I recently read an article on the main page of Wizards.com. It was called “To Ban or Not to Ban”. It dealt with ban lists in the commander format. As anyone who talks to me knows, I am not a fan of bans. I prefer cards to be printed that counter said problem cards. That said I see the need for emergency bans of toxic cards, especially in competitive formats like Standard, Modern, etc. I feel like bans should not be needed if cards are properly tested beforehand, and there is always a counter that can be printed in an upcoming set. But my problems with bans are for a different article.
In this one I want to talk about bans in relation to commander. In commander I generally don’t see the need for many bans as it is supposed to be the creative casual format. The one where you can go to play any sort of deck and just have some fun in a multiplayer format. This does not include French commander, which is more competitive and fast paced. Also it being a multiplayer format aids in this since if one person doesn’t have the answer to a threat, the other two players probably do.
That being said I agree with most of what this article I read states. The authors gives us a commander ban list of the 10 most problematic cards, but ends it off with the statement:
The main idea I have been trying to put forward in the list is that there are some cards in the format that are very strong, maybe too strong, as well as cards that do things that are…unpleasant. Maybe they even make us mad and tilt us directly off our chairs and into another dimension, a dimension of rage, hurt and salt. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t belong. Rule Zero exists for a reason and you should always keep that in mind when you are sitting down to play, especially with new people. Sometimes it can be fun to see the looks on people’s faces when you absolutely ruin their plans, but it can be less fun when those same people decide they don’t want to play with you anymore.
I have had this conversation many times with the people who come to Mana Pool. The most important thing for commander is finding a play group that you not only like, but is open to talking about what is good and bad for your group. Case in point my own play group got into an argument a few months back about what type of decks are fun and what are not. We resolved it and came out a better group for it.
However, there has been a couple things on that ban list that I do agree with. He mentions how Timetwister should be banned because it is a price barrier card and it feels like having it is just pay to win. I agree it sucks to lose in a casual format because someone spent more money, but this is pretty much true for all of MTG so it’s just going to be a thing in commander too. A lot of the other ones were just about overpowered control cards and combo cards, as well as cards that stall the game like land destruction; which again I think can be solved by just finding the right play group if you don’t like that sort of thing.
There is one card he mentioned that I do really agree with though. It is Sol ring. His reason for the ban is this:
a turn one Sol Ring with another mana rock can be back-breaking. It’s also crushing to moral and many-a-win can be attributed to an early Sol Ring. In many cases there is just no coming back from it. The card is just too powerful to exist and it shouldn’t be in the format because it can just blow games apart before they even get going.
This is just a very true statement. Many people will argue, “well then you just focus the person who played a turn one Sol Ring.” Even if this does happen, they still have an advantage even if you target them with your mighty turn 1 and turn 2 plays. Also the fact that it is a multiplayer format complicates things. What if another person or two other people have turn one Sol Ring. Suddenly the fourth player is very far behind in the game.
That was the logical reason for hating on Sol Ring. My personal reason is because I feel it goes against the spirit of the format. This goes with all cards that pretty much can be put into every deck and the deck only benefits (looking at you Sensei’s, Mana Crypt, Demonic Tutor, Sylvan Library etc). I personally hate cards that go in every deck because they are just great cards. For me commander is supposed to be 60-70 unique cards (not including lands in this), not 30 unique cards and 1 Sol Ring, 1 Mana Crypt, 1 Senseis’s, 1 Commander Sphere and a bunch of cards every deck of that colour needs. These utility cards make the format so much blander because I know 50% of the opponent’s deck from just looking at the colours of their commander. I get why people do it, they want their deck to be as efficient as possible. But for me that is what every other format is for. For me commander is a way to escape that, to sit down with friends and have conversations while playing a game of magic on the side. I’m not in it to win that game, I’m just there to go out, be social and have a good time.
This is my problem about talking about bans for commander. It just further ingrains this competitive idea of magic in a format that I largely started playing as a way to get a break from competitive magic. I understand that a ban list can also help promote fun by banning toxic cards, but for me commander will always be defined by your play group rather than by bans sent out by WotC. This is because no matter how many bans come down, you can never ban enough cards to make that person who wants to make your game not fun from building their deck. You can however ban them from your group, if they don’t listen after you talk to them and tell them your problems with their decks.