MTG players debate the philosophy of commander


On March 16, Sheldon Menery, a founding member of the Commander Rules Committee, published his annual article on the state of the format. This piece sparked a discussion among the MTG playerbase about what Commander should be and whether the format is currently in a healthy place. Many players have widely differing views on what Commander “should be” as it is the game’s most popular format. It is the Commander Rules Committee’s job to ensure that the needs of all these different types of players are met and that Commander remains open and enjoyable for all.

Commander State 2023

In his State Of The Format 2023 article, Menery set out his views on the ongoing development of the format and outlined the priorities for the Rules Committee going forward. One of the most notable parts of the article was Menery’s announcement that a new document outlining the format’s philosophy is being written. Currently, a page outlining the Chief’s philosophy can be found on the Rules Committee website. This page provides a definition of Commander’s philosophy in just under 600 words. The goal of the new philosophy document, currently under construction, is to offer a more thorough description of the ideology of the Commander format as envisioned by Menery and his colleagues.

Although the new philosophy document is not currently ready for public viewing, Menery outlines its three basic principles in his piece. He writes that the Rules Committee aims to keep the commander social, creative, and stable. He then defines each of these keywords with a description and some bullet points.


  • Encourage positive, shared experiences where people can bond over the shared experience of gaming
  • Help players communicate their preferences and arrive at a set of shared expectations


  • Encourage positive, shared experiences where people can bond over the shared experience of gaming
  • Help players communicate their preferences and arrive at a set of shared expectations


  • Minimize disruptions except when absolutely necessary
  • Minimize changes that require players to actively maintain their decks

In addition to outlining these three philosophical pillars, Menery also described the motivation behind making these changes. He summarized these with another set of three key words that he said to guide the Rules Committee in their decision-making. Continuity, Announcement, Focus and accountability. He defines these in his piece…

Continuity: “Planning the future of the format involves discussing and documenting the things we agree on and disagree on as a leadership team. We’re not into morbid hypothetical scenarios like “What if everyone in management got hit by a meteor”. However, it is extremely important to us that the next generation of leaders fully understand where we came from so they can make the best decisions about where to go next. Our goal is to do this proactively rather than trying to do it reactively.”

Announcement: “We know that many well-intentioned players occasionally feel like a leaf in the wind because it can be relatively difficult to examine and understand the rationale behind format management decisions. Through these changes, we intend to create both a centralized resource for researching the format, as well as a roadmap for communicating and discussing format changes as they occur. This also includes our interactions with Wizards of the Coast. By communicating in a way that centers the things we care about most, we are able to provide better feedback to them when they ask.”

Focus and accountability: “There are external benefits to communication, but being able to formulate a problem properly and the strategies to attack it is also important for us internally. This structure will allow us to set and prioritize goals and assess our own performance.”

The majority of the article was dedicated to outlining these principles. Although there were also some appeals for funds and support from the MTG community.

The discussion

Commander's insight

Shortly after the publication of the article, it was shared on Reddit. The community had a diverse mix of reactions, reflecting the diverse views of the Commander player base.

Some players received the article negatively. The highest-rated comment on the main Reddit thread linking to the article disavowed it.

Expensive-Document 41 wrote: “Personally, I don’t think the RC in its current iteration is responsive, transparent, or flexible enough to respond to the health of the format as WOTC forces new, powerful things into it with each new set.”

SAjoats explained that they did not feel the article addressed the concerns of all EDH players: “There are 2 groups of people in EDH.

People who want everything unbanned.

And people who want bans to form a curated experience.

What is the rules committee doing to satisfy these 2 groups?”

Users on the EDH Subreddit generally gave the article a more positive reception.

In response to a comment from Jim LaPage, a member of the Rules Committee, Reddit user Wazeltov wrote: “Just wanted to say thanks. Being on RC seems like a thankless job; Redditors at the same time hate the status quo and any kind of change.

I personally have really enjoyed reading the reasons for decisions here and on the RC site forum for years now.

Keep going!”

MdaveCS wrote: “I’ll join the minority vote. I liked this. It was sheldony long-winded and a bit smug. But looking past it said: we want a clear rubric for things (good) and we put a sign in the ground that says social interaction, inclusiveness and creativity is the value point from which all their decisions will be made.”


The question of what a commander should be cannot be easily resolved. Different players enjoy different gaming experiences. Some players enjoy competitive games that are completed in a handful of turns, with cards such as Jeweled Lotus and Oracle of Thassa. Other players enjoy long battlecruiser games where they have the option to cast theirs Impenetrable Greatwurms and Apex Devastators. Commander must be able to accommodate both of these different types of gameplay and everything in between.

It is worth noting that these new principles are not set in stone. Several calls were made through the article inviting players to share their feedback on the Commander Rules Committee Discord server.

Read more: MTG New Nostalgic Commander sub-format gains popularity

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