You Lika The Juice? Rhymes With Winning: Bleiweiss On Commander Decks

Friday, March 4 – Bennie Smith goes deep into the predictions on the new Commander product coming out from Wizards of the Coast – will it contain Legacy staples? Or is that way off? Bennie interviews Ben Bleiweiss for his thoughts!

As a huge fan of movies and a student of screenwriting, I know one of the Holy Grails of Story is that perspective-shattering moment that sends your
mind reeling back to reevaluate everything you thought you knew up until then. A classic example is the reveal at the end of the movie Sixth Sense.

Ben Bleiweiss’s 2011 predictions article

from last Friday was one of those moments for me in regards to the possibilities in the new Commander decks that will coming out this year.

Ben’s very first prediction was that “Commander will have some awesome Legacy and Vintage Cards!” Now, most of us Commander fans have
been fantasizing about all the awesome new multiplayer and casual goodies we’re going to find in the 51 brand-new cards created specifically for
this product, but Ben stepped outside that box with his thinking.

“…what I’m most excited about is that this product allows Wizards to print cards that would normally be too powerful for Standard play but
are at-home in older formats.” He goes on to predict Shards of Alara-style wedge tri-lands, but “I wouldn’t be surprised to see Wizards
push the power level of these lands even harder – so we might see lands that are more at the power level of Murmuring Bosk or even those that
challenge the Ravnica dual lands. These lands won’t warp Standard, and this gives Wizards a way to fill the gap between Revised dual land and too good to see print in modern Magic, so why not dual-market this product to both Legacy/Vintage players and to Commander players?”

Holy crap! Why not indeed? It hadn’t even occurred to me that some of these new cards could indeed be powered up old-school style without any
concern about balance in Standard or Extended. I just assumed that the new cards would be specifically made for multiplayer and goofy casual fun, not
raw power. My mind started whirling at the possibilities, and I quickly jumped on Twitter to start a conversation.

@blairwitchgreen: re: Bleiweiss’s predictions today… would original dual-land-style tri-lands be totally out of the question in the
#CMDR products?

@blairwitchgreen: or maybe Ravnica-style tri-lands: shocklands that are ForestPlainsSwamp, etc.

My tweeps all thought I’d gone insane. “Those cards would be way too powerful! Shards-style tri-lands are what they’re gonna
do,” they said. Even Ben himself made that prediction. Still, following Ben’s line of reasoning, I couldn’t help wonder why not make lands that are as good as or even better than the original dual lands? Not only would it make color-fixing in Commander easier,
it could deflate the cost of dual lands and bring down a barrier to entry into that format. Yes, WotC made a commitment to the Reserve list not to
print any functionally identical versions of cards on the list, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make cards as good or better than those
cards; they’ve made no pledge that your RevisedTropicalIsland will continue to be worth $80 or more. Just look at the Reserve list, and you can
easily run across cards that have been trumped over the years by cards that are just better. Gauntlet of Might, meet Gauntlet of Power. Juzam Djinn,
meet Phyrexian Vatmother. Didgeridoo, meet Aether Vial.

Of course, the one thing that threw some cold water on this notion was the issue with Legacy being a red-hot format right now, and if Wizards actually
put in cards that are “awesome in Legacy,” wouldn’t that end up exploding the sale price of the Commander decks to much higher than
the suggested retail price? And wouldn’t that anger a lot of players who play Commander as a budget option? They’d suddenly find a product, which
was supposedly targeting them, too expensive to buy!

I decided some follow-up questions for Mr. Bleiweiss were in order, and thankfully he was happy to oblige!

Q. As someone who loves Commander and writes about it a lot, I was intrigued with what you predicted about the Commander product, namely that some
of the cards will be awesome in Legacy. If this were true, wouldn’t it end up driving the Commander decks suggested retail price of $29.99 a
lot higher, which would conflict with Forsythe’s stated goal of “[breaking] down some of the deck-building barriers” of Commander
and bringing in new players?

A. Not initially. Some products have gone over MSRP for preconstructed decks (Duel Decks: Elspeth vs. Tezzeret springs to mind), but the majority have
been at MSRP or lower (most other Duel Decks, at release, Premium Decks: Slivers, Premium Decks: Fire and Lightning, and the two Mirrodin Besieged
Event Decks). Given that there will be a large number of these available at launch, I think that the singles might add up to somewhere above MSRP, but
I think the decks themselves (especially for preorder) will be at or below MSRP.

On top of that – unless you’re playing pauper EDH, $29.99 is a heck of a deal for a full 100-card deck, where probably 60-80 of the cards will be
non-basic land cards. That’s less than the cost of basically any single NM Revised dual land at this point.

Q. I was especially taken with the notion of making really good color-fixing lands… the cost of dual lands is a pretty big barrier to playing
in Legacy; do you think WotC would make really good lands to rival the original duals in power? Do you think something like the Ravnica shocklands,
but featuring three basic land types, is out of the question?

A: Given that these are wedge-color decks, I think we’ll likely see Shards of Alara-style tri-lands (enters-the-battlefield-tapped) for sure, and I
think that we may see Murmuring Bosk-style, “counts as one basic land type but produces two other colors” lands – like a Mountain that pains you
for a blue or a white, or somesuch like that. And I think that style of land has a chance of breaking through in Legacy.

Q. I started a conversation on Twitter about this, and most CMDR fans seemed to think that there’s no way WotC can make cards that will be
good in competitive Legacy without exploding the costs of the decks. What do you think?

A: This is entirely an issue of supply and demand. If these decks remain evergreen (meaning they’ll be periodically reprinted), then by definition the
price of the desired singles (added up across the five decks) should never really break the $150 mark. Now, that isn’t to say that if one deck has a
really killer Legacy card, that individual card won’t be worth $20 on its own – but in that case, the other cards in that deck will be suppressed
in value.

Taking the Bosk example above – let’s say there’s a tri-land that counts as an Island and taps for green and red for a point of damage. Let’s say
that card ends up being $20, but that deck also has a card like Mind’s Eye (which is currently hitting the $5 mark). Chances are, the number of that
deck opened for that land will be significant, but the price of the other singles in that deck (like a Mind’s Eye) would drop proportionally, so you’d
be looking at a $2.50-$3 Mind’s Eye, instead of the current $5 that the Mirrodin version is going for. I’ve seen this happen with Archenemy and Planechase (at least, right after release), so I’d expect the same to happen for Commander.

Q. The Twitterverse seemed to think the best WotC could do was to make good Reanimator targets for Eternal formats. Would that cover your
“awesome Legacy and Vintage cards” prediction, or do you see other types of cards?

A. I think this product gives WotC the opportunity to have cards that scale in power with multiplayer but are more ‘fair’ in Legacy/Vintage. For
instance: U, Instant: Draw a card for each opponent. The cost on that is probably off (maybe UU?); it’s basically a vanilla cantrip in Constructed but
a fantastic Ancestral variant in Commander.

On the flip side, given the power level of Commander in general, why wouldn’t WotC push the power level of effects? This would be an ideal set
to get something like a Force of Will variant. Force of Will is too powerful to introduce to Standard (most likely), but it’s generally not the #1
counterspell choice for Commander. I’m not saying that Wizards would reprint Force of Will, but what about something like: “UU3, counter target spell.
You may remove a red or green card from your hand instead of paying its mana cost?” I think a card like that would see a lot of play in Legacy (and in
fact, would probably be too powerful for that format, given FOW already exists), but something along those lines could be printed in a set like this.

Thanks for your time, Ben! I look forward to seeing the rest of your predictions for 2011, hopefully up today.

So I’m curious, Commander fans—what do you think about Ben’s prediction? Is he way off base, or totally prescient?

On a related note, on Monday Night Magic this week, they were talking about Duel Decks, and Tom mentioned “Dwarves vs. Orcs” as a future
possibility. I know he said it in jest, but it suddenly occurred to me that the Duel Deck product could be another way to introduce powered-up,
brand-new cards that could potentially make big splashes in older formats and casual play without disturbing Standard. The “Dwarves vs.
Orcs” notion latched on with me because of a long-standing pet peeve of mine regarding Dwarves. Ever since I read The Lord of the Rings
in middle school, I’ve been a big fan of Dwarves—Gimli was such a stout badass, chopping down foes and tallying up kills all across Middle
Earth. I’ve played numerous badass Dwarf characters in D&D campaigns over the years in honor of Gimli, and it pissed me off to no end that
Peter Jackson made Gimli a goofball in his movies while elevating Legolas to demigod status. In the book The Two Towers, Gimli beat Legolas in
orc kills in the big battle in Helm’s Deep, and it was made pretty clear that the two were near equals in battle proficiency.

Now, don’t get me wrong—I loved the Rings trilogy and watch it again whenever I get the chance, but that one thing with the
Dwarves rubs me the wrong way. Similarly, though I love Magic: The Gathering, it’s also pissed me off that Dwarves have been given the shaft in
terms of quality representation over the years. With a few notable exceptions (Dwarven Miner, Dwarven Blastminer, Duergar Hedge-Mage, Balthor the
Defiled in casual), Dwarves have been given fierce art but play incredibly weak. Pardic Miner? Balthor the Stout? Dwarven Patrol?

Why not use the Duel decks to juice up such neglected corners in Magic while also tossing some extra spice into Legacy or Vintage?

Stoutarm Scout R

Creature – Dwarf Scout 1/1

Double strike.

{X}{X}{1}: Destroy target noncreature artifact with converted mana cost X.

Clanheart Commander 1RR

Creature – Dwarf Warrior 3/3


All other Dwarves you control get +2/+0 and have haste.

Axefury Berserkers 1R

Creature – Dwarf Warrior 2/2


Axefury Berserkers get +1/+1 for each creature your opponents control.

Seriously, if these are only legal for Eternal formats, why not give Magic some badass Dwarves? And while you’re at it, give the Minotaurs some love… and Orcs! In fact, you could really excite
the Tribal fans out there (many of whom also build tribal Commander decks) with brand-new, potent all-stars to juice up the anemic creature types in
Magic. Why not?

Random Amusements

  • Two and a Half Men
    is a show I don’t follow, but it’s a show I really enjoy whenever I happen to watch it. Much of that enjoyment is tied up in just how
    much Charlie Sheen’s character seems to be very much how Charlie Sheen actually is, though obviously toned down a little bit for
    primetime (though another part of why I love the show is just how much it’s not toned down—it’s not afraid of crossing
    the risqué line for laughs early and often to leave you wondering how they got away with that again). In effect, I found the Charlie
    Sheen Lite version of Charlie Sheen amusing in no small part because I thought it was actually pretty close to how he actually is… but little
    did I know just how Lite and tame that version was until this week when we got to see Charlie Sheen Uncut… holy crap, the dude is unhinged! I
    know the man needs some help, and I feel horrible for his family, but I know from personal experience that you can’t force someone to get
    help until they want to get help. In the meantime, he’s been providing some amazing public craziness! Two of the more entertaining
    Sheen-themed sites I’ve run across this week are The Sheen Dream and lolcat-style Cats Quote Charlie Sheen.

  • Did you see the Tonight I’m Frakking You video on YouTube, featuring Magic: The
    Gathering quite prominently amongst other nerd activities… along with Caprica’s Alessandra Torresani in a Slave Leia costume…? I
    have to admit being rather fond of Slave Leia costumes.

Looking at my calendar, turns out that I’m not working tonight, so I’m excited about heading up to Richmond Comix for a night of Magic!
I’ll be giving Glissa 2.0 a whirl to see how she fares and will let you know how it goes. Of course, I’ll have my Commander decks on hand,
and rumor has it there might be a Momir/Jhoira Magic stack in the house as well! Maybe I’ll see you up there?

Take care,


starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com

Make sure to follow my Twitter feed (@blairwitchgreen). I check it often so feel free to send me
feedback, ideas, and random thoughts on Magic and life.

New to Commander?

If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:

My current Commander decks
(and links to decklists)