Life has come at me a little faster than usual this week, so I didn’t have time to tackle a full length article; instead, I’m doing a few quick hits to highlight a few things worth talking about:

  • I want to get people thinking about the banned list because next week I plan on tackling the pillars in more detail and discussing how we can free more cards from EDH jail.
  • After some brief banned list banter, I blather about the bothers of extort being more insidious than realized and quite dangerous.
  • I’m culling my herd again and there are cards that really should be legendary.

Dig into these bite sized bits and let me know your thoughts.

Banned List Misapplications

The Banned List update has me thinking about the way bannings are approached in the format. There are several criteria that the Rules Committee use for bannings, but one of the struggles for many of the players is that a card can meet one or more of the following criteria and still not be banned.

Let’s look at the criteria as it stands:

  1. Interacts Poorly With the Structure of Commander
  2. Creatures Undesirable Game States
  3. Problematic Casual Omnipresence
  4. Produces Too Much Mana Too Quickly
  5. Creates a Perceived Barrier to Entry

The biggest challenges to explain would be ‘undesirable game state’ and ‘perceived barrier to entry.’ I want to start with the latter.

This criteria is ridiculous to me.

Commander is a casual format – banning cards that are extremely expensive and could show up in any deck like Library of Alexandria does almost nothing. Commander is a format that holds the social contract as the most important piece of the game, so why are cards banned simply because they’re expensive and could show up in a lot of decks? Restricting these cards removes potential for creative use and fun abuse. A deck that wants to find a way to activate Library as many times as possible in a single turn is something I want to see in Commander. That can’t happen anywhere else.

The Moxen fall under this example too. I don’t own a single A/B/U Mox, and if they were unbanned today, I would change nothing. What damage would the moxen do? Even if only one player had them, groups can adjust and run more artifact hate if they become problematic.

In a casual format with a social contract, taking away cards is not a good thing.

And now, the other challenge – problematic game state. I’m not opposed to it; this is why Prime Time is gone. Whoever cloned/recurred Primeval Titan the most when it was legal got to play the most Magic. Some days, I still wish I could use that card. Most days, though, I’m glad that the Prime Time mini-game is gone.

However…

I am unsure how other cards remain in the format given this pillar. Most notably, Iona, Shield of Emeria. If one of the goals of the format is to make the games we tell stories about, then how is a card that shuts down at least one player something good for the format? How is the ability to lock out mono colored decks welcome? There are many games where three players share a color – Iona just curbs all of the fun when she shows up.

Leovold was just banned for disrupting tables with wheels and other effects to lock people out of drawing enough gas. So… how has this card survived for so long? Sundering Titan is banned because it can wreck manabases and be easily abused. Iona is allowed to flourish then…why? How does this promote a social game with interaction? The casting cost isn’t a solid enough defense- who runs Iona and actually pays retail for her? No one. She is cheated out to maximize the impact of opponents not getting to play.

One of the best things we could see would be the RC revisiting the ban criteria, removing the unneeded categories, and freeing several cards off the list. Additionally, it may be a good time to revisit “banned as a commander” to enable more cards to be played but limit some of the options like Leovold always being available to help lock down a table.

Extort

This may be the single most insidious mechanic for multiplayer games. Extort is one of the main win conditions of the Teneb, the Harvester enchantress deck. Almost no one bothers to remove an extort card. This was most apparent this weekend when, in one game, an opponent had two or three extort cards and I had two. The remaining opponents lost lives in chunks of five or more a turn. But because each activation only hits for one, it doesn’t seem as bad…until it kills you.  In the meantime, the extorter is gaining life equal to the total lost. Extort came through R&D right before the switch to the newer trend where everyone instead loses X and you gain X.

It’s a win condition and a life buffer in the same effect. You can find countless people praising Exsanguinate for being useful at all points of the game and enabling you to just kill opponents late. But there is almost no praise for the extort mechanic. While many extort enablers are cards that are most suited for limited, there are plenty of Commander quality extorters. For example, Blind Obedience, Treasury Thrull, Crypt Ghast, and Pontiff of Blight. With the color references in reminder text (for those of you not in the know, reminder text is not considered when evaluating a card for color identity), you can even use the cards when you only have access to one color. Crypt Ghast is a house in mono black decks. With tokens out, Pontiff of Blight turns every spell into a potential game ender.

Culling the Herd

I am never going to get bored of referencing my collection of decks as a ‘herd’. I was going over my list of decks and evaluating which ones I wanted to play recently,  when I realized that I was cultivating some pretty large gaps in my deck building choices. I started pulling aside decks I wasn’t really excited to play, and I ended up pulling nine decks from my herd – and I may not be done.

My judo deck is under scrutiny, and my Pirates deck is fun but starting to bore me. I culled my Pauper deck (since no one at my LGS is interested in pauper EDH), and one of the store’s boogeyman decks is being retired- Damia, Sage of Stone. I love this deck, but I make everyone miserable with it. Card advantage, tons of answers, counters, recursion, and my most common win is absurd loops using Demonic Tutor and Seasons Past with Seedborn Muse and a flash enabler to just stop everyone in their tracks. But if people see I’m playing it, not only is the game suddenly Archenemy, but people will change decks (after declaring they want to go for broke) and suicide themselves to make sure this deck loses.

And even that isn’t guaranteed. The deck is no longer fun so it’s going into retirement.

I’m ditching Cromat since it’s just clunky and people destroy my lands every game I play it. It just isn’t getting to do its thing and I can make other decks with the parts. That sentiment is really true with most of the culling; the deck isn’t accomplishing its goals,or else I’m just plain tired of it.

Also, I have identified a slight (but good-sized) ridiculous benefit when building EDH decks – taking more decks apart gives me more toys to keep building. I’m at the lowest number of decks built in years. I’m at fifteen, plus two for Liz.  That’s a lot of new space.

Should Have Been Legendary

Every set has a card or two that the Commander community desperately wishes was legendary. The Nephilim, Soulfire Grand Master, a whole bunch of Arabian Nights cards, Chromanticore, Harsh Mentor, Soul-Scar Mage, and the like. I’m certain you can find some cards that make you wish it was a legend. If so…talk to your group about it! Can Soulfire Grand Master be worse than Numot, the Devastator or Narset, Enlightened Master? Can Chromanticore break anything? Is Aladdin really a problem? Use the social contract and explain to your group what you plan to do. We as acommunity can certainly open up even more options for the format.

Passing Priority

What are you thoughts about the way the bannings happen and are applied? Have you found extort to be a powerhouse, or something fairly lackluster? How about some Commander spring cleaning to make room for new decks to bloom? And what cards do you think should be legendary or what card would you build around if it was legal?

Let me know your thoughts and I’ll be back next week.

-Erik