Griselbrand's Ban in Commander

Why is Griselbrand Banned in Commander?

Jacob LacknerCommander, Design

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 Griselbrand, explain why it’s banned in Commander and discuss whether or not it would be safe to unban it.

In a vacuum, Griselbrand is one of the most powerful creatures in the entire game. He might cost a ton of mana, but there are a plethora of ways to very easily cheat him into play. While his large evasive body certainly matters, it is the activated ability that pushes him into truly absurd territory. Sure, seven life is a lot. But drawing seven cards is an advantage that is almost impossible for any opponent to overcome. 

The fact he can use that ability right away is incredibly important, because it means even if your opponent removes this legendary demon, they are going to end up very far behind on cards. If your opponent doesn’t have a way to deal with Griselbrand things get truly absurd, because he has lifelink. 

This really minimizes the already minor downside of having to pay life for Griselbrand. In fact, if he hits the opponent, it usually means you’re drawing another seven off the top.

Since being printed in 2012, Griselbrand has been Magic’s premiere reanimation target in every format it has ever been legal in, including the Eternal ones. While that title has been under siege of late, with the recent printing of Atraxa, Grand Unifier, Griselbrand is still an absolute powerhouse.

Why is Griselbrand banned in Commander?

Before Lutri, the Spellchaser got preemptively banned in 2020, Griselbrand was the card that got banned the most quickly in Commander. It got the ax only a few months after being printed. In other words, it was quickly very clear that Griselbrand was creating serious issues for the format.

This is because cheating Griselbrand into play is just as easy in Commander as it is in Legacy and Vintage. Black has no shortage of ways to tutor creatures into the graveyard in the early game. It can also reanimate creatures on the cheap.

Furthermore, Griselbrand’s activated ability is also even better in Commander. If your life starts at 40, paying seven life is an even more insignificant cost. Heck, paying 21 to get a look at a huge chunk of your deck will probably allow you to win the game on the spot in most situations.

Should Griselbrand be Unbanned?

When I’ve written about banned legendary creatures in the past, I’ve usually advocated for the reinstatement of the “Banned as Commander” rule, because most of the other banned legendary creatures in the format aren’t nearly as problematic if you don’t give the card Commander status. 

After all, making it so that a creature effectively always starts in your hand and is inherently recursive usually gives a legendary creature a massive upgrade. So, if you take that away, most legendary creatures aren’t nearly as overpowered.

That isn’t true in this case. In fact, Griselbrand is probably better if he is in your deck instead of your Command Zone. This is because it’s easier to get Griselbrand from your hand or deck into your graveyard than it is to get it from your Command Zone into your graveyard.

If he’s allowed to be in your 98, most Black decks would suddenly devolve into being all about trying to throw Griselbrand into the graveyard and reanimate him quickly. This would not only be an incredibly powerful play, it would also make the format homogenous, something that you never want to be true of any Magic format.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for “Banned except as Commander” either. He’s also great in your Command Zone. Griselbrand decks would focus on ramping mana to get him into play quickly, something that isn’t much of a challenge with all the mana rocks and ritual effects that Black has access to.

Keeping it Griselbanned (See what I did there?) is really the only choice if we want to have a good time playing this format.

End Step 

What do you think? Should Griselbrand be unbanned? Is it okay that he enables everything so easily? Do you want to give graveyard decks a surefire target? Hit me up on X with your thoughts!