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.

Baral, Chief of Compliance

Baral, Chief Compliance was the mono blue commander of choice for several years. His cheap converted mana cost, in combination with his discount effect, enabled him to combo early on with cards such as High Tide or Turnabout to generate a huge amount of mana and tempo. This allowed his player to either cast huge threats very early on in the game, or to chain several extra turns in a row.

Another problematic aspect of decks with Baral as their commander was that they performed well against most strategies. They not only had a decent blocker against aggro, but the high density of counterspells they ran also crushed midrange and disrupted combo very efficiently. On top of that, Baral's looting effect helped his player maintain an impactful hand for the duration of even the grindiest of games.

As a result, these decks did not have many weaknesses that could be exploited by their opponents: their manabases were hard to attack because they only ran basic lands; they could protect their game plan with permission spells; and they did both of those things while always having a cheap creature to play that also developed their game plan against every other deck.

Finally, since Baral only has a power of one and decks running him as a commander often were very light on threats, games featuring a Baral deck would often be frustrating and exceedingly long. This was also problematic in tournament settings, as events were sometimes significantly drawn out.

For these reasons, Baral, Chief of Compliance is banned as a commander in Archon.

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.

Edric, Spymaster of Trest

Out of all the cards originally designed for multiplayer, Edric, Spymaster of Trest is probably one of the worst offenders, as the fun politics component of getting your opponents to attack each other turns into a cheap and uncapped card advantage engine in 1v1 games.

Decks built around Edric usually included a massive amount of creatures with evasion, resulting in the ability to draw multiple cards once Edric was in play—which often happened as early as turn three. Blue and green are also perfect colours for protecting Edric once he hits the board, and only control decks filled with removal and board wipes could realistically keep him from going over the top. This breaks one of the fundamental rules of Archon, since the deck was impossible to be interacted with in a meaningful way for a majority of strategies.

To prevent the format from warping around a very powerful deck, Edric, Spymaster of Trest is banned as a 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.

Emry, Lurker of the Loch

Emry, Lurker of the Loch was printed in Throne of Eldraine, a set infamous for having many powerful and format-warping cards — like Oko, Thief of Crowns and Once Upon a Time — which were banned in many other formats.

While WotC does not use non-evergreen keyword abilities for non-core sets, Emry basically has affinity for artifacts.This means that she often only costs one blue mana to cast, as decks playing her as the commander run a high density of cheap artifacts. This cost reduction also affects the commander tax, which makes her player able to still cast her for little mana even if she keeps getting removed over the duration of a game.

Her ability to recur artifacts from the graveyard also makes it difficult for the opponent to permanently deal with problematic artifacts like Winter Orb, and it also allows the Emry player to grind games by recurring cheap artifacts for value. She also enables a large amount of infinite combos that, being artifact-based, can be easily tutored up in a blue deck.

For cheating on commander tax and for the high redundancy and consistency of the decks she was played in, Emry, Lurker of the Loch is banned as a commander in Archon.

Geist of Saint Traft

While Geist of Saint Traft is not the only commander that possesses it, he is undoubtedly the cheapest and most powerful commander with the infamous hexproof keyword. That in itself deprives the opponent of the most common way to deal with threats in the format—targeted removal—thus encouraging a rather toxic lack of interactivity.

Additionally, his second ability makes him a fantastic attacker and provides his controller with a very powerful win condition, as the Geist is a threatening clock that can be enhanced even further thanks to various potent auras and equipments — like Steel of the Godhead and Umezawa's Jitte — due to the protection the aforementioned keyword offers.

Ultimately, Geist of Saint Traft promotes a non-interactive and toxic gameplay as well as an uninteresting and frustrating game experience, while also preventing many decks from being even remotely playable. Therefore, he is banned as a commander in Archon.

Jace, Vryn's Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound

Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is a proactive card that not only helps control decks shape their hands depending on the matchup, but also generates card advantage by allowing spells to be cast again once he is flipped. This, paired with a low converted mana cost and the ability to transform into a hard-to-deal-with permanent type, pushed Jace beyond the boundaries of a fair commander in Archon.

In combination with cards like High Tide, Turnabout, Exhaustion, Mana Vapors, or Time Warp, Jace allows its controller to either efficiently chain multiple extra turns together or to gain access to a lot of mana with relatively low investment. Both scenarios are against the philosophy of Archon.

In addition, Jace allows his player to run narrow cards like Hydroblast or Mind Harness with no real drawback, as they can be simply cycled away with his ability, therefore undermining the singleton nature of our format.

For these reasons Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is banned as a commander in Archon

Najeela, the Blade-Blossom

As probably one of the most powerful five-coloured Commanders ever printed, Najeela, the Blade-Blossom was introduced to the game with the release of Battlebond in 2018.

In contrast with the Ninja archetype, which was not very competitive before Yuriko was released, Warrior was already a common tribe with a large amount of powerful cards prior to the printing of Najeela. As a result, it did not take long for players to build not just efficient tribal variants of the deck, but also goodstuff/midrange versions, as Najeela was not powerful only at the helm of tribal decks. Being able to play any card regardless of its colour, while also having a cheap commander that can finish games in a reasonable amount of time, means that Najeela was also an excellent choice for five-coloured midrange strategies.

The most problematic builds, however, were those focused on the tribal plan. Being able to run a high density of efficient one-, two-, and three-drops, in combination with Najeela’s first ability, meant that these decks were able to flood the board and attack for lethal very quickly. Her second ability also fitted aggressive gameplans perfectly, as it could be used as a mana sink, often resulting in lethal damage even once her controller’s hand had been played out. This ability even allowed the deck to run combos with Derevi, Empyrial Tactician and Druids’ Repository to finish games even faster. While Najeela is a small creature and she can be easily dealt with, decks running her as a commander were so fast that opponents often struggled a lot to do so on time.

Due to these reasons, and to maintain a fair and healthy play environment, Najeela, the Blade-Blossom is banned as a 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.

Urza, Lord High Artificer

Urza has been a large part of Magic's history, so, when he was printed in Modern Horizons, he fulfilled many player's dreams to have one of the most powerful and iconic characters in the game's history finally realized in card form. Unfortunately, Urza lived up to his reputation and Urza, Lord High Artificer is arguably one of the most powerful mono blue commanders ever printed.

In a vacuum, Urza is very powerful for his mana cost. For just four mana, you get a 1/4 body, an artifact token whose power and toughness are equal to the number of artifacts you control, an ability that lets you tap any of your untapped artifacts in play for a blue mana, and, to top it all off, you can pay five mana, shuffle your library, reveal the top card and cast it until the end of the turn.

The reason Urza's abilities are troublesome is that they are in the colour blue, which is historically the best one to pair with artifacts due to the large amount of tutors available to it. This leads to massive mana advantages for the Urza player with little to no effort and without committing any additional meaningful resources to the board outside of playing the game normally. Winter Orb is a specifically problematic card in combination with Urza’s second ability, as you can tap it at the end of your opponent’s turn to be able to untap all of your lands at the beginning of yours, thus creating non-games.

Interacting with Urza is also hard to do, as usual anti-artifact cards such as Stony Silence and Null Rod don't do anything to stop his second ability due to Urza himself being the source of the mana ability.

All in all, Urza shares a number of the same fundamental issues that led to the banning of other mono blue commanders, like Emry, Lurker of the Loch; Baral, Chief of Compliance; and Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Explanations for why those cards are banned are available on this page, and they provide further context and reference to Urza’s ban.

For breaking several principles of the format and being prone to creating non-games, Urza has been banned as a commander in Archon.

Vial Smasher the Fierce

Like a number of the other commanders on this list, Vial Smasher the Fierce was not created for a 1v1 format like Archon. As a result, the main downside of her ability—its inherent randomness—is nullified when you have only one opponent. This, combined with the lower life totals and with cards with a high converted mana cost that can be cast for cheap or even for free, means that Vial Smasher decks were able to deal an unfair amount of damage very quickly.

Moreover, having the partner ability, she could also be paired up with other powerful commanders, to create versatile decks that had her as a potent finisher while also being able to rely on a wide array of tools to deal with most situations. This also allowed Vial Smasher decks to run even more spells that could abuse her ability, which pushed her even further beyond into unfair territory.

For these reasons, Vial Smasher the Fierce is banned as a commander in Archon.

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.

Zurgo Bellstriker

Being a legendary 1 mana 2/2, not only does Zurgo Bellstriker provide mono Red decks with an overwhelming amount of consistency, but he also frees up a considerable number of slots in those lists. When they no longer need to run a high density of low converted mana cost threats—which have very low significance after the first few turns of the game—Zurgo decks can afford to include more impactful cards that greatly improve their topdecks, making it even harder for opponents to stabilise against them.

This made Zurgo decks problematic, as they could deal 20 damage too quickly for most strategies to be able to stop them without making deckbuilding decisions that would greatly hamper them in other matchups. This breaks one of the principles of the format, as the ability to interact with a particular strategy should not be limited to a minority of decks.

For these reasons, Zurgo Bellstriker is banned as a commander in Archon.

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.

Jeweled Lotus

While the power level of Jeweled Lotus is far from that of Black Lotus, it still breaks one of the core principles of the format by granting access to three extra mana without requiring the player to trade meaningful resources for it. It also greatly increases the variance of games, as casting a powerful commander on turn one is often a game-winning play that generates too much of an advantage. This creates non-games that are solely decided on whether this card is drawn or not.

On top of that, it benefits certain decks more than others, as the fewer colors a commander has, the more powerful Jeweled Lotus becomes. This is especially problematic in the case of commanders that only require generic mana to be cast—like Golos, Tireless Pilgrim—and cheaply-costed planeswalker commanders like the ones featured in Commander Legends. While we still want to find new ways to help one- and two-color decks thrive in the format, we believe that Jeweled Lotus is far too powerful and that it would simply create a different sort of imbalance.

Finally, we are aware that banning a card prior to its release is fairly unorthodox. We firmly believe that bans should always be supported by data and not the result of theory-crafting. However, we consider that the power level of Jeweled Lotus is, unmistakably, too high for Archon, and we would like to avoid a situation where people purchase a pricy card—which the new Lotus already is—only for it to be banned shortly after its release.

For these reasons Jeweled Lotus is banned in Archon.

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

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.

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.

Impressum