Huge card pool is warping MTG Commander, says rules committee

MTG Commander players can't keep track of the thousands of new cards released each year, and it's drastically changing the format.

MTG precon commander from Blood Rites

MTG Commander players are unable to keep up with the speed of card releases, and this has changed the way fans approach the game, the official EDH Rules Committee has acknowledged. In a State of the Format update posted on January 27, judge and RC member Jim Lapagne writes that the deluge of new cards “has led to a pretty drastic change in player behavior.”

With 2,000 new Magic cards arriving in 2023, and even more the previous year, the RC deems it now “nearly impossible” to “maintain an encyclopedic knowledge of every new card”, or to keep track of common strategies for the several hundreds of MTG Commanders released each year.

MTG art of merfolk commander

While the speed of the MTG release schedule is often criticised by entrenched Magic fans, the committee has a more sanguine outlook. According to the RC, the enlarged card pool has caused three changes to the EDH format: some good, some bad:

  1. The format has a steeper learning curve and higher cognitive load.
  2. The format is more diverse than it ever has been.
  3. Even more gameplay is improvised on the spot rather than practiced for.

The RC suggests that the problem of a steep learning curve may be partially counteracted by the plethora of better quality preconstructed decks Wizards now produces, which “allow anyone to sit down, enjoy a game and begin to grasp and learn all the concepts of magic gameplay”.

And the fact that you’re more likely to come across cards you’ve never seen before or mechanics you need to read to understand is deemed helpful in some ways, for instance in “giving the format a more improvisational feel” which it used to have in its earliest days.

However, the RC also acknowledges that the more ubiquitous cards that show up in almost every deck seem to be those specifically designed with the Commander format in mind. Lapagne writes: “This does carry a benefit in that newer cards tend to be more available and more readily reprinted, but it does run the risk of eroding Commander’s charm and personality”.

MTG Arena Commander card - a giant axalotl monster

Furthermore, with precon decks able to more effectively compete on the battlefield, the RC says there is a risk that fewer players will realize the format’s potential for self-expression or learn how to build an MTG Commander deck. “People might skip over the experience of digging through bulk boxes for niche cards to upgrade or customize their decks”.

Anecdotally, I know I personally haven’t managed to put together a new Commander deck recently, and buying a few strong precons has satisfied my desire for variety. But I’d also say that I have a particularly poor attention span, and an Age of Sigmar army to paint.

To help preserve the Commander format’s unique charm. Lapagne encourages invested players to “dig deep” to find odd and unusual cards to play.

Alongside this update, the RC has published explanations for every card on the MTG Commander banlist, which may help players better understand their decisions.

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