Born as a community initiative, Commander is now the most popular format for all casual MTG players who enjoy a good for-fun game. After some time as an independent, community led format, Wizards of the Coast finally properly recognized it as one of their own back in 2011. Since then, 1,609 commanders have been gathered into the format, and a record-number of commander-focused products have been released by Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast.
Nonetheless, there are some players who wish they could go back to the days of old, when the format was called Elder Dragon Highlander, a name it still bears nowadays in the form of the acronym EDH, and there were only 443 legal commanders. Nostalgia and longing led a few players to bring their own version of a Pre Commander format, called PreDH, and thus now anyone who wants to play as if it weren't 2023 can do it.
The same committee who watched the community lead the creation of Commander back in the late 1990s and now oversees the Commander rules nowadays, The RC, is now overseeing the creation of a new subtype of Commander by the community, again.
The format, who aims at delivering a feeling of playing Commander before 2011, is the same as regular Commander, the only difference being that the only cards allowed to play are the ones released before the recognition by Wizards of the Coast, that is, the last legal set is New Phyrexia. By taking the current banlist into account, of the 45 banned cards list, only 8 were printed after the birth of Commander as a recognized format, with its own products. The credits for the creation of the PreDH format go to Brian David-Marshall.
PreDH is more correctly Pre-Commander, and doesn’t change any of Commander’s rules; it simply bans all the cards created after the first Commander product hit the shelves.
Still, though there are under 500 Commanders considered legal for this new format, a number which is a third of the current commanders available for Commander itself, the list of cards for PreDH constitutes a total of 11,509 legal cards, more than enough for any good deckbuilder to mess around with. The process of finding what is strong in this format will require a lot of experimenting and revisiting old cards, which might just increase the 'magic' of the format itself: it will really feel as if you're rediscovering lost treasures.
One of the main supporters of the format, Sheldon Menery, the head of the Commander Rules Committee, aims for the full recognition of this format very soon, as he keeps on testing out different builds and maybe even enhanced rules and dedicated banlists to help this format really take off. In one of his latest articles, he mentions he has now successfully played a reasonable number of proper PreDH games, including two matches in the latest event, MagicCon, in Philadelphia, and that there is now a fully dedicated Discord channel for the discussion of preDH in the official RC server.
“With life totals both in the single digits, I got to finish him off by simply attacking with Treetop Village and Faerie Conclave. It was like 1997 all over again.”
- Sheldon Menery
Only time will tell how this format's meta will be like, with a very restricted card pool to build from, and only time will tell if this format will take off as a proper new way of playing Commander, but if there is one thing to take away from the experience, it is that a nostalgic way of playing Commander is certainly appealing to many players who are craving that early 2000s Commander feel.