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Just Commander

Just Commander

Is Magic Just Commander Now?

This article is from the perspective of an avid player who has no ties to the company Wizards of the Coast other than having been part of their content creator program and having participated in streamer early access events. The thoughts and opinions presented in this article are my own and purely speculation.

Looking at products that WoTC has put out in the past few years, it becomes very clear that they are targeting the Commander market with most of them. In years past, Commander preconstructed decks were an annual event that brought a handful of decks and a handful of new cards directly into the Commander format while leaving Standard and Modern untouched. These products sometimes had impacts on eternal formats such as Legacy in the form of cards like True-Name Nemesis (Commander 2013), but these were outliers. These Commander decks were primarily filled with cards that would only function well in a multiplayer/casual setting and they were great at introducing players, both new and enfranchised, to the idea of the Commander format.

Starting in 2020, with the release of Ikoria, Wizards stopped printing annual Commander precons and instead started printing Commander precons alongside Standard sets and they have continued to do so. Notably, Ikoria is also the set that introduced Companion – a mechanic that literally tried to turn every format all the way back to Vintage into Commander-lite, but that’s a topic for another article.

Now, whenever a new Standard set releases (once every 2-4 months) a new slew of Commander-specific decks and cards are released alongside it – clearly sending the message: Commander is a huge focus and that’s not going to change any time soon.

This isn’t necessarily a problem. A company should produce products that align with how people want to spend their money, and Commander is a very popular format. Creating Commander-specific precons and Commander-specific sets like Commander Legends 2: Battle for Baldur’s Gate make great sense from a dollars and cents perspective, but where does that leave the player base that isn’t infatuated with Commander and instead focused on other formats?

I find myself asking this question as spoiler season for Double Masters 2 is now underway. Baldur’s Gate has hardly hit shelves, with many consumers debating whether or not to go pick up a box, and Wizards of the Coast has announced that two of the most coveted Commander-centric reprints in history (that were NOT in Baldur’s Gate) will be included in Double Master 2: Imperial Seal and Dockside Extortionist.

I find this decision incredibly curious on a number of levels. For one, the Commander product would have been a much smarter place to put these reprints if the health and integrity of the format was Wizards’ goal.

Masters sets are one of the only instance where beloved eternal staples can see reprints without any planar baggage because the sets aren’t tied to any specific plane. Need a Yorion or Ragavan for your Modern deck, but we aren’t going to Ikoria or Ixalan again anytime soon? No problem, in theory, but at the time of this writing we haven’t seen either of these cards included. While Yorion isn’t particularly valuable from a finance perspective, and may not be the best example, Ragavan has been sitting at a cool $70+ on the secondary market for months since its release last year and even a ban in Legacy hasn’t decreased its value significantly.

As of this writing, we haven’t seen all of the cards from Double Masters 2, and I am hopeful that some of the Modern Horizons 2 staples like Ragavan that are incredibly expensive will be included in it. The fact that Wizards started their spoiler season with Dockside, though, sends a very clear message that they believe Commander is the format that will sell product. Any product. They don’t seem to have even realized that by releasing the Dockside and Imperial Seal announcement, TONS of consumers who were excited for Baldur’s Gate will no doubt pass on it in favor of the reprints they need for their existing Commander decks that Double Masters will provide.

While I enjoy a game of Commander, the fact that it seems to have infiltrated nearly every Magic product that’s been released in recent years concerns me. By focusing so heavily on a casual format, I fear that Wizards runs the risk of alienating enfranchised competitive players.

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