Companion and Contemporary Card Design

The Companion mechanic from Ikoria has already had a tremendous, polarizing and wide reaching effect on Magic deck building as well as the shape of eternal formats. I think in many ways it speaks to Wizards’ design philosophies of designing and developing for standard and banning cards as necessary.

In particular, we’ve already seen Lurrus begin to dominate Modern, Legacy, Vintage and Pioneer where the restriction of two CMC permanents had very little impact on deck building philosophy. Where the most important and widely played creatures rarely exceeded three mana regardless.

I also believe that Companion is conceptually a very cool mechanic. It allows competitive constructed decks to function along the lines of Commander, such that deck builders always have access to the Companion at the cost of some deck building restriction.

It’s been mentioned that such consistent access to value generating creatures is too powerful and serves to homogenize deck building paths. And to some degree that’s probably true, particularly in eternal formats. However, as a player, I’d much rather see Wizards take risks in new design space and give us powerful, novel and engaging tools to build decks with.

If necessary, as in the last year, Wizards can and should ban cards judiciously for the health of various formats. Far better that than present sets and mechanics that are safe, at the cost of being boring and under impactful. I’m much more happy to see new sets change the face of existing formats and shake up deck building and play philosophy.

Particularly in standard, we’ve seen multiple Companion creatures serving to supplement a wide variety of strategies and archetypes. Allowing a virtual eighth card in the starting hand and a powerful build around ability. But even in Eternal formats, Lurrus is to be found enabling a diversity of strategies. And not just breaking one deck to the exclusion of others as Hogaak did.

I suppose the long and short of it is this: Embrace the weird, novel and unexpected. Enjoy those seemingly broken cards that lead to a diversity of deck building in the way that Companion does. Try to find the beauty and satisfaction in the changing landscape of eternal formats. Because, as I see it, the alternative is for the game we all love to stagnate. Perhaps even to fade away into irrelevance and obscurity. As always, good luck and good skill!

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