I attended a Commander-format Magic: The Gathering tournament benefitting the ExtraLife charity on Saturday, November 9th. The event, while fun as it could be, raises some concerns about what exactly constitutes a competitive Commander deck and what doesn't quite cut it.
I had gone with using my Chainer, Dementia Master deck in this tournament – the very deck I covered lovingly during an article scheduled for the same day as the event. It's arguably, if not definitely, my best deck, and I was certain that during the three rounds of the tournament I'd get as far as maybe Round Two, if not a bit farther depending on the pairings.
I lost on turn six of the first round.
Now, this isn't to say I'm bitter – the banter during this match was fun and the players were cool people to play with – but our pod ended within the first ten minutes of the round. I wish the game had gone longer, and, obviously, in my favor. But it didn't, either way. My pod consisted of me and my Chainer deck, a relatively new player and his (borrowed) deck, led by The Ur-Dragon, a Mogis, God of Slaughter punisher deck, and the winner: a Teferi, Temporal Archmage deck based around combining with The Chain Veil for the win.
Again, I have no problem with anyone involved but it was clear that when it comes to gauging how to properly pit Commander players and their decks against others in a pod, it's likely difficult for a tournament organizer to make a definitive decision.
This was an event for charity. In the end, three self-described competitive Commander decks were faced against the winner of the "precon challenge", a mini-tournament within the main one, which featured only unmodified Commander preconstructed decks.
The winner of that mini-tournament, a player running Meren of Clan Nel Toth, was pit against Kess, Dissident Mage with a focus on Storm combos, The Gitrog Monster with a Dakmor Salvage combo in the wings, and the ultimate winner of the tournament, Jake Fisher running his Animar, Soul of Elements combo deck.
So, congratulations to Jake for utterly dominating the competition and winning the prize of a 1996 NYC Pro Tour Collector Set, valued around $500.
This sort of tournament with high-stakes prize support needs to be given a fair amount of forethought, honestly. While it's a given that there will always be standouts in the ranks of players of any game, when there is a developing sub-meta in a game there needs to be some way to weed them out and accommodate them separately. I'm mainly concerned about the longevity of the format when something like a Tier One Teferi deck can take on a newcomer's deck and win in ten minutes. It's simply not fulfilling (and for some perhaps not even fun) to lose a tournament in ten minutes, even if that's just the way these events are meant to run. Hopefully, other tournament organizers will learn from this brief recap and adjust accordingly for events in the future. The only real question left is: how?