I'll concede that budget is not an absolute indicator of power level, but all things equal building-skill-wise, a bigger budget will invariably lead to stronger decks. Aside from cards that are expensive because of collectibility (read: reserved list, underprinted, rare promos), expensive cards are expensive for a reason and that reason is that they're powerful.
Also, yeah, expensive is relative. Some people think buying physical cards at all is a racket. Some people play with Alpha duals.
I definitely agree that there will always be a degree of subjectivity to any scale, but I still believe that its worth making the existing system better. Currently the flaws in said system are (to an extent) being smoothed over by the multiplayer nature of the format as you say, however its not doing anyone any favors by setting people up for disappointment when they think 'Tuned' is a useful description in this context. A system with clear strata would go a long way towards guiding people to the right tables, whereas now its more of a trial-and-error situation.
I honestly think there's a lot of value in telling people that average means average, and de-stigmatizing so-called 'variant' players by making it clear that there is as much variation in power level at their tables as anyone else's. FWIW:
0) Weak budget deck/Bad on purpose/A literal pile of cards/Chair tribal
1) Average budget deck
2) Strong budget deck
3) Transition between budget/casual
4) Weak casual deck 5) Average casual deck/this is where your '7' goes, knock it off
6) Strong casual deck
7) Transition between casual/competitive
8) Weak competitive deck
9) Average competitive deck
10) Strong competitive deck 11) Thrasios/Tymna consult
...and precons go in the 1-3 range depending, but who cares. Ideally you'd play within 1 level of each other, but within 2 is still a game. 3+ levels of difference makes for non-games. And that's really what any such list should strive to lay out: who is going to have an actual game with who? Having distinct and parallel bands within each subsection helps with self-reporting.
On that note: There's definitely a lot of problems being caused by the existence Command Zone's power level scale, since it inherently lumps every deck into the 7 slot with little to no room for variance and most players default to that measuring stick.
It would definitely help if we had a more concrete and well-though-out system.
I like the analogy, but if they really wanted to baby-proof the format the banlist would be enormous, including all land destruction, all counterspells, and most removal.
The current list serves neither casual nor competitive players, and is mostly just a joke to point and laugh at while we enjoy the format in spite of it (because the original idea was so damn good, thank you Adam Staley!).
It strikes me that all of the people arguing that its difficult to find a pickup game of appropriate power level by talking to people are an extremely good argument for actually having a governing body that is interested in balancing the format
My solution is: be willing to compromise. It is either be willing to compromise or deal with having fewer people to play with.
If you are having an unfun experience in Commander, that is on you. It shouldn't be up to other players to cater to you because you don't want to play Combo. Maybe have a bit of accountability for your experiences within the format... seems you are sidestepping that little tidbit.
Prettymuch this. Personally, the power level I enjoy building at is about an 8 or a 9, but the average player runs 4s and 5s (not 7, the obsession with lying and saying 7 people have is infuriating) so I have to build much weaker decks to ensure that the experience isn't lopsided (pubstomping is the opposite of fun).
Taking responsibility for your own fun is a pretty fair ask for everyone involved, and arguments to the contrary are churlish at best.
The "combo players should play somewhere else" stance is definitely foolish coming from anyone against counterspells. You can't be both an advocate for interactivity, and of the position that if you cast a spell, you are 100% entitled to its effect/ETB. Imagine the confidence of looking at your hand and never having to worry about when to cast it, because you know that doing anything about it is wrong.
Yeah I always roll my eyes at those folks. Interaction and counterpunching are the best parts of the game! Every strategy is more-or-less viable, and every strategy has counterplay, which is what makes the game exciting. Playing large dudes and turning them sideways with no tricks, blocking, or removal is disturbingly popular and I cannot wrap my mind around it.
Tangentially related: I've got a 9, 8, 7, and 6 deck, and I'm currently working on a 5 which should definitionally be an absolutely average deck. To make it a meme, I pulled up the single most popular general, took the aggregate average decklist, and its... umm... painful. 1 counterspell. 5 instants total. Almost no removal. 3 card advantage spells. More than half of the deck is lands and ramp. The only wincon is incidental beats from ETB creatures. I want to cry.
People don't want narrative in games, they just want power.
I agree cEDH ruins everything.
To the surprise of no one one new guy who turned up for a week or two who had the cEDH mindset ended up getting himself banned after arguing with the store manager. Not a related matter but it's reflective of the overall personality.
I know what the c really stands for and it's not something pleasant I can say on the forums.
That just blows my mind, I've had the exact opposite experience. I've yet to have one issue with anyone who plays cEDH, but I've got a thousand lifetimes worth of horror stories about being aggressively mistreated by casual players. In particular the more casual they claim to be, the nastier they seem to get. There's a super-budget EDH variant in this area and they're absolutely the meanest players I've ever met. You ever get yelled at by a guy who played 4 mana doublers on his last turn for countering his full-tap Stroke of Genius, because you're somehow supposed to know that he has no win-condition?
You're really leaning hard into the victim complex stuff my dude, let's dissect this a bit.
I don't think you can really in good faith make the claim that combo is inherently bad, or that it's wrong to include them in the average deck. Some people enjoy playing combos. Some people just want their decks to be good. It is an unfortunate side-effect of the way the format is meant to be played that aggressive strategies are just not as effective as going infinite. The game has to end at some point, and I know that I've consciously made the decision to include at least one way to immediately end the game in every deck because playing one game that drags on the for the entire night makes me want to kill myself.
And can you really blame people for looking at a cEDH deck and saying 'wow that looks awesome!' when they're such finely tuned works of art? When the cards in them are often obscenely expensive? People like shiny things, and a solid cEDH deck is very, very shiny indeed. Its like gawking at an ancient heirloom katana when you've been playing with boffing sticks. They both have their place and they're both fun, but come on it is only natural.
I wouldn't be too worried about the extinction of casual EDH, from my experience the ends of the format keep getting further and further apart from each other, not closer, as folks naturally separate themselves into distinct cliques based on what they want out of the game.
Here's the thing: stripping the banlist and then rebuilding it for the top end of the format would have little to no effect on casual games, since in reality the list would become much smaller and only really contain cards that casual players weren't playing much anyways. For every player who would hate to see a pet card go, there would be a player who is ecstatic to get a chance to play with a pet card currently on the banlist. I'm not even 100% convinced that Thrasios would be on that list, but if a card is broken it is broken, regardless of how fairly you play it.
There's definitely no valid reason to otherize players who just want to see the banlist make sense. Casual EDH players, competitive EDH players, and everyone in between, we're all just EDH players.
I agree that Rule Zero is stupid though and shouldn't be a hand-waving cure-all for problems with the format, but it is what it is.
Every logical bone in my body agrees with your premise that casual Commander should be just fine with a social contract and house rules, and that the banned list need only pluck a handful of utterly format-breaking cards. That said, sometimes life isn't logical, and I think things are better the way they are now than they would be if I were running the show and deregulated the format into a wild west 100 card vintage with additional deck construction rules, with the caveat that players would have my permission to agree with their friends on other changes if they're playing Commander in their homes.
Hey, that's a better response than the spitting venom and ad hominem attacks I usually get for that suggestion, so I'll take it lol. Thanks for being reasonable on the internet, you're rare and appreciated.
I definitely agree that in an inherently competitive game like Magic that it is inevitable that optimal strategy will approach perfect uniformity given enough time and lack of change. Fortunately WotC keeps injecting new cards at a breakneck pace so we don't have to worry about it becoming entirely stagnant.
I'll push back a little on the partner thing, since it is really just Thrasios who is a problem. You can pair him with a ham sandwich and your deck will probably be pretty good as long as you have counterspells, ramp, and an infinite mana package. Beyond that, the rest of the mechanic is fair to middling. Given that the RC has said repeatedly that they don't care about balancing the format, I think it was necessary to downplay public enemy No.2 when entreating them to fix public enemy No.1 because they have very clearly stated that they think banning for cEDH is a slippery slope.
Solving for that unfortunate misconception, I've come to the conclusion that there's no reason to even HAVE one for casual play, and the only cards that need to be banned are the ones breaking the top end of the format. Casual players are happy to play with house rules, or soft-ban cards that aren't fun, or just exert social pressure on people playing things they don't like, which solves for 99% of problems you'd likely see from a completely open format. Meanwhile competitive players are always looking to bring the biggest guns to pummel their buddies with, so taking the broken toys away is important. Looking at it from that perspective, I think the perfect banlist would probably be ~a dozen cards max. It should be entirely possible to provide for both casual and competitive players with an extremely light touch. For the most part cards that are broken aren't even fun in casual.
Literally just unban everything, ban the small selection of cards ruining high-end games, and everyone wins including the RC, since both camps stop complaining and the criteria for banning becomes crystal clear, making their job easier at the end of the day.
As for your last point, it is crazy to think about how far we've come isn't it? I remember how insurmountably broken Azami and Rofellos were considered back in the day, and while the average deck hasn't really gotten much better (I'd argue that it has in fact gotten worse), the top end of the format has absolutely left those old bogeymen in the dust.