A Magictation by Mikeal Basile
“Magictating” is defined as getting into the zone with your Magic the Gathering collection–thinking, planning, organizing, reminiscing about past games, and imagining future games. It is a combination of hard thinking about the game and calm meditation, reveling in the joy it brings you.
Mark Rosewater was recently posed the question, “If or When? Commander Legends 2, and his response was a question itself: “Would you all like that, yes or no?” By asking this question we have a great indication of how Wizards really is dedicated to listening to the players and trying to accommodate what we, as a community, want. That’s a wonderful and beautiful thing in this age of giant corporations using other companies to do market research on what their player base desires. While I’m sure focus groups and studies are still occurring these impromptu asks by Rosewater and others at Wizards (Verhey comes to mind) can really get the community very excited at times. As Commander players, we’ve been blessed enough to see that there is now dedicated focus on the most popular (strictly numbers wise) multiplayer format ever. So, the question Mark spins back on us is if we would like this. Well, I guess I’ll take a stab at answering that…
In short, no. I loved Commander Legends before it was even printed. So, there’s no need to read any further as we all know that the rest of this article is just an explanation about why this “no” is really just a “yes” in disguise. To be technical, no, we “all” will not want a Commander Legends 2. Despite Commander being the most popular format for multiplayer it isn’t played by the entire Magic community. Thusly, it cannot be wanted by “all” of us. Yet, I suspect that most of us that play Commander would welcome another Commander Legends. I think we can say yes, but only with a few caveats. So, here’s a list of demands concerning the possible or dare I say inevitable printed of Commander Legends 2:
- Give us time and give us space.
- Give us quality foils (I don’t even like them, but I don’t want useless untradeable cards either).
- Give us less power and more tribes.
- Make reprints a priority.
- Give us a draft/sealed environment.
Our number one demand needs to be time and space. It’s not you Wizards and Gavin Verhey, it’s us. We just need time and space to see our current Commanders in a more intimate setting. We need time to get to know our current pool of partners. We haven’t even had time to spend a few hours at our local gaming stores to get to know each other better. We need time to see others, and we need some space before we get introduced to a larger pool of possibilities. There are plenty of Pokemon (read Legendary Commander Creatures) in the sea, but we don’t need to catch them all. If we end up getting another Commander Legends set in the next year or even two, then I would say we could experience some serious burnout far faster than we may suspect. We need time to expand our collections. The legendary creatures “as fan” (number of times legendary creatures appear in packs) has been pretty solid for the last several sets. We have had no shortage of Commander centric leaders for several sets now. In addition, we are still getting yearly Commander decks with new cards, and plenty of cool staple reprints. It does beg the question, “Do we really need another dedicated Commander product?” Perhaps we don’t right now, but we are coming off the “year of Commander”, so I don’t think we will be for such a spoiled time in the near future. Hopefully, this call for feedback is in order to plan a long term goal. So, yes, we want a Commander Legends 2, but only if it takes awhile to come out.
Now, I don’t often harp about quality control issues. I hate piling on to obvious criticisms. It’s pretty clear that there are some serious issues with the average foil cards from Commander Legends. I bought a Collector’s Box (and lots of regular boxes) of Commander Legends and I was horribly disappointed whenever I opened a traditional mythic rare or extended art rare that was foil. I knew it would be difficult to trade, not worth as much as non-pringled foil cards, and it wouldn’t shuffle well in my decks. In contrast, I loved opening the foil etched cards. Those foils have not curled a wink, and they look unique enough that I actually run them. The foiling treatment is just much more fun than a traditional shiny laminate. This is saying a lot considering I’m the guy that has tried to trade away every foil rare or mythic I have ever opened. Seriously, I open foils and they go to the trade binder. Now, if we can get a Commander Legends 2 that capitalizes on foil etched cards, and eschews the issues from its other poorly foiled cards, then we have a recipe for some seriously collectible and fun cardboard! We need Commander Legends 2 to fix the problems from Commander Legends 1 and capitalize on its successes. That’s a simple statement, but not a simple thing to execute. So, yes to Commander Legends 2 as long as the quality control issues are fixed (of note…they appear to be as of Strixhaven J).
Another way to capitalize on prior success and continue innovating could happen by giving more tribal support cards to popular yet underserved tribes. I’m looking at tribes like Samurai, Treefolk, Kithkin, or Drakes, as a few examples of tribes that could use a little extra love from R&D. The power level for Commander Legends was spot on. The cards allowed draft to actually work and create a fairly balanced and swingy end game. Big spells actually had a big impact, and people were forced to build with a long game in mind. There was no way to rush the table and crush everyone in some sort of Zergling rush (StarCraft reference) where everyone is defeated before they can even get anything fully developed. Many people feared that a dedicated Commander set would be full of cards like Opposition Agent and Hullbreacher. It was not. Those are perhaps the two most maligned cards in the set. Jeweled Lotus hasn’t been the format warper that its original inspiration has always been. In casual pods it doesn’t even place as big of a target as a turn 1 Sol-Ring has. The boogey-men of Commander Legends was really just a couple of cards that were a bit pushed…as in two. Commander Legends 2 will need to emulate this style of design. The cards will need to be balanced, but not overpowered. The worst thing a Commander Legends 2 set could do would be to create some sort of Urza’s block power creep. The Combo Winter that crushed many people’s days of fun revolved around incredibly powerful cards like Tolarian Academy and Time Spiral. I remember losing on my oppoent’s turn 1 before I even got to play a card. That’s not what I expected to see in a Standard format. It’s definitely not what I want to see in a Commander game. Commander Legends was not like that at all. We have since seen that Commander Legends was creative, fun, and non-format warping all at the same time. So, yes, we need more of well-balanced design in Commander Legends 2.
One way to keep the format from being warped is to provide plenty of reprints. I’ve gushed over the beauty of the artwork and the utility that Strixhaven’s Mystical Archive provides, and I feel that Commander Legends could easily do something similar. A foil etched slot dedicated to format staples would be a really cool concept for Command Legends 2. Imagine that every pack comes with 2 Commanders (Legendary Creatures), 1 rare/mythic, and 1 foil etched reprint (or some other cool artsy alternative). How exciting would a pack of that be to open? How exciting would drafting a set like that be? People would have more access to great cards like Mana Drain, Swords to Plowshares, Demonic Tutor, Doubling Season, Sneak Attack, and Mana Crypt all without sacrificing the ability to play them in a limited environment. If any limited environment can absorb these powerful pieces it would be the multiplayer draft environment. This even solves the power-creep problem by using powerful reprints in place of pushed cards to drive up the value of boxes. So, yes please to a Commander Legends 2 that takes advantage of its unique ability to provide powerful reprints.
I’ve heard a few rumblings about not desiring the limited format for Commander Legends 2. I don’t get that. I’m assuming it’s mostly because people didn’t get a chance to draft it. I’m assuming they couldn’t even play sealed using remote technologies. I’ve played Commander Legends sealed, and it’s seriously a good bargain. The boxes have been cheap enough that drafting it feels similar to drafting Double Masters, but without the hefty price tag. Granted, the value may not be as high, but when you get to draft and keep cards, who is complaining? I think the draft format could benefit from borrowing even more mechanics and maybe even reprints from the other seriously fun mutilplayer draft sets—Conspiracy & Conspiracy Take the Crown. Conspiracy 1 & 2 were great fun. Those cards are also great fun in Commander. They have that political flair to them, and a politically oriented design which is a perfect fit for Commander. We need the next Commander Legends set to offer a good limited experience for both draft and sealed deck. It allows us to crack packs, play with “janky” cards, and rip apart the draft chaff decks and actually build with the same “janky” cards that allow us to beef up old and new synergies. This type of multipurpose set is a great deal for players. Including premium foil and premium artwork within the draft experience is another way to hit both the set boost pack crackers and the drafters all at once. Considering that it’s a Commander-based product the limited environment doesn’t need to offer superb competitive flair. It just needs to have the right feel and the right ebb and flow for Commander games. This is clearly something that Wizards has shown they are capable of doing, and we will definitely need it from Commander Legends 2. So, yes please to a well-balanced Commander Legends 2 sealed experience.
Whether or not we will see a Commander Legends 2 isn’t quite a question of if, but when. I would expect that the earliest we would see Commander Legends 2 will be in about 2 years. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it surface a few months before. It shouldn’t require as much play-testing or development as say a Standard set. Wizard’s doesn’t have to worry about drastically warping eternal formats, because they’ve said they aren’t worried about it. That alone helps cut the time down from development to print. I think the two year timeline is honestly the earliest we might be “ready” for such a set. However, with the growing call for nostalgia and reprints being constant threads in the Commander community we can bet that Wizards will be anxious to offer us exactly what we are asking for. I expect that we will see many of the current cards people are calling for now to reappear in a set like this. It will need to innovative in the same ways that Conspiracy Take the Crown innovated on the original Conspiracy mechanics. Partner Commanders and a plethora of legendary creatures will definitely need to exist. The question is what sort of mechanics we will see tribes and abilities being focused on. I’m hoping we see a whole myriad of possibilities! I wish you all the very best of deck construction and mulligans, and may the cards be ever in your favor!