ARCHON
a democratic magic: the gathering format
Individual explanation of banned commanders

Arahbo, Roar of the World

Arahbo is a commander, who ignores one of key premises of a format with a commander. You almost never want to cast him; he is more of a constant enchantment. He turns even feeble creatures in massive threats. A deck with Arahbo at its helm is very linear, aggressive and highly consistent. An unbanned Arahbo would diminish the diversity of aggrodecks in the format and therefore the cat is banned.

Derevi, Empyrial Tactician

Derevi bypasses the Commander tax and lends herself to a rather easy opportunity to build oppressive stax-type decks, where her ability is used to circumvent the disadvantages for her player. This is problematic from a balancing and a fun perspective, therefore Derevi is banned as Commander in Archon.

Edgar Markov

Like Arahbo, Edgar has a passive ability which can’t be negated. Each vampire becomes a two for one - with no way for interaction. Edgar Markov would lead to a less diverse metagame and poses the active threat of pushing control strategies out of the meta. Therfor he is banned as Commander in Archon.

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic

Oloros passive ability would grant such a massive boon, that running an aggro strategy would not be feasible against him. An unbanned Oloro would nullify each aggro deck playing against him, which would lead to less divese meta. Therefore, Oloro is banned as Commander.

Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow

Yuriko’s ability bypasses the restrictions for the repeated casting of your Commander. She ignores the Commander tax and the resulting aggro deck is too strong to be effectively answered by a control deck. Yuriko is banned as a Commander.

Individual explanation of banned cards

Ancestral Recall

Back in Alpha developers had no idea, what the cost of different effects in Magic should be because there was simply no reference. While they suspected that Ancestral Recall might be undercosted, they included it as a rare card to combat its impact on the average game. Nowadays we know that drawing three cards for only one mana without any additional restrictions at instant speed is massively undercosted. Ancestral Recall would be an auto include in every single blue deck, so it needs to be banned.

Ancient Tomb

This card generates extra Mana without much cost. The constant lifeloss is hindering but nonetheless its potential to create explosive starts, often without a possibility to catch up, is to big to have it unbanned. Archon features a Commander, who can be cast for two additional generic Mana, each time it has already been cast from the Commandzone. Each card which can net a positive amount of mana the turn it has been cast and each following turn must be observed for nullifying a fundamental rule of the format. The cards on this list, who fit these criteria, are deemed too powerful and therefore banned.

Black Lotus

Having access to 4 Mana as early as Turn 1 for the cost of only a card is simply too much of an advantage for the player who is lucky (and wealthy) enough to draw their Black Lotus in their opening hand. Black Lotus is the most famous card in all of Magic the Gathering. Its sheer power also made it the most expensive card in the game and while prices are not a reason to ban a cards in a competitive format like Archon, it just shows how good the card is. For those and many more reasons that we are not including here, because it would go beyond the scope of this document, Black Lotus is banned in Archon.

Channel

Channel is a card which can generate an explosive amount of Mana without any set up. It requires no cost and is with good reason banned in almost any format, including Archon.

Chrome Mox

Like the other Moxen Chrome Mox nets a positive amount of Mana the turn it comes into play and each other turn until its removal. Archon is a format, in which the Tempo aspect is often more important than pure card advantage. Losing a hand card is to less of a hindrance for this card to not be broken.

Entomb

Entomb can lead to explosive starts in dedicated decks, using the graveyard and reanimation spells to get huge creatures or creatures with key abilities on the battlefield. This strength can lead to games that end on quickly without any the possibility for meaningful interaction. In addition to this obvious benefits, Entomb also enables a whole range of other strategies that want to have a certain card like Life from the loam in the graveyard. In general, the effect of moving a certain card directly from the library to another zone (tutoring) is one of the strongest effect in the game. This strength is multiplied by the character of Archon as a singleton format. This dilutes the idea of having each card only once in the deck by adding virtual copies of the card to the deck. The majority of such tutor effects are limited by various restrictions such as cost, cast restriction, the place where the tutored card ends up or what cards are legal targets. However, Entomb passes all those hurdles by being an instant that can search any card to the graveyard as a benficial zone for the low cost of one black mana. All in all, these advantages and the explosiveness justify the banning of Entomb.

Fastbond

Fastbond is unlike other cards with a positive Mana netting in this list. It requires not only the loss of life, but also a hand with several lands in it. These conditions are rather easy to fulfill, and it leads to one-sided headstarts.

Food Chain

Food chain has a powerful effect that could be played by a variety of creature-heavy decks. The strength of the card is relativized by the fact that creatures have to be 'paid' for the effect as additional costs. Already in the original design of the card in Mercadian Masques, a security mechanism was built in the rules text, which sends the respective creature into exile rather than the graveyard to prevent unwanted loops with the 'paid' creature. The ability to send your commander to the command zone when changing zones bypasses this security mechanism so that dedicated decks can generate enormous value from it or create a loops that end games quickly. Abusing a fundamental mechanic of the card by using the command zone leads to its banning in Archon.

Grim Monolith

Grim Monolith can be cast early and then generate a large amount of mana with minimal cost. Additionally, it opens the possibility to easily generate an infinite amount of mana with a plethora of other cards.

Gaea's Cradle

In creature-heavy, green decks, Gaea's Cradle provides the fastest mana acceleration. The way it produces mana leads to snowballing because Gaea's Cradle can produce more mana for more creatures and thus the power level increases exponentially. This opens the door for game ending moves in the first turns with low chance for Interactions. Although you usually can interact with the creatures, Gaea's Cradle itself is a Land, which extremely limits the interaction possibilities for the opponent. Decks that play Gaea's Cradle can easily mitigate the constraints of having at least one creature in play and can include this powerful card at no real cost. Because of the limited chance for interaction, explosiveness and inadequate cost-benefit ratio, Gaea's Cradleis banned.

Humility

Humility has an immediate impact on the game and makes the whole game revolve around it. Once on the battlefield it negates all abilities creates and equalizes them by making there power and toughness equal to 1. Not only is this a unique and powerful effect against creature-heavy strategies, it also turns off many strategies built around commanders. Being an enchantment makes answers to it limited and in some decks even very rare. In addition a significant number of potential answers are creatures, that Humility conveniently shuts down. This means that decks are still unable to interact with this enchantment, although answers to problematic enchantments were considered and inserted in the process of deck building. The miserable game pattern, the disabling of most commanders, the limited chance of interaction and the crippling of entire strategies makes Humility untenable and it is therefore banned.

Karakas

Karakas' second activated ability leads to two fundamentally different problems. On the one hand, Karakas is not only a repeatable answer for many opposing creatures, it answers a large portion of commanders in the format. In addition, Karaka's enables strategies that use legendary creatures and their 'enter-the-battlefield' or 'leave-the-battlefield' trigger. Furthermore, Karakas is a Land that can produce white mana and has no drawback besides being a legendary permanent, which on the one hand limits potential interaction and on th other hand minimizes the deck construction costs for white decks in general. Overall, the play pattern speaks against the spirit of Archon and Karakas is therefore banned.

Lutri, the Spellchaser

The companion mechanic from Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths is a reward for imposing an extra restriction on how you build your deck. In the case of the companion card Lutri, the Spellchaser, the deck-building restriction is to play singleton. The idea is to reward a player for choosing a diversity of different cards rather than multiple copies of the most efficient card for the job. This makes a lot of sense in most formats, where it often dramatically alters the way a player would choose to build their deck in exchange for starting the game with an extra powerful card.

In Archon, however, the Singleton deck-building restriction is already built into the format rules. This means that there is no trade-off against how one would normally build a deck. Any deck including both blue and red would benefit from including Lutri at no deck-building cost.

This isn't in line with the design intent of the companion mechanic, and we believe it will create a large imbalance between decks capable of including Lutri and those that can't. Therefore Lutri, the Spellchaser is banned in Archon.

Mana Crypt

This card has similar reasons for being banned as the Moxen. It doesn’t cost any Mana and provides its player with a tremendous headstart in every game they can play it. A Crypt on turn 1 generates an advantage which is almost impossible to overcome. The potential lifeloss is trivial, even with a starting life of 20.

Mox Emerald, Mox Jet, Mox Pearl, Mox Ruby and Mox Sapphire

Arguably one of the best cards in the game that give you access to mana and part of the notorious 'Power Nine', these cards provide mana at almost no cost at all and are therefore banned.

Polymorph

Polymorph allows Decks to get the biggest creatures of Magic's history on the battlefield within the first few turns. Exploiting the cost-benefit ratio is a basic strategy of the game and is also part of Archon. However Polymorph not only enables the same gameplay patterns but also bypasses fundamental game ideas. In classic formats Polymoph imposes special deck building restrictions. Are those restriction not met its power level is lowered dramatically. Yet in Archon the presence of the command zone can be used to eliminate this drawback by having only creature in the library that Polymorph is intended to put on the battlefield. Overall, the play pattern and the abuse of the command zone leads to the banning of Polymorph.

Sensei’s Divining Top

Being able to manipulate the top cards of the library repeatedly can be particularly strong in interaction with other specific cards or ways of shuffling the library. There are also synergies and combos with the card itself that have already led to format-defining decks in other formats. In addition, the second activated ability offers built-in protection what makes interaction particularly difficult. The main problem, however, is the overall experience of those games. In most cases, Sensei’s Divining Top is played in control shells whith a game plan that is designed to prolong the whole game. However, Sensei’s Divining Top promotes play patterns where you activate its first abbility repeatedly, which makes it impossible to finish games in a reasonable time. In many cases, this outcome leads to a miserable game experience for all parties. For that reason, Sensei's Divining Top is banned in Archon.

Sol Ring

Sol Ring nets positive Mana on each turn it is in play. It has no real downside is therefore too powerful for Archon.

Strip Mine

Strip Mine has the particularly powerful ability to destroy any Land. There are also a number of effects that make the use of Strip Mine repeatable, which in most cases makes the entire game revolve around this synergy. The effect is not just a fair one-for-one exchange that destroys a key-land of the opponent, because the low requirements on the target mean that the most important land in the respective scenario will always be destroyed. This can lead to a situation in which the opponent can no longer cast spells and therefore has no chance of interaction. Because Strip Mine itself is a land, the cost of including this powerful effect in the deck is low. In addition, unlike other land-hate effects, the opponent cannot protect himself from the card with intelligent deck building or clever game decisions because it can destroy even basic lands. The overall miserable play experience along with the raw power is the reason that Strip Mine is banned.

Timetwister

Widely considered to be the worst part of the Power Nine and even less broken than other cards. Nevertheless, still an easily abusable card for blue combo decks. Like Ancestral Recall it draws way too many cards for too little cost and even allows the user to reuse cards they played in the past by shufling them back into their library. This would not be much of a problem if this was not a blue card. Blue being by far the best color for combos decreases the cost of running Timetwister even further, so it has no place in Archon.

Time Walk

For a very low cost, Time Walk allows a player to take an extra turn. In a game that involves a constant build-up of resources over time, a full turn's additional development turned out to be far more powerful than Magic's early designers had imagined. Several cards that grant additional turns have been printed since Time Walk, but always at a much greater cost. Therefore Time Walk is banned.

Tolarian Academy

Being not only part of one of the most powerful card cycles of Magic's history, Tolarian Academy is widely considered the most powerful of the five. It also has a snowball mechanic to it, stronger even then its counterparts since artefacts usually do not have color restrictions in terms of casting them. This enables explosive starts and grants blue decks access to a very high amount of mana at almost no cost. Tolarian Academy also is a land and is therefore difficult to interact with. Because of the limited chance for interaction, explosiveness and inadequate cost-benefit ratio, Tolarian Academy is banned.

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