Commander is getting a bit of an overhaul, and it’s probably a good thing. On Monday (MLK Day, an odd national holiday upon which to announce such a move), the unaccountable council of Commander gods finally came to a determination that needed to happen: Prophet of Kruphix is banned. There are also two additional things to discuss, the change to the mulligan rule and the elimination of Rule 4, but I think the Prophet of Kruphix ban is by far the most interesting.

Yeah, this one. Buh-bye!

The reasons behind Commander bannings are opaque, although I’m sure the council would disagree. Their willingness to explain their bans at length tells the average Commander player little about why certain cards remain unbanned, or what is under consideration at any given time. In the case of Prophet of Kruphix, this has been particularly puzzling. That card was printed seven sets ago, in September of 2013, and it has been busted since the start. Prophet of Kruphix is a one-card combo, replicating the effects of Seedborn Muse/Vedalken Orrery (or its many permutations); this combo functionally lets you take every turn in the game until it dies. It’s an irritating enough combination of abilities when it requires two cards to put together; when it in a single card, which can be reanimated from your graveyard by an opponent’s Geth, Lord of the Vault, or can boost the efficacy of Tasigur, the Golden Fang—that’s a problem. It’s a problem that usually results in one player taking every turn until the damn thing gets killed again.


I feel like folks don’t always get why taking extra turns is bad in a casual game of Commander. Taking extra turns is bad because it violates the social contract. People come together to get to play Magic when they pull out their Commander decks. If you’re taking more than your fair share of time playing, the extra time you get to do cool things is taken out of the potential time your opponents have to do their own awesome stuff. Play time is unfortunately zero sum, which is one of the reasons that online Magic makes use of a chess clock. That’s impractical in paper Magic, so the social contract is what ensures folks get the time to do what they want.


This does not hold true for competitive Commander, for what it’s worth.

This is what extra-turn-taking cards typically look like.

Now, here’s the point at which an interlocutor might call out something like, “but Jessica, Prophet of Kruphix doesn’t say to take an extra turn anywhere on the card. What are you on about?” And, in a sense, the interlocutor is correct. Prophet of Kruphix is no Time Warp. Instead of generating extra turns for you to take, Prophet does something a bit more subtle: it lets you colonize everyone else’s turn. Now it’s not the active player’s decision to move through the phases of their turn, it’s yours. And that can be frustrating, when paired with a deck of any degree of complexity. It’s hard enough making it through a turn in a timely measure when it’s only one person untapping and doing things; it’s infinitely harder when another person is doing it too. Every. Single. Player’s. Turn.


It’s a pain in the ass, and it becomes the focus of games when you drop it. I am not sad to see Prophet of Kruphix go, merely surprised that it took this long to do so. Oh, and mildly irked that I had just bought a couple of foil copies, since the only way to beat that card was to join it—but they can go into a binder with my promo Primeval Titans and foil Sylvan Primordial.


Worth it.

Okay, technically it was more like “keep some cards in your hands, exile the rest, and draw one fewer than you exiled,” but you get the basic drift.

The change to the mulligan rule is fairly straightforward: they’re ending the “Partial Paris” (which is complicated but basically Serum Powder rules) and adopting the “Vancouver Mulligan” (i.e. Scry 1 after you mulligan). Of all the potential changes, this seems the least relevant; mulligans are the type of thing that make for easy house rules. In fact, they basically come out and say this, advising people just draw off the top of their library, not shuffling between mulligans.


I mean, personally that seems way shadier than my local playgroup’s house rule: Scry 2 before you decide to mulligan. Given my familiarity with that particular rule, I wish they had gone to a Scry 2 instead of a Scry 1, but I can see why the asymmetry of it would be off-putting.


Finally, there’s the elimination of Rule Four. If you don’t know what Rule Four is off the top of your head, don’t worry! I write about this shit and I didn’t immediately recognize it. Rule Four is the thing that keeps you from being able to make mana from outside your commander’s color identity. This eliminates the ability for Zedruu the Greathearted to Donate Celestial Dawn to an opponent, locking them out of the game. It would have apparently been too much of a headache to reconcile this rule with the requirement on some Eldrazi that the mana come from a colorless source. Is a City of Brass making blue in a green deck a source of colorless mana sufficient to cast Kozilek, the Great Distortion? That would make no sense, and yet that was what Rule Four would do in that situation.

Kinda terrible art for such a fun card.

What gets better? For starters, I’m a lot more down with people running City of Brass and Mana Confluence in three-color decks. That had always seemed a bit excessive to me, since they were just painful tri-lands, but now that there are corner cases where the ability to produce five colors of mana will be relevant, I’m on board. Cards like Praetor’s Grasp get better; before you were basically restricted to ganking an artifact or another colorless card if an opponent wasn’t in your colors, but now you might actually be able to cast a wider range of cards from it. Same goes for Sen Triplets, Hedonist’s Trove, and a host of other ways to steal that still require payment.


It also means Bring to Light is suddenly a lot better in Simic decks, something which will perhaps make up for the gaping hole that Prophet of Kruphix is going to leave in basically every Simic deck currently constructed (a reasonable criteria for banning the card, just like Primeval Titan). Sunburst and Converge get a lot better as mechanics when you don’t have to run a five-color deck to get their full effect.


Thus, all in all, I am supportive of these changes. I still wish they would change the color identity of hybrid cards, and institute a bit more transparency/community input (it’s a very specific slice of Commander enthusiasts making these decisions, after all)—but on the whole, good job, Commander gods. I honestly think these little tweaks will make the game a little more fun to play, and that’s the underlying goal of Commander more than any other format.


Jess Stirba is as sick as a dog is furry.

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