Reevaluating the Commander Ban List: Part 3

Chris Hoffman
August 18, 2023


Hello all! Time for our 3rd crack at this ban list. Last time I advocated for Coalition Victory to be unbanned, so today I will surely make more people irritated, but hopefully not with our first entry.



Hullbreacher (Commander Legends #74)

Hullbreacher is banned for the reason of “no fun for you, all the fun for me.” The question then becomes, why this card, and not cards like Notion Thief, Chains of Mephistopheles, or any other number of similar cards? The answer is FLASH! I thoroughly believe that if this card was exactly the same but without flash it wouldn't be banned. Also unlike similar cards this card gives treasures, and treasures… are good. Not as good as cards in hand, but still very good. If you don't believe me check out Dockside Extortionist sometime. Hullbreacher is banned and should probably stay banned for the fun of the game. 


Iona, Shield of Emeria

Iona, Shield of Emeria (Zendikar #13)

Iona, Shield of Emeria is banned because it stops people from playing the game. If someone casts her and someone else at the table is playing a monocolored deck, they are no longer playing the game. That is no fun. Iona used to be played in Legacy reanimator for similar reasons, shut off your opponents blue or black spells and let a 7/7 do its job. While not inherently as good in Commander, Iona is a card that makes games unfun for players and should probably stay banned. 

HOWEVER, I think she COULD be fine as a commander only, as in banned in the 99 but fine for the command zone. I could be wrong on that but 9 mana for a mono white deck is a tall order.



Karakas (Eternal Masters #240)

Karakas is antithetical to Commander gameplay. Its a land that removes the titular game object from play at the cost of tapping a singular land. This is simultaneously a card that is very powerful in the format and also just unfun to deal with because ostensibly, players want to play their Commander in Commander, and Karakas makes that difficult to do. It should go without saying, keep this one banned.


Leovold, Emissary of Trest

Leovold, Emissary of Trest (Conspiracy: Take the Crown #77)

This card is so unbelievably good. Card draw attached to targeting your things, opponents can only draw one card per turn, and its a 3/3 for three. All upside. The individual upsides are reasonable on their own, its when these are all combined that puts Leovold over the line. This card should remain banned. (This is one that I think COULD be allowed if only in the 99 and stayed banned as a commander).


Library of Alexandria

Library of Alexandria (Vintage Championship #2020B)

Library of Alexandria is a very powerful land, one of the most powerful some would argue. It certainly is extremely good, consistent card draw at the cost of having exactly 7 cards in hand. I don't think this card actually would need to be banned if more people could have access to it. I would be able to tell for sure if the only paper printing wasn't in Arabian Nights. Therefore, I guess it stays banned? Maybe some no ban list testing will be necessary. 


Limited Resources 

Limited Resources (Exodus #10)

This card is banned because its terrible to play against in 4 player games. Slamming this down turn one will make some games of Commander instantly unplayable. Also, the potential for late game massive land destruction at the low cost of 1 mana is an issue. An issue I think is funny, but an issue none the less. Therefore, keep it banned. 


Lutri, the Spellchaser 

Lutri, the Spellchaser (Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths #227)

This card was banned before it even came out. This was premature, and I think the otter should have at least had a chance. That being said, the potential is there, its very strong and with the original companion rules it was probably too good. Perhaps with the new companion rules change Lutri could have been fine. But we may never know. UNLESS WE TRY IT! Give it a test unban, like they do with cards on arena sometimes. 


Mox Emerald / Jet / Pearl / Ruby / Sapphire

Mox Emerald (Vintage Masters #5) Mox Jet (Vintage Masters #6)

Mox Pearl (Vintage Masters #7) Mox Ruby (Vintage Masters #8) Mox Sapphire (Vintage Masters #9)

The moxen are free mana artifacts. Banned in everything for a reason, even if I could afford one I would advocate for them remaining banned. 


Panoptic Mirror

Panoptic Mirror (Darksteel #136)

Panoptic Mirror died for the sins of infinite turns but is only banned in Commander. This is odd, but ultimately reasonable. Infinite turn combos tend to be unpleasant and I'm sure there is a way to infinite with it some other way that I am unaware of. Keep it banned until anti extra turn cards are common (which they won't be).


Paradox Engine

Paradox Engine (Aether Revolt #169)

I wish I got to play with this card, Its unreal how strong it is. In the brief period that it wasn't banned I had it sitting in my Momir Vig deck but I didn't have anyone to play with. Untapping every nonland permanent is very strong as we will see in just a few more entries, but triggering after every spell cast is unreal. Combining that effect with the ability to make mana and/or draw cards wins the game easily. Keep it banned. 


Primeval Titan

Primeval Titan (Magic 2011 #192)

Get two lands on entering the battlefield and attacking. There's a whole modern combo deck built with this card, it's very strong. Why is this card banned in Commander then? Because of the options it gives you. Gaea's Cradle and friends are legal in Commander, and getting free extra mana is powerful. It's not banned in legacy because at 6 mana it's too slow, but in Commander it being “slow” isn't nearly as detrimental. Should it remain banned? I GUESS? I'm not totally convinced about this one but I tend to side on keeping it banned in those judgment calls. 


Prophet of Kruphix

Prophet of Kruphix (Theros #199)

Prophet of Kruphix is a super strong card that is not very durable. I don't like bringing up the “dies to removal” argument but it certainly does. Prophet is a 5 mana 2/3 that untaps lands and creatures and gives flash. Very strong effects that give a huge mana advantage to the player who controls the creature. So it comes down to: is the effect too strong even on such a flimsy creature? Yes, it is. If it was a 5 mana 1/1 it would probably be fine (read that as unplayable) so keep it banned. 


Recurring Nightmare

Recurring Nightmare (Exodus #72)

A recursive enchantment that is also a sacrifice outlet and a way to reanimate creatures. Very strong, very sticky. The way this is templated makes it hard to kill unless its on the stack. Countering it is essentially the only way to go. Does it need to stay banned? Probably. It's a reusable reanimate effect at 3 mana, super strong keep it banned. 


Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary 

Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary (Urza's Destiny #118)

Add green for every Forest. Strong, big mana, potentially mana doubling. Does it need to be banned? Ehhhhhhhhhhh as a commander yes its too easy to make too much mana. If we had different ban lists there would be an argument for it to be unbanned for the 99 but we no longer live in that world. 



Shahrazad (Arabian Nights #10)

Subgames are meme effects for meme unsets. Keep it banned unless you're playing a game where those cards are legal. Shaharazad is a powerful subgame effect but subgames are time wasters, keep them out of your games. Should stay banned.


Sundering Titan

Sundering Titan (Darksteel #146)

Sundering Titan is a very good Tinker target (Tinker is also banned). In 4 player games with a titan and a flicker effect like Conjurer's Closet everyone's mana disappears very quickly. Sundering Titan is oppressive in the right decks, cheating out this card ruins games quickly. It, like Griselbrand, should stay banned for cheating in to play reasons. 


Sway of the Stars

Sway of the Stars (Betrayers of Kamigawa #54)

Sway of the Stars is a card I had to look up. Its blue Worldfire. 10 mana reset the game and everyone is at 7. People like to get around Worldfire by exiling their own creature, you can do the same thing with sway. So, lets keep it banned. I thought Worldfire was banned too but we can talk about that next time.


Sylvan Primordial

Sylvan Primordial (Gatecrash #136)

Sylvan Primordial is adjacent to Primeval Titan and is banned for SIMILAR reasons. Destroying 3 problem non-creatures and getting three lands is very strong and a flickerable effect. This card got banned because it wildly swings gamestates, even harder than Primeval Titan. I want it not to be banned, but keep it banned.


Time Vault

Time Vault (Vintage Masters #287)

Time Vault is half of a two card combo to get infinite turns. Any untapper gives infinite turns with this card. Its a cheap combo (mana wise) and should stay banned just like…


Time Walk

Time Walk (Vintage Masters #2)

This is the most famous extra turn effect. Two mana take another turn, obviously too good. Extra turn effects tend to be costed at 5 mana to be “fair” but recently that cost has moved up toward 6 or 7. So a two mana extra turn is clearly too good, and thats why it is banned in everything. It's not called the power 9 for nothing after all. 



Tinker (Urza's Legacy #45)

Tinker is insanely powerful. Sacrifice any artifact, search your library for another one of your choice and put it directly into play. In vintage, this is used to sacrifice any moxen or artifact laying around to get bolas' citadel and then play your entire deck. Too good for every format but vintage. Keep it banned, even the fixed versions of this card are often too good. 


Tolarian Academy

Tolarian Academy (Vintage Masters #319)

Tolarian Academy is banned for being a better Gaea's Cradle. Cradle has the downside that creatures tend to be easier to kill than artifacts, and academy has the upside of making blue mana which is often, better than green. Keep academy banned, free mana remains too strong. 


Trade Secrets

Trade Secrets (Onslaught #118)

Potentially lets you draw your deck. At its worst you draw four and someone draws two, which is pretty good. At its best, you draw your deck and your opponent draws a bunch of cards and can't do anything because your cards are better. Keeping it simple with this analysis, this card is very strong. Keep it banned.



Upheaval (Modern Horizons 2 #270)

Upheaval is a silly card, bouncing everything is fun in theory, in practice it slows down games and makes at least one person at the table unable to recover. 6 mana bounce 40 permanents is very good on rate, and unlike Cyclonic Rift, bounces lands too. Keep it banned. We may talk about rift some time soon. 


Yawgmoth's Bargain

Yawgmoth's Bargain (Vintage Masters #147)

Skip your draw step, draw a card at the cost of one life. As stated with Griselbrand, paying life for cards is a very appealing offer in Commander where health totals are high. Pay 20, draw 20 is too good in a format where life totalls start at 40 and often end up being way higher. Keep it banned.

And that's everything for what's currently on the list. Some time soon we will talk about what SHOULD be on the list, and maybe make some broad and unpopular statements on the format as a whole. The format as it stands is pretty diverse but thats often not the purpose of the Commander ban list. Ubiquity is not something that the rules committee for this format always looks into (we will cover it). Until then, keep having fun and maybe play with some un-cards sometime. They're silly, cheat in a Cheatyface for me.