As the title probably gives away, we are going to talk about EDH / Commander for a bit. You should expect that here at the Cardboard Republic. When it comes to Magic: the Gathering, our focus is on formats and styles that, generally, favor the casual player. We shall discuss things like multiplayer casual, or, in the case here, alternative formats such as Commander. Sure, we’ll touch upon Limited at times, but there are plenty of sites where Standard / Modern reign. We’re more than happy to recommend to you a few of them. But if you’re looking for a place to discuss kitchen table magic – when 5 or more players is the norm and nobody plays 60 card decks – we’ll be your kind of place. Welcome to what I intend to be a recurring series here on Monday Magic: bringing attention to fantastic cards for the Commander format.
If you are unfamiliar with the format, I highly suggest taking a look over at MTGCommander.net to gain an understanding of the basics. The gist is simple though: a casual multiplayer format wherein everyone plays a 100 card deck with no more than one of any named card (besides basic land) and one legendary creature of the deck to be the deck’s avatar – their Commander. The central concept is that if you like playing casually, this adds structure to the normal chaos, and if you play competitively, it’s a format that allows you to be able to step away from the normal 1v1 duels.
Or so the stories go…
Commander has exploded in popularity in recent years, going so far as to become a favorite of many of Magic’s own R&D teams. It was furthered by the release of actual Wizards-crafted Commander decks replete with cards not found in any other set. In and of itself this was fantastic, because it allowed players who didn’t necessarily have all the resources available to build an actual Commander deck, and it showed that Wizards was acknowledging that formats outside of Constructed play were, in fact, popular.
That said, there is talk in several circles that Commander is becoming a victim of its own success, specifically in two areas. We here happen to agree. For starters, some of the more competitive players amongst us look to end these games as quickly as possible, which goes against the entire ethos of what Commander is supposed to be. Now, that can usually be dealt with between a combination of player politics and a healthy banned list. The latter, and more derisive issue, is the rise of so-called “Commander Staples”: cards which have been determined by some to be so essential to deck construction that you’re considered foolish to even play a deck without them.
Playing a deck with Blue? Gotta have a Bribery.
Playing with White? Swords to Plowshares.
Have Green? Primeval Titan (well, until he was recently banned.)
Any Deck At All? It better have a Sol Ring or else. (We’ll have an article on this guy specifically at a later time.)
In short, there is an attempt at pseudo-sanctioning, either officially and unofficially, what is supposed to be a fun, easy-going format. It may be good to remind folks on the central tenants of what the format creators wish it to be. Sheldon’s post does a fantastic job of laying it out, but I want to focus on an overlooked aspect of it:
Because it’s a non-competitive format, we don’t want players to feel as though they need to spend a great deal of money to be able to play. It is not sufficient for a card to simply be expensive – expected ubiquity and the availability of suitable replacements are also considered. This rule is mostly invoked for cards fifteen or more years out of print and is unlikely to impact the list further.
Then Wizards goes and releases Commander’s Arsenal.
It’s only been out a few weeks, but with incredibly short supply and issues of price gouging from the get-go, I doubt you’ve seen a box of Commander’s Arsenal in person, let alone been able to purchase one. The PR-failure to describe the product as less of a release to allow more players access to certain cards (sort of what they’re going to attempt with Modern Masters next summer) than it as a premium product for a small percentage of the player base has become well-founded at this point. You can read that as Commander’s Arsenal: for collectors and competitive players who can afford it.
So, naturally there’s growing frustration over accessibility to some of these so-called staple cards.
I do not intend to feed into that here. Some of the cards in the Arsenal are great cards, and staple cards are called staples because they’re generally really effective. I happen to be a huge fan of Rhystic Study and Duplicant -you’ll probably see a Spotlight on them here in the future! But my argument is that you can build a perfectly efficient, serviceable Commander Deck without Mind’s Eye or Oblivion Ring. Or a $250 1/1 just because I can. They’re good cards, yes, but Commander above all else should be fun, casual, and affordable for the vast majority of the player base.
Thus, we end back here where we started, wishing to attempt to provide feedback on great Commander cards that are not incredibly scarce or expensive, and many of which are often overlooked.
Today we have: Krosan Grip
Name: Krosan Grip
Edition: Time Spiral
Focus: Enchantment / Artifact Removal
Highlights: Krosan Grip is an effective combo-destroying card. It is a cheap means of removing artifacts and enchantments that could be potentially devastating by itself, but it allows for targeted destruction rather an falling back on board wiping for removal. The Split Second component allows for a well-timed response to a player’s wind-up into a potent combo move while simultaneously being near-immune to counters. More, it shuts down the player being able to activate their permanent in response. For Green utility, this is a phenomenal one to keep in your back pocket until called for.
I use this one myself, and can attest that it has saved my life on several occasions.
Keep an eye out for us to be regularly featuring other more accessible-but-worth-it Commander cards going forward. In the meantime, we’ll keep the light on for you.
Do you have a particular Commander card to suggest for us to shine a future Spotlight on? You can send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org