If you like Commander and you don't live under a rock, then you've have likely seen the recent changes to Commander's rules. This has caused some discussion among the Community about the needs, problems, and more that these changes can bring to the table.
What I'd like to do today is peer into the rules changes, as well as the four reasons given for them, give you my take on the issue, and then conclude by looking at how these changes will impact decks, the metagame, projects like Commander Cube, and more.
Let's begin by looking at the two major changes:
Whenever your commander would go into your hand/library, you may instead place it into your command zone. You certainly can still do it. You might want to bounce or place it in your deck. But you may instead just throw it back to your command zone.
And that's it. Bouncing and tucking ceases to be a route to resolve a commander problem. This is particularly important to tucking. Tucking a commander was playing an effect that placed (or shuffled) an opposing commander back into the library. It was a good way to keep problems from occurring, and it avoided other issues.
Tucking is no longer an answer to an opponent's commander.
So, what were the justifications given for these changes?
Copied and pasted from the above link for your pleasure!
1) We want to engender as positive an experience as we can for players. Nothing runs the feel-bads worse than having your commander unavailable to you for the whole game.
2) The presence of tuck encourages players to play more tutors so that in case their commander gets sent to the library, they can get it back-exactly the opposite of what we want (namely, discouraging the overrepresentation of tutors).
3) While we are keenly aware that tuck is a great weapon against problematic commanders, the tools to do so are available only in blue and white, potentially forcing players into feeling like they need to play those colors in order to survive. We prefer as diverse a field as possible.
4) It clears up some corner case rules awkwardness, mostly dealing with knowing the commander's location in the library (since highly unlikely to actually end up there).
So let's drill into each of these concerns that were raised and how the changes help to alleviate them.
1. Reducing "Feel-Bad" Moments - Magic is a game to be played. Tucking an opposing commander can sometimes feel like an EDH version of Stasis. You don't get a chance to play the format because your commander is locked away in your deck. This is a casual format after all, and playing your commander is a key component of doing it. And I've been on the "Feel-Bad" end myself - I've had a fun Jacques le Vert deck get handled by an opponent's Oblation, and I never saw it again.
I totally agree. This change removes most chances that tuck-based removal will irrevocably alter the game to the point that you aren't playing Commander anymore, whenever everyone else is. At your typical pick up game or casual Magic night, getting your fun Oros, the Avenger or Nin, the Pain Artist shuffled so you can't retrieve it can be very irritating. Therefore, this change will help remove those moments from the format. I'm in.
3. Creation of a Diverse Format - I'm doing these in mixed order because I will be talking about this one in #2 below. The argument here is that tuck cards are in blue or white, so if you wanted to have a tool that could deal with a commander, like a Spell Crumple or Unexpectedly Absent, you were forced to consider blue or white. By nuking tucks as an answer to commanders, you are bringing those two colors back into alignment with the others and increasing the diversity of the format. That's the basic crux of the argument.
Now, I could not disagree with one of these more. First of all, there are a few answers outside of white/blue (Chaos Warp) that can be used. Secondly, this is a metagame-dependent. My metagame has more people running green than any other color because they love to ramp up. Cultivate is played in higher numbers than any tuck spell. I've run into lots of games elsewhere that feature few to no tuck spells, maybe just one or two for emergencies.
Finally, every color combination has certain strengths. If I want to run a lot of quality mana ramp in my metagame, then I lean towards green. If I need to counter spells as they are cast, then I head to blue. If I want to reanimate creatures into play, then I look at black and white. If I want to discard, then I move to black. That's the give and take of the colors. The fact that white/blue have more tuck answers than the others was a legitimate reason to choose them, but no more so than anything else.
I just don't buy this reason. But hey, if you give me four reasons to make a change, and I don't like one or two, I can still get behind the change, you know? What else?
2. Tucking Leads to Tutors - Because people want to play Commander, if their leader is tucked away into their library, then they often run tutoring effects to grab their tucked away commander. This led to more tutors seeing play in decks. That's not a great thing. Playing a tutor slows the game down because it can take a while to tutor a 100-card stack for a single selection. We already have everything from fetchlands to Birthing Pod running around, and this just layers on another issue. Plus, the playing of tutors often leads to silver bullets and fights against the whole point of Commander as a format - to play just one of every card and to have variance in each game. The more tutors that you run, the more predictable and stale things get. And we don't want that! So any change that reduces reliance on tutors, and therefore, speeds things up while encouraging different game results is welcomed.
Sorry, but unfortunately, I don't see it. I have two major concerns about this reason. First of all, we have long since gone past the point of no return of searching libraries for stuff. Cultivate? Tithe? Polluted Mire? Sarkhan's Triumph? Survival of the Fittest? Tooth and Nail? Fabricate? Trinket Mage? We have tons of tutors. From planeswalkers to artifacts, we have tutors everywhere. We are always searching our deck. It's just the nature of the beast. The minor benefit that removing tucking will give in this area doesn't seem like a lot.
My second issue is that you are removing some of the give-and-take of Magic. I'll talk more about this in my two major issues with the change in a bit, but by eliminating the tuck rule, you are also eliminating my ability to fight tucks as well. And I don't think that's a good change because it simplifies things in a bad way. Again, I'll tease this out later, but basically, I don't think tutors are bad. So an argument for removing tucks because they are bad doesn't sell me.
4). It Cleans Up Rules Issues. There are corner cases, such as face down commanders, that have a lot of concerns. For example, if you manifest a commander, does it still do commander damage? When would the opponent know that they took some? By only allowing the placement of a player's commander into their library with their permission, you eliminate most of these corner cases. Again, I totally agree. That's worth ending most of the debate and questions.
So overall, I agree with 50% of their reasons, and I'm not sold by the other 50%. Now, as I alluded to before, there are two concerns that I have with these changes:
1). No More Answers - From Submerge to Hinder, we've seen many ways of moving an opposing legendary creature to the library. This gave you a way to answer something that would otherwise be (mostly) unanswerable. This change removes your ability to take care of a commander that has gotten out of hand.
I can't tell you how often I've grabbed a pick up game at the card store or at a Magic event, and while most of us are playing this fun casual format called Commander, someone thinks they are playing Vintage or Legacy or something, and they have this slick, massively tuned combo deck that wins off their Commander turn 2 or 3 or 4. It's gross. After encountering this idiot, I'd just grab my Chaos Warp or Oblation, and I send it off packing. And then the rest of us would get on with playing Commander.
You need an answer to every single issue in Magic. Magic is like a giant game of Rock-Papers-Scissors. There should be cards out there, like Tsabo's Web or Arcane Lighthouse that answer problems that may occur. Wizards of the Coast is always printing a hoser or three for Standard in case something gets out of hand. In EDH, that answer is usually tucking away an opposing commander that has gotten obscene. It's your Get Out of Jail Free card. Without tucking, where are your answers coming from?
2). The Rock To Your Scissors - By eliminating tucking, you are also removing an answer to tucks - tutoring. Virtually every color can answer a tucked commander (by tutoring for a creature, a card generally, or and enchantment/artifact for those commanders and so forth). What amount of tutors should I run in case I encounter some tuck-age? Should I use Gamble? What is enough? This created a fun back and forth in the rock, scissors, paper vein. Everything in Magic has an answer and a counter to it.
For example, suppose that you want to play a huge creature to swing and win the game. Yay creatures! I don't like that, so I can play a Counterspell to stop it. Yay me! How do you get around me countering your creatures? You can just play a creature that cannot be countered, such as Kavu Chameleon. Yay you! That way, you can counter my…er…counter. Good job! Now, what if I really, really, want to stop you from playing that uncounterable creature? What do I do? Well I could delay it by a few turns with something like Ertai's Meddling. But I could just drop Time Stop. That ends the turn and you can just stop anything from getting played since it never resolves and was never countered. There is always a counter to your counter. A give and take. A push and pull. That makes Magic worth it. Tuck spells gave you an answer, and then tutors gave you a counter to that answer. That interplay of attack, counter attack, counter-counter attack, is very interesting. And we've removed it.
Now, with these changes given, what will happen from here?
Well, first of all, if you tuck your own commander creature, you can still get the positive effect without being forced to lose your commander. Consider Proteus Staff. You can use it on your own legendary creature to get the free creature, but just toss it into your command zone instead of your library. You can draw two cards off Oblation or trigger Chaos Warp. This will give you a different way to use tuck effects proactively.
Also remember that this rule now works on creatures that are trying to head to your hand. If you (or your opponent) casts something like Evacuation, then each of you can choose the best place for your commander. There are reasons why you might choose your hand (to reduce replay cost from the command zone) or your command zone (so you discard one fewer card post-mass bounce).
One metagame shift I expect are decks more fully built around their commander. Running sub-par cards that are awesome with your leader becomes a better choice. Take Horde of Notions. Look at Ashes of the Fallen. Ashes normally sucks. But with Horde of Notions? If you run it in your Horde deck, it's downright awesome! Before, you might risk the tuck-age of your Horde making the Ashes useless. One benefit of the loss of tucks is in the increase of reliance on your commander. (And that's a plus at many kitchen tables around the world. It's a minus against someone who uses it to make really lethal or cutthroat decks.)
With the elimination of tuck as a nice anti-commander measure for bringing back people that get out of alignment, what tools are left?
The answer to that depends, in part, on the nature of the concern. For example, you can use Darksteel Mutation on an opposing legendary creature to drop a legendary creature to 0/1, strip away its abilities, and it also will get indestructible so it won't die easily to mass removal. Lignify will turn it into an 0/4 wall without any abilities. Those aren't bad options.
If the nature of the issue is that fact that a commander is swinging and winning in the red zone super-quick, then various Pacifism variants may work. You can find Arrests to blow out activated abilities as well, so a Faith's Fetters will stall the hijinks of many a legendary creature.
Of course, this is a lot more vulnerable. Tuck removal could be answered by counter magic, sacrifice effects (such as High Market) or tutors. Faith's Fetters and Darksteel Mutation are vulnerable to all of those, plus bounce, enchantment removal, or creature removal (you can just Doom Blade or Swords to Plowshares your own leader, after all). And the Pacifism/Arrest variants won't work on everything anyway. It's won't really irritate that Sygg, River Cutthroat deck, as an example.
Another potential answer is to just steal it. Control Magic will end these shenanigans. If you want, you can use a repeatable stealing effect such as Vedalken Shackles. Again, it's vulnerable to removal (creature, enchantment, or artifact) sacrifice effects in response, bounce, and so forth. But it's another tool. Note that it won't really work on every commander as well. Some have abilities that work for everyone equally (Kami of the Crescent Moon, Ascendant Evincar). Just because you steal it doesn't shut it down.
But hopefully between stealing, arresting, or removing abilities, we have enough cards to be able to deal with troublesome commanders.
The simple fact is that a shift like this has both strengths and weaknesses. You lose that tool to keep commanders in check, but you also enable commanders to blossom. That's a major shift, and any change this big is going to cause ripples across the format. Get ready!
What are your thoughts? What are the positives and negatives you are getting from your playgroup?