Note: This was originally going to be a single article. Remember last year how that happened and I now have a still-incomplete series of articles reviewing the original core set? Yeah, it happened again. My idea was to revisit the original Legacy banned list, then cover all changes that have been made to it over the years, then provide my own take on what to do in light of this history. But just covering the original banned list takes longer than a typical Comboist Manifesto article, even without that other stuff. So this article will be submitted in at least two parts. I'm planning on two, but I am not making any promises.
Back in 2004, Wizards of the Coast changed tournament formats by creating a new banned list for the obscure Type 1.5 format. Previously, all cards that were either banned or restricted in Vintage were banned in Type 1.5. This change allowed the Vintage restricted list to evolve without any implications for another format, while Type 1.5 could now be balanced to appeal to a broader proportion of players—those of us who didn't own playsets of Mishra's Workshop or Bazaar of Baghdad. CPA members who were around at the time might remember that I was a pretty big fan of this change. Before the format change was event officially instituted, I was showing all of my friends the announcement and trying to recruit them to help me test decks for the new Type 1.5, which would soon be renamed “Legacy.” My pet project at the time was High Tide. I already had a casual High Tide deck, but without Frantic Search and Time Spiral, I couldn't salvage the deck. Other players eventually made High Tide work by incorporating Reset and using instants to win during the opponent's upkeep. Later, Time Spiral was unbanned and allowed sorcery-speed versions of the deck to work, powered by Candelabra of Tawnos. I didn't own any Resets until the end of last year and I still don't have Candelabra of Tawnos, so I never actually got to play High Tide in Legacy. But my focus on combo decks in the format remained.
In 2005 and again in 2007, I wrote articles that analyzed the Legacy banned list. A third episode in that series has been one of my ideas for a Comboist Manifesto article, but I shelved the concept as something that didn't really need revisiting throughout Volume I. Well, this is Volume II, and things have changed! For one thing, the Legacy banned list itself changed for the first time in nearly three years. This gives me hope that we'll see some other changes, hopefully smart ones, in the future. My previous Legacy banned list analyses can be found here and here. I do intend to eventually revisit the Legacy banned list again at the Comboist Manifesto, so for this article, I'll cover the entire history of the list up to this point.
Here are all of the cards that were on the original banned list, along with some commentary...
Amulet of Quoz: Ante card. As an interesting technicality, these cards instruct that they are to be removed from one's deck if the game is not being played for ante. This would allow intrepid players to cut their deck sizes below 60 cards. We can't have that, so all of the cards that refer to ante are banned in tournament formats.
Ancestral Recall: Power 9. These cards are among the most expensive of all cards on the secondary market. Even the white-bordered Unlimited printings run several hundred dollars for individual copies of the cheapest of the Power 9. Even back in 2004, these cards were prohibitively expensive to obtain. They also allowed for very explosive decks. Vintage constrains this explosiveness somewhat by having a restricted list. In Legacy, there are no restricted cards, so these cards are banned.
Balance: Balance was kept on the banned list under the category of “cards that are restricted in Vintage on their own merits.” The idea was that some cards were just so powerful that, much as it was under the old system, they needed to be both restricted in Vintage and banned in Legacy.
What I thought then: This made perfect sense! I was terrified of Balance. I'd seen it in action. I thought that Balance needed to be banned just as much as the Power 9. When I first analyzed the banned list, I called Balance an “evil card” and “too broken to ever consider unbanning.”
What I think now: I know I was emphatic about Balance in 2005, and I remember why. But now? Now I'm not too sure. I have a hard time taking myself seriously when I say this, but I think I could actually consider Balance as an unban candidate. The card is absurdly powerful, oppressive, and not something I actually want to play with or against, but none of those things, not even cumulatively, are enough to warrant a ban. I do believe that the card would need to be thoroughly tested before it would actually be allowed into the format. As a precaution, I'd leave it on the list. But maybe?
Bazaar of Baghdad: This was one of the cards that was legal in the old Type 1.5, so those few who remember the old Type 1.5 have some idea of what it's capable of. In that format, Bazaar of Baghdad was used to set up a combo between Worldgorger Dragon and Animate Dead, which could produce infinite mana and (using Bazaar) dump chunks of the deck into the graveyard to find another creature as a target for Animate Dead, preferably one that could win using the infinite mana. There were also decks that used Bazaar of Baghdad to fuel the “madness” mechanic. These decks were too powerful for Legacy. And being from Arabian Nights, Bazaar of Baghdad was also inaccessible. Today, copies of Bazaar of Baghdad cost a few hundred dollars apiece.
What I thought then: I fully agreed with Wizards of the Coast on this one. I reasoned that even if Bazaar of Baghdad were to become widely available, it would still be too powerful to unban.
What I think now: Something changed since 2004. It's a little mechanic I brought up in Volume I of the Comboist Manifesto: “dredge.” Decks exploiting Ichorid and dredge cards are already pretty good in Legacy, and are prime targets for sideboard hate in tournaments. Vintage Dredge decks have access to Bazaar of Baghdad and they don't even have any other cards that are banned in Legacy. Just having access to Bazaar of Baghdad is enough. So yeah, this card needs to stay banned even more now than it did when it was first placed on the list.
Black Lotus: Power 9.
Black Vise: This was already banned in the old Type 1.5. It had been restricted in Type 1 since before Type 1.5 was created. Black Vise was essentially grandfathered into the banned list without much commentary. Presumably, we all remembered it as one of the broken old cards.
What I thought then: “I can see a case for unbanning Black Vise. It is a powerful control hoser, but the combo decks that might kill too quickly to worry about Black Vise are not as dangerous in Legacy as they are in Vintage. However, it seems all too likely that Black Vise would be even more worrisome unbanned than it would be if unrestricted in Vintage. In the right deck, mana denial could allow a Black Vise or two enough of a full hand to kill without any other damage sources getting involved. It is not immediately clear just how well Vise-based decks would do, but unbanning would certainly warp the metagame, especially with the easy availability of Black Vise and cards that complement it (like Stone Rain). Verdict: Leave banned.”
What I think now: Haha, what a dummy. What was I thinking? Stone Rain? Were people even playing that? I could have saved face a little bit and said Sinkhole instead. Anyway, Black Vise was eventually unrestricted in Vintage, but the change didn't make it over to Legacy. That it's still banned is a curious artifact of an era in which Legacy didn't even exist, back when Strip Mine was legal and the overall power level of tournament decks was piddlying compared to what is avalable now. Delver of Secrets is legal in Legacy and it is far more oppressive than Black Vise. It's not 1996 anymore. The past is in the past. Let it go. I don't know if Black Vise would even be viable in Legacy, but it's certainly safe to unban.
Bronze Tablet: Ante card.
Channel: Still restricted in Vintage and banned in Legacy, much like Balance. Channel might even be a bit scarier, as it exists primarily as a combo enabler. The classic combo was with Fireball, and later Kaervek's Torch. Some Vintage decks still actually use a copy of Channel, but they're few and far between.
What I thought then: I tentatively decided that Channel was just too dangerous and that I'd prefer for it to stay banned.
What I think now: Uh, the same thing, I suppose. Channel + Fireball seems silly and I wouldn't even bother with Channel + Banefire in Legacy. But yeah, I'd probably pay 15 life to hardcast Emrakul or whatever. Too good for Legacy? I don't really know. Much like Balance, I am wary of this card, but also curious to see if it is really still too good.
Chaos Orb: “Manual dexterity” card. It was a fun idea at the time, but the game just doesn't work that way anymore, which is for the better.
Contract from Below: Ante card.
Darkpact: Ante card.
Demonic Attorney: Ante card.
Demonic Consultation: When the Legacy banned list was created, a distinction was made between first-tier and second-tier tutors. Demonic Consulatation, which had been banned in the old Type 1.5 (because it was restricted in Vintage in 2000), was placed on the banned list for Legacy. While most tutors were acceptable, a few were very cheap and could find any card, which was considered too good.
What I thought then: “Because many of the broken cards that are restricted in Vintage are fully banned in Legacy, some of the tutors are still completely available, but Demonic Consultation, Demonic Tutor, and Vampiric Tutor are all considered too good. As far as I know, this issue is fairly unexplored. The cards that these would be abused with the most are also the cards that are banned. Still, the ability to find any card in one's library is considerably powerful. Verdict: Undecided.”
What I think now: Well, the problem is still there. In Vintage, these tutors can find powerful, restricted cards (although in the case of Demonic Consultation, doing so could result in losing the game). Nothing is restricted in Legacy, so that goes away, and all these cards do is find cards that could be included as entire playsets anyway. Because it has been absent from tournament Magic for so long, Demonic Consultation is tricky to evaluate. In its own way, this is the most powerful tutor ever, finding a named card at instant speed for a single mana and putting it directly into one's hand. But that comes with a price. Unlike Demonic Tutor and Vampiric Tutor, which could be useful with singleton cards, Demonic Consultation is more like copies 5 through 8 of anything, and nothing else in Magic is quite like it. Some Legacy players think that it could be a safe unban. Some think that it is far, far too dangerous to unban. Who's right? What decks would it turn up in? I don't know. I suspect that opinions surrounding the potential unbanning of this card depend on how much we're willing to let the format change.
Demonic Tutor: Like Demonic Consultation, Demonic Tutor was placed on the original Legacy banned list under a blanket ban on first-tier tutors. Unlike Demonic Consultation, Demonic Tutor is well-suited to finding cards that are only placed in decks as single copies, although it pays for this by being slower.
What I thought then:: The same thing I thought about Demonic Consultation. In a format with no restricted cards, the only things that Demonic Tutor can find are cards that could be included in multiple copies anyway. If the possibility of Demonic Tutor finding a card is too scary, then that card is probably already too scary by itself.
What I think now: We actually have an example of what Demonic Tutor could do in Legacy, as a partially functional reprint was created and is used in a deck I play myself. Infernal Tutor is a key component of storm decks, with Lion's Eye Diamond enabling the hellbent requirement and providing mana to cast the card being tutored up. Since Demonic Tutor is a strictly better version of a card that already powers storm decks in Legacy, it couldn't be considered safe unless other cards were banned to compensate for it. While it could be reasonable to take the format in that direction, I'd rather just leave Demonic Tutor banned.
Dream Halls: Dream Halls was grouped in with the cards that were restricted on their own merits. In 1999, following “Combo Winter” and the prevalence of Tolarian Academy decks in Vintage even after Academy was restricted, the DCI issued a bunch of restrictions on any newer card that was an obvious combo component. Dream Halls was a victim of that affair. Years later, testing showed that Dream Halls, while potentially powerful, was pretty tame. It was eventually unrestricted in Vintage and later unbanned in Legacy. More on Dream Halls in Part 2.
Earthcraft: The classic example of why the Type 1 and Type 1.5 lists needed to be separated. Earthcraft was restricted in Vintage even though it would not even have been viable in that format, and the restriction remained in place for the sake of Type 1.5, which couldn't hope to withstand the threat of the Earthcraft/Squirrel Nest combo. The problem with this narrative was that Earthcraft wasn't actually too strong for Type 1.5, and the players knew it. Nevertheless, Earthcraft made it onto the original Legacy banned list, and it has stayed there ever since.
What I thought then: “Earthcraft can perform a few different functions. The one it is banned for is its interaction with Squirrel Nest. The resulting deck, known as Army of Squirrels, would certainly be viable. Just how good it would be is debatable. Having infinite creatures on turn two is tough to argue with though. Earthcraft does rely on basic lands, which makes a multicolored deck considerably difficult. Verdict: Undecided.”
What I think now: Unban this card already! Earthcraft is totally safe. It's rather embarassing for the format that, in such a fast, overbearing environment dominated by Volcanic Islands, Tundras, Mana Confluences, Ancient Tombs, and such, an enchantment that is powered by basic Forests is banned.
Entomb: This is the problem with the approach that the DCI takes to banning cards. When they set up the Legacy banned list, they had already seen Bazaar-powered Worldgorger Dragon decks in two different formats. So they banned the card that was the obvious offender, Bazaar of Baghdad. Instead of leaving it at that, they also banned Worldgorger Dragon itself, the centerpiece of the combo. But that still wasn't enough, so they banned Entomb, a card that enabled the combo. There is no logic in this. With Bazaar of Baghdad gone, it was entirely possible that Worldgorger Dragon would be safe in the format. They didn't wait to see if that was the case, but went ahead and banned Worldgorger Dragon anyway. With the Dragon deck now thoroughly killed, they banned yet another card from it. What? Entomb was eventually unbanned. More on Entomb in Part 2.
Falling Star: “Manual dexterity” card. Chaos Orb's obscure little brother.
Fastbond: Although it was not explicitly stated, I assume that Fastbond was originally banned under the umbrella of “cards that are restricted in Vintage on their own merits.” It's a broken card. When I think of Fastbond, I usually associate it with a deck that I built for a friend to win a silly casual tournament at a local game store. They had implemented a rule that players could not win games before they had taken five turns, so I put together a deck that locked opponents down from the first turn, then waited four more turns before applying a kill. It had several broken cards in it, but Fastbond was the key to the whole thing. Being able to play several lands in a single turn is very, very strong.
What I thought then: Yeah, of course I knew that Fastbond was broken back then. Didn't we all?
What I think now: Well, maybe—hey, don't leave yet. Seriously, I'm not going to say that every broken card should be unbanned. In fact, I'll preface what I'm about to say by noting that I do think that Fastbond should remain banned. However, I'm curious. I want to know what a Legacy Fastbond deck would look like. Hilarious as it would be to see this card used with Life from the Loam, I don't know if that's optimal. Considering that Lands decks are already quite good even without Fastbond, maybe that is the way to go. As an aside, this touches on one of the problems with Legacy as a format: it was originally conceived to let players use their old cards without the complications of inordinately rare bombs like the Power 9. Many Legacy players believe that Lands decks would put up better numbers, but that their use of The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, a card that rivals the Power 9 for their price tags and that is really only useful in one kind of deck, makes them inacessible. Perhaps Legacy was a potential “budget Vintage” a decade ago, but that is far from the case today. Anyway, Fastbond is too risky for Legacy, despite my curiosity.
Frantic Search: Like Dream Halls, this was a victim of the aggressive bans that followed “Combo Winter.” It stuck around when the lists were separated. Frantic Search was unbanned in Vintage, but that never made it over to Legacy.
What I thought back then: I was thinking almost exclusively of High Tide, where Frantic Search really shines. I thought that it would probably be better to err on the side of caution, although I personally did want to use the card.
What I think now: Even with Time Spiral unbanned and access to Candelabra of Tawnos, High Tide is essentially a rogue deck, although that might be due to the scarcity of Candelabra of Tawnos. Frantic Search wouldn't cause the deck to dominate. Another issue is that the metagame created by Treasure Cruise could cause Frantic Search to enhance the top decks. That is now a moot point, as Treasure Cruise has been banned. With Treasure Cruise gone, I really think that Frantic Search is safe.
Goblin Recruiter: Food Chain Goblins decks had existed in the old Type 1.5 and in Extended, where Goblin Recruiter had been banned. Wizards of the Coast reasoned that the new format would be more like Extended than it would be like Vintage, so Goblin Recruiter was deemed too powerful. Some players who weren't around for Food Chain Goblins have developed the mistake impression that Goblin Recruiter is banned for logistical reasons—that the deck-stacking takes too much time. I don't know where this idea comes from. In reality, players were able to stack their decks quite quickly, as the order of the goblins was nearly identical every time with a few minor variations.
What I thought then: Food Chain Goblins was too strong! It wasn't a matter of how to ban the deck out of the format, but a question of which card to ban, and Goblin Recruiter was the culprit. This would allow Food Chain to continue existing in the format, while goblins decks could still compete.
What I think now: I do not think that I was necessarily wrong back then, nor that the DCI was wrong. Food Chain Goblins was very, very strong. Furthermore, goblins decks using Æther Vial were very successful for years, and it's possible that Goblin Recruiter could have pushed them over the edge. But that was then. Now? Goblins are extinct in Legacy. Elves didn't get any of their tools banned and Glimpse of Nature wasn't yet printed when Legacy broke away from Vintage. Maybe Goblin Recruiter being unbanned would be enough to bring the little red guys back. Or maybe not, but I think it's worth trying.
Grim Monolith: Another victim of the “Combo Winter” bans. Grim Monolith was eventually unrestricted in Vintage and unbanned in Legacy. Its advantage over Mana Vault is far less relevant than its disadvantage, and the card was unfairly grouped in with “fast mana” artifacts like Sol Ring and Mana Vault, but that has since been corrected. More on Grim Monolith in Part 2.
Gush: In Vintage, Gush is paired with Fastbond, which allows it to produce card advantage while also making mana at the cost of a little life. Legacy doesn't have Fastbond, but Gush went on the banned list anyway. I saw some players argue that Gush would make Psychatog too good, but I don't think those guys actually ever played Legacy. As the DCI tried new things with the Vintage restricted list, Gush left, then came back, then left again. They couldn't make up their minds about Gush in Vintage, but for some reason, the DCI never bothered to try unbanning Gush in Legacy.
What I thought then: This ban didn't make sense. With Fastbond, sure. But Fastbond is banned in Legacy.
What I think now: Gush is better in Vintage than it would be in Legacy, yet the card is unrestricted in Vintage and banned in Legacy. This is among the more glaring entries on the Legacy banned list. Given the current prevalence of blue card-drawing spells in Legacy, I wouldn't want Gush to be the first card unbanned, but it should eventually get taken off the list.
Hermit Druid: Like Goblin Recruiter, Hermit Druid was banned under the (correct) assumption, that Legacy would have more in common with Extended than it did with Vintage. While Hermit Druid has never been strong enough for Vintage, it is a one-card combo that easily wins if not disrupted. While those exist in Legacy, Hermit Druid is so cheap that it would be broken.
What I thought then: I was in favor of unbanning Hermit Druid. I don't feel too stupid about this, as it was before the advent of Dread Return, Narcomoeba, and Laboratory Maniac. Back when Hermit Druid needed to use Krosan Reclamation to go off, it may have been safe. The game has changed since then.
What I think now: It's just too much. I use Balustrade Spy and Undercity Informer in the same concept, but they cost twice as much mana and require the deck to have no lands at all. In Legacy, not using any basic lands is easy, though. Hermit Druid needs to stay banned.
Illusionary Mask: Once upon a time, this card was considered to only be borderline-acceptable as an unrestricted card in Vintage. The reason: Phyrexian Dreadnought. Back in 2004, that two-card combo was considered extremely powerful. Illusionary Mask was an obscure card until the discovery of “MaskNought.” Its price tag went through the roof, and actually made for a successful Vintage deck. Like Bazaar of Baghdad, having such a rare, old card that was also a tournament powerhouse wasn't what the DCI wanted for the new format, so Illusionary Mask was banned. But things changed. Illusionary Mask fell by the wayside and was unbanned. More on Illusionary Mask in Part 2.
Jeweled Bird: Ante card.
Land Tax: A controversial ban. Eventually, it was unbanned. More on Land Tax in Part 2.
Library of Alexandria: Once, so renowned that it was the “tenth power.” It's actually still restricted in Vintage, although there isn't much reason for that. And it is still banned in Legacy. If it were unbanned, it might see play in dedicated control decks, but I'm not even sure about that.
What I thought then: I thought that cards with price tags well above $50 being good in Legacy was undesirable, and I was in favor of Library being banned on monetary grounds. Hilarious, by today's standards. The cat's out of the bag now.
What I think now: Secondary market prices being out of control is a very real problem, but it's no longer possible to realistically factor that into crafting a reasonable Legacy banned list. And Library of Alexandria has no place on the banned list. If more people tested it, they'd see.
Mana Crypt: If not for some overzealous players buying the book that this card came with way back in 1995, Mana Crypt may have become another contender for the Power 9. While it isn't as rare, it's certainly useful enough for that. Strictly considering degenerate power if cards were hypothetically unbanned, Mana Crypt is scarier than any Mox. As much as I'd like to play with four copies of Mana Crypt, there are more sane ways to make storm decks dominate Legacy.
What I thought then: I was primarily thinking of Mana Crypt as rare, old, expensive card, although it wasn't as egregious as some others in that regard. I also knew that it was broken.
What I think now: But it would be so good in a storm deck! Seriously though, it deserves a spot on the banned list, and not a lot of cards are more deserving of one.
Mana Drain: Supposedly, Mana Drain has been on the watch list in Vintage, although it's hard to imagine the format without it. Mana Drain has long been considered a pillar of Vintage, and its absence in Legacy is a defining feature of the format.
What I thought then: Again, I mainly just thought of Mana Drain as something that players couldn't afford—a Vintage card.
What I think now: Maybe it would push blue control over the top? I don't really see how. I guess we'll see where Miracles and Stoneblade decks sit following the ban on Treasure Cruise. Mana Drain in Legacy is weird to think about, but if the card were reprinted, I don't actually think that it would really take over the format, especially not if some other cards were unbanned first. But we'll almost certainly never find out.
Mana Vault: The original five Mox cards were cut from the core set after Unlimited. But Mana Vault stuck around through Fifth Edition. For that reason, and for that reason alone, those five artifacts are in the Power 9, enshrined forever as symbols of the golden age of the game, while Mana Vault is just another old, banned card. Mana Vault costs like five bucks. Want the rush of fast mana without paying for Power 9 cards? Well, you can have it, thanks to Mana Vault.
What I thought then: I wasn't that stupid. Of course I knew Mana Vault was broken.
What I think now: How did Wizards of the Coast keep printing this all the way through Fifth Edition? And people used to think it was Necropotence that was the problem? Freaking Mana Vault was in the freaking core set!
Memory Jar: There's a story here. Just one time in the history of Magic, the DCI issued a retroactive ban on a card. Just after the release of Urza's Legacy, there were changes to the banned and restricted lists. Then Memory Jar took over, leading to what might have been the most broken Standard deck ever. This emergency prompted the DCI to add Memory Jar into the recent announcement retroactively. The “draw7” spells had already proven themselves, and of course it had been silly to make an artifact version of them. Memory Jar decks were lightning-fast, dropping mana acceleration, tutors, and chaining Memory Jar into Memory Jar.
What I thought then: Well, of course Memory Jar is broken. Of course. It's like Wheel of Fortune and Windfall! No doubt, this was one of the most broken cards ever.
What I think now: Yes, I'm really building up to saying that Memory Jar should be unbanned. Don't worry, it might not even seem to the be craziest claim I make in this article. I was a relatively new player, but I was around for the brief era of Memory Jar. And there were some extremely strong cards that were available, even in Standard, for Memory Jar decks, such as Necropotence, Lotus Petal, Mox Diamond, Ancient Tomb, Dark Ritual, and City of Traitors. But let's just disregard those. Set them aside and assume that they weren't the real culprits. Fine. You know what, I'll give you those. Memory Jar decks, even in Standard, had access to Mana Vault and Tinker. I'm not saying that Memory Jar is bad. I'm saying that even if it's merely a pretty good card, it shouldn't be surprising that such an amazing suite of cards could make it shine. Memory Jar costs five mana, which is considerably worse than Wheel of Fortune and Windfall. That difference really, really matters. It's why Wheel of Fortune is one of the most broken cards in the game and Reforge the Soul is unplayed. It's why Timetwister is Power 9 material and Diminishing Returns is an also-ran at best. I don't know why no one in 1999 stopped to ask whether it might be Tinker that was the problem. And I don't know how it is that it took until 2003 for the DCI to finally stop Tinker from running rampant all over Extended, thereby giving us still more proof that it was a broken card. But I do think that in 2015, it should be permitted to look back at Memory Jar and say, “Yeah, that card wasn't the real culprit in those decks.” Decks based around the “draw7” concept don't even exist in Legacy because all the good seven-drawers are banned. Tinker is never leaving the banned list and I'm confident that without it, Memory Jar is a safe unban, albeit one that the DCI won't touch with a ten-foot pole.
Metalworker: Banned for being fast mana in artifact form, with its preexisting ban in Extended bolstering that. The DCI later reevaluated Metalworker and removed it from the banned list. More on Metalworker in Part 2.
Mind Over Matter: It originally took Tolarian Academy to make Mind Over Matter famous, but the card is a powerhouse in its own right. There are lots of Mind Over Matter combos and some of them have even been playable in tournaments, but because it was part of “Combo Winter” the card's reputation was tainted. As with several other cards, a Vintage unrestriction in the mid to late 00's was followed by a Legacy unbanning. More on Mind Over Matter in Part 2.
Mind Twist: Another example of a card that was still banned in Vintage when the Legacy banned list was first created, was later unrestricted in Vintage because the DCI realized that it wasn't actually scary anymore, and never made it to being unbanned in Legacy before the Legacy banned list was abandoned by the DCI.
What I thought then: I was pretty well-acquainted with black decks. I still kind of want to play black decks in Legacy, but more on that later. I couldn't think of a deck that would actually exploit Mind Twist to do anything crazy. In Vintage, the card was used in control decks alongside Mana Drain (I counter the spell you try to play on your turn, then on my turn I get mana from it and use it to take away your hand). But that was never a consideration in Legacy. Even so, I was wary of the card and initially wanted it to stay banned. My opinion gradually shifted more toward “Mind Twist is probably safe” and then “Mind Twist is a safe unban” and finally “unban Mind Twist already!”
What I think now: Unban Mind Twist already! While I wouldn't advocate unbanning it immediately after unbanning Channel or Mana Drain or some other card that provides mana, Mind Twist is pretty innocuous by today's standards.
Mind's Desire: Words cannot adequately express the glory that is Mind's Desire into Mind's Desire. Part of me is sad that there is no format for that. Mind's Desire could obviously never be unrestricted in Vintage, and unbanning it in Legacy would be just as foolish. The value of my Underground Seas would go through the roof, but the format as a whole would suffer. I'd say it's a shame that Onslaught Block misses the cutoff for Modern, but they'd ban Mind's Desire there too. Casting spells for free is so much fun! But yeah, this card is broken. Even as a storm enthusiast, I can admit that Mind's Desire is too much.
What I thought then: I reluctantly agreed that it was too powerful for Legacy.
What I think now: Most players are too new to the game to actually remember the decks that made some of these cards famous, but at least other banned cards, where appropriate, were broken somewhere, some time, when they were legal. Mind's Desire is incredibly broken, along the same lines as Tolarian Academy, but it took the DCI some time to respond to Academy, hence the whole “Combo Winter” deal. They noticed Mind's Desire right away and restricted it in Vintage (banning it in the old Type 1.5) before the set even came out. Oh well.
Mishra's Workshop: Almost everything I said for Mana Drain goes for Mishra's Workshop, except Workshop's potential in Legacy is way more obvious. Fueled by Workshop, artifact decks would take over every Legacy tournament, assuming that the card were widely available, which it isn't.
What I thought then: As with Mana Drain, I was thinking more about the monetary aspect and that Mishra's Workshop is just such an iconic Vintage card.
What I think now: Workshop is as good as ever. I could tentatively make a case for the unbanning of Mana Drain, were circumstances different, but not Mishra's Workshop.
Mox Emerald: Power 9.
Mox Jet: Power 9.
Mox Pearl: Power 9.
Mox Ruby: Power 9.
Mox Sapphire: Power 9.
Necropotence: Why did Necropotence get banned anyway? It might seem as though I'm stupid to even ask, but hang on, here. I know why the card was banned in Extended. I remember that, and even built a casual version of that infamous deck. That was in 2001. But before that, in 2000, Necropotence was restricted in Type 1 and, as was the policy at the time, banned in Type 1.5. I was playing Type 1.5 at the time, and I assumed that it was banned because it got restricted in Type 1 due to some broken deck. But when I talked to Type 1 players, they thought that it had been restricted for the sake of having it banned in Type 1.5! So where was the broken deck? Years later, I tracked down the announcement about the restriction/banning of Necropotence. This is what they said...
Over the past 3 years, this card has become more and more dominant in the Type 1 format. While many more powerful cards have slowly become restricted, this card remained as the preeminent card drawing engine. Quite simply, the swing this card introduces to the game is on par with several cards that are already restricted.
That sounds reasonable, I'll admit. But I seem to remember that, at the time, Type 1 was mostly dominated by multicolored control decks, not Necropotence, which was more of a budget deck option back then. In no way am I saying that Necropotence should be unrestricted in Vintage now. I'm just curious as to what the broken deck was that I can't recall having actually seen. Whatever it was, Necropotence was banned in the old Type 1.5, and stayed banned when the Legacy banned list was created.
What I thought then: I wasn't happy about not getting to play Necropotence, but I took solace in the recognition that my card was considered such a powerful card.
What I think now: I could write an entire article about this one. There are a lot of misconceptions about Necropotence. While it wouldn't be my first candidate for unbanning, I do see it as a potentially safe card. Of course, I'm biased on account of the fact that I love Necropotence in a way that deeply disturbs you.
Oath of Druids: Back when Legacy was first created, Forbidden Orchard hadn't been printed and the premier creatures to dig up with Oath of Druids were things like Cognivore, so it was plausible to make a case that Oath was a safe card to unban. Ah, but those were simpler times. I don't know whether they banned Oath just because it had been banned in Extended or because they worried about the cards that were going to be printed soon, but it doesn't matter anymore. Regardless of whether Oath of Druids might have been safe in September of 2004, it's so far from that now, that those days are but a distant memory of a simpler, more idyllic time.
What I thought then: I'd faced Oath decks before and I wasn't eager to deal with them, but it wasn't a card I really cared about or thought absolutely needed to be banned. I do remember some argument back in 2005 over whether Oath needed to stay banned in Legacy, and I guess I built a Cognivore Oath list, because I still have a file on my computer for that. I just golfished it and made a 23/23 Cognivore on turn two! Fun.
What I think now: Good news, Oath fans: your card is excellent in Vintage, where it remains unrestricted.
Rebirth: Ante card.
Replenish: While Replenish is most famous for enabling bizarre control-combo decks in rotating formats, it actually did see some play in the old Type 1.5. “Blackjack” decks dumped cards into their graveyards, then used Replenish to bring Pandemonium and Saproling Burst back, dealing 21 damage. But those decks were fueled by Bazaar of Baghdad, and it was pretty obvious that old engines like Attunement weren't going to cut it. Banning Replenish in Legacy was a rather inexplicable move, but one that the DCI did go on to correct. More on Replenish in Part 2.
Skullclamp: Like Replenish, Skullclamp was banned in the old Extended and this carried over into the creation of the Legacy banned list as a precautionary measure. And there, the similarity ends. Replenish turned out not to be a problem. Skullclamp? Yes, it's still broken.
What I thought then: Because Skullclamp had really only been exploited alongside other Mirrodin Block cards, I wasn't sure if it was really powerful enough to warrant banning, but I experimented with it myself and decided that it was.
What I think now: It's easy enough to simply write Skullclamp off as a broken card and move on, but really, Legacy is the format of broken cards. Evaluating what the format would look like under Skullclamp is difficult, but I'd imagine that the decks that would benefit the most are ones that are already very good right now. The card would either contribute to the format or it would dominate, and based on very limited information, I'll tentatively state that it should still remain banned.
Sol Ring: I could just say “fast mana” and leave it at that. But the story behind Sol Ring is so fascinating. It was left in the core set for the Revised printing, so for a long time, most players had pretty easy access to it, making it a staple among casual players even though it was banned or rotated out of tournament formats. Now it's a staple in Commander decks because it isn't banned there and is even reprinted in every official Commander deck that Wizards of the Coast has come out with. While Sol Ring might be slightly less broken than Mana Crypt, it is generally more powerful than most of its “Power 9” cousins, but it isn't thought of as being “Power” because it can be had for a few dollars.
What I thought then: I regularly used Sol Ring in casual decks because I was used to seeing others do it, but I recognized that in tournament play, the card was broken. Due to technical issues, the old comments on CPA articles are no longer visible, but I remember one CPA member advocating for Sol Ring to be restricted in Legacy, rather than banned. I thought that was an odd prospect, although back in the 90's, it was pretty common to have cards be restricted in all sorts of formats, so maybe that had something to do with the idea.
What I think now: There are ways to make combo dominate Legacy, and unbanning Sol Ring certainly is one.
Strip Mine: It's been so long since full playsets of Strip Mine were running rampant in tournament play that probably no one actually knows what it would do to the game if unbanned, but it certainly would be oppressive.
What I thought then: I thought that Crucible locks would dominate if Strip Mine were unbanned.
What I think now: I don't know what would happen and perhaps no one does. Strip Mine would be virtually omnipresent, for one thing. Some fun decks that are competitive now could no longer remain viable. I don't know if there'd be actual domination, but the way in which it would warp the format are enough to convince me that it should stay banned.
Tempest Efreet: Ante card.
Time Spiral: Another victim of the “Combo Winter” wave of bans. Time Spiral had been restricted in Vintage when Legacy was created, and was left on both lists for a while until the DCI took action, unrestricting it in Vintage and then later unbanning it in Legacy, as was the pattern for them in the 00's. More on Time Spiral in Part 2.
Time Walk: Power 9.
Timetwister: Technically one of the Power 9. Timetwister's status in that exclusive club is owed to some quirks of history, and while the other cards in the Power 9 appear in nearly ever Vintage deck, Timetwister tends to show up only in dedicated combo decks. But it's still out of the question for Legacy.
Timmerian Fiends: Ante card.
Tinker: Since I called Tinker the real culprit with respect to Memory Jar's reputation, it should be unsurprising that I consider Tinker to be extremely broken. Well, I do. Tinker is one of the most egregiously powerful cards on the banned list.
What I thought then: I cited a deck a friend of mine had played against me that used Tinker to find Darksteel Colossus. That would still be dominant in Legacy, but now people wouldn't even use it anyway because they'd use other, even more obscene Tinker targets that came out later, like Blightsteel Colossus.What I think now: Tinker could essentially be the textbook example of a banned card, if Magic actually had textbooks, which, to my knowledge, it does not.
Tolarian Academy: The most powerful land ever. Thanks to the reaction to “Combo Winter” Tolarian Academy has probably resulted in the most bans and restrictions on cards other than itself out of any card in the game's history. At various points in various formats, Tolarian Academy was the motivating force behind bans and restrictions on Mind Over Matter, Voltaic Key, Braingeyser, Time Spiral, Lotus Petal, Crop Rotation, Frantic Search, Grim Monolith, Hurkyl's Recall, Mox Diamond, Mystical Tutor, and Stroke of Genius. In retrospect, while some of those are obviously powerful cards, others are blatantly innocuous. But Academy? Yeah, that one's broken.
What I thought then: I've tried to limit the amount of towing the party line here, because repeating “Like everyone else, I recognized this card as broken” over and over would be dull, but it's spot-on in the case of Tolarian Academy. I still had a casual Academy deck myself, back then, because I was a jerk.
What I think now: I play combo decks, but I want them to have some sort of challenge. Obviously, Tolarian Academy has to stay banned.
Vampiric Tutor: Grouped with Demonic Consultation and Demonic Tutor as one of the first-tier tutors. Unlike those two, Vampiric Tutor can't actually get a card directly into one's hand. In most situations, Vampiric Tutor isn't quite as good as Demonic Tutor, but it is still a very, very effective card. Because it is a cheap instant, playing it an the end of the opponent's turn to find whatever the ideal card might be to deal with the board or set up a win would be the most common play in Legacy, were the card unbanned.
What I thought then: The same thing I thought about Demonic Tutor. With no restricted targets, Vampiric Tutor would only ever find a card that could appear as a full playset in a deck anyway.
What I think now: Either other cards would have to be banned to compensate for it, or Vampiric Tutor would need to stay banned. And I'd rather just leave it banned.
Wheel of Fortune: In Vintage, Wheel of Fortune is often even better than Timetwister, drawing as many cards while leaving behind fuel for Yawgmoth's Will. In Legacy, both are banned, and either one unbanned would be enough to take over the format with a combo deck.
What I thought then: Well, I grouped Time Spiral and Memory Jar in with the other banned “draw7” spells. But I'd like to think that even then, I recognized that Wheel of Fortune was more dangerous than those two.
What I think now: Thanks to the Flashback mechanic, Wheel of Fortune could be even more broken in Legacy than Timetwister would be.
Windfall: A more blue, more conditional version of Wheel of Fortune. In formats where Windfall has been legal, the preferred approach has usually been to empty one's hand right away, then refill it using Windfall because the opponent still has a seven-card hand or close to it. Alternatively, drawing several cards and then playing Windfall, as is sometimes done in Vintage combo decks through Yawgmoth's Bargain, can also work wonders. While I prefer the consistency of Wheel of Fortune, Windfall is almost as good.
What I thought then: I'd used Windfall in my own Academy deck. I was perfectly aware of its power.
What I think now: Like Wheel of Fortune, Windfall would lead to overpowered combo decks if unbanned.
Worldgorger Dragon: Banned for its loop with Animate Dead. As I've already stated, Dragon decks in the old Type 1.5 relied on Bazaar of Baghdad, so getting rid of the primary culprit and then banning a potential combo piece anyway seemed excessively cautious. More on Worldgorger Dragon in Part 2.
Yawgmoth's Bargain: When the original Legacy banned list was created, it was widely understood that Yawgmoth's Bargain was way over the top. Over time, the card's reputation diminished somewhat. And then along came Griselbrand. Easier to cheat into play than Bargain and coming attached to a flying 7/7 with lifelink, this led to some unfavorable comparisons. I think that's why I've actually seen some players opine that Yawgmoth's Bargain is safe to unban.
What I thought then: Most broken enchantment in the game.
What I think now: Yeah, Griselbrand is amazing, but players who seriously contend that it's even remotely in the same league as Bargain are revealing their ignorance. Yawgmoth's Bargain still needs to stay banned and there's no sign of that changing.
Yawgmoth's Will: It's difficult to say whether this or Tolarian Academy is the most broken thing to come out of Urza's Saga. Academy initially made a bigger splash, but it was Yawgmoth's Win that became a defining feature in Vintage combo. At one point, Stephen Menendian even called for Yawgmoth's Will to be banned in Vintage, reasoning that restriction wasn't enough to stop the card from warping the game.
What I thought then: Embarrassingly, I referred to the card as “degenerative.” A real word, but not the one I had in mind. Anyway, I knew it was broken.
What I think now: It would be more broken than ever.
And that's it! Wow, I did not realize that just commenting on the original Legacy banned list would take so long. Sorry about that. I seem to be a verbose jerk. Anyway, stay tuned for Part 2. Actually, don't do that, as this is neither radio nor television, so tuning into a certain frequency is not something that happens here. Instead, you should go outside. I know I will.