elesh norn, mother of machines
31, Jan, 23

Creator's Warning About MTG Commander Nightmare Abandoned!

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Article at a Glance

Commander has seen its fair share of controversy coming into the newest MTG core set. From cards that allow creatures to go infinite on their own, the return of one of the most hated mechanics in the format, to a card, that even the creator of Commander flagged as a potential issue for the format, MTG players engaging in the game’s most popular format have had a lot to talk about. Well, an official statement has been released by the Commander Rules Committee, Commander RC for short, and, for players who have been sticking by this format for a long time, it’s nothing shocking. However, those wrapped up in the recent controversy may be surprised to hear about what’s coming.

Elesh Norn Unlikely to Be Banned

elesh norn, mother of machines

Following the reveal of Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines, Commander creator Sheldon Menery released an article talking about the dangerous potential of this card in Commander. Likely to be one of the chase cards of MTG’s newest core set, Phyrexia: All Will Be One, Elesh Norn pairs one of the most popular card advantage engines in the game with a Stax effect that turns off your opponent’s interactions. While the card is powerful mechanically, it has the potential to be an absolute nightmare in terms of gameplay experience. Elesh Norn led to this quote from Menery that quickly circulated across the MTG Commander community:

“We saw this card during design.  Normally, we see the file, make our comments, and send them in jointly within a week or two.  As soon as I saw the card, I sent off an email saying, “Please never print this card.”  Shortly thereafter, I found out I wasn’t the only one of the four of us (this was before Olivia and Jim joined us) who had done that.”

Even though the Commander RC had such strong feelings about Elesh Norn when Wizards of the Coast asked for feedback, they are still against banning the five-mana-to-be menace before giving her a chance. In fact, in their recent update, they state that any action against the white Praetor will likely not be needed at all:

“While Sheldon’s article may have raised some eyebrows about Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines, the RC has had no discussions about banning it. Some of us had concerns about the design: stapling a casual-popular mechanic onto a casual-dangerous mechanic comes with some risks that are unrelated to power level, but there’s absolutely no way that would lead to a zero-day ban, and we doubt any action will be needed in the future. “

No Changes to Poison Counter Rulings

Triumph of the Hordes by Izzy

Poison is one of the most hated strategies available in Commander. While it does not quite live up to land destruction and Stax, players are not fond of dying to one swing from a Poison creature regardless of their life total. With Phyrexia: All Will Be One comes a ton of new support towards this hated Commander strategy. These new support cards had players seriously considering a change to the Commander ruleset, upping the amount of Poison Counters needed to kill a player in conjunction with the life total of the format. While Commander has double the amount of life compared to two-player MTG, ten Poison Counters are all that is needed to kill a player in either format. We talked about player discussion regarding this controversy extensively.

The MTG Rules Committee is aware of all the panic regarding this unfun mechanic, but Infect has not been historically powerful. Sure, it’s not fun dying to a one-shot mechanic, but Infect players rarely tend to win an entire game. Sure, they’ll take someone out in a fit of damage, but all the other players at the table tend to take them down right afterwards. Infect, notably, has little-to-no bearing on cEDH, the most competitive version of the format, meaning the mechanic is not incredibly powerful.

Regardless of this, the Rules Committee is open to the potential of the new support causing problems, and has stated that they will continue to watch things as they progress:

“Some folks have been asking about the number of poison counters in the wake of Phyrexia: All Will Be One. We’ll obviously keep an eye out, but at the moment we don’t see a need to raise it; the mechanic has not historically been all that strong due to the need to go it alone in killing people. Once everyone has had a chance to play with the new cards and mechanics and the immediate enthusiasm for the current set has faded a bit, we’ll see if action is needed.”

While this isn’t likely to cause a problem power level-wise, like the worry for Elesh Norn’s latest design, it lead to unfun play patterns, which is a larger concern in the Commander format.

Dockside Extortionist Remains On the Watchlist

dockside extortionist

While Dockside Extortionist and Thassa’s Oracle were highlighted in the last Commander RC statement, no action has been taken towards either creature. While Thassa’s Oracle sees no mention in the Commander RC’s latest statement, Dockside Extortionist remains an incredibly powerful option that they will continue to watch:

“We’ve publicly had our eye on Dockside Extortionist for a while now, and have ultimately concluded that, unless there’s a sudden surge into more casual spaces – where it hasn’t really thrived due to the lower density of cheap, fast mana – we don’t anticipate taking action on it. It’s a ridiculously powerful card, but scales with the rest of the table, and at the point it becomes broken, plenty of other broken stuff is already happening.”

While Dockside Extortionist could potentially be an issue at more casual tables, the Commander RC has stated that the Extortionist tends to scale at the rate of power in a game. Dockside Extortionist is broken at the tables where players are running loads of fast mana like Mana Crypt, Arcane Signet, Jeweled Lotus, and Sol Ring, but tends to be less offensive at casual tables due to a lack of artifacts and enchantments coming into play in the first few turns. Sure, Dockside Extortionist will be insane in any pod at some point, but the issue presented by the Goblin Pirate is mitigated in slower games since it will only develop at the speed of the table. As a result, it looks like the Extortionist will not see a ban unless it starts becoming an issue at Commander’s most competitive tables.

While we have highlighted most of the Commander RC statements in this article, you can take a look at the original statement here.

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