Thursday, August 2, 2012

My Thoughts on the Banned List August 2012

A bit of backstory:  EDH was started by a group of judges and their pals, as a way to play a format that wasn't currently an official format.  Being judges, they worked on the rules, ending up with a Rules Committee.  If you're interested in the history, is the place to see the official wrapup.  Click 'Historical'.

These are the cards that the Rules Committee (RC) has decided warp this format.  Some of these cards are incredibly powerful, some are backbreaking, and others are single-card win conditions.

There's a lot of discussion about the philosophy of the banned list.  I'm going to copy one of Sheldon Menery's forum posts that captures the ideas in a succinct manner:
A few things you should know about the Banned List:

1. We can't ban every card someone finds offensive because the list would be too large.

1a. Banning Card B because Card A is already on the list isn't a slippery slope, it's an impending avalanche.
2. There is no 100% solution because card evaluation is subjective. Ergo, there will never be a player-base consensus list. In other words, no matter what the list looks like, there will be complainers.
3. "Power level" in and of itself is subjective, and not necessarily the only criteria for banning.
4. We will never publish an objective flowchart on how cards get banned because 1) it's close to impossible and 2) a 0% win for us. We'll endeavor to explain why a card gets banned based on which criteria we've used, to wit:
5. The two major things that will get a card banned are 1) it creates too much mana too early in the game (Tolarian Academy) and 2) it makes for bad games even when players aren't trying to abuse it (Biorhythm).
5a. Individuals will interpret those two criteria differently.
6. Creating a "balanced" tournament environment is not a factor.
7. 1v1 play is not a factor.

With that in mind, I'd like to go over the list and talk about the reason it's there and how likely it is to get taken off of that list.

Ancestral Recall
Black Lotus
Time Walk
Mox Sapphire, Ruby, Pearl, Emerald and Jet

These are eight of the Power Nine cards, the ninth being Timetwister.  These 8 are banned because they either give too much early mana (a cardinal no-no) or are ridiculously cheap for what they do.  Timetwister is allowed, because its effect is not intrinsically unbalanced.  Everyone gets a new hand, and there is an even better option for this effect that is legal: Time Spiral.

If you've ever played with a 'powered' cube, then you know what an INCREDIBLE advantage these cards are.  Unbalancing, unfair, and too good too soon for too cheap.

Likelihood of coming off the banned list: 0%.  Don't even think about it.

So this is a card that literally translates to 'fair' or 'even' and yet is the most busted-unfair-crooked card around.  If you've been a player for a long time, you may remember how people would tap all their lands for mana, sacrifice all lands to Zuran Orb, and then cast Balance.  Which meant that everyone else had to sacrifice their lands too.  Lands, creatures, and cards in hand!  This means everyone goes down to the lowest level.  In a deck that can make use of this, it's incredibly unfair.  It might not be so bad if it didn't hit the cards in hand too, but that level of mega-discard for the whole table is far too powerful.

Likelihood of coming off the banned list: 0.01%.  There's a tiny chance that they reconsider, but really, if it's good enough to be restricted in Vintage, Commander is unlikely to embrace this card.

On the one hand, this seems like a very fair effect.  It's not, not in the least, and with it in hand you look for a time to cast it and kill two players.
Likelihood of coming off the banned list: 0%.  This was only added a couple of years ago, and there's little impulse to have it back.

Coalition Victory
Another card that just says "I WIN" for very little work.  With a decent 5-color deck, you could cast this after casting your general and just make the table leave.  Compare to Door to Nothingness, a card that's easier to love since it's harder to use and gives the table a turn to kill you for your impudence.
Likelihood of coming off the banned list: 2%, since perhaps the 5-color players might start a clamor.

Fast mana is too good, and this is 39 free mana.  No.
Likelihood of coming off the banned list:  0%.  Literally no chance.

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
This is another recent banning, and highlights one of the pitfalls of this format.  Ulamog and Kozilek don't get the same level of hatred, mainly because of the protection and the extra turn.  Entire games would come down to resolving this, or stealing it, or casting Bribery for it, or whatever silly thing was going on.
Likelihood of coming off the banned list: 0%.  It's too recent a bad to be reconsidered at this point.

Fast mana being one of the banes of the format, Fastbond is pretty darn speedy.  Dumping your hand on turn 1 is not to be allowed.
Likelihood of coming off the banned list: 3%, since it's only good once it might get a chance to shine again.  But probably not.

Gifts Ungiven
It's not the card itself that is busted, but the fact that it will always get four combo pieces at the end of someone else's turns.  For example: Rite of Replication, Eternal Witness, Regrowth, Time Warp.  Any two of those cards and you have infinite turns, and that's only one of the silly combos.
Likelihood of coming off the banned list: 0%.  Try as I might, I can't see a scenario where this comes back.

Kokusho, the Evening Star
Ah, good old KK.  I even put at the end of a post that they were going to unban it on June 20th of this year, but I was wrong then.  I think eventually it comes off the list, I'm just not sure when.  It was banned because if cloned or copied it gets too much damage to your table, but there have been so many cards that have the same sort of effect, it just might not be too dangerous.
Likelihood of coming off the banned list: 70-75%.  Eventually, it'll be back.  I think. (could be wrong!)

This land is one of a cycle in Legends, but because of this format, tap a land to return your general to hand is FAR too good.
Likelihood of coming off the banned list: 0%.  EDH is based on your general, and this land negates all value you get from playing it.

Library of Alexandria
I've played with this card in a mega-counterspell Vintage deck.  (Win conditions: 4 Mishra's Factory and 2 Rainbow Efreet)  It's cheap for the very powerful effect that it has, since its drawback is nonexistent.  Having a full hand of cards is GOOD.
Likelihood of coming off the banned list: 0%.  Too little cost to draw a card every turn.

Limited Resources
While this is the name of one of my favorite podcasts, it's also just an unfair and boring card.  If someone plays this, no one gets to play more lands, and is stuck at 5. YAWN.
Likelihood of coming off the banned list: 0%.  No one has fun with this.

As Sheldon mentioned, fast mana is a cardinal sin.  Mishra's Workshop is legal, because casting artifacts is not terribly broken. (Far too often, it is!)  Metalworker can tap for a ton of mana on an early turn, and is therefore too good.
Likelihood of coming off the banned list: 0%.

Sundering Titan
An addition as of this past June, this card is amazingly unfun to play against, especially in a deck that can reanimate him--and most decks that can, will.  This Titan will blow up everyone's lands eventually, except for the person who is bringing it back over and over.  The presence of shocklands makes this card even sillier.
Likelihood of coming off the banned list: 0%.  Just got banned, very unfun, not coming back.

Painter's Servant
Combined with Grindstone, this is a Legacy deck.  The combo applications in EDH make for games that do not last very long.
Likelihood of coming off the banned list: 0%.
Panoptic Mirror
This could perhaps be used in non-broken ways...Oh look, infinite turns.  Yawn.
Likelihood of coming off the banned list: 0%.
Protean Hulk
True story: I didn't know about this card.  Never heard of it except as some busted Legacy deck.  When I got the chance to read the card, I traded for two of find out they are on this here banned list.
Likelihood of coming off the banned list: 2%.  Maybe eventually there will be so many good cards that this doesn't seem like a big threat anymore.  But probably not.

Recurring Nightmare
Play with this card in a Cube draft once.  Revel in its power to recur creatures over and over again.  Understand that this will never be EDH legal.
Likelihood of coming off the banned list: 0%.

Staff of Domination
This got banned a year ago for being a 'beat the table' card once infinite mana is achieved. Draw your deck, kill a player, repeat, blah.
Likelihood of coming off the banned list: 0%.

Sway of the Stars
This is likely on the banned listbecause the 'reset' effects that include a life total change are no fun.  After resolving this spell, it's a race to deal 7.  Not terribly enjoyable.
Likelihood of coming off the banned list: 0%.

Time Vault
Combos for infinite turns with so many cards.  Not happening.
Likelihood of coming off the banned list: 0%.

This is another card that you have to play with in a Cube or Eternal format to appreciate.  I played with a friend's 'powered' Cube once.  Turn 2 I cast this off of a Mox, put Darksteel Colossus into play.  GG.  EDH would be even worse.
 Likelihood of coming off the banned list: 0%.

Tolarian Academy
This is the poster child for what fast mana can do.  This card can get out of hand ridiculously easily, and were it ever taken off the banned list, would reach $100 proportions overnight.
Likelihood of coming off the banned list: 0%.

I would have banned this just because it makes the game take forever, which certainly meets the definition of a 'bag game experience'.
Likelihood of coming off the banned list: 0%.

Yawgmoth's Bargain
Necropotence is not banned, because Necro gives you the cards at end of turn. This is an important distinction.  Bargain is an amazing deal...definitely too good.
Likelihood of coming off the banned list: 0%.

I traded for four of these within two weeks of his printing.  Four different decks of mine wanted this card, and dear lord above, he's even better than that.  As with Bargain, it's too good of a deal.
Likelihood of coming off the banned list: 0%.

    Additionally, the following legends may not be used as a Commander, and will never ever be allowed as generals.  Ever.
    Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
    I built a deck around this card as the general and I have to say, there's something truly degenerate about being consistently able to cast Primeval Titan or Lurking Predators on turn three.

    Braids, Cabal Minion
    It is not difficult to cast this on turn 2 or 3, at which point you're sacrificing lands and wishing to start a new game without the jerk who played this so early.

    Erayo, Soratami Ascendant
    As a general, the goal is to cast this, and then follow up with four cheap/free/untap some lands spells to flip it immediately.  Then you save some counterspells for when your opponents have enough mana to cast a throwaway spell and attempt to destroy the Essence.  Sounds like a godawful game to me too.

    There it is, a walk down the Banned list.  There's plenty of chatter about what should be added to this list--Worldfire is a likely candidate--but the Rules Committee has stated that they want to keep the banned list as small as possible.  They are doing it, too--the percentage of cards that are not allowed is super-tiny. 

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