This Product Isn’t For You
Release of Commander Legends 2: Battle for Baldur’s Gate
With the release of Commander Legends 2: Battle for Baldur’s Gate imminent, I find myself looking through spoilers and trying to get excited to absolutely no avail. I love Commander – the format captures the kitchen-table feeling of doing big crazy things with your cards while engaging with your friends in a fun, interactive way. Frankly, I don’t believe any other format in Magic captures this as well as Commander and it absolutely deserves the adoption rate and success it is seeing.
So why do I not give a fig about the newest Commander product? Well, there is a primary factor and it’s not because I didn’t play the Baldur’s Gate games (though that doesn’t help). Made-for-Commander products fly in the face of what I like about Commander and take away from my enjoyment of the format. I don’t believe I’m alone in this either. When a card like Arcane Signet is basically required if you want your deck to keep up in the early game, that’s one fewer slot I have in my deck to work with.
While I enjoy getting new cards, I want to feel a sense of accomplishment when I put together a deck with the cards I already own; or with draft chaff from past Standard sets that synergize with my Commander’s mechanics. With cards designed with certain commanders in mind, their synergies and power level will inevitably be higher than the mismatched puzzle pieces I’m trying to stick together which will result in my decks being less powerful and less successful at my commander pods.
And when I say “successful” I don’t necessarily mean winning the game. The truth is, we all want our deck to perform and do the thing we designed it to do. Getting mana screwed or having an opponent combo off before we set up our engine doesn’t feel good – we’ve all been there. The best games I’ve ever played in were won by other people, but each player had an opportunity for their deck to pop off and laughs were shared around the table. With decks becoming faster and more powerful with made-for-commander cards like Dockside Extortionist, Jeweled Lotus, and even niche cards like Go-Shintai of Life’s Origin, a deck that expresses my love of the game and its history just doesn’t keep up.
So you may think I’m about to call for the abolition of Commander-based products in favor of bringing back some kind of idealistic view of magic “as Richard Garfield intended,” but you’d be wrong. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you wanting to build your Baeloth Berrityl, Entertainer // Raised by Giants deck when Baldur’s Gate drops. Just know that I probably won’t be joining you because my Teneb, the Harverster deck will probably get smoked and neither of us will have any fun.
To bring it back to the headline, this product just isn’t for me and I think that’s because the format that mainstream Commander is becoming may not be for me either. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I don’t want to gatekeep anyone from enjoying a format they’re getting into. Just know that if you’re like me and you find the Commander-specific power creep tiresome, you are not alone.
But it’s not all doom and gloom because Magic is a diverse game with all kinds of ways to interact with it. I do still play Commander with friends and fellow content creators and I’ll continue to do so, but I’ve accepted that I’ll lose a disproportionate amount of the time, and that’s okay. I also play a ton of Arena and I find building decks in formats like Standard and Explorer give me the creative limitations I’m looking for to get me excited about the game. Even in sets designed for Standard, though, you can see Commander’s influence but that’s another topic for another article.
The point I’m trying to get to is this. As a Magic: the Gathering player, it’s important to find the parts of the game that get you excited and focus on those. If a product comes out that does not engage that part of the game, don’t feel pressured to buy into it or even pick up singles after the fact. You don’t owe the game or Wizards anything, and don’t forget it’s a game. First and foremost, preserve your happiness and enjoyment.
Thanks for reading. Please check back for more weekly articles and you can find me on YouTube and Twitch as well under the name HamHocks42.
Until next time, don’t forget to have fun.