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, we’re going to take a look at Karakas and examine its history, why it’s banned in Commander and whether it would be safe to take it off the list.
Karakas was originally printed in 1994’s Legends, the set where legendary permanents made their debut. Legends featured many cards that involved this brand new mechanic, including Karakas. It is a legendary land that can tap for a single white mana — but you can also tap it to return a legendary creature to its owner’s hand. Because it enters play untapped, it is effectively a Plains with upside.
Karakas is a staple in White decks in Magic’s Eternal formats, where it is especially effective against legendary creatures who are cheated into play with cards like Show and Tell. It can also be used quite effectively to protect legendary creatures and rebuy their Enter the Battlefield abilities.
Utility lands with this many uses should not be underestimated. Karakas is a land that has a repeatable spell-like effect, and it doesn’t cost any mana. That is some incredibly powerful upside to have on a land with virtually no downside.
Why is Karakas Banned in Commander?
That upside is even more pronounced in Commander. After all, the format is all about building a deck around a particular legendary creature, so Karakas would be able to utilize its powerful upside in every single game. That being said, there are three ways Karakas can easily be abused in Commander.
First, you can use it to keep an opposing Commander off of the board without even having to use up a card or spend any mana. This can result in a particularly miserable play experience for the players who don’t control Karakas.
Second, Karakas can also keep your Commander safe. You can constantly bounce it in response to removal. White is also a color with access to tons of Wrath effects, and being able to bounce your Commander for free, cast a Wrath and then replay your Commander would be pretty insane!
Third, Karakas can be used as an engine that rebuys powerful ETB abilities. While its effect is restricted only to legendary creatures, there are plenty that become incredibly problematic alongside Karakas. Some mono-White examples are Loran of the Third Path; Lena, Selfless Champion and Djeru, with Eyes Open.
If Karakas was only capable of one of these effects, it would be a very good card. But with Karakas in play, you have access to all three capabilities.
In addition to these three incredibly powerful modes, Karakas also happens to be very difficult to interact with. Land destruction isn’t exactly ubiquitous in Commander, and because it isn’t a spell, there are very few cards that can counter its effect.
Should Karakas be Unbanned?
No, it shouldn’t. It is far too powerful in a format that is all about your legendary Commander. It has three incredibly powerful uses, it is hard to interact with and the opportunity cost of running it is extremely low since it comes with virtually no downside.
Karakas would appear in every White deck, too, so it would have a massive impact on the format. I think we can all agree that playing against Karakas regularly would be absolutely miserable. It is best for Karakas to remain banned.
What do you think? Should Karakas remain on the banned list? 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.
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.