This entry is part 14 of 14 in the series Peasant Rebellion

Posted by Maxwellian2000
I am not ashamed to admit that I had no idea exactly how much Primeval Titan had warped my Commander experience.  Given the Rules Committee’s notoriously small ban list, I had zero inkling they were even considering doing away with one of the most popular cards in the format at the same time it predictably killed Worldfire.  When I found out about it that day in September, I was stunned.

A world without Prime Time forced a dramatic shift in how I would work with green going forward, and enough time has passed that we should now be able to begin assessing the ban’s impact.  The card’s ban has had the intended effect of taking green down a small, needed, peg, as evidenced by the difficulty I faced in attempting to duplicate Prime Time’s power.  But more importantly, I believe the ban may result in negative, unintended long-term effects that could hurt the format going forward.

Even though PT was in virtually every deck pre-ban, no doubt influencing the RC’s decision accordingly, the unavailability of that one-card solution forced me  to think about which generals and color combinations really needed a PT-esque effect the most.  It seemed like B/G would take the biggest hit, as many of those decks rely on the Cabal Coffers/Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth combo to get to critical mass.  Literally the only card in the format that can tutor for multiple non-basic lands and put them onto the battlefield is Scapeshift, so just sub that in for Prime Time and we’re good, right?

Wrong.  There’s no doubt Scapeshift is a quality card, but let’s think about exactly all the ways PT covered your ass.  It’s a beater.  An accelerator.  A reanimation target.  A blink and bounce target.  Just so many way to take advantage of the fact that PT was a creature and a sick tutor to boot.  So putting Scapeshift in would only work if other aspects of the deck were changed to account for its inclusion and PT’s exclusion.

Ultimately, rather than tweak an existing deck, I built a dredge-heavy Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord deck because he’s a new, sick, G/B general who has synergy with Scapeshift’s effect of yarding lands.  Or in other words, in order to approximate PT’s impact, that single card had to be replaced with a dredge theme and the following six-card package:

Scapeshift–The closest thing we have to PT is generally weaker, but does cost less, and can be protected by [/card]Boseiju, Who Shelters All[/card].  But really, not that close because it is so much harder to recur and, to a lesser extent, search for (no Tooth and Nail into PT/Avenger of Zendikar for you, sir).

Life From the Loam–Makes sacrificing lands to Scapeshift much more palatable.  In Jarad, it also compliments the dredge theme as I try to fill the yard full of juicy reanimation targets.

Crucible of Worlds–Another way to get back sacrificed land.  Also fights back against land destruction.

Realms Uncharted–While far worse that Scapeshift for only one less mana, this card still lets you fetch non-basic lands.  I usually end up with at least a Volrath’s Stronghold.  Plays nice with Loam and Crucible.

Crop Rotation–This card has seen play in the past, but it usually requires some help in the form of Loam and/or Crucible.  Now that the “help” is necessary to give me my PT fix, this card’s a no-brainer.

Petrified Field–Before PT was banned this was usually another fringe card in my decks.  Now, it’s another tool to recur lands lost to Scapeshift.  A solid Realms Uncharted target.

The package works, the deck is a success, and I can’t say that it misses PT too badly.  But it took five spells, six cards, and staying in dredge.  Pretty serious limitations for a color combination that was arguably (and may still be) the format’s most powerful.

But even for die-hard green mages, the good news far outweighs the bad, right?  Primeval Titan should have never been printed, so that’s an injustice now corrected.  Green is now a lot more challenging and fun to work with. Non-green decks aren’t automatically at a disadvantage.  If green is still able to pull of PT-esque shenanigans, like in Jarad, at least it has to spend some deck space to get there, so that seems a lot more fair.

But what does that mean for the format going forward?  Honestly, I think a potential unintended consequence is that the format may become more cutthroat and less concerned with the social contract.  If the RC is smart enough to ban obviously overpowered cards like Prime Time, that makes everything else fair game, right?  The RC’s stated goal has always been to regulate when only absolutely necessary, and only to ban cards that were destructive to the casual spirit of the format.  As we know, this goal has resulted in a very small ban list.  Recently banned cards include Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, Griselbrand and the aforementioned Worldfire, all of which created game states that were immediately unbalanced, most likely game-winning, and certainly “unfun.”  Those bans were clearly consistent with the RC’s stated goals, and to my recollection there was very little controversy over the banning of those cards.

On the other hand, while Prime Time was no doubt powerful, and warping to a degree, it was just an enabler.  Banning a card that is a convoluted win condition at best smacks of the DCI banning Jace, the Mind Sculptor in Standard after Kaw Blade dominated to the extent that competition was compromised.  There, Wizards banned Jace because it was too good, forcing players to play a certain deck archetype if they wanted to win tournaments.  Is that any different from Primeval Titan pushing Commander players into green?  The real reason why the RC banned PT seems to be that it was simply too good, which sets it on a slippery slope down the path of regulating a format for the sake of balancing competition, not fun.

That consequence has been quite evident in my group.  My impulse has been to pull out all the stops in my green decks to try to compensate for the lack of Titan, which in turn causes me to pull out all the stops in my other decks.  I would hate to think that my group’s recent fascination with glorified legacy-style, win-in-less-than-ten-turns Commander is connected to a ban that was supposed to make the game more fun, but so far that has been my experience.

Regardless, I’m glad they banned the big guy.  Deckbuilding is now a lot more fun and less centralized.  Even so, I am very interested to see if something of a precedent for a tighter ban list has been established.  Because until then, looks like it might be low-curve-Legacy-style madness up in here.

Maxwellian2000 is a former competitive Magic player who now plays mostly Commander formats, along with Palladium Books’ Rifts RPG and Legos. He also works as a lawyer in Kansas and produces music at panoramicrecords.net.

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