Duel Commander

The official website and your best resource for MTG duel Commander games. Rules, French banlists, news, blog posts and announcements from the committee.

Apr

5

A bit of history

By Daniel Kitachewsky

Ever wondered what the banlist looked like a year ago? Two years ago?

This page recaps all changes since the birth of this website in 2011.

Enjoy!

The Duel Commander rules committee.

Jan

27

Born of the Gods banlist update

By Daniel Kitachewsky

Hello everybody,

Wizards has just announced that the banlists for the official formats will be posted only next week, a departure from the usual schedule. Ours is ready already, so we see no point in letting you wait more than what we announced previously. So here we go.

After a few rather quiet months with only small adjustments but several large events, we feel it’s time to address some long-term problems in the format.

These changes take effect on February 7th, 2014.

Wow, what a change!

More explanations can be found HERE.

We’d like to heartily thank our consultants for their awesome input and support:

  • “DON”
  • “LaPince”
  • “Mars”
  • “MarsVolta”

As usual we welcome your feedback. While we read most of the forums out there, the best way to make yourself heard is by writing us HERE. The next announcement is expected to be on April 28th, 2014.

The Duel Commander rules committee.

Oct

28

Commander 2013 banlist update

By Daniel Kitachewsky

Hello everybody,

Commander 2013 is about to be out and hasn’t failed to deliver. Several new commanders are playable in the Duel format. Some cards in the extension are bound to become format staples, but none are worringly powerful or unadapted to one-on-one play. While some new commanders are very strong and might shift the format significantly, as we promised we aren’t banning any of them and will watch how the format evolves and shapes around newcomers. In short, nothing needs to be addressed urgently from the new extension and any changes to the format will wait until at least January 27th, 2014.

Now for some news about the committee. The format is undergoing significant growth this year which we’re very happy about. This growth in numbers has encouraged tournaments with bigger prizes. The more competitive players are very keen deckbuilders and will find many ways to break the format. While we are fortunate that the format stays diverse and that it’s uncommon that a single commander takes three spots or more in the top 8 of a tournament, it’s increasingly common that a group of players will find a particularly strong build that several of those will pilot to a great finish. While this phenomenon is not new, it shows that the rewards of building correctly are very high in Duel Commander. In particular, we’ve noticed that a player who’s playing a deck they’re familiar with and know well will almost invariably do better than if they were given a netdecked copy of a deck they don’t know. As a result, even if top 8 spots are often taken by a small group of decks, it doesn’t necessarily mean that those are the only ones that are viable and that one can do well with. Many times dedicated tuning of a “weaker” commander has given great results and rewarded their pilots.

This is however where we need your help. In order to develop the best banlist we can, there’s a few principles we can follow and that are rather easy to follow, but also a component of format balance that is harder to figure out without loads of data. In order to evaluate which cards enable regular early combo kills, a small amount of data is usually required, namely building a couple variants of a deck and playing a couple dozen games. But when it comes to determining whether a particular commander is too strong in the metagame, or whether banning a certain card tips the scales enough to restore the balance we’d like to see, a much bigger set of data is required, ranging from top 8s, field reports, interviews, test games, deck building, and so on. This process is both very time-consuming and linger on the availability of a very limited number of people.

As you may have heard recently, the committee is currently composed of four people. While we do our best to test a lot and to be present on as many large tournaments as our personal schedules enable us, days have only 24 hours. That’s why, in order to improve our visiblity and understanding of the format, we’d like to invite a small number of chosen players (builders above all), all regulars and recognized by the community, to our discussions (on our private forum), who would help us determine whether any potential future changes or newly-printed cards have the impact we think they have. Furthermore, some people more involved in tournament organization are likely to be contacted as well. As we have determined in the past couple of years, when the committee suddenly grew in numbers and then shrunk again, taking decisions with lots of people is not easy at all. As such, we probably won’t be growing the numbers of the committee itself, but we are going to involve some people as special consultants about the format. The names of these consultants will be publicized when they are known and if they wish so.

As always we welcome your feedback. While we read most of the forums out there, the best way to make yourself heard is by writing us HERE.

The Duel Commander rules committee.

Oct

20

Changes within the committee

By Daniel Kitachewsky

The sad news has spread on the forums. Since we don’t want to leave questions unanswered and to let rumors evolve into something very different from reality, here’s what happened.

Olivier’s activity in the committee had been valuable over the two years he spent with us. In the last few months, his activity has been dwindling and almost reduced to the point where he participated only for a few days before each banlist publishing. When questioned about it, his reaction was mostly hostile. Olivier started participating again, but without taking into account recent discussions (which Olivier had access to) and wished to backpedal on some decisions. This backpedaling would have been against all the work and thinking done by the other members. It would also have been against our policy of being as consistent and transparent as we can, even if this is not easy. Worse, it would have been against some recent public announcements made by the committee, thus penalizing players preparing the biggest events of the year, namely Bazaar of Moxen and the French Cup.

When this was pointed out to Olivier he wasn’t willing to make any concessions, in defiance of other members’ opinions and work. This led to disagreements and tensions such that it soon appeared that the committee couldn’t continue to function in an atmosphere of trust. The decision was thus taken not to maintain Olivier in the committee.

Aside from this, we’re reading lots of worried posts on forums about the small number of members in the committee (4 as of today). Some of you consider this number to be too small. We will clarify this in the October 28 announcement, but be assured that the committee functioning is currently undergoing some changes in order to better serve the format.

Sep

18

About the November update

By Daniel Kitachewsky

Hello everyone,

We have carefully followed your reactions on the Commander boards after our announcement on September, 16th. We could not miss many of you were worried and had questions about the potential announcement we could make right before the release of the new Commander packs, due in November. Therefore, so as to allow all players to anticipate the autumn/winter season with serenity and to better prepare the two big incoming events (Bazaar of Moxen and the Commander French Cup), we would like to make it clear that:

  • We will not ban any cards that are not printed in these new packs.
  • We will not ban any commander (Prossh).
  • We simply want to be able to perform one/several bans if the new Commander packs were to contain one/several cards we deem too powerful because they are without a doubt very similar to some we have already banned. We especially have in mind the strong mana accelerators with too small drawbacks (such as Sol Ring or Ancient Tomb), or unbalanced cards (such as Ancestral Recall or Time Walk).

Please be certain we do not wish to ban anything, but we also can’t afford to see the two major events of the end of this year damaged by this release.

We really hope this message will allow you to focus on testing your decks rather than worrying whether your deck will be legal.

Sincerely,

The Committee

Sep

16

Theros banlist update

By Daniel Kitachewsky

Theros banlist update

Hello everybody,

The format is now more varied than ever: the Saint-Nazaire tournament had no less than 40 different commanders played! While not much needs to change in the format, we still feel something needed to be addressed.

This change takes effect on September 27th, 2013.

Loyal Retainers is the center of a combo which enables reanimating crushing threats as early as turn 3. Survival of the Fittest enables tutoring for both the threat and the reanimator. This makes Loyal Retainers quite unique and a full two mana cheaper than other enablers such as Karmic Guide. Most aggro decks don’t stand a chance against Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite; many control or ramp decks will fold to an early Griselbrand; and mono-colored decks are heavily hit by Iona, Shield of Emeria. We ban the more specialized half of this combo, leaving Survival of the Fittest in the format as it enables many interesting strategies.

More explanations can be found HERE.

In addition, this fall has something quite exciting for us Duel Commander players: a new Commander product! The last one brought many interesting new decks so this one should be an instant hit as well. The new cards in this product will be legal on November 1st, 2013. Because some new cards might have a significant impact on the format (who said Edric?), we will make an exceptional banlist announcement on October 28th, 2013. Mark your calendars!

As usual we welcome your feedback. While we read most of the forums out there, the best way to make yourself heard is by writing us HERE.

The Duel Commander rules committee.

Aug

15

What’s in a banlist?

By Daniel Kitachewsky

Making a banlist involves a lot of decisions. Some of those are easily understood by players, some less so. While I don’t pretend that our choices are perfect or even the only possible ones, I’m going to describe in this article the principles underlying our banlist. In a further article I’ll give some more explanations about individual bannings, as we frequently get questions about certain cards.

Before I explain the principles, I’d like to remind you that the banlist is a living being and not everything is set in stone. You might see some banned cards for which the reason they’re banned is not immediately obvious. The banlist is 40 cards long; it has been elaborated over several years; the people working on it have not always been the same; and the principles underlying it have undergone some changes as well. We don’t like mass bannings or unbannings, as every time it affects lots of players who would have to change their decks a lot. We prefer to implement the changes we’re the most comfortable with, even if it means that some card has to wait for another opportunity or that we leave a card out for a few more months. As a result, the banlist is never “perfect” in our eyes and there’s always opportunity for evolution.

The goal of the banlist is to enable an enjoyable format. What this means varies widely if you ask different people. Some players prefer wide open formats where you’re not going to play against the same deck twice, some players prefer more closed formats where you can properly metagame and thoroughly test certain matchups. Some players like playing with combo or against it, some can’t stand it. Some players like to be able to play the same deck over years, only ever adjusting a few cards, some are fine with switching at every tournament. In the end, defining what is a good format is quite subjective and it’s quite hard to make choices that will leave everyone satisfied.

So what we’re trying to do is give every archetype a chance without letting one get overly dominant. We believe that the current format rewards play skill and deck building quite a lot, so it’s not because “there was no aggro deck in the last top 8″ that the format is failing. Rather, we’ve failed if this happens consistently. Building an aggro deck in Duel Commander might be harder than in other formats, but time has shown that with clever deck building it’s possible to perform well with it.

What’s particular about Duel Commander is the life total. 30 life is a lot to overcome for aggressive decks, and it’s hard, even with a perfect aggressive creature guaranteed to be in your starting hand, to win before turn 5 with pure aggression. What this means is that the typical racing matchup – aggro against combo – can’t be even if we allow combo to kill regularly before turn 5. This is the first and most important principle we use:

Combo should not be able to kill regularly before turn 5.

This immediately precludes a wide array of fast mana. Very fast starts can be extremely hard to recover from, especially when an interaction with your commander is involved. Turn 1 Ancient Tomb, mana artifact into turn 2 Grand Arbiter Augustin IV is a huge elbow drop which we don’t want to allow. Original Moxes fall into this bracket as well. Chrome Mox and Mox Diamond are acceptable: while they allow such a fast start, it comes at an enormous cost in term of cards, making this kind of line of play riskier. Specificities of the format also have to be taken into account here – turn 2 Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary is fine if it’s just a card in your deck, but if Rofellos is your commander and you get him out on turn 2 each and every game, it means the rest of the deck can be made of big threats and still be very stable. That’s why Rofellos is banned as a commander.

Cheap combos will also fall into this bucket. It is quite possible to regularly cast Flash + Protean Hulk before turn 5 thanks to the wide array of tutors available (in case you wonder, yes we did a mistake by unbanning Protean Hulk). Grindstone + Painter’s Servant, Time Vault + Voltaic Key are other cheap combos that are too powerful for the format. Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker + Deceiver Exarch (and all the variants of this combo, which can all be played in the same deck) is fine, because it doesn’t often win before turn 5. Some card types are more difficult to tutor for than others.

This no turn 4 kill principle would make the format slower than Modern (where Wizards’ main guideline for banning is limiting the number of turn 3 kills), but there are still some very powerful cards in the card pool, because it allows all expansions. Some of these cards have such a huge impact on the game that they can’t be allowed. Necropotence is a fine example of this. A resolved Necropotence makes it almost impossible for the opponent to come back – you will always have too many cards in your hand. The same goes for many other cards on the banlist.

A couple of cards are especially strong in Duel Commander because of the structure of the format. Karakas is repeatable removal for the commander. While it’s tempting to errata the card so that it can’t target commanders, we prefer having cards play as close as possible to their actual wording, for one simple reason: if a player finds a card, that should be all the information they need. No extra knowledge such as “doesn’t work on commanders” should be necessary. That’s why we chose to simply ban it. Humility is another such card. Because every Duel Commander deck plays at least a creature (their commander) and most decks rely on being able to cast it and use it, Humility puts a big stress on the format, even though it has not been played that much.

Duel Commander is a format that is growing fast, drawing players from many different backgrounds. A number of players have played only multiplayer Commander before coming into the Duel variant. While players trying out Modern and Legacy for the first time typically have played a number of tournament matches before and are used to stiff competition, this is not always true in Duel Commander. Some strategies are not necessarily the best choices in competitive tournaments but do put enormous pressure on the opponent from the start. It’s the case for Braids, Cabal Minion for example – if you pit it against current top decks, it may not have a winning score against all or even most of them. However, have a semi-casual player face Braids, you’re all but certain that the player is going to be disgusted and likely leave the format.

We’ve received an e-mail coming for a player who said that his group of friends started Duel Commander, but at some point one of them figured he’d try Edric, Spymaster of Trest as a Commander, and as a result not only crushed the others, but left them with the impression that there was nothing they could do about it. This group of players is not playing Duel Commander anymore. Edric was winning tournaments and the numbers could have been sufficient to justify a ban, but this kind of mishap, which can easily happen as Edric is very easy to build and play, is a big enough reason to leave it banned. We care about casual players as much as about competitive ones. Having strong decks is fine, but having strong decks which are still strong in the hands of noncompetitive players and very hard to fight against is not fine.

Erayo, Soratami Ascendant is another example of a commander that has a very linear game plan, consisting only of very cheap artifacts that guarantee you can flip it by turn 2, making it quite frustrating to play against. Even though it might not be as powerful as it once was, it’s not a style of deck that brings much to the game. It is not worth introducing one deck with marginal benefits at the risk of losing casual play groups. If you want to play a prison deck, other options are available, for example Kami of the Crescent Moon.

Finally, there are times where despite our best efforts, a deck emerges that puts up big numbers at tournaments and is winning again and again. In these cases, one possible solution is to ban a key card in such a deck. These are minor adjustments, as we’re fortunate enough that no single deck (except Edric in its time) has made up more than 15% of top 8 decks over any significant period of time.

To summarize, here are the main principles we’re using for the banlist:

  1. No regular turn 4 kills
  2. Power level
  3. Spirit of format
  4. Suitability for casual play groups
  5. Deck balancing

Some of these criteria are subjective, and of course the format evolves as more cards and more legendary creatures come out, so previous decisions have to be revisited from time to time and it can lead to cards coming in and out of the format. We banned Bitterblossom a year and a half ago, we unbanned it three months ago. The format has changed significantly in the meantime, reducing how threatening a turn 2 Bitterblossom is. We would still make the same decisions if faced with the same information – and these decisions don’t contradict each other; they simply represent the fact that the format is moving, that players are innovating and adapting their decks, that the balance has shifted.

Keep innovating!

Daniel Kitachewsky
Duel Commander Committee

Jul

15

Magic 2014 banlist update

By Daniel Kitachewsky

Hello everybody.

Here are the long-awaited changes to the banned list:

These changes take effect on July 19th, 2013. The Magic 2014 rules have been in effect since July 13th, 2013.

Magic 2014 brings a change in rules which is quite significant to us – namely, the new legends rule prevents you from using clone effects such as Phantasmal Image as removal for commanders. This might change a bit the power level of blue decks, and while it may seem at first that Geist of Saint Traft is the big winner out of this, making its commander more difficult to deal with, this also removes two of its best removal spells. The net effect is quite hard to predict, given that players will likely adapt their decks.

Because of this, we decided to keep the banlist changes light and see how the metagame evolves with this rule change. However, blue decks still dominate and we are banning two cards to help with that.

Protean Hulk‘s unbanning unleashed a few combo builds that are as fast as they are resilient, especially in Karador. It won two tournaments just last month and we believe that it’s one of the most dangerous decks around. In addition, it crushes most non-blue decks, which is the opposite of what we were trying to achieve with the last update. We recognize that it was a mistake to unban Protean Hulk and send it back to the banned list.

Our second card is Winter Orb, a central piece in Grand Arbiter Augustin IV decks. This deck has been the best performing control deck in the metagame for a while. While playing against blue white control is usually fine for most players, prison elements can make the game very frustrating. Winter Orb is very good at that and is so strong in this deck that many builds revolve around tutoring and resolving it. We decided to ban the card in order to incentivize control players to try something different.

Explanations about the individual changes can be found HERE.

As usual we welcome your feedback. While we read most of the forums out there, the best way to make yourself heard is by writing us HERE. The next announcement will be on September 16th.

Last but not least, we’d like to thank Benoît Verwaerde for his long-lasting contributions. As an ardent competitive player, he made top 8s in Lille area tournaments which such various decks as Zur the Enchanter, Doran, the Siege Tower, Horde of Notions, Wydwen, the Biting Gale, or even Godo, Bandit Warlord. In addition, he was a founding member of the Duel Commander rules committee. His broard vision of the format and excellent organizational skills helped make the committee what it is today. He was known as Vhailor and Emether on forums and was a very active contributor to those (we hope it stays so!). In order to give priority to his family, he decided to leave us a few weeks ago. Benoît, you will not be forgotten!

The Duel Commander rules committee.

Jul

8

Magic 2014 banlist update

By Daniel Kitachewsky

Hello everybody,

Due to a mistake on our part, we don’t have updates for Magic 2014 ready yet. We will post an update on rules and banlist on July 15th, effective July 19th.

Sorry for the delay and happy pre-releasing!

The Duel Commander rules committee.

Apr

22

Dragon’s Maze banlist update !

By Daniel Kitachewsky

Hello everybody.

After the last update which was, well, not an update, it’s time now for a few changes.

These changes take effect on May 3rd, 2013.

While we already acknowledged the large proportion of white and blue in January, it appears that the number of such decks is rising, and even more so in large tournaments. Saint-Nazaire’s tournament in March, with 77 players, had more than 30% of decks playing white-blue. It’s clear that while players enjoy playing diverse decks, many are coming back to the tried-and-true combination of disruption and game-breakers that these colors offer when it’s time to play a big tournament with significant prizes. The powerful commanders available in these colors add to their appeal.

Another large feedback has been the lack of aggressive options. While the relatively small number of such decks is explained by rules inherent to the format, 30 life being a big hurdle for very aggressive decks to overcome, we do believe that their small numbers are also explained by the fact that many experienced and successful players choose more controlling strategies.

Nonetheless, we are trying with these bannings and unbannings to push a little bit towards aggro and open up other possiblities as well. We are keeping an eye on the number of blue-white decks and if these continue dominating further measures will be taken.

Explanations about the individual changes can be found HERE.

We remain vigilant about the format and of course welcome any feedback, which you can send us HERE.

The Duel Commander rules committee.