Since our last update in January quite a lot of things have changed for Duel Commander. The metagame kept evolving and rotating slightly towards Partner commanders, playing all colours and deck types. Aggressive decks also became top tier strategies, with mono-red or red-white decks taking over. Control decks continue to be powerful as well. Wizards also recently announced support for 1v1 Commander games on MTGO. While it is not officially support as Duel Commander, everyone is excited for their future announcements to see how Duel games will be supported by WOTC going forward.
Individual card changes:
Breya, Etherium Shaper is now banned as as commander only.
Vial Smasher the Fierce is now banned as as commander only.
Yisan, The Wanderer Bard is now legal.
Chrome Mox is now banned.
Mox Diamond is now banned.
These changes apply on April 21, 2017. The next announcements will be published on July 17, 2017 (applying on July 21, 2017).
Until then, we wish you all many good games! 🙂
Further individual explanations:
Breya, Etherium Shaper
Among the control decks currently running in Duel Commander, the dominant archetypes rely on removal spells (UX) and archetypes that revolve around combos, backed up by counterspells (mostly mono-blue ones). The arrival of Breya, Etherium Shaper quickly shut down the first category as being an absolute better offer. Her colour identity offers little weakness, her abilities crush opposing board presence and she even has opportunities to integrate “instant-win” combinations. Breya, Etherium Shaper outclasses all other available commanders in terms of versatility and power.
Such a superiority is highly problematic: in order to prevent uniform control strategies that end up being particularly oppressive for aggressive decks, Breya, Etherium Shaper is now banned as a commander.
Vial Smasher the Fierce
The format which Vial Smasher the Fierce was made for (40 starting life totals, multiplayer games) is very different from Duel Commander. The current structure in Duel Commander favours her a lot, mostly by dodging the “random opponent” effect due to the fact that there is only one opponent.
This commander also abuses most cost reduction effects (“pitch cards”, delve ability, or any alternative cost). This could almost be acceptable if that card didn’t also have the “partner” keyword, that opens access for the decks that play it to too many other alternative cost cards, especially when using blue along with it.
Partner ability requires reasonable commanders, where Vial Smasher the Fierce is actually a brutal and resilient win condition. Not being adapted to Duel Commander, Vial Smasher the Fierce is now banned as a commander.
Yisan, The Wanderer Bard
When we banned Yisan, The Wanderer Bard, almost no quick spot removal spells were played as the 30 starting life totals format was an endless battle of Control Vs Combo with few competitive aggressive strategies at all. Within such a metagame, Yisan, The Wanderer Bard was quite problematic as he could create board presence from nothing if left unchecked. This is clearly not true nowadays with Lightning Bolt being the most played coloured card along with Swords to Plowshares, Go for the Throat, Fatal Push being widely played as well.
Therefore it’s time for our favorite Bard to come back to Duel Commander tables!
Chrome Mox / Mox Diamond
Obviously, those two cards differ and the construction constraints they require are not the same. However, their nuisance potential to Duel Commander is close to the same.
The balance of those two Moxen relies on the sacrifice of active resources at games starts. However, in Duel Commander, the fact that there is a commander highly raises the amount of available active resources. The constraints mentioned above are therefore reduced. The recent “partner” keyword ability stressed that reduction even more.
The combination of the unique characteristics of those two Moxen (the cheapest permanent mana accelerators still available on the first turn) along with Duel Commander specifics (singleton and Commander as a repeatable resource) creates a very undesirable variance.
Moreover, such a variance currently boosts up two major decks: Baral, Chief of Compliance and Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, that can then be cast on turn one, or where they can be recycled later in the games.
For creating an lack of balance in the games and for determining the outcome of games too many times in Duel Commander, those two cards, Chrome Mox and Mox Diamond are now banned.