Too-Specific Top 10 – BANNED

(Gitaxian Probe | Art by Chippy)

A Ban by Any Other Format

Welcome to Too-Specific Top 10, where if there isn’t a category to rank our pet card at the top of, we’ll just make one up! (Did you know that Recurring Nightmare is the only banned card that returns itself to your hand before anyone can even do anything about it?)

If you hang around the r/magicTCG subreddit, you might have seen a couple posts attempting to put together a spreadsheet of every ban in Magic‘s history the other week. Well, after two attempts and hours of work, I think I got it all put together, and am fairly proud of the results. Now that we have all this data, what on Earth are we going to do with it? Well, I don’t know about you, but I say we put on our collective Spike hats and find out the most broken cards you can play in Commander!


Top 10 Cards That Have Been Banned, but Not in EDH.

We all know and have opinions about the current banned list of EDH (free Recurring Nightmare!), but there are lots of cards that are playable in our favorite format that have been deemed too powerful for others. With that in mind, let’s dig into the best of the best of banned cards that you can still play in Commander!

There are some caveats here, as you might have guessed. In this instance, we aren’t counting the following as “banned” for the purposes of our list:

  • The Restricted List from Vintage: Sure, there really isn’t a banned list for Vintage outside of stuff like Chaos Orb, but in my opinion, at least, banned is banned, and ‘restricted’ just isn’t gonna cut it.
  • The Historic “Suspended” List: While it is cool to see a budding ban list from a new format, there’s a reason that Wizards of the Coast decided not to call it a ban list. To quote them directly, “unlike how we handle banning cards, we plan to use the flexibility that the digital format provides to move cards onto and off of the suspension list more commonly.” In other words, there’s no stakes in the Historic Suspended List. Cards are going to move on and off of it more frequently, which isn’t necessarily the case for other formats, where the ban lists are more carefully slow-going.
  • Ante/Conspiracy Cards: They’re all banned in EDH anyway, but I knew that people were going to ask.

Criteria: Cards that have been banned in another official format at some time, but are not currently banned in the EDH format. As is tradition, all results are ordered by how many decks they are included in on EDHREC.

10. Strip Mine

The best among its many pretenders, from Wasteland to Memorial to War, Strip Mine was first banned way back in October of 1996, having proved to be too much for even Vintage to deal with. It remains banned to this day in the eternal format to end all eternal formats, and for good reason. As for how that all applies to Commander, you’ll find Strip Mine in the deck of pretty much anyone that wants to be able to take out problem lands and has $20 floating around. Being colorless, it can fit in any deck at all, and is good enough that you’ll still often even see it in four- and five-color decks despite the possibility that it might create some mana woes.

9. Ancient Tomb

Speaking of colorless lands that are good enough to be in any deck that can afford them, up next is Ancient Tomb! It’s hard to beat a land that immediately gives you two mana, and as such, it’s no surprise that this card was banned from play in Extended back in December of 2003. Eventually Extended was abandoned in favor of Modern, and Ancient Tomb was off the hook, as Tempest block was no longer legal. As for Commander, you may have noticed this in the hands of one Jimmy Wong more than a couple times, or possibly across the table alongside several other $20 bills which collectively crank the pace of a game up a turn or two.

8. Enlightened Tutor

Back in Mirage, a cycle of one-mana tutors was printed across three of the five colors, each of which searched for a certain type of card and put it on top of your library. The white version, Enlightened Tutor, was banned in Legacy in September of 1999, alongside its blue compatriot, Mystical Tutor. Even in those old days of insane spells being around every corner, the consistency generated by searching up any artifact or enchantment at the end of an opponent’s turn was too much, and much the same can be said when it comes to Commander. For those that can afford them, the one-mana tutors are auto-includes in each of the colors they represent, and with each one of them that a player includes, the variance in their deck drops just a little bit. The question then becomes: is that a good thing? (#PlayLessTutors)

7. Ponder

Despite being a sorcery, the digging power of Ponder proved too much for both Modern and Extended tables in September of 2011, and it was banned in both formats. Being able to dig three cards deep in your library for an answer, followed by then rolling the dice if you don’t like any of the three options, is just an extremely powerful effect for a single mana, no matter what format you’re playing. This is of course also true of EDH, as you’ve most likely seen from the Spellslinger deck across the table that likes to pay one blue mana, look at a few cards, and then… think about them for a while.

6. Sensei’s Divining Top

Once your opponent is done thinking about those three cards, they may forget what they were, and decide to take a look at them again! If there’s anything more powerful than being able to pay one mana to dig down three cards into your deck, it’s being able to do it repeatedly. This power and the natural delays that came with it were noticed in September of 2008, when Sensei’s Divining Top was banned from Extended. Modern never even gave the Top a chance, adding it to the initial banlist in 2011, followed by Legacy also deciding too many people were going to time in April of 2017. While this problem certainly also exists in Commander, we tend to care a bit less about how much time is on a clock somewhere, and we also feel a bit more free to razz our buddy down the way if they’re looking at the same three cards for the fourth time in a turn. As such, and with it again being a colorless card, SDT is a pretty common occurrence here in EDH.

5. Fetch Lands

If you’re managing to sneak some cards with hefty color requirements into your decks, there’s no better way to make sure that you can meet those requirements than with Fetch Lands! Unless you’re really part of the money club and have actual original ABUR dual lands, the most common thing to go get with them is the “technically a basic land type” Shock Lands recently reprinted in Guilds of Ravnica. That particular combination of strong plays in the sets laid out for the brand-new Pioneer format, Wizards of the Coast went ahead and nipped the whole thing in the bud and added the Fetch Lands to the initial banlist for the format. That said, it’s still a favorite move of three-, four-, and five-color decks everywhere in the Commander format, especially if they happen to be able to take advantage of having lands in their graveyard.

4. Mystical Tutor

You didn’t really think that the white tutor was the highest one on the list, did you? As previously mentioned, Mystical Tutor was banned from Legacy in September of 1999, although we didn’t go over the fact that both Mystical Tutor and Enlightened Tutor were actually unbanned from Legacy when it became independent from the Vintage Restricted List in September of 2004. The difference between the two? Mystical Tutor was added right back in in June of 2009. It turns out that in blue, the restriction of a card going to the top of your library isn’t much of a restriction. This is still true when it comes to Commander, as well, and it’s not uncommon to see someone tutor for a crucial Counterspell in response to an epic turn of events, only to also draw into it at instant speed and then counter the impending game-winning Insurrection.

3. Demonic Tutor

When Legacy was created in 1996, it was under a set of rules that bound it strictly to the Restricted List of Vintage, and as a result, Demonic Tutor has never once been allowed in the format, for 23 years straight. I apologize to all those who I’ve just made feel old; know that I’m among you. In similar fashion, the Extended format also wanted nothing to do with the best tutor in Magic, adding it to the format’s initial banlist in July of 1997. EDH, on the other hand, was made specifically with old cards like this in mind that were unplayable in practically every other format. It should come as little surprise, then, to find Demonic Tutor at number three on this list. Whether it’s being riffle shuffled forcefully at Magic Fests or fetching that much-needed half of your Worldgorger Dragon + Animate Dead combo, there is no doubt that Demonic Tutor is and always has been one of the most powerful and iconic cards in Magic. As much as I lean on the #PlayLessTutors train, even I have trouble not smiling and chuckling to myself when someone casts this and an opponent at the table asks what they went and got.

2. Skullclamp

While not as old as the pentagrammed once-upon-a-time face of Magic: The Gathering, there is also no doubting the raw power of Skullclamp. The most banned card in Magic, this macabre Equipment has been banned from a total of six formats, from the old stalwarts of Legacy and Extended to the weird and exotic formats of Mirrodin Block and Singleton. While the raw power of the rest of this list hasn’t always directly translated to the slower pace of the average EDH table’s play, this is not the case when it comes to Skullclamp. In any deck with weenies or tokens or both, it effectively reads “Pay one mana, draw two cards” a shocking amount of the time, often also creating death triggers along the way. Even in the case of a deck with larger creatures, however, you’ll often see players sticking this in just to ensure that when a combat goes bad or a board wipe goes off, they are compensated. While that may not be the best strategy all the time, it’s hard to blame players for wanting to take advantage of one of the most powerful cards ever printed.

1. Sol Ring

For the first time in this series, we’ve allowed our number one slot to be occupied by the picture we use to denote it. I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing, but there’s really no arguing that Sol Ring isn’t firmly in the “good” category. I’m sure you’ve got a player in your group like me who claims that their Rowan Kenrith and Will Kenrith deck really only cares about colored mana and so they don’t play it, but let me speak for all of them and say that they’re full of crap. Turn one Sol Ring was too good for Legacy, too good for Extended, and is often too good for Commander. For every game where the whole table gangs up on the person who plays it down, there’s another where the table gets destroyed by the deck that’s two turns ahead before they even get going. As of this article, Sol Ring is in 192,522 of a total of 230,764 decks, totaling out at 83% of all decks tracked by EDHREC. In all likelihood, that number is only even that low because of house rules banning this powerhouse card, hipsters avoiding it for an extra card slot of originality, any 1v1 Commander decklists that EDHREC has picked up, or budget decks that can’t afford the $3.50 price tag bringing their total over the benchmark. In short, Sol Ring is the reason that the name of this series is “Too-Specific Top 10″, as otherwise every list would end with the big daddy of mana rocks and the number one most played card in Elder Dragon Highlander.


Honorable Mentions

Given how overboard I went with the preparation for this list, I figured why not also go overboard with the lists themselves. So here, take a gander at this Top 10 List of Banned Cards Top 10 Lists! (Look, if I can’t get away with some self-serving navel-gazing during the holidays, then when can I?)


1. Top 10 Cards Historically Banned in Three or More Formats, But Not EDH.

  1. Skullclamp
  2. Sensei’s Divining Top
  3. Strip Mine
  4. Windfall
  5. Treasure Cruise
  6. Seat of the Synod
  7. Land Tax
  8. Lotus Petal
  9. Gitaxian Probe
  10. Great Furnace

2. Top 10 Cards Currently Not Banned in an Eternal Format, But Still Banned in Another Format (That Isn’t EDH).

  1. Fetch Lands
  2. Ponder
  3. Preordain
  4. Faithless Looting
  5. Green Sun’s Zenith
  6. Darksteel Citadel
  7. Chrome Mox
  8. Seat of the Synod
  9. Great Furnace
  10. Birthing Pod

3. Top 10 Nonland, Nonartifact Cards Historically Banned in Another Format, But Not EDH.

  1. Demonic Tutor
  2. Mystical Tutor
  3. Ponder
  4. Enlightened Tutor
  5. Fact or Fiction
  6. Vampiric Tutor
  7. Preordain
  8. Windfall
  9. Faithless Looting
  10. Green Sun’s Zenith

4. Top 10 Nonland, Nonartifact Cards Currently Banned in Another Format, But Not EDH.

  1. Demonic Tutor
  2. Mystical Tutor
  3. Ponder
  4. Vampiric Tutor
  5. Preordain
  6. Windfall
  7. Faithless Looting
  8. Green Sun’s Zenith
  9. Treasure Cruise
  10. Dig Through Time

5. Top 10 Cards Historically Not Banned in an Eternal Format, But Still Banned in Another Format (That Isn’t EDH).

  1. Fetch Lands
  2. Ponder
  3. Ancient Tomb
  4. Preordain
  5. Faithless Looting
  6. Green Sun’s Zenith
  7. Darksteel Citadel
  8. Dark Ritual
  9. Seat of the Synod
  10. Great Furnace

6. Top 10 Cards Currently Banned in Multiple Formats, But Not EDH.

  1. Skullclamp
  2. Sensei’s Divining Top
  3. Windfall
  4. Treasure Cruise
  5. Dig Through Time
  6. Frantic Search
  7. Deathrite Shaman
  8. Seat of the Synod
  9. Gitaxian Probe
  10. Great Furnace

7. Top 10 Cards Currently Banned in Two or Less Formats, But Not EDH.

  1. Sol Ring
  2. Demonic Tutor
  3. Mystical Tutor
  4. Fetch Lands
  5. Ponder
  6. Strip Mine
  7. Vampiric Tutor
  8. Mana Crypt
  9. Mana Vault
  10. Preordain

8. Top 10 Cards Historically Banned in Two or Less Formats, But Not EDH.

  1. Sol Ring
  2. Demonic Tutor
  3. Mystical Tutor
  4. Fetch Lands
  5. Ponder
  6. Enlightened Tutor
  7. Ancient Tomb
  8. Fact or Fiction
  9. Vampiric Tutor
  10. Mana Crypt

9. Top 10 Cards Currently Banned in Another Format, But Not EDH.

  1. Sol Ring
  2. Skullclamp
  3. Demonic Tutor
  4. Mystical Tutor
  5. Fetch Lands
  6. Sensei’s Divining Top
  7. Ponder
  8. Strip Mine
  9. Vampiric Tutor
  10. Mana Crypt

10. Top 10 Cards Currently Banned in Three or More Formats, But Not EDH.

  1. Skullclamp
  2. Treasure Cruise
  3. Gitaxian Probe
  4. Oko, Thief of Crowns

Well, we had to get Oko on a list somehow. If that means making a Top 10 Lists so specific it only has four cards on it, then we all know what has to be done.


What Do You Think?

For the first time ever here on Too-Specific Top 10, we’ve made a Top 10 List that is chock full to the brim with staples of the format, the average cost of which is $18.72. Given this unfortunate event in a listicle series devoted to going out of its way to prevent just such an occurrence, it seems as good a time as any to talk about staples and cost.

Finally, which cards did I miss? What’s a card you pulled out of a binder from your competitive days when you started playing Commander?

Let us know in the comments, and we’ll see you at that table in the back where you traded your Recurring Nightmare for a dollar after it was banned in March of ’99. Smooth move, slick.

Doug has been an avid Magic player since Fallen Empires, when his older brother traded him some epic blue Homarids for all of his Islands. As for Commander, he's been playing since 2010, when he started off by making a two-player oriented G/R Land Destruction deck. Nailed it. In his spare time when he's not playing Magic, writing about Magic or doing his day job, he runs a YouTube channel or two, keeps up a College Football Computer Poll, and is attempting to gif every scene of the Star Wars prequels.