This time around we're putting the Glaring Spotlight on Shivam Bhatt, well known in Magic Circles for his podcasting, membership on the Commander Advisory Group, and all-around awesomeness in general.
What's your Magic origin story?
In 7th grade band class, I overheard some friends in the back of the room saying things like "I'm going to cast a
fireball at your dragon" and as a D&D fanboy I needed to know what was going on, and that's when I discovered that there was a game that actually let me be the wizard and cast the spells and attack other wizards that didn't require books and a ton of time! I was totally hooked from then on, which was lucky because revised had just or was just about to come out and it was all over the place.
You're in IT, you're a priest, you're a content creator, you're on the CAG. When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up? And was it actually so many things?
I wanted to be a scientist working on making clones and finding a way to give people chlorophyll skin so we could be awesome colors and also not have to eat. After that, I wanted to be a writer or storyteller.
Have you been able to get in any in-person play in 2020?
If you count Pre-Covid? absolutely. The last thing I did before lockdown was GP Reno, and I'm grateful for it.
Other than Magic, how are you passing your COVID time?
Lots and lots of baking, and house crap, and reading, and playing video games with my kid.
Best non-Magic thing you've gotten into recently?
Sourdough! It's a cliche, but I started it a year before quarantine started, which left me perfectly established to go crazy with baking once lockdown began. Also I just started stained glasswork, which should be fun, or at least interesting.
Whose Magic content is a must-watch/must-read for you?
I absolutely adore Limited Resources, and will drop everything to read anything Frank Karsten writes. Otherwise, I mainly listen to a lot of Tap Tap Concede, though I will listen to a wide variety of content just to keep my ears open to any new technology or concerns I should be paying attention to. Honestly, though, most of what I consume are videos of folks drafting cubes. I love watching folks draft cubes.
If you could live vicariously through a character in the MtG multiverse, who would it be and why?
The dude dangling from the fingers of
Juzam Djinn. you know that guy has a cool story to tell.
If you were keyworded with Affinity, for what would that Affinity be?
Affinity for Tokens!
What's your favorite under-supported tribe for Commander?
What's your favorite snack or beverage when sitting down for a night of Commander?
A sealed bottle of water with a spillproof lid
Do you have a preferred power level to play at? If so, why?
I will play anything under CEDH level, honestly. The deck power level doesn't particularly matter as long as everyone at the table is on the same page about what that means. Being a casual focused player doesn't mean only playing vanilla cards and draft chaff, it just means having a different motivation and goal when you do play. I want to use all the moxes and fast mana too! It just happens that I'm using them to power out
Water Elementals instead of
Ad Nauseum =)
If you could ban or unban any one card, what would it be and why?
If I had the power of the RC at my finger tips, I'd ban any extra turns spells, or
Torment of Hailfire. More than anything in magic, I hate wasting my time, or other people's time. You taking extra turns means that the player 3 seats down from you has waited 45 minutes before getting to untap, and that's not cool.
Many people have expressed the opinion that Commander was better when there was less intentional design for it. What are your thoughts?
I think that yes, it was better in the way that everything is better when it was more like the thing you first encountered. Cartoons were better when you were a kid, Music was better when it sounded like the stuff you listened to when you were 14, and Commander was better when it was less designed for, like when you started.
But the reality is, it is the most popular way to play magic, and that means that wotc is going to start caring about it more directly. It is foolish to pretend a business should just act like the way that the large part of their customer base is using the cards doesn't exist, just so that we can have the joy of rooting for playables in bulk bins at the backs of game stores. Especially when magic designers play commander themselves. That said, sealed box commander is a great way to revive that original feeling of lower card pool sizes and needing to use more weird cards creatively.
What do you think about silver-bordered cards in Commander? Are you okay with silver-bordered commanders?
I think they're fine, within reason. Physical cards are a no-no for me, but most silver bordered stuff is totally fine. I'd love to see Unstable legal in edh, for instance.
How well do your opinions line up with the rest of the CAG? Are there many disagreements?
Honestly, it depends on the topic. We're 6 people who approach the game from very different angles, and that means that we'll align with each other on some topics, and in the same breath be mortal enemies on the very next thing we discuss.
How much deliberation goes into a banning, and how much does a competitive format philosophy affect said bannings?
Hours and hours and hours of deliberation. Sometimes, as in the case with flash, months of deliberation. Competitive format philosophy has zero to no impact on bannings except for flash, and that was one of the biggest hurdles in getting flash banned. The RC and CAG actively do not take competitive play into consideration. That's not the goal of the format, nor is it the direction the RC wants to go with it. It's a thing that exists, and that's fine by us, but it's not shifting the scales.
How happy are you with the current state of Commander? Would you change a lot or make small tweaks?
I think commander is in as good of a place as it's ever been. The game is growing by leaps and bounds, and all the cards folks think will destroy commander have yet to do so. I have small tweaks I'd make, but since I'm in a position to try to get them to happen, it's not really productive to hypothesize =)
Phasing and Flanking did not, in fact, kill the game. What could?
Psh. They may not have killed magic, but they definitely phased me out of the game until Innistrad =)
Seriously, though, the thing that will kill magic is overwatering the plant. There are so many products coming out each year that it is going to make it incredibly hard to stay on top of things, and that will turn people off more than virtually anything else. Also, the community in general needs to grow up, and take stock of the problems of racism, sexism, and bigotry in itself, and shape up. You won't have a game if you drive all the players away.