Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Commander 2015 and Enemy Dual-Color Commanders Speculation

Kruphix's Insight by Igor Kieryluk

Let me start by saying that this is a speculation piece on a theoretical future Magic: The Gathering product. A product called Commander 2015, as of the time of this writing, has not been announced by Wizards of the Coast. I am not privy to any leaked information related to such a product. Lastly, while this blog post itself does not contain any card designs that aren't released Magic cards, some of the links in this post do lead to unofficial, original card designs.

Too Long, Didn't Read

The short version of this blog post: Commander 2015 will be announced this weekend at San Diego Comic-Con and will have enemy dual-color commanders.

On Four-Color Cards

I know I might sound like a broken record when it comes to talking about four-color cards. I've written an article series on designing a four-color set. I've speculated that Dragon's Maze would have four-color cards (Dragon's Maze fell short of my prediction of four-color cards by releasing three-color cards). I've also re-surfaced the four-color subject recently with my writing on solving the problem of easily communicating to players what cards are vanilla creatures if there were to be a four-color "faction" that cared about vanilla creatures in a "four colors matters" set.

I firmly believe four-color cards have a place in Magic: The Gathering beyond the mere five four-color Nephilim cards that were printed years ago. Some folks point out how difficult it would be to design four-color cards. This is very true. I'm not discounting that an expansion set with a world featuring "four colors matters" would be hard to create, but I don't think it's impossible. If Magic is going to survive for many more years, "four colors matters" has to be a design space that is mined at some point in the future.

It's because of these factors that I passionately talk about four-color cards so much, until they're proven to be a thing by Wizards of the Coast. I guess if it weren't for four-color cards, I'd be talking about Gnomes in Magic: The Gathering more. This is the part where I say, "But I digress."


Wheel of Fate by Kev Walker

For this writing, I'm speculating once again - this time about Commander 2015. The hypothesis I have is that there will be five pre-constructed decks, just like with each of the previous Commander products (except Commander's Arsenal, of course), each one with a color identity that is one of the five four-color combinations enemy color pairs. The reasons why I say this has to do with what has already been released in previous Commander products, timing, and current needs in the Commander format.

So, during my writing and research, I came to a conclusion that the Commander 2015 product will feature enemy dual-color commanders and NOT four-color commanders. I began writing this with the original hypothesis for four-color commanders and came out of it believing the opposite!

Wedge Commanders

Riku of Two Reflections by Izzy

Back when just Commander 2011 was released, the color combinations that were chosen for the decks were the three-color "wedges." It was a strong choice for two reasons: 1) three-color commanders are popular; and 2) there was only one commander choice for Commander decks with a wedge color identity. In fact, this need for more wedge-color commanders was called out on the product information page for Commander 2011:
These combinations have been woefully short-supplied on legendary creatures, so each deck contains the corresponding Planar Chaos Dragon (such as Intet, the Dreamer) as well as two new legendary commanders in those colors, plus oversized foil versions of all three.
Additional new commanders of note, released in other products in-between Commander 2011 and Commander 2013:

Shard/Arc Commanders

Derevi, Empyrial Tactician by Michael Komarck

For Commander 2013 (there was no "Commander 2012" product), the three-color "shards" (or, "arcs") were chosen as the color identities for yet another set of five precons. A safe choice, since three-color commanders, as stated before, are popular. The two-color combinations could have been pursued, but they weren't because Return to Ravnica had already done good work on two-color commanders, as noted in Mark Rosewater's article on designing Commander 2013:
The team examined one-, two-, three-, four-, and five-color options. It decided against two-color decks because the product was going to be coming out shortly after the Return to Ravnica block, which would be hitting the theme strongly.
Then Theros happened, and gave us more commanders, with at least one for every possible mono-color and two-color combination.

Conspiracy also provided five reprints and five new commanders, of varying color combinations.

Mono-color Commanders

Teferi, Temporal Archmage by Tyler Jacobson

When it came to Commander 2014, the next-most-popular color combinations were chosen to be featured in five precons, which turned out to be monocolor, as Ethan Fleischer noted when seeing Devon Rule's article, "1,000 Commander Decks,":
I had recently read an article by Devon Rule, "1,000 Commander Decks," where my fellow Great Designer Search 2 finalist and current Commander rules committee member broke down 1,000 decklists submitted by members of the community. Hmmm...monocolored decks were surprisingly popular!
And so mono-colored Commanders were created for Commander 2014 - a planeswalker commander, a new legendary creature, and a reprinted mono-colored commander.

Continuing the contributions the year of 2014 made toward mono-colored commanders:

Besides mono-colored commanders created during Fall of 2014, there have been these multicolored ones, leading up until now:

Commander 2015 Commanders = ???

Teferi's Puzzle Box by Donato Giancolo

So what color combinations should Commander 2015 be? Since Commander 2014 had just done mono-colored commanders, that option should be thrown out. All three-color combinations have already been done at least once. That leaves two-color, four-color, and five-color.

For two-color commanders, ally dual-color commanders shouldn't the focus for Commander 2015 since we just got ten new ones during Khans of Tarkir block.

Enemy dual-color commander representation, though, haven't seen any new ones created since Journey into Nyx. It's been over a year! Though, one could say that each of the five sneakily-three-color commanders can be played as if it were a two-color commander, but it's pretty weak for enemy dual-color commander representation, I would think. Battle for Zendikar, if it's going to be anything like either of Zendikar block or Rise of Eldrazi, then we're probably not going to see enemy dual-colored commanders in that set.

I have this belief that Wizards has this tiny goal of trying to make sure there's a bunch of new commanders for as many color combinations as possible within a reasonable amount of time. Let's take three-color commanders as an example. Wizards did a good job with Commander 2011 having three-color commanders which led to Commander 2013 having three-color commanders. Just when you thought that might be the end of the road for a while for three-color commanders, a block was done that had three-color commanders.

Another example are the dual-color commanders. Return to Ravnica block gave new commanders for every one of the ten combinations. Following that, Theros block did the same, with the Gods. Even Khans of Tarkir block had the ally dual-color Dragons in a block that started off with wedge three-color commanders.

Lastly, the mono-color commanders have had excellent support in the Core Sets as well as within Khans of Tarkir block and Commander 2014.

Whether it's Archenemy, Planechase, Conspiracy, Commander, or a new block; Wizards has plenty of opportunities to ensure new commanders for various color combinations.

And it's at this point where I realize that the possibility for enemy dual-color commanders is higher than four-color commanders. Given the following facts:

  • I think Wizards might care a little bit about the commander crowd seeing new commanders for their favorite color combinations within a "reasonable amount of time" (2 years), at least until there's PLENTY of options to choose from for commanders of any color combination
  • May 2014 was the last time we saw new enemy dual-color commanders
  • Battle for Zendikar might not feature enemy dual-color commanders
  • One of the reasons for not doing four-color commander decks for Commander 2013 is because there were no four-color commanders that already exist that could be reprinted, just like what has been done for each commander product for their respective color combinations: two new commanders and a reprinted commander
Even if the summer product in 2016 has enemy dual-color commanders, that feels like it's too long to wait for new enemy dual-color commanders. It's time to do new ones this year in Commander 2015. 

Four-Gone Conclusion

Ancestral Vision by Mark Poole

Sorry, four-color commanders. You're going to have to wait. You might just have to wait until a four-color set is released at some point then wait a bit more to have the commanders in that theoretical four-color set to be reprinted in the even-more-into-the-distant-future Commander product.

Fall Commander products have historically been announced in July, during San Diego Comic-Con. The past couple years, Comic-Con was around the end of the month. This year, though, Comic-Con is earlier in this month. In fact, this weekend! Will Wizards still have a Commander announcement during their panel? I think so! And maybe the announcement will be that there will be new enemy dual-color commanders (perhaps with some exciting new twist or mechanic?). And if I'm wrong and it's four-color commanders, I'll just shed a tear (of happiness).