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 Panoptic Mirror, examine why it’s banned in Commander and whether it would be safe to take it off the list.
The mirror is a five-mana artifact from Darksteel that lets you imprint Instants and Sorceries. You do this by paying generic mana equal to the spell’s mana value, tapping the Mirror and exiling the spell from your hand. Then, during each of your upkeeps, you can cast an imprinted Sorcery or Instant without paying its mana value.
While it does take a significant amount of mana to cast and then imprint something powerful onto Panoptic Mirror, once you’ve done that, it can cast an incredibly powerful spell every turn for no mana.
Why is Panoptic Mirror Banned in Commander?
Panoptic Mirror was a problem from the beginning. It got tagged in April 2005 during the format’s first wave of bans. It was banned in the same announcement as some of the most powerful cards in the game, including the Power 9 and Library of Alexandria.
While it is hard to imagine that this card is on the same level as the P9, its proximity to them does showcase that it was a serious concern from the format’s very beginning.
The biggest problem with the mirror is you can imprint something like Time Warp or Wrath of God. Obviously, casting an extra turn effect every turn locks all of your opponents out of the game, effectively ending it.
Imprinting a Wrath effect or other board sweeper might not end the game on the spot, but giving a player the ability to Wrath every single turn is incredibly powerful and not going to be very much fun for anyone else at the table.
There might be more fun ways to use Panoptic Mirror, sure, but most players are going to settle for efficiency. And it’s hard to beat an infinite loop nine times out of 10.
Should Panoptic Mirror be Unbanned in Commander?
So far in this series, I’ve had a firm “yes” or “no” answer to this question. Not so today. This is a tough one!
On the one hand, it is clunky and not especially challenging to remove. On the other hand, in situations where it can’t be removed, it can take over games in a way very few cards can.
Casting Time Warp on your upkeep every turn is absolutely absurd. While it might be possible to interact with Panoptic Mirror before its controller’s upkeep, once the Mirror + Time Warp gets going, it is virtually impossible for other players to do something to stop it.
In the end, I think leaving it on the ban list makes sense. However, I think this is a case where unbanning it provisionally would be worth it to see if today’s Commander format can handle something this powerful. After all, it has been almost 18 years since the card was initially banned, and the game has changed significantly since then.
What do you think? Should Panoptic Mirror remained banned or be set free? 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.