With the release of every big Magic set, the Commander Rules Committee updates their banned list. For Core Set 2019, the Rules Committee announced there would be no changes to the banned list. This got me to thinking about some of the cards I dislike. These aren't cards that I think should be banned, just cards that I've see too often and I've grown sick of seeing again and again. I felt this way about Deadeye Navigator for a long time, but I've found that most people I play against have moved past using the Navigator, so it doesn't elicit the eye roll the way it used to.
Given this, I thought I would share some of the cards that currently fail the Eye Roll Test. When these cards get played, I might not show my disgust outwardly, but know that my eyes are rolling way back and I'm letting out a long sigh and readying myself for the game I know is coming.
You can't argue the effectiveness of this card (or any other card on this list for that matter), but I am so done with this! A handful of decent-sized creatures suddenly becomes a Killing Wave just because the player happens to have four mana and the Triumph of the Hordes in hand.
Initially, I liked this card as it appeared in a lot of infect decks as a sort of finisher. It could take the handful of non-infect creatures in the deck and let the deck smash in the final points of poison it needed to win games. It even showed up in a few decks that ran no infect cards at all, but it was minimal. Most players didn't run it because "infect" was a dirty word. The card was such an "oops I win" card, that players felt guilty about including it.
Then the Command Zone started talking about infect and everything changed. Between podcast episodes featuring infect decks, to Triumph of the Hordes showing up on Game Knights episodes, the card started showing up everywhere. With the "Command Zone Effect" kicking in, Triumph of the Hordes was no longer a dirty infect card, but an effective way for green to quickly shut down an opponent. One of green's strengths is to play big fatties, but you generally needed to give those big creatures some kind of evasion to make large scale attacks successful. Triumph of the Hordes gives those fatties trample and also reduces the damage target from 40 to 10.
I've seen enough of this card to last me for a good long while.
When I first saw Purphoros, God of the Forge I thought that this would be an interesting creature. Red decks tend to play fewer red permanents than other colors do, so I thought the devotion count could be a little tricky to reach, but a 6/5 indestructible creature for only four mana is solid. Even the mass Firebreathing effect would be useful in some decks as a cool finisher. I pictured Purphoros fitting nicely into a lot of goblin builds. Plenty of creatures to get to get the devotion to five and make the mass Firebreathing effect really good. Goblins also involved a lot of creatures entering the battlefield, so you could probably do between 10 and 20 damage to each opponent as your Goblins hit the battlefield over the next several turns.
Then my friend Josh ran it with Master of Waves and I discovered the true power of Purphoros! Purphoros was one of the only red permanents in the deck. Master of Waves would enter and bring three or four friends, doing eight damage to every player. Then he would have a way to flicker the card and suddenly eight damage became 16, then 24, then 32 damage in one turn! Purphoros isn't going in decks to add a couple of points of damage here and there; he is there to combo kill players. He isn't providing a way for red decks to get in those final points of damage, he provides purpose to loops that can sacrifice a single creature again and again, but don't do anything else.
This was fun for a while as players tried it out in various decks and had interesting and at the time, original, ways to use him. Now though, Purphoros, God of the Forge might as well be an indestructible enchantment that deals the two points of damage for each creature entering the battlefield under your control, and nothing else. The fact that it could be a solid creature is now seen as a weakness, as it becomes easier to remove. The Firebreathing effect is irrelevant; if you have enough creatures on the battlefield to use it, it just means you were using it incorrectly.
Purphoros is now a card that must be exiled the round it appears because you know the game will be over if it is still there the next time that person gets a turn! Considering most groups I've seen don't run enough enchantment removal, that just doesn't happen.
While Purphoros ignores devotion, "Gary" lives for it. Gary first appeared on my radar as part of a few zombie decks. He would get played when devotion to black was as low as four or five, mostly as a way to add 15 life to your total so you could then use it up on other cards to draw more cards or add a ton of mana. It didn't take long before someone realized that it was a black card and black loves nothing better than to sacrifice a creature and bring it from the graveyard to the battlefield again and again. Gary would hit and loop back and suddenly the five or six damage you were taking was 12 or 18!
Gary was in the early versions of my Grenzo, Dungeon Warden decks. I figured it would gain me a bit of life while the deck durdled along. Then I had a scenario with Grenzo, Heartstone, and Viscera Seer. I activated Grenzo over 10 times at the end of a player's turn and Gary showed up when the devotion count was already over 10. I then went to my turn and activated Grenzo seven or eight more times before sacrificing Gary to the Seer, then getting it to the bottom of my library before activating it again, this time for over 15 and the win. While the loop sounds long and convoluted, the next two wins the deck got were because of Gray Merchant and similar loops. The deck was turning into a Grenzo/Gary bff deck, so Gary hit the road.
The real kiss of death for me with Gray Merchant of Asphodel is the fact that it is a common. It is easy to find and virtually everyone can afford to run it. As long as your devotion to black is reasonable, meaning at least half of your deck is black, the Gray Merchant likely works in the deck. Between looping combos and players using it to "Syphon Soul" for 10 or more just to extend their life totals, this card is just everywhere. Players are reluctant to stop using it because it is inexpensive and easy to remove, so they feel justified in playing it. The difficulty is that Gary has already done the damage by the time you are removing it.
The other cards on this list got here after a period of time. They were new and interesting at first, then just became a constantly recurring feature in games. Exsanguinate is a card I've hated from the start.
Hurricane is a pet card of my friend Harry, another player in my group. Harry has played forever, and if he is playing green cards, you have to assume that he is going to play Hurricane at some point. It will likely be a white-bordered version that says you are going to "suffer" damage, and it probably won't be sleeved. That is how Harry rolls. Rather than trying to counter the spell, the better option was to try to be sure that Harry's life total was lower than at least one other player, since he would likely be playing it as a way to win the game.
I could respect Harry's Hurricane. Well, maybe not the unsleeved part, but playing Hurricane. You pay X, everyone takes X. With Exsanguinate, only your opponents take X and you gain all the life. Right from the start, this just seemed patently unfair. Green's X-spell demands that you take the damage too, but black's spell gives you the life instead? How is that fair? I understand Hurricane also hits creatures, but no one was using it for that.
This card is just miserable and offers little game value. Do you have a bunch of mana? Play the card. Most times when it was played, the caster wasn't immediately winning the game. Our life totals would be reduced to less than 10 while the caster's life total would be over 60. The game would drag on and on with very little chance of winning since as soon as it looked like you might do something to change the game, the Exsanguinate player would just kill you and the game would continue to limp on. I hate to concede a game, mostly because I want everyone to get a chance to do the big thing their deck does, but with Exsanguinate, I have always felt like that was what the deck did. The rest is just decorating the corpse.
Then there are the players who think they are clever for running Sanguine Bond in the same deck. The only clever thing those players have done is make it clear that they are players who aren't interested in creating fun games for everyone at the table.
Even if you are playing with a smart group of Commander players, you are getting at least one extra turn and you are taking everyone's best card. Even if you don't have a way to recast the card, you are just winning this game.
I get that everyone who sees the card wants to try it out. You want to see what it's like to play a card that is just that powerful. I wanted to try it out too. Now that it has been around a while, can't we all just agree that Wizards made a mistake? Expropriate says that if you have nine mana and people let you cast this spell, that you win the game. There is nothing fun about this card. I used to believe that the struggle to win after an opponent played Expropriate was fun, but it never has been. Assuming you don't just die in the extra turn(s), you die soon after.
And remember what I said about not being able to recast Expropriate? Who puts it in their deck without ways to replay it or copy it?
I'm not saying that the card should be banned; nine-mana cards should be good. I just want to see people running cards that have more interesting or inventive win conditions than a nine mana sorcery.
The joy with all of these cards is that eventually I'll enjoy seeing them in a deck again. I felt the same about Deadeye Navigator and Insurrection, but I'm ready to see them again and someday I'll feel the same about these cards. They don't need to be banned, but I'd like a little time apart. If we could just lay off this bunch for a bit I'd really appreciate it!