- Before Rule 0 discussion begins, players name their commanders as well as the rough total cost of their decklist (including the commander). For the sake of organization, players might aim for their decks to cost roughly $100, $200, $400, $800, or $1600+.
- Cards are priced by the cheapest available version of those cards. In other words, replacing a card with a foil or promo version of itself doesn’t increase your deck price.
- Fetchlands are treated as if they cost $5. This is because of their ubiquity and because compared to their price tag, the in-game benefit they provide is relatively small.
- For the same reason, nonbasic lands that have no activated abilities other than those that provide at most a single mana have a maximum cost of $1. In other words, if a land can tap for more than one mana and/or has an activated ability that doesn’t add mana, it doesn’t enjoy this benefit.
- Basic lands, including snow-covered basics, are treated as if they cost $0.
- It is understood by all players that simply comparing deck budgets is not sufficient for providing an ideal play experience. Questions such as “How long have you been playing Magic,” “What kind of game do we want to play,” and “What turn does your deck aim to execute its game plan by” are still instrumental in helping players find decks that are well suited for each other.
WHAT DOES THIS ACCOMPLISH?
The largest benefit of deck budget discussions is the establishment of tangible standards for power level. Asking players if they want to play a “power level 7” game means almost nothing. Asking players if they want to play a game with a $400 deck budget means something.
For each budget, there will emerge a tier list of optimized decks for that budget. These decks will provide the signposts for what the power level of that budget is, and help people get a gauge for how powerful their decks are by comparison. For example, a relatively untuned $400 deck with an average commander might end up being about as powerful as a $200 Tier 2 deck. The details aren’t critical; what matters is that by having unified points of comparison, people will eventually be able to accurately talk about the power levels of their decks.
The secondary benefit, of course, is not to be ignored: by having agreed-upon budget tiers, players will more easily be able to find games with appropriate power levels.
Third, budget tiers reduce price pressure on the format as a whole because now there is a drawback to playing the most expensive cards (outside of the $1600+ tier).
Lastly, explicitly setting budgetary expectations on the format should allow players with fewer financial resources to find games that will be entertaining.
This makes deckbuilding more annoying.
There is joy to be found in design constraints. Having to figure out how to best manage one’s deck budget adds another wrinkle to deckbuilding that a lot of people (myself included) would actually enjoy. It also lets players build “optimized” decklists without having to buy (or lament their lack of) a dozen Mana Crypts.
As for the annoyance of keeping track of your decks’ budgets, using a deckbuilding website will make the process relatively painless. A minor amount of math is necessary to account for fetches and mana-fixing lands, but it is very minor.
People will hide their deck’s power level behind their deck price.
People already can hide their deck’s power level behind their commander. Making people reveal both their commander and their deck price during Rule 0 makes it harder for such people to operate.
Some commanders can be overwhelmingly powerful, even on a budget.
That’s why I said price shouldn’t be the only factor when discussing decks. If players recognize that a commander is potentially Tier 1 for its budget, that can and should be part of the Rule 0 discussion. Aside: If a person wants to bring a tuned Selvala list to a $100 game (for example), they can experiment with cutting their deck budget to $35.
This just turns Commander into cEDH, but with multiple formats.
No it doesn’t; cEDH is a culture rather than a ruleset. People will always have the option to play more casually, and because competitive players will now be better able to find each other, there will be less mismatches.
This splits the format.
No it doesn’t, because the banlist remains the same. It splits the format as much as discussions of power level do; that is to say, only to the degree that players at the table actually want the format to be split.
As always, Rule 0 comes back into play here. Knowing that a Jorn deck’s budget is $100 instead of $1000 helps people get a feel for its power level. How they decide to act on that information is up to the group. The Jorn player might even have a “sideboard” that they use to adjust the deck’s budget/power level up or down.
This makes putting expensive cards in my deck a “feel-bad.” I want to put whatever I want into my deck and not have to worry about it.
It’s good for the ecosystem as a whole if there are reasons not to play the most expensive cards. Expensive staples are bad for the format, and the less they feel like an auto-include the better.
In addition, nobody is forcing you to build your deck a certain way. You can still play expensive cards if you want. Just expect your opponents’ decks to be similarly expensive.
In addition, is it a bigger feel-bad than playing games where decks have wildly different power levels? My answer is an emphatic no.
This is a huge indirect buff to nonbasic lands with passive abilities such as Urza’s Saga, Field of the Dead and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. It also indirectly nerfs lands with activated abilities.
I’m okay with that. Increasing and decreasing the in-game frequency of the aforementioned lands is unlikely to damage the Commander metagame in any disastrous way.
In addition, the ruleset that these buffs and nerfs originate from will greatly reduce both price spikes and the negative effect of price spikes on the format. This is because with budget tiers, expensive cards (excluding Urza’s saga et al.) are less effective overall. So on the whole, it’s a minor downside compared to a massive upside.
This is an indirect buff to 1 and 2-color decks because their manabases are less expensive.
This has been largely mitigated by the rules I proposed. But to the degree that it is a minor buff (if it is at all; remember that lands with activated abilities are now worse), I’m fine with it because those decks are weak in Commander regardless.
Small changes to formats are inevitable and the upside of giving players another way to talk about power level is worth some small buffs and debuffs to some decks.
Discussing price is awkward. Budget players will feel embarrassed at having to reveal the price of their decks. Rich players might feel embarrassed or nervous to name their deck budget.
It’s difficult for me to see this argument as valid. A deck’s price gets revealed as the game is played, so it’s not information that a person could easily hide.
The bottom line is that only the most unreasonable people are going to shame others for how much their deck is worth, especially if they are building with a specific budget in mind. And to the extent that these people exist, better to find out during Rule 0 so that you can choose not to play with them.
My feeling is that if I were a budget player, I would feel more comfortable with budget tiers than without them. If there are any players (budget or otherwise) who’d like to voice their opinions regarding this issue, I’d love to hear them.
People will still game the system by lying about their budget, playing an $1100 deck in an $800 tier, etc.
People acting in bad faith will always be an issue. But unlike in the current system, players will have some risk of being held accountable (especially if people play cards like Praetor’s Grasp). Budget discussion means there is a tangible standard that players can be expected to adhere to.
Price fluctuations will constantly drive decks in and out of tiers.
I would argue that this is relatively rare, since price spikes and reprints to some extent balance each other out. Even when it happens, making an adjustment isn’t much work, especially if you keep a “sideboard” as in the Jorn example above.
I expect most players will be forgiving if a person’s deck is $20–30 above their tier level due to recent fluctuations. I don’t see fluctuations preventing any games of Commander from firing.
This all sounds great but how do we convince people to get on board?
I see three main methods:
- When your LGS starts doing Commander nights again, talk to the owner about posting this flyer somewhere in the store. If you can convince them to designate a table or run some mini-tournaments using these rules, even better!
- Share this article with your friends, both IRL and online. Many people consider word of mouth the most effective form of marketing. And when you set up a game night with friends, mention budget right off the bat so people can adjust their deck budgets accordingly.
- When you sit down with strangers to play Commander, mention your deck’s budget! If people respond with curiosity, tell them about this idea or tell them to visit tinyurl.com/StructuredCommander.