EDH, the casual format of choice for so many Magic: the Gathering players, has a banlist governed by a different set of rules compared to the other popular formats. In most formats, the banlist is there for one purpose and one purpose only; to balance said format. Its to prevent warping the format around a single card, like Deathrite Shaman in Modern, and promote diversity. The EDH banlist, in contrast, is there to promote more enjoyable games in addition to balancing the power levels of the format. A good example would be Sol Ring, a card that is now so well known in the format that realistically EDH decks are 98 card decks because you more or less always start with a Sol Ring when you are building your deck. With the next banlist update just days away, I figured that it was a good time to address some of the cards, either new or old, that fans of the format have called out to be banned.
For my research (and I am using that term very loosely), I turned to the employees and patrons of various game shops I frequent, as well as some of the online communities, asking them all one question:
“If you could ban any 3 cards that are currently legal in EDH/Commander, what 3 would you ban?”
Now, as I expected, there was a handful of cards that were commonly named, and a much larger collection of cards were only named once, presumably because that person had a bad experience with that card, even though there is nothing inherently wrong with the card being in the format.
The 5 most named cards by people asked were (in alphabetical order, not a ranking):
- Consecrated Sphinx
- Cyclonic Rift
- Deadeye Navigator
- Iona, Shield of Emeria
- Prophet of Kruphix
- Mind Twist
- Tooth and Nail
- Serra Ascendant
- Time Stretch
Now, I feel as though I should preface each card analysis with a few reminders.
- EDH bannings are sometimes to balance the format in terms of power level, but it is also a matter of “fun”. This is a vague term at best, but if a card is considered largely unfun and it is very powerful, the chances are good that it will eat a ban.
- EDH is a format played by people of all backgrounds in the game, from little Johnny from down the street to Pro Tour champions, and everyone in between. Because of this, the power level varies greatly, and sometimes causes gameplay issues. However this is, in my opinion, not a problem with the format, but rather an issue with the uninformed expectations of some (but not all) players.
With those points in mind, I would like to briefly address each of the cards that would have been banned if the community was in charge of the banlist.
First up on the block…Consecrated Sphinx!
This card is a very powerful card advantage engine that doesn’t do something on the turn it comes down, but starts putting in work as soon as your opponents draw a card, which, in normal situations, means the beginning of the next turn. The problem with a card like this is that it so quickly warps the game that I do actually think that it is bad for the format and might be ban worthy. As soon as people realize that there is a Consecrated Sphinx in someones library the game moves away from the regular rhythm of multi-player magic and becomes a game of “who can control the sphinx?”. Bribery, Reanimate, Control Magic, etc. all come into play, everyone vying for control of the blue creature, in an attempt to get some of the card advantage it provides. Oh…and did I mention that it is a 4/6 flier? So while, yes, there are a variety of cards that warp the game like this (the Praetors come to mind), Consecrated Sphinx is, in my humble opinion, the worst offender. All that said, I do not think that it will be banned for two reasons. First reason, it does provide an obscene amount of card advantage, but it doesn’t directly prevent any other players from doing anything, so it cant really be considered “unfun”. Second reason, EDH is the format of broken cards, and in a format in which Necropotence is legal, banning a creature for drawing too many cards would be seriously lacking in logic.
Final Verdict: Unlikely Ban, play it politically rather than just jamming it whenever you can to avoid warping the game.
Following one powerful blue card is…you guessed it…another blue card. Cyclonic Rift.
Cyclonic Rift is one of the most recent cards on this list, and while people complain about it, I have a real hard time agreeing that it is bannable. Blue, as a color, is lacking in ways to permanently deal with things after they resolve, and while there are a few things (Pongify, Curse of the Swine, etc), bounce is typically the colors answer. In terms of power level for the format its not overpowered, its definitely good, but unless you win the game that turn, most decks can rebuild and restabilize really quickly, and often the game shifts from a 1v1v1v1v… to everyone gunning for the player who cast the Cyclonic Rift, which will further restabilize the board state. Within 2 or 3 turns after a Cyclonic Rift, the game is back to its regular pace. In addition to this, it was just printed in the blue CMDR14 precon deck, leading me to believe that a ban is practically impossible.
Final Verdict: Wont be banned, not broken, doesn’t directly enable degenerate plays, its just a good answer to permanents and out of control board states.
Moving on, if you take away only one thing from this article, it would probably be that if people want a card banned, there’s a good chance its blue, and our next card is no exception, the infamous Deadeye Navigator.
I’m going to try to be brief on this one, because this card has been discussed to death. My opinion is that it does not deserve a ban. Reasons for this are:
- It costs 6, plus 2 more to activate it. So even assuming you can somehow guarantee that it will both resolve and survive the turn, it costs 8 mana plus the cost of the creature paired to it to do anything. Now, I know that fast mana exists, but the turn and relatively extensive mana investment required makes the effect balanced in the format.
- ITS BLUE! And while blue is often cited as the best colour in the game, it sucks at finding creatures, has virtually no ramp, and goes against what you want to be doing as a colour. There is no way in the colour to efficiently and assuredly get the creature outside of Long-Term Plans and Ethereal Usher. So its good when you find it, but not format breaking.
- It does virtually nothing on its own. Without another creature in play it is just an inefficient vanilla creature.
All that said, I’m not trying to claim that it isnt powerful once you get it going as an engine to support the rest of your deck, but there are more powerful engines in the format that are rarely named on the list of cards people want banned.
Final Verdict: Enjoy playing it, its a good card, but not broken. Expect it to be removed quickly because of the casual hatred of the card.
Going to shift gears a little bit, and move away from blue cards, to a card that, unlike the previous 3, I wholeheartedly believe needs to be banned. Iona, Shield of Emeria.
If you have never played a game of EDH with me you wouldn’t know this, but I am a major fan of mono colored EDH decks, I love the consistency they can offer and the deckbuilding challenges that they prevent, finding interesting ways to cover the weaknesses of your chosen color. In terms of the consistency offered, I can understand the desire to have an answer in the format to punish mono colored decks, but completely locking them out of the game is too much. 95% of the time, if you are playing a mono colored deck and someone lands Iona on your color, they have killed you. Sure, you can stay in the game for as long as you’re alive, but the majority of the time the mono colored player will just scoop because there’s no reason for them to keep playing. However until the ban us mono colored players will just have to stock up on Spine of Ish Sah to deal with her.
Final Verdict: Unfun if you enjoy playing mono coloured decks, needs a ban.
And finally, the newest card on the list, from Theros, Prophet of Kruphix.
In every set for the last few years there are always cards that competitive players look at and laugh, and those are the cards that EDH players fall in love with. Prophet of Kruphix is no different. Its a blue green creature with an awesome effect, although on a fragile body. I have heard the same “game warping” argument applied to the Prophet as Consecrated Sphinx, although I have to disagree for one main reason: not every deck wants to be playing creatures, regardless of whether they are at instant speed or not, while every deck ever wants to be drawing lots of cards. The reason that so many people have an issue with this card is that, if left unchecked, will ramp the controller of it very quickly in resources, both creatures and mana. However I don’t think this means it needs to be banned as there are quite a few cards that fall into the same group, in that if they are left unchecked they will generate lots of value, but that rarely makes them banworthy. However as this is the newest addition to the list I think that the format needs more time to explore the uses of Prophet of Kruphix, so maybe it will end up getting banned.
Final Verdict: Doesnt need a ban, just a solid source of advantage.
So there you have it. The 5 “worst” cards in the format, along with my opinion on each of them and their place in the format. So what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Think that I missed a card that should have been in the top 5? The banlist is an everchanging entity, and who knows, maybe all 5 of these cards will end up on it.
Until next time, may you hit all your land drops and take no damage from Mana Crypt.