On 7’s in Commander

The 1–10 Power Scale

Most Commander players are familiar with The Command Zone podcast. In it, Josh and Jimmy talk about a power scale, where 1 is the weakest and 10 is the most powerful. It was proposed as a way of quickly and easily talking about power levels while negotiating which deck you’re going to play before starting.

No it isn’t.

Let’s first take a look at the 1–10 power scale, starting with the most common mistake about it: the idea that a precon is a 5.

A more reasonable, data-driven power scale

There are three collections of decks that get referenced before I begin. The first is the aforementioned preconstructed deck. Those are a 3. The second collection of decks is the vast majority of possible commander decks (and yes, there is a finite number of possible valid commander decks because there’s a maximum deck size and a finite number of different cards in the format), mathematically: not even playable. The space of decks is filled with decks that run too many basics to be functional. They can’t win without a major miracle.

What makes a 10?

There are only a handful of decks that are 10’s. These decks constitute the Best Things You Can Be Doing In Commander. They throw a lot of things players take for granted as features of the format out the window in favor of pure power.

Moving down the scale

Generally speaking, your 9’s are the decks listed at the cEDH decklist database but are not recommended. These decks are either older or just not quite there. Some ate a ban. Some got worse when new cards got printed. But they still work. Typically, these decks put up a 15–22% win rate against a table of10’s, assuming equal deck familiarity and skill among the players.

Casual-friendly Decks

I have been fond of saying that there are no 7’s. Let’s put a pin in that. The reality is that there’s a fairly large gulf between “has hope against 10's” and what most people want to play.

Jank Decks

Our last two levels are the jank tier. Before taking that as an insult, nobody ever builds these by accident, just as nobody builds a 9 or a 10 by accident. The distinguishing factor is whether they can win at all.

Taking the pin out: Discussing 7's

So what’s going on at a 7?

Embrace your 6-iness

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with playing Commander how you like it. In fact, that’s the whole point of the format. Don’t feel like you have to put up a tough face against the 10’s. Trust me, the people who have 10’s would rather play them against other similarly-powered decks, not the more resonant decks.

  1. The notion that a precon is somehow higher than a 3. Yes, some good precons have been 4’s. But they’re never 5’s. Being a 5 would defeat the point of the product.
  2. The idea of a “75% deck” that is somehow able to hold its own at a table of 10’s and not be miserable to play against with your more reasonable friends. This may have been possible once. But there have been a LOT of more powerful things to enter the format since then, especially in terms of combo pieces in the command zone and the ability to play any color combination.

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