Upheaval's Ban in Commander

Why is Upheaval 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 Upheaval and discuss whether or not it would be safe to unban.

Upheaval is a six mana Sorcery that has a huge impact on the board: It bounces all permanents. One of the things that distinguishes Upheaval from other mass bounce effects is it even returns all lands to their owners’ hands. Put simply, Upheaval is an extremely powerful reset button.

While it is symmetrical, it is most effectively used when the player who casts it makes the effect more one-sided. For example, in 60-card formats, Upheaval was most effectively used in both Standard and Extended Psychatog decks. 

This was a Dimir control deck that eventually won the game with one or two swings from an absolutely massive Psychatog. Psychatog loves it when you have cards in your hand or the graveyard, and Upheaval could go a long way toward giving players cards in those zones.

These decks would float a bunch of mana ahead of casting Upheaval and then Psychatog. Then the  opponent would take their turn, usually just playing a land. This left them open to a one-shot kill from a Psychatog that gorged itself by consuming the player’s entire graveyard and hand.

Why is Upheaval Banned in Commander?

Upheaval was really effectively abused in two different 60-card formats with very limited card pools. However, it has an even higher ceiling in Commander since most decks are capable of generating insane amounts of mana. That means it is even easier to cast Upheaval while you float your mana. 

Once everyone has lost all their permanents, you can then use the floated mana to slam a fatty or two on the table. While you won’t technically win the game that turn, in most cases, you do effectively win the game by pulling so far ahead on board and removing your opponents’ ability to cast any spells themselves. 

Upheaval was ultimately banned in Commander in April of 2005, and it has remained banned ever since. This same announcement also banned cards that are either banned or restricted in all of Magic’s formats, including the Power 9, Balance and Library of Alexandria. In other words, Upheaval was viewed as just as much of a problem as these famously busted cards! 

Should Upheaval be Unbanned?

No. Upheaval has been banned for a long time, and it should stay that way. Not only does it give the player who casts it an incredibly lop-sided advantage, it is also completely miserable to play against. 

If Upheaval resolves, there is almost nothing that can be done to get the other players back in the game. Because everyone’s board is entirely reset, the other players at the table have no real hope of ever catching up to the player who cast Upheaval and slammed a couple of creatures on the table using the mana they floated.

End Step

What do you think? Are you brave enough to claim Upheaval be unbanned anyway? Hit me up on Twitter with your take, and any cards you want me to look at in the future.