Why is Braids, Cabal Minion banned in Commander?

Why is Braids, Cabal Minion 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 competitive format with tournament data to back up banning certain cards, some players are unsure why certain offenders end up on the list. Today, we’re going to take a look at Braids, Cabal Minion and examine its history, why it’s banned in Commander and whether it would be safe to take it off the list.

Braids, Cabal Minion
Braids, Cabal Minion

Braids is a four-mana 2/2 that forces each player to sacrifice an artifact, creature or land each upkeep. While this type of effect is certainly frustrating, is it enough to warrant a ban? 

Why is Braids Banned in Commander?

Braids has been on the Commander banlist since 2009, but she wasn’t entirely banned in the format to start. Instead, Braids was only banned as a Commander. 

This was a more nuanced ban that still allowed the card to be played in the 99-card deck. Between 2006 and 2014, there were a total of eight cards that received this treatment. 

This type of ban was utilized for cards that were problematic when they showed up in every single game but much less so if they were shuffled into your deck. Some other cards that received this type of ban include Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary, who can ramp you to the moon in the very early game, and Erayo, Soratami Ascendant, who could be flipped quickly in a deck built around her. Once flipped, she countered the first spell every player cast each turn, which would prevent other players from being able to develop their board.

So, what made Braids so problematic as a Commander? She was viewed in a similar vein to Erayo. Her effect is extremely powerful in the early game, and if no one can remove her, she will essentially prevent people from being able to play the game. 

While Stax decks built around this type of strategy are a big part of Commander, it usually takes them a while to get their lock pieces in place. Braids would allow the Stax player to get set up directly out of the command zone very early in the game, and everyone’s boards would be quickly torn apart. 

Basically, reducing how often someone can get Braids into play early is certainly the best thing to do if your goal is to make Commander games as fun and interesting as possible. 

In September 2014, the “Banned as Commander” rule was eliminated, and Braids was fully banned, along with Erayo and Rofellos. The reason to ax this rule was that “having multiple lists was unnecessary information overhead.” They thought a single streamlined ban list would simplify things for players.

Should Braids be Unbanned? And Should “Banned as Commander” Come Back?

I don’t think Braids should be entirely unbanned. I agree she is both miserable to play against and too powerful. Starting the game with her in the command zone means she is going to end up in play on a regular basis. Plus there is enough fast mana in the format these days that it is entirely possible to get her down on turn one or two and prevent anyone from actually being able to play Magic

Braids decks would be entirely built around getting her down as early as possible, too. After all, players like to win the game, and the best way to win with Braids is with a bunch of fast mana that allows her to shut down the game. 

However, Braids is a great example of why “Banned as Commander” is a good idea. If she isn’t starting every game in your command zone and coming down in the extreme early game, she isn’t nearly as oppressive. If boards are well developed, her effect can certainly be annoying, but it isn’t going to prevent everyone at the table from being able to play the game. At that point, she’s just a nice disruptive piece and not an insane card.

Braids isn’t the only example of this, either. There are other Legendary Creatures who are banned in Commander largely because they are way too good as your Commander. 

Personally, I think both Rofellos and Golos, Tireless Pilgrim could be unbanned for 99-card decks. If Rofellos doesn’t come down early in virtually every game, the ramp he offers isn’t nearly as impressive. 

Meanwhile, Golos would only be available to decks with a WUBRG commander. He certainly offers some powerful effects, but if you aren’t able to use him every game to search up powerful lands, he is a lot less concerning. 

In the end, I think the downside of having a less streamlined ban list is well worth the upside of allowing players to use more cards.

End Step

What do you think? Should Braids remain on the banned list? Should we bring back “Banned as Commander”?  You can hit me up on Twitter with your take, along with suggestions for cards you’d like to see me address in the future.