Last week, I attended two days at CommandFest Chicago and had a fantastic time. Pastimes did a great job of doing this the first time but like anything, there is a place for improvement. Also, hats off to judges and staff that made this weekend run smoothly.
For all events, they were breaking down events based on power level. I consider most of my decks as 6-8 bases on The Command Zones Power levels. So I classified myself as Competitive/Casual. However this is very subjective, In some playgroups my Marath, Will of the Wild is a very competitive deck and is underpowered when compared to other Tier 1 C-EDH decks.
The real key was everyone at the table making an honest assessment of their decks. One thing, I did that helped was directly asking, “Do you have any infinite combos that can be resolved on a regular basis?” or “Is your deck able to establish a board state that will win them the game before turn five?” I open about the type of decks I was playing and did my best to match the power level of each other player. As long as everyone was honest, the games were very interactive and fun. The real challenge was many people were judging their decks based upon their existing playgroups. Which caused people not to properly evaluate their deck. Some highly turned decks with $1000s of cards can still be casual at best. I think the solution for this is establishing a series of 5-10 yes and no questions that help people establish Is this deck competitive.
Overall, events when off pretty smoothly. There were some minor issues. I did feel that it wasn’t clearly communicated that most events were two rounds and 90 minutes per round. Which I accidentally, signed up for overlapping events. Fortunately, my second round finished just in time. Another glaring issue if found was the website did not clearly outline that a badge was required to sign up for an event online. While this may seem obvious, you should not be able to sign up for an event unless you have a badge or at the very least have a checkbox with large text confirming that you have had a badge before the sale. I mention this because we had some kids from our local LGS that came to play in the 2HG event but were turned away because they were sold out of badges. I felt that in case Pastimes should have been given the option to buy a day pass in the case and fixed their site. For the record, Pastimes did give them a refund.
Emperor Commander (1 Round )
Based on what I was hearing, this was the super combo central and games were ending on turn 3 or 4. Unless you signed up for the casual grouping and play a “fair” deck with only combat damage with no combos. The main issue with this format. It is an infinite combo deck combo dream. Feedback, for the most part, this format was not fun because of the enabled super combos. Also, this was in part because people were not properly assessing the power of their deck. (See below)
Chase the Planes Commander (Swiss – 2 Rounds)
I did not hear anything about this but I can tell you that it did not sound like much fun.
BRAWL (Swiss – 2 Rounds)
Really again. While I have not any comments nor did I really hear any feedback on the event itself. I do want to share my thoughts on the Brawl Format. I think they should create a nonrotating format starting at Magic Origins then have an aggressive ban list like they are going to be doing for Pioneer.
1v1 Duel Commander (Swiss – 2 Rounds)
Base on what heard, this mostly attracted CEDH players.
Two-Headed Giant Commander (Swiss – 2 Rounds)
This was definitely one of the most popular events for the weekend. I believe that all the 2HG sold out. From what I heard is, it was great. Sometimes some issues with power assessment but this is part of a broader problem that needs to be addressed.
Oathbreaker (Swiss – 2 Rounds)
I did have a chance to play some Oathbreaker. While I think this is a fun format, I do not think it has the “stay” power of Commander. Though I think it will outlast Brawl, even without Wizards endorsement. Since there is definitely community support of the format.
Pinata Commander (Swiss – 2 Rounds)
This was without a doubt one of my favorite alternative formats I played this weekend. In short, you are trying to break the pinata before anyone else does. It kinda like you are the ArchEnemy on your turn and everyone is working together to prevent you from breaking the pinata. The Rules of the Game are as follows.
- The Game begins with a Pinata in play, the Pinata has 25 life
- For game rules purposes the Pinata is another player
- The object of the game is to reduce the Pinata’s life total to zero
- Players can only attack the Pinata
- Players can block for the Pinata
- You can only win the game by reducing the piñatas life to zero.
- You can lose the game by going to zero life or running out of cards.
This format captures the essence of the political deal-making and casual gameplay that most people love about Commander. I found the more casual someone deck was the more fun it was for everyone. Definitely, some I want to introduce into my playgroups.
Lighting Round Commander (1 Rounds)
This was fun and completely degenerate. However, there are some cards that just need to ban for this to be fun. Thought this should be determined by the playgroup. More or less anything that can turn one win. As long as people were not playing with tier 1 competitive decks or tuned lighting round decks this was a fun format. I can see only having 20 minutes to play and playing this with my playgroups.
Here it works:
- Players starting hand size is 10
- During a player’s draw phase that player draws back up to 10 cards
- If you have 10 or more cards in hand you do not draw.
- During the Main Phases, players can play multiple lands
Some other ideas.
Mirror Match. I would love to have seen a pod with 4 identical commanders/archetypes. Not sure how to pull this off but I would have done a 4-way Edger Markoff Pod. Even though I hate slivers, a 4-way Sliver through down would have been fun to watch.
Command Fest Chicago was a success and really hope Wizards make commander events like this more commonplace and than just a thought experiment. In addition, would love to see Wizards promote more local level Commander events the Local Game Stores could host.