Commander Q and A!

Sheldon Menery, ambassador to Commander lovers everywhere, sets aside a few minutes to answer the questions you have about the rules, the future, and the food!

The minds of the Commander community are fertile and curious. As part of trying to keep our fingers on the pulse of that community, I like to occasionally
tap into those minds. Here goes:

Why are you Phelddagrif?

Well, I’m not Phelddagrif, but my avatar on the official forums is and has been since the beginning. Phelddagrif was my first-ever deck, and the only one I
had for several years after the format’s inception. When we stood up the forums (in 2006), it seemed natural to have that as my avatar. It was my iconic
deck for a long time, before I developed a problem and started building a legion of decks. The copy of Phelddagrif that I play with is signed by all the
judges who were at the first Pro Tour I Head Judged (Atlanta, 2005).

What drink goes best with each of your EDH decks?

This question is awesome enough that I’m going to turn it into a complete article. Super shout out to user Swarm on the official forums.

If you could design a card (congrats you won the Invitational) what would you design?

Like most Magic players, I like to dream up cards. Here’s one such idea:

Deep Cover Operative 3BB


When Deep Cover Operative enters the battlefield, choose an opponent. That player gains control of Deep Cover Operative.

At the beginning of your upkeep, lose 2 life.

When Deep Cover Operative dies, creatures you control get -3/-3 until end of turn.


I might even do a whole cycle: Deep Cover Saboteur, Deep Cover Assassin, etc.


When I joined the Air Force, my career field was 511xx, Computer Systems Operation. When I retired (as a Tech Sergeant; I had made Master Sergeant, but
they wanted two more years if I took the stripe, and I felt like twenty years was enough), the field was 3C0xx, Computer-Communications System Operation.
The changes in the field from 1984 to 2004 were quite significant. I was responsible for being proficient in all areas of IT, to include operations, comms,
security, encryption, etc.

What is your favourite legendary creature? What is your favourite MTG card of all time?

Today, it’s Thraximundar. I’m in the mood for raw, unbridled aggression backed with a little of blue’s cleverness. Tomorrow it might be something
different. My favorite card of all time is Living Death, and it has been since it was released.

What does it take to become part of the Rules Committee?

First and foremost, it takes an open slot. We’re quite comfortable with the size of the committee at the moment-although for the truly exceptional person,
we would make room (which we did for Devon). I believe strongly that when a group is too large, it starts making compromise decisions, which is suboptimal.
We never want to do that. Should a slot open up, we would look for a candidate with a passion for the format and the demonstrated ability to craft an
argument in public spaces, mostly online, and be able to function solo as a representative of the committee (meaning no going rogue). The ability to
dissent without devolution is essential. Devon was just such a person. He had established a strong and capable voice in the online community, and he knows
how to craft an opinion. We invited him to join us at Pro Tour Seattle, where Scott, Toby, and I sat down with him and had a long conversation. We would
definitely never add someone without a face-to-face meeting. It’s there that you can really get the measure of the person.

What’s the silliest play you’ve ever pulled?

Playing Phelddagrif (in the days before Reliquary Tower was printed, which will be important shortly), I was in a five-player game, and I had a 61/61 Serra
Avatar. I battled someone with it, and they took the damage because it didn’t kill them. After combat, I cast Petrified Wood-Kin. Someone decided that me
having two 61/61s wasn’t going to cut it, so they killed the Avatar during my second main phase. I sacrificed it to Greater Good. The first card I peeled
off the top was Spellbook.

What’s your favorite and least favorite card from this list: Hydra Scoopmaster, Descent of the Scoopmasters, Scoopmaster Genesis, Scoopblossom, Hooded
Scoopmaster, Kiki-Jiki, Scoopmaster, Scoopmaster Vat, Batterscoopskull, Scoop of Worms, Elspeth, Scoop-Errant, Garruk, Apex Scoopmaster, Scoopmate
Dragon, Hazezon Scoopmaster, Scoopsire, Nath of the Gild-Scoop, Ghave, Scoopmaster of Spores, White Sun’s Scoopocalypse.

I reject the notion that any of those are scoop-worthy, but I’ll play along. Favorite is Hazezon; least favorite is Ghave.

What would you like them to print (or reprint) for the next Commander set?

I would like for the next Commander set to be something more along the lines of Commander’s Arsenal, with everything that’s not currently available in foil
but commonly played (and even then, some janky stuff), to be printed in foil. Which plays into the next question…

What would be the one card you would like to see printed in foil (that hasn’t been printed in foil before)?

Fault Line. I have a Klug Alter of it, but I would really also like a shiny one.

Are planeswalkers being considered for commanders?

Not in any way, shape, or form. If there are future planeswalkers which have the “may be your commander” text on them, we’ll welcome them with open arms.
Until such a time (which I imagine is unlikely in the near term), we’re not issuing format-level errata (of any kind if we can avoid it).

Any chance we can get Elbrus, the Binding Blade made into a legal commander? I’m aware why it wasn’t, but I think there’s room for it.

It’s highly unlikely. We currently don’t see the need to redefine what can be a commander (which includes the aforementioned making planeswalkers into
commanders). Nothing is ever off the table, but I wouldn’t hold my breath on a change like this. Try it out with your local group and get back to us with
the results.

With tuck being gone now, what are your opinions of theft, Arrests, Torpor Orb, and Pithing Needle effects? How do you feel about using them and/or
seeing them used specifically in light of the changes to tuck?

Well, tuck isn’t gone (it still works just fine on non-commanders), but I get where you’re going. After reading lots (and I mean lots) of post-change
reports, I think our original assessment was fairly accurate. The tucking of commanders wasn’t happening at such a startling rate that players would
immediately jump to using in droves things like you’ve listed. I might go as far as saying that the tuck change for commanders is a smaller blip on the
radar than the banning of Primeval Titan or Sylvan Primordial.

Are members of the RC replacing their tuck effects, and if so, what are they using?

No. Personally, I’ve made exactly zero deck changes based on the absence of commander tuck. Spell Crumple and Hinder have stayed in the decks that they’re
in, and no new anti-commander weapons have entered. No one else has mentioned making any changes.

Would you like four-colour legendary creatures?

I would. I imagine a future set called something like Return to Return to Ravnica, where there’s some kind of guild war. Certain guilds merge
together, creating four-color possibilities-like there’s a new Azorius/Gruul super-guild which marries the mechanics somehow.

Did you expect to get so much refusal regarding the change of the tuck rule, and are you considering to return to the old ruling when the refusal

Well, for one, I don’t agree with the frame of your question. For the most part, Commander players are adults, not four-year-olds. I don’t think there are
too many of them who are holding their breath until they pass out so that we’ll let them stay up an extra hour. If local groups find that they like things
the old way, we’re happy that they’re happy. There is no consideration of undoing the change (and I’ll remind everyone on the RC’s stance to not negotiate
with terrorists).

How does being a hall of famer feel?

Pretty damn cool, it must be said. It’s nice to be recognized for having such an impact on the program. I’m going to do an upcoming article regarding my
vote for the next class and some other commentary about the idea that the Magic Judge Hall of Fame should be a wing of the Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame.

What’s your current stance on Prophet of Kruphix, given the massive amount of debate we had around it lately?

Our current stance (Toby was actually here at the house for a few days this past weekend, and we discussed it) is that nothing new has come up in the
discussion (except maybe some increased volume, although I’m not actually sure that’s the case). We pay attention, and no one has really added anything new
to the argument. We simply don’t see the card fitting the banning criteria. Yes, it’s extremely strong, but something has to be the best card in the format
(and I’m not sure I’d make that argument for Prophet of Kruphix anyway). If you take away all the strong cards, people will definitely stop playing.

What cards are currently on your Watch List for Commander?

Every time we do one of these Q&A’s, someone tries to trick me into saying that there’s a Watch List. Toby suggested that I troll everyone and say that
we have our eyes on totally random stuff like Reconnaissance, Kor Chant, and Starke of Rath, so just remember who the mean one is. I’d never troll you like
that. I’d troll you with Derevi.

What’s your favorite kind of cheese used in a meal? What’s your favorite kind of cheese to go with wine?

I believe that (as it says in the name) parmigiano reggiano is the undisputed king of all cheeses. It’s certainly our favorite cheese to cook
with, although goat cheese runs a close second. I believe Provolone is the best of all sandwich cheeses. The cheese/wine pairing depends on the cheese and
wine. I love Seaside Smoked Cheddar to go with a racy California Pinot Noir since many of them have a bacon/smoked meat aroma to them. The classic pairing
of bleu cheese and Sauternes is always nice. Mostly, however, I like nutty hard cheeses like parm, and aged gouda to go with nearly any red wine that has
some tannic backbone to it.

What is your (personal) stance on non-creature legends that transform into legendary creatures, in regards of commander status? How do you plan to
handle the flip creature/planeswalkers in regards to their status as possible commanders?

As I discuss above, we have no intention on redefining what it means to be a commander. If someone tries it out, I imagine that the results wouldn’t be
apocalyptic-but “it wouldn’t hurt anything” isn’t really a reason to make a change.

In regards to your last article about the “Spirit of EDH,” you mentioned that instead of complaining, players should discuss what is acceptable and the
power level of decks. The reason I am bringing this up is that casuals should also understand when you step in a tournament. You should expect some
brutal competition and not groan about being combo’d out.

I agree 100%. It’s up to the individual to understand what they’re getting involved in, and it’s up to the veterans to explain to the rookies that this is
the case.

Do you really feel Fog effects are underplayed?

Absolutely. Creatures are so good these days that the turn you buy (or more, if you’re playing Tangle or Spore Cloud) will pay pretty hefty dividends.

What are your top 3 wines? If you had to pair them with a meal, what you pair them with?

Chateau Lynch-Bages is my favorite single wine. It’s a big, beefy Bordeaux that is still remarkably elegant. I’m a believer in pairing food and wine from
the same region together-so it would get something suitably French, like a nice lamb dish. My collection (which you can view at CellarTracker.Com, userid juggernt) includes some from the great vintages of 2000 and 2005, as well
as a bottle of 1990, which my wife recently got me as a present and is currently the oldest bottle I have. I haven’t touched any of the 2005, but I will at
some point in 2015 crack open one to see how it’s doing. I intend to have a bottle of it every other year or so starting around 2020, finally opening in
the last one in 2035. My second favorite wine is Quilceda Creek‘s signature Cab. Like the Lynch-Bages, it’s a
towering, take-no-prisoners wine that is still incredibly silky. The only thing to pair with a monstrosity like that is a rib-eye steak (medium rare, thank
you). My third favorite individual wine is also a Cab (although more like a Bordeaux than a monolith Cali Cab) from Bressler Vineyards. The Bresslers make a cult-level wine that hasn’t hit cult-level prices. The production
run is small-maybe 400 cases a year-and you have to be on the mailing list to get it. Interestingly enough, even though my favorite three individual wines
are Cab-based, I drink more Pinot Noir than Cab. It’s just that the Pinots we drink, mostly from Martinelli Winery and Kosta Browne Winery, have several different
individual vineyard offerings. It means that there’s more Martinelli in the cellar than anything else (they also make spectacular Zinfandel), but I have
ten different Pinots and fourteen different Zins. It’s hard to pick a favorite from among them. The best pairing with Pinot Noir is a nice piece of salmon
(from the Pacific Northwest-none of that farm-raised Atlantic stuff).

What is your current favorite commander to date to play against?

Frequently, when I run up against a cool deck/commander which someone else has put together, I’ll write about it. I still think my favorite has been Melvin’s Horobi deck, which I wrote about back in

Before I ask my question, let me provide a little backstory. When I first got into EDH, Azusa was my general, and I fell in love with the format. The
deck was the definition of splashy plays, casting Tooth and Nail, Eldrazi, swinging with a million tokens, etc. Flash forward to now, I feel like I’ve
evolved since. First, I changed generals to a less powerful one. Then, I cut powerhouse staples like Tooth and Nail, Craterhoof Behemoth, Genesis Wave,
etc. because I felt they were just not fun for me and my opponent. Is this what you expect from the community as a whole? Is this an example of what
you mean by the “Spirit of EDH”?

Absolutely. You’re thinking about not just your own fun, but the other players’ as well. This is exactly what I hope happens. It’s not about individual
cards and what they do, it’s how you and people you play with view them.

You have always advocated house rules when it is a viable option. Does anyone on the Rules Committee play with house rules that go against the official
rules (such as still using tuck, the BaaC list, or allowing/banning specific cards)?

I’m going to quote the answer Moxnix gave on the MTGS forums here: There’s no good way to answer this question. Moxnix says the result will be either “you
don’t even use your own ban list it’s so bad” and “see they just say house rules are okay, we all knew that was a line of BS.” Still, I believe in a level
of transparency. For the most part, the answer is no, none of us deviate. The only exception I know is that Scott, Toby, and I (as well as everyone who
plays at Armada Games) uses the “Gis” mulligan (named after fellow Judge HoFer Gis Hoogendijk). Originally, it was
“draw seven, if it’s not playable, set it aside and draw seven more; repeat until you get a playable hand (and don’t abuse this).” Locally we’ve modified
it to “set it aside, draw seven; if you have three or more land you have to keep it.” Obviously, you have to prove that you don’t have three land. The
former probably makes more equitable games; the latter is less vulnerable to abuse and, at least for our local environment, works out reasonably well.
There is currently no discussion of making this the official mulligan.

Was tuck banned because you thought it was an actual problem prohibiting people from playing the game, or was it banned because you wanted to change
the texture/tone of the game? I still cannot for the life of me figure out why, but I also know my point of view is relatively narrow.

If you look back at the original article and our subsequent discussions, you’ll see that
we did it because of a confluence of reasons. Despite the amount of discussion, we believe it to be a small course correction, not a major upheaval. I
think in the few months since then, our assessment has been reasonably supported with evidence (as I mention above).

Planechase EDH is a crowd favorite at many of the shops I play at. Does any of the RC tinker around with Planechase EDH? Do you think there’s any
chance of ever seeing official Planechase product that interacts with Commander-specific elements?

It’s been a while since I’ve played with Planechase. I remember the fun we were having with it. Sometimes it just got ridiculously funny. The main reason I
recall stopping was that I was frequently recording games, and the extra data involving Planechase made an already-onerous task even more tedious. Maybe
we’ll revisit soon. I can’t speak to what’s up with product because I really have no inside information about that kind of stuff.

As Gifts Ungiven has been banned for a long time, have you since then ever tested it for unbanning, and if so, what did you find out?

No, this is one we’re pretty sure about. Each RC meeting we do a thought experiment about unbanning something, even if nothing is on the agenda to talk
about unbanning. There’s a list of cards like Gifts, Balance, and Biorhythm that we know aren’t likely worth the time to talk about. Fans of Recurring
Nightmare should know that one of us always brings it up, hoping. Then the other folks reasonably say no.

Do you think it would be better for the health of the EDH environment and community to keep producing full pre-constructed decks every year, or a
specialized Commander’s Arsenal set that creates unique cards and answers specifically needed cards?

With the caveat that I don’t have much experience in marketing, I think it’d be healthy to interject some Arsenal-like stuff every now and again. I really
don’t care what form they come in; I just like new toys.

Do Nevermore effects naming a general violate the spirit of the format? If so, is there room to consider a rule that would prevent cards like Nevermore
and Declaration of Naught from naming generals? If not, what is the fundamental difference between Nevermore effects and Hinder effects?

The spirit of format is primarily about people talking with each other about the kind of game they want, so the answer to that question is group-specific.
In the global perspective, the cards’ limitation becomes the fundamental difference. They’re not cards that I’d likely play (never say never), but they
seem like reasonable protection if you’re getting particularly brutalized by a specific commander. The cards seem like an opportunity for politics. “Okay,
I’m casting Nevermore. Who has some reason for me to not name their commander?”

Have you played Tiny Leaders?

I have not. It doesn’t seem like my cup of tea. I hear some folks love it and enjoy playing it, so more power to them.

Are you worried that WotC will eventually sanction and take over Commander? Is there anything stopping them from being able to do that (besides not
wanting to)?

I have a personal philosophy that worry is wasteful and useless, but to answer what you’re asking, there is no such concern. There’s certainly nothing
stopping them from trying to do whatever they want. I have no idea what would happen if they did, save for many being very sad about the division it would
cause in the community. The good news is that we have a very good relationship and have for a long time.

I feel like nowadays a lot of Magic cards are too safe, so my question is: Have you EVER considered Rakdos the Defiler as your general for RB colors?

Nope, not ever. Not the kind of card I like to play. I don’t want to take the game completely away from the other players.

I would also like to know where the line is drawn between tuck effects and Meddling Mage, Nevermore, and Voidstone Gargoyle effects. Sure, Declaration
of Naught can be turned off with a Pithing Needle or Phyrexian Revoker, but really, it falls under the same category. What is okay, and what is not
okay? How can we know?

On a global scale, that’s definitely a question you have to answer for yourself. Locally, it’s one to talk to your friends about. For me, the line is drawn
between protection and griefing. If you’re out to just not let other players play the game, then you’ve crossed the line. If you are routinely getting
smashed by a particular card, then it’s reasonable to adapt to it (I’m telling you, Red Elemental Blast never fails to be just the right answer). Again,
the commander tuck rule wasn’t an answer to a single question or problem, so there’s not a real equivalence between Meddling Mage and Hinder.

Thanks to everyone for the great questions and the opportunity to answer them. This week’s Deck Without Comment is the Mimeoplasm Do-Over. As always, a few
changes happen along the way when putting together decks, but this one is pretty true to the original draft.

Check out our awesome deck list database for all the latest versions of my decks:


If you’d like to follow the adventures of my Monday Night RPG group (in a campaign that’s been alive since 1987 and is just now getting started with a new
saga called “The Lost Cities of Nevinor”), ask for an invitation to the Facebook group ” Sheldon Menery’s Monday Night Gamers.”