Throughout recent years, the Commander format in MTG has absolutely exploded in popularity. Usurping the former state of Standard, Commander has quickly become the go-to way to play MTG on paper. Thanks to this success, somewhat unsurprisingly, the casual multiplayer format has been leading the development of MTG for some time.
Bringing in the age of the “Eternal World” for MTG, Commander’s influence has arguably resulted in a lot of good. After all, the Commander format itself has gone from strength to strength, receiving plenty of awesome new cards. Unfortunately, however, as good and enjoyable as these cards are, they’re also part of the problem.
Thankfully, after multiple years of that problem getting worse and worse, it appears Wizards is finally doing something about it.
It’s All Commander Now
In case you’ve missed the past few years of spoilers, recently, MTG players have had no shortage of interesting Commander cards. Typically boasting powerful symmetrical or synergistic effects, these cards have been incredibly fun to play with, unsurprisingly delighting players. Just look at Frodo, Adventurous Hobbit and Sam, Loyal Attendant, for example. Who wouldn’t want to play with this flavorful pair?
As seen with Sam and Frodo above, one of the greatest boons to Commander’s recent success has been preconstructed decks. Providing players an easy entry point into the format, these decks have allowed anyone to just pick up and play a deck. Unfortunately, while preconstructed Commander decks, and accompanying new cards, have been hugely successful, Commander’s influence over MTG doesn’t end there.
Rather than containing the problem, over recent years, Wizards has seemingly been injecting more Commander cards into premier sets. This is most evident with the growing number of legendary creatures. Looking back five years, a set like Rivals of Ixalan had only nine legendary creatures. In comparison, a modern MTG set such as Phyrexia: All Will Be One, has 28. If that wasn’t bad enough, The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth, has 85!
While the number of legendary creatures in each set does fluctuate, there has undoubtedly been a change in philosophy. Wizards have said so themselves, after all. On one hand, this change has provided players with a litany of named, legendary, characters to build their decks around. On the other hand, however, this change has smothered formats such as Standard since the legendary supertype makes many of these creatures uncompetitive and effectively useless. So much so, that many MTG players have had enough
Stem the Tide
Unfortunately, while recent sets are arguably the worst offenders, this is not a new problem in MTG. In fact, players have been complaining about the prevalence of legendary creatures for years. Despite the constant complaining, however, it didn’t seem like Wizards was going to budge. After all, since Commander is so popular, why not prioritize creating cards for it?
Surprisingly, in spite of Commander’s unwavering popularity, it seems Wizards does understand the problems that players are experiencing. So much so, that they’re apparently trying to do something about it! That appears to be the case, at least, following a recent statement from MTG’s Lead Designer, Mark Rosewater.
Fielding a question from Tumblr user Girlsnout on Blogatog, Rosewater was asked “How likely or even possible is a set with very few (like, fewer than 10) legendary creatures?” Remarkably, judging by Rosewater’s response, it appears this possibility is a lot likelier than we might think. “We’ve been talking about lowering the average of legendary creatures in Magic IP sets,” Rosewater stated.
While this is a very intriguing reveal from Rosewater, unfortunately, there are a few caveats. Firstly, there’s no telling, if, or when, Wizards will actually lower the number of legendary creatures in a set. After all, Wizards may just be talking about it before deciding they don’t want to do it. Alongside this, Universes Beyond sets are apparently excluded from these talks.
Continuing in their answer, Rosewater stated that “Universes Beyond, due to its nature, will still want a lot of legendary creatures.” Unsurprisingly, this is because “the named characters of an IP are a big draw.” With this in mind, it’s no wonder that The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth has the most legendary creatures in a non-Commander set.
Defeated Is the Monster
As we mentioned before, MTG players have long been complaining about the prevalence of legendary creatures and Commander’s influence. Subsequently, it should come as no surprise that many players were pretty happy to hear this reveal from Rosewater.
“This is good news. I hate the artificial increase of legendaries just to force more commanders.”u/Azetsu
“This is a great move and clearly necessary. Last I counted we’ve had something like 15 Izzet spellslinger commanders over the past couple years. That type of pace was clearly unsustainable forever.”u/HeyApples
“Thank god. We don’t really need that many legendary creatures at this point, there’s plenty to use in commanders we can pull back on the obscene numbers they were putting out.”u/Kidror
Ultimately, thanks to all the comments across social media, it certainly seems players want less legendary creatures in MTG. While these players may soon get their wish, there is an upside to the myriad legendary creatures: flavor. Supplementing what gets shown off in each set’s story, legendary creatures help to dramatically expand the scope of a plane. This can ultimately make visits to planes more memorable and enjoyable for everyone.
At the end of the day, while Mark Rosewater’s latest statement does have a lot of promise, we’re yet to see it realized. Unfortunately, there’s a chance we won’t see that happen for a long time thanks to MTG’s development cycle. Should these talks only be happening now, it’s unlikely sets will see a major change for another two years at least. Hopefully, we won’t be left waiting until 2025, however, for that we’ll just have to wait and see.