Time Vault's Ban in Commander

Why is Time Vault 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, I’m going to take a look at Time Vault, explain why it’s banned in Commander and discuss whether or not it would be safe to unban it.

Time Vault is a two mana Artifact that made its debut in Limited Edition Alpha. It does one of the most powerful things you can possibly do in Magic — it gives you an extra turn. 

That effect is strong not only because it very obviously gives you that extra turn, but also because it takes a turn away from your opponent at the same time. Your opponent simply can’t do anything to respond to the turn you just had, and then you get another one.

Now, Time Vault isn’t exactly Time Walk. You don’t just pay two mana and get an extra turn. You have to tap it to get that extra turn, and you usually can’t do that right away. 

It enters the battlefield tapped and doesn’t untap during your untap step. You can untap it by skipping your turn. The idea here is you invest some time to get some back later.

Granted, if that was the only way you could get an extra turn out of Time Vault, it wouldn’t be a broken card at all. In fact, it might not even be good. One only need look at Magosi, the Waterveil to see a powered down version of this effect, and that isn’t a card with any real impact on any of Magic’s formats, 99-card or otherwise.

Why is Time Vault Banned in Commander?

So, if skipping your turn to get another later isn’t very good, how is it that Time Vault is considered one of the game’s most powerful cards? Well, Time Vault is part of one of the game’s most powerful and easy-to-assemble two-card combos. If you can find a way to untap Time Vault without having to skip a turn, things get silly in a hurry. This is especially true if you use it alongside a repeatable untap effect. 

This combo was so powerful, in fact, that it was banned in January 1994 alongside the Power 9 in the announcement that created Magic’s Banned & Restricted List. And here are just a few ways you can get around Time Vault’s built-in drawback.

If you play either Voltaic or Manifold Key on turn one and Time Vault on turn two, you’re pretty much good to go. You need to find an extra mana somewhere to use their abilities, but once you have that, you can simply untap your Time Vault, tap it for an extra turn and take as many turns as you want to. 

This is incredibly difficult for your opponent to interact with. If you pulled this off in an actual game, your playgroup would probably all scoop and never play with you ever again.

Still, if there was only one card out there that could combine with Time Vault, that would be one thing. But there are dozens of cards that let you untap artifacts, and several of them can do it repeatedly. 

That means the combo is incredibly consistent. Furthermore, tutoring up Artifacts (particularly those with low mana values) isn’t exactly difficult — especially in blue and red. 

Should Time Vault be Unbanned?

No. If it were legal in Commander, many games would devolve into being all about who could assemble the combo first. In addition to how easy it is to combo off with the Vault, there’s also the general problem of accessibility. 

While not technically part of the Power 9, Time Vault is just as rare as they are. So if it were legal, not only would games really warp around it, there would only be a very small percentage of players who would actually be able to get their hands on this powerful artifact. 

End Step

What do you think? Should Time Vault be unbanned? Do you want your opponents to just take infinite turns while you sit there and do nothing? Hit me up on X with your take!