Should This Be Banned - Part 2
Welcome back to Should This Be Banned? Last time, Robert looked at cards that provide an unfair advantage. Today, he wants to dive into cards that are banned for being too oppressive to the Commander format.
As a quick reminder, in my last article I divided the Commander banlist into three categories. So what does being "too oppressive" to the format mean? In my opinion, some cards are that are fine in other formats are completely ridiculous in Commander. This is either because of the card pool in commander, the rules specific too commander, the fact that it is a multiplayer format, or the fact that it's a singleton format. Commander, after all, is a casual and social format. Sure, it's fun to have strong decks and play the format in a competitive way, but let's see what kind of impact the following cards would have on the format.
Cards Too Oppressive in Commander
- Braids, Cabal Minion
- Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
- Erayo, Soratami Ascendant
- Gifts Ungiven
- Leovold, Emissary of Trest
- Limited Resources
- Sundering Titan
In one of my other articles, I mentioned how white is one of the weaker colors in commander. While the blue player will be drawing tons of cards, the green player will ramp into oblivion and the black player will quietly tutor their win condition, the white player is most likely left in the dust. Commander is the "Battlecruiser" format of MTG, players are doing big, dumb, stuff that you cannot really do in other formats. These two factors combined make Balance very dangerous indeed. It's one single card that counters all white's "weak spots" of the format while simultaneously punishing the other players. All for the mere cost of 2 mana! If you play this card with zero other cards in hand, zero to one land in play and no creatures, you will technically Armageddon, Mind Twist, and Wrath of God your opponents. This is far too oppressive, as it flies in the face of the reasons for Commander's existence.
Braids, Cabal Minion
Braids, Cabal Minion's banning has caused some discussion in the commander community. First off, I think most people agree that Braids as a commander is degenerate. It's not that hard to get a turn one or two Braids in play, and from there on she will completely dominate the game. Preventing any opponent from playing the game. Imagine your opponent plays this card while you only have one land in play. The effect triggers on every player's upkeep, meaning that you would have to immediately sacrifice your only land, and, from here on, very likely every other land you play too. Sure, your opponent must do the same, but the difference is that they have a win condition on board, Braids herself. We can all be glad that this crazy braided lady is not legal. Now the discussion comes from the fact that Braids, Cabal Minion is completely banned in the format. People are arguing that while she is very much broken as a commander, having her in the 99 should be allowed. While I don't think she is too oppressive as a card in the 99 (this is commander after all), I understand the Committee's reasoning for not wanting two different ban lists, one for cards that are completely banned, and one for cards that are just banned as commander. Should this rule every be implemented, I wouldn't be surprised if you could play Braids in the 99. Only time will tell…
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
In my last article I called Griselbrand the creature that everybody decides to cheat into play. Well, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is pretty much the other creature that people love to NOT pay the mana cost for. So, if people in Modern and Legacy can cheat this flying spaghetti monster in, why can't we? There are multiple reasons why Emrakul is too oppressive for this format. In Legacy and Modern, entire decks are build around cheating this card in, which can be a strong strategy, but not a very flexible one. With the singleton rule of commander, it's not as likely to have a strategy solely focused on cheating Emrakul or Griselbrand into play (even if you play a reanimator-themed deck). I think the real reason why Emrakul is banned is that 15 mana is a lot easier to achieve in commander than in Modern of Legacy. This card can and will be hard casted when legal. It's not uncommon for commander that players achieve a stalled or locked board state while sitting on 15+ lands. If Emrakul was legal, the game would immediately turn into "Who can draw Emrakul first"? The cannot be countered and take an extra turn clause are very relevant here too, they allow you to immediately pull ahead before our opponents can even interact. The Eldrazi Titans like Kozilek, Butcher of Truth and Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre are usually problematic cards for casual playgroups, and Annihilator is in no way a fun mechanic. Add the fact that it is colorless and thus playable in all decks to the equation and you have a truly oppressive card.
Erayo, Soratami Ascendant
Erayo, Soratami Ascendant is almost up there with Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary and Braids, Cabal Minion. On the first glimpse, the ability might not be as special as the other mentioned card. The power of Erayo comes from two problems, however. First, the card is too efficient and what it does. You could potential flip Erayo on turn 2 or 3 with the help of zero-mana artifacts and cantrips. This creates a very nasty situation for all your opponents. The first couple of turns in a game of EDH are essential as both players are jogging for advantage, getting more lands, putting some artifacts into play, or casting small creatures. A flipped Erayo slows down your opponents massively, they would have to wait to acquire more mana, and then even start "wasting" spells because the first one they would play would be countered anyways.
In my opinion, Erayo would probably be fine to deal with in the mind to late game, when people have already completed their setup and have the resources to deal it. The fact that this does nothing but stall board development asymmetrically in the early turns is simply too oppressive. The second issue is, of course, this cards colors. With all the other counter spells available in blue, you could still try and counter every spell they use to get rid of Erayo, and this would be after they already had a spell countered by you for free. There has been some discussion about Erayo. People want to see it available in the 99 (just like the Braids, Cabal Minion case). Other people argue that it's fine to unban this card, as it requires a lot of building around it for it to work and will help put a stop to combo decks in cEDH (competitive EDH). I am still very glad that this card is banned but do let me know if you have a different opinion on it.
I see a lot of people asking the same question; Why is Gifts Ungiven banned and Intuition not? I would say that the biggest difference here is that you get to search another card and receive another card. Searching an additional card is obviously a huge bonus, as Gifts Ungiven provides card advantage whereas Intuition can be considered a one-for-one. Gifts Ungiven is the ultimate combo enabler, you tutor for the right cards (even better with graveyard strategies) in the opponent's end step, untap and just go off. Being able to tutor 4 cards for 4 mana on instant speed is just too much, even for Commander.
Commander is all about legendary creatures. Having a zero-mana and reusable way to remove commanders is so harmful for the format that we don't even need to spend time discussing it. Add the fact that it can also bounce your own legendary creature to trigger ETB effects and such and we end up with a card that should forever stay banned in this format. Some people would argue that the card punishes people for being too reliant on their commander, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. But in my opinion the card is way to easy to use and abuse, leading to ruined games of commander.
Leovold, Emissary of Trest
"I'm sure we can come to an arrangement" this little sneaky dude keeps telling us. I absolutely love Leovold, Emissary of Trest in Legacy. It gives midrange decks a fighting chance against combo and control decks, it's well costed, and will always trade with their removal. The UBG mana cost also requires you to really build your deck around it, making it a rewarding payoff.
But we're not here to talk about Legacy, we're here to talk about commander. And oh my, this card should stay banned forever in Commander. Leovold is, in my opinion, in the three most powerful colors of Commander and can pilot a deck full of counter spells, tutors, ramp spells, draw spells, and basically anything else that is considered good in commander. While this is true for other UBG generals, Leovold takes it to a whole new level, as he completely locks your opponents out of the game. Just go Leovold into Windfall and laugh manically when your opponents have no more cards in their hands on turn 3 or 4. Add a Teferi's Puzzle Box to the mix and you've gotten yourself a completely degenerate lock that's easy to achieve and easy to defend, thanks to the colors of your commander. This card was clearly not designed with the Commander format in mind, and thus let to its banning quickly after its first printing.
Limited Resources is one of those cards that is clearly not designed for multiplayer formats. Its cost is way too efficient for what it should be doing, one white mana to ruin a game. As I stated earlier, Commander is seen as the battlecruiser format of the game. This means that players can do all their huge, dumb stuff that they can't do in other formats, where the cards must be as efficient as possible. This card, much like Balance sets players back by many turns but has the insult after injury that no player can do the single core action that MTG is build on: playing lands. Preventing people from playing the game is just too toxic for a casual format like Commander. If you're not convinced, think of all the ways how you destroy just your opponent's lands while having more than 10 lands in play yourself, blech.
On one side, I'm a bit disappointed that Sundering Titan is banned in Commander. I've come to enjoy the power level of this card in many cube drafts, and on the first glimpse, the card has "Commander" written all over it.
Then there is the other side that is very glad that this card is banned. It's easy to tutor since it's both an artifact and creature, and for these same reasons it's easy to abuse as well. Sundering Titan does nothing but create undesirable game states. Its ability is ridiculously effective, since it only needs to enter and/or leave the battlefield to trigger, making it a prime inclusion for blink decks. The fact that it's colorless doesn't help it either, making the card very easy to splash.
Upheaval could also have been in the category "Cards that win the game with little to no effort." Upheaval basically functions as a hard-reset for the game, nullifying everything that players have done so far. While you could argue that this is a strong, but sometimes a necessarily play, Upheaval has one fundamental problem; The player who plays Upheaval decided when to reset the game and can prepare or play around it accordingly. This turns it from a "Reset the game" into a "I win the game from here" card. The most efficient way is to get a lot of fast mana like Mana Crypt, float all your unused mana, play Upheaval, make a land drop, play all your fast mana again and pass the turn. Now your opponents can likely only make 1 land drop, and then must discard to hand-size limit at the end of their turn, since you just put their entire board in their hands. From here on, it should not be too hard to win the game in an unfun, punishing fashion.
That's all for today. Let me know what cards in this list should be unbanned in your opinion. Are there any cards that are too oppressive and not in this list? Thanks for reading and until next time, when we will look at cards that win the game with little to no effort.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.