After taking the intervening week for the Return to Ravnica set review let's get back to the Reader Mailbag. Might as well dive right in.
From Cambrian: "Are there cards on the current ban list that like you did with Kokusho you're testing to see if they are safe in the modern Commander philosophy? Also are there cards currently not banned being investigated for format warping? (Tooth and Nail and Consecrated Sphinx come to mind as the most talked about cards)."
Remember that while I was involved with the Kokusho test it was independent of the RC as a group. I got the gang's consent but it wasn't something that the RC drove or otherwise participated in. Kokusho was a unique case and I don't see too many similar circumstances down the road. We don't really need to test cards that are currently getting played—we can see what they do. We just need to keep our eyes peeled to what they're doing to the format around the globe.
While we'll constantly review the banned list it's hard to see too many circumstances where other banned cards might come off again pointing to the uniqueness of the KK scenario. While our goal is to keep the banned list as small as possible the only real possibility for the future is that it will get larger. The number of cards printed is only going up and it's highly unlikely that any of them will invalidate the reasons for which a card is already on the list.
CrazyPierre who actually seems pretty lucid asked "I get the impression from your articles that your group is really easygoing/slower paced to the point that some of the rules encourage slow play (Sol Ring penalty turn 1 for example). Do you consider the Armada Games approach to be a standard or does it just work for you?"
If you mean standard as in "baseline" no but if you mean "a pretty good ideal to shoot for" then yes. It works great for us and I think it's a good example of how you can use a points system to shape the style of game your group—even one as large as the Armada League which boasts about 70 unique players—prefers. We shoot for League games to last between one and two hours. That gives every player a chance to actually get into the game.
Jivanmukta among others wanted to know "Has there been any testing on Un-cards? How much work would be required to allow most of them into the format? EDH sticking to the "Vintage ban list" as a basis has always seemed incorrect as we are the "casual player" format yet can't use the casual MTG sets."
This conversation comes up every now and again. There are Un-cards that would be tremendous fun to have around and there are others that would make things awful. To pick and choose from them would be more work and create more confusion than it would provide benefit. I do know there are lots of local groups which allow them so I suggest talking to your friends. For the global format it's not happening.
ImpulsiveKnowledge came up with a trio about the Commander product. "Of the fifteen generals that came in the Commander packs given a year's time which ones do you think are:
The most powerful/broken?
They're all pretty good. Riku seems like the one who has the most insane potential to be broken. Things that copy stuff always seem the most dangerous to me because they kind of violate the normal cards as resource rule.
The most balanced?
Karador is nicely balanced. With a little work it can be really strong but it is also easily upset. Seems like balance defined. And curses to Rest in Peace!!!
The least powerful/could of been made better?"
The best piece of art in the set one of the most beautiful works of art in all of Magic is Basandra. I'd love for her to be more playable. I think that in her colors you want to be casting spells in combat. With her second ability Ruhan would love to play her.
Springs hit me with a question I know many folks are thinking of: "Will the RC ever make a competitive ban list or any other official ban lists?"
No. While we recognize that there are competitive players and appreciate that the French list exists it's not something that we have an interest in pursuing as we talk about pretty clearly in the format philosophy document. We have a vision for the format that we're going to stay true to.
Tempesteye inquired "What kind of wine would do you pair with your decks? I know that my preference for my MBC Deck is usually a midrange Pinot Noir and for U/B based decks like Edric it's a crisp Sauvignon Blanc. For example what do you think would go well with your Kresh?"
See I think a midrange Pinot gets dominated by a MBC deck. I'd go for the huge tannic structure of California Cab. I'd say that Gewurztraminer (or maybe sweeter Riesling) is the obvious go-to choice for something as spicy as Kresh but I like the outside the box thinking of a racy Australian Shiraz.
Zimagic had two questions.
"1) What does your wife/family think about this geek game you are the face of?
My wife is the most remarkably supportive person in everything I do. She wants me to both succeed at and enjoy life and I can't imagine anyone else being the combination of perfectly encouraging and indulgent of my hobbies. She does roll her eyes at me occasionally when the idea of having 'fans' comes up. The rest of my family is quite amazed and intrigued by it all. My mother now in her 70s thought it was the best thing ever when I sent her one of the Sheldon Menery bobbleheads that Toby had made for me.
2) If Maro & friends offered you the chance to submit a legendary creature to be printed in a future product what would you submit?"
Here's the thing about that and why you might notice that I've never in a column designed cards. If I do and then get added to a design team for a future product none of those ideas could ever be used since they would have been initiated outside the scope of "official" design something that they're very careful about for legal reasons. I still want to keep that door open.
Woohah challenged "In terms of both your Commander playing and your judge status create your ultimate yet fair legendary commander creature."
The above being said if I were to design a "me as judge" card it would have an ability like "if a card breaks a game rule exile it."
BetweenWalls had this: "Has the RC looked into other approaches for banning cards? The current method as detailed in the recent philosophy document recognizes the issue of consistency yet seems to ignore it in favor of maintaining the briefest list possible.
Casual play by definition doesn't require a ban list because such a list would only be necessarily enforced when playgroups are unable to agree upon a social contract. What does the RC think of a banning approach that balances play for these groups?"
We're quite happy with our approach which is why we wrote about it in some detail in the philosophy document. The reason there's an official banned list is to foster the ideals of the format and provide an easy-to-follow list for everyone when they get outside of their local groups. The list provides both a framework for those broader-scope games and helps local groups understand what we're trying to accomplish.
"Balance" is an idea that many people talk about but I'm not sure it's well defined. It's one of those things that is different to different people—and as we've mentioned repeatedly it's not all that important to us. Whereas in a competitive environment a balance of styles and strategies is desirable to keep the format competitively healthy our only nod in the social format (again social not casual) to this idea of balance is to avoid overrepresentation of a single strategy. We don't care if aggro-ramp control and combo for example are equally represented; we care if one of them is overwhelmingly dominant from the perspective of number of decks played.
CMDRDecks wanted to know "A few years ago you bandied about the idea of a Commander Invitational where people influential to the format would be invited to play. Is that something that you would still like to do one day?"
Without a doubt. I think it'd be fun to gather folks at an event (maybe Gen Con) and do a big media show or maybe get seven other folks poolside here at my place and have a crew film/stream/blog it or whatever.
Pookel was positively full of questions. "1) Do you still always call it EDH or have you started calling it Commander in deference to the official name?
I still go back and forth. I most often refer to it as Commander in print and EDH conversationally since it's easier to say.
How do you think the Commander precons have changed the game?
For the better. They've opened the format to some folks who might not have otherwise gotten into for various reasons. Deckbuilding can sometimes be daunting from both time and effort standpoints and I think the precons have provided that little push that people might have needed to get started.
Do you approve of the recent trend of printing more powerful legendary creatures designed with an eye to Commander? Do you sometimes miss the days of weird janky low-powered legends?
Power creep is something that R&D always needs to keep an eye on but I think especially in M13 and Return to Ravnica they've done a pretty good job of lateral improvement—in making things more interesting without necessarily giving in to the arms race. Sure there are cards like Jarad Golgari Lich Lord which push the envelope a little but I'm certainly happier about creatures today than ten years ago.
In your experience meeting Commander players at events and online what proportion of players are women? Do you think Commander has more female players than competitive 1v1 Magic or fewer or does it not matter? Do you think the social less competitive atmosphere is more appealing to female players?"
I don't think things can be so easily broken down along gender lines and personally stay away from sweeping generalizations. Whether it's Democrat/Republican or male/female people are not so neatly put into boxes. I think that differences are reasons to celebrate people not divide them. What makes the format attractive to an individual has nothing to do with gender race sexual orientation or any other category. What makes the format attractive to people is that it's awesome.
ISBPathfinder one of the excellent mods over on MTGS asked "Pauper Commander has sort of popped up a bit more recently. Currently it is being hurt by not having a streamlined set of rules established for it. What are the chances that the RC might be interested in setting up some base rules for a Pauper Commander format?"
We haven't really considered it. I'm not sure there's a 'format' to manage there so much as a variant. Seems like defining what "Pauper" means is the major hurdle. We've pretty much decided to let the folks who are real fans of the variants manage them. They care about them more than we ever could and I'd much rather see the folks who are really passionate about a thing take care of it than someone who is merely casually interested.
IGottaBigDeck had three questions:
"How plausible would a terroristic threat have to be before it influences your decision to ban a card?
We don't negotiate with terrorists.
Has there ever been a consideration to change the number of cards allowed in a Commander deck? For example keeping 100 cards as a required minimum but allowing more if someone wanted?
The RC as a group has never talked about it at all. 100 is the number of the counting. I don't even ever recall talking about it other than answering the question (this not being the first time). I think the 100-card deck is a defining characteristic of the format so I don't see it changing.
If existing 'staple' cards were to eventually be priced beyond what is now seen as a 'barrier to entry' (such as the Moxen) would they be banned (e.g. original dual lands)?"
I suppose that we might think about it but I have a tough time imagining the scenario where it would happen. It seems like an extreme case and extremely unlikely given the fact that card print runs are these days more than sufficient to meet demand.
ZeroMH: "What are your opinions on the French ban list its rule set and the fact it has cards that aren't banned on the regular casual list?"
I think that the folks that manage that list have a more difficult job than we do and are doing a pretty good job of doing it. They don't have the same type of guiding philosophy which for us is really top-down. They need to focus more on the end result of balanced tournaments meaning that just moving a few pieces could topple the whole structure.
ChimericPisces wondered "How would you rank various elements of the format in order of importance e.g. flavor social aspect competition etc.?"
As we've discussed in the philosophy document competition is a non-factor to us as a group and me personally. The social aspect of the format is absolutely the most important. I want to see games where everyone is enjoying themselves. I hate seeing a game where one person is doing a bunch of stuff and the other players are either bored or sitting with their faces buried in their hands.
Flavor is an important enough component to have impact on the rules. Flavor is the reason that off-color hybrids aren't allowed and that enchantments can't be commanders. Flavor means a great deal which is why you see a strong thematic trend to many of the decks I build. It's not always about objective strategic power; it's about painting a picture.
Cryogen returned with two more questions. "Has there been any more discussion of raising infect damage?
Not at all. When some of the infect cards came out we briefly discussed it and decided to wait and see how things shaped up. It mostly seemed to us that changing the rule wouldn't have much effect at all and that's a pretty good argument for not changing it. At ten poison Infect seems like it's still a viable strategy and we think that fifteen is not much different whereas 20 would be too much. Making a rules change is a really big deal and we felt as though the infect difference wasn't significant enough to warrant any change.
What ban/unban decision ignited the most heated debate among the RC? That is which card did you guys have the most trouble coming to an agreement upon?"
I don't ever recall a real knockdown drag-out battle over a card. I seem to remember Protean Hulk being a little divisive at first but it didn't take long for everyone to come around. We've been really good about hearing out each other's arguments and giving them proper consideration. The major contributing factor here is probably that we all know that none of us wants to ban an individual card simply because we hate it (despite many accusations to the contrary). We only ban cards because we think they're bad for the format. There are no "pet cards" on the banned list and (despite what people have sometimes suggested) none of them are there because one of us didn't like losing to them.
Thanks again to everyone for the great questions. We'll probably revisit Reader Mailbag every now and again in the future. I'm off to cover both Grand Prix San Jose and then Pro Tour Return to Ravnica in Seattle so tune in first to GGsLive on Saturday October 13th and then the mothership on Friday October 19th for all the amazing action!