The Banned List. Never has a topic been so continuously debated on every forum dedicated to EDH. EDH uses the Legacy Banned list, but also adds its own cards. Ostensibly the three criteria for banning a card are:
- Its power level in multiplayer EDH is signficantly higher than both what’s expected for its mana cost AND it’s power level in other formats (due to different rules or game sizes).
- it’s dollar cost is prohibitive for most players and the card usually detracts from the playing experience of everyone in the game
- it belongs to a class of cards which can’t be consistantly interpreted by all players
(the above is from a very old post on mtgcommander.net)
Also recently Sheldon Menery posted this:
1. We can’t ban every card someone finds offensive because the list would be too large.
1a. Banning Card B because Card A is already on the list isn’t a slippery slope, it’s an impending avalanche.
2. There is no 100% solution because card evaluation is subjective. Ergo, there will never be a player-base consensus list. In other words, no matter what the list looks like, there will be complainers.
3. “Power level” in and of itself is subjective, and not necessarily the only criteria for banning.
4. We will never publish an objective flowchart on how cards get banned because 1) it’s close to impossible and 2) a 0% win for us. We’ll endeavor to explain why a card gets banned based on which criteria we’ve used, to wit:
5. The two major things that will get a card banned are 1) it creates too much mana too early in the game (Tolarian Academy) and 2) it makes for bad games even when players aren’t trying to abuse it (Biorhythm).
5a. Individuals will interpret those two criteria differently.
6. Creating a “balanced” tournament environment is not a factor.
7. 1v1 play is not a factor.
Of particular interest to me is statement number 5 – especially part 2. Essentially it says “cards which ruin games will get banned.”
Now I’m not entirely convinced about the price argument. I know that the Rules Committee want EDH to be accessible – which is to say it would be tough to come up against a deck that goes “Land, Mox, Mox, Mana Crypt, General, go” – but that’s as much of a God Hand as you’re likely to get in Magical Christmas Land. In theory my Damia deck can go Land, Sol Ring, Mana Vault, Signet, Signet, Signet and cast Damia next turn but that’s never happening either. If someone really wants to put their Mox Emerald in their EDH deck (a card which by itself is worth approximately any 5 of my decks), I say more power to them.
I mostly agree with the remainder of the reasons given. If I were on the Rules Committee (RC), I’d have criteria something similar – but not identical.
EDH is a format that is supposed to be broken – but equally importantly, if not more importantly, it’s supposed to be fun/casual/social. Doing broken entertaining stuff is fine; doing broken boring/unfun/antisocial stuff is not. It’s also supposed to be a format about variance; there is a 100-card, 1-of restriction for a VERY good reason. That’s not to say I’d ban tutors, but there are certain types of spells (notably buyback but others as well) which destroy this idea. My other main criteria for the banhammer is “cards that stop players from playing the game”. There’s a somewhat nebulous line in there somewhere, but what it boils down to is any card which bombs the game back to the stone age – most notably complete (and that word is important) boardwipes and total land destruction.
If I were on the Rules Committee (and several people are probably very glad that I’m not), this is what I’d do to the banned list.
Cards Currently on the Banned List That Would Stay There
- Cards banned in Vintage (the complete list is here; they are the “Dexterity Cards”, Ante Cards, and Shahrazad)
- Biorhythm (it’s not a social way to win; it requires virtually no setup)
- Coalition Victory
- Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
- Karakas (has a pretty significant impact on the format)
- Limited Resources
- Recurring Nightmare (played properly, this is just Zombify with Buyback, except cheaper. See my comment about EDH being a 100 card, 1-of format)
- Sway of the Stars
- Time Vault (unlimited extra turns pretty much equals “not letting the other players play” in my book)
- Tolarian Academy
- Yawgmoth’s Bargain
Now obviously there are a number of differences from the official banned list. I’ll discuss each of those in a second. But for now:
Cards Not On The Banned List That I Would Add
- Sundering Titan. Possibly the most antisocial creature ever printed. Most arguments I’ve seen against it’s banning go something like “it keeps the ramp decks in check!” Bollocks. Most ramp decks are 1 or 2 colours, leaving the Titan to hit at least one other player. And it hits BASIC LANDS. This is not the kind of Land Destruction I would like to see in this format (thankfully no one in my playgroup plays this guy). Papa_funk, Rules Committee member, interestingly said recently that a card as “obviously antisocial” as Sundering Titan wouldn’t be banned because it is so obvious. The problem with that is, players are playing it; which would suggest it’s not so obvious to them. (To balance the karma here; he also said, in the same thread, “Doing broken things in the appropriate spirit is what attracts people to Commander and why it was created in the first place.” Of course his next sentence is “The banlist can only be used to steer people away from things that might unexpectedly wreck games played in the appropriate spirit, not stop people from doing antisocial things if they want to.” Which is interesting – they have banned Emrakul, and I don’t think that guy has ever unexpectedly wreck(ed) games. If Emmy deserves the Banhammer (and it does), so does this guy.
- Iona, Shield of Emeria. Speaking of ruining games – yes, it’s hard for Iona to shut down an entire table. However, this gets the hammer from me for two reasons:
1) She stops a player (or players) from playing the game. This is not a Good Thing(tm)
2) I’m unbanning Painter’s Servant. If you can’t see the synergy there there’s no hope for you
- Forbid and Spell Burst. These two break my reason for banning that applies to every other card on this list (see below) in that by themselves they’re pretty fair, and need help to be busted. However, this help is pretty easy to arrange and can result in an extremely unfun game for one player (at best) and the whole table (at worst)
- Worldpurge. Up there with Sway of the Stars and Upheaval, except you can’t even float mana to take advantage of it yourself. I’ve played against guys who have Wildfired because they were behind, dragging everyone down to their level. I can see Worldpurge being used the same way.
- Armageddon and Ravages of War. For exactly the same reason as above. “BUT!” I hear you cry “THE RAMP DECKS! They will be allowed to run rampant!!” (pun intended 😉 ). I have but one question for you: Who is most likely to recover from a land-wipe? The ramp deck.
- Jokuhaups and Obliterate. More of the same.
There’s a bunch of similarities here; all of these cards drag down the game. Some cards (and I’ll get to this more in the “Cards I Would Unban” section, below) are completely and utterly broken in half – if you build your deck to abuse them that way. There are entire categories of cards that will win you the game on the spot if you resolve them and your deck is built “right” (Hermit Druid and Ad Nauseum, I’m looking at you) but they can be used for fun and profit too (if I had a Hermit Druid, he’d go STRAIGHT into my Savra deck as way to fill up the graveyard). None of the cards above (with the VERY SLIM possibility of Forbid and Spell Burst), can be used fairly and the simple fact is they are antisocial as printed.
There are also a fairly large number of spells which are similar (for example, but far from limited to Razia’s Purification, Cataclysm, Constant Mists) but just different enough that I don’t think they’re banworthy. That list is very long indeed, and I think it’s this that Sheldon alludes to as “the avalanche” in his quote up there near the top of this post.
Cards I Would Unban (and Why)
Welp, let’s get the bigs ones out of the way first:
- The Power 8 (all of em) I don’t think being “the best at what I do” is reason for banning, neither do I think (for reasons stated above) dollar value should set a precedent for banning. I do think fast mana needs to be carefully watched and for that reason Black Lotus is AWFULLY close to staying banned, but the moxes can be favourably compared to Sol ring (makes one more mana than it costs). Yes, there are OBVIOUS differences, the two most obvious being zero-cost and taps for colour. Would these go into every deck that can run them? Sure. Will that lead to degenerate games? Occasionally yes. But most of the time, topdecking Mox Emerald on turn 10 is every bit as bad as topdecking Sol Ring on turn 10.
- Gifts Ungiven. This card has the dubious honour of being the only card I’ve put into an EDH deck because I didn’t know it was banned. This (and the next entry, and to be honest most of the rest of this particular list) are easily breakable – if you set out to do so. I had no intention of doing so, and in fact had put my copy into a terrible U/B Szadek mill deck. It was fun, and I used it as such.
- Protean Hulk. I love this guy. He just has value written all over him. Anything that makes your opponent really have to choose between killing it, or trying to deal with whatever he can come out with, is all good in my book. Again, you can break this if you try. I don’t believe you can accidentally break it – you have to set out to do so.
- Painter’s Servant. With my ban of Iona, this becomes a much more interesting card. Yes, it creates a hostile environment for creatures in a Teysa, Orzhov Scion deck. EDH is already a creature-hostile format. A Wrath will kill Teysa, the Servant, and all the tokens. Likewise with Grindstone; if you’re putting Painter’s Servant and Grindstone together in a deck you already know you’re a douche… Leyline of the Void + Helm of Obedience is legal, and I don’t see those played either.
- Staff of Domination. Infinite mana combo with any creature that taps for 5 mana (typically Rofellos). With infinite mana comes infinite life and infinite card draw. So I play this and then win the game? Well, no. First you have to have a creatures that taps for five mana in one go. Then you have to have the Staff. Then you have to “go off” (admittedly Krosan Grip is the only way to truly “interrupt” this process). Then you have to win, as the Staff doesn’t provide you with a win con of it’s own. I admit this is pretty close to the line as far as power goes, but infinite life isn’t the be all and end all of EDH games.
- Panoptic Mirror. Listen, I know how good this is, especially with extra turn effects. Again, if you’re the one doing that, you’re not doing it accidentally. You could do a lot of fun things with this card.
- Library of Alexandria. Yes, this goes into every deck that can conceivably run it. Chances are if it’s not in your opening seven, it’s a land that taps for colourless mana. People better at the Magics than me have tested this and declared it broken and ban-worthy; perhaps it is, but I just don’t see it.
- Kokusho, the Evening Star. With Recurring Nightmare still on the list, I think this guy deserves to come off. This has been debated ENDLESSLY on the EDH forums and I don’t plan to debate it here again. However:
Cards I Would Ban As General
- Kokusho, the Evening Star. No point making him too easy to get, now is there? 😛
Now, it’s late and I’m sure to have missed something; I reserve the right to edit this post at any time (although I promise to indicate when I have done so.) That’s my banlist. Comments?