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cEDH and EDH: an analogy

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Let's start with the following: I think that cEDH and EDH are essentially the same format in the way that Legacy and Kitchen Table Magic with old cards are the same format, or how a Modern meta deck and a Modern legal deck belong to the same format, despite vastly different power levels. Decks are build with the same legality, yet are so harshly different that they might just be different formats, yet they aren't, technically; or so I think.

At which point does a format change into another? If you aren't already familiar with it, please read up on the Ship of Theseus, because it's a similar case that has been discussed for a long time.

Time to discuss the following question:

> What constitutes the identity of the EDH format?

At first, the answer seems simple. The EDH format is what the RC has made it out to be when they created it. They laid out a philosophy that specifies what EDH is supposed to be. Let's take a look at its current state and see if its components still hold true for cEDH:

--- Quote --- Commander is for fun. It’s a socially interactive, multiplayer Magic: the Gathering format full of wild interactions and epic plays, specifically designed as an alternative to tournament Magic.
--- End quote ---

I don't see how cEDH would violate this principle. It is played for fun and social interaction, as it also is a multiplayer format, just like EDH. "Wild interactions and epic plays" most certainly happen, as anyone who has seen a gigantic stack of spells and triggers being built can attest.

As for being an alternative to tournament Magic, this is debateable, as far as I'm concerned, since cEDH lends itself well to being a tournament format (let's assume that cEDH and EDH are different formats, at least as long as this argument is ongoing). But it's also a format that is being played in side events of formats like Legacy or Modern, since it *is* an alternative and isn't officially supported for tournaments.

--- Quote --- [...] Commander focuses on a resonant experience. Each game is a journey the players share, relying on a social contract in which each player is considerate of the experiences of everyone involved--this promotes player interaction, inter-game variance, a variety of play styles, and a positive communal atmosphere.
--- End quote ---

For the sake of brewity, I'll treat "resonant experience" and "social contract" as the same thing. cEDH holds this up as all players involved are playing to win and to demonstrate playing and deckbuilding skill, as would be expected from a format where the c stands for competitive. This is where cEDH players resonate and the base they form their social contract on. One might say that it comes down to "playing to win", in the David Sirlin way. (Recommended reading, although not further necessary for this discussion). We can check this box, as well. It's a social contract, albeit a short one.

--- Quote ---The addition of a commander, larger life total, and deck building restrictions emphasize the format’s flavor; they increase deck variance and add more opportunities for participation and expression.
--- End quote ---

This is where cEDH diverges from EDH. Flavor is nice, but doesn't contribute to competitiveness in any way, therefore it doesn't contribute to cEDH. Decks are still build within the same set of rules, but the only flavor is the winning flavor, which conflicts with the RC philosophy.

--- Quote ---The goal of the ban list is similar; it does not seek to regulate competitive play or power level, which are decisions best left to individual play groups. The ban list seeks to demonstrate which cards threaten the positive player experience at the core of the format or prevent players from reasonable self-expression. The primary focus of the list is on cards which are problematic because of their extreme consistency, ubiquity, and/or ability to restrict others’ opportunities.
--- End quote ---

A direct contradiction to the nature of cEDH, right on the banlist. Although cEDH playgroups could always make house rules, this does not help unify it as a format or as a healthy part of EDH, since without proper bannings, brokenness will ensue. The addition of Thassa's Oracle or the unbanning of Protean Hulk make that clear as day. Similar things could be said about the ban of Paradox Engine, but that is another discussion.

But, if we're going by the second bold statement, banning based on competitiveness can be implied: "[...] because of their extreme consistency, ubiquity, and/or ability to restrict others’ opportunities.". The current landscape of cEDH has combos and cards that fulfill those criteria. It's a problem EDH may have, just on another scale. A card that is problematic on the kitchen table might be worthless in high level play or vice versa. It's essentially the same problem, just from another perspective. 

--- Quote ---We encourage groups to use the rules and the ban list as a baseline to optimize their own experience. This is not license for an individual to force their vision onto a play group, but encouragement for players to discuss their goals and how the rules might be adjusted to suit those goals. The format can be broken; we believe games are more fun if you don’t.
--- End quote ---

And here is where I think cEDH and EDH diverge, too. While it has been discussed to create a seperate banlist (and therefore seperate rules for cEDH), it's what would end cEDH, since it would no longer be EDH - sharing the same rules (not necessarily the same philosophy) is what makes it competitive *EDH* and not another format entirely.

As the goal of any competitive format should be to break it so hard that cards need to be banned (until it stabilizes), the second statement is akin to a death sentence when it comes to cEDH belonging to EDH in terms of philosophy. Although it's just a statement of the RC and the cEDH community obviously likes to break stuff, it's problematic since the RC doesn't actually ban problematic cards, therefore never stabilizing the meta.


Considering the above, cEDH shares the same set of rules as EDH, but does not share the same philosophy when it comes to play experience. If we're being technical, we can consider cEDH to be the same format by design and rules, but not the same format by nature. The only solution I can offer is to start incorporating necessary bans into the RC banlist, as they often don't touch on casual, non-competitive play, while ensuring a healthy format of the top level of play.

cEDH differs from EDH in how Modern differs from Kitchen Table Magic with Modern legality. It's the same game, driven to it's logical conclusion, since the goal of the game is to win. Everything else is secondary, although those secondary natures of the game are to be found in EDH, they have mostly no place in cEDH, since it *is* competitive and nothing else.


Please share your opinions and arguments. I'm interested what others have to say about this problem. I think that cEDH and EDH are inherently the same format, playing by the same rules, yet to other goals, and a direct comparison of the RC EDH philosophy and the competitive nature of cEDH proves that, I think.

I'm not exactly sure what you're hoping to discuss here. It seems like the argument is whether to separate cEDH into another format with its own RC / banlist, but you're conclusion seems to be making an ontological argument about whether they're currently the same format.

If you're arguing the former, I think cEDH needs to remain part of EDH to remain relevant, or it'll just become another branch format like the other highlander varieties.

If you're arguing the latter, I don't think anyone believes cEDH is inherently a different format. It's just that RC seems to think that EDH isn't inherently competitive, despite there being a "winner" and "losers" and the point is to beat everyone.

Morganator 2.0:
Props to you Dexflux. You've given a good compare and contrast of competitive Commander and casual Commander.

The philosophy document states that Commander should have a wide variety of play-styles. Which is something that casual Commander sometimes frowns upon. Mass land destruction, lock-out stax, infinite combos; these are all things that Sheldon has spoken up against, and has gone as far as saying they are against the spirit of the commander format (particularly stax).

But there is a place for these decks within the Commander format: cEDH. No gives a damn if you're plan is to play degenerate stax. It's a legitimate strategy that has its own flavor to it, and encourages interaction and inter-game varience. You know... the other parts of the philosophy.

I think that there would be a much wider variety of decks in the competitive side if there were some small adjustments made to the banlist. Just one really.

Ban Flash
Commander should be the format for everyone. So if stax is that much of a taboo, give cEDH just a small amount of support, and those decks will have a place.

Don't forget unban Library of Alexandria :D

As I've thought a little bit more about this, a solution would be to abolish the entire banlist in its current form and start banning based on competitiveness. Kitchen tables will regulate themselves then, as they do now. For example: Armageddon isn't banned, yet it is rarely played in a casual setting. Those regulate themselves quite easily, I think. They are doing it right now and will continue to do so. House rules are a thing and will continue to be.

Meanwhile, truly problematic cards like Flash can be banned without touching on casual play in any way - casual tables might ignore the ban altogether, since house rules are encouraged and probably healthy for casual tables. If it works for all other formats, why wouldn't it work for EDH? It's not like there are sanctioned tournaments (yet?). Of course, that would also mean the RC has to gather data regarding top level play, but MTGO and maybe YouTube channels like Playing With Power could make that possible, especially in coorperation with WotC.

Kitchen table jank and tournament meta decks are different, of course. We have to embrace that, I think. Since EDH is a social experience, players should make clear what they are out to do, communicate more with each other and accept the different archetypes as valid. Just because something is not fun to someone, it does not mean it's not fun to everyone. Communication is key.

(Properly assessing one's deck is, too, but that is another discussion. I despise the "75%" system or x/10 system that has been established. How about Sirlin Tier Lists for a change?)

I might add that, in addition to bannings for top level play, the RC could keep a list of suggestions for lower level play bans and unbans. It might be more complicated than just a straight banlist, but the ramifications of a list of suggestions are less extreme than those of a banlist, since it, by design, starts actual discussion as they are suggestions and not prohibitions. Those suggestions can also provide a baseline for assessing powerlevels. How useful that baseline would be is a question for another day.

EDH is about having fun. I think we should strive to maximize that fun, even if it means using more complicated constructs to do so.


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