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By: JXClaytor, Joshua Claytor
Jun 12 2017 12:00pm
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With the introduction of 1v1 on MTGO I have found Magic: The Gathering in its most pure form.  I enjoy Commander greatly and have had Duel Commander on my wish list of things to have on the program so when the announcement came down I had to pinch myself to make sure I was not dreaming. 

I was not. 

I kinda wish I had been though because I've forsaken nearly every other format.  I've played in 3 of the 4 format challenges so far, and while I am terrible at it, I just have so much fun playing it.  I've played nearly 400 matches since the format launched, a lot more after the bans to Strip Mine, (What was WotC thinking?) Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time.   I've been blown out by turn two Baral, Chief of Compliance into turn three Polymorph into Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.  I've cast Buried Alive on turn one to find Phyrexian Devourer, Triskelion and Necrotic Ooze.  I've then cast Lotus Petal and Reanimate to pull off the turn one kill.  I've seen a miracle Temporal Mastery swing the game back in my opponents favor, and watched a friend take an incredible amount of damage from Logic Knot, thanks to Vial Smasher the Fierce.  I've cast a lethal Grapeshot (for 23!) only to watch my opponent cast a ton of spells of their own, desperately digging for an answer.   That answer came in the form of Quicken, which then allowed my opponent to cast Tendrils of Agony

I wasn't even mad.  I was amazed. 

I feel like this format is truly the Kevin Garnett of Magic, anything is possible! 

I also feel like this format has a lot of room to change and grow.  The ban list is a bit of a jumbled mess of cards that are legal that shouldn't be legal and cards that are banned that shouldn't be banned, but only because MTGO does not support banned as Commander as an option.  While I see decks based on Zurgo Bellstriker and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, the life totals make aggro decks huge underdogs, because even with 98 or 99 card decks thirty damage is a lot to deal over the course of a game.  Tutors are incredibly to powerful in the format, which is something that I argued against, but as I played more and more figured that I was wrong about.  The fast mana that is in the format, stuff like Ancient Tomb, Chrome Mox, and Mox Diamond can lead to degenerate and unfair board states and end games quickly. 

So what would I do if I were in charge of the format? 

Honestly, I would take a long hard look at the work that has been done by the community that has formed with Duel Commander.  They have years of experience, and while I do not agree with everything that they do, there is a very good starting point.  Would I copy their banlist and rules word for word?  No more than likely I would not, but here is what I would do. 

1.  Lower the starting life total. 

30 life is way too much for aggressive decks to put any real pressure on the opponent.  20 life is way too little for a control deck to get its feet underneath it.  Is there a happy medium for this format?  I believe that with the rapid changes and adjustments that WotC is willing to put in with the format that it would be ok to test different starting life totals.  I would start off at 25.  I believe that is enough wiggle room for aggro and control to coexist in the format.  Well at least at a greater level than what it is now.  If it turns out that 25 is not the right number, then it can be changed again, but I for sure think the right starting life total is somewhere in the 20-30 range. 

2.  Adjust the banned list. 

I believe that that will be happening on Tuesday, and I have some ideas of what is going to go.  I can see Emrakul, the Aeons Torn leaving the format.  I strongly feel that Vial Smasher the Fierce will not be far behind it.  Do Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Breya, Etherium Shaper have influence over the metagame to be removed as well?  Maybe, as they are banned as Commanders in the format, but not in the format proper.  For a quick reminder here is what WotC's list looks like:

Goodness that is a lot of cards, 51 deep, and could still take some room to grow.  Here is a list of cards that has been banned by the Duel Commander committee but not banned by WotC  (I'm more interested in what they have banned over WotC than what WotC has banned over them).

Ancient Tomb:  I would be very comfortable adding this to the banned list.  Turn one tomb into signet gives the player 4 mana on turn two if they hit their next land drop, and that can cast a large amount of problematic cards.  While the life loss is a heavy fee, this card can lead to some terrible game states. 

Chrome Mox:  I feel that this is fast mana that WotC wanted to see in action.  The Imprint cost is fairly hefty, but in most decks, this card is a free dual land.  I think Chrome Mox leaving would be fine as well.

Grim Monolith:  Two mana to make three and it sticks around?  Worn Powerstone comes in to play tapped, Thran Dynamo costs 4, Gilded Lotus costs five.  This is a card that I can see leaving, but after looking over so many decklists, I've not really seen it in the format that often.  I would be fine with this one staying, but made well aware that it will be asked to leave. 

Imperial Seal:  I'm fine with Imperial Seal.  It's a sorcery speed tutor, and I am more than willing to let that one stay in the format, but would understand if it left too.  However, if you Google search Imperial Seal it brings up this picture.  I'm not saying, but I'm just saying. 

Image from http://www.wombatilim.com

Loyal Retainers:  This card seems fine, but I feel like it's broken in a way that I have not quite figured out yet.  I guess it helps get around Commander Tax?  I would not ban this card yet.  Of course that would change with Banned as Commander being a thing, which I just do not see happening on MTGO. 

Mox Diamond:  Mana stone that produces more than what it costs, just like the other ones, I feel it should be gone. 

Mystical Tutor:  Allows too much flexibility in the most played color in the format.  Also allows for consistant turn three kills with Baral.  Well, it's not so much a kill as it is a putting Emrakul in to play thing. 

Necrotic Ooze:  I've killed more than my fair share of players in the format on turn one thanks to this card.  Little interaction, early game ender, should probably go. 

Vampiric Tutor:  This card does not return an Imperial Seal image when I Google search it, so with its instant speed in mind, I think it should go. 

So that touches on what I think WotC should match up to with the Duel Commander list.  I think Emrakul, the Aeons Torn should go as well.  There are some popular Commanders that I would like to see gone as well, but without Banned as Commander I think it makes banning a legend a little bit harder to do in the format. 

That's it, that is what I would change to the format, I would make the life totals a little lower, and make the banlist a little more uniform, but I think in terms of stuff like Balance, Doomsday, Moat and the other cards that WotC banned (though Serra Ascendant could make the case to come off if the life total was changed) they got that right.  I mean Survival of the Fittest does not seem like a ton of fun! 

Anyways, let me at least show off the Maelstrom Wanderer deck I've been playing recently.  It's what I want to do in the format.  There is some mass land destruction, some spells that let me take turns, and big dumb creatures.  It can ramp quickly, is consistent with mana for being a three color deck, and cannot beat Vial Kraum even on the best of days! 

Maelstrom Wanderer
- 99 Cards Total
1 Inferno Titan
1 Oracle of Mul Daya
1 Thragtusk
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Primeval Titan
1 Maelstrom Wanderer
6 cards

1 Beast Within
1 Brainstorm
1 Thirst for Knowledge
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Fact or Fiction
1 Cyclonic Rift
6 cards
1 Burning of Xinye 1 Compulsive Research
1 Explore
1 Explosive Vegetation
1 Farseek
1 Jokulhaups
1 Mizzium Mortars
1 Mwonvuli Acid-Moss
1 Nature's Lore
1 Plea for Power
1 Preordain
1 Rampant Growth
1 Ranger's Path
1 Reap and Sow
1 Search for Tomorrow
1 Skyshroud Claim
1 Sweltering Suns
1 Temporal Manipulation
1 Temporal Mastery
1 Three Visits
1 Wildfire
1 Capture of Jingzhou
1 Upheaval
1 Ponder
24 cards

1 Worn Powerstone
1 Basalt Monolith
1 Coalition Relic
1 Coldsteel Heart
1 Crystal Shard
1 Everflowing Chalice
1 Fellwar Stone
1 Gruul Signet
1 Hedron Archive
1 Izzet Signet
1 Lotus Bloom
1 Thran Dynamo
1 Prismatic Lens
1 Scroll Rack
1 Simic Signet
1 Talisman of Impulse
1 Mind Stone
17 cards
1 Sylvan Library
1 Annex
1 Carpet of Flowers
3 cards

1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
1 Kiora, the Crashing Wave
1 Ral Zarek
1 Tezzeret the Seeker
1 Garruk Wildspeaker
5 cards
1 Rootbound Crag
2 Mountain
3 Island
4 Forest
1 Ancient Tomb
1 Breeding Pool
1 Cinder Glade
1 Command Tower
1 Crystal Vein
1 Frontier Bivouac
1 Gruul Turf
1 Havenwood Battleground
1 Hinterland Harbor
1 Homeward Path
1 Izzet Boilerworks
1 Kessig Wolf Run
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Sheltered Thicket
1 Shivan Reef
1 Simic Growth Chamber
1 Steam Vents
1 Sulfur Falls
1 Svyelunite Temple
1 Temple of Abandon
1 Temple of Epiphany
1 Temple of Mystery
1 Wooded Foothills
1 Yavimaya Coast
1 Stomping Ground
1 Taiga
1 Temple of the False God
1 Tropical Island
38 cards

Inferno Titan is for sure not the Commander, but it's whatever now! 

Next week I'll talk about the bannings, and look at a deck in the post ban world!  Thanks for stopping by! 


Good stuff. Looking forward by AJ_Impy at Mon, 06/12/2017 - 17:22
AJ_Impy's picture

Good stuff. Looking forward to see if things get tweaked on Tuesday.

I am hoping for action, by JXClaytor at Mon, 06/12/2017 - 18:43
JXClaytor's picture

I am hoping for action, because if there is none, it will be super hard to write 1500 words on the list for next week :D

Give it a few hours, let the by Paul Leicht at Tue, 06/13/2017 - 11:18
Paul Leicht's picture

Give it a few hours, let the rage percolate and then let WOTC have it in the politest open letter as to why 1v1 needs a better ban list. I am not super hot about it myself but I totally see a lot of things wrong with the format. Go get em tiger!

Life total by TheWolf at Mon, 06/12/2017 - 22:07
TheWolf's picture

Great article. As an aggro player, I would love the life totals to change. Having played exclusively with Zurgo so far, I can tell you that sometimes (not often) you can get to 30 damage; most often, I find myself getting to 23-28 damage before running out of steam. So 25 seems perfect.