Baldur’s Gate is just around the corner. It’s ironic that just before the release of a new Commander Legends set, we get a slap in the face with an announcement banning MTG Commander.
These prohibitions concern the Duel Commander format. For those unaware, Duel Commander refers to a special ban list that is supposed to be followed for 1v1 Commander. Ban lists between Commander and Duel Commander vary widely, with Commander powers like Sol Ring being banned for Commander 1v1 play. Most players choose not to follow the Duel Commander ban list even when playing the 1v1 Commander kitchen table with friends, but this list could help if there is a major power level conflict in the decks when you play two. Don’t like the Zero Rule conversation? Use this list of bans instead.
With the return of paper tournaments after the reign of Covid, Duel Commander is once again getting strong turnouts, with no less than 255 signing up for the format’s most recent major.
On May 30, four new cards were banned from Duel Commander. We’ll go over what they are and give a quick explanation of why they’re prohibited:
Banned: Ragavan, Agile Thief
Here’s a modern MTG staple that’s an absolute powerhouse in multiple formats. Turns out a bend one Ragavan, Agile Thief getting started in Duel Commander is really hard to beat. Besides the banlist difference, Duel Commander has only one difference from normal Commander: both players start at 20 life. This makes it much more relevant to take chip damage from Ragavan. Don’t get me wrong though, its Ragavan’s abilities that give its owner a huge early game advantage. This is a much more powerful turn-based game than anything currently available in the format.
Commander is a Singleton format with a 99-card deck, which should make a Ragavan debut rather unlikely. The other problem is that Ragavan is never a bad play. Because he can also Dash, Ragavan is a powerful option at any point in the game. It’s much better in the first round, but it was powerful enough that Ragavan was completely banned from the format.
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Prohibited: Baghdad Bazaar
This card is not very difficult to banish in any Commander format due to its rarity. Baghdad Bazaar was printed in Arabian Knights, MTG’s third set. It’s also on the reserved list, which means Wizards has agreed not to reprint the card (at least in words). These factors make Baghdad Bazaar retail for thousands of dollars.
In terms of power level, this card is absurd in Duel Commander when playing Rielle, the Everwise. There are a few other decks that love the mess, but, in reality, the reason for this ban was a combination of availability and power level. The Duel Commander rules committee seems to care more about unifying online and offline metas. The bazaar sees a lot more online games due to its availability. Baghdad Bazaartherefore, was banned due to increasing power levels and scarcity of availability.
Banned: Serra Shrine
Another hard card to get, but MUCH easier to get next Baghdad Bazaar, Serra Sanctuary also found the ban hammer with the newest MTG Commander Ban on May 30.
For context, Gaia’s Cradle and Tolarian Academyother cards in the same land cycle as Serra Sanctuary, have been banned for a long time in Duel Commander. Because Duel Commander’s ban list is much stricter, once powerful cards like this become easier to use, they almost always become problematic.
Serra SanctuaryThe ban is due to mass enchantment support that has been printed in recent sets. It’s much easier to build a deck that can abuse Serra Sanctuary easily with maps that were recently released (we’re looking at you, Modern Horizons two). Have a Serra Sanctuary entering the battlefield has become synonymous with a very fast endgame in Duel Commander.
Banned as Commander: Shorikai, Genesis Engine
Here’s a commander who was too powerful in the Duel Commander format and had to take a hit to keep the format under control.
Shorikai had to be banned as a commander for two reasons: first, he was very difficult to remove. Shorikai is not a creature by nature. It only becomes a creature if its owner decides to equip it. This means that creature removal, which works on normal commanders, will not work on Shorikai. Dropping artifacts is fairly common in the Commander format, but isn’t common enough to keep a Commander, which can be replayed with a fee when destroyed, consistently under control. The second reason why Shorikai is banned because the card heavily rewards its owner. It gives attendance to the board and card advantage. Shorikai ends up becoming an inevitability machine. You will always have enough resources when you have time with Shorikai on your side.
Due to the difficulty of removing as a commander and the advantage the card gives, Shorikai, Genesis Engine was banned as a Commander in Duel Commander.
Will it affect you?
Duel Commander has its audience, but it is not as popular as Commander. If you end up playing two-player Commander games often, consider following these rules for something different. It’s quite common to sit down for a two-player game of Commander while waiting for your FNM event to trigger. Why not make it more interesting?
Want to read the original MTG Commander ban notes? You can find them here.