With the World Magic Cup going on at Gen Con, Magic Organized Play Programs Manager Scott Larabee must have been insanely busy. He still found time to sit down with me and talk about Commander, Grand Prix events and Planeswalker Points.
Developing the Format
You see, Scott doesn’t just manage large Magic events in North America. Like all the WotC employees I’ve ever met, he has a serious love for what he does. In Scott’s case, that love comes in the form of Commander. He’s been playing the format since its early days. In fact, until Commander (then called Elder Dragon Highlander) came along, he’d more or less stopped playing. “Commander is how I play Magic,” he told me.
The Commander rules were originally developed independently of Wizards, and they’re still maintained by an independent committee. Scott is the only WotC employee that sits on the Commander committee. That lets him act as a sort of liaison. He’s also had a hand in designing some of our favorite Commander cards, like the Vow cycle and our beloved The Mimeoplasm.
With the announcement that Wizards would be releasing annual Commander products from now on, I’d assumed they were replacing the summer multiplayer release (Planechase, Archenemy, etc.). Scott told me that he wasn’t sure if that would be the case — it’s probably still up in the air if Wizards will continue to release products for other multiplayer formats.
We talked a bit about the place Commander has at large events. It’s supposed to be a casual format. “We want the social experience of playing Commander to to be the most important element,” Scott said. Tournament organizers want to monetize games, and as a result they offer small prizes for Commander games. Scott acknowledged that this can lead to bad experiences, since players will play degenerate, unfun decks even for a token reward.
Commander is intended to be relatively self-policing. The banned list is not comprehensive. “Banned cards are meant to provide examples,” Scott said. “We’ll never have a 400 card banned list.” How do you deal with a guy who keeps bringing the same broken deck to your Commander games? “Don’t let him play. He’ll figure it out pretty quick.”
One way for organizers to run Commander at large events like a Grand Prix is to create a weekend-long league. For a flat fee, players can play Commander all weekend long, essentially using the tournament organizers as a matchmaking service. This turns out to be a good way to bring a bunch of people to a GP who aren’t even playing in the GP. One such Commander league had 60 players.
Spoilers (or Not)
I did ask Scott some questions about Planeswalker Points. Are they working toward a return to tangible rewards like the promo cards from the defunct Player Rewards Program? No. Nothing is out of the question, but they feel that PW Points are, “working as intended.”
Despite my best efforts, I could not wring a specific Commander’s Arsenal spoiler out of Scott. He said some of the cards in the set could be considered Commander staples. As we chatted about the coolness of a foil Sylvan Library, Scott’s eyes lit up. I could see him mentally sorting through the other cards in the set, the ones we haven’t seen yet.
“I think everyone is going to be very happy,” he said.