Hello again fellow 1v1 Commander enthusiasts. Since we last spoke, we’ve had quite the shakeup.
Cards Added to the Ban List
- Baral, Chief of Compliance
- Demonic Tutor
- Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
- Enlightened Tutor
- Imperial Seal
- Mystical Tutor
- Vampiric Tutor
Just days ago, we saw 7 cards banned from the 1v1 MTGO Commander format. These fresh bans should jolt new life into the format. Combined with the upcoming release of Commander 2017 on MTGO, this makes for an excellent time to jump into the format if you haven’t already. Again, just a reminder, this only applies to the 1v1 Magic Online EDH format controlled by Wizards. For all your multiplayer needs, feel free to play plenty of broken tutors to your heart’s desire.
Today, I’m breaking down each individual ban and unban, as well as the reasons why such cards lead to a worse format overall. Take a seat, students—your tutor is here!
From day one, Baral has been a mainstay of 1v1 Commander. Riding at the helm of the army of Islands, Baral is known to play both long control games and quick combo games. Baral decks can use High Tide and Time Spiral for a combo kill, as well as chain extra turn effects thanks to Baral’s cost reduction ability. Hate him or love him—there is no denying Baral’s top tier power in the format. But was it a good choice to ban him?
My answer: Yes. Baral is one of the most powerful generals in the format and he doesn’t have much of a weakness to exploit. He crushes midrange decks with cheap permission. He races aggro decks with the fast combo potential of Polymorphing into Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. He out grinds other control decks and has smoother mana to boot. The fact that Emrakul got banned alongside him doesn’t mean that Polymorphing your Baral is any less deadly.
Baral decks end games in an unpleasant manner over the course of a long, drawn-out affair. Sometimes you just keep playing with the hope that you will outdraw the Baral deck or they will hit a land clump in the late game and run out of gas. Due to Baral’s looting ability, this virtually never happens and I can certainly stand behind his removal.
Control players, don’t feel blue—Jace is here to save you! Baral, Chief of Compliance players should turn to Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Jace is my go-to mono-blue general and he works excellently with extra turn effects, High Tide, control, and Polymorph. His cheap cost and replayability allow you to abuse his planeswalker side and do crazy things when you keep hitting land drops. He is strong in the early, mid, and late game and for that reason I think we will see the mono-blue space occupied by this Magic Origins legendary creature.
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn’s banning has my full support. WotC has stated that it just ends games abruptly and unpleasantly and I’m sure we are all well aware of these capabilities by now. She may have a solid substitute, but she is still immensely more powerful than her sister card. This Emrakul is already banned in casual EDH and rightfully so. I’ve seen players calling Emrakul’s ban unwarranted because her primary enabler, Baral, just got the ax. So while it may seem like overkill, both of these cards are problematic individually. One’s absence barely diminishes the other’s brokenness. Any cheap, blue legendary creature in your command zone serves as perfectly suitable fodder to twist and mutate into this monstrosity. So long to this Eldrazi menace. You won’t be missed.
In the brief time before the 1v1 online ban list was in effect on MTGO, players (myself included) spent time in the tournament practice room testing out decks. In that time, Baral decks were playing Emrakul, the Promised End in place of the Aeons Torn, due to the fact that the latter was banned online and in casual EDH. While it wasn’t as immediately game-ending, it was pretty darn close. Both Emrakuls truly do bring a promised end to the game, and the one-game-per-match nature of the format leads to some pretty awful feel-bads.
Emrakul, the Promised End trades some of the built-in protection provided by her alter ego for castability. You don’t need a crazy High Tide turn to find yourself casting this feisty sheila. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Polymorph and Proteus Staff just yet.
Before heading into the next section, I feel this is a good time to discuss tutors in Commander. Some players adore them—others decry them. The element of randomness and diversity is something that many players embrace about EDH and ultimately it becomes one of the hallmarks of the format. This is what inspires singleton formats in the first place. Enter tutors.
When it comes to tutors, especially of the unconditional variety, some element of randomness is taken away. Having more consistency to find cards that have few redundant copies printed over the years (Yawgmoth’s Will, Basalt Monolith, Ad Nauseam, Doomsday, etc.) allows for certain decks to thrive. Combo decks find tutors at the center of their game plan since different situations call for different lines. The same can be said about silver bullets and interaction. Depending on what shows up at the table, you may need to tutor up a particular piece of hate like Ethersworn Canonist or Null Rod.
A world without tutors, at least the good ones, is a world where you better learn to “play with what you get.” You already play with a constant in every game of EDH you play—your general. That card will always be there and the inability to be “tucked” means that your general will mostly be there to stay every game. Playing with thousands of variations of draws and taking different lines with your deck is something that tutors set to a much easier mode. I’m not implying that Demonic Tutor is an easy card to play—in fact, it’s quite the opposite. When people ask what the hardest cards in the game to play are, I usually answer: Unconditional tutors. That being said, tutors add an element of ease in assembling combos. It’s like having a wild card in Uno, and that’s just unfair.
There were five tutors banned from the format this time, but I want to start with these three. I believe these three black tutors far outperform the other two on the list when it comes to sheer power level in 99-card formats.
It’s no surprise by now to anyone that blue is the strongest color in 1v1 Commander. It isn’t even particularly close. Black is the second strongest in large part due to these spells. Having an element of redundancy in your deck allows it to be consistent and well-tuned to the vast array of threats you will see in such a large format. To put it another way, if you exclude such access to deck redundancy while your opponent opts to play these powerful spells, you are at a competitive disadvantage. I hope that makes it easier to understand why these three tutors pushed the envelope. If these cards were blue, they would have been banned from day 1. While I certainly don’t feel like black needed any “hosing,” it still doesn’t sit well with me that having these gives you a virtual 4-of of powerful combo pieces or silver bullets.
Personally, I embrace this change. The black tutors were too powerful in 1v1 Commander and led players to heavily consider playing black in their deck just for access to them. I think that the banning of these tutors will allow decks like Breya, Etherium Sculptor and Leovold, Emissary of Trest to remain in the fold without seeing too heavy an uptick in their numbers. Black’s removal and hand disruption make for attractive reasons to play the color. Imperial Seal, Vampiric Tutor, and Demonic Tutor, however, were the Three Musketeers of efficiency and downright absurdity. I think the format is better off without them because the consistency they provide strangles diversity in deck building and game play.
I’ve grouped these two tutors separately from the others due to the gap in their power level. They are still powerful and efficient with a plethora of game-ending targets. Similar to the other tutors, they remove a level of variance that makes singleton formats attractive. Where they differ, though, is in what they can search up.
Since Mystical and Enlightened Tutors are both conditional, it is imperative that you have access to a proper suite of targets. Mystical Tutor has copious options to find including High Tide, Force of Will, Flusterstorm, and Life from the Loam. Many of these spells are ones that you would choose to search up anyway with a Demonic Tutor. Not being able to grab cards like Wasteland or Jace, the Mind Sculptor isn’t enough of a downside for me to consider Mystical Tutor healthy. For that reason, I support its ban.
Enlightened Tutor is a different story. I frequently find myself searching up Sol Ring, Mana Crypt, or a lock piece whenever I cast this cheap tutor. The mana boost you get from those powerful rocks certainly mitigates the card disadvantage gained from casting Enlightened Tutor. Magic Online Commander has those broken mana rocks banned, however. While Enlightened Tutor can still search up Painter’s Servant/Grindstone or Rest in Peace/Helm of Obedience, I don’t think that is too ridiculous to ask for from a tutor. Just like Worldly Tutor and Merchant Scroll, I think Enlightened Tutor falls into a lower tier of tutors than the others. For this reason, I don’t think Enlightened Tutor should have been banned at this time.
As for replacements, we’re in luck! There is the extremely powerful Cruel Tutor! Wait…. oh, Cruel Tutor doesn’t exist on MTGO? Well, nevermind, we are doomed! In all seriousness, Cruel Tutor is pretty bad anyways. There are still plenty of reasonable tutors to choose from.
These tutors are a step down from the others, but hey, that’s what happens when we feel the ban hammer’s wrath. These tutors are strong, but not strong enough to entice players to play black just to play them. I think this is a healthy middle-ground for the format and I am excited to see less of the same draws from the same decks and perhaps a little more diversity.
Cards Removed From the Ban List
The ban hammer giveth and the ban hammer taketh away. I agreed with most of the bans and I definitely agree with the two unbans we got this time around.
All right, I know what you’re probably thinking. “Ugh, Rachel, no, no, no, you can’t allow these degenerate generals into the format.” While I agree these are extremely potent generals in casual Commander, I feel that Magic Online Commander comes equipped with the answers needed to keep these powerful cards in check.
What these generals have in common are their deck’s reliance on them. Traditional Arcum Dagsson and Yisan decks can be somewhat anemic without access to their general, but if they can resolve and protect them, it’s off to the races.
Both decks have strong combo potential. Arcum decks do an excellent job of playing the role of prison or control while assembling their combo. Yisan can cobble together a quick offense as a powerful and consistent plan B if it can’t combo off. These generals have lots to offer as well as many complex lines to victory. I intend to write an article in the near future exploring different Arcum and Yisan deck lists, so stay tuned for that.
As for replacements, there aren’t any powerful artifact-centric decks dominating the 1v1 scene at the moment. Breya decks simply use artifacts as an afterthought, but that’s mostly a midrange/control deck. Arcum decks should make a nice new addition to the metagame and I don’t think it will really push anything out of the current scene.
Yisan is pretty much just a better Nissa, Vastwood Seer. I would be shocked if Nissa still had a home in the format going forward, since Yisan just does so many things better than her. Yisan has speed as well as late-game potential, so I look forward to testing him out myself.
That wraps up this article on 1v1 Commander. The large amount of data available from MTGO lets WotC keep the most broken things in check in a timely fashion. Yes, frequent bans are unhealthy for the most part, but I feel that the alternative of stagnant format growth and mediocre game play is far worse. What are your thoughts about the bans? Do you foresee the unbanned generals seeing play? Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading. Until next time, make sure to pack your Cursed Totems even though you can’t tutor them.