It’s been a busy few months in Commander, so let’s start with the easy bit: there are no changes to the Banned list this quarter.
We know that, for many players, keeping up with rapid changes can be frustrating. A number of other things have changed since our last quarterly update, so we’ll recap those events below and strive to stick with scheduled updates in the future. The world is in flux though and Magic is no exception; we’ll continue to monitor the experiences of Commander players and adapt if necessary.
Two events which don’t impact the format but we hope will be of benefit to the community are
The introduction of regularly streamed games by the RC (http://twitch.com/CommanderRC) where we chat with the audience and play games on camera. We play every Thursday evening (8pm EDT), with pickup games throughout the week as time permits. The primary focus is to increase visibility and two-way communication with the player base, talking about how and why we do the things we do. We also host special guests from Wizards of the Coast and the Commander community.
The creation of a Commander RC Patreon through which players can contribute funds towards both the costs of running the format, and a number of great 3rd-party content creators.
Both are part of our 2020 focus on building connections between the RC, the CAG, and you… the players who make Commander the great format it is!
Rules changes since April 1st, 2020:
Commanders now “die” like other creatures.
TL;DR – Commanders being put into the graveyard from the battlefield trigger “dies” abilities.
Previously, the “Commanders go the command zone when they die” was handled using a replacement effect — a piece of MTG technology which entirely replaces one event with another. A side effect of that rule was that cards like Grave Pact wouldn’t trigger if someone’s commander was destroyed. This was played incorrectly by many players, so we’d been looking for a way for commanders to behave “more normally” for many years. It turns out the templating for that rule was tricky… more-so than 99.9% of us realized. Fortunately, the RC’s Toby Elliott and WotC’s Eli Shiffrin are really good at clear, clean rules and working with Sheldon Menery (at the time with a foot in both worlds), they found a way to make “dies” triggers work correctly without any significant corner cases.
Technically speaking, the solution is a stated-based action (SBA), the things the game does to “clean up” each time someone would get priority, like exiling a token from the graveyard or destroying creatures which have lethal damage. The new SBA now says “if a commander is in a graveyard or exile, and was put there since the last time SBAs were checked, its owner may choose to put it in the Command zone.”
This means a commander first goes to the graveyard, triggering abilities (of itself or other cards which say “Whenever X dies”), then goes to the command zone.
The owner only gets to make this choice once… if your Commander is being exiled “temporarily” (e.g. by Oblivion Ring) you have to choose immediately if it is going to the CZ or staying in exile, in hopes of being brought back by whatever card put it there.
The replacement effect remains in effect for zones like the hand or library, so the commander will never arrive.
Commander no longer uses the Vintage banned list as a basis for our banned list.
TL;DR – Lurrus is still legal, nothing else changed.
The Companion mechanic has made waves in every format, and Commander was no exception. When they were first released, we removed Lutri because its lack of additional deck building restriction made it a “free card”. As sad as it made us, we hoped that would be the end of it. Unfortunately, Companion was so impactful on Vintage that it resulted in the Wizards banning a card in that format for a combination of mechanical and power-level reasons, something which hasn’t happened in more than a decade.
While it’s a big deal for Vintage, Lurrus is just fine in Commander. In fact, it’s probably one of the stronger handicaps in a format with an average mana cost near 4, so it doesn’t make sense for it to be banned in the format. That raised the question of whether we should continue using the Vintage banned list as the basis for Commander, with other cards banned over-and-above.
Historically, The Vintage (nee Type I) banned list has been used as a shorthand for “Cards which aren’t viable because of practical, physical-world considerations.” With the addition of Lurrus this wasn’t true anymore so we needed to make a philosophical decision. Where possible, we prefer to let people to play their cards in Commander, so we decided to sever Commander from its Vintage roots and instead explicitly call out:
All oversized cards
All cards which don’t have black or white borders
All cards which mention the Ante Mechanic
All subgame and conspiracy cards
Shortly thereafter, Wizards removed some culturally offensive cards from constructed magic.
There are some cards which just shouldn’t be played around, or by, friends — they can be unnecessarily, even if accidentally, hurtful. Wizards of the Coast took a look at the message some of its cards were sending, and decided Magic would be a better game if those cards just weren’t around anymore.
Perhaps even more than tournament formats, Commander is about social connections so it only made sense for us to follow WotC’s lead and remove those cards from our format.
The full list of excluded cards is:
As with other cards on the Banned List, we encourage players to avoid these cards, and any others which make your group unhappy.