Putting the global pandemic aside for a moment, we on the Commander Rules Committee (RC) didn’t otherwise have a bad year in 2021. The format has firmly entrenched itself as the most popular in Magic’s storied history. We had individual Commander-related successes, like Scott working on some upcoming products that you’re going to love and me having cards that I created and worked on being released. Most importantly, we solidified our relationship with the fine folks in Studio X — making a great deal of progress in how clear communication flows in both directions and how we can help with making Commander products. It’s a great place to be because we can positively impact, and to some extent help shape, the path of Commander design now and in the future.
That’s the past though. I want to focus on what we’re going to do next. Since it looks like (no jinxes!) the treatment I’m undergoing is having positive effects, I should be available and have the energy to do more things. After a relatively quiet back half of 2021, I want to get ambitious for 2022. Here’s a taste of what I have in mind.
I’m going to repeat some of the things I said last week in the AMA on this topic. It’s simply time that we do it. We haven’t had a change for nearly a decade. Regardless of the fact that the four of us have led Commander from a niche format to the most popular in Magic’s long history, we need to think about and prepare for the future. I believe the time to go legacy shopping is when you’re on top. So what does a new RC member look like? The short answer is “not like the four of us.” The long answer is, well, longer.
In last week’s piece, I listed the beginnings of what I see as the personal attributes of a new RC member or members, so please take a look at that. I will repeat that it’s important for the next person (or at least one in the event of multiple appointments) be demographically different from the four of us. It’s important because representation matters. While we don’t have the space to represent every individual demographic, we want to move the needle away from being all to one side.
Sure, it’s good optically, but that’s not the heart of the matter. The real core is that there’s a tremendous diversity among Commander players and we want the format’s ruling body to better reflect that. The continuation of that thought is that that person or persons will bring a different level of both Magic/Commander and life experience with them. They won’t bring just diversity of representation, they’ll bring diversity of thought.
Right now, our best opportunity for additional representation lies with the Commander Advisory Group (CAG), since it’s a much larger body. We have to be careful about making it too large; I think we’re already pushing on the ceiling at twelve, but I’d be comfortable (maybe better put as not uncomfortable) with going to about sixteen.
Representation isn’t just about personal demographics, either. Geographical ones are important, as we have few CAG members outside of North America. Other continents deserve representation as well. We don’t currently have any specific CAG addition plans other than “it’d be nice to have some folks from the rest of the world,” but we’ll work on it. We might be able to resolve the issue in parallel with RC expansion, although the efforts won’t really have anything direct to do with one another.
In the AMA, someone asked if there would be popular elections or something for any RC spots. While I encourage you to read the full answer, the short answer is no. That said, we’re happy to hear your suggestions. I’m pretty sure we’re aware of the folks who we feel could either step or grow into the role, since one of our criteria will be someone who’s strongly invested in the format — which, by the way, doesn’t necessarily mean a content creator; investment in the format takes on many forms.
Still, I wouldn’t want to discount the possibility that there’s someone who hasn’t come across our radar that an interview would reveal to be a great candidate. We’re certainly not going to do something akin to Wizards of the Coast’s (WotC’s) Great Designer Search. For one, we simply don’t have the resources. Second and more significantly, we’re doing something entirely different.
The next RC appointments will go to people of gravitas and capability. I’d like them to be the type of people who, even if you disagree with us appointing them over someone else, you can say that you still understand where we’re coming from. I’ll be honest that we currently have some people in mind — more different names than we can reasonably fill spots with — but nothing is anywhere close to a done deal. The four of us still have a great deal to talk about regarding how we’re going to implement a change that’s going to have a great deal of impact on the future of Commander. You’ll definitely be hearing more about this from us in the near future.
Website Update: Banned List Cards
There are two parts to what we want to do here. The first is to write and publish updated explanations for why each banned card is banned. What we write in an update notification is only as detailed as it needs to be to get the point across; brevity is important there in not losing the audience. We can provide a more detailed exploration, pointing to the philosophy, our experience with the card, some of the community’s input, or whatever we like in a static spot that folks can always know where to find. They’ll also be handy links that RC members (or anyone else, I suppose) can copy/paste to folks who ask, which will be super-convenient.
The second part is to make those explanations into rollover boxes on each card. Instead of just getting a card image, you get the text of the explanation in a box for handy reference. That box could also feature helpful links to discussions in places like the RC Discord server so that folks could offer their opinions or just chat with other players about the card. There might be other techy features we could add to the box or rollover. It seems like the only limiting factor is the expense to implement them.
Website Update: Expanded FAQ and Thoughts on Philosophy
The second major thing we’d like to add to the website is to expand the FAQ section and add some deeper thoughts about the format Philosophy Document. I’d like to see the FAQ cover some of the more common rules situations that crop up in Commander games as well. The FAQ would become more of a living document than it is at the moment, which has been quite static. One of the reasons that it’s lagged for so long is that it’s just a bear of a project.
Expansion on the Philosophy Document will likely come as a series of essays from RC and CAG members, or potentially some of the deep thinkers among the player base. There are sometimes a fair number of dots to connect between the Philosophy Document and the Banned List — especially since the Banned List isn’t the only major tool we use in sculpting the format. Since this is a departure from how other formats work, it seems helpful for the player base to more clearly see our thoughts processes.
While we’ve had fun on the RC Stream during COVID times, we’d like it to grow and do more with it. Up until now, it’s been a bit insular: the four of us play the first game, then Toby drops out (since he’s on the East Coast and likes to get up early) and we add a guest.
The other three are generally a good deal busier than I am, so what I’d like to do is add another day in which I play with up to three more guests. Gavin, Toby, and Scott would play whenever they had time, even subbing in for me, but the bigger idea would be to pick up and showcase more different people along the way, thereby increasing interest in the stream.
We’ve already booked all our guests for the Thursday stream through February. I Tweeted about it here; I encourage you to check it out because it’s pretty spicy. I’ve also secured promises from a few high-profile and thoroughly exciting guests who haven’t yet been booked for particular dates.
I don’t think we have the commitment in us to stream quite enough to make Twitch partner or anything, but streaming more means more eyes and ears on the kinds of games we’re playing and while we’re at it, what we’re thinking and talking about format-wise. We have all kinds of open conversations regarding format news and updates, so it’s a convenient place to drop by and see what’s on our collective minds. That’s only one value-added piece of tuning in.
We’re also going to step up our giveaways. During the weeks around Christmas, we gave away two Secret Lairs, to include the Eldrane Wonderland (which seemed appropriate). While we might not be able to be that generous every week, there are plenty of things that come by that we’d love to get into the hands of the folks who support us and the format. Sometimes, we’ll pull stuff out of our own collections. It’s just our small way of saying thanks to the folks who come support us.
This is a big one and one we’re going to get some help on, most notably from Tech Support to the Stars, Logan Isch. It’s my intention to enhance the RC Discord server (where we recently passed 5,000 members!) for both the folks who visit and the mods who do a lot of the heavy lifting.
I say thank you to the mods as frequently as I can, but I’d like to say it in a more material form as well. We don’t generate enough income right now to even keep up with maintenance costs, so I’d like to generate enough more from the stream and RC Patreon to provide stipend to our mods simply because that’s how we’d like to treat them.
It’s not just for the mods that we want to step up things, though. I recently started a thread in the #general channel asking for the kinds of things that folks would like to see. We received some excellent feedback. I’ve also gone in search of lessons learned from other folks to see what we might do better. How we can make the server better in some regard is a more open-ended thing at the moment. I have a more specific thing we can do right away.
Although Toby and I are pretty active and Gavin and Scott get in there as they can (huh, wonder if that’s an East Coast/West Coast thing), I’d like our activity to become even more focused. An RC person is almost always on the server, at least during North American day and evening hours. The problem is that you never have a guarantee exactly when we’ll be there.
The easy solution there is to have regularly scheduled conversations with RC members. We set up a time, whether that’s weekly, monthly, or somewhere in between, at least two of us are there, and we just chat with folks other than the ones we normally do. Sometimes it’ll be open to whatever is on your mind. Sometimes there will be a scheduled topic, like a card that’s the current focus of discussion. I’d want to limit the chaos and make it a real roundtable—like raffling off (the free kind) eight seats, each of whom get speaking privileges. Everyone else would be able to listen and maybe even send in a different channel suggestions/feedback to the folks in the seats.
One of the ideas that I got from asking is to do members-only stuff other than Commander — like get together to play Jackbox, Among Us, or anything that might be suitable to a webcam crowd. The RC could organize and/or participate in them. Maybe there’s some virtual pie-in-the-face simulator. The idea is to create an even stronger sense of community, which is what Commander is about in the first place. It’s about getting together with friends and doing something we love. The server has an LFG channel already. I think the base assumption is that it’s for Commander games, but I’m happy with expanding to whatever folks want to get together for.
Enable the Next Generation of Content Creators
I strongly believe that it’s our responsibility to do more than maintain the format for today. That’s why I’d like to help find folks to take it into the future and that means more than just new RC members. Content creators are a vital part of connecting disparate parts of the community. They’re also important for having distinct voices. I want to help amplify some of the voices which none of us has yet heard, especially those whose voices are traditionally muted.
The effort is difficult, because how do you hear about people no one has heard from? Well, you go find them. You create a network of friends all around the world and ask them to listen for you. They talk to you and you end up finding folks like Rebell or Snow Queen of Hoth or Cobblepott, and then you give them part of your platform and the microphone. It might not always be easy, but it’s simple.
These are the major things I see us taking on in 2022, with the first one being a pretty big deal. They’ll take effort, planning, coordination, and cooperation and they’ll all be worth it. You’ll be worth it. They’re not the only things we’re going to tackle (like we’ll keep having fun playing the best format in Magic!), but it’s a pretty good start.
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