Trade Secrets Ban in Commander

Why is Trade Secrets 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 Trade Secrets, explain why it’s banned in Commander and discuss whether or not it would be safe to unban it.

Trade Secrets has a really interesting design. It is a three-mana draw four, something that is incredibly powerful. Of course, it has to be balanced to avoid being completely busted. 

In this case, it’s balanced by the fact that your opponent will also draw two cards. But there’s an interesting little mini-game here, as your opponent can choose to keep drawing two cards at a time if they want. And if they do, you have the option of drawing four cards every time they make that choice. 

Note that it does say “up to four cards,” which means your opponent can’t just use this to force you to mill yourself out. In the end, you’ll always be ahead of your opponent on cards when you use this.

Why is Trade Secrets Banned in Commander?

Today, it is fairly obvious to us that Trade Secrets isn’t a card that should be legal in Commander. After all, it allows two players to make a deal that will allow them to draw as much of their decks as they want. Those two players will have insane card advantage that the other two players at the table simply can’t overcome. 

Basically, Trade Secrets takes away one of the most interesting parts of Commander — the fact it is a four-player game. Once two players draw most of their library, it effectively becomes a two-player game, because the two players who drew off of Trade Secrets will have an insurmountable advantage.

Trade Secrets was originally printed way back in 2002’s Onslaught, well before Commander was a format people were even talking about on the internet. So maybe we should cut Wizards of the Coast some slack for ever printing a card like this one. Still, there’s one important reason why we really shouldn’t.

Trade Secrets was reprinted in one of the decks in Commander 2011. These were the very first Commander precons. You could pick one up Trade Secrets if you bought the Political Puppets precon, which featured Zedruu the Greathearted as the Commander. 

You can see how a card like Trade Secrets is on theme with Zedruu. After all, she is all about making deals with your opponents. You can offer them a permanent, and in exchange you get to draw more cards and gain more life. 

Trade Secrets offers the same kind of trade off. By including this card in Zedruu’s precon, Wizards of the Coat was actively encouraging people to play Trade Secrets in their Commander decks. 

In retrospect, that was a massive mistake — one I think is a result of Wizards of the Coast not fully understanding Commander when they first started actively supporting the format. They did learn from this, though, since no card included in a Commander precon has been banned in the format since 2011.

Should Trade Secrets be Unbanned?

This is a very easy “No.” The card simply ruins every game it gets cast in because the two players who benefit from it will simply be too far ahead for the other two players to ever catch up. 

End Step

What do you think? Do you want your four-player Commander games to devolve into de facto two-player games, or do you think Trade Secrets should remain banned? Hit me up on Twitter with your take.