Response to the last Reader Mailbag was awesome, so I figured I'd run it back. Once again, I got way more good questions than I could fit in a single article, so I've broken it up into two. I polled the official forums, MTGSalvation, Facebook, and local friends for questions, and like the last time, they came from all across the spectrum.
The music playing while I answered these questions was from my "Life's Pain" playlist. (Not that I think answering questions is painful; I rather enjoy it. I was just jonesing for a few of the songs.)
U2, "Where the Streets Have No Name"
Queen, "Death on Two Legs"
Dream Theater, "Take Away My Pain"
Temple of the Dog, "Hunger Strike"
Alanis Morisette, "Mary Jane"
Megadeth, "A Tout Le Monde"
Iron Maiden, "Hallowed Be Thy Name"
Audioslave, "Show Me How to Live"
Pink, "Just Like a Pill"
Aerosmith, "You See Me Crying"
Alice Cooper, "I Never Cry"
Nilsson, "Without You"
Kansas, "Can't Cry Any More"
Evanescence, "My Immortal (Full Band Version)"
10,000 Maniacs "Verdi Cries"
Let's get to the Q&A.
At what point did you decide to add another Rules Committee member? Were there many candidates, or did you all settle on Devon pretty much straight away (excellent choice by the way)?
And from Cryogen:
When you guys (the RC) discussed adding another member, was O-dice's name tossed around from the beginning and the interview just a formality to seal the deal, or were there a few people you were considering? As a follow-up, if another spot were to become available, are your minds pretty much made up with who you want? Would you ever hold open auditions of a sort?
It wasn't a case of "we need another member"; it was a case of "Devon probably needs to be on the RC." That's probably how we'll continue to do it in the future as well. When someone comes along who demonstrates that the RC is better with them than without them, we'll offer them a spot.
Have you guys ever tossed around the idea of a subcommittee whose voice holds weight with the RC but doesn't actually have voting privileges? (Maybe poorly worded, but I picture something like a private forum where you could discuss issues among select people without having to wade through the chaff of "ZOMG teh RC r stoopid!" posts.) Or is this like a watch list where the net benefit is outweighed by the hassle?
The latter, I think. There's not so much work that we'd need the additional help.
What is the RC's opinion on cards like Trade Secrets which appear to be perfect for the format but in reality can be unintentionally used to instantly end the game in ways Consecrated Sphinx can only dream?
We can't really stop players from colluding in games either before or during (I don't mean 'teaming up to deal with a threat'—I mean the bad kind of collusion). In that, you're going to have to choose who you play with. We haven't seen the card be a broad problem, so it falls into the "we don't particularly like it, but it's not worth worrying about at the moment" category. Trade Secrets always seems pretty sketchy to me when it's cast, and no one should ever trust the player casting it. Ever. I'd spell that "evar" if I thought it would make you more likely to listen.
1) This might be something you have discussed before, so I apologize if I am making you repeat, but what is the RC's opinion on Sol Ring? As I look around these forums, I struggle to find a deck that doesn't or shouldn't include Sol Ring. Seeing that this is a format that promotes diverse and unique deckbuilding, why should the one card that is in (practically) every deck be allowed? Do you think the format would be more diverse without it?
The format is already pretty diverse, but I don't think that the removal of Sol Ring would appreciably change that diversity. It sometimes helps folks get off to quicker starts (remember, it's still only one of 99), but not to the tune of too much mana too quickly. I know lots of decklists have it in them, but I also know a fair number of local players (Armada owner Aaron Fortino being one of them) who just don't think it's worth the slot, considering it a dead draw in the mid or late game.
2) Does WotC have any say in your bans or veto power over them? Do you have to get a thumbs up from them before announcing changes?
Nope. We are independent, but I always remind people that most of the RC is pretty well connected to WotC via the highest levels of the Judge Program and such.
3) Clearly, more and more support has been coming from Wizards for Commander through splashy cards, powerful legends, and Commander specific product. Do you think there is such a thing as too much support? Might there be a point when Wizards prints too many cards specifically for Commander that it loses its identity as a format where diverse and unique decks can shine?
Too much? No. Maybe every now and again they don't get it perfect, but I'm saying that with this huge caveat: one of the things in card design (and game design in general) is pushing the envelope. When you do that, sometimes the envelope breaks. When it does, you deal with the result, but you don't tell them to pull back on the throttle. Every now and again, Griselbrand or Worldfire comes along, but the same mentality that created them created a whole host of interesting and unbroken stuff, so it's worth the risk. We also have to consider that cards which are just fine in Standard might for some reason—again, Worldfire is a good example—not interact well with the format.
1. In your experience do you believe judges play Commander differently in style or attitude to those who play it perhaps more competitively or even casually? Why?
Kind of. There are high-level competitive players (as well as some judges and some regular players) who can't wrap their brains around the idea of "build casually, play competitively." Sam Black for one has been trying to "get" the format for a while now, and all he can brew up is broken stuff. It's always interesting and off the beaten path, but nonetheless broken. People that stay with the format tend to stay once they come around to the idea that you can't have fun with turn 3 wins.
2. Red is often maligned as the worst Commander color. I disagree with this, but what do you believe it would take to make red competitive as more than just a support color?
I agree with you. I don't think red actually needs any help.
3. Which official reserved list general, if any, do you regret being blocked off the most from potential Commander products and distribution? Why?
Hazezon Tamar embraces the chaos of the format pretty well. That's the one I'd love to see reprinted. Also Livonya Silone. She has legendary landwalk!
What ruins an EDH game for you the most?
Bad attitude, which mostly comes in the form of "I don't care if anyone else has fun." Someone being a rules lawyer also irritates me a good deal.
Is a pound of bacon an acceptable meal at any point in the day? (Yes.)
Sure! Not every day, but I would find that acceptable, especially since my favorite sandwich is bacon and cream cheese.
1) Have you guys given any thought to unbanning Griselbrand in the 99 since his banning?
Not a single one.
2) Are there any commanders you think are currently underrated?
Not that I've seen. Our player base is pretty good at figuring out things. I don't recall seeing anyone do anything awesome yet with Isperia, Supreme Judge, but I'd like to.
3) Your personal favorite commander(s) at the moment?
Having eighteen decks means I just don't get to play all of them that often. I still find myself frequently gravitating toward Karador. Ruhan is the deck I now always take with me on the road because something uproarious always happens. Now that I've made some significant tweaks, I'm having a great deal of fun with Geist of Saint Traft as well.
4) I always imagine you looking like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, is that anywhere near correct?
Hate to dash that. He's tall and thin. I'm…stockier.
5) What is your personal stance on the use of World Championship/Collector's Edition/International Edition cards in EDH?
Officially they're not allowed, and we won't make them legal. If your group is fine with it, it's fine with us. Note that this means getting a consensus BEFORE you try to play them. "Let your local group decide" isn't a license to try to beat them over the head and make them let you play them.
Why do you tolerate one-card game-ending combos? For example, Hermit Druid, Tooth and Nail Tutoring Kiki-Jiki or Mikaeus the Unhallowed combos. Or one-card combos with a general, such as Vendilion Clique + Tunnel Vision or Arcanis + Mind Over Matter? This irritates me because Worldfire at nine mana is considered ban worthy while combos equally as toxic or more so are allowed. Painters Servant too—it's a two-card combo in every case.
I'm not sure we agree on the definition of one-card game-ending combos, especially since in every example you list more than one card. To answer the broader question, there is no way to ban everything that someone might dislike. There's certainly no reasonable way to ban specific combos. We've said before that we don't want a 100+ card banned list because we think it'll kill the format.
When you sit down at a table for EDH, which generals would you most like to see across from you?
I like generals that you have to respect but not worry that they're going to combo off right away. I also like to see outside-the-box generals like Asmira, Holy Avenger or Gwendlyn Di Corci. I'll tell you I dislike seeing Sharuum, Niv-Mizzet, Azami, and Azusa because despite what their pilots may say, they're rarely fair. Otherwise, I'm generally fine with whatever sits down, assuming the Zedruu player isn't playing cheesy stuff like Illusions of Grandeur.
1) Do you have a Magic Online account you use frequently?
2) If so, do you play Commander online?
I do. It's coverage_sheldon_M. I don't get on to play as much as I like, but I'm currently porting all my paper lists to MODO and plan to in the near future.
3) Is there any chance we might see you on twitch/own3d in the future?
Potentially. Let me first get running regularly online and then we'll see if I want to do any streaming or if anyone would actually watch.
4) What Commander-specific sites do you visit regularly aside from the official forums?
MTGSalvation is the other one that I go to regularly and where many of these questions came from. I suppose I also count StarCityGames.com as Commander site and visit it daily. :)
What do you think pound for pound is the best equipment in the format? Why?
Skullclamp is what first came to mind, and I couldn't think of anything better. One mana to cast and to equip for all that card draw. It's the worker ant of the format, lifting 47 times its own body weight.
What would you say your favorite color(s) to play in EDH are currently? Has it/have they changed over the years and why?
I was a Jund player before I knew what Jund was, and despite Phelddagrif being my earliest "signature" general, it's always been that way. The combination of those three colors provides the kinds of games I really like to play, as evidenced by the fact that I have no fewer than three Jund decks (Kresh, Karrthus, and Adun Oakenshield).
What problems does your playgroup run into and how do you work through them?
Well, my playgroup is pretty much the Armada Games EDH League and its regulars. The way we work through them is sculpting the League points system to promote the style of game we like. In casual games, it's choosing to play with the people who have demonstrated they like games like the rest of us. If the problem is of a more social nature, like someone's being an ass, we just talk to them. The shop itself has removed or suspended people from the store for periods of time to demonstrate that they're quite serious about good behavior. Like with any kind of relationship, just having quality communication is the key.
What is your personal stance on the use of proxies for EDH?
I don't like them, don't support them, and don't think you need them. There are enough cards available to you to be able to make very good decks that you don't need to proxy up dual lands or whatever. The occasional "this card is a proxy for that card because I didn't have the time to swap them" is okay, but usually I just suggest they play with the replacement. I understand the argument that Magic cards can be expensive. I reject the argument that you need the expensive ones to enjoy this format.
What is your favorite card to see in EDH?
My favorite card of all time is Living Death. Obviously, I like it a great deal better when I'm casting it as opposed to someone else.
If you had won an Invitational, what card would you have designed?
Rakdos Charm on a stick. Yeah, that'd be cool. "Whenever this attacks, choose one…" Either that or something called "Tyrant of the Red Zone."
BOOOOM TUBE! (Lord of Extinction)
Favorite utility dork?
Does Karmic Guide count? Otherwise, Acidic Slime.
Tower of the Magistrate. Pro artifacts, baby! "Hey, don't drop that Sword."
Favorite wine to drink while you assume the mad scientist cat-in-your-lap stance?
This question is funny because our kitten, Vixen, is currently curled up in my lap sleeping. I'd say one of the great Pinot Noir or Zinfandels from Martinelli Winery, one of our favorite producers. I'm on a Pinot kick right now, but their Vellutini Ranch and Jackass Vineyard Zins are quite spectacular. They have some distribution in shops, but mostly you get their stuff from being on the mailing list, which we've been on for about six years now. L5 Judge Scott Marshall said that he name-dropped me when he signed up for the list and they bumped him up, so you never know what might happen.
What are some effects from non-legendary creatures you wish to see in a legendary creature?
I think I'd like a black and/or green legendary creature that Loots + does something else. Like Merfolk Looter + Volrath the Fallen.
When was the last time something in a game made you angry and what was it?
It was several years go, but it was when Rofellos was still legal as a general. Someone in a League game played it, equipped it with Umbral Mantle, and then rolled a die to see who he'd kill turn 3. Rolled a die. What a coward.
If you could change one creature card so it was legendary, what would it be?
I don't think I've ever seen a creature and thought "I wish I could run that as a general." Lord of Extinction would be pretty house, though.
When playing games, what are you happy to see? What don't you want to see?
People that I like sitting at the table with who I know are going to have a good time no matter what. I also for some reason definitely disproportionate to value love seeing when people bring the appropriate tokens for their decks. I don't want to see uber-combo generals.
How strong is your Kung Fu?
It would not be strong if I had to brag about it.
What was the first moment you realized EDH was becoming larger than you initially thought?
There was no moment of epiphany, but I remember sometime around 2006 being at a Pro Tour and seeing more than just the judges playing it and lots of people stopping by asking what we were playing. Then I kind of knew.
What is your proudest memory of EDH?
When non-Magic celebrities got into it. The shot of Adrian Peterson that Chris Kluwe got was awesome.
In recent year(s), your presence in Magic has grown considerably, especially in the public eye. You are a Judge Emeritus, a personality for GGsLive, and the face behind the most successful casual format of all time (arguably because Cube lovers might disagree).
With your rank as a highly respected individual in the Magic community, what would you like to see changed in the game (and I don't necessarily mean rules)? How do plan on influencing those changes?
While I was still a Level 5 Judge, I helped make the changes I wanted to see in the Judge Program and in the professional game. The only thing that I couldn't manage to do—which people even smarter than I am have also not been able to figure out—is make intentional draws untenable while not making natural draws crippling to both players. I'm still not sure how to make that work.
One of the things I've been doing for a while, and the "influence" comes in just repeating it in every way I possibly can, is to call Commander a "social" format instead of a "casual" one. The small change in verbiage carries a great difference in meaning.
When was the last time you cast a Mogg Jailer?
When it was legal to play in a Standard deck. Loved those Goblins.
When you cast a game-ending card, do you laugh maniacally in glee?
I don't normally cast game-ending cards, preferring to get there through the combat step. That said, I don't think I've ever been gleeful.
From Surging Chaos:
What are your thoughts on people that want to customize and create their own generals? Games like League of Legends and Call of Duty 4 have made their name in the gaming world by giving players virtually unlimited customization in what they want to play with. Do you see this "create a general of your choice for Commander" variant going anywhere?
I'm not quite sure how LoL and CoD instantiate this customization, but I assume it's within some boundaries—you can't just make an uber-character with all abilities at no cost with no drawbacks. We're not talking about making your sword with a wolf's head pommel and ruby eyes here. I'd worry that people would consistently undercost their customized generals. I get it as an attractive idea but think it would fail on implementation because creation and customization are different things.
How do you feel about allowing generals to go to the command zone instead of the library (for example, because of a tuck effect like Terminus)?
I think that tuck is the perfect balance to and reasonable protection from commanders. Talking about commanders and tuck at the same time is the only time you're likely to get me to talk about the idea of "balance" in the format. Don't count on the RC changing the tuck rule.
What is the card that surprises people the most when you cast it?
I mentioned a few weeks ago when I did the Horobi deck that Withering Boon is always a blowout. I haven't cast it myself, but I've watched people get shocked by it. For me, I think it's always Reflect Damage. "That card exists??? I'm dead, but that's AWESOME!"
Drizzle: Does WotC (or whomever) come to you guys when deciding what cards to put in decks for Commander?
No. There's a team that makes those decisions, and they have information and corporate strategy plans that we're not aware of, so I wouldn't actually expect them to. It'd be nice, but I understand why they don't.
From Ted Elderhi:
Do you think red, black, and blue's inability to deal with enchantments is an issue? By extension, black and blue's inability to deal with artifacts?
I'm not quite sure what you mean by "issue," but no, I don't think we need a homogenization of the color pie. I don't want every color to be able to do everything.
Do you think colorless solutions are a way to compensate for an unbalanced color pie?
"Compensate" is a tricky word. I'd argue that the color pie is (mostly) balanced in that each color doesn't do everything or doesn't do things equally well.
Is the RC still ok with having more than one Relentless Rats in a deck?
Yes, both emotionally and rules-wise.
Tune in next week for even more from the Reader Mailbag!