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 Hullbreacher and examine why it’s banned in Commander as well as whether it would be safe to take it off the list.
Why is Hullbreacher Banned in Commander?
Hullbreacher debuted in 2020’s Commander Legends, which means it was designed with the Commander format in mind. That makes its ban all the more interesting. Most cards that end up the Commander ban list get there as a result of being designed with other formats in mind (think Lutri, the Spellchaser), but Wizards of the Coast doesn’t really have that excuse with Hullbreacher!
On the surface, Hullbreacher may not seem that impressive. It’s a three-mana 3/2 with Flash that gives you a Treasure token any time your opponent draws a card other than the one they get in their draw step. While that can certainly generate a lot of mana in multiplayer, it really takes some combos to fully realize this card’s absurd potential.
If this only punished players for choosing to draw extra cards, that would be one thing. It would create an interesting decision to make any time a player considered drawing extra cards. But it doesn’t matter how your opponent draws those cards.
In other words, if you can find a way to force your opponent to draw cards, you get the benefit of all that treasure. This is particularly insane alongside Wheel of Fortune effects, which have all players discard their hand and draw seven new cards. While this exact effect only exists on the original Alpha card, a version of it appears on many blue and red cards.
If you cast Wheel of Fortune with Hullbreacher in play, you get to entirely reload your hand and create SEVEN Treasure. If you are playing a multiplayer game, this is even more absurd, as you get seven Treasure for each other player (21 for a full pod)! Meanwhile, your opponents end up with empty hands.
This will often let you win the game on the spot because you can cast a large portion of your new hand right away. This sort of two card combo is far too powerful, especially because Hullbreacher’s baseline is so reasonable.
Is Hullbreacher Good in Other Formats?
It is worth noting that Hullbreacher has impacted other formats, too, since it is also legal in Legacy and Vintage. And in Magic’s most powerful format, Vintage, Hullbreacher immediately became a key card in the format upon release.
Many Vintage decks are interested in drawing a ton of cards, and Hullbreacher makes sure that getting too greedy will hurt. Vintage Hullbreacher decks also look to combine the card with Wheel of Fortune and similar effects, just like in Commander.
While Hullbreacher isn’t banned in Vintage, the fact it is good enough to be a key card there showcases just how powerful it is.
Should it Remain Banned in Commander?
Yes, it should. While two-card combos are generally fine in Commander, this one involves two cards that are very easy to tutor up, and even easier to cast.
In addition to the card’s high power level, Hullbreacher also just isn’t good for the format. The goal of any Commander deck with Hullbreacher in it usually involves trying to pull off the combo, and there’s a good chance multiple people at the table would be trying to do the exact same thing.
That sounds a whole lot like a deck from a 60-card format — not like a 99-card, singleton format. So, not only is it crazy powerful, it would make Commander games a lot less interesting.
That’s all for today. I’ll be back next week to discuss another card that is banned in Commander! You can hit me up on Twitter (@NizzahonMagic) for other cards you want to see in this series.
Jacob has been playing Magic for the better part of 24 years, and he especially loves playing Magic’s Limited formats. He also holds a PhD in history from the University of Oklahoma. In 2015, he started his YouTube channel, “Nizzahon Magic,” where he combines his interests with many videos covering Magic’s competitive history. When he’s not playing Magic or making Magic content, he can be found teaching college-level history courses or caring for a menagerie of pets with his wife.