With well over 10,000 unique cards printed in Magic the Gathering‘s run so far, it’s perhaps not a huge surprise that a few of them have been just a tad broken. With that many cards, it’s virtually impossible to not have a few slipups. Whether it’s enabling some “I win” combo or just getting too much value for too little cost, cards have been banned or restricted based on the needs and issues of the various formats of play. I’m highlighting a few of my favorites here, for my purposes I’m sticking to cards as they pertain to Standard, Modern, Legacy, Vintage and Commander.

[mtg_card=Ancestral Recall]

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Restricted in Vintage, Banned in Legacy and Commander.

With all the talk lately of whether [mtg_card=Treasure Cruise] needs a banning or not, the original draw three for one mana really takes you back to an era when Magic was a very different game. While it’s a generalization that doesn’t get into a lot of the nuance, the basic principle is that over the years creatures have gotten better while spells have gotten worse. Compare the effect of drawing three cards at instant speed, [mtg_card=Ancestral Recall] does it for a single blue mana, but in order to get that same card, without jumping through hoops or paying extra costs, you need to go all the way up to three and double blue at [mtg_card=Jace’s Ingenuity]. That’s a huge increase and you can see how this card is all but unavailable in basically every format since it offers super cheap card advantage.

[mtg_card=Black Lotus]

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Restricted in Vintage, Banned in Legacy and Commander.

When folks think of overpowered, and expensive, Magic cards, there’s a good chance most of them are going to first go to [mtg_card=Black Lotus]. [mtg_card=Black Lotus] may put you down a card since you’re using it up for mana, but the tempo advantage of being able to deploy a powerful card way earlier is often too much for your opponent to come back from. Similar to [mtg_card=Ancestral Recall], [mtg_card=Black Lotus] only gets better as the quality of the rest of your cards increases. Getting to play something like a Turn 1 [mtg_card=Abzan Battle Priest] in Khans draft would be pretty powerful, but it’s hardly on the same level as say playing [mtg_card=Jace, the Mind Sculptor] on Turn 1. There’s also at least a little monetary concerns as well. There are just not that many [mtg_card=Black Lotus] cards, so making it into a staple card in more formats than just a one-of in Vintage would be really oppressive to those who couldn’t afford it.

[mtg_card=Emrakul, the Aeons Torn]

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Banned in Commander.

Arguably the biggest, baddest, and most unfair creature card Magic has every printed, unless your opponent controls 15 squirrel tokens. [mtg_card=Emrakul, the Aeons Torn] is an absolute monster, but, and it’s a big but, this was all supposed to be balanced with one of the most expensive casting costs in the game. Reaching 15 mana requires some serious deck dedication, usually leaving you soft to other strategies, and [mtg_card=Emrakul, the Aeons Torn]’s graveyard trigger keeps most of the easier ways to cheat it into play off the board. However, a lot of this goes out the window when you bring the discussion to Commander. Getting a lot of mana in play is not only easier in the generally slower format, but it’s often what most good Commander decks want to be spending their early turns doing. [mtg_card=Emrakul, the Aeons Torn] is also dreadfully hard to interact with. It can’t be countered, so the only spells that can do something to it on the stack are things like [mtg_card=Venser, Shaper Savant]. Even if you manage that, you still get the the extra turn just for casting [mtg_card=Emrakul, the Aeons Torn]. Once it’s on the field it doesn’t start looking much better either. Flying makes it hard to block, protection from color spells means you need specific answers like [mtg_card=Oblivion Ring] – because it’s an ability that exiles not the spell itself, and this is all while you’re sacrificing six of your permanents to annihilator. Just all in all, not a card I would prefer to see at a game of Commander.

[mtg_card=Jace, the Mind Sculptor]

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Banned in Modern.

[mtg_card=Jace, the Mind Sculptor] holds the distinction of being one of less than 20 cards that were banned out of the Standard format. [mtg_card=Jace, the Mind Sculptor] was also the only planeswalker to feature four abilities until [mtg_card=Garruk, Apex Predator], except that one of those cards only costs a single color and comes down much sooner in a game. Jace just offers a ton of versatile value that can be backbreaking in most formats. Heck, you don’t even need to activate his usually game ending ult, just using the zero ability to [mtg_card=Brainstorm] a few times is generally enough to seal away most games with the extra card advantage and selections. There’s also few things as demoralizing as having an opponent tick up [mtg_card=Jace, the Mind Sculptor] and leave the card there. “Sigh, guess that one’s not helping me here.”

[mtg_card=Karakas]

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Banned in Commander.

This one is kind of a no-brainer. The new Commander 2014 products have introduced the option of using specific planeswalkers as commanders, but otherwise getting to bounce anyone else’s commander to hand for no cost other than tapping a land is pretty oppressive.

[mtg_card=Memory Jar]

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Restricted in Vintage, Banned in Legacy.

Normally card bannings get announced at a few specific times throughout the year, but [mtg_card=Memory Jar] is the only card, so far, to receive an emergency banning. There’s some history behind what the Magic scene and community was like at the time, but basically it boils down to the fact that this is an artifact, which means any deck can run it, and it has the words “draw seven cards” printed on it. Even with the requirements of exiling your hand for a turn and needing to use those new cards right away, the potential and power level was just too high. Again, this is a card that only gets better as the other cards in your deck get more powerful and usually cheaper.

[mtg_card=Shahrazad]

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Banned in Legacy, Vintage, and Commander.

[mtg_card=Shahrazad] is perhaps one of the most interesting cards that’s banned in every format imaginable because no one actually wants to bother with resolving it, let alone wants to even think about its effects on an actual timed event. Also you just know that someone would eagerly slap this under a [mtg_card=Panoptic Mirror] or [mtg_card=Isochron Specter] just to mess with people. It doesn’t hurt that it’s ultimately just a burn spell either, so even if the effect is really unique there are better spells that get the same result.

[mtg_card=Stoneforge Mystic]

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Banned in Modern.

[mtg_card=Stoneforge Mystic] is another “Banned in Standard” honoree. There was even an awkward time where you could still run it after it was banned but it meant you needed to play the exact Event Deck list that it was sold in. [mtg_card=Stoneforge Mystic] was ultimately a victim of the cards that came after it, not necessarily its own power level. While there were a few decent equipment cards in Zendikar block, there weren’t nearly at the same level of what started appearing in Scars of Mirrodin block, an artifact heavy set. Now you could tutor those equipment up, for a nice little two-for-one, and if [mtg_card=Stoneforge Mystic] survived, you get them on the battlefield for a reduced cost and at instant speed. More powerful formats can overpower stuff like [mtg_card=Batterskull] getting searched out and being flashed in, but it’s still probably a little too much for Modern.

[mtg_card=Tinker]

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Restricted in Vintage, Banned in Legacy and Commander.

I once had the pleasure, cackle menacingly, of assembling a [mtg_card=Tinker] and [mtg_card=Blightsteel Colossus] deck in Cube once, it even had Moxes to accelerate and fuel it out faster. It was really dumb and demanded very specific answers, and that’s before you start considering other powerful artifacts and combos like [mtg_card=Tinker]ing for the other half of your [mtg_card=Time Vault] + [mtg_card=Voltaic Key] infinite turns. Similar to [mtg_card=Black Lotus], you do end up down a card in these exchanges, but the fact that you’re able to both tutor and cheat out expensive artifacts makes [mtg_card=Tinker] absurdly powerful. This is also a card that’s only gotten more powerful as more cards are introduced into Magic, widening the pool of combos and powerful artifacts that you can dig up.

[mtg_card=Umezawa’s Jitte]

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Banned in Modern.

Many of the powerful cards in Magic‘s long history are often the result of last minute changes. [mtg_card=Tarmogoyf] was a last minute addition to Future Sight when planeswalkers were determined to not quite be ready yet, and we all know how that turned out. The story goes that for [mtg_card=Umezawa’s Jitte] that it originally had an ability that allowed you to exchange counters for black mana, but after development was already finished it was determined that this wouldn’t work for various reasons, so they changed it to -1/-1 to target creature. This happened without proper time spent to test it, and the rest is history. [mtg_card=Umezawa’s Jitte] can create some really unfun boardstates, especially if you’re playing with a deck of mostly little creatures. It’s also just really flexible and versatile, you don’t need to use up your counters until you really need them and then can tailor spend them to the situation as needed. It was format warping back in its day and continues to see extensive playing in formats like Legacy where you can go fetch it out with [mtg_card=Stoneforge Mystic].

So those are just a few of the powerful banned cards in Magic the Gathering. If you had your way of it, what cards would you like to see banned or unbanned?

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