It's Over 9000!
With CommandFests becoming larger and larger for Wizards and Channel Fireball, it was only a matter of time before they had to wonder how to make an effective pairing system. The power rating system was a logical conclusion, but the core of the problem lies in not everyone agreeing with another person’s choice for their power rating. One would think that with the system that The Command Zone has offered, this would be a rather clean system but often times people have trouble with either thinking their deck is more powerful than it actually is and thinking another person’s deck is as a result in the wrong category. Let’s go over the system they’ve offered and perhaps offer various decklists featured in previous articles to highlight each level.
Power level 1/2
This is a place where you’re not really here to win. You’re here to generate an absolute ton of mana, cards or just cause absurd effects without really winning the game. Look no further than decks like many casual Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis group hug deck or a random chaos Commander with no real win conditions. This deck doesn’t have to be low in financial value, it just has to be low in power level. This can be a Sliver Overlord but with all basics and mostly the pauper all-star slivers as your theme deck or 5c dragons with The Ur-Dragon that just wants to play big old fatties in a fair game of magic. For this example, let’s look at a Golos Chaos deck that can only really win the game with an opponent's deck or by getting out all the gates it has with Maze’s End. You may want to remove Narset, Parter of Veils before playing it in this category to be fair.
Chaos Consumes All
Power level 3-4
I think that The Command Zone couldn’t have put this better. Recent pre-cons are perfect examples, sitting generally at a 3 with some upgrades being probably in the 4 or 5 spectrum depending on how far you’ve gone with it. You begin stepping into the next level once you begin adding The Chain Veil to your Estrid, the Masked or Teferi, Temporal Archmage lists. Generally, games will be on a very balanced playing field but some more recent Commanders could be seen as a touch more powerful. Be careful considering how much you’ve upgraded the deck and make sure you don’t just show up with Saskia the Unyielding infect (as sweet as that may be). Consider looking at the next step up.
Power level 5-6
This is where many Commander decks that want a good long game will sit, along with most significantly upgraded pre-constructed decks. You’re going to want to kill all of your opponents at some point, but not necessarily in the early game. Your deck will also start to have a fair amount more interaction at this point and your mana curve will start to have lowered. An example of this from recent memory is the UB Flicker deck I posted. The deck has some strong interactions but doesn’t exactly close out the game quickly. Consider cutting the Underground Sea before running this deck under this category.
The Legend of Deadeye
Power Level 7-8
In this category, you have the lists that take the previous category and then start the tuning process. The Commander for the list may not be perfect, the card selection isn’t fully tuned and there are still a fair amount of pet cards but your interaction has reached a new height. You have various ways to end the game on the spot but you haven’t hit the pinnacle of the arms race quite yet and would probably be destroyed at a cEDH table for various deckbuilding decisions. I’ve talked about him before here and I think PleasantKenobi nails this type of deck building on the head with his Tatyova, Benthic Druid list. Powerful but not oppressive with a number of potential upgrades and tuning available for his deck and a curve that could be slimmed down.
Power level 9-10
This is the Blood Moon tables. The hard Stax decks that want to lock everyone out of the game or storm off early. The cEDH side of the game. Truly a wonderful way to play Commander but certainly not for everyone. A constantly shifting meta with so many different playable decks and Commanders that competitive formats don’t often see. The cost of entry in this format can often be high due to the duals and reserve list cards that maintain their absurd pricing. This is the kind of format where knowing when to concede will often be your best friend. While no longer particularly high up in the meta, I have previously discussed Lord Windgrace and his high power level in the Ruric Noir deck which does highlight the deckbuilding involved in this power level. High interaction with several lock pieces and highly efficient mana curve leaning heavily on the power of the one drop.
Overall, as you go up the power rankings, not only does the power level of your individual cards increase, but your mana curve will have to rapidly decrease. Maintaining the ability to cast multiple spells a turn is key and keeping this with various spells that may have some other drawback like life loss often is negated by the fact you just made the whole board discard their hand on turn one thanks to your Reanimated Sire of Insanity. Utilizing tools such as your life as a resource is key to keeping ahead. As well lock pieces and removal quality will increase drastically as you can no longer really afford the time to cast that In Garruk’s Wake. You’re just going to have to dish out the cash for that Damnation unfortunately.
Well, that’s a look at the power rankings for Commander with a number of decks to help you visualize the idea of each level. Where do you think your decks fall on the power level outlined here? Do you disagree with my general outline? Let me know! Until next time, may you be paired with similar power level decks!