Chaos Orb and Falling Star's Ban in Commander

Why are Chaos Orb and Falling Star Banned in Commander?

Jacob LacknerCommander

While Commander’s grassroots origins make it different from many other Magic formats, it still has a ban list like the rest of them. However, since Commander is not a format with tons of tournament data to back up banning certain cards, some players are unsure why certain offenders end up on the list. Today, I’m going to take a look at Chaos Orb and Falling Star, explain why they are banned in Commander and discuss whether or not it would be safe to unban them.

These are two of the weirdest cards in Magic, mostly because they use a mechanic that was quickly retired. With each of these cards you have to physically flip them over the table, and the effect the card has is based on what other cards it touches when it lands. 

Chaos Orb destroys any cards that it touches, while Falling Star does 3 damage to each creature it touches. Informally called the “dexterity cards” these introduced all kinds of problems to Magic.

While the cards went to the trouble of explaining that these cards need to turn over entirely when you flip them, there’s a whole lot that they didn’t take the time to explain. For example, in what other ways can you manipulate the card? 

One of the most famous legends about Chaos Orb is that a player once tore it into pieces and then threw it over the board to destroy everything. This story was hilariously immortalized in the Unglued card Chaos Confetti.

The next question was whether or not players could move their cards out of the way while they were being flipped over the board. This might sound kind of silly, but you have to remember Magic was the first trading card game, and if dexterity cards were part of this game, no one had anything else to compare the mechanic to. These cards introduced a mini-game already, so why wouldn’t you be able to move your cards around?

All of that sounds insane, but perhaps the craziest thing about these two cards is they were legal to play at the very first World Championship in 1994. In fact, Chaos Orb was a staple at the time. There were a whole lot of Chaos Orbs flipped over the table at the event that crowned Zak Dolan the first World Champion. 

Why are Chaos Orb and Falling Star Banned in Commander?

After all the chaos created at Magic’s first sanctioned competitive event, both Chaos Orb and Falling Star got banned in 1995. Today, they remain two of the only cards that are entirely banned in Vintage instead of restricted. In addition to creating all sorts of gameplay issues, there are also some serious accessibility issues these cards present.

There’s nothing else in Magic that requires you to do this sort of thing, so it’s really out of place. If you want to have dexterity cards in the game, you have to ask yourself: should a person’s coordination matter in Magic

I think almost everyone would respond “no” to that question. In addition to simply putting some uncoordinated players at a serious disadvantage, there are also many people who are physically incapable of performing the actions these cards require. There’s no reason those people should be excluded from playing Magic, especially when there’s nothing else in the game with this type of effect.

Should Falling Star and Chaos Orb be Unbanned?

Nope! Dexterity cards just don’t make a whole lot of sense. They were a mistake when they were originally printed because of the logistical issues they created. Today they make even less sense, especially as more and more Magic is being played digitally. 

The most important aspect, though, is that requiring players to perform such specific physical actions also makes the game less accessible.

End Step

What do you think? Am I wrong? Should we be flipping cards over the table with regularity? I Hit me up on X with your thoughts!