Dockside Extortionist
29, Sep, 22

Despite Its Flaws, MTG Commander Isn’t Going Anywhere

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Article at a Glance

As one of MTG’s most varied, affordable, and enjoyable formats, it’s no wonder Commander is so popular. After being properly introduced in 2004, Commander has continued to grow, eventually becoming one of MTG’s biggest formats. With the popularity of Standard fading away, Commander looks set to dominate MTG’s future. Recently, however, doubts have been cast over the fan-favorite format, with some players claiming it’s ruining MTG altogether. This worrying prospect has many concerned about the future of the format. However, players agree that Commander isn’t going anywhere. 

Five More Years

Meeting of the Five
Meeting of the Five | Streets of New Capenna

To gauge the format’s health and stir up some heated debate, u/HonorBasquiat recently asked the MagicTCG community on Reddit a simple question. “Five years from now, do you think Commander will still be the most played official format among players when it comes to table-top Magic?” Unsurprisingly, given the format’s popularity, this question quickly had players singing Commander’s praises and claiming it’s not going anywhere. U/wildfire393, for instance, stated that “It would take a LOT to dethrone paper Commander.” For many users, it wasn’t a question of if Commander might falter, but instead, how much it’s going to grow. 

Judging by current trends, that’s precisely what you’d expect to see happen. As u//wildfire393 noted, for instance, Wizards of the Coast have been increasing their support for Commander in recent years. What was once an experimental batch of five Commander decks in 2011 has turned into nearly 20+ decks a year. With supplemental Commander draft sets and Eternal-legal cards in Unfinity, Wizards is undoubtedly giving Commander players what they want. Wizards of the Coast have even committed to designing for an “eternal world,” with new design philosophy. 

The Strength of Commander

Prismari Command
Prismari Command | Strixhaven

With increasing enthusiastic support from Wizards of the Coast, the future of Commander looks bright. Whether or not Wizard supports it, however, is not the sole determiner of a format’s success. The vaguely Commander-esque MTG Arena Gladiator format, for instance, was successful on its own, before Wizards took an interest. Commander itself had over a decade of history before Wizards released their first Commander-specific product. Subsequently, some players suggest that these products are motivated by greed rather than the benevolent desire to grow a format.

Regardless of Wizards’ and Hasbro’s primary intentions, Commander-focused products have undoubtedly helped to grow the format. On its own, however, Commander is still lauded as one of the most interesting and enjoyable formats, thanks to its cleverly crafted ruleset. As u/trifas explains, this all but guarantees Commander’s future for the next five years at least. Ultimately, no other format “is likely to offer what I think makes Commander so popular.” Between its high variance, boundless creativity, surprising affordability, and social successes, Commander quite literally has everything going for it.

Commander’s Worst Enemy

Commander's Insight
Commander’s Insight | Commander 2021

However, one factor that could stand in the way of Commander’s successes: Wizards of the Coast. As u/HonorBasquiat noted during their initial question, Wizards could create and push a new Commander-esque format until it becomes the main way to play. While Wizards developing a new format was consistently identified as a threat, Wizards have tried this before to minimal success. While personally, I love it, Brawl is an unmitigated disaster with how unpopular it is. We’ve even highlighted in the past how sanctioned Brawl events can often be won without ever playing a game since no one else signed up. 

Even if Wizards can’t usurp Commander with their own MTG format, there are concerns they may still cause its demise. Not through jealousy or anger, but instead by killing Commander with kindness. By releasing countless Commander decks and sets, some players are concerned Wizards will cause Commander to simply burn out. As Matthew Lenk stated in the comments of our recent article, “[Wizards] are banking on commander too hard, and honestly, I’m not for it.”  Jason Stone offered similar concerns, stating, “I feel like the focus on commander has not only ruined standard and set releases but also ruined commander.” 

Read More: MTG Lead Designer Reveals Why Acorn Cards Are a Good Thing

Ultimately, even with nonstop product releases, Wizards probably isn’t going to kill Commander in the next five years. While this may be good news for fans of Commander, it may come at the expense of other formats.

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