Commander is a fantastic format. It is a place where you get to showcase your favorite cards from the history of Magic, express your creativity in building synergies and combos others haven’t thought of, or whatever else you fancy. Their are only two things that stop you from playing whatever cards you want: the Banned List and the Social Contract. I’m a firm believer that Commander is a format where powerful cards and interactions live. Sure something like Razaketh, the Foulblooded can be incredibly broken. If that’s what your playgroup is into, go for it. You can break it in pieces to show the true potential of a strong card, but what if you didn’t? What if instead of showing how busted a card could be, you tried to play it in a way that wasn’t busted? This has been my mindset for years. With this in mind, and the to let people play with their toys, I’d like to see a smaller banned list. Below is my first pass on cards I’d take off the banned list.
I believe that the the Commander banned list is built on three tenets: perceived barrier of entry; too much mana too fast; and fostering an unfun game state. I don’t think that the barrier of entry should be a factor in Commander. There are already cards we can already play, like Bazaar of Baghdad and The Tabernacle of Pendrell Vale, that are incredibly expensive. Some people have to be very careful with their Magic spending money, myself included, and their will always be people who have cards you wish you had. It’s okay. If you’re the one with the deck full of expensive things, think about your opponents too. This is especially true if they’re new to the game or Commander. Wallet crushing a 10 year old of a new player shouldn’t be fun for anyone. It is the responsibility of older and more enfranchised players to bring new players, regardless of their budget, alongside to help them have fun in Commander.
Fast mana will always be a thing in Commander. Turn one Sol Ring with any amount of decent cards in your hand is already good and we haven’t gotten into the hands that also have Mana Crypt and/or Mana Vault. If we allow all of these, why are other fast mana cards on the banned list?
An unfun board state or type of game is harder to nail down. Commander is a lot of things to many different people and that’s why the Social Contract is so important. If you aren’t having fun, talk about it. I’ve had those awkward conversations and I’ve had people talk to me. Remember to stay flexible and have an open mind.
Without further ado, here are cards I’d take off the Banned List.
These cards are iconic, powerful, and very expensive. I would love to see these cards come off the Banned List. Yes they’ll make busted openings when someone is able to produce a lot of mana very quickly. Yes these are cards that may give a higher perceived barrier of entry, but these cards would also create great story material when you encounter them in the wild. Playing against a random opponent who opens on a Black Lotus or a mox is a story waiting to happen.
It’s no secret that I enjoy stax effects. Yes these cards, especially as Commanders, can lock opponents out a game quickly, but they can also be incredibly fun. There is more to do with Leovold than immediately wheel the table or other ways to ensure no one else gets to play. Similar is true for Braids. Seeing her come down on turns 3+ is not that big of a deal. It’s when someone plays her on turn one that things can get ugly, but there are already plenty of cards that are brutal or even game ending on turn one.
Gifts is a combo enabler, but so are plenty of other cards in Commander. Breaking this card is easy, but there are already cards like Mana Echoes or Intruder Alarm that are often played in busted ways. Let Gifts go free. There can be players that go for fun Gifts piles and level up moments where a new player realizes that they can get only two cards to ensure they both go in the yard.
We can play with Bazaar, Workshop, and Tabernacle, but not Library? Personally I’m confused by this. I’m sure someone can break it or use it in a painfully slow control deck, but these things already happen. This is another card that I’d love to see someone play for the story material.
This card creates an easy two card combo with Iona or Grindstone. However, there are already cards plenty of two card combos in Commander. If we aren’t going to ban these, lets let Painter’s Servant out. If we had to ban Servant or Iona in the name of unfun games, I’d rather see Iona go.
This is a card I would love to see in games. Yes it destroys lands. Yes it does it efficiently. It’s also colorless so it can go in any deck. Despite all of this, I don’t think the card would be that bad. I fully understand that you can come up with scenarios are busted or broken, but I bet that you can do that with a large number of cards that aren’t on the banned list. Breaking a card in Commander isn’t hard.
You could just not collude. Another card that would Leovold keeps in check.
As a first pass those are the 13 cards that I’d like to see come off the banned list. Am I crazy? Is there another card on the banned list that you’d love to see come off? I’m all ears.
Until next time, happy brewing
– Cowboy Kyle