We’re Magic players. I get it. There’s nothing we collectively like more than this:

beat dead horse

So…let’s talk about the EDH Banned List!

First off, I do want to give a shout-out to the crew over at East Coast Commander.com. If you aren’t reading their site, you should be.

(Also, it’s partially their fault I’m writing this right now. So there’s that too.)

James Davey posted a Commander 2014 set review earlier in the week. It was exactly what got me thinking on this topic again. In it, he was finalizing a review of the new green cards, artifacts, and lands from the set – and it’s a very good analysis overall. He has the patience to really think about the cards that are new to the set, and apply them to the Commander metagame as a whole. I certainly do not. As a result, I’m always excited to see this kind of breakdown.

Not too far into it, however, I read this:

“…Siege Behemoth">Siege Behemoth, however, is insane. This will win every game that it attacks in. Every single game. Give this haste, pair it with Craterhoof Behemoth">Craterhoof Behemoth, and it’s lights out. Expect a ban.”

(The emphasis is mine.)

I had to look at the card again.

Siege Behemoth

Seven mana? Check. Has to be attacking for the ability to work? Check. Controller needs enough power in his/her attacking creatures to be able to kill off a table in one attack with no disruption of any kind, or else trigger the panic alarm in the rest of the players, who will then gang-pile the player out of the game in a heartbeat?

Super-check.

So I assumed I missed James’ sarcasm, and read on:

“Green, overall, gets mostly role-players, but one card stands out. The problem is, it stands out so far that it will get hit with a ban within the year.”

Nope. He’s serious.

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I mulled it over. I had a million reactions. (In fact, I was the first person to leave a comment on the article, which read, “Siege Behemoth…ban? Really?”) I wanted to light James up for invoking the Ban List for a card that I feel is a country-mile away from being worthy of it. I wanted to rant and rave about cards that belonged and didn’t belong, and how they compared to Siege Behemoth, and how crazy this all sounded, and Deadeye Navigator, dammit!

Cooler heads prevailed in the end. And here we are.

SAY IT WITH ME, KIDS: S-O-C-I-A-L-C-O-N-T-R-A-C-T!

At the end of the day, talk about the Ban List is nothing but a reason to get fired up over nothing. The Banned/Restricted Announcement that hits each time we get a new set is a huge deal to competitive formats; it directly shapes how things will play out in sanctioned tournaments, testing sessions, and Magic Online games for months. Card values crash and soar within minutes of the announcements. The Earth moves, fer chrissakes.

For EDH, though, it’s hollow and meaningless. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face:

Commander is a casual format built around the concept of the Social Contract. Use it, and solve all of your problems.

Now, I know all the arguments. I’ve heard them a million times over.

“What about outside players?”

“What if I go into a new shop for the first time?”

“What about MODO?”

“EDH is a sanctionable format now! Competitive EDH!”

Nope…I’m not convinced.

Humans were blessed with many things that apply directly to the game we know and love. We enjoy opposable digits, sight, the ability to communicate, and higher brain function. All these are helpful in understanding Magic and engaging in Magic games and building Magic decks and competing in Magic tournaments and spending way too much money on magic.

Fortunately, they also easily allow you to interact with others to help create enjoyable games. This is the heart of the Social Contract – “Making games enjoyable.”

It’s not a hard concept to follow as it applies to our format. Instead of waiting until the guy across the table springs Palinchron and Deadeye Navigator on you, simply let him know you don’t want that experience. Start a league, and talk with the other players about a local ban list, or a set of rules that help to craft the types of games you want to play. When that new guy walks through the LGS door, sits down, and shuffles up Nekusar, the Mindrazer, ask him if his deck is geared toward competitive play. Build a group of like-minded people on MODO.

Talk to people. It’s that simple. You’ll spend less time pissed off, and more time enjoying Commander. That seems better to me.

I know this is the equivalent of painting myself into a corner, because I exist (and GDC was created) to complain about the game. The thing is, there’s not a single thing you can say that hasn’t been said regarding banning cards. The Rules Committee has heard it all. The collective internet has heard it all. Calling for bans is pointless, when even the people who create the rules are telling you to break them in the name of fun.

Ready for a homework assignment or two?

PART ONE – TELL US A STORY

We want to hear from you. Tell us how the Social Contract succeeds – or fails – in real life. Send us a report. Tell us a story. Give us an example you’ve experienced first-hand of the Social Contract in motion.

Email it to us here. We’ll read everything you send, and if we all agree that your story is the best one, we’ll send you a GDC care package. No strings attached.

PART TWO – COME JOIN A PODCAST

In the comments below, we want you all to light us up. Tell us why we’re right about the Social Contract. Tell us why we’re wrong. Tell us what we’re missing, and tell us why. If we nailed it, pat us on the back in great detail.

Do a good enough job, and we’ll be putting together a podcast in the near future that you’re invited to join (Make sure you’ve got a decent Skype connection!) to go toe to toe with us on the topic, as well as anything else that comes up. Come tear us a new one in person! (Give or take a microphone and a decent internet connection.)

Thanks as always, folks. Enjoy your games.

Cass
@GDCCommander