drannith magistrate
15, Dec, 22

This MTG Card May be Banned in The Game's Biggest Format!

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Article at a Glance

Over the past week, a new discussion is being held in the MTG Commander community. While it started as an article depicting a dedicated case to get a card banned from the format, the Commander Rules Committee (the people who decide if these cards get banned or not) has gotten wind of the case and is starting to interact with it. This means that, at this point, the discussions to ban the card in Commander are somewhat serious and, while I personally do not expect a ban, it could be very possible in the near future. Here’s why the MTG Commander community wants to see Drannith Magistrate banned from Commander.

A Card That Ruins the Whole Point of the Format

drannith magistrate

Drannith Magistrate is a card strong enough to even see play in competitive 1V1 formats, but it is at its peak in Commander. For two mana, this 1/3 white creature prevents your opponents from casting cards from outside their hands. This means that anything from exile, graveyard, deck (in rare cases), and, most importantly, the Command Zone cannot be cast. In other words, this two-mana creature shuts off your opponent’s access to their Commander while stopping a lot of popular strategies while there is absolutely no downside for its owner.

A few weeks back, Ryan from the YouTube channel Playing With Power MTG, in his words, “opened Pandora’s Box” when he tweeted out his opinion on Drannith Magistrate in Commander. In this short argument, Ryan reasoned that Drannith Magistrate, as stated before, ruins the whole point of playing the Commander format by disallowing the one unique trait of this MTG format by being in play (besides, arguably, it is multiplayer and not a 1V1 format), that being disallowing your opponents to cast their Commander. As the conversation got larger and larger, Ryan released an article a few days back discussing his reasoning for banning the card in more detail. As he notes, this is not the first time Drannith Magistrate has been discussed as a potential ban target in MTG’s most popular format and, unless the card actually gets banned, it is likely that this will not be the last.

The article itself is quite nuanced and presents a strong argument as to why the card should get banned, including going into the banning context from the Rules Committee itself. While we highly recommend reading the article yourselves, I will write a quick TLDR of it. This, once again, is missing a lot of the depth in Ryan’s arguments, so if you really want to get a handle on what Drannith Magistrate problematically represents in the Commander format, you should read that article:

  • Drannith Magistrate should be Banned from Commander for preventing the ‘flavor of the format’ (using your Commander) while having no restrictions to the player using it.
  • The argument that Drannith Magistrate ‘dies to removal’ is a Nirvana Fallacy that suggests that players will immediately have an appropriate answer to Drannith Magistrate every time the card gets cast, which is simply not true. If it were, the card would never see any play. [Hullbreacher would have never been banned either if this were the case(my own words)]
  • The card is easily accessible in any deck that runs white and demands no build-around. It’s the perfect silver bullet.
  • It was originally designed to be a counter to Companion cards which, since the errata, ironically no longer applies. Drannith Magistrate’s function in Commander was not it’s intended design.
  • The effect is overwhelmingly negative for opponents while having no effect on its owner, besides the whole table trying to kill the card once it resolves.
  • Rule Zero is not refined enough to deal with a card that warps the format so heavily when not checked immediately.

To summarize, the biggest argument for banning Drannith Magistrate is that it ruins the whole unique point of the format. The biggest counterarguments to banning Drannith Magistrate seem to be that it is very easy to remove and that your table can have a ‘Rule Zero’ conversation before the game starts and not play with Drannith Magistrate if the power level of the table cannot deal with it.

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The Commander Rules Committee’s Response

There is criterion written by the members of the Commander Rules Committee that are followed when they decide if a card from Commander should be banned. Generally, bans in Commander are avoided when possible because the whole point of a non-rotating format is to let people play with as many cards as possible. This is addressed in a portion of Jim Lapage, a member of the Commander Rules Committee’s response to this matter:

“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.”

While Jim Lapage posted a response to the Drannith Magistrate drama on Twitter, these are screenshots from another discussion in the MTG EDH Reddit about whether Magistrate should be banned. This one is a bit harder to summarize, but the main takeaways, according to Lapage himself, are the following:

– Ubiquity is a consideration

– The actual impact of the card in the games it appears in is a consideration

– Stability of the format is very important

Diving into Lapage’s response a little deeper, however, leads us to this quote which summarizes a majority of what Lapage believed Ryan’s article to be missing:

“One thing that I think the article is missing, and it’s also missing in the OP, is that many cards that exist in the format today check a lot of the boxes on the current banlist criteria. That’s the rationale behind this section of the Commander Philosophy Document (emphasis mine):” “not all cards which meet some of the criteria need to banned.

In other words, Drannith Magistrate is among many MTG cards that, according to the Commander Philosophy Document, could theoretically receive a ban. That said, there are many cards on this list that players have no problem with. The only reason Drannith Magistrate seems to come up in conversations like this repetitively is that it attacks the identity of the Commander format in a way that requires no deckbuilding costs from those using it.

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Looking a bit Deeper

According to EDHREC, primarily considered one of the biggest resources in Commander, Drannith Magistrate sees play in only 9% of EDH decks, which is a far cry from the ‘most played’ cards in the format that round out around 33%, or one third, of all decks in Commander. Some outliers, like Sol Ring(85%) and Arcane Signet(65%), see play in almost every Commander deck.

Drannith Magistrate, according to EDHREC, also has a Salt Score. This means that Drannith Magistrate is also one of the most hated cards in all of Commander, and there’s a decent chance that playing this card against someone you are unfamiliar with in a casual game of Commander will make them upset. Its actual position on this list, according to EDHREC, is 25th. With these statistics in mind, other cards in the format may be considered for a ban before this one, like Thassa’s Oracle and Dockside Extortionist.

Player Opinion

hullbreacher

Looking at the Reddit post where all this discussion took place, it feels like most of the community is against banning Drannith Magistrate. A common argument that came up was comparing this to Hullbreacher, a card that recently saw a ban in Commander that is also very easy to remove:

“They don’t ban cards unless they are supper oppressive Drannith is not oppressive think Hullbreacher level of bad gameplay Drannith dies to lightning bolt if it had hexproof or something we have issues, but it does not stop you from playing” – hejtmane

“Hullbreacher threatens to end the game if you can’t produce that instant speed kill spell right now while a wheel is on the stack.

Dran Man says “slow down and cast what you draw from your deck only” which is perfectly reasonable and doesn’t need a clutch answer.” – Spekter1754

To elaborate, Hullbreacher is a card with Flash, so you can play it on the stack with a card that combos into it. A wheel effect refers to a card like Wheel of Fortune that causes players to discard their hands and draw a new one. Combined with Hullbreacher, this would cause one player to redraw their hand and create a bunch of Treasure Tokens while other players lost their hands. This, effectively, almost always ended the game on the spot when it resolved. In other words, the game ended if you didn’t remove Hullbreacher in the tiny window before disaster struck. The same cannot be said for Drannith Magistrate, which has the potential to slow opponents’ progress immensely but will not end the game if players don’t have an immediate answer for it.

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magus of the moon

Another card mentioned while discussing Drannith Magistrate is Magus of the Moon. These cards are pretty similar, with one big difference. Drannith Magistrate and Magus of the Moon potentially lock opponents out of their game plans. Magus of the Moon, however, is much more difficult to remove than Drannith Magistrate in most situations. With this logic, Magus of the Moon would be a better ban candidate, but no one is really calling for that ban, mainly because there are deckbuilding restrictions that keep this card in check:

“I’d love to remove Magus of the Moon, but now my duals are Mountains and I cannot cast my removal spell, not the best comparison.

Drannith Magistrate however can be easily removed. I have no problem with it, since my Commander is a nitro boost rather than the entire engine.” – Seguro_Sekirei

“But here’s the thing: not all decks that run red can run Magus. If you’re in a 3+ color deck yourself, you don’t want to be running Magus. But you can run Drannith in any deck without harming yourself because the effect is entirely asymmetric. That’s the big difference that fewer decks can run Moon effects, so you see it a lot less often than you might otherwise.” – VintageJDizzle

Will This Card Get Banned?

At this rate, despite Ryan’s strong arguments, it looks like Drannith Magistrate may be spared the banhammer. That said, the discussion here is nowhere near over. Sheldon Menery, the Commander Rules Committee leader and widely considered the godfather of EDH, has invited Commander fans to discuss the issue further. This means that, as of the writing of this article, there is still a genuine possibility that Drannith Magistrate could be banned in Commander in the near future.

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