Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
How Does Banding Work in Magic?
Despite being hailed as a colorful ability, Magic's banding trait still confuses many players, explaining its absence in newer releases. Basically, any number of creatures with banding, and up to one without, can attack as a group. Your opponent chooses whether to block the entire group or let them all pass by undefended. However, if they block, you get to assign their blocker's damage, letting you band weaker units and redirect their damage towards your sturdier warriors.
Confused yet? A similar rule applies on defense; when a creature with banding blocks an attacker, you (and not they) now get to decide how to distribute their unit's damage among your blockers. Basically, banding helps protect your units on both offense and defense, and though it's unlikely to reappear, we still experienced many potent battalions in the Alpha set.
10 Best Banding Cards
So, which allied groups reign supreme? These are the ten best banding cards in Magic: The Gathering!
- Wall of Shields
- Benalish Hero
- Errand of Duty
- Fortified Area
- Timber Wolves
- Soraya the Falconer
- Baton of Morale
- Helm of Chatzuk
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 2
Like most banding spells, Formation belongs to the white faction. It only costs two mana and operate at instant speed, letting you cast it at any time. Formation grants any creature you control banding for the turn, making it a useful tool to temporarily ally with stronger troops.
Plus, you get to draw a card at the next turn's upkeep, skillfully replenishing your hand for future plays.
9. Wall of Shields
Wall of Shields is both an artifact and a creature, qualifying for all corresponding supports (and removals). Like many walls, he's a 0/4, bearing low power but impressive toughness, and he of course carries the banding trait.
Use Shields to blend with other blockers and assign your opponent's damage as you see fit; for instance, you could direct three power towards Shields and the rest towards another blocker, injuring them but not taking enough damage to die.
8. Benalish Hero
Many white creatures with banding come with extra abilities. These are nice, but they're lost when you band with creatures that don't have them; Benalish avoids this by simply possessing banding. She's a weak 1/1, but her low cost and grouping make her a helpful teammate to attack or block with, letting you control the flow of battle. Her human and soldier subtypes offer some interesting synergies as well.
Camel is basically a weaker Benalish, bearing 0/1 stats, but with an added effect. When he attacks in a band, all creatures in the group (including himself) are immune to damage from desert lands, offering a useful barrier to your united force.
Back when the banded cards were released, they weren't nearly as many lands are there are now, meaning your likelihood of coming up against (and wanting protection from) deserts was much higher.
6. Errand of Duty
Similar to Benalish, Errand places a 1/1 creature token with banding into play, but this spells needs one more mana. However, you can cast it at instant speed, granting some nice tactical advantages. Additionally, its status as an instant makes it useful for "spell mastery" graveyard conditions, helping it age better than most of its banding peers.
5. Fortified Area
The enchantment gives all wall creatures you control +1/+0 and banding. Walls bear defender, meaning they can't normally attack, but that extra power boost comes in handy for counterattacking invaders.
Even today, Magic maintains many powerful walls who could benefit from Area's boost; I only wish it were slightly less resource-draining.
4. Timber Wolves
Green troopy Timber Wolves offers a rare degree of banding outside the white faction. Similar to Benalish, it's a simple 1/1 with banding, differing only in color and creature subtype. Still, like other bands, Timber scales well into the late game despite its weak stats because it can partner with stronger monsters to swing with little concern over counterattacks.
3. Soraya the Falconer
Soraya herself doesn't bear banding, and her stats are a puny 2/2, but this legendary champion grants all birds you control an extra +1/+1, sculpting them into capable fighters. Additionally, she can spend two mana to grant a bird banding for the turn, letting you spend leftover mana to fortify your assaults or defenses when needed.
For such an old card, Soraya still offers some decent bird supports that hold up far better than most of her kin.
2. Baton of Morale
Like most relics, this colorless artifact can blend into any deck. It needs two mana to cast and two more whenever apply its effect, granting any creature banding for the rest of the turn.
Since Baton doesn't tap for its trait, you can activate the boost multiple times in the same round if you have the mana. A useful tool, but one relic offers even better banding ability . . .
1. Helm of Chatzuk
Helm of Chatzuk offers a much cheaper Baton, taking half the mana to both cast and trigger its identical effect, granting any creature banding until the end of the turn. The only downside is that Chatzuk must tap for its ability, a more than welcome trade-off for its diminished mana cost.
Helm of Chatzuk is easily the best banding card yet that I still enjoy playing in some EDH builds, and it's saved my bacon more than once. Use it for decks that rely on sheer stats more than keywords for combat prowess; thankfully, despite its age and rarity, you can can often buy Chatzul for less than a single dollar!
How to Use Banding in Magic
We've now covered the basic rules for banding and seen its best applicants, but keep these advanced tips in mind when using the trait. As great as banding is for protecting your squad, remember that it can negate blocker-hindering abilities. For instance, if you band a creature with shadow and one with flying together, and your opponent can (and chooses to) block the flying creature, they will also block the creature with shadow. Thus, you'll often have to weigh the pros and cons of banding when deciding whether to ally.
Though banding was abandoned long ago, we did briefly see it reemerge in the test card "Banding Sliver", but for now, as we eagerly await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion set, vote for your favorite card and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2018 Jeremy Gill