Can Wizards Support a Casual Format Too Much?
As a disclaimer, this article is rather different than my usual periodicals, but still concerns EDH. This is an opinion piece based on my own bias towards the past few years of Magic sets. Many of the presented criticisms and assumptions are formed on my own ideals for the game and may differ from those of others.
I love Magic. Ever since I discovered it in my sophomore year of high school I could not get enough of it. Many of my friends took it up at the same time as me, and Wizard's Tower was a short walk from my house. I played every day. As I got more into competitive play, I yearned more and more for the casual play my friends and I used to enjoy. That's when local player Benjamin Milette introduced me to Commander and, after picking up a foil Teysa, Orzhov Scion, I got hooked.
Fast forward about five years, the only constructed format I still play is EDH. I'm sitting on three decks while building a new one every couple of months by scrapping an old one. To keep up with this I have a binder of staples that rotate in and out of my decks as needed. I have never not enjoyed this format from the moment I picked it up. Having taught dozens of players at my local college over the years, it seems to me that more casual players have an interest in EDH than ever. And WOTC has been supporting the format by releasing regular articles on the subject and beginner decks every year.
What is the Actual Problem?
The issue is this: it feels like they dumb down the beginner decks further each year and cater to the format too much outside of these decks. I have been an avid follower of spoilers since Return to Ravnica. I'm often finding myself on forums to discuss spoilers. Every set tends to have anywhere from one to a handful of "EDH rares" - cards that are unplayable in Standard, Eternal formats, and often not even that good in Draft as far as rares go. Whenever a rare of this caliber pops up, people are quick to decide that they belong in a metaphorical trash bin that Commander players dig through to build their decks.
A good example was the Primordial cycle from Gatecrash. People dismissed them as EDH fodder, with many EDH players arguing that not even "we" want them. The only one of these cards that ended up being decent was Sylvan Primordial. It was ban-worthy in the format while its friends were worthless. Most people seemed used to this recurring cycle, so I stopped caring - until recently.
With Oath of the Gatewatch, it's becoming tiresome how many cards are gruesomely under-powered. With more and more of these cards going into print, people dismiss them as "EDH trash", while most good EDH players wouldn't touch them with a ten-foot pole. I recently looked over the entire Oath spoiler. A great deal of the rares are underwhelming, and many basic utility spells have been bumped up to rare or mythic rare status, such as Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
What's an Ideal Solution?
Wizards intends to power down Standard by a large margin, and that's completely fine by me. But if they want to do that, they should at least make things in Standard playable in that powered down environment. By continually printing cards that are supposedly only good in EDH - when not even EDH players want to use them - they're just hurting their ability to sell future sets. Casual players (which I'll admit EDH players are, by definition) are what sell sealed product. Standard and Modern players buy singles, while EDH players buy the pre-constructed decks and an occasional pack seeing if they'll get one of a couple dozen rares that they may use.
In essence, I feel that if Wizards of the Coast wants to keep all its formats healthy, they should cater to them in their own ways. Block-expansions should never have EDH in mind during the creation process, except for the occasional new Legendary Creature that would be a cool Commander (which the above vampire would not be). Instead, bring up the quality of these blocks for Standard players, and make them happy instead of having them slog through a set they dislike because they enjoy the whole concept of the format.
If you want to make EDH players happy, bring up with power level and quality of the pre-constructed decks that come out once in a while. EDH players buy the Archenemy Decks, Planechase Decks and obviously the Commander Decks like mad to fill their collection. If you compare the 2011 Commander Decks to the 2015 ones, you'll notice a massive gap in power level. Seeing as EDH is an Eternal non-rotating format, making a pre-constructed deck weaker isn't going to change that, it's only going to make new players enjoy the format less if they play with more experience players.
Basically, because WOTC makes cards that people dismiss as only playable in EDH, many new players leave with an unfortunate impression of what the format should look like.
Thanks all for reading, I'm sure many people will have a differing opinion than mine and I'd love to hear it! See you all next week with another great deck list!