Why is Yawgmoth's Bargain Banned in Commander?

Why is Yawgmoth’s Bargain 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 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 Yawgmoth’s Bargain and examine why it’s banned in Commander and whether it would be safe to take it off the list.

Yawgmoth’s Bargain is a six-mana Enchantment from Urza’s Destiny that makes you skip your draw step. While that would normally be a big downside, it also lets you pay 1 life to draw a card. Importantly, there is no limitation on how many times you can draw with it. 

In other words you can pay all of your life but 1 to draw a mountain of cards! Obviously enough, resolving this can often result in its controller winning the game, since drawing that many cards will usually allow you to find whatever you need to win.

Why is Yawgmoth’s Bargain Banned in Commander?

Yawgmoth Bargain was banned in Commander in May of 2006. However, by that point, the card had a long history of being too powerful for 60-card formats. I think that is worth covering here, as it gives us some idea of what made the card so problematic.

Yawgmoth’s Bargain was originally designed as a “fixed” version of the Ice Agent card Necropotence, a card that ultimately got restricted in Vintage and banned in Modern and Legacy. Necropotence costs half the mana and has a very similar effect that lets you pay life for cards. 

However, there is a key difference: Necropotence doesn’t give you the cards immediately. You have to wait until the beginning of your next end step. Yawgmoth’s Bargain’s design removes this downside in exchange for costing twice as much mana.

While it did cost twice as much mana, the upside of getting the cards right away was a big difference. This became especially problematic alongside Academy Rector. When the Rector dies, you could tutor up any Enchantment in your deck and put it directly into play. 

In Extended, Legacy and Vintage, the Rector could even be Flashed into play, meaning you only paid two mana to put it into play and immediately sacrifice it. Once you’re doing that, the fact that the Bargain costs more than Necropotence doesn’t really matter, since you could put the Bargain into play on turn one or two.

In 1999, this combo was eliminated from multiple formats. This Flash-Rector-Bargain combo got Flash errata’d so that it no longer put a creature in play if you didn’t pay the reduced cost of the creature. It also got Yawgmoth’s Bargain banned in Extended and Legacy and restricted in Vintage.

Yawgmoth’s Bargain is banned in Commander for the same reason it got banned in all those formats in 1999. In fact, it is even better in Commander, where you start with an even higher life total.

I think it is safe to say the attempt to create a less powerful Necropotence was a failure. Right now, Yawgmoth’s Bargain is banned in Commander but Necropotence isn’t. This is because the extra time it takes for Necropotence to give you the cards makes it significantly less powerful.

Should Yawgmoth’s Bargain be Unbanned in Commander?

No. There are too many ways to tutor it up early and cheat it into play. There is, of course Academy Rector, but it doesn’t end there. There are dozens of other ways to do it, with some pretty prominent examples. 

Ghen, Arcanum Weaver even gives you a Commander who specializes in reanimating Enchantments. Lost Auramanancers is a slower version of Academy Rector, and Replenish can bring every Enchantment in your graveyard.

While there is no shortage of cards that destroy Enchantments, they just don’t do enough to stop Bargain. Its controller can just draw the cards in response. The only reliable way to deal with the Bargain is when it is on the stack, and that is far too limited a window for a card this powerful and easy to cheat into play. I can’t envision a future where Yawgmoth’s Bargain is ever unbanned, especially because we’ll continue to see more and more ways to get it in play ahead of schedule.

End Step

What do you think? Should Yawgmoth’s Bargain 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.