Top 6 Cards That Should Be Banned in MTG Commander

Updated on October 22, 2018
Jeremy Gill profile image

Jeremy casts spells in-between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.

Commander Format

In Magic: The Gathering, Commander format (also called EDH) attracts many players with its unique and varied premise. When playing it, players pick one legendary creature (some Planeswalkers work as well) to serve as their Commander, a card available throughout your match. Additionally, decks consists of a whopping 100 cards, with only one copy of each spell (besides basic lands) allowed per deck, and players can only harness the colors of their Commander in their deck.

While I appreciate the work of game makers Wizards of the Coast, they don't actually regulate ban list for Commander, meaning that occasionally a broken card slips through their censorship. To see what I mean, read on to discover six overpowered cards that are (as of this writing) actually legal! Warning: Usage may cause swift victory and loss of friends.

Sol Ring
Sol Ring

6. Sol Ring

Mana Cost: 1

No surprises here. This card accepts a single mana of any color to produce two colorless. Simple, sure, but this provides a massive mana advantage for whoever happens to be lucky enough to draw the Ring first.

Just about every Commander deck is gonna want to run of these; play a land on your first turn, tap for Sol Ring, and on merely your second turn you'll have at least four mana available to you (assuming you play another land), and more if you employ artifacts like Mana Vault.

How To Make It Fair: Reduce the mana gain to one colorless. Even then, it's pretty darn powerful, but much more balanced.

Another card, Mana Crypt, works similarly (it doesn't even cost any mana), and should also probably be outlawed, but at least it flips a coin to potentially deal damage to its wielder each turn.

Land Tax
Land Tax

5. Land Tax

Mana Cost: 1

Like Sol Ring, Land Tax demands just a single mana, though this time it's white, so only Plains-users need inquire. Its effect: at each of your upkeeps, if your opponent has more land than you, you can search your deck for up to three basic lands and put them in your hand. And Land Tax isn't even sacrificed! It'll keep performing the check and potentially adding land each turn.

Three cards to hand for one mana is just too much, especially since Land Tax is reusable. Wily players with this card can go purposefully take second turn, letting their opponent get ahead in land, then brutally punish them with this.

How To Make It Fair: Change the effect to two lands, or sacrifice Tax once the effect activates. Sadly, as is, this is gonna seriously peeve anyone you unleash it upon.

Mana Drain
Mana Drain

4. Mana Drain

Mana Cost: 2

Mana Drain has several things going for it. Like most counters, it's an Instant, so it can be played at any time on any turn. Second, for just two blue mana (sorry, can't use Sol Ring for this) you get to counter any spell, no matter how powerful. And then, at your next main phase you gain colorless mana equal to the total mana cost of the spell you negated!

That's just insane. When your foe plays Mana Drain early on, you're back a spell and they're playing incredibly costly cards way before they have the land to do so thanks to its mana-producing effect. Few cards are as likely to induce a rage-quit as this one.

How To Make It Fair Check out Counterspell, which also counters any spell for two blue mana (still a great bargain), but doesn't add any mana to your pool.

Humility
Humility

3. Humility

Mana Cost: 4

Unlike today's other entries, Humilty at least requires a respectable four mana, and it's vulnerable to any enchantment-destroying spell. Still, its effect changes all creatures to puny 1/1s with no abilities! In Commander format, just about every deck has its share of creatures (not to mention the Commander itself), so this should really decimate foes. To win:

  • Step 1: Build deck with no creatures (except for your Commander). This gives plenty of space for lands, enchantments, artifacts, etc. Put in tutors to help search for cards. If you're using blue, a few countering spells will help ensure Humility lasts.
  • Step 2: Over a few turns, gather four mana and Humility by using tutors to search.
  • Step 3: Profit. All creatures become nigh-useless, but that won't impact you. Bombard the opposing player with your array of non-creature spells.


How To Make It Fair: Increase the mana cost or make the effect only last a few turns.

The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale

2. The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale

Mana Cost: 0

Still not convinced a no-creature deck is overpowered? Try combining Humility with this card, one that has no mana cost as it's a land. Tabernacle's effect: each creature forces its controller to pay one mana during their upkeep. If they can't or don't, the creature is destroyed.

So, for no cost (meaning it can come out at the very beginning), Tabernacle forces your opponent to either destroy their creatures, or waste all their mana just keeping them out. That's simply way too strong, and there are few games less fun than ones where your creatures can't even be used.

At least Humility costs a little mana, and can be destroyed by enchantment removals. Land removals are much rarer, and more expensive, so there's really not much most players can do against Tabernacle, especially if you're countering their cards in the meantime.

How To Make It Fair: Turn it into an enchantment with a mana cost of 4 or 5. Even then, it'd still be formidable.

Serra Ascendant
Serra Ascendant

1. Serra Ascendant

Mana Cost: 1

Just like Land Tax, the Ascendant joins the fray for a single pop of white mana. She's a 1/1 with Lifelink, meaning she'll restore her controller life whenever she inflicts damage. So what makes her unusable in Commander?

She becomes a 6/6 with Lifelink and Flying if you have 30 or more life. In standard Magic games, players begin with 20, so Serra's effect is a great (and fair) reward for life-gaining assortments. In Commander, players begin with 40, so Serra immediately becomes a ridiculous 6/6 with absolutely no effort required.

By turn two, she'll be swinging for 6, restoring life when she collides, and she's in the air, so even if your opponent somehow scraps together a defender, if it doesn't have Flying or Reach, it can't block her. Even then, odds are good its toughness wouldn't survive 6 power so early on.

Plus, in the meantime, you'll be harassing your opponent with other spells while they frantically scramble just to survive against a turn one, one-mana creature. Truly a formidable, overpowered card.

How To Make It Fair: Either ban it (this card was not meant for Commander), or give it an effect that requires your life to be 50 or more for its abilities when playing EDH.

Which card would you prefer to be banned?

See results

Future of Commander

Ironically, though several of today's cards are white, I consider mono-white to be a fairly weak choice in Commander. But when combined with other colors, these astonishingly legal options will guide players to a swift and cheap victory.

Still, Commander is an awesome way to experience Magic, and don't let a few juiced up cards keep you away if you're interested; you and your friends can always alter the ban lists in your casual matches. But for now, vote for your most-despised spell, and I'll see you at our next card countdown!

Questions & Answers

© 2017 Jeremy Gill

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    • Jeremy Gill profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeremy Gill 

      4 weeks ago from Louisiana

      @Artificer

      Way head of ya--Cyclonic Rift made the followup article I did regarding more ban-worthy cards.

    • profile image

      Artificer 

      5 weeks ago

      To be honest cyclonic rift is more back breaking than the cards listed here (besides sol ring). It says before I start my turn everyone start over and the ending player's turn discard to hand size (assuming no reliquary tower). With all the rocks and ramp available if someone is mana skewed it pretty much says you lose the game.

    • Jeremy Gill profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeremy Gill 

      5 weeks ago from Louisiana

      @GrixisisBest

      1) Stalling out a land is bigger than it sounds. Falling one land behind due to a Land Tax can definitely make a difference.

      2) On Mana Drain, I simply disagree; playing your big guns a few turns early can *really* gain an advantage.

      3) I admit that Humility and Tabernacle can be worked around, but not easily, especially while their controllers sits happily in their creature-free (other than commander) deck and avoid the penalty. Due to its land status and low cost, Tabernacle is particularly troublesome.

      4) Yes, Serra can beaten with the right counters, but that depends on using the right color, drawing them in time and then wasting them to beat a one-cost creature (something that doesn't normally warrant removals), leaving you with fewer checks for your opponent's actual big guns.

      A threat? I stated that I only allowed the comment to remind us to be civil (by showing what *not* to do). That's certainly not intended as a threat, but an attempt to guide us towards etiquette. I don't mind people disagreeing with me, but there's a right way to go about it. I still stand by this list, especially Sol Ring, Mana Drain, and Serra, and I welcome polite debate but would remind us to respect one another's opinions.

    • profile image

      GrixisIsBest 

      6 weeks ago

      I'd argue aside from Sol Ring all of these have fairly easy counterplay.

      Land Tax doesn't do much if all of the players just stall out playing their lands until after the owner of it plays land. Unless they decide to also stall then everyone is going to be effectively discarding until someone else decides to end the stalemate.

      All counterspells can be played around equally well by baiting them out so Mana Drain is essentially a counter that nets 3 or 4 colorless sometimes? because you're playing commander anyways that wouldnt end up meaning much because commander is all about ramping up to big spells anyways. Playing your big things a turn or two early isn't going to mean much anyways

      I would argue that humility isn't a nuisance to more decks than just abnormal playstyle decks. Lots of commander decks revolve around a control/attrition type playstyle that don' even want to play creatures anyways because they just want to clear boards over and over until they run their opponents out of threats.

      Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale's effect lets the player themself decide what is and isn't worth keeping on their board. I doubt a lot of players are gonna see that and decide that their 1/1's need to stay. On top of that commander decks ramp up anyways so a few extra mana to keep up some of their heavy hitters is not enough of a drawback. Not to mention that this is classified as a land so you decide to miss a land drop if you play it early which is poor or if you wait until later they will have the mana to effectively nullify this. Not to mention you hit yourself with it so it ends up helping your opponents at the same time.

      Finally, Serra Ascendant dodges red removal. That's great and all but a lot of premium removal spells in black hit low cmc minions for cheap such as fatal push for example. it can also be unsummoned or pacified or any number of other things. You're using your removal on a 1 drop card but that ends up being inconsequential to most decks as they will either be tutoring their important removals or cards to the top anyways or drawing through their deck efficiently enough to destroy everything anyways.

      Perhaps the comment about doing research was unnecessary but his opinions are backed up with evidence to support his reasoning. He brought logic to the table and supported it with adequate evidence to back up his claims. As far as I'm concerned he has proven his point far better than you have proven yours. Posting threats to him over the internet because he said something you didn't like also doesn't help your case here either. His opinion may be a bit aggressive but there are many people out there that could potentially see this list and then go out and buy all these cards just to find that maybe they weren't as overpowered as you made them out to be.

    • Jeremy Gill profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeremy Gill 

      2 months ago from Louisiana

      @ZBG

      You're entitled to your opinions, but attitudes like yours definitely aren't fostering a fun environment for the game. Still, I'll counter your points.

      Sol Ring is in literally every deck. Getting to draw it first gives you a huge advantage. That's not skill or strategy, that's luck.

      Land Tax guarantees lands and costs practically nothing. Even if you have to discard some of them (and you often don't if you're playing other low-cost spells), it's still more than worthy.

      Mana Drain is basically two spells in one. You yourself seem to believe it's overpowered.

      You argue that Humility isn't a threat to your deck, but that's because your deck is running an abnormal playstyle. To the vast majority of builds, nullifying creatures (and commanders) is huge.

      First of all, no, Serra doesn't die to "literally any removal". With her boost, the common early-game Lightning Bolt won't take her out, and even if you do have something that can get her (like Swords to Plowshares), you're still spending one of your few removals on a creature that only cost your opponent one mana. Not a great trade-off for you.

      I'm only allowing your comment be visible to show others an example of the player you *don't* want to be. When or not you agree with my list's choices, we can treat each other with dignity.

    • profile image

      ZBG 

      2 months ago

      Sorry, but what?

      Firstly, I would like to point out that the rules of banned cards in commander are a lot more relaxed because it is supposed to be a casual format.

      Secondly, as Wizards themselves have stated before, when choosing what to ban, they adopt the idea of "If you can't beat them, join them" Mantra.

      So for example, their most recent banning, Prophet Of Kruphix. If you played UG, you had a Prophet Of Kruphix. It was in every deck because it was so good. When you get to a point where having a card that goes in every deck was automatic and not a choice, it becomes a problem card.

      So if you aren't just attempting to beat the card, but using it automatically yourself, then it's a problem card.

      So out of all the cards you listed;

      Sol Ring, sure, it provides an advantage. But I know my mana ramp is greater than your silly little Sol Ring. Oh no, a 4/4 half generic creature/enchantment on turn 2, how will I cope. (It's not going to be mana intensive, because 2 mana has to be colourless).

      Land tax. You get to thin your deck taking out lands. You have to discard cards at end of turn because searching for 3 cards has put your over the hand limit size.

      Mana Drain, turn 2, it's a one-use Sol Ring (Plus, in commander, who has threats on turn 2, anyway?) Turn 8, well, if you've got anything for 16 mana, which you won't, it'll likely be only a mana dump to draw cards (Since it's blue). Turn 4 is probably the best advantage to counter a commander.

      Humility. Oh no, in my G/W token deck, all those 1/1's I created are now... 1/1's. What AM I going to do?

      Oh yeah, that's right, play my deck as normal.

      The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale; I have a chance to keep my creature rather than them straight up being destroyed?! Fantastic!

      Serra Ascendant. Oh no, a 6/6 with flying and lifelink with no protection. It dies to literally any removal. What am I going to do?

      These cards are so low in terms of power, I don't even consider these a threat.

      If someone drops a turn 1 elf, followed by a turn 2 Gaea's Cradle, then I start getting worried. T1, 2 mana. T2, 4 mana. T3, 8 mana. That's assuming you play 3 elves that tap for mana and only 1 creature per turn. Otherwise the mana you generate increases exponentially. That Sol Ring that you paid mana for looks like a pile of junk now.

      In short, none of these cards are overpowered in the slightest. I wouldn't even consider running answers to any of these cards as none of the cards listed are problematic in the slightest. Heck, except Sol Ring, these cards wouldn't even make it into my initial 100 card deck or a 100 card sideboard.

      Also, absolutely none of these cards would enable me to a 'swift and cheap victory' like you claim. 5 of these cards are 'control deck' cards, and control decks are notorious for being long-winded and taking forever to play.

      Some other points. There are not 2 separate banlists for casual and competitive EDH, which is the format you are covering. There is one for multiplayer and one for 1 vs. 1.

      NEITHER of these formats have banned Demonic Tutor.

      Even if it was banned, there's Vampiric Tutor anyway. So that point is not valid in so many ways.

      Land Tax is great at deck thinning. It's more powerful in multiplayer where there are a greater number of chances for it to trigger. However, most people play cards to help speed up mana generation anyway, so all it does is guarantee you a land drop.

      Cyclonic Rift is a slightly better version of Devastation Tide, but with a slightly better effect but also costing more mana.

      It's great if you have a massive board presence, otherwise Devastation Tide is just as effective and is cheaper. So why should Cyclonic Rift be banned if Devastation Tide isn't considered. It's entirely dependent on the scenario the card is being used in.

      So all in all, this list is appalling. There are so many better cards that have better effects for cheaper mana that can allow me to win a game quicker. I'd happily take on all of these cards at once and still win a game just to prove a point.

      Please do some actual research before any other articles.

    • profile image

      Nathan 

      2 months ago

      I would like to see mana vault and mana crypt banned. Maybe linvala too.

    • Jeremy Gill profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeremy Gill 

      2 months ago from Louisiana

      @Rhonin_wanderer

      It sounds like you took this article as an attack against commander, which isn't at all my intent. Commander's often my go-to magic format, and while I agree that fans can be unjustly quick to outrage, that doesn't mean that ban lists aren't necessary. Some cards, like the ones covered above, are simply overpowered and detract more than contribute to enjoyment of the game.

      It's very possible that since commander isn't magic's standard mode, it receives less playtesting, and thus more op cards slip through the cracks.

    • profile image

      Rhonin_wanderer 

      2 months ago

      Or, like literally every other format, you can put answers into your deck. I hear most people complain about what cards should be banned when thier 99 is only trying to further thier game plan and not account for trying to stop their opponents. Commander is still magic, run removal to large threats.

    • Jeremy Gill profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeremy Gill 

      2 months ago from Louisiana

      @Newtpippington

      Agreed--in fact, Cyclonic Rift, made the follow-up countdown. Check it out for more cards that should be banned!

    • profile image

      Newtpippington 

      2 months ago

      Cyclonic Rift should have made this list

    • Jeremy Gill profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeremy Gill 

      2 months ago from Louisiana

      @ThatLiamAnthony

      Admittedly, Land Tax is much better when playing second. In those cases, your opponent will either be forced to purposefully miss a land play (a huge disadvantage) or give you a bunch of extra lands to hand every turn (a huge advantage). Remember that having extra land in hand not only guarantees you playing a land every turn, it also lets you draw more non-land cards to ensure you have many spells to choose from as the game progresses.

      Even if you go first, if you're facing a land-happy green deck, Land Tax can still trigger, and either way, it's just one mana to play, so it's not going to put a big strain on your resources to have out. It's just a huge benefit for so little cost.

    • profile image

      ThatLiamAnthony 

      2 months ago

      Is Land Tax really that bad? Say you get it out on turn one, what are your options. Either way until you naturally fall behind on mana, which if in a multiplayer game can take ages, considering your opponents might miss land drops too.

      Or, you intentionally miss an early land drop, meaning you fall behind on Mana... But say you draw turn 1. That you at the end of Turn 1 you have 6 cards in hand. Turn 2 you have 7. then Turn 3, you have 11 (draw for turn + 3 land).

      So you'd need to be pretty low on Mana in hand to even consider casting this early, and even then it's to your hand, not the battlefield, so you can only drop one land per turn still. So you lose mana advantage in order to have a few extra land in hand? Doesn't seem worth it.

    • Jeremy Gill profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeremy Gill 

      3 months ago from Louisiana

      @Jaska

      Easily. Serra can hit the field on turn one without any gimmicks; Ad Nauseam takes time to build to with a CMC of 5 and has the drawback of losing life the more you abuse it. Also, black recently lost their Demonic Tutor search in competitive play, so it's harder to hunt out Ad.

      Not that it isn't formidable; Serra's just way easier to play and doesn't require gimmicks to cast early on.

    • profile image

      Jaska 

      3 months ago

      Are you really saying that Serra Ascendant is more powerful than Ad Nauseam?

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