In the world of EDH/Commander, the hammer has just fallen on Prime Time. In the September Banned List update rules judge Sheldon Menery has announced the following changes:
Unbanned in EDH:
Kokusho, the Evening Star
Banned as Commander:
Kokusho, the Evening Star
From the official rules release:
This banning was largely expected. While the card itself isn’t overpowered, it does have unfortunate interactions with the format, namely that the commander is available to be cast even after the spell has resolved, and our philosophy is to avoid cards like that. Since outside of this one quirk there aren’t a lot of interesting applications to the card, we don’t anticipate it’ll be missed much. Unlike…
One of the concerns that we’ve had recently is the overrepresentation of heavy ramp strategies, to the point where it makes up a large proportion of the aggregate decks out there. While we think ramp should be good—this is battlecruiser Magic, after all—it’s probably a little too prevalent and needs reining in a bit. With that in mind, we’re banning the most egregious offender, Primeval Titan.
This decision won’t be universally popular. Primeval Titan is dripping with awesomeness, and we ourselves are big fans of the card. But its ubiquity and effect on games couldn’t be ignored and sad though we are to see it go, we think it will make for a more interesting and diverse format.
It’s appropriate that Kokusho comes off at the same time as Prime Time goes on, as Kokusho was originally banned along the same lines. Its presence had a similar warping effect on the format in the early days, with too many decks reusing the Dragon over and over (even if it didn’t start in their deck!). However, in the intervening time, graveyard hate has become stronger and the overall level of creature power has risen to the point where we’re comfortable—more so after some testing—that it won’t have the same impact.
It remains banned as a commander because the mechanics of being a commander allow it to circumvent the best method of dealing with it—the aforementioned graveyard hate. Getting it into exile as a creature is the end of it. As a commander, it’s license to start again.
So what does this mean? The green ramp decks take a slight hit, Worldfire joins Upheaval and Sway of the Stars on the sidelines of the “bounce/wipe everything on the board” club, and you can now play with Kokusho as long as he’s not your Commander. Sweet!
I don’t think anybody will care the slightest bit about Worldfire, but the tradeoff of Primeval Titan for Kokusho makes the EDH environment a little less stale, at least for the time being. There’s still going to be tons of ramp decks, and now people have Kokusho at their disposal once again to try to break ring games open with, at least for the time being.
Format Philosophy Document Released
Perhaps the more interesting thing than today’s Banned update was the parallel release of the “Official Banned List and Format Philosophy Document.” The keepers of the flame in EDH/Commander have released an insightful look into how they make their guiding decisions about the Banned list, and how they wish the format to appear (note: it would be really sweet if Wizards of the Coast would do this for sanctioned formats like Vintage!).
Delving into the philosophy a bit, this struck me as the most important bit that they are trying to highlight:
The banned list for Commander is designed not to balance competitive play but to help shape in the minds of its fans the vision held by its founders and Rules Committee. That vision is to create variable, interactive, and epic multiplayer games where memories are made, to foster the social nature of the format, and to underscore that competition is not the format’s primary goal. It sets out to define the parameters of official Commander while recognizing that local groups may wish to modify things to suit their own needs.
Reading through this plainly it is clear that “competitive balance” is not the goal per se, but for fans to simply enjoy the game as the creators of the game see it, which is the have a blast and make sweet memories of playing Magic! Sheldon and the crew seem like great stewards of the game, and even though they will occasionally pass down some disappointing news (like bannings), they have done a great job of shaping and growing EDH as a whole.