Friday 29 January 2021

Bespoke Banning Round


I have given much thought over the years as to what cards I should ban and why. Power level and playability are the two most common factors considered in this process. Cube should be about fun and while cutting out the oppressive and random cards helps with this I wouldn't say it has optimized the cube for fun. There are a lot of cards that do not necessarily sit on the same bar as cards banned for pure power reasons that people really hate playing against. True-Name Nemesis is a fairly overrated cube card, good but not a bomb. The thing is it feels like such an uphill battle to play into and has minimal interaction. Regardless of the power of the card the fun had in cube is increased by it's absence. The same is true of many cards and it differs from person to person, cube to cube, and playgroup to playgroup. The simple solution? Have a round of bans before you start the draft. 

We typically have been allocating two bans per player chosen in a rotisserie style (first person picks a card, then each person picks another clockwise to the last person where upon it wheels back to the first person). Not only does this give agency to all players involved rather than just the cube's curator but it also gives a somewhat unique meta each time. While a lot of the cards banned each cube are the same (looking at you Oko) there is still plenty of differences too. One day someone gets mashed by a card and elect to ban it out next time. You also get some valuable information as to what people like and dislike as a cube curator. It even levels the playing field to some extent both in terms of colour pie and players. 

Much as I might think Force of Will is a fine and fair card it turns out all my friends hate it and especially hate it when I have it, which I used to a lot, and by a fairly significant margin over others. I just almost always pick it if I can and am in a position to do so more often than most. I have not had the option on drafting a Force of Will since the bannings have been implemented. The banned cards are almost always things people cannot do much about in one way or another be they oppressive cheap walkers like Oko, Ashiok and Teferi or resilient threats like The Scarab God, Emissary of Grudges, Recurring Nightmare, and of course the afore mentioned True-Name Nemesis. One of the most powerful cards in my cube - Skullclamp - has yet to be banned. This in itself is illuminating. I have found adding in a round of bans before a draft, regardless of what kind of draft it is, to really improve things. It makes the experience more unique, gives good information, increases the balance, and most importantly of all, enhances the play experience for all. I highly recommend allowing players per event bans. It is so good and natural it just feels like it should be the norm. 


  1. What a novel concept! I need to try this when I get to cube again.

    Makes me wonder what would get banned from my list. I'd expect many of the cards you mentioned. But also some more polarising ones I chose to run for power reasons, like Mana Drain, Humility and Contamination. Or maybe someone gets blown out by planeswalker Jokulhaups and bans something like that. Very anecdotal way of curating an environment which is refreshing for a change.

    And good call on True-Name. I'm considering giving his slot to Cosima, God of the Voyage, which might not even be such a step down power wise. My beef with TNN is that he ideally wants to be equipped, but I recently cut a bunch of swords so that's unlikely to happen these days.

    Thanks for the articles, Nick :)

  2. We have extended this concept now to a legacy banning round as people kept just banning the same cards each week. Now I am cutting bans for a much longer, and as yet undecided duration, perhaps years, perhaps indefinitely. I think ultimately we will start allowing an unban or a ban at the start of each cube per player. It has been a pretty big success but it only really works if you have a consistent play group who are familiar with the cube.