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 Paradox Engine and examine its history, why it’s banned in Commander and whether it would be safe to take it off the list.
Paradox Engine lets you untap all of your nonland permanents every time you cast a spell. This means it is a great engine for generating lots of mana from your nonland sources, like mana dorks and mana rocks.
In addition to generating a ton of mana, the Engine can also allow you to use activated abilities repeatedly in a single turn. In short it has massive combo potential.
Why is Paradox Engine Banned in Commander?
The Commander Rules Committee banned Paradox Engine in 2019 after it ran roughshod over the format for two years. They had a lot of data to draw upon in making their decision.
One of the comments about banning the powerful artifact claimed “…it doesn’t need to be built around to be broken.” I want to elaborate on this point, because I think this is the most important factor in Paradox Engine’s inclusion on the ban list.
If the Engine was only busted when you worked really hard to get it going, it wouldn’t have needed a ban, because you would have to pay a very real deck construction cost in the process. That just isn’t true here, because the Engine was always one of the best cards in the majority of Commander decks.
The key here is mana rocks are heavily played in Commander. Many games begin with both players deploying these mana-producing artifacts so they can gain a board advantage on a later turn. The EDHREC data is pretty clear about how important mana rocks are!
During the last two years, the most played cards in the entire format are Sol Ring and Arcane Signet. If you get one of these in your opening hand, they tend to give you a very good head start.
If we look at the 100 cards that were the most heavily played in Commander during the last two years, you’ll also find that 22 mana rocks made the list. If you continue the list beyond the top 100, you’ll continue to find this trend continues, with roughly 1 in 5 cards on the list being artifacts that can tap for mana.
Creatures who tap for mana are also great with Paradox Engine. While they aren’t readily available in every color, they are plentiful in any deck with access to green. If we look at the 25 most played green cards in Commander, you’ll find the following:
When the Rules Committee mentions the card is great even when you don’t build around it, this is what they mean. It isn’t that hard to combine Paradox Engine with cheap spells or the format’s ubiquitous mana rocks and mana dorks.
If you can do that simple task, you can generate enough mana to easily win the game. As they noted in their announcement, Paradox Engine is broken in basically every Commander deck.
Should Paradox Engine be Unbanned in Commander?
No, it shouldn’t. It is far too easy to generate insane amounts of mana with. Because it’s colorless and most decks run lots of mana rocks, it would slot back into the majority of Commander decks without a whole lot of effort.
This would make the format incredibly homogenous, which is the exact opposite of what makes Commander great. If Paradox Engine were unbanned, games would regularly end with someone going off with Paradox Engine. I don’t think that’s a Commander format any of us really want to play.
What do you think? Am I wrong? Should Paradox Engine be unbanned? 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.