MAY 2020 RULES - BANNED/RESTRICTED UPDATE
This last quarter was full of complicated times and events, sadly, around the world. It’s hard not to mention the COVID-19 situation, which has shut down most physical tournaments, favoring online games a little more, which makes most analysis sources go under the radar. Our first thoughts go to everyone still in isolation and everyone who lost people during this crisis.
Yet, in those strange times, Ikoria, Lair of Behemoths and Ikoria Commander (2020 Edition) were finally out with a little delay, and, among their new additions, new series of very interesting cards, sometimes threatening the format balance, were born.
In addition to structural updates we thought were required, some other changes became necessary, after carefully observing the latest updates and changes to tournaments, metagame, and gathering some locally-focused feedback.
👉 Rules changes:
👉 Individual card changes:
Lutri, The Spellchaser is now banned.
Deflecting Swat is now banned.
Fierce Guardianship is now banned.
High Tide is now banned.
Capture of Jingzhou is now banned.
Temporal Manipulation is now banned.
Time Warp is now banned.
Cavern of Souls is now banned.
Lion's Eye Diamond is now banned.
👉 Other changes:
👉 Don’t forget to check out our Current Lists page for a recap of all the currently banned cards.
Further individual explanations:
One word to introduce those changes: except the Ikoria cards, all other changes are structurally linked. They aim at trying to reduce the impact of combo-oriented blue-based decks and aim at shifting to more control-oriented blue decks. This includes weakening combos, reducing the inexorability of land strategies, and allowing some iconic blue cards that were vaulted long time ago.
Even though Lutri, The Spellchaser is merely a worse Dualcaster Mage (a card that barely sees play in Duel Commander), the lack of deck building restriction makes it a free and automatic inclusion that will always provide useful value to any deck that has access to both colors and cheap spells to copy.
The rupture of equity is the real reason to make the card stay out of the format, rather than its power level, though. But as each player must get the same building options, Lutri, The Spellchaser won’t be allowed anymore.
Some other new cards recently appeared in the latest editions that were released in April. Among those additions came a new set of five cards that each have a special effect, linked to its color, and all have in common a regular cost and an alternative cost, that removes their casting costs if the controller of the spell controls a commander. There is a long history of cards designed to be fair or interesting in multiplayer that ended up being weirdly efficient in duel, like Vial Smasher The Fierce, for example. It is true that those cards are interesting in multiplayer variants, but they remain overly easy to cast in duel. We decided that giving a free non-creature counter effect and a target-changing effect for free would be too much, favoring commander-centric strategies even more than they needed to be.
High Tide was probably one of the most hated combo cards still allowed in the format. While it is true the card is a great balancing tool against land-based or removal-based attrition strategies, it is also a card that generates a lot of frustration whenever players happen to draw the deck namesake card by turns 4 or 5.
Now that land-based strategies have been nerfed, the need for High Tide to regulate the format is no more. Therefore, it is now time to say goodbye to it.
Similar and functional copies/clones in Magic The Gathering cards are always a source of worries in singleton formats, for too many of them could wreak diversity and the random effect that it relies on. Some are very famous, like direct damage spells, mana-generating creatures, creature-sweepers,land-fetching lands, etc.
Though this is still acceptable -especially now that Magic The Gathering has reached over 21 000 unique cards-, some redundancies in lists can sometimes lead to annoying consequences. So was it for extra turns strategies, where players could chain those spells, replay them a sufficient amount of times up to a point where they could monopolize the game state until they eventually won with attritional effects, sometimes kick-started with High Tide, sometimes cheap/free-casted with very specific mechanics.
This combo-oriented win condition is not what we want players to experience anymore, therefore those three cards are now banned in Duel Commander.
Field of the Dead is a land that has proven problematic in several formats ever since it was printed due to the amount of cards that can search for it in libraries, ramp spells and Regrowth-like effects available (some of them playable in the command zone, such as Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath or Golos, Tireless Pilgrim). It brings inevitability over any form of slow deck (midrange / control) while also providing protection against aggressive decks through a constant stream of free creatures. That makes it a strong incentive for players to lean towards combo strategies, and a major threat to the format’s balance. Thus, Field of the Dead is now banned.
Cavern of Souls greatly favors commander-centric game plans. Especially when it comes to green decks that could easily find the card in libraries. Reducing interactions -yes, Counterspell is an interactive spell- is not what we think is good for a competitive format. Commander-centric strategies reduce the strategic problems encountered in the format. Our efforts to finally structure blue as a more controlling color and a less combo color would be denied if Cavern of Souls remained legal.
Wasteland is used 3 ways :
Solving very problematic lands. Most extreme lands are banned. Against strong, but not critical lands one can play slower cards like Field Of Ruin or even spells to tackle that problem. No land can solve a Winter Orb or a Blood Moon, for instance. If one’s commander-centric deck loses on Maze of Ith, is it really a problem for the format?
Recursion with Life From The Loam / Crucible Of Worlds / etc. This is inexorability. Blue can’t be shifted from combo to control under high inexorability. In this case, players will still choose combo over control.
Randomly mana-screwing an opponent. Which is not a great addition to the format.
Lion's Eye Diamond is a key card in two of the fastest and most popular combo decks in the format at least. It was already singled out as a problematic card by many players when it was only played in is a key card in two of the fastest and most popular combo decks in the format at least. It was already singled out as a problematic card by many players when it was only played in Tymna The Weaver + Thrasios, Triton Hero decks, and the printing of Underworld Breach added another shell in which it permits “going infinite” a bit too easy. Lion's Eye Diamond-based combos are also harder to interact with than other creatures-based combos (such as Devoted Druid + Vizier of Remedies or Aluren + Recruiter of the Guard, for instance). So, in an effort to tone down the strength of combo archetypes, Lion's Eye Diamond is now banned.
Gifts Ungiven has a very short history in Duel Commander: it was banned since day 0. For as long as the Duel Commander Rules Committee existed, the card remained illegal. It was a prior-to-preventive ban (prior to defining the format for the first time) to prevent easy access to any combos, including multiple ones in one shot or those that could share common cards to activate. It was also banned because of the time it takes to resolve when players are given too many opportunities, or on the opposite when winning becomes harder and requires different choices than straight, regular ones, pretty much in a way Sensei’s Divining Top does. But now things have changed, and in an effort to remove overly easy-access combos, we believe Gifts Ungiven is worth a try, even though a whole new mass of cards got printed since 2007 (over 14 000, actually!), which could lead to really fast victories, having most of the most dangerous ones out of the format.
Last time it was legal, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy was mostly used as a combo engine with High Tide and extra turns. With High Tide and the cheapest extra turns banned, we feel confident that it might not be as powerful and dominant as it used to be. Therefore, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy is now legal as a commander again.