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New Commander Death Trigger Rules Change | Commander Quickie

Over the weekend the Commander Rules Committee announced a rules change on how commanders go to the command zone. Toby Elliott wrote the official article announcing the new change, including why and how they made the change, which I highly recommend reading, but I'll quickly summarize it and then focus on the implications to the format:


What's The Change?

The short version of the change is this:

If a commander has an ability which triggers on it dying or going to exile, it will trigger before heading to the command zone. 

And the full version of the change is this:

If a commander is in a graveyard or in exile and that card was put into that zone since the last time state-based actions were checked, its owner may put it into the command zone.

If a commander would be put into its owner’s hand or library from anywhere, its owner may put it into the command zone instead. This replacement effect may apply more than once to the same event.


Basically what used to happen is if a commander would leave the battlefield and go to any other zone, its owner may put it into the command zone instead as a replacement effect. Because the commander would go straight to the command zone from the battlefield, stuff like death triggers wouldn't occur since the game term "dying" refers specifically to a creature going to the graveyard from the battlefield. With the new rules, however, the commander now actually goes to the graveyard or exile zone before going to the command zone, so triggered abilities that care about creatures dying or going to the exile zone now happen.

For example, let's say your commander, Elenda, the Dusk Rose, is on the battlefield and the opponent destroys it with Murder and you decide to put Elenda back into your command zone. With the previous rules, Elenda would go directly to your command zone and Elenda's death trigger wouldn't occur. With the new rule, however, Elenda momentarily goes to the graveyard before going to your command zone, so the death trigger occurs.

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The reason for this change was to make commanders with death triggers function the way people expected them to. People expected that if Elenda, the Dusk Rose is your commander and is sacrificed or destroyed then its death trigger would happen even if you put Elenda back into the command zone, but that wasn't the way it worked before. Now it works the way people expect it to work.


What's The Impact?

Due to this change, some cards get better and a few even get worse.

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First off, a couple commanders benefit from this change, specifically, commanders that have powerful death triggers: Elenda, the Dusk Rose has the most hype (and has seen the highest price spike), but other common names that pop up are Child of Alara, Kokusho, the Evening Star, and Roalesk, Apex Hybrid. All these commanders now trigger their death triggers when you choose to put them into your command zone instead of keeping them in your graveyard. This makes these commanders more powerful, but it's not actually a huge power boost. Generally speaking, commanders with powerful death triggers actually want to go to the graveyard in most cases so you can recur them to your hand or Reanimate them back to the battlefield and avoid paying the ever-increasing command tax.

For example, repeatedly recurring and recasting Kokusho with Phyrexian Reclamation is far more mana-efficient than recasting it from the command zone, because Kokusho costs an additional 2 mana for each time you've previously cast it from the command zone (commander tax). However, this is a great way to get some extra value out of your commander when you don't currently have a way to get it out of your graveyard.

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In my opinion, the commanders that benefited the most from this change are those that have powerful triggers based on seeing other creatures dying, like Chevill, Bane of Monsters, Glissa, the Traitor, Mathas, Fiend Seeker, Toshiro Umezawa, and Syr Konrad, the Grim. These commanders used to generate no value if opposing commanders would go to the command zone instead of the graveyard, but now opposing commanders with create death triggers for you. These commanders will now generate significantly more value than they did before. 

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This rules change also fixed some weirder interactions as well. It That Betrays used to steal sacrificed creatures out of the command zone. Banishing Light leaving the battlefield would return commanders targeted by it from the command zone to the battlefield. Neither of these things happen anymore because the commander now briefly goes to the originally designated zone -- graveyard, exile -- before going to the command zone, and these cards don't track the commander across multiple zones. 


Is This A Good Change?

Yes, I think this is a good change. Changes to make the game more intuitive, to work like people expect it to work, are good. If most people look at Elenda, the Dusk Rose and expect the death trigger to happen when Elenda is sent to the command zone, then it should work that way.

I don't think this change will lead to any new oppressive commanders. Commanders with powerful triggers when they die get a bit stronger, but since they usually don't want to go back to the command zone it's not a huge power boost. Creatures with powerful triggers when opposing creatures die get stronger, but they weren't that strong to begin with. And some other weird card interactions work more intuitively now too! Win-Win!

But what do you think about the changes? Do you agree with the changes, preferred the old rules, or propose a different solution? Let me know in the comments section! Thanks for reading!

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