Coram, the Undertaker
14, Jun, 24

Unplayable Commander Cards May Continue To Appear In Packs

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For better or worse, Modern Horizons 3 does quite a few things differently. The power level of the set, for example, is worlds apart from a Standard-legal premier set. On top of this, Modern Horizons 3 doesn’t include a version of The List for whatever reason. That being said, Play Boosters do have some surprises in store, however, as Commander cards can appear in these MTG packs.

As a unique twist, the Commanders from Modern Horizons 3 pre-cons have a slim chance of appearing in Play Boosters. In total, only the eight face and optional Commanders can appear in packs, but this is nonetheless a massive change. Thanks to their strength, these cards are more than capable of warping Limited games and they cause legality concerns too.

Despite these innate problems, it seems this latest innovation to MTG packs may be here to stay!

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Ulalek, Fused Atrocity

Following prerelease events kicking off last week, Modern Horizons 3 has been in players’ hands for some time now. During that time, the dedicated Commander cards have proven to be an interesting addition to the set’s Play Boosters. While they’re far from common, only appearing “4.2%” of the time they’re more than capable of dominating games.

Ultimately, there’s little doubt these cards are impactful, but it remains to be seen whether they’re a good thing. Trying to divine an answer to this question, MTG’s Lead Designer, Mark Rosewater, recently asked their community what they think. While the Blogatog audience is a microcosm of MTG’s player base, responses to this question could nonetheless shape the future. 

“How do others feel? Do you only want cards in the pack that are legal in Modern, or would you like access to all the new designs in the product suite inside the booster?” Mark Rosewater

Mark Rosewater

To initially prompt this discussion on Blogatog, Izzipurrito took to Tumblr with a complaint. Highlighting the experience of a Modern player, Izzipurrito called the experience of finding a Commander card in a pack “soul-crushing.” This feeling is amplified by the increased cost of Modern Horizons 3 packs, which increases the desire for getting your money’s worth.

Considering Modern Horizons 3 Play Boosters cost almost three times as much as Murders at Karlov Manor’s, this desire is completely understandable. As logical and widespread as the desire for value may be, however, many MTG players don’t agree. After all, powerful and exciting Commander cards are hardly the first unplayable cards to appear in packs.

Farcical Finances

Disa, the Restless

On the surface, it seems to make total sense that packs with Modern Horizons on the front shouldn’t contain cards unplayable in Modern. If we’re being realistic, however, only a handful of cards from the set are actually playable in the Modern format. The vast majority of commons and uncommon cards, for instance, are never going to see play in a tier-one Modern deck.

Beyond this, there’s no guarantee that any powerful rares you find will go into your desired deck. If you’re building Eldrazi Tron, for example, finding Ajani, Nacatl Pariah is just as useless as Disa, the Restless. For better or worse, useless MTG cards are absolutely everywhere if you’re cracking packs to acquire cards.

As much as cracking packs is fun, it’s a fool’s errand to try and build a deck this way. Not only can it be seriously expensive, but you’ll never get the Tron lands from a Modern Horizons 3 booster. Ultimately, whether via trading or purchasing cards, it’s practically mandatory to use MTG’s secondary market when building a competitive deck.

With this in mind, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that trading exists. If you get a card you don’t want to use, no matter the rarity, you can trade or sell it. To this end, finding Ulalek, Fused Atrocity in a Play Booster is just another card to sell.

Thankfully, the addition of the Commander cards won’t even replace a guaranteed mythic or rare card in a Play Booster. Since these cards can only be found in the Wildcard slot, they’ll always be an added extra, even if they’re not ultra-valuable. This should squash any notion that Commander cards should be kept out of Play Boosters for financial reasons.

Commander Cards For All

Omo, Queen of Vesuva

Ultimately, while there are theoretical issues to including Commander cards in packs, there are few real problems. One of the biggest feared problems, for example, is a complete nonissue to the majority of players.

In theory, the very nature of including Commander cards in a direct-to-Modern set seems like a recipe for guaranteed confusion. After all, surely everything in a Modern Horizons booster should be Modern legal, right? While its name may not help things, reprints that aren’t playable in a set’s main format are nothing new.

Between Bonus Sheets and The List, MTG players have long looked at the set symbol to determine legality. Thanks to this, Commander cards appearing in Draftable boosters is hardly an issue as they’re still legal in Limited. If anything, much like Bonus Sheets, it’s all upside that these cards can be found in packs.

Not only do Commander cards in Play Boosters increase their accessibility on paper, but it also makes them available on MTG Arena. While true multiplayer Commander may not exist yet, Brawl players getting more options is no bad thing. Considering the trend of MTG Arena players missing out on Commander content, this coming to an end would definitely be a positive.

What Will the Future Hold

Sadly, while it seems there are almost all positives to Commander cards showing up in the Wildcard slot, there’s no guarantee it will continue. Since Mark Rosewater only questioned their community, there’s no telling which way Wizards will go. Considering their inclusion within Play Boosters boosts accessibility at little cost, we certainly hope it continues and expands.

Ultimately, we’re just going to have to wait and see what the future brings when it arrives. With Bloomburrow releasing in the not-so-far future, hopefully, it won’t be long before we know if this is a trend or just a one-time thing.

Read More: MTG Players Request a Bunch of New Batches

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