Unban Paradox Engine in Commander/EDH
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I, like many other commander players, was incredibly upset with the Paradox engine ban. My reasoning behind this is two-fold, the first being that the banning does not follow the philosophy of the rules committee, and secondly because it is spitting in the face of the Competitive Commander Community. Firstly, to address why I believe that this ban does not follow the philosophy of the rules committee. I would like to reference the Commander Rules Committee's argument as to why they ban cards, which can be found in the third paragraph of their Philosophy reasoning which can be found on their website under their philosophy section here: "The goal of the ban list is similar; it does not seek to regulate competitive play or power level, which are decisions best left to individual play groups. The ban list seeks to demonstrate which cards threaten the positive player experience at the core of the format or prevent players from reasonable self-expression. The primary focus of the list is on cards which are problematic because of their extreme consistency, ubiquity, and/or ability to restrict others’ opportunities." This quote essentially sums up the Commander Rules Committee's claimed philosophy for banning cards, however, paradox engine does not necessarily fall under the category of card that this paragraph is describing. Paradox engine, while an incredibly powerful card that can win the game, is not necessarily an un-fun card. The reason I argue this is because Paradox Engine has 3 cases of use: 1. It immediately wins the game. While this is very powerful there are plenty of other cards that essentially do this, Expropriate, Time Stretch, Tooth and Nail, so on and so forth. This case of use does not support the need for Paradox Engine to be banned because the rules committee has specifically stated that they are not looking to police the competitive format (something that I will get to later). 2. It durdles. This seems to be the case that most warrants a ban. The fact that players can spend 10-30 minutes durdling with this card is an experience that can almost objectively be described as un-fun. While this is certainly true I would argue that this does not immediately discredit Paradox engine from being legal in commander. Plenty of other cards lead to situation similar to this. Expropriate, Time Stretch, Mindslaver, Emrakul, the Promised End are all cards that can lead to excessive amounts of durdling within a game. However, I don't think that this automatically means that any of these cards should be banned. Cards like this will always exist, and while Paradox engine could be a large offender it is ultimately a card very akin to others. Additionally, cards like winter orb, static orb, and storage matrix while not creating long durdly turns all create similarly boring game-states, however those cards are all perfectly legal to play. Overall, this case of use for Paradox Engine at least warrants it to be looked at suspiciously because it violates the philosophy of the rules committee, particularly their section saying "The primary focus of the list is on cards which are problematic because of their extreme consistency, ubiquity, and/or ability to restrict others’ opportunities.", namely that it restricts others' opportunities. 3. The last case of use I would argue is simply value/fun. I think that the largest problem that rules committee has made with this card is discounted all of the janky, fun things that this card is able to achieve. It is not just a combo deck, it also allows you to do a number of other cool things with cards like Beguiler of Wills, Gwafa Hazid, Skirsdag High Priest, or Kazaandu Tuskcaller and a number of other cool cards that allow you to use the card simply for value. In this sense Paradox engine is allowing people to be creative and allowing them to find cool, niche interaction using their creatures. It is because of this case of use that I stand so resolutely against the banning of paradox engine because the card allows for people to explore fun opportunities and synergies while deck-building, something that is vital to EDH, at least according to the rules committee's philosophy "Commander is for fun. It’s a socially interactive, multiplayer Magic: the Gathering format full of wild interactions and epic plays," I would say that this case of use of Paradox Engine does, indeed, create wild interactions and epic plays, meaning its ban plainly goes agains the spirit of the format that the rules committee has laid out.
At the end of the day, all paradox engine is what you make of it. Sure, there are more toxic ways you can play it, but that is true of any card, and untrue of cards like static orb and winter orb, which no matter what you do will be toxic to play against. Sure, if you want to use it to "go nuclear" and play infinite combos in your casual group you can, but you can also use it for fun, for value, and to explore cool synergies. And even if you ban the card people are still going to create "arms races" in their playgroup with the plethora of other combos that there are in the format. At the end of the day by banning paradox engine the Rules Committee telling members of the community that their way of having fun is wrong, and doing that goes against the very idea of the Commander format.
Secondly, I would like to touch upon an aspect of this ban that I find equally egregious, and that is the fact that the banning is akin to spitting in the face of the Competitive EDH community. I understand that the rules committee doesn't take the competitive community into account whatsoever with their banning but this banning is like seeing that splinter twin is ruining modern, and banning the decks that are good against it. Flash-hulk is degenerate. It sees several variants, whether it be Shuffle Hulk or traditional Breakfast Hulk, however it is a resilient deck that requires near-perfect answers that can go off as early as turn 1, reliably goes off by turn two-three, and can be done at instant speed using the Shuffle Hulk variant. This deck is great, however it is very glass-cannon and not a very interesting deck for the meta because it is very much all in, basically if your opponents don't have the perfect answer you win. On the other hands decks like Arcum Daggson, Captain Sisay, and Selva, Heart of the Wild, all of which are either nearly-completely dependent on Paradox Engine, or are greatly improved by it, make up a large part of the remaining meta. While these decks are less powerful, they are much more healthy for the cEDH meta as a whole because their gameplay heavily relies on a 5 mana artifact that folds to a much wider variety of answer than Flash-Hulk. Flash-Hulk basically requires the answer in either a very cheap counter spell (sometimes multiple), or graveyard disruption very early in the game (typically fairy macabre). On the other hand, Paradox Engine decks have a much larger variety of answers, like Chain of Vapor, Krosan grip, Nature's Claim, Winds of Rebuke and counter magic. Essentially, it is much less of an all-in combo deck, despite also being a combo deck. To put this into the perspective of a more popular format, Flash-Hulk is very much like a deck like Neo-form Combo in modern, except much more consistent, whereas Paradox Engine decks are much like storm. You may dislike both decks in the nature that both are very linear, however the Modern meta would be much more healthy with a deck like storm at #1 than with a very consistent Neo-form Combo deck at #1. This is why this banning is akin to spitting in the face of the cEDH community, the rules committee essentially neutered the much more fair decks that are beneficial for the format, bolstering the play that the degenerate combo deck of the format sees. While the rules committee may not like cEDH their indifference towards the format when it comes to their banning/unbanning actions is having real consequences on a group that makes up 5-10% of the community.
To conclude Paradox Engine does not deserved to be banned in commander. While it can lead to un-fun experiences, there are a number of other cards that do the exact same that are unbanned. Additionally, it is only as un-fun as the person running it wants it to be, and when used correctly embodies what the Rules Committee finds to be the heart and sole of the Commander Format: Wacky Combos and Cool Synergies. When I saw that Paradox Engine was banned my heart dropped, not because it wasn't powerful enough to be banned, but because I knew it was the Rules Committee telling the player base how they should have fun, something I was severely disappointed in.
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