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Jan 19 2016

January 2016 Commander EDH Banned List – Oath of the Gatewatch

Prophet of Kruphix Banned

The Oath of the Gatewatch Commander Banned List Announcement resulted in a temporary crash of the MTGCommander.net website shortly after it’s release on January 18th, 2016. This, of course, was due to a flood of EDH fanatics like myself who were chomping at the bit to see what the Rules Committee had in store for us this time around. Since the paragraphs of text can strain the eyes, it was simplified to us as follows:

  • Commander-specific mulligan rules are removed
  • Rule 4 (mana generation restriction) is removed
  • Prophet of Kruphix is Banned

The official posting of the Oath of the Gatewatch EDH Rules and Banning Announcement can be found on MTGCommander.net. However, I will include the rulings in full text here as well. Simply as a reference to my thoughts and responses on the three changes.

Let’s get started and break this down piece by piece!

Prophet of Kruphix Banned

Prophet of Kruphix:

This was challenging. Prophet is not a traditionally obvious problem card for Commander, so we chose to take a conservative approach and see if casual groups could adapt. In the past, we’ve seen unpopular cards generate a lot of outcry, but be handled reasonably well. Powerful cards existing is OK and exploring them responsibly is an essential part of Commander.

This didn’t happen with Prophet. Casual groups haven’t been able to work around it and problematic play has not dropped off in hoped-for ways. Instead, the primary approach has been to steal it, clone it, run it yourself, or get run over. Ultimately, it seems the card is too perfect – it does everything U/G Commander players want to be doing and it does it in a way that makes counterplay difficult. With traditional boogeymen such as Consecrated Sphinx, you’re forced to expend a lot of your mana to cast it and will have a challenge protecting it as the turn goes around the table. With Prophet, it has virtual protection built in, negating that disadvantage almost immediately.

Prophet becomes only the second multicolored card on the banlist (after the structurally-problematic Coalition Victory). It’s telling just how pervasive Prophet is despite such a restriction. Yes, U/G is the most popular color combination in Commander, but we’ve reached the point where Prophet is driving U/G deck choice, rather than vice-versa. That’s centralizing in ways we can’t ignore, so it’s time for Prophet to take a break.

Whenever we decide to ban a card, we take a long look at the current list to see if any cards can come off, as we believe a casual format is better served by a minimalist banlist. After extensive discussion, however, we concluded that everything on the list served a purpose, so we won’t be unbanning anything. It’s been two years since the last (non-consolidation) card got banned, which is an acceptable growth rate!

I feel that most of us that played Prophet in our EDH decks bid her a final farewell, thanked her for the memories of craziness, and tucked her away tenderly in our trade binders. As I stated in my Dealing with Ban List Changes article, this is an opportunity. Adapt and adjust. With the banning of Prophet an open roster spot in your 99 develops. Time to give a different card a chance. Even though I do see some outcries and even an online petition to bring her back already, I am hoping most of us are embracing the banning like good-sports.

For me personally, here are a few of the substitutions I will be making. Seedborn Muse goes back into my Sliver Queen EDH deck, Illusory Ambusher gets it’s first action in Surrak Dragonclaw, and Void Grafter moves into Ezuri Claw of Progress. What cards will you be replacing Prophet with? Let me know in the comments below!

Vancouver Mulligan in EDH

Mulligans:

We promised in the last update that, with the advent of the Vancouver Mulligan, we’d be evaluating the mulligan process in Commander. This announcement is the culmination of that research. After examining several popular options, and coming up with a few of our own, we’ve concluded that the Vancouver Mulligan (with the standard first-one-free in multiplayer and a scry once you go to 6 or fewer) is the best option. The RC continues to use and recommend the Gis (“Mulligan 7s to a playable hand. Don’t abuse this”) for trusted playgroups, but that’s not something that can go in the rules.

Ultimately, the goal of mulligans in Commander is to ensure that you start the game with enough lands to be a participant. With Commander games running an hour plus, it’s unfortunate if you can’t play anything because you miss land drops and get run over quickly.

We didn’t want to solve the problems of Magic itself – mana screw and mana flood are part of the game – and players need to make a reasonable effort with their land counts, but we wanted a mulligan rule that tried to minimize unplayable opening hands. So, we brainstormed, and ran computer simulations. And what ultimately came out was… it didn’t much matter. Nothing provided a clear enough upgrade to justify having additional rules for mulligans. For example, with 37 lands, Partial Paris was “successful” (which we defined as playing a 4th land on turn 4) 89% of the time versus Multiplayer Vancouver at 86%, but it came at a cost of about a fifth of a card on average. On the whole, 86% success is a rate that seems reasonable.

If you find yourself playing 1v1 (perhaps while waiting for a friend to show up), you should still use the free multiplayer mulligan. With a deck this size, variance is high enough to make not having the free mulligan potentially punishing – without the free mulligan you drop down to about 80% success rate, which, combined with being the only opponent to focus on, leads to too many unfortunate games.

Finally, it’s not an official rule, but we recommend setting aside the hands you’re mulliganning away until you get a keeper. That saves shuffling time, and we’re all for minimizing shuffling 100-card decks.

The EDH Rules Committee has officially ended the reign of the Partial Paris mulligan. I always thought of the partial paris as something cool and unique to commander, but also realized the potential abuse of the mulligan. Sure, I was a fan of the partial paris. If I drew a one land hand, I pitched everything but the land and usually ended up with a strong seven. In competitive play, I was much more successful if allowed to Partial Paris than I was if we abided by other mulligan rulings.

None-the-less, I look forward to embracing and playing under the Commander Vancouver Mulligan rule. The only difference between the Vancouver Mulligan that is used in other magic formats and the “Commander” variant is rule 103.4, which applies to multiplayer. This rule states that a player’s first mulligan can be a “free mulligan” in a multiplayer game, drawing a new hand of as many cards he/she had before. The Rules Committee recommends keeping this free mulligan in a friendly game of 1v1 as well.

The Rules Committee also informally advises Commander players to set aside their unwanted hands, instead of shuffling after each one, until a hand is kept. Setting aside the cards should help filter out the potential for another bad hand and increase the percentages of obtaining a hand with enough lands to make a go of it.

My playgroup will be using the EDH Vancouver Mulligan with the recommendations that the Rules Committee provided. In a nutshell, they will look something like this:

  1. You may take a FREE mulligan, by setting your first hand to the side and drawing 7 new cards
  2. You may then, mulligan to 6, setting the second hand you drew to the side and drawing 6 new cards.
  3. Repeat the above process (starting with #2) for a mulligan to five, four, three, etc.
  4. Shuffle all cards set aside during the mulligan process into your library.
  5. Once you are finished with the mulligan, and have 6 or fewer cards in hand, Scry 1

What are your thoughts on the Mulligan changes to Commander? What will your playgroup and local game store be using? Please comment below!

The Flavor is Gone – Rule 4 Loophole Closed

Rule 4:

We still love Rule 4. It’s a nice piece of flavor and reinforces the idea that this format goes beyond simple mechanical restrictions into a deeper philosophical approach around color and mana symbols. Its effect on the game was pretty small, but that flavor message made it worthwhile to preserve.

However, the mana system of Magic is very complicated, and trying to insert an extra rule there has consequences in the corners. Harvest Mage. Celestial Dawn. Gauntlet of Power. And now, colorless-only mana costs.

Being able to generate colorless mana more easily in Commander wasn’t going to break anything. But, it represented another “gotcha” moment for players, who were now likely to learn about Rule 4 when someone exploited the colorless loophole. We could paper over it (both “mana generated from off-color sources can only pay generic costs” and “you can’t pay a cost outside your color identity” were considered), but a lot of the flavor would be lost in the transition, defeating the purpose. Without the resonant flavor, Rule 4 was increasingly looking like mana burn – a rule that didn’t come up enough to justify it’s existence.

We don’t expect removing the rule to have a big impact. Some Sunburst and Converge cards might get a bit more of a look. Sen Triplets works more like you’d expect, as does Praetor’s Grasp. The clone-and-steal deck, already one of the most popular archetypes, gets better, but less than you might think. It turns out there really aren’t that many impactful non-blue activated abilities on cards that commonly get stolen in Commander. It’s OK if you can regenerate that creature you just stole, and you’ll need to work for it a bit anyway.

One side benefit to the removal of both the color production and mulligan rules is that, in terms of game play, Commander becomes a normal game of multiplayer Magic with a higher life total and a set of additive rules to bring a new piece (your Commander) into the game. That’s good streamlining in terms of teaching people the format and reducing gotcha moments while still preserving the essential flavor of Commander.

I side with the Rules Committee on this one. It was flavorful and made sense that a player could not produce mana outside of it’s commander’s colors. However, with the new colorless mana introduced in Oath of the Gatewatch, removing Rule 4 from the books does seem like the logical thing to do. What does this mean? With Rule 4 repealed, cards like Darksteel Ingot and City of Brass, in a Blue/Black deck for example, can now produce any color of mana (but NOT colorless). However, this does not mean that we can include cards or lands in our deck that are outside of our Commander’s color identity. It simply means that if we were to use a card like Praetor’s Grasp to steal, let’s say… a Cultivate, we can now use green mana from our Ingot or City of Brass to cast the spell.

Now that Rule 4 is out of the way, there are a handful of cards that we should probably take a second look at. In fact, let’s save that for another article shall we? Check back soon or follow me on twitter (@wallyd2) for the follow up article.

Before I go, a quick plug for the Commanderin’ Podcast. If you would like to hear Sheldon Menery talk about these changes, he was a guest on Episode 32 of the Commanderin Podcast

Thoughts, comments on any of the three EDH Rules Changes? Let’s discuss them below!

On to the Next!
—wallyd

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