Can Planeswalkers Be Commanders

Danielle Fletcher
• Saturday, 19 December, 2020
• 7 min read

Est rid, the Masked is an excellent option for players seeking to utilize a great to of auras in their game plan. This ability pairs well with Est rid's -1 which creates a mask aura token which provides the permanent it enchants with “totem armor,” which functions as a first layer of defense against opponents' removal.

planeswalkers planeswalker mtg deck
(Source: aminoapps.com)


While it will not be utilized frequently, Est rid's ultimate mills her controller the top seven cards of their library, then returns all enchantments from their graveyard directly into play, mitigating the costs of many impactful auras. A unique option for a control commander, Amino's Esper color identity allows for flexible deck construction.

Most uniquely is Amino's ultimate ability, that forces each player to exchange control of their permanents with their opponents. This ability can turn the tides of a given game in a matter of seconds and completely change the status quo.

Though this particular incarnation of everyone's favorite Elder Dragon enters the battlefield as a creature, for the cost of seven manas, Bolas can be transformed, igniting his spark and becoming a Planes walker. As long as he's backed up by heavy sums of MANA and support, this particular incarnation of Nicole Bolas is a force to be reckoned with.

Another strong choice for an artifact commander, Sahel, The Gifted is more open-ended than the previously mentioned Dart. In the instance that Sahel's loyalty is raised to ultimate range, she is capable of closing out games by creating copies of each artifact under her owner's control.

A commander with a great deal in common with the popular Nitro Monster, Lord Wind grace is a Planes walker who synergizes with lands and the graveyard. Like lord Wind grace, Realism, Llano war's Fury is a Planes walker who is capable of generating large sums of additional MANA, though with very few strings attached.

flight commanders gather workshop annual 340th flying training
(Source: www.340ftg.afrc.af.mil)

As permanents possessing numerous activated abilities, the flexibility and utility a Planes walker has access to can often set them apart from the rest. Refer, Temporal Arch mage is a Planes walker capable of providing great sums of value and setting up future plays.

The open-ended nature that this ability provides and the sheer quantity of permanents it can uncap should never be underestimated, as it can be useful in any scenario. These latter sets of commanders are still not legendary creatures, but golden rule 101.1 lets them make themselves exceptions.

Players must choose a legendary creature as the “Commander” for their deck. The Commander variant was created and popularized by fans; an independent rules committee maintains additional resources at Commander.net.

The Commander variant uses all the normal rules for a Magic game, with the following additions. This update has been months in the making, as earlier this year they created the Commander Advisory Group (CAG) made up of knowledgeable and influential people in the community.

I've been looking forward to this update since the announcement of the CAG to get a better idea of where things are going in the Commander sphere. I followed up with Sisal, Weathertight Captain and intend to continue these articles as new Commanders with deep flavor are announced.

both commander only thread them
(Source: forums.1911forum.com)

As it is fitting for a format in which you choose an avatar to lead your forces into battle, Commander focuses on a resonant experience. 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.

The talk here of Commanders as being a sort of player avatar, the resonance of the experience, and the emphasis on flavor are huge for me. But this also rings a bit hollow, because there's a huge swath of Magic's most resonant characters being kept out of the Command Zone: Planes walkers.

It's not as easy as you would think to track down the history of the format (even Sheldon Genera doesn't remember all the details), so I'm going to do a quick rundown on how the definition of legal Commanders has expanded over time. Circa 1996 : Jesus Lopez wrote an article for the Duelist titled Elder Dragon Legend Wars.

The format bears very little similarity to what would follow, but the seeds of Elder Dragon Highlander, or at least the broad original concept, were planted here. Originally, only Elder Dragons were legal Commanders, but as the format grew beyond five people, that definition was expanded to increase the diversity of decks.

The expanded rules, as linked to in the debut article, were that only Legendary Creatures from Legends are Legal. Based on the Payback Machine, this site seems to roughly coincide with the creation of the format in 2002, so these are the earliest codified rules for the game.

magic mtg commanders gathering leaf card cards elf daen gilt legendary mono creature deck altered elves draw awesome power each
(Source: hobbylark.com)

Deck-building restrictions relating to color exclude Legendary Creatures with off-color activation costs, but at the time this only applies to Daughter of Autumn. Circa 2004 : The debut article features Turbo Havoc among the deck lists, meaning the definition of eligible Commanders has expanded beyond Legends.

It would have had to, as by this point the number of Legendary Creatures has tripled from the time of Legends, and newer players being introduced to the format didn't have the collections to meet the deck-building restrictions. The printing of Monarch and Bosh, Iron Golem, ineligible to be Commanders, will lead to years of debate.

Circa 2010 : In December 2010, Wizards of the Coast announces Commander, a product focused on Elder Dragon Highlander with a new, more brand-able name. Later that month, The Color Identity rule was implemented to finally solve the issue of off-color MANA costs.

Circa 2014 : Wizards of the Coast prints the first five Planes walkers with can be your Commander' as part of their abilities. Oops, I mean, thanks to Unstable, silver bordered cards are legal between the Banned and Restricted Announcements in the winter.

Let's put aside, for a moment, that not even all Legendary Creatures were eligible to be Commanders for a long time. If you follow some links I've provided above, this point was brought up almost immediately as a distinguishing factor from other Legendary Permanents in early Planes walker discussions.

flight commanders gather workshop annual hi res
(Source: www.340ftg.afrc.af.mil)

Now, to be fair, there has always been a bit of a blurry line in the flavor of how creature casting works. Later flavor explanations explained they're MANA constructs, beings created as an imitation of real creatures using magic.

In the modern day, paired with the flavor of other cards, 'casting' a creature could be any number of things. Treasure and Gold tokens producing MANA seem to indicate a potentially transactional, rather than strictly magical, component to summoning.

The Iraqi is still an inanimate object, and from a flavor perspective, it would be a pretty big stretch to imagine it as your avatar, commanding the deck in your place. Even the Weathertight, which may become a creature for gameplay purposes, isn't representative of a living, thinking being (yes, yes, I know it technically was for like five minutes in Apocalypse).

That's especially true in light of the Theron gods, or Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle, but those exceptions are few and far between, and most of the time it's hard to argue that a building, a weapon, or a land can actually lead your army. Sorry cards like Genre of the Realm, Elbrus, the Binding Blade, and West vale Abbey (or even Dark Depths).

It can take a very long time to get any kind of traction on an issue in Commander, so make yourself heard... as politely as possible. So much of the opposition to Planes walkers as Commanders is a lack of normalization and the fear of boogeymen cards that would have to be banned.

mtg transformers commanders dinobots press exe approachable okay cards know there super these
(Source: press.invincible.ink)

Players are on-boarded to the game these days with images of characters they can 't choose as their avatars for Commander, despite the flavor of the format. As Commander-specific events like Commander Weekend approach, and we await what 'Commander Variants' are in store (pun intended) as Wizards begins tracking Commander data, it feels like the smart move would be to align with the ROTC strategy for engagement.

Wizards of the Coast utilizes Planes walkers front and center as part of their strategy to get people into seats at the LGS-level, so why isn't Commander capitalizing on that? THREE is about the only public source, and at best its imperfect information, useful more for trends with the most enfranchised fans than hard data.

So much of the debate around hot issues in Commander is because everyone is comparing their anecdotal experiences, which differ vastly between playgroups and where those games are played, from the Kitchen Table to Magic Fest. And it's a self-fulfilling problem, because we can 't pull up the data on what the most enfranchised fans (those likeliest to abuse a Planes walker Commander) would actually do with these decks, so we're left with the theoretical.

With Wizards of the Coast now tracking Tickets for Commander Events, it feels like a pretty critical time for the format, given the existential threat posed by official Brawl support. Commander isn't going to die anytime soon, but I'd love to see the kind of strategic planning that would keep the format vibrant, not just stable, for another decade.

It feels like a missed opportunity to not have a trial period where the various fears can either be proven or disproven in the Commander zeitgeist. Maybe, but we'll never know how much of the legitimate concerns are actually going to show up in a way that's more problematic than your average degenerate Legendary Creature as a Commander.

lyle founder pow program fighter spads fallen honor cameron brig flyover gen brigadier general
(Source: www.301fw.afrc.af.mil)

I nearly wrote a second article's length of content that went into the existing data of Planes walkers in Commander. I had paragraphs of arguments about how little the boogeymen of Doubling Season or The Chain Veil show up Oath breaker, a format that should be rife with Planes walker abuse.

Of how many of the anti-planeswalker arguments don't pass the sniff test because those standards aren't equally applied to legal Legendary Creatures (if you're concerned that Doubling Season enables instant wins, welcome to Commander). My argument here isn't for any of that, but specifically about the stated goals of flavor resonance and the nature of a Commander as a player avatar.

If those are really the goals of Commander, I would think at least one person among the CAG or RC would be pushing for it based on the flavor value alone. Maybe it was a lot to tackle from the start with War of the Spark, but my hope would be at least one member recognizes the potential value.

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