Hello to all you Magic and, especially, Commander fans. It is I, Joe aka "Beardy," and it's that time of year when the U.S. celebrates giving thanks. It's fitting, then, that this date also marks my first year of writing with the QS team. So today, I'd like to talk about some cards, articles, and Commander topics I greatly enjoyed this year, and maybe some of my least favorites, too. But first, a special thanks to my team...
Without the help of my editors, I would be rambling even more than usual, and I would have a few significantly less inspired headlines. What can I say; I'm just not a titles kind of guy! Paul and Jordan have been nothing but helpful.
To my fellow writers, I have enjoyed your content and learned something every day. I only dip into other formats a little here and there. I've been able to help others with their non-Commander format questions by cheating and simply getting great data from Adam, Robert and David.
Sometimes, even I run out of MTG fuel. Thankfully, Anthony always has an article to reinvigorate my love of the game and hobby. Finally, both David and Sig have offered numerous tips that have personally helped me as I've purchased collections, sought out speculative singles and vended at events. To the entire QS team, thank you!
The Heart of Commander
The article where it all began. Re-reading it a year later, has anything changed? Well, pack prices and power creep certainly have. Still, after many hundreds of Commander games, I can safely say that when players bring theme decks with heavy interaction, you get a very fulfilling gameplay experience. It's fun to show off your cards and get into crazy game states.
One card I will highlight here is Jinxed Choker. It was a turn-two play one game and quickly circled around the table, accumulated a ton of counters, and dealt an astronomical amount of aggregate damage for just three colorless mana. Eventually it was I who "interacted" it away with a Blast-Furnace Hellkite. As a "thank you," I almost got to smash the donating Choker player for 20 damage, but then someone else removed my Hellkite! It's such interactions that keep Commander games lively, unexpected, and worth playing.
What I find most interesting about the situation is that The Brothers' War has a card that might recreate this sort of interaction all by itself: Slicer, Hired Muscle // Slicer, High-Speed Antagonist. Giving the gift of Slicer to an opponent is almost always going to be pure upside, and they cannot sacrifice him. We have finally found a Commander worthy of Flailing Soldier, and I believe I will make it a mercenary-themed deck with favorites like Soldier of Fortune to force someone to shuffle their deck... after they just shuffled. Yes, I am that kind of Magic player. This would be a mono-red deck that I could play casually, unlike my current Norin the Wary with too much land destruction.
But what if you could shortcut all that? What if, for three mana, you just skip the interaction, the game play, and simply end the game?
NOT the Heart of Commander
These two cards are responsible for ending more of my Commander games than any others this year, both competitive and casual. If Thoracle had a line of text that said "...if Thassa's Oracle is still on the battlefield, you win the game," then this card would be, I dare say, fair. You know, like Laboratory Maniac but for one less mana? Please, for the love of Pete, Commander Rules Committee, just ban Thoracle already! At least Consultation has the hefty drawback of potentially losing you the game.
However I noticed that in virtually every other non-Thoracle game, if a player had a Disenchant ready, most games would not end on the spot. That's good, and I agree with the Rules Committee when they say:
As far as cards are concerned, nothing has crossed the line into being dangerous enough across the broad spectrum of the format to warrant a ban. We’ll continue to keep our eye on hot-button cards, like Dockside Extortionist. If it or any other card creeps out of the corners of the format to have a large-scale negative impact, we’ll take action.NOVEMBER 2022 QUARTERLY UPDATE
I still think that Dockside Extortionist is too good for Commander, but at least it itself does not end the game on the spot like Thoracle. The RC said they played at Magic 30. I wonder how many of those decks included Thoracle? Compared to other cards like Aether Flash and Aeronaut Tinkerer, cards that need to stay banned, Thoracle is only a tiny bit worse.
A Year in Deckbuilding
I'm busy working on 32 decks. So far this year I have fully built, sleeved, shuffled, and played only seven of those 32. What happened?
Well, I built a Hamza, Guardian of Arashin and Kibo, Uktabi Prince deck for other people. I got a chance to play the Warhammer 40k pre-cons as well as the Brothers' War pre-cons. I purchased a couple of Magic collections and played some of their Commander decks, because why not? Finally, I purchased a Commander deck off eBay for around $12 and another from Offerup for $10 to test my hand at ultimate budget Commander. The result? A lot of fun for virtually no dollars.
Part of my goal with creating so many new decks was to make sure I was not just playing the same deck over and over again. In that regard, I succeeded beyond my expectations by bringing a new Commander deck every single week. This has greatly increased my appreciation of the format, because Commander has the most variety, the most spice, of every Magic format. However, that's only if you let it. Obviously competitive decks seek to be consistent and that idea is simply at odds with the idea of the format.
More than anything else I want to mention that the single biggest factor to enjoying my Commander games this year was showing up in person and playing! Yes, I know, difficult to imagine. Many weeks I agonized over card inclusions that turned out to be pointless. Showing up with literally any card provided both fun and data, which made refining a deck much easier. TLDR: Contaminated Aquifer is Underground Sea.
Cheers to Wizards!
I'm a Transformers fan and I couldn't be happier (well, I could have opened a foil shattered glass card, but didn't) with their representation in BRO. It's good to get to experience product that brings me joy. And even though they say "convert" instead of "transform" or "roll out" I still think the mechanic is spot on and well done.
Finally! A great counterspell with an awesomely thematic name everyone at the table loves to quote, even the person getting countered. An Offer You Can't Refuse is the kind of permission spell that is fair and needs to be replicated in the future. I've seen this card win games. I've seen this card lose games. Just a very cool card, all in all.
Food always bugged me as a "ho hum" mechanic. It seemed lazy and boring then, over-costed too. Enter the Monkey! Now your table can literally "go Bananas" with tokens that make sense and mana! This ties into the history of Magic with so many different Apes and Monkies over the years.
But here's the cheers part. Wizards has finally started to figure out the secret: bring synergistic, thematic, historical tribes together! There are now several examples of this over the years and it is a good sign for the many tribal players out there. Additionally, this allows me to make my friend who loves all things simian a completely functional Ape deck. Thanks Wizards! But it's not all good news....
Jeers to Wizards!
Unfortunately, Wizards has continued to leave a lot to be desired recently, and this year is no exception. I can remember quite clearly when they made the decision to have Kytheon, Hero of Akros // Gideon, Battle-Forged not have keyword battalion ability for seemingly no reason. Alright, a weird design choice, but whatever. Then they followed it up with Tireless Tracker and decided a wall of text was more elegant than "Landfall—investigate." Wizards enjoys overly wordy cards, as Lagrella, the Magpie could just say "up to one other creature per player" instead of the nonsense printed on it.
But wait, what's that? Jodah, the Unifier could just say "legendary cascade" but instead has a wall of text. Wait, because it doesn't have a keyword ability, it doesn't work with other cards that exist like Averna, the Chaos Bloom. I mean it's not like Wizards printed a specialty card called Myntasha, Honored One with literal "booster cascade." Oh wait, they did!
Here's an idea: Vampires drink Blood, wouldn't it be interesting if you could sacrifice the Blood token to give a Vampire a +1/+1 token or use it to draw/discard? A lot of the Vampires in VOW had this ability tagged on, but why not put it on Blood itself? An obvious miss. Also, Odric, Blood-Cursed is one of the worst cards designed ever, let alone in the last year. Not only is it a hard to cast 3/3 with no abilities, but it also has both a comma and hyphen in its name. Wizards must get some kind of kickback from Merriam-Webster.
Now Who's Laughing?
It was easy to forgive Wizards when it was one to two cards per year. But now it's every single set. In their "infinite money printer go brrrrrr" speedrun, Hasbro has decided to leave out quality control for everything from card design to print quality. Gee, I wonder why they recently got downgraded by Bank of America? Please Wizards, tell them you can do better in 2023 by focusing on quality, not quantity.
Wrapping Things Up
Well, guess that's everything. Yup, nothing else I'm thankful for at all. Oh, wait a minute? Of course. Thanks to you, reader, and to everyone in the QS Discord as well. Without all of you I would certainly not be writing this article. But the thanks comes with a catch. What was your favorite article over the past year? Your least favorite? What do you want to see more of in the next 12 months? I'm itching to know. Be careful what you wish for; you may get it, especially if it's more Commander content!