Leovold's Ban in Commander

Why is Leovold, Emissary of Trest 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, we’re going to look at Leovold, Emissary of Trest, examine why it’s banned in Commander and whether it would be safe to take it off the list.

Leovold is a Sultai, three-mana 3/3 that comes with two abilities that give you immense card advantage. 

First, he makes it so your opponents can’t draw more than one card a turn. On their own turn, this means they can’t draw beyond the card they get in their draw step. Card draw is an incredibly common effect, so this ability does a great job of making life much more difficult for your opponent.

Second, any time one of your permanents becomes targeted by an opposing spell or ability, you get to draw a card. This counts Leovold, so a 2-for-1 is the best anyone can ever do against him.

Leovold is simply one of the best creatures in Magic. Since being printed in August of  2016, he has seen heavy play in Magic’s two most powerful formats: Legacy and Vintage. Virtually every deck in those formats runs multiple card draw spells, so shutting those cards down is incredibly powerful. And while he is still legal in the 60-card Eternal formats, that’s not true for Commander.

Why is Leovold Banned in Commander?

Leovold also immediately became an incredibly popular Commander, especially for control decks that contained lots of card draw. If you could get Leovold down and protect him, it really locked the other players out of the game. 

Just like in Legacy and Vintage, card draw is a huge part of Commander. It is essential for many decks to get up and running. So, if you are drawing a ton of cards while preventing everyone else at the table from doing so, you end up way ahead of everyone else. 

This is especially true if you have the cards to remove anything your opponents might try to play or counters for anything that might remove Leovold. And even if they do remove Leovold, you end up with a card for your troubles and can usually just cast Leovold again on your next turn.

Eventually, your opponents will run out of cards and you never will! Basically, he makes it so that your opponents don’t get to play the game, and that’s not a lot of fun for anyone. That’s why Leovold dominated Commander for about seven months, getting axed from the format in April of 2017.

Should Leovold be Unbanned in Commander?

Not unless they bring the “Banned as Commander Only” rule. I went deep on this type of ban in an earlier article in this series. Suffice it to say, this type of ban was retired in 2014, and it meant that you could play a card in your main deck but not as your Commander. 

Leovold is still quite powerful when you don’t have access to him in the command zone. But if he starts in your deck, he isn’t going to be the same, persistent problem he is as a commander. After all, there are other, non-Commander cards that take away the ability to draw more than one card a turn. Despite creating occasional problems in other ways, they remain playable in Commander.

The real problem with Leovold is, as your Commander, he comes down early and comes with built-in recursion.That’s a big part of what makes him so oppressive.

Personally, I think “Banned as Commander” was a good idea. The only real downside about it is that it creates a more confusing banlist for the format, and that is definitely a concern. However, the upside is people can play more of their cards in the format than they could otherwise, and I think that offsets the downside.

That said, It is unlikely this type of ban ever returns. If that’s the case, Leovold should absolutely remain banned in Commander.

End Step

What do you think? Should Leovold remain banned? Should they bring back “Banned in Comander?” 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.