21, Jun, 23

Fan-Made MTG Format Bans Commander Staple!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp
Article at a Glance

One of the biggest things Magic: the Gathering has over other trading card games is the amount of different ways you can engage with it. Whether you want to play Commander amongst some friends, build up your collection with some Limited, or play with some of Magic’s oldest cards in Legacy, there are many ways to play and collect the game. Compare this to a lot of other TCGs, and only a couple formats exist, restricting the potential of any cards that do not fit those molds.

Even though Magic has a ton of different formats, some are definitely more popular than others. For the most part, these are all official formats that have stood the test of time. Commander is, by far, the most popular format Magic has to offer. Constructed pillars like Standard, Pioneer and Modern follow.

That said, there are other, less well-known formats that also have a community who enjoy them. Dual Commander, Canadian Highlander, and some Arena-only formats like Alchemy may be considered. Even though these aren’t the most well-known formats that MTG has to offer, there is still a substantial player base that enjoys them.

With this in mind, one semi-popular format that thrives on Arena goes by the name of Gladiator. Gladiator has recently updated their ban list, and has removed one of the most iconic Commander staples from their format!

What is Gladiator?

Gladiator is, basically, MTG Arena singleton. Its kind of like two-player Commander using only cards from Arena, except you don’t get a Commander. This comes will all the usual trimmings, like being able to use an unlimited number of Basic Lands and cards that specify that you can have any number of them. Like Commander, 100-card decks are expected. Also like Commander, there are no sideboards, which means Wish cards like Granted and Karn, the Great Creator don’t work.

What is a bit different from paper singleton is that Arena singleton lets you use every card on MTG Arena. This includes Arena-only cards from Alchemy and Historic. Its no secret that a major portion of the MTG community is not a fan of these digital-only offerings, but the cards offered this way are quite powerful, and can create a unique environment to explore.

For paper purists, one bonus in this category is that, if a card has been shifted from its paper version thanks to Alchemy rebalancing, the paper version of the card is what is legal in Gladiator. Yes, this means that Teferi, Time Raveler is legal in this format as it is in paper.

Currently, the official Gladiator Discord has (at least) a couple thousand players within. While there are rarely official Gladiator events on the MTG Arena platform, this is the best place to find some games since the format doesn’t have official 24/7 support on MTG Arena.

While the card pool for Gladiator involves all of the cards on MTG Arena, you are not necessarily allowed to play with every single one. There is a ban list exclusive to this format that addresses a few known cards that are a bit of an issue. As of June 20th, Demonic Tutor joined this list.

Demonic Tutor is Banned in Gladiator

Despite Gladiator using the entirety of MTG Arena’s card pool, the format has a very small ban list. Before the 20th, there were only four cards on the banlist – all well-known cards that created problems in other formats. These cards were:

  • Oko, Thief of Crowns
  • Field of the Dead
  • Natural Order
  • Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes

Many of these cards need no introduction. Oko, Thief of Crowns is now banned in Standard, Pioneer, Explorer, Historic, Modern and Legacy because of how format-warping the card is. Field of the Dead got itself banned out of Pioneer, Explorer and Historic because of its ability to create an endless amount of Zombies. Natural Order finding a four-mana Craterhoof Behemoth, or even something worse, like Atraxa, Grand Unifier, is a problem in any format.

Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes may be the odd-Hamster out here since it hasn’t shown up on any ban lists. Notably, because Minsc & Boo, in paper, was released in a Commander set, its only legal in Legacy, Commander and Vintage. In Legacy, Minsc & Boo is simply one of the best things to be doing. This Planeswalker offers a clock that is incredibly difficult to deal with. Should you find a way to wall off the feral Hamster, Minsc & Boo can just chuck it at you to draw cards and deal damage.

Consider that, for the sake of Gladiator, Minsc & Boo is even weaker than its normal counterpart, costing an extra mana. Regardless of this, the card still ended up on the ban list.

On the other hand, a small ban list means that even historically broken options like Channel, Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, Counterspell and more are still legal in the Gladiator format. Despite this, Demonic Tutor is joining the ban list as the fifth card to be banned in the Gladiator format.

Why Was Demonic Tutor Banned?

Taking to the official Gladiator Discord, MTG personality Benjamin Wheeler, partially responsible for overseeing the ban list for Gladiator alongside the Gladiator Council, offered an explanation for why this powerful tutor received the banhammer. Of the five players on the council, the agreement to ban this card was unanimous, solidifying the card as a problem in Gladiator.

In Commander, tutors are synonymous with an unnatural level of consistency for what a singleton format intends to provide. Able to search up infinite combo pieces in a flash, its very common for a Demonic Tutor to simply signify the end of the game.

This does not appear to be the case for Gladiator. Instead, according to Wheeler’s statement, Demonic Tutor instead appears to be banned because its too flexible. The sort of Swiss-army knife tool it offers is too powerful for two mana and no restrictions. This, however, wasn’t always the case, and has only become this way after the Gladiator community has had time to sharpen the edges of their deck construction in context of the format:

“Discussions surrounding the legality of Demonic Tutor have circulated through the Gladiator community since its addition to the format. While undoubtedly one of the most powerful cards of all time, it maintained its residence under the guise of providing more consistency and utility to lower powered strategies than those that were dominant at the time. For what it’s worth, this held true for the first year or so after its printing, but the council believes this is no longer the case. Gladiator has developed to an intersecting point of mana efficiency and card quality where Demonic Tutor acts as the perfect, anticlimactic answer to any problem, be it removing a permanent or opponent. This has overwhelmingly contribtued to black based strategies being a bit too powerful when compared to the other options. By banning Demonic Tutor the Gladiator Council looks to curb the power level of these strategies, while still leaving them selection options in cards like Assemble the Team and Tainted Pact.”

Benjamin Wheeler (This link will take you to the official Gladiator Discord)

Read More: New MTG Lord of the Rings Uncommon Approaches $20!?

Is It Worth Giving Gladiator a Try?

Touted by many for its deep gameplay, Gladiator may catch you by surprise. For MTG Arena players who have an extensive collection, this is a really fun way to use some older powerful cards like Teferi, Time Raveler and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath and even the new cheeky Modern Monkey himself. Some of the archetypes in this format have incredibly complicated interactions that will surprise even veterans.

A big bonus over other formats is that the Gladiator council actively discusses and encourages unbannings. April 20th of this year was the last ban list change to this format, and two cards were unbanned!

All in all, I would recommend this format to any who has an extensive MTG Arena collection. I haven’t played too much of it myself, but MTG Arena did highlight the Gladiator format, and that event was very fun to play!

Read More: Unique LOTR Card Interaction Makes Commander Staple Even Better!

*MTG Rocks is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more