Somewhat strangely, Wizards decided to adopt their own banlist that is completely different from the one that the “regular” Duel Commander committee uses. You can see the massive difference in what Wizards of the Coast is banning in the format VS what the duel Commander Committee decided to ban effective on May 10th here. While having two wildly different banlists for official online play and paper play is obviously going to be confusing for long-time players familiar with the “French banlist,” Wizards does have data to back up their decision making process.
However, Wizards did spark outrage by announcing that players of multiplayer Commander, as of May 10th, would have to abide by the one-on-one banlist. Being completely unbalanced for a multiplayer format, it makes sense that this seemed to spell laziness on the part of Wizards. Did they simply think that the well-established multiplayer community (who have been going with the MTGcommander.net banlist for ages) would just go along with this?
Fortunately, thanks to the outspoken Magic community, Wizards announced that they will return to two separate banlists for one-on-one and multiplayer Commander by July 5th. However, this means that people who enjoy multiplayer Commander on Magic Online, which is quite a few, are going to have to experience a very different Commander format than the one that they’re used to. I won’t go into a card by card breakdown of the different banlists here, but what I can say right away is that it’s going to force some creative card choice changes and create a very different metagame than the one that most Commander players are used to.
However, in spite of this obvious miscalculation to force the same banlist on everyone, Wizards may have actually done something very good for Commander. With EDH actually becoming a competitive format on Magic Online, even if it’s just one-on-one, this means that Wizards is hopefully going to be treating the format with more care. Wizards keeps printing some extremely powerful cards that warp the format. This is especially in one-on-one, as we’ve seen by some of the decisions made by the Duel Commander rules committee, which isn’t affiliated with Wizards.
Now, of course, multiplayer Commander is going to remain the “casual” format that it has always been. It’s not making Wizards money (directly) like the 1v1 Commander tournament support will. And, of course, 1v1 Commander plays very differently than multiplayer in some ways. The politics are definitely one of the selling points of multiplayer Commander. Also, there are many cards in Magic that go from being mediocre in one-on-one Magic to incredible once you have four or more players at the table.
I think by monetizing the one-on-one Commander format, which is already a fiercely competitive format, especially in Europe, it will probably make Wizards think more about the format when designing cards specifically made for the format. Also, by making players on Magic Online wait for their original multiplayer banlist to be reinstated, it’s going to make people experiment. These new forced limitations will probably lead to new interactions between cards being discovered. It could actually be a good thing for the format as far as deckbuilding is concerned, especially when forced to live without staples such as Sol Ring.
What concerns me, though, is while I’m happy to see Commander become a real competitive format supported by Wizards, it could also mean that people are going to buy out cards that are currently affordable to online players. Many players who play Commander on Magic Online play there because it is far cheaper to build decks on there, at fractions of the cost when compared to purchasing the cards individually in paper. As of early May 2017, you can build fairly competitive Commander decks on Magic Online for as little as $20.
While most competitive 1-on-1 decks are built somewhat differently than multiplayer ones, especially due to the different banlists, there are a lot of cards that don’t see play in other competitive Magic formats that do see play in all forms of Commander. This could price a lot of the Commander community out of bothering to play on Magic Online. Also, this could be a bad thing for the community as MTGO is the only place that many Commander players can reliably get a game going on a regular basis. It’s also where a lot of Commander players playtest their decks before purchasing cards in paper (of course, Wizards doesn’t care about that!)
So, while I love that the 1v1 Commander format will now be supported by Wizards of the Coast, it’s obviously been done because they see it as a new way to make money. As for the financial impact on Magic Online, you’ll want to watch the cards banned by Wizards for the Commander format, as well as those that are no longer banned in the online 1v1 Commander format. (Prophet of Kruphix is a big one!)
I really appreciate that Wizards actually took the time to explain their reasoning behind each of the bannings. I doubly appreciate that multiplayer Commander will return to normal after the release of Hour of Devastation on Magic Online. It’s very good to know that they continue to listen when they make strange decisions, and will look to find an amicable solution that everyone can live with.
But wait, if you’re a Commander player who doesn’t play on Magic Online, how will this affect you? Simply put, if 1v1 Commander becomes a fruitful enough format online, it’s extremely likely that Wizards will be supporting it in paper Magic, as well. This will affect the availability (or unavailability) of the same cards. It will be interesting to see how the unofficial and official banlists will be reconciled over time. Even if you don’t care about Magic Online, what will happen in Commander in MTGO will no doubt have an effect on off-line Commander, as well.
It's very confusing that for a bit there will be a paper multiplayer banlist, a paper 1v1 banlist, and an online 1v1 & multiplayer banlist. What Wizards was trying to do was unify the lists to make one banlist for all of them. They were probably hoping that through testing it would inform the official multiplayer Commander banlist, as well. The best solution, of course, is for everyone to use the same banlist for 1v1 and multiplayer, most likely. However, since multiplayer and 1v1 play differently, we'll see if this can actually ever happen.
What is your take on Wizards supporting competitive 1v1 Commander? Do you think it’s good or bad for the format? What do you think will happen in regards to multiplayer Commander due to having to be forced to use a different list for two months?
Whatever happens, 1v1 Commander will definitely be a format I watch closely now. Let’s hope Wizards makes this a fun format for everyone!