Last week, my friend Rob wrote the following in a comment on my “ban Prophet of Kruphix” post. It’s interesting, and I think it deserves to be highlilghted on its own:


“I get why one would want Prophet and Deadeye out of the format, but the more chatter I hear about them the more I think about EDH as a format holistically.

When I first found EDH, I loved it. I loved it because it was a deckbuilders format. You could build a deck with weird synergies that were really powerful, but not powerful enough for Legacy or Vintage (Salvaging Station + Lotus Bloom! I’m in!). But as the format has become broader, it is no longer a deckbuilders’ format, it is just a Magic players format. At the same time, as the format has aged, the “cream has risen to the top” and made it abundantly clear which are the “best” cards in the format (not to mention reprints like Doubling Season and Tooth and Nail making those cards much cheaper and more widely available). As these two factors converge, EDH gets closer and closer to being a “solved” format.

The only effective way to fight that is to expand the banned list. While I have no objections to expanding the banned list, doing so is a stopgap solution. There will always be some new bogeyman in the format, and eventually the ban list will become swollen and unwieldy to the point where people lose interest in the format. Players like to do powerful things, and limiting the power level of a format will inevitably push players into another format where they can do the powerful things they want to do.”


I think he’s absolutely right. I know that what attracts me to EDH is definitely the deck building side of things, and I spend more time making and fiddling around with my decks than I play with them. But this bodes poorly for the format as a whole, because when you go to more competitive Commander territories you’re likely to see the same couple of bogeymen, including a deck that Mindslaver locks its opponents, a deck that takes all the turns (sometimes winning, sometimes just masturbating), one that prevents you from having any land out (in both artifact and enchantment flavors), and a bunch of control decks with combo kills. In the less powered environments, where people are just trying to have sometime they can have a conversation over, you’re more likely to see huge ramp and some sort of unholy recursive aspects, but in neither place are truly weird rogue decks at home.


Remember this guy? He blew up the format before being almost immediately banned.

So I think we should look to Modern, and shake up the ban list in the hopes of saving this format. When Modern first arrived it was truly terrible, and it took an initially loaded ban list, more bannings after the first major tournament, and then regular and extensive fiddling with that list to get things to where the format is today. And Modern is in a good place! But Modern has the support from the highest levels of WotC and tournaments that churn out big data on what people are playing and what’s ruining things, whereas Commander is a format with a weird system for things getting banned (Sheldon Mennery has a cabal or something, I think) and no big tournaments to get results you can data-mine.


And this has resulted in a format that’s unofficially solved, or at least bumped up to a higher level than I find comfortable, without enough official data to get people to make a change. So let’s brainstorm a new ban list for the game! Let’s do the work they’re not interested in doing, and try to blow open the format for a second renaissance. Here are some of the contenders I’d add to that list:


What doesn’t this guy combo with?

Prophet of Kruphix/Deadeye Navigator: See my reasons here.

What’s a non-combo use for this card?

Mycosynth Lattice/Enchanted Evening: These should have broader utility, but they’ve devolved into combo pieces with Opalescence and March of the Machines.

“I was designed before planeswalkers existed!”

Doubling Season: Now that there’s a fair deal of backup for this effect, let’s eliminate the spikiest of those cards from contention.

It was reprinted in Modern Masters, not Commander Masters.

Tooth and Nail: Sure, you can’t do Zealous Conscripts/Emrakul, the Aeons Torn in this format, but Purphoros, God of the Forge/Avenger of Zendikar isn’t much better.

I hope you have the [casthaven]Swords to Plowshares[/casthaven] or the [casthaven]Path to Exile[/casthaven]! Otherwise you’re fucked.

Ulamog, the Infinte Gyre/Kozilek, Butcher of Truth: Have you ever been happy to see your opponent resolve one of these things?

The most relevant reason to play [casthaven]Strip Mine[/casthaven].

Cabal Coffers: It’s either ban coffers or go deeper in on land destruction, and they just banned Sylvan Primordial for doing just that.

It’s just so convenient! I’ve put that card into non-themed decks because of the power level.

Ashnod’s Altar: A fairly degenerate effect that’s powerful even when it’s not proceeding to go infinite (which it can fairly easily do in the right deck).

Infinite mana really should just end a game.

Palinchron: This card is just a combo piece, and it goes infinite way too easily.

More than $10 for this card, can you believe it? It’s not even seeing much play in Modern these days.

Serra Ascendant: Dropping a 6/6 flying lifelinker on turn one is annoying enough, but the card has literally no drawback and is generally worth playing because sometimes you’ll just win the game on turn one.

It locks your opponents out of a game without killing them. Miserable.

Iona, Shield of Emeria: This card just isn’t fun, especially when you’re playing a monocolored deck and you just lose.

The most inexplicable inclusion in Commander’s Arsenal.

Loyal Retainers/Imperial Recruiter: Can we just collectively forget that Portal Three Kingdoms existed?

The altar-kill hasn’t changed since Reveillark was printed, which to me seems like it’s a combo without much in the way of legs.

Altar of Dementia: It’s ban this or ban the Karmic Guide/Reveillark loop, and I’ve seen them played for value.

It turns every creature you have into a [casthaven]Mulldrifter[/casthaven] and does sick things with any decent token-maker.

Aura Shards: Have you ever enjoyed a game where your opponent had an early Aura Shards? I just ruined Clayton this past weekend by dropping it turn three and just killing at least a permanent of his each turn.

Almost as much fun as being impregnated in the mouth by an alien.

Mindslaver: I’m sure there was a time when taking control of your opponent’s turn was a neat effect, but we’ve degraded from there into a “you take all the turns” problem with the ability to recur this card.

This is way too many things for one card to do! Especially a card in one of the primary Dredge colors.

Greater Good: It’s a draw engine, a free repeatable sacrifice outlet, and a discard outlet, all in one card.

Infinite. Squirrels.

Earthcraft: Another card I’ve only seen being played for its combo value, and it’s a slow, annoying, difficult to disrupt combo at that.

I think the format will be fine without a repeatable search engine on turn two.

Survival of the Fittest: If it’s too busted for Legacy…

Just because you got the judge foil doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for a casual format.

Sneak Attack: …then maybe Commander…

One of the most powerful and oppressive cards in Legacy can stay in that format, thank you very much.

Show and Tell: …is not the best format for the card to see play.


Most of these bans leaves things in the format that are still pretty busted, but that now require a few more cards to get working. Prophet of Kruphix leaves Seedborn Muse, the named Eldrazi leave their slightly-less-rare offspring, Asnod’s Altar leaves Phyrexian Altar, Survival of the Fittest leaves Fauna Shaman, Show and Tell leaves Hypergenesis, Doubling Season leaves Primal Vigor and Parallel Lives, and so on down the line. The point is not to drive combo and other powerful strategies out of the format; the goal is to get the format back to a place where it’s more welcoming to a new player. Considering we’re not that far away from the release of Conspiracy, a format that should drive people to EDH if there ever was one, I think making sure the format is still healthy should be a priority of the rules cabal. Because it’s not right now. And it should be.


Anyway, that’s our show for this week! Drop some suggestions in the comments here as to cards you would add to the ban list, or bannings of mine that you would dispute, and I’ll check back in with the comments section in next week’s column.


Jess Stirba has some serious and persistent privacy concerns about Facebook.

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