Unite the Coalition
18, Mar, 23

MTG Players Debate the Philosophy of Commander

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Article at a Glance


On the 16th of March Sheldon Menery, a founding member of the Commander Rules Committee, published his annual article on the state of the format. This piece triggered a discussion among the MTG player base about just what Commander should be and whether the format is currently in a healthy place. Many players hold widely different views on what Commander “should be”, given that it’s the game’s most popular format. It’s the job of the Commander Rules Committee to ensure that the needs of all of these different types of players are met and that Commander remains open and enjoyable for everyone.

The State of Commander 2023

Travelling Philosopher

In his State Of The Format 2023 article, Menery articulated his views on the ongoing development of the format and outlined the priorities of the Rules Committee going forward. One of the most notable parts of the article was Menery’s announcement that a new document outlining the philosophy of the format is currently being written. At the moment, a page outlining the philosophy of Commander can be found on the Rules Committee website. This page provides a definition of Commander’s philosophy that comes in at just under 600 words. The goal of the new philosophy document, currently under construction, is to offer a more thorough description of the ideology of the Commander format, as envisioned by Menery and his colleagues.

Although the new philosophy document is not currently ready for the public to view, Menery outlines its three foundational principles in his piece. He writes that the Rules Committee aims to keep Commander social, creative, and stable. He then defines each of these keywords, with a description and some bullet points.


  • Encourage positive, communal experiences where people can bond over the shared experience of gaming
  • Help players communicate their preferences and arrive at a set of shared expectations


  • Encourage positive, communal experiences where people can bond over the shared experience of gaming
  • Help players communicate their preferences and arrive at a set of shared expectations


  • Minimize disruptions except when absolutely necessary
  • Minimize changes that require players to actively maintain their decks

As well as outlining these three philosophical pillars, Menery also described the motivation behind making these changes. He summarized these with another set of three keywords which he stated guide the Rules Committee in their decision-making. Continuity, Communication, Focus, and Accountability. He defines these in his piece…

Continuity: “Planning for the future of the format involves discussing and documenting the things we agree on and disagree on as a leadership team. We’re not fond of morbid hypothetical scenarios like “What if everyone in leadership got hit by a meteor”. It’s extremely important to us, though, that the next generation of leaders understand fully where we came from so that they can make the best decisions about where we should go next. Our goal is to do this proactively rather than scrambling to do it reactively.”

Communication: “We know that a lot of well-intentioned players occasionally feel like a leaf in the wind, because it can be relatively difficult to research and understand the rationale behind format management decisions. Through these changes, we’re intending to create both a centralized resource for researching the format, as well as a roadmap to communicating and discussing format changes when they happen. This also extends to our interactions with Wizards of the Coast. By communicating in a way that centers the things we care about most, we’re able to provide better feedback to them when they ask.”

Focus and Accountability: “There are external benefits to communication, but being able to properly articulate a problem and the strategies for attacking it are also important for us internally. This structure will allow us to set and prioritize goals and assess our own performance.”

The majority of the article was dedicated to outlining these principles. Though there were also some appeals for funds and support from the MTG community.

The Discussion

Commander's Insight

Shortly after the publication of the article, it was shared on Reddit. The community had a diverse mix of reactions, reflecting the diverse views of the Commander player base.

Some players received the article negatively. The highest-rated comment on the primary Reddit thread linking the article disapproved of it.

Expensive-Document 41 wrote: “I guess personally I don’t feel that the RC in its current iteration is responsive, transparent or nimble enough to respond to the health of the format as WOTC forces new power crept stuff into it with every new set.”

SAjoats explained that they did not feel the article addressed the concerns of all EDH players: “There are 2 groups of people in EDH.

People that want everything unbanned.

And people that want bans to form a curated experience.

What is the rules committee doing to satisfy these 2 groups?”

Users on the EDH Subreddit, broadly, gave the article a more positive reception.

In response to a comment made by Jim LaPage, a member of the Rules Committee, the Reddit user Wazeltov wrote: “Just wanted to say thanks. Being on the RC seems like a thankless job; Redditors simultaneously hate the status quo and any changes whatsoever.

I personally have really enjoyed reading through rulings justifications here and on the RC website forum for years now.

Keep on keeping on!”

MdaveCS wrote: “I’m gonna join the minority voice. I liked this. It was sheldony- long winded and a little self satisfied. But seeing past that it said: we will have a clear rubric for stuff (good), and we put a signpost in the ground saying social interaction, inclusiveness, and creativity are the point of value from which all their decisions will be made.”


The question of just what Commander should be cannot be easily solved. Different players enjoy different gameplay experiences. Some players enjoy competitive games that wrap up in a handful of turns, featuring cards like Jewelled Lotus and Thassa’s Oracle. Other players enjoy long-lasting battlecruiser games where they have the opportunity to cast their Impervious Greatwurms and Apex Devastators. Commander needs to be able to accommodate both of these different kinds of gameplay and everything in between.

It is worth noting that these new principles are not set in stone. Several calls were made throughout the article, inviting players to share their feedback on the Commander Rules Commitee Discord server.

Read more: MTG New Nostalgic Commander Sub-Format Gains Popularity

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