Sway of the Stars' Ban in Commander

Why is Sway of the Stars 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 Sway of the Stars and examine whether or not it would be safe to unban.

This 10-mana Sorcery makes every player shuffle everything in play, in the graveyard and in their hand into their library. Then each player draws seven new cards and sets their life total to seven.

The first time you read this card, you don’t usually come away from it thinking this is all that impressive. After all, your opponents will actually have the first chance to rebuild their board after this thing resolves since you just spent your turn casting this. 

Every set has a few super wacky rares that do something powerful, but normally when it is entirely symmetrical and costs this much mana, it is a card that spends most of its time in a shoe box. However, Sway of the Stars quickly silenced any doubters when Olivier Ruel Top 8’d 2005’s Pro Tour Philadelphia with a deck that featured Sway as its primary win condition. 

This Kamigawa Block Constructed deck produced absurd amounts of mana using Heartbeat of Spring. The deck could produce so much mana that casting Sway of the Stars was pretty easy. So easy that you could also float a ton of mana, so after Sway resolved, you could cast something like Kodama of the North Tree on the empty battlefield. At that point, the game was all but over.

Why is Sway of the Stars Banned in Commander?

In April 2005, Sway of the Stars was banned in Commander in one of the format’s first announcements. It got banned alongside powerhouses like the Power 9 and Balance

This decision to lump Sway in with such powerful cards may sound ridiculous, but there was a lot of concern about Sway’s ability to completely reset the game. One month later, a Sway of the Stars deck managed to Top 8 a Pro Tour, and that certainly validated concerns about the card’s presence in Commander.

Kamigawa Block Constructed had an incredibly small card pool. These old “Block” formats featured only cards from the three original Kamigawa sets. Meanwhile, Commander (even in 2005) had a massive card pool, and there were a plethora of ways to produce insane amounts of mana, so it would be even easier to float a bunch of mana and rebuild your board the same turn you cast Sway. 

In addition to being powerful, Sway of the Stars can also be quite frustrating to play against. After all, it sweeps away everything every player has done so far and makes it irrelevant in every way. So, back in 2005, Sway was viewed as both too powerful and miserable to play against. Many cards are banned in Commander for one of those reasons, but Sway checked both of those boxes! 

Should Sway of the Stars be Unbanned?

I think it should. Magic has changed significantly over the last 18 years, and Sway of the Stars is no longer powerful enough to warrant its inclusion on the list.   

While it does have a very powerful effect that can allow the person who casts it to win the game, it takes a significant amount of work. You have to generate a massive amount of mana to both cast Sway and float enough mana for you to add to the board in a significant way in the aftermath. It also doesn’t necessarily win the game on the spot, especially in a multiplayer game where resources and time have to be used to beat each opponent, even if they each only have seven life.

End Step

What do you think? Should Sway of the Stars be unbanned? Or is it still powerful enough that it should stay on the list? Hit me up on Twitter with your take, and any cards you want me to look at in the future.