As this is our very first announcement, we are thrilled to share it with you (and a bit anxious). We would like to first thank every person that helped launch this format and have, in any way, helped us during these first months. Without further ado, here's the actual announcement.
For the cost of a single red mana, as early as turn 1, you get to play a card that generates value on multiple axis: life total by attacking as a 2/1 for 1, mana by creating Treasure tokens, and card advantage by allowing to play additional cards from your opponent’s deck. Note that a cheap Commander also provides additional virtual card advantage in virtue of being easy to cast multiple times in the same game. And of course, it also provides consistency, by allowing to have it at the beginning of each game.
Of course, not every cheap commander is banworthy. However, Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer puts an immense pressure by fighting on several resources, at any stage of the game, any game. Sure, it would die to almost any removal spell, especially if it was not Dashed. But you are not ensured to have a removal spell (or even a blocker, let alone a blocker that survives), whereas the monkey will always be there.
The deck appears to be beatable, yet it requires an extreme focus on that matchup in the deckbuilding for many decks to have a chance, and sometimes aggressive mulligans which he can punish by grinding out.
Still, within the deck, while obviously very strong, it will not cause as many issues without being always available on turn 1, and only once per game.
For all those reasons, and because we believe it provides a poor gameplay experience, we chose to ban Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer as commander only.
Let us start by saying that we do not think that this card is too strong. However, it makes it so any deck with at least blue and red in the color identity gets access to an additional card literally for free, as opposed to the other decks that would not run those two colors. Since it provides a structural and arbitrary advantage to some decks without any constraint at all, this card with the keyword Companion appears to be an error of design within the rules of the format, as the constraint for its ability is not applicable here. As such, we chose to ban Lutri, the Spellchaser as companion only.
An extreme threat that is easy to find and hard to interact with. You can run it at almost no cost in most multicolor decks, and simply watch it take over the game against any slow deck, threatening control and even midrange decks from being able to exist at all if they do not run the card, or several (quite specific) answers. Besides, once it is running, the diversity in gameplay patterns is reduced a lot. Therefore, we chose to ban Field of the Dead.
Currently on the Watchlist
For this first banlist, we considered multiple cards after talking with the players on the Discord server and playtesting decks. Of course, we also had a look at what is done in other singleton formats to see whether we missed something. Here is a non exhaustive list:
Baral, Chief of Compliance as a commander only
It seems to be weak to aggro decks for the moment. But its combo-enabling potential may make it troublesome someday, and thus we are also keeping an eye on it.
Emry, Lurker of the Loch as a commander only
It can cheat on the commander tax through Affinity. However, that commander appears to be rather unexplored for now, and we are waiting to see a strong build emerge before diving into it.
Omnath, Locus of Creation as a commander only
The single 4-colour commander available in the format. Extremely oppressive for aggro decks, and strong grinding power, but it can be quite weak to combo or tempo decks for instance in its current build.
Urza, Lord High Artificer as a commander only
Many of its toys it can abuse in cEDH for instance are unavailable here. It is still a strong commander, that seems to be eclipsing Emry, Lurker of the Loch as the main artifact commander for the moment, but it appears to be beatable with the current decks.
Zurgo Bellstriker as a commander only
Contrary to Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, it doesn't generate card advantage neither mana. As such, it is less required to kill it on sight in the early game, and it is a weaker grinding tool in the late game. That is why we are leaving Zurgo Bellstriker in the format, since we believe such a red deck will be easier enough to manage without sacrificing too many other matchups.
The card is not a consistent threat to the gameplay, and often the card disadvantage might be costly in this format. We keep an eye on it, but for now it seems acceptable.
Very strong spells that can reverse the outcome of a grindy match, but poor draws in the early game. Again, the singleton nature of this format with multiple strong spells seem to make those acceptable for the goals we have at the moment, but they are also of course largely monitored.
This card is banned in many official formats for tournament organization reasons. However, the judge team here believes that the card can be dealt with thanks to a better management of slow play. So, for now, we are leaving the card, unless we see it proving to be actually troublesome in our upcoming paper events.
This one is a strange beast, as we somehow considered its ban within the 99 more than the ban in the command zone. Indeed, in some decks, it can be very easy to find it, and then recurring it multiple times, making it almost a partner. We are also of course monitoring it closely for that reason, as it is similar to Field of the Dead in some regards.