There are some pretty powerful cards allowed to be played in Commander. From cards like Gaea’s Cradle to Dockside Extortionist, players can present powerful win conditions as early as turn one, as long as they’re willing to pay enough to get these incredibly expensive cards.
That said, this doesn’t necessarily match the budget, and experience, that many MTG EDH players desire. Rule Zero, a common technique used to establish the experience that players want in a game of Commander, is a great way to figure out what kind of game you want to play. Unlike competitive Magic, the primary goal of these games isn’t necessarily to win but to enjoy the experience with friends.
These conversations may be taking even more than players thought, as Game Knights, arguably MTG’s most popular show in existence, has just revealed that they have shadow banned some cards from their show!
Mana Crypt Shadow Banned on Game Knights
For reference, the Command Zone hosts Game Knights, a top-rated MTG show that showcases games of casual Commander that is sponsored by Wizards of the Coast. While the podcast is mainly known for that show, it’s also a well-informed and popular podcast about Commander. In their most recent offering, Josh Lee Kwai and Rachel Weeks discuss Commander staples that, in their opinion, are way too expensive to be worth their price tags in casual Commander.
Among the cards discussed, Mana Crypt was one of the many cards that came up, leading to a larger conversation surrounding expensive fast mana in Commander. The Crypt can grant two additional mana every turn for free – an incredibly powerful tool that essentially accelerates you two full turns, giving an insane advantage in the early game.
Across all the cards discussed in their podcast regarding cards that aren’t worth their price tags, this was the most controversial one. As, while the absurd $200 price tag does justify the boost to the power level of your deck, it’s not without flaws. Nevertheless, in terms of Commander staples, this is the one to buy.
“If any card is worth $200, this is the one. It’s Mana Crypt.”Rachel Weeks & Josh Lee Kwai | Command Zone
Despite its strength, there is still a real argument that the card isn’t worth it. Especially if it elevates your deck to a point where it’s far too powerful for your pod to contend with. That won’t be fun for anyone. The hosts of Game Knights are well aware of this. When discussing Mana Crypt, Josh Lee Kwai mentioned that the card is no longer allowed on MTG’s most popular show because it does not create enjoyable games to spectate:
“I will say, we don’t allow it on Game Knights anymore, so if you’re playing a Game Knights deck, we’ve sort of, I don’t know if we’ve ever said this, but we’ve house banned I guess, or shadow banned or whatever you wanna say. Only because we don’t believe it, generally, makes for good on-camera games.”Josh Lee Kwai
Lee Kwai goes on to explain that they’ve found “what tends to happen” when Mana Crypt is involved in their games, if all four decks at the table are running the card, is that “at least one person in the pod will draw it somewhat early and that creates a thing where they’re ahead, and everyone else has to gang up on them” – causing all the games to “feel kinda same-y.”
The repetitive formula of ‘player X becomes Archenemy and either wins the game or loses to the other three players’ was far too repetitive of a motif. Watching a few games like this, especially where the other three players manage to take down the tyrant, can be interesting content, but not when it’s every single episode.
What do Players Think?
When Redditor notashin posed this statement and asked players’ opinions on the $200 crypt, a lot of Redditors simply responded that they still play the card, but mainly if the card synergizes with their MTG decks in more ways than just being an insane fast mana option:
“I run Mana Crypt in my coin flip deck for that free flip every turn” – Spendrs
Notably, Mana Crypt is a very popular upgrade to the Heads, I Win! Tails, You Lose! preconstructed Commander deck. This Secret Lair preconstructed deck is infamous in the community because of the year-long delay players experienced between the original release date and when they got the deck.
As discussed in the Command Zone podcast, Mana Crypt offers to strictly improve almost every Commander deck it’s included in. Within decks that care about coin flips, however, its strengths are even greater. Not only is the card a second Sol Ring, but it has even more upside by triggering your cards that care about coin flips.
Other Redditors mentioned that Game Knights’ situation is a bit different from the average Commander player, as their primary goal is to create content for others to watch:
“The thing is, the command zone is making a show. Most tables aren’t. They have logistics on entertaining games that are more well rounded. and their goal isn’t to kick out their guests early.”Spanish_Galleon
This conversation expanded to other archetypes that wouldn’t make for a good viewing experience. According to Redditor silentButDadly, The Command Zone podcast has also mentioned in the past that they could “never have a Stax deck on the show simply because of how much longer it would take to film and edit the game.”
For reference, Stax refers to an archetype whose goal is to slow down the pace of the game by putting a stranglehold on a player’s resources. This generally means players should expect mana tax effects like Sphere of Resistance to make playing cards more expensive. They should also expect cards that limit the effectiveness of a player’s on-board mana like Winter Orb. For reference, Stasis is probably the best Stax card available in all of MTG and is, according to EDHREC, the single most hated card in all of Commander.
Games involving a Stax deck, especially when the deck gets its plan online, are generally incredibly drawn out and have a lot of turns where players simply fail to do anything. As many may be able to imagine, this may be far from an ideal viewing experience.
Rule Zero is Your Best Friend
If you want to avoid the types of games that even Game Knights is not fond of for the sake of content, Rule Zero is your best friend. A quick and easy example of what this can do for your playgroup is highlighted by yet another Redditor:
“My group kind of has three tiers of play.
First, full casual, mostly untuned tribals and precons.
Second, tuned casual, maybe a few really good precons, but mostly 5-6 range decks. We play in this range the most.
Third, f*ck it. Like, play whatever, legal or not, proxy anything, fuck my shit up. None of us are cEDH players, so these decks are still mostly 7-8s, but can get lucky and go nuts quick. We only do this if everyone is doing it. Otherwise, yeah… It sucks”shichiaikan
There are games where a Mana Crypt is warranted, namely games where other players are also playing Mana Crypt. If these incredibly powerful games aren’t something you want to play or pay for, consider having a chat with your group before you start. Many Commander players are pretty used to doing this, and it can make your Commander experience a lot more enjoyable.