Iona Shield of Emeria's Ban in Commander

Why is Iona, Shield of Emeria 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 Iona, Shield of Emeria, and explain why it’s banned in Commander.

Iona might cost a ton of mana, but she’s worth it. She gives you a huge flying body that can close out the game on its own. What really makes her great, though, is her ability to shut off all spells of a single color. 

If your opponent is playing a mono colored deck, they are completely out of luck. And even against multicolored opponents you shut down a huge chunk of their deck.

If you’re looking to cheat a creature into play, she’s one of the best options there is. Other win conditions, like Griselbrand and Atraxa, have a much higher ceiling due to all the cards they can give you — but neither locks your opponent out of the game as effectively as Iona does. That’s why she’s seen significant play in every single format she has ever been legal in. 

When she was in Standard, there was a deck built around putting her into play using Polymorph. In Extended, she was often reanimated with Dread Return. In Modern, it isn’t uncommon to see her reanimated by Unburial Rites or put into play with Indomitable Creativity. In Legacy, she’s often put into play with Show and Tell. And in Vintage, she’s put into play with Oath of Druids.

Why is Iona Banned in Commander?

While simply getting Iona into play has won many games of Magic in the 60-card formats, that same has been true in Commander. She was legal in the format for quite some time before getting banned in July of 2019. 

Generally, when the rules committee bans something in Commander, it is either miserable to play against or simply too powerful. Iona checks both of those boxes. 

It would be one thing if she was really powerful but fun to play with or against in the format. It is quite another when her entering play makes the game significantly less fun for pretty much everyone.

Even with Commander as a singleton format, it is simply too easy to tutor her up and cheat her into play. I already discussed all the ways she has been quickly put into play in 60-card constructed formats. But in Commander, you have access to even more ways to do it, including Kaalia of the Vast (the 15th most popular Commander according to EDHRec). You can bet she’d become even more popular if Iona was legal in the format, especially because a deck with a Mardu identity can tutor up a creature fairly easily.

Should Iona be Unbanned?

No. Mono colored Commander players are already at enough of a disadvantage; they don’t need to deal with a card that locks them entirely out of the game. If people were actually paying nine mana to cast her, she wouldn’t be a problem, but I don’t think anyone has ever paid full price for Iona in any format ever (OK, that’s probably hyperbole, but you get my point).  

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What do you think? Should Iona be unbanned in Commander? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know!