April 26, 2016

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Musings of the Madman: Three to Ban, Three to Unban

Welcome back all! Let’s look at the Commander banned list for a few moments. They usually take their time banning items, and usually only after a massive outcry on various forums and clear levels of player frustration. A more dynamic approach might benefit the format, but that incurs other frustrations, in that players might not know what to build next. Let’s move a handful of cards off and on the banned list to spice things up.

Three to Ban

A very good combo finisher in 60-card formats, you generally get to draw 12-20 cards before killing your opponent, short of an Angel’s Grace protecting you. The damage is amplified in Commander where you start with 40 life, get a free mulligan in a multiplayer game and can gain life quickly as well. There really aren’t any fun uses for this card so it’s time for it to go. If you’re going to use it, at least go the Billy Wray route at CBS and bring people for ice cream afterwards, it’s a nice balm on the wound.

I don’t expect this to get banned as four-player pods are the norm for the Rules Committee’s bannings and DEN eats a removal spell more often than not, but it’s near impossible to play it fairly. Either it generates infinite mana through Palinchron or it removes all your creatures via Duplicant or it generates mass tap or untap triggers via Derevi, Empyrial Tactician but it’s just a poor influence all around.

Again, a degenerate combo enabler that rarely sees play in casual iterations. That you need to spend thousands of dollars on the mana base to build the backbone of a Scion of the Ur-Dragon deck means you’re putting a spending burden on players as well. Sure, you could use it to get a basic land into your hand, but there is much, much better ramp out there for that purpose.

Three to Unban

I roll my eyes so far back I can see behind me each time I see this on the banned list. Yes, you can play Prismatic Omen and Transguild Courier for a “quick” finish, or you can play several multi-lands and a Sliver Queen to finish, but we’re still looking at something clunky and fairly easy to respond to. There are much easier ways to win the game and this might keep players on their toes as well, so let’s take a look?

The nominal reason for its persistent banning is the presence of Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, but in a format that still allows Obliterate, that seems a little inconsistent. While I understand the increase in unidirectional play this would achieve via cards like Gloom or Llawan, Cephalid Empress, this looks like the fear factor around Metalworker and the world didn’t end when it got unabanned.

You can insta-win with Tooth and Nail for one more mana, with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker in a variety of ways and that’s not even scratching the surface of instant wins available. The fear here is likely that it will become centralizing like Prophet of Kruphix or Primeval Titan, and that’s a legitimate concern, but this isn’t really any more broken than anything else in the format, so let’s let it run loose for a while and see what happens.

With the Rules Committee taking a deliberate pace with changes to the list, I do not expect anything prior to the end of the year, and then only if newly printed cards add extreme degeneracy to the format. Feel free to experiment with various cards in your groups though and see how you feel about them! That’s the essence of the format and if it works for you, that’s the important thing. Besides which, more data helps the Rules Committee work better for all of us.

Until next time, may cards you enjoy playing with never be banned on the run.