With the recent bannings of Primeval Titan and Worldfire, and unbanning of Kokusho, the Evening Star as a non-commander, I’d like to take some time to discuss my personal views on the EDH banned list in general.
The full official Commander rules can be found here
The banned list can be found under deck construction. There are a wide range of reasons why these select few cards are banned in the format. Some, such as Black Lotus and Ancestral Recall, are near-impossible to own. Whilst I can see the logic here, as banning these ultra-rare cards stops them becoming highly sought-after format staples, personally I don’t see why those people who do own the card(s) should be prevented from using them. However as some argue that similar existing format staples, such as Sol Ring, are already ban-worthy, then stopping even more powerful versions entering the format is probably all-round a good idea.
Other cards are banned for being obsceney powerful and/or game-warping, This is perfectly understandable, and I am perfectly happy to agree that these such cards should never be allowed. Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is the prime example. Aside from from a handful of cards that can answer this colossal threat, there is next-to-no way of stopping him from totally and utterly dominating the board and ruining the game, for everyone involved.
Then there are cards that just don’t really work well in the format. Biorhythm and Coalition Victory are not-very-fun win conditions in a game where most, if not all players are all aiming to enjoy themselves. People also tend to dislike cards that lock up a game single-handedly, such as Limited Resources
In a format where you start with 40 life, cards like Channel and Fastbond are able to offer far too much of an advantage. Other cards are there for fear of use with infinite combos (Staff of Domination). Karakas simply neuters everyone’s Generals, and given the format is based around this brilliant idea, theres not a lot of point to have such a simple way to prevent people from playig their decks.
There are of course a wide range of other reasons for other cards being banned, or not. It is an extensive topic that I have touched upon, but one which I will not go any further into here.
For me, the most important part of the EDH rules is covered in the section headed “Philosophy”. EDH is intended to be a fun, casual format. I imagine that the majority of magic players play as part of a regular playroup, and that this is especially true when it comes to EDH (Perhaps unless you play online, but even then its probably safe to assume that many players have regular opponents). Being primarily a non-competitive format, there is usually no real incentive to go out of your way to play, as you might do when travelling to play FNMs, GPs or PTQs.
Somewhere along the line, however, this seems to be often forgotten. Especially where the Banned list os concerned. When new (un)bannings are announced there is usually a lot of internet discussion arguing for or against the decision. The problem here is that the majority of this happens online on forums, such as MTG Salvation, or on social networks, such as Twitter. Here, players discuss the facts with people they will, most likely, never even meet. Let alone play with! Rendering much of the discussion irrelevant.
The banned list is put together by a handful of people based heavily on their opinions. But if the people you actually play with are happy for a card to continue to be used, then why not just allow it!? It really is that simple. There are no magic police who will come to knock on your door should someone slam coming to arrest you should someone slam down a Sundering Titan. If you are all happy with it, then there is no reason for any of you to not be playing with a card you love just because someone else has decided that it is too powerful for them to have fun with. for playing with a card that someone else thinks is too good. EDH is meant to be a fun, casual format. It is perfectly reasonable to modify the “official” rules. Infact, the official rules even state this! A fact that, unfortunately, many players seem to overlook.
I am pleased to say that my regular playgroup is most definitely a friendly one. We all hope to enjoy each and every game we play to the full, with noone (so far at least!) trying to combo off as fast as they can and leave everyone else feeling pretty crap. As a result, there are a number of “banned” cards that we allow each other to use, if we wish to. I will discuss each in more detail below:
Protean Hulk – Banned, as far as I know, for fear of use with some insta-win combo. I’ve never quite understood this. Sure, it’s a good creaure. But alone he offers no more than a handy bit of wrath-proofing. Infact, thats all he does! Lacking trample, he isn’t even a good creature offensively. And without reach, he’s pretty crap at defending too. So long as you’re not designing some obscene (i.e win before anyone’s had a chance to play) combo around him, then we see him as being perfectly fine card for EDH. Personally I think its great to have a card that helps to get around the “wrath the board every few turns” situation that can occasionally arise. And tutor-wise, in your average green deck Hulk is no better than some of the other options available to you, such as Tooth and Nail or Chord of Calling.
Griselbrand – He earned his spot on the “banned” list, as far as we can tell, due to being an absurdly powerful draw engine. Sure, its a great ability, I’m not going to deny that. But from the explanation we had of his banning, it seemed to primarily be a problem in 1 on 1 games (and even then only especially so when played in Kaalia of the Vast decks). So what’s the problem here? Single-opponent gaming isn’t the intended point of EDH! “post-banning”, I’ve managed to cast Big G a couple of times so far, each time making sure to discuss the Demon’s presence with my opponents. On neither occasion did he provide me with an unfair advantage nor a board prescence significantly outweighing what the other players were able to do.
Worldfire – Banned very recently, again this card Only really appears to be a problem in just one deck type, those lead by Jhiora of the Ghitu. If you going to be the douche that does that, fine. Go find some new friends. Personally I believe tat the banning of this card was a rushed and lazy decision; the card was in the crosshairs of the banhammer as soon as it was previewed and it seemed as though they simply waited for the next ban update to cull it without a proper trial.
I’ll admit, when I first saw Worldfire even I commented “first person to cast this in EDH gets punched in the face!”. However, I found the reality to be far far different! So far I’ve been in 2 or 3 games where Worldfire was cast. And you know what? Each time, it was FUN! Crazy, I know! How could that be? Well as it turns out, after a couple of hours of having a great time, doing rediculous things and making hugey powerful plays, sending things into sudden death is a pretty awesome way to end the game. I can see that if this were to happen every single time then it would get boring, fast, but that same truth applies to all win conditions (I’ve actually now restricted myself from using Comet Storm offensively..). Furthermore, Worldfire doesn’t even automatically leave the caster with a significant advantage! If they happen to have a clever win-condition hidden under an Oblivion Ring then as far as I’m concerned they deserve to win the game, with added congratuations for setting up the awesome play. (You can even do a similar thing with Barren Glory and Worldpurge, yet they remain unbanned?) For now, I’m enjoying seeing this card and hope to continue to do so.
Primeval Titan – Oh boy, here we go… The second of the recently banned cards, and no doubt the most important decision for the format since the banning of Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Every green deck ran this card, probably to the point of it being the most widespread format staple (at least in it’s colour). And there-in lay the problem. So great was the advantage provided by Primetime, just casting it was often enough to put a player significantly ahead. Let alone should they get to attack. And the fun didn’t stop there! Undoubtedly it would be killed as quickly as possible. At which point, it might find itself on a Mimic Vat. Or if a player wished to have a reanimate target, look no further. If a player cast Threaten, 99 times out of 100 Primeval would be his intended target. And of course thats just ONE titan. Feel free to send him to exile, but if you had more then on green player at your table then you could put money on there being more than one of these Green Titans. Oh yeah, and Green likes to tutor up it’s creatures, too. No prizes for guessing who the first target would be, each and every time!
Primeval Titan began to take so much of the focus of every single game he was played in, and as a result he started to significantly warp those games. Now, you may recall that he is here in the list of cards we could still allow. But even then, all of us have now removed our Primeval Titans from our decks, because they really do take away from the game, rather than contribute to it. If someone wishes to use their Primetime then they are more than welcome to… Fortunately, all my decks are packing Mimic Vats 😉
Finally there are three cards cards on the banned list, all “banned” for good reasons, but should a player wish to use them with a valid intention in mind then I would be more than happy to allow them to do so. These three are as follows:
1) Painter’s Servant. Banned as it enables a relatively easy “infinite mill” combo. However should anyone wish to make a tribal Scarecrow deck…
2) Panoptic Mirror. I haven’t seen the worst that this can do. Wrath every turn? Sure, but it’s not a difficult one to answer. I’d quite like to face this in a game before making my mind up. (Edit: Apparently Time Warp is one of the main reasons for the Mirror being banned. Sure, do it, then go find new friends! :P)
3) Staff of Domination. Not nice alongside an infinite mana combo, but so long as that’s not your plan then why not give the Staff a try!?
This article has been a long time coming! And having finally got around to finishing it.. I’ve realised there is so much more I’d like to talk about. No promises as to when the second article may appear, though. But be sure to keep an eye out on Twitter and I’ll be sure to let you know when it does. For now, I hope I have been able to get across some of what I think the spirit of play in EDH should be like, and that its ok to try things out for yourselves; see what your group makes of them before deciding what cards are “too good”.
For now, thanks for reading. Follow me on Twitter, @EdGuise88.