t provide many details beyond a five-hour playtime, another attendee of this colossal event soon filled in the blanks. Throughout a follow-up post, u/CardhavenLGS explained how this event came to be, and how it was run successfully. If you’re wondering that very question, the answer is by creating a lot of smaller pods.
While, technically, all 32 players were in one massive game, as u/CardhavenLGS explains, there was a rather small sphere of influence. Broken up into eight pods of four, each player could only affect the game around them. For better or worse, this meant the game could be finished remarkably quickly.
Making the Impossible Possible
Considering five hours is not a short amount of time, you may think that this was still an incredibly long Commander game. While this is true, it’s still a whole lot shorter than it could have otherwise been. Should the massive game not have been broken up at all, the Commander Battle Royale could have feasibly gone on all day!
Thanks to the time it takes to organize, shuffle, and interact on a massive scale, initially, many Reddit users expected no more than five turns could happen in five hours! This led many players to suspect that the game abruptly ended in an infinite combo. Thankfully for event attendees, this reportedly wasn’t the case, as these shenanigans were self-policed so everyone could enjoy themselves.
According to CardhavenLGS, this was one of the major reasons why the event was such an enjoyable success. With every player focusing on the match and understanding what was happening, players weren’t bogged down by 31 other turns taking place. Instead, CardhavenLGS describes a surprisingly seamless event that slowly got smaller and simpler over time.
“I cannot emphasize that the reason this went so smoothly was because everyone in the room was really on top of it.”u/CardhavenLGS
Ultimately, even when broken up into more manageable chunks, a 32-person Commander game sounds like a logistical nightmare. That being said, however, it also sounds like a great deal of silly and entertaining fun. It does seem possible, however, to have too much of a good thing.
Too Much of a Good Thing
While the multiplayer nature of Commander is undoubtedly one of its greatest strengths, it can evidently also be a major downside. This is thanks to games taking simply too long to be enjoyable.
Judging by the responses to FellowGreendalien’s post, a 32-player Commander pod is definitely over the limit of what works. After all, without condensing into smaller pods, even the opening turns when people are just playing land would cause extensive wait times. Should each player take thirty seconds, you’re still in for a 16-minute wait while unable to do anything!
Considering the opening turns are the slowest a Commander game will ever be, 32 players definitely seems like too much. Thankfully, however, it is possible to mitigate some of the excessively long waiting through careful planning. Obviously, a simple solution is breaking off into smaller pods, however, it’s somewhat possible to make a true 32-person pod work! If everyone knows they have to play, pass, and interact quickly, in theory, you might not be waiting too long.
Unfortunately, as entertaining as this may be in theory, keeping players to a lighting fast schedule isn’t an easy feat. Not least because Commander players often engage in all kinds of priority shenanigans. Thanks to this almost unavoidable game length, running a 32-player pod might not be the best idea. Especially since the problems don’t end there.
Highlighted in a jovial comment by u/Stardrifter88, there are countless MTG mechanics which could make a massive Commander game truly terrible. Any card with Myriad, for instance, would require an inordinate amount of individual tokens to facilitate. Worse yet, try playing Space Beleren or subgames with a Rule 0-ed Shahrazad!
Find Your Own Fun
At the end of the day, it’s incredibly easy to find flaws in a 32-player Commander pod. Despite this, however, there’s no denying that the freedom provided by Commander is one of its greatest strengths that is unmatched by other formats.
If a massive 32-player Commander game sounds great to you and 31 friends, by all means, go for it! Sure, the game might not end quickly, but it can still be an incredibly enjoyable time for everyone involved. Just maybe make sure to cancel any upcoming plans in case you’re stuck in the same game for literal days.
Should you want to genuinely give Commander Battle Royale a go yourself, we do have some helpful advice to ease play. First and foremost, it’s important that you and everyone else play as quickly as possible. This means paying attention to the board, and not your phone, so you know what’s going on and what you need to do.
Alongside this major point, you should be mindful to pass your turn as quickly as possible. Even if you’ve got the nicest sleeves on the planet, there’s no sense in holding the game up by shuffling after tapping out. Additionally, if you’re after speed, you should probably avoid everyone playing Awakening. Sure, the value would be insane, but probably a little too much for the game’s good.
Ultimately, as we alluded to before, the most important thing in this, or any format, is having fun. Subsequently, that’s the thing to keep in mind. If you and the 31 other players are happy with Commander Battle Royale being slow, don’t let the format’s faults stop you!