July 2020 Update

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Some clarifications

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

  • Invoke Prejudice
  • Cleanse
  • Stone-Throwing Devils
  • Pradesh Gypsies
  • Jihad
  • Imprison
  • Crusade

As with other cards on the Banned List, we encourage players to avoid these cards, and any others which make your group unhappy.

12 thoughts on “July 2020 Update”

  1. I think Lutri with the new companion rules would be fine because it would 3 mana to bring it into your hand (as a sorcery) then it would act like any other 3CMC copy spell. Six mana for a copy of something isn’t awful. Or what if the companion mechanic just didn’t work for commander? I’m sure you all have thought of this but I just wanted to voice thoughts on my mind about it.

    1. The big reason for banning Lutein (from what I have Gathered 😉) was that there was no reason *not* to run it as an additional card outside the 100, as there was no actual restriction to it’s companion requirement, outside of decks like Persistent Petitioners, Rats, and Shadowborn Apostles.

  2. I haven’t seen anyone on the RC comment on the following two things, and would love to get official input (also posted on the reddit post, edited here for formatting);

    On the note of the “death trigger” change- The corner cases of countering the delayed trigger off of cards like Norin the Wary create a permanent exile. Before this change the commander’s owner would have the absolute final choice (outside of player control) of where the commander goes, and thusly the commander will always be where that player intended the commander to be. With the change, this is no longer the case, as things like Stifle and Trickbind can make it so that an opponent can have the last say to where a commander ends up. From what I have read about the justification of removing the “tucking rule” this “corner case” seems very counter intuitive (albeit more rare than tucking) to that justification.

    The second thing I was really hoping to see was some commentary on Drannith Magistrate. Completely shutting off being able to cast commanders so cheaply or easily seems counter intuitive to the game. I’m not stating that this card should get banned or not (creatures are the easiest to remove), but I would simply like to hear the RC’s thoughts on this card.

    1. A few quick notes. The new death trigger rule helps more commanders than it hurts which is why the rule was changed. It’s unfortunate that there may be times when a Norin the Wary gets stifled and gets stuck in exile forever but it improves the dragon spirits from Kamigawa and Elenda the Dusk Rose and numerous others. As for Drannith Magistrate, that card was created with companion working the way it did at the time. The flavor of the card was that Drannith did not accept bonders or their bonded creature into the city. It’s a super easy to remove 1/3 its really not that much of an issue.

    2. Disclaimer, not on the RC.

      As for your first point, my understanding is that the action of moving your commander back to the command zone after it enters exile or the graveyard is a state-based action, similar to how tokens hit graveyards and then end up outside of the game. There aren’t really any cards that interact with state-based actions to my knowledge, so I don’t think Stifle would apply here

    3. If I’m understanding your question about the death triggers right, things like stifle and the like do not affect choosing whether your commander stays in the yard or goes to the command zone, since the state based action of choosing to put in back to the command zone doesnt use the stack like a regular trigger would. It wouldn’t be able to be responded to or affected by spells and abilities.

  3. “Where possible, we prefer to let people play their cards in commander”

    That’s why Coalition Victory, Paradox Engine, Iona, Braids, Sway of the Stars, Recurring Nightmare, Leovold and Worldfire are all on the banlist despite creating zero power level issues in the format, right?

  4. Corner Case is Roon of the Hidden Realm. You stifle, dissallow, end the turn while Roon’s ability is on the stack. Target opponent who has exiled his/her commander and left it in exile can no longer play his/her commander for the rest of the game.

  5. For people in the comments, the Stifle/Time Stop/Sundial of the Infinite interactions that people are talking about are exile effects with delayed triggers that return the exiled card to the game when a condition is met.

    If a player’s commander is exiled and they elect to not put it into the command zone, when that delayed trigger happens to return it, a card like Stifle can counter that trigger to leave the commander stranded in exile permanently. (Riftsweepwer/Pull from Eternity)

  6. Would it mean that Chaos Orb is no longer banned in Commander?
    It is not oversized, it is black/white, not playing ante and not creating a subgame…

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