Ok, I’ve got a Commander... and now what?
Ok, I’ve got a Commander ... and now what?
(that is: basic course - but not too much - of specific rules regarding our legend in the command zone)
Good morning everyone!
My name is Matteo and, as well as a fan of the 99+1* card formats like EDH and Centurion, I am a Rules Advisor, a kind of Level 0 Judge. In this article I would like to present you in detail what you need to know about the above "+1", AKA the Commander. Per se, the rules that concern him/her are few, however it is not uncommon to see some inaccuracies around, due, among other things, to some recent changes that it is essential to keep in mind. As absurd as it may seem, knowing this aspect perfectly is more than a whim for fans of regulatory quibbles: for me it has made the difference between victory and defeat several times.
Rule 1: The commander, when cast from the command zone, costs 2 additional mana for each time it was previously cast from that zone.
First, it's worth noting that this is an additional cost, so: it doesn't affect the converted mana cost of the commander himself, not even on the stack, and must be paid even if the commander is cast with an alternative cost (memo: casting "without paying the mana cost” it’s an alternative cost).
Much easier to overlook: this cost ONLY applies when we launch the Commander from the command zone and increases ONLY when we launch the Commander from the command zone. So, a Commander back in hand will be cast at base cost regardless of his "past" and doing so won't cost us two more mana.
Focus on: Fires of Invention to cast the commander (not actually) for free, Command Beacon to be able to cast it at the base cost and not furtherly increase the tax, Spell Snare to neutralize Akiri even on castings after the others before.
Rule 2: If a commander is in a graveyard or in exile and “recently ended up there”, its owner may put it in the command zone.
This is a state-based action, so to fully understand it you need to have a little idea of how Magic's "idle cycle" works: every time a player would be about to gain priority, the game performs a series of fairly natural actions (called state-based actions) including putting creatures that have taken lethal damage or Planes walkers with no loyalty counters into the graveyard. Well, among these actions there is now also moving the Commander from the graveyard or exile to the command zone.
In other words, this rule, which has been in this specific form for a relatively short time, causes "when a creature dies" triggered abilities to now see our Commander die and therefore trigger even if it is our intention to put the Commander into the command zone.
Focus on: Skullclamp, which now let us draw also if attached to our commander, Reyhan, Last of the Abzan which now no longer gives counters when blinked, Child of Alara who can now nuke the field AND return to the command zone.
Rule 3: If a commander is going to end up in the owner's hand or deck from any zone, the owner can instead put it in the command zone.
This possibility is totally opposite to the previous one: a Commander can be put in the command zone INSTEAD than in its owner's hand or library, in doing so it does not touch the previous finish zone, and therefore does not trigger anything that looks to that type of event.
This rule, together with the previous one, has two important consequences. The first: in any other case than ending up in the cemetery, in exile, in hand or in the library, the commander remains exactly where it is (notable examples: under the control of an opponent or phased out). The second: that in both cases the choice must be made immediately or the commander remains where he is (see however Rule 4).
Focus on: the hated Gilded Drake, Parallax "either you immediately put it in the command zone or you wait and hope there is no Stifle" Wave, Oubliette post rewording (absolute bomb).
Rule 4: An object that tries to change zones but a replacement effect leaves it in the zone where it is, still counts as a new object as soon as it enters that zone.
This is a rule that does not concern us exclusively in itself, however one of its very recent institution (early February) has consequences that we have to deal with. Suppose our Commander ends up in exile and we decide to leave it there, perhaps because we expect its return soon, but then just when it is about to return, our opponent surprises us with a Containment Priest that seems to relegate it forever away from the battlefield. Well, this (non) transition exile -> exile, transforms the Commander into a new object that counts as exiled only "recently", so Rule 2 above allows us to bring it back home to the command zone for future use.
For today I think we have bitten off more than we could chew. I hope this article will serve novice and less novice players to snatch some victories. And always remember that if you have any doubts, the Centurion Discord channel has a section dedicated to ruling questions full of nice and competent judges… and me.
See you soon!
Matteo Braghiroli (Matteo_EDH on Cockatrice)
Post scriptum for “the men of culture” The change in Rule 2 has meant that some little-known and quite counterintuitive interactions cease to work, but it's worth spending a few words because capable but out-of-date players could incorrectly propose them and it is good that you know how to correct them. As the previous rule was written, some cards saying "exile target [OBJECT] until [CONDITION]", when applied to a Commander, turned into "put target Commander into the Command Zone until [CONDITION]". So, even if the owner of the Commander declared to put it in the command zone, it was enough to satisfy the condition to bring it back. This thing, since now the Commander passes from exile before moving to the command area, no longer works because the exile-and-return effect is unable to "follow" it through all these zones.
Focus on: Palace Jailer, Banisher Priest, Banishing Light that NO longer return the Commander if placed in the command zone.