Commander Rules FAQ

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Post by cryogen » 1 year ago

The Purpose of this FAQ


This thread is meant to provide quick and reliable answers to the more common questions that get asked about the Commander rules and ban list, as well as offer some insight to the way the Rules Committee manages the format. If you do not agree with anything contained within this thread, this is not the place to debate them. However, if you feel that something is outdated, missing, or incorrect, please tag a Commander moderator and leave a comment so that we can make the necessary correction. If you do have something to add, please include relevant rulings or information and provide a link.


The Official Commander Rules

Detailed rules can be found on the official website here.
  • Rule 0: These are the official rules of Commander. Local groups are welcome to modify them as they see fit. If you'd like an exception to these rules, especially in an unfamiliar environment, please get the approval of the other players before the game begins.
  • Rule 1: Players choose a legendary creature as the "commander" for their deck.
  • Rule 2: A card's color identity is its colour plus the color of any mana symbols in the card's rules text. A card's color identity is established before the game begins, and cannot be changed by game effects. The cards in a deck may not have any colors in their color identity which are not in the color identity of the deck's commander.
  • Rule 3: A commander deck must contain exactly 100 cards, including the commander.
  • Rule 4: With the exception of basic lands, no two cards in the deck may have the same english name. Some cards (e.g. Relentless Rats) may have rules text that overrides this restriction.
  • Rule 5: Players begin the game with 40 life.
  • Rule 6: Commanders begin the game in the command zone. While a commander is in the command zone, it may be cast, subject to the normal timing restrictions for casting creatures. Its owner must pay 2 for each time it was previously cast from the command zone; this is an additional cost.
  • Rule 7: If a commander would be put into a library, hand, graveyard, or exile from anywhere, its owner may choose to move it to the command zone instead.
  • Rule 8: Being a commander is not a characteristic [MTG CR109.3], it is a property of the card and tied directly to the physical card. As such, "commander-ness" cannot be copied or overwritten by continuous effects. The card retains its "commander-ness" through any status changes, and is still a commander even when controlled by another player.
  • Rule 9: If a player has been dealt 21 points of combat damage by a particular commander during the game, that player loses a game.
  • Rule 10: Commanders are subject to the Legend rule; a player cannot control more than one legend with the same name.
  • Rule 11: Abilities which bring other card(s) you own from outside the game (such as Living Wish, Spawnsire of Ulamog, Karn, the Great Creator) do not function in Commander.

The Commander Format Philosophy

Full discussion here
The Philosophy of Commander

Commander is for fun. It's a socially interactive, multiplayer Magic: the Gathering format full of wild interactions and epic plays, specifically designed as an alternative to tournament Magic. As is fitting for a format in which you choose an avatar to lead your forces into battle, Commander focuses on a resonant experience. Each game is a journey the players share, relying on a social contract in which each player is considerate of the experiences of everyone involved--this promotes player interaction, inter-game variance, a variety of play styles, and a positive communal atmosphere. At the end of an ideal Commander game, someone will have won, but all participants will have had the opportunity to express themselves through their deck building and game play.

The rules of Commander are designed to maximize these experiences within a game of Magic. The addition of a commander, larger life total, and deck building restrictions emphasize the format's flavor; they increase deck variance and add more opportunities for participation and expression.

The goal of the ban list is similar; it does not seek to regulate competitive play or power level, which are decisions best left to individual play groups. The ban list seeks to demonstrate which cards threaten the positive player experience at the core of the format or prevent players from reasonable self-expression. The primary focus of the list is on cards which are problematic because of their extreme consistency, ubiquity, and/or ability to restrict others' opportunities.

No single rule can establish criteria for a ban; there are many mitigating or exacerbating factors. Some cards will represent an extreme on a single axis; others are a confluence of multiple smaller issues. The following list isn't exhaustive, nor is it a checklist, but it represents ways in which cards challenge the positive experiences players look for in commander games. It includes cards which easily or excessively

• Cause severe resource imbalances
• Allow players to win out of nowhere
• Prevent players from contributing to the game in a meaningful way.
• Cause other players to feel they must play certain cards, even though they are also problematic.
• Are very difficult for other players to interact with, especially if doing so requires dedicated, narrow responses when deck-building.
• Interact poorly with the multiplayer nature of the format or the specific rules of Commander.
• Lead to repetitive game play.

Cards which are banned likely meet a few of these criteria in a significant way; not all cards which meet some of the criteria need to banned.

We prefer to be conservative with what goes on or comes off the ban list. Commander players often become emotionally attached to their decks through play and personalization, and we value that experience highly. We only want to disrupt that bond when necessary.

Commander is designed to be a malleable format. We encourage groups to use the rules and the ban list as a baseline to optimize their own experience. This is not license for an individual to force their vision onto a play group, but encouragement for players to discuss their goals and how the rules might be adjusted to suit those goals. The format can be broken; we believe games are more fun if you don't.


The Current Official Commander Ban List

Most Recent Banlist Update Announcement
Past Announcements
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This list is compiled from all ban announcements posted on the defunct official forums as well as their current website. A full list of all announcements can be found here.
The Official Banlist
In addition, the following categories of cards ban the following:
All cards that Wizards has removed from constructed formats
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Frequently Asked Questions

What is "the spirit of EDH"?
Who exactly is in charge of the Commander ban lists?
What is the Commander Advisory Group?
What goes on at the quarterly Rules Committee meetings?
When is the ban list updated?
Is there more than one Commander ban list?
What was the "Watch List"?
What was "Perceived Barrier to Entry"?
Why and when was Card X banned?
The Mulligan Rule
The optional Sideboard Rule
"Wish" Effects and Cards That Reference "Outside the Game"
How does the companion mechanic work in Commander?
Can I run off-color hybrid mana cards in my deck?
Can I run Extort cards in a mono-white/black deck?
Can I use planeswalkers as a commander(s)
Relentless Rats (and the One-Of Rule)
What is the official stance on gold bordered cards?
Poison Counters
Commanders and the Legend Rule
Commanders and Hidden Information
What happens when my general gets tucked?
What happens when I exile someones general face down?
Putting cards into the command zone which aren't your general


What is "The Spirit of the EDH"?

The spirit of the EDH is the idea that playing Commander is a shared experience among all participants, and that the enjoyment of the group is greater than the enjoyment of any one player. It is the idea that while winning is naturally a goal, as it is in most games, the goal of Commander is for all players to have fun playing. As Sheldon and others have said, Commander is an easy format to break, the secret is to not break it.


Who exactly is in charge of the Commander ban lists?

Commander is managed by the Rules Committee (RC), a group of individuals not directly tied to Wizards of the Coast, although they do have a relationship with WotC. Currently, the RC consists of:
  • Sheldon Menery - founding member of the RC, retired level 5 judge
  • Gavin Duggan (aka Genomancer) - founding member of the RC, former level 3 judge
  • Toby Elliott (aka papa_funk) - level 5 judge, works on Magic Tournament Rules and the Infraction Procedure Guide
  • Scott Larabee - former level 3 judge, works for WotC as Tabletop Operations Manager for Esports
Past members of the Rules Committee were:
  • Devon Rule
  • Alex Kinney
  • Kevin Desprez
  • Duncan McGregor

What is the Commander Advisory Group?

The Commander Advisory Group (CAG) is a group of individuals who are able to use their community presence and experience to both help promote the message of Commander as well as act as a funnel to receive much more feedback that the RC could on their own, and then distill that information to the RC. Much like their name implies, they advise the Rules Committee and can offer feedback and differing viewpoints from their diverse backgrounds. Because they are an advisory group only, they do not have any voting privileges and cannot directly make changes to the format. The current members of the CAG are:
  • Adam Styborski
  • Charlotte Sable
  • DeQuan Watson
  • Greg Sablan
  • Jim LaPage
  • Josh Lee Kwai
  • Olivia Gobert-Hicks
  • Rachel Agnes
  • Rachel Weeks
  • Shivam Bhatt
Past members of the CAG include:
  • Ron Foster

What goes on at the quarterly Rules Committee meetings?

The quarterly meetings, held on private Discord channels, take place approximately two weeks before the ban announcement and consist of two sessions. The first is a meeting with the CAG, in which the RC will give the CAG the floor to bring up any concerns or points of discussion that they wish. Sometimes, the RC will give the CAG a specific topic to address, and the CAG will discuss this topic. Typically, the RC will not give the CAG advance notice of what they will discuss in their meeting or what actions they may take.

After the meeting with the CAG, the Rules Committee will hold their own meeting at which time they discuss any number of agenda items, particular cards, do a thought exercise about a single card, and if necessary hold a vote. Voting is done on a "+2 to -2" scale, with each member voting on how strongly they want to take action.

Depending on any rules changes being made, the CAG will be given advance notice (by like a day or two), so that they will not be blindsided and can be prepared to respond to other players asking about the change.


When is the ban list updated?

Ban announcements take place on the Monday after prerelease weekend. However, beginning with the January 2021 announcement, they will occur on the Monday before prerelease weekend.


Is there more than one Commander ban list?

Short answer no, longer answer yes. There is only one ban list for Commander, which is maintained by the Commander Rules Committee. However, There is a 1v1 Commander format on MTGO which has its own ban list maintained by WotC. Additionally, Duel Commander (also a 1v1 format) has its own ban list and Rules Committee. For more information on Duel Commander, you can visit their website.


What was the "Watch List?"

The Watch List was a list of cards that the Rules Committee was formally keeping a watch on as a consideration for banning. This list caused confusion among players who mistakenly thought the cards were banned, or tried to force playgroups to ban, and the general consensus among the RC was that there was not enough of a benefit to maintaining the list. The list was officially removed in June of 2009. You can see an example of what it looked like here.


What was "Perceived Barrier to Entry"?

Perceived barrier to entry (PBtE) was a ban list criteria that is no longer used any more. In the earliest days of the format, the founders wanted to hit home the idea that EDH was not just alt-Vintage and was actually a casual format. To achieve this, they banned Library of Alexandria and the Power 9 with the exception of Timetwister. These cards were already problematic in their own regards, but they also were very iconic cards and the idea was that potential new players shouldn't spectate a game and get turned away from the format thinking it required these Vintage staples.

When PBtE was still listed in the philosophy document it was stated by multiple members of the RC that it was unlikely any additional cards would be banned for this reason. Additionally, it is highly unlikely that any of the cards banned for this reason get unbanned, as they are all ubiquitous as well as prohibitively expensive and rare, meaning everyone would want to use them but only a privileged few would be able to.


Why and when was card X banned?
Ancestral Recall
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Ancestral Recall
Originally banned: unknown
Unbanned: never

Ancestral Recall was banned as part of the Power 9 (minus Timetwister and Library of Alexandria) due to its perceived barrier to entry, which you can read more about above. It is also a very powerful draw spell and if legal, would be ubiquitous to the format.
Balance
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Balance
Originally banned: unknown
Unbanned: never

The ironically named Balance is nothing but balanced. When it was played in 60-card Magic the strategy was to rush out artifacts and enchantments, emptying your hand. Then once you cast Balance you have effectively stripped your board from your opponents, leaving you with mana rocks and enchantments. Now that planeswalkers exist, the card is even stronger. It also only costs two mana, making it too powerful of an effect for its cost, especially in multiplayer formats.

Sheldon has famously said that Balance would be the last card he ever unbanned if it were up to him.
Biorhythm
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Biorhythm
Originally banned: unknown
Unbanned: never

Biorhythm was banned because it creates undesirable game states in the form of anticlimactic wins that invalidate the game up until that point. It creates games where you just cast a wrath, play a cheap creature and then Biorhythm for the win.

Author's opinion: Biorhythm was banned a long time ago and quality of spells has increased dramatically since then. However, while the card itself likely isn't nearly as problematic as it was many years ago, it does not add anything interesting to the format and is therefore unlikely to be unbanned.
Black Lotus
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Black Lotus
Originally banned: unknown
Unbanned: never

Black Lotus was banned as part of the Power 9 (minus Timetwister and Library of Alexandria) due to its perceived barrier to entry, which you can read more about above. It is also a very powerful mana rock and if legal, would be ubiquitous to the format.
Braids, Cabal Minion
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Braids, Cabal Minion
Originally banned (as a commander: June 2009
Fully banned: September 2014
Unbanned: never

The original announcement where she was banned as a commander cites two issues with Braids: first that getting her out early can be a hard lock to break out of if you aren't prepared for it, and second that the Rules Committee didn't want games devolve into being about a single card as soon as it hits the table.

Diving deeper into Braids, her strategy is one that is largely antithetical to Commander, namely stax and resource denial. While there are numerous legal cards that do this already, they generally don't see play unless they are part of a deck designed to do those things - something you know what you're doing when you build the deck. On the other hand, Braids can be built in any number of manners, and as long as you can include some way to keep her happy (such as token generation) then you don't have to devote a lot of deck space to her. This makes her an efficient choice, especially since her low cmc means she can get out early and slow down your opponents.

Legend has it that in the early days of the format Aaron Forsythe build a very brutal Braids deck that could consistently beat a table of any number of opponents, and that this was one of the driving factors to ban her. So if you're upset that you can't build a Braids deck, send your angry e-mails to him.
Channel
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Channel
Originally banned: June 2010

The announcement cites fast mana being a problem in the post-Eldrazi world, especially the ability to first or second turn into Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or similar. This ban seems like a no-brainer and a card which should have been banned sooner, since Channel takes advantage of the higher life totals in Commander and the fact that you can comfortably cast a large colorless card or X-spell and still have a decent life total.
Chaos Orb
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Chaos Orb
Originally banned: unknown
Unbanned: never

Chaos Orb was banned along with Falling Star for being a card relying on manual dexterity. In an effort to be as inclusive as possible to players, cards which require manual dexterity were banned from all formats. When Commander used "Vintage-legal cards only" as one of its criteria on the ban list Chaos Orb was lumped in with that, but the banning of Lurrus of the Dream-Den in Vintage required separating from Vintage and specifying that Chaos Orb was banned.
Coalition Victory
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Coalition Victory
Originally banned: unknown
Unbanned: never

Coalition Victory was banned due to a combination of interacting poorly with the format, being ubiquitous (in its color combination), and creating undesirable game states. The reason it interacts poorly with the format is due to the presence of the Command Zone, and the fact that you always have access to a creature that meets one of the conditions of the card. (Note that as time has passed WotC has leaned more on creating five color decks outside of the traditional methods, Golos, Tireless Pilgrim, for example.) This, combined with the ease of getting all five land types among lands makes meeting the conditions on the card much easier than it was intended. For this reason the card would be nearly ubiquetous to five color decks and if you were running a true five color general then Coalition Victory becomes a one card win condition, requiring no additional slots in your deck to make it work.

It creates undesirable game states in a couple of different ways. First, any five color deck will be assumed to run CV. Therefore, it would not be wrong to assume that once they have 8 mana in the appropriate lands and their general then they can win out of nowhere at any time. Thus, the appropriate couse of action is to keep removing their general regardless of any other threat, or to keep blowing up their lands as needed. This creates bad experiences and is not the kind of game the Rules Committee wishes to promote. Secondly, CV has only two modes. You cast it and either someone disrupts it in some fashion and the game moves on, or the game ends on the spot regardless of everything up until that point or board states. These anticlimatic wins aren't something that people tend to enjoy playing against.
Crucible of Worlds
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Crucible of Worlds
Originally banned: unknown
Unbanned: March 2009

According to the announcement, Cruicble was commonly being used in conjunction with Strip Mine and Wasteland, which as anyone who has been on the wrong side of that can tell you, sucks hard. However, the Rules Committee felt that the multiplayer aspect of the format would keep this combo in check and that it could actually help keep explosive decks in check.
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
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Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
Originally banned: December 2010
Unbanned: never

According to the announcement, Emrakul had two strikes against her. The first is that the game devolved into being all about her whenever she hit the table. From old discussions, she was a constant Bribery target, and well as fueled by fast mana ramp. The second strike against her in the announcement was the combination of her abilities. Even when you didn't cast her to get an extra turn, protection and annihilator 6 was still quite destructive and she was commonly used as a finisher in many decks.
Erayo, Soratami Ascendant
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Erayo, Soratami Ascendant // Erayo's Essence
Originally banned (as a Commander): September 2011
Fully banned: September 2014
Unbanned: never

Erayo was originally banned as a Commander because it is a very linear deck that promotes unfun games by slowing them down to a crawl. Additionally, because it creates a soft lock, players will typically continue to drag out the game in the hopes that they can find a way out of the lock. It is also a card that is easy to point to as an example of games and strategies to avoid.

When the Banned as a Commander list was abolished, this was an easy card to fully ban. Even in the 99 it wasn't a card that promotes the kind of games the format encourages, but it was tolerable due to the increased variance. However, with that option gone Erayo was fully banned.
Falling Star
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Falling Star
Originally banned: unknown
Unbanned: never

Falling Star was banned along with Chaos Orb for being a card relying on manual dexterity. In an effort to be as inclusive as possible to players, cards which require manual dexterity were banned from all formats. When Commander used "Vintage-legal cards only" as one of its criteria on the ban list Falling Star was lumped in with that, but the banning of Lurrus of the Dream-Den in Vintage required separating from Vintage and specifying that Falling Star was banned.
Fastbond
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Fastbond
Originally banned: June 2009
Unbanned: never

According to the ban announcement, Fastbond was being used "overwhelmingly... to fuel a degenerate combo", coupled with the higher life totals that Commander offers. It mentions combos with Crucible of Worlds, so presumably Fastbond was being used to Strip Mine entire mana bases.

Antisocial combos aside, Fastbond can generate too much mana too quickly, and as noted the higher life totals makes it interact poorly with the format. Most colors have numerous ways to refill your hand, and combining them with Fastbond means that you can very quickly ramp far ahead of your opponents.
Flash
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Flash
Originally banned: April 2020
Unbanned: never

When Protean Hulk was unbanned, it didn't make much of a splash in casual Commander as some people feared it would. But where it did see play was in cEDH (as well as higher power Commander just below cEDH tier). It turns out that using Flash to get a Hulk trigger on turn 1 or 2 is a pretty good play. At first, Flash/Hulk was good and maybe slightly better than everything else, but it had answers and the metagame was diverse. However, the combination of banning Paradox Engine (which was also a cEDH strategy) and the printing of Thassa's Oracle pushed all other decks out and Flash/Hulk dominated cEDH.

The RC has historically been in the mindset of ignoring cEDH and letting them manage their own format, since Commander isn't a competitive format. However, they and the CAG spoke at great length with a number of members from the cEDH community and were satisfied that banning Flash would a) greatly impove the health of cEDH by bringing back diversity, and b) be a one time ban.
Gifts Ungiven
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Gifts Ungiven
Originally banned: June 2009
Unbanned: never

Exactly one update after announcing that Gifts was on the Watch List, it was given the axe and banned. According to the announcement it was deemed too powerful for its cost (more on that in a second) and it was a single card combo that tutored up your two card combo and a way to recur it, which at the time was "completely contrary to the EDH vision".

Expanding more on the too powerful for its cost, Gifts is a 4cmc instant which lets you tutor up to four cards, then two go into your graveyard and the rest into your hand. This card was originally designed for 60-card decks where diluting your deck by running one- and two-ofs in order to make the most of this was seen as a drawback (plus, in a Standard environment WotC could keep combos out of the format). Further, as an instant you could easily cast this at end of turn, then untap, play a land, and have enough mana to win. Which means that as opposed to a certain nine mana sorcery, you didn't actually have to have all your mana at once to win.

Although the philosophy of Commander has shifted in the past 10+ years towards a more laissez-faire attitude of banning cards solely for being combo enablers, the RC seem to feel that Gifts is still just over the edge. In all fairness, it probably is still too good for the format. There are a number of generals and decks that would love to have Gifts legal, but in those decks it would basically be an instant speed four card tutor for four mana, like in Bruna, Light of Alabaster or Muldrotha, the Gravetide, for example.
Grindstone
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Grindstone
Originally banned: September 2008
Unbanned: December 2009

The announcement states that Grindstone was banned due to its combo with Painter's Servant, and at the time the Rules Committee felt that Painter's Servant had more "legitimate" uses. (Spoiler alert: this would change when Iona, Shield of Emeria gets printed in a later set.) When Painter's / Iona locks became more prevalant and it was necessary to ban Painter's Servant, Grindstone was no longer problematic for the format and it was unbanned.
Griselbrand
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Griselbrand
Originally banned: June 2012
Unbanned: never

Griselbrand was a card that when spoiled looked completely busted. As a Yawgmoth's Bargain on a large demon that regained life that you were spending to draw cards, it drew a lot of attention. And whether in the Command Zone or in the 99, the high cmc was no deterrent for getting him into play fast. Within one ban list cycle he had demonstrated just what was predicted and quickly banned.
Iona, Shield of Emeria
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Iona, Shield of Emeria
Originally banned: July 2019
Unbanned: never

For many years, Iona was considered to have a sufficiently high mana cost and represented a big splashy creature that was part of a tribe enjoyed by casual players, both of which combined with relatively low usage allowed her to remain legal. However, the Rules Committee acknowledged that the card itself was not part of a strategy that was enjoyed or promoted by Commander. The tipping point came with the formation of the Commander Advisory Group, who near unanimously thought it should be banned. This, combined with the modest voices against her within the community that had been vocal for many years caused the RC to reassess her legality in Commander.

The issue with Iona is that she has a tendency to either partially shut off the most represented color at the table or to shut off one person completely. With the former, the table has an incentive to remove her, but typically with the latter most players wouldn't waste their removal on Iona if it didn't affect them. This meant that one player has to sit and watch, hoping they can draw into an answer (if they even have one), or try to make deals with the table for assistance. For players running monocolor decks, often this means that in order to prepare for the possibility of seeing Iona they have to run colorless removal, which typically is worse than in-color removal - something else the RC does not want to encourage.
Karakas
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Karakas
Originally banned: September, 2008
Unbanned: never

Context: Prior to September 2008 certain cards were given format specific errata. Karakas was one such card which received an additional rule that it couldn't target a player's commander. In September 2008 the Rules Committee did away with all format specific errata and banned Karakas.

Karakas, in this announcement, was described as a card which was too good at removing a general and too difficult to deal with. Expanding on this announcement, it interacts poorly with the format because it can efficiently keep a player from having their general in play, which is a huge feel-bad in a format that specifically builds around a legendary creature. Lands are also a difficult card type to deal with, and while spot removal for them has improved over the years, the Rules Committee doesn't want to encourage a notion that land destruction is a necessary part of deck building. Lastly, because it comes into play untapped, taps for colored mana, has no activation cost, and can be used to protect your general as well as remove ones from your opponent, it would be a staple in white and ubiquitous to every single white deck.
Kokusho, the Evening Star
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Kokusho, the Evening Star
Originally banned: Febuary 2008
Unbanned in the 99 (but still banned as a Commander): September 2012
Fully unbanned: September 2014

According to the ban announcement, Kokusho was considered too problematic because the general strategy was to continuously let him die and reanimate him. This life gain and life loss was deemed too swingy, even with Recurring Nightmare being removed from the format at the same time. Also, it was noted (along with Recurring Nightmare) that power level versus cost was a factor, indicating that during this era there was a concern that mana cost should reflect how an effect played out in a multiplayer game, and that an imbalance could be cause for banning. However....

On the September 2012 announcement Kokusho was unbanned in the 99 and placed on the "Banned as a Commander" list. According to the announcement, graveyard hate had sufficiently improved over the years and power level of creatures in general had increased to the point where Kokusho was no longer problematic when you could just exile him once (as opposed to being in the command zone).

During the September 2014 announcement the rules were changed removing the "Banned as a Commander" separate list. It then became necessary to evaluate the four cards on this list. Kokusho, while still annoying as a card had proven to not be problematic enough to fully ban so the decision was made to fully unban him.
Leovold, Emissary of Trest
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Leovold, Emissary of Trest
Originally banned: April 2017
Unbanned: never

Leovold was banned, as the announcement states, for creating undesirable game states - even unintentionally, by locking other players out of the game.

Leovold was a very powerful card. His first ability combined with his color set encourages you to play Windfall effects in order to efficiently strip opponents' hands. His second ability also gives you added value by rewarding you for spot removal aimed your way. This combination made for a very enticing general, and even without intentionally building a strong deck it was easy to unintentionally build a deck that wasn't fun to play against.
Library of Alexandria
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Library of Alexandria
Originally banned: unknown
Unbanned: never

Library of Alexandria was banned along with the Power 9 (minus Timetwister) due to its perceived barrier to entry, which you can read more about above. It is a card which is undeniably strong, although there is disagreement as to just how strong and ubiquitous it would be. However, there is a general consensus that it would be played a lot if people could afford it. Of course, this is part of the problem since it is a very rare and expensive card and any potential benefit to allowing players to use it would be vastly offset by players upset that they couldn't get one.
Limited Resources
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Limited Resources
Originally banned: June, 2008
Unbanned: never

The announcement is very vague and minimal, saying only that there was near-universal approval among the players and it was a unanimous decision among the Rules Committee.

To break down the card further, Limited Resources checks a couple of boxes. Most importantly, it was not designed for multiplayer games and even without outside assistance if you play this on turn 1 you and one other player get 3 lands while everyone else is stuck on two. Add even the mildest form of ramp such as a Rampant Growth and your opponents have even less lands. Secondly, it is a card which makes games drag out because it is harder to do things while choked with no mana. The types of games this card produces are not ones which the Rules Committee wants to promote, and while social stigma can keep many of those offending cards legal, Limited Resources does this in an insidious manner which can draw unsuspecting players to it, unaware at how it will affect the game.

About the only fair use of this card is playing it late game to reset people's lands to a manageable amount, and there are other ways to do this.
Lion's Eye Diamond
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Lion's Eye Diamond
Originally banned: September 2008
Unbanned: September 2011

The announcement states that LED was banned due to its combo with Auriok Salvagers, and at the time the Rules Committee felt that Salvagers had more "legitimate" uses. As the years progressed the Rules Committee moved away from banning cards for strictly combo usage and LED was unbanned.
Lutri, the Spellchaser
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Lutri, the Spellchaser
Originally banned: April 2020
Unbanned: never

Lutri was banned because the Rules Committee hates otters.

Ok, that's probably not true, but it is the running joke. Lutri was banned because it interacts poorly with the format. Companion is a mechanic which allows you access to a 101st card, providing you meet the condition on the card. Because Lutri's condition is literally something you already have to adhere to in Commander (yes, there are some exceptions), Lutri is a free extra card in your deck, simply for being in the correct colors. This creates an advantage for certain decks and there would be no opportunity cost to running Lutri as a companion in every deck that contains both blue and red.

The power level of Lutri has absolutely NOTHING to do with the reason it was banned. The RC has stated that it could have been a vanilla 1/1 and it still would have been banned.
Metalworker
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Metalworker
Originally banned: March 2009
Unbanned: September 2014

The announcement states that this was banned for producing too much mana too quickly.

This fast mana imbalance was an early concern of the format, but was one which was often applied on a case by case basis. Metalworker and Tolarian Academy were problematic, but Gaea's Cradle was not.

Ultimately, the Rules Committee decided that the trade-off of having to built around Metalworker to get the most mana out of it combined with using that mana to cast your artifacts (thus making it more like a very strong ritual effect), combined with being a fragile card type that was easy to remove and had summoning sickness meant that it would be safe to unban.
Mox Emerald, Jet, Pearl, Ruby, and Sapphire
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Mox Emerald, Mox Jet, Mox Pearl, Mox Ruby, Mox Sapphire
Originally banned: unknown
Unbanned: never

The five original Mox were banned along with Library of Alexandria and the rest of the Power 9 (with the exception of Timetwister) due to their perceived barrier to entry, which you can read more about above. Individually, each of these would not be problematic if legal from a power level standpoint, but combined they contribute to adding more fast mana to the format. They would also be ubiquitous and every single deck should be running each appropriate one, no small feat for cards as rare and expensive as they are.
Painter's Servant
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Painter's Servant
Originally banned: December 2009
Unbanned: July 2019

Painter's Servant has been the subject of much discussion since it was printed. It has a very unique effect which can be used in some interesting ways, some of them cool and others not so much. It's first impact on the ban list was when it was being comboed with Grindstone, causing the latter to get banned, as the Rules Committee felt that Painter's had legitimate uses. Shortly thereafter when Iona, Shield of Emeria was printed, the RC reversed course and banned Painter's Servant. At the time they felt like Iona was an indication that WotC was still messing around in the "color matters" design space and that Painter's was the true offending card.

For many years the community would voice their opinion in support of unbanning Painter's Servant but the Rules Committee was steadfast in their belief that the negative uses for Painter outweighed the positive uses, citing cards like Deathgrip. WotC also printed Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, showing no indication of shying away from "color matters" design space. This worried the Rules Committee as well. However, the community never gave up, and combined with their support for unbanning Painter's and dislike for Iona (which was supported by the newly formed Commander Advisory Group) the RC banned Iona and unbanned Painter.
Panoptic Mirror
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Panoptic Mirror
Originally banned: unknown
Unbanned: never

Mirror is banned due to its tendency to create undesirable game states. There are a number of categories of cards which grind games to a halt until Mirror is removed, such as extra turn spells and board wipes. Even more innocuous cards like draw spells and ramp spells can become overpowered when cast every turn. It is also a card that you want to maximize value from, meaning that even when decks first start imprinting smaller spells onto Mirror, they tend to add stronger cards over time.
Paradox Engine
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Paradox Engine
Originally banned: July 2019
Unbanned: never

Paradox Engine was another card which when banned was received with mixed reviews. A number of players were happy, but it had a large following and was also enjoyed by the cEDH community as a card which helped increase deck diversity. It was banned for being problematic to the format: both in providing wins from nowhere as well as unintentionally hurting games.

P. Engine is a card which requires little deck building cost, as it most frequently gets paired with cheap mana rocks which tend to get played already. So as long as your are able to keep your hand filled by casting spells then you can reasonably generate large quantities of mana with very little effort. The expense of doing this is that turns tend to get drawn out. It's not a simple thing like flickering Palinchron other infinite mana combos where you demonstrate the loop and then the table can agree that you have infinite mana. You have to manually cast each spell, untap and retap your mana rocks, then track everything (sometimes storm count is mixed in as well, complicating things even more). Often times, your opponents are just stuck sitting around and waiting while you try to achieve whatever it is you're doing.

This isn't always the case. Sometimes the player will have clear lines and can quickly win with Engine. And sometimes the player is skilled enough to efficiently track everything and the turn(s) don't take so long. But there was enough of a variance that players were vocal about their dislike for the card.
Primeval Titan
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Primeval Titan
Originally banned: September 2012
Unbanned: never

Primeval Titan is perhaps one of the most contentious bans to date. At the time of its ban it was widely played and loved by Rules Committee and players alike. The announcement doesn't go into much detail, mentioning only how prevalent ramp strategies were (and this card being one of the most egregious examples), as well as the ubiquity and effect on the game.

Expanding more on the ubiquity and effect on the game, Primeval Titan was one of the best, if not the best ramp cards in the format, stapled to a large body. It was very commonly played in green decks and decks that did not run green would include cards expecting that other players were going to play it. It was commonly a target for Bribery, and once in play it was the prime target for Clones and Animate Dead. Three and five color decks that ran very few swamps would run Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Cabal Coffers because it could reliably tutor both cards out with a Primeval Titan. Dark Depths and Thespian's Stage was a common combo as well.

Without being an active player at the time, it is hard to state how subtly the format was warped around Primeval Titan, because on the surface it only ramps a player. But due to the abundance of other ramp and ways to cheat out large creatures, Primeval Titan often started accelerating one player early on in the game and either one players would snowball in mana advantage or multiple players would, and games ended much faster than intended.
Prophet of Kruphix
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Prophet of Kruphix
Originally banned: January 2016
Unbanned: never

Prophet of Kruphix is listed as a card which was ubiquitous to the format despite being a multicolored card. It was so prevalent, in fact, that it was driving deck choices rather than being chosen once a player decided on the colors of the deck. In game, the impact of the card was noticeable. It generated lots of mana and let you take a mini turn during each of your opponents' turns. It also meant that once you cast her, you immediately had the mana needed to protect her at all times. Games became similar to how they were with Primeval Titan so many years prior, with the game suddenly being focused on who could control Prophet and/or remove her.

Despite all this, she remained legal for a period of time because as a creature with a relatively fragile body that theoretically died fairly easily. Something as simple as a Lightning Bolt on their end step before the Prophet player gets a chance to untap, or a Wrath of God which doesn't allow the Prophet player to flash in a Clone should have been enough to keep her in check. But in practice, these methods were not nearly as effective, especially in the lower power games where she was most played.
Protean Hulk
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Protean Hulk
Banned: September 2008
Unbanned: April 2017

The original ban announcement called Protean Hulk an easy to tutor for one card combo which had multiple combos to kill the entire table. It went on to state that as a combo it was showing up in multiple groups and was especially prevalent among competitive play. It also required cheap permission, hand disruption, or instant speed exile effects to stop it, and the Rules Committee did not want players to feel forced to fill their decks with those types of cards.

Fast forward to 2017. The unbanning announcement lists a few factors which led to its unban. Primarily, the RC had been leaning towards unbanning it for a while, and support for this among the players had been constantly increasing. Coupled with this was that card quality had been getting better and there were many more tools available in the nine years since it was banned. Lastly, the RC felt it would not be as centralizing as it had been so many years ago.

Adding onto what was stated in the announcements, in 2008 when the format was still trying to find itself from a philosophical standpoint, the Rules Committee was trying to steer away from cards which existed largely to combo out on, and cards were banned for their combo potential. By 2017 most every card which had been originally banned as a combo card had been unbanned and the RC had honed their mindset of "we know you can build a fast combo deck if you want to, we just don't encourage you to" and letting the social contract handle combo decks rather than the ban list, especially when the cards in question had casual value, as Hulk does.
Recurring Nightmare
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Recurring Nightmare
Originally banned: Feburary, 2008
Unbanned: never

According to the ban list announcement, Recurring Nightmare was banned for being "extremely powerful for its mana cost. It has a reusable effect that cannot be stopped with enchantment removal, and lets you abuse comes-into-play abilities repeatedly. More, if your graveyard is sufficiently stocked, it's entirely possible that once you draw Recur it is the only spell you'll want to play for the rest of the game."

Expanding on this, Recurring Nightmare is a difficult card to remove once it is in play. Because returning the card to your hand is part of the cost, the only way to effectively deal with it are through counterspells, discard effects, or instant speed graveyard removal (lumped into this is creature removal, since it doesn't target the creature you sacrifice, you need to instantly remove all creatures from that player's board in response to RN being cast). This isn't to suggest that it isn't impossible to get rid of RN, but it is difficult and outside of counterspells these methods aren't commonly used in enough quantities to be effective.

Adding to this, it cannot be overstated how repetitive the turn(s) become for the RN player who is not facing interruption. As it was said in the announcement, once you have an active RN it is likely the only spell you want (or need) to cast. Whether you are just getting repeated value out of something like a Solemn Simulacrum, or looping a Kokusho, the Evening Star, the repetitive nature of the turn is one which tends to make games worse, not better.

Author's note: My own personal opinion is that Recurring Nightmare is a card which could be safely unbanned and it probably wouldn't make the format worse, but it definitely wouldn't make the format better. There is no shortage of ways to repeatedly recur creatures, and this one is just head and shoulders better than them.
Riftsweeper
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Riftsweeper
Banned: September 2008
Unbanned: September 2009

Context: Prior to September 2008 certain cards were given format specific errata. Riftsweeper was one such card which received an additional rule that it couldn't target a player's commander because at the time, generals resided in the exile zone. In September 2008 the Rules Committee did away with all format specific errata.

Similar to Karakas, this card was banned because it interacted poorly with the format, namely the general by being able to pluck a player's general from exile and shuffle it into their library, effectively cutting one player off from having access to the creature they built their entire deck around (or more players if they could repeat the effect through blinking or reanimation effects). At the time, the command zone had not been formalized and the replacement effect did not include generals going into a player's library.

One year later WotC created the command zone - a zone specifically for Planechase where the planes could reside in game but not be affected by other cards. The Rules Committee took this opportunity to make generals begin the game in this zone, and because Riftsweeper could no longer target a general in this zone, it was removed from the ban list.
Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
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Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
Originally banned: unknown
Unbanned: March 2009
Re-banned (as a general only): June 2010
Fully re-banned: September 2014

Ah, Rofellos. Originally banned for too quickly producing mana, he was deemed according to the 2009 announcement as borderline problematic but probably safe. This was presumably the case until the EDH-playing world was introduced to the Eldrazi, a group of very large creatures with splashy abilities and very high casting costs. Of course, for Rofellos this proved to be no deterrent and in 2010 he was banned as a general in the hopes that as part of the 99 he wouldn't be so consistent. Fast forward to September 2014 and the Rules Committee does away with the Banned as a Commander list, and once again Rofellos is under scrutiny. Since he was still just as problematic as a general, the easy decision was made to fully bam him once and for all.
Rune-Tail, Kitsune Attendant
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Rune-Tail, Kitsune Attendant
Banned: Technically never
Unbanned: Technically never, format errata removed September 2008

Context: The when and how surrounding this card are forever lost to history, and the memory of the Rules Committee is hazy. However, at the time, cards were given errata if they interacted poorly due to the specific rules of the format, and Rune-Tail was given errata to prevent it from immediately flipping when it enters the battlefield. Speaking with Gavin, he suspects that it was changed to 50 life, keeping with the "10 higher than starting life total".
Shahrazad
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Shahrazad
Originally banned: September 2011
Unbanned: never

For the longest time, Shahrazad had a special exception allowing it to be played despite EDH at the time being played with "Vintage-legal cards". However, it got banned according to the announcement, because people were trolls and played it just to Fork it and force concessions from their opponents.
Staff of Domination
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Staff of Domination
Originally banned: June 2010
Unbanned: April 2013

The 2010 announcement was sufficiently vague regarding the reason for banning Staff, alluding to degeneracy and its first (untap itself) ability. The unban announcement subsequently discusses turn four wins as being achieved through Staff. Since this card was banned in the same fell swoop that hit other "too much mana too quickly" cards, presumably Staff was being used in conjunction with large amounts of mana in order to fuel combos. As an efficient enabler (and with infinite mana you just draw your deck) that can go into any color deck, it was probably decided that Staff was too much of a problem.

When unbanned, the philosophy document had become more refined and cards which existed just to combo were not seen as the bogeyman that they had been in earlier days. And with plenty of useful things that could be done with Staff when they didn't include infinite mana, the Rules Committee felt that it was safe to unban.
Sundering Titan
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Sundering Titan
Originally banned: June 2012
Unbanned: never
Sundering Titan

File this under "Cards which should have been banned eight years earlier". The announcement states that it was a card which had been borderline for a long time because it created undesirable game states and because the community had continuously speaking out against it.

Sundering Titan is a card which has two uses. The first is as a potent land destruction card, achieved by building your deck around it and running mostly nonbasic lands then bouncing, flickering, and reanimating Titan over and over. Because it is both an enters the battlefield as well as a leaves the battlefield effect, a player can generate massive amounts of value quickly, leaving the other players with few, if any, lands in play.

The second, and more insidious usage of the card was as an "answer" to greedy mana bases and ramp. At the time, dual lands generally fell into two categories: shocks and ABUR duals, and everything else. And a lot of the "everything else" wasn't all that good and mostly came into play tapped. Five color decks and Primeval Titan was very popular as well, and there was a sentiment that mana bases were "greedy". Sometimes people with cheaper mana bases that relied on duals like checklands, filterlands, and bouncelands would feel like they were at a disadvantage and would run Sundering Titan in order to help even the playing field a bit. Sounds great in theory, but in practice it was more common that one opponent would lose multiple lands rather than spreading everything around the table evenly. Also, sometimes the Titan player would be forced to target an opponent who was behind, since Titan requires a target if able. And since the effect triggers when leaving the battlefield as well, this mean kicking a player while they were down.

All in all, games were generally worse because Titan was in existence rather than better. It just took time for the Rules Committee to move away from the philosophy that unfun cards should be tolerated because they were being used to punish other unfun cards.
Sway of the Stars
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Sway of the Stars
Originally banned: unknown
Unbanned: never

Sway was banned due to creating undesirable game states, namely resetting the game and completely invalidating everything up until that point. In the early days of the format when there weren't as many spell-based win conditions, players often looked to large splashy spells as a way to level the playing field. Often this was combined with floating large amounts of mana, doing massive game resets, then casting their hand to gain an advantage.
Sylvan Primordial
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Sylvan Primordial
Originally banned: September 2014
Unbanned: never

Sylvan Primordial was a card which became ubiquitous to green. It was a frequent tutor target, easy to ramp into early on or otherwise cheat into play, and it centralized games by frequently becoming the target for blinking, cloning, and reanimating. It also had an effect which had a large effect: you got to blow up your opponents' cards AND tutor for lands at the same time. To make it worse, the ability was not a may ability, meaning you had to blow up a land if they had no other targets. This created feel-bad moments on multiple occasions where one player would be behind and then get set back even further.
Test of Endurance
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Test of Endurance
Banned: unknown
Unbanned: September 2008

According to the ban announcement, which also removed format level errata, the Rules Committee had a broader discussion on how to approach cards which did things at a specific life total (initiated because the RC had to reevaluate Rune-Tail, Kitsune Ascendant // Rune-Tail's Essence). The decision was made that even though Test of Endurance was a much easier win condition in Commander, it still required enough of a setup that it would not be problematic.
Time Vault
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Time Vault Originally banned: December 2008
Unbanned: never

According to the ban announcement, the card errata was removed on Time Vault which once again made it combo with Twiddle effects, and Time Vault became instantly as problematic as expected.
Time Walk
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Time Walk
Originally banned: unknown
Unbanned: never

Time Walk is the most broken extra turn card in the game. It is also part of the Power 9 and was banned due to its perceived barrier to entry. But even without that it is horribly broken and would be beyond ubiquitous.
Tinker
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Tinker
Originally banned: March 2009
Unbanned: never

The announcement states that Tinker was banned because it cheaply tutors high cost artifacts into play, naming Sundering Titan, Mindslaver, and Darksteel Colossus as examples.

Nothing has changed about this card in the years since. There are still a plethora of cheap artifacts to sacrifice and no shortage of expensive targets which would immediately centralize or end games.
Tolarian Academy
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Tolarian Academy
Originally banned: June 2010
Unbanned: never

Tolarian Academy, according to the statement, was one of multiple "too much mana too quickly" cards which got banned in the post-Eldrazi world of EDH. The abundance of cheap mana rocks and the ability to chain them into each other to tap for mana meant that you could easily tap for double digit mana within a turn or two.

Tolarian Academy often gets compared to Gaea's Cradle, and while there are definitely similarities between the two, there enough differences that lets Cradle remain unbanned. The first is that creature wraths are much more prevalent than ones which hit artifacts, meaning that Academy will remain active on average for longer than Cradle. Second, cheap mana dorks are not as commonly played in green decks, and often by playing them you are diluting the overall quality of your deck unless your deck is built around them. On the other hand, mana rocks typically get played as ramp regardless. In other words, Academy is easier to just slot in a deck rather than build around and still achieve a significant amount of mana from it. Third, artifacts typically don't come into play tapped and there are playable 0cmc artifacts, so you can immediately get the mana from them to use for more artifacts or other spells. Creatures, on the other hand, have summoning sickness. Therefore you can more quickly tap Academy for mana than you could Cradle.
Trade Secrets
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Trade Secrets
Originally banned: April 2013
Unbanned: never

Trade Secrets was a ban that probably came out of left-field for many players. It was a card which you either never saw or you saw it ruin games. Comparing it to Limited Secrets, the announcement states that it has an unintended effect in a multiplayer game. Unlike two-player games where you only have one opponent to face and you must decide whether it is better to deny your opponent cards or not, in a multiplayer game the decision is more often whether by you and your opponent drawing cards you can win faster than them, at the expense of the other players at the table. So typically two players would draw a lot of cards in their decks, with one player digging for a way to win and the other player either doing the same or trying to draw into a way to stop the other player, leaving the rest of the table effectively out of the game.

Trade Secrets was also used as a collusion card, generally in tournaments, although this was less common. It also isn't something that the Rules Committee was too focused on since tournament Commander has a different mentality when it comes to deckbuilding and play. But this certainly factored into the overall decision to ban Trade Secrets a little, since players do enjoy things like tournaments and leagues, and most of them want to have honest games.
Upheaval
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Upheaval
Originally banned: unknown
Unbanned: never

Upheaval was banned during the era of EDH when some of the stronger plays was to reset the game through various methods. While many of these cards remained legal, the ones which were the most one-sided, slowed the game down the most, or invalidated the game tended to get banned..

Upheaval was one such a card because it was cheap enough that you could float all your mana, cast it, then play your land and cheap cards, usually mana rocks. This allowed you to have a strategy where everyone else was restarting the game on turn one while you started much higher.
Worldfire
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Worldfire
Originally banned: September 2012
Unbanned: never

Worldfire is another card which was instantly flagged by the Rules Committee as potentially problematic when it was spoiled in the previous announcement. The ban announcement states that the card itself is not a particularly fun one, and despite it not being very powerful it does interact poorly with the format and therefore not something they wanted to be legal.

The reason Worldfire interacts poorly is because since it does not empty your mana pool during resolution, you can simply float all your mana, cast this, and then cast your general from the Command Zone. This effect was obviously unintended when looking at the card, so even though you would need a lot of mana to do this, the parity of the card is broken simply through the existence of the Command Zone.
Worldgorger Dragon
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Worldgorger Dragon
Originally banned: unknown
Unbanned: June 2011

The banning of Wordlgorger predates the old forums, so pending more info from the Rules Committee the actual timeline is lost. However, it formed an infinite combo with Animate Dead and for many years the RC banned cards for being part of a two card combo (usually the more degenerate half which had little legitimate use). The announcement only states that the unnamed combo isn't particularly strong and not something that a social player will gravitate towards.
Yawgmoth's Bargain
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Yawgmoth's Bargain
Originally banned: unknown
Unbanned: never

Yawgmoth's Bargain was banned for a combination of its power as one of the best draw spells despite its mana cost, and interacting poorly with the format. Due to the higher life totals in Commander, you can easily draw double digit cards without having to worry about your life total getting low. And because you can do this at instant speed (as opposed to Necropotence), you can use it reactively to dig for a counterspell or removal.

The Mulligan Rule

Commander uses the same mulligan that is used in most or all other formats [Author's note: not going to commit to an absolute since I can't speak for every format]. Currently, that is the London mulligan.

Commander has gone through numerous mulligan changes, including the unofficial 'Gis' mulligan (where you could mulligan as many times as you needed to, but had to keep a hand with at least three lands), the Partial Paris mulligan (where you could exile cards from your hand, draw one less than the number you exiled and repeat until you had a starting hand, then shuffled all exiled cards back into your library), and the Vancouver mulligan, where you would take your standard mulligans as needed but if your starting hand was less than seven cards you got to scry 1.


The Optional Sideboard Rule (September 15, 2013)

Years ago, the Rules Committee explicitly listed an optional sideboard rule. That is, while sideboards were officially not used in Commander, you could, with your group's permission use on (and presumably Wishes and other "outside the game" effects). However, this created confusion among players as to whether they were legal or not, as well as some players trying to force sideboards on their groups. Ultimately, the Rules Committee decided to remove the optional sideboard rule from Commander altogether.


"Wish" Effects and Cards That Reference "Outside the Game"

Wishes (e.g. Glittering Wish) and "outside the game effects (e.g Spawnsire of Ulamog) do not function in Commander because Commander does not utilize sideboards.

With the printing of the Companion mechanic in Ikoria, Rule 11 which covers outside the game effects was slightly reworded to not allow you to bring other cards you own from outside the game, thus allowing Companions while still preventing Wishes.


How does the companion mechanic work in Commander?

Companion is a mechanic (seen here on Lutri, the Spellchaser - chosen in memorial to our poor otter that never had a chance to be) which lets you have access to a creature much in the same way you would with a commander. In constructed formats that use sideboards, your companion is one of the 15 cards in your sideboard. In casual formats and Commander, the companion just chills outside of the game. The important things to know about your companion in Commander are that:
  • It still has to follow the color identity rules of your commander
  • You still have to follow the one-of rule (meaning you can't have a companion and also the same creature in your deck)
  • Your companion does not count towards your 100 card deck limit (it is the 101st card in your deck)
You can read the full explanation on why the Rules Committee made an exception to allow companion to work here.


Can I run off-color hybrid cards in my deck?

No. Hybrid cards (e.g. Worm Harvest is a black and green card) are mechanically the colors of each mana symbol in their mana cost, and their color identity is the color of each mana symbol in their rules text (e.g. Alesha, Who Smiles at Death is a red card with a white, black, and red color identity). Therefore, the color identity of your general must contain all colors of hybrid card's color identity. So if you were running a Rakdos, Lord of Riots deck you could not add either of these cards to your deck despite being able to cast them and use their activated with only black or red mana.

There has been much contention over the years regarding hybrid mana and how it should be ruled in Commander, notably with Mark Rosewater vocally speaking out against the rule and in favor of the design intent that hybrid mana represents an -OR- state and not an -AND-. Toby Elliott in response said this:
Mark's completely wrong, and I've had extensive emails with him about this explaining the reasons why it's the way it is. He just doesn't like it. He also fails to see it for what it really is - a deckbuilding restriction that has roots in aesthetics designed to make people be more creative.

Inertia has nothing to do with it. We've spent a whole lot of time discussing it and believe that the rule we have is the correct one.

Can I run Extort cards in a mono-white/black deck?

You can! Extort was designed such that the hybrid mana symbol appears only in the reminder text, not in the rules text. That means that Blind Obedience is a white card with a white color identity, and Pontiff of Blight is a black card with a black color identity.


Can I use planeswalkers as a commander(s)?

You can, providing it contains the rules text "~ can be your Commander". These planeswalkers have been designed specifically for Commander, as opposed to ones designed in other sets.


Relentless Rats (and the One-Of Rule)

There are certain cards which state that you may have any number of them in your deck, most famously Relentless Rats (although there are others). Because these cards explicitly state that you may run any number of them, they are not subject to the one-of rule in Commander and you can run as many copies as you want.


What is the official stance on gold border cards?

Officially, gold border cards are not legal in Commander because they do not have a proper Magic back. That said, Commander is a social format and talk with your playgroup. If they want to allow you to run gold border cards then knock yourself out. To paraphrase Sheldon, the Rules Committee isn't going to Kool-Aid Man into your house and tell you how to play Commander.


Poison Counters

Commander does not make a special rule regarding poison counters and you still die as a state-based effect once you have 10 poison counters. It frequently gets brought up to change this from 10 to 15 points to keep you out of Blightsteel Colossus range, or 20 to mirror doubling the life total in 60-card Magic, as well as other numbers. In fact, the Rules Committee considered changing the life total when the infect mechanic was introduced in Scars of Mirrodin, but ultimately felt that it didn't affect the format enough to warrant adding another rule that differed from 60-card formats.


Commanders and the Legend Rule

Concerning the "legend rule", Commanders act as regular legendary permanents while on the battlefield. That is, you can only have one copy of a uniquely named legendary permanent on your battlefield at a time and if you have more than one then all but one of your choice is put into the graveyard as a state-based effect that doesn't use the stack (legendary creatures will trigger any "dies" triggers). This may seem intuitive but over the course of many rules changes to Magic the way that legendary permanents are been treated has changed a number of times.


Commanders and Hidden Information

Being a general is a unique property tied to the physical card ("commanderness"), and as such each player should know where it is at any time. On the battlefield this means that if your general is facedown your opponents still know which card is your commander. In your hand or in the library is a little murkier. There is no rule which explicitly states whether a player can know specifically which card in those zones is a general. And even among the Rules Committee there is no consensus, because the situation in which it would matter is unlikely to occur.


What happens when my general gets tucked?

Prior to the March 2015 update, when your general got "tucked" (placed in your library from another zone, usually on the bottom), your general was indeed placed in your library and remained there until your drew or tutored it back out. However, with the March 2015 update this rule was removed and the Command Zone replacement effect included the library. Now, when your general gets tucked you have the option of moving it back to the Command Zone as a replacement effect if your choose.

Keep in mind that the player in control of the general gets to make the decision, not the owner. So for example if Player B controls your turn with a Mindslaver and then makes you cast Terminus while you have your general out, they can choose to place it in your library.


What happens when I exile someone's general face down?

In the unlikely event that you are able to exile another player's general then there is no special action taken. Previous to the March 2015 update which removed the tuck rule it was easier to exile a general face down, but when the tuck rule was removed the likelihood of this happening was so miniscule that the exception was removed in order to more properly align with the rules and not have an additional exception. To quote Toby Elliott, "In the unlikely situation that you do find yourself with your opponent's commander face-down in exile under your control, the removal of the old mana production rule makes it clearly correct to play it and beat them down with it anyway."


Putting cards into the command zone which aren't your general

There is a unique interaction with Leadership Vacuum and cards which have been melded or mutated with your general which will place them into the command zone if they become the target of Leadership Vacuum. Currently, those cards will go to the command zone and remain there, unable to be recast for the remainder of the game. There are no plans at this time to create a rule addressing this interaction.





This is and will always be a work in progress. However, if in the future you get the urge to make speculations regarding a certain Commander ruling, make sure to check this thread first! You might find your question has already been answered.

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Post by cryogen » 1 year ago

Administrative update:

- added FAQ for companion and what happens when a card that isn't your general goes to the command zone
- updated the official rules to reflect a sneaky-snek update the RC did to their official rules removing some redundant ones
- added a link to the ban announcement archive now that the old forums are dead and not accessible
Sheldon wrote:You're the reason we can't have nice things.

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