Opinion: Banning Tutors in EDH

Commander (EDH) forum

Posted on Feb. 12, 2020, 3:10 p.m. by jordanalessi

What do you think the format would look like if tutors were banned in EDH? Would it lead to a healthier format? or less healthy?

I'd be interested to hear what other people's thoughts are on this topic, but here are some of my thoughts:

  1. Because tutors are legal, EDH players are content with running tutors + countermagic + an efficient two-card combo instead of decks that are actually built around synergies.
  2. Because tutors are legal, many decks start looking the same (fast combo) instead of allowing for a wider range of viable strategies (aggro, voltron, etc.).
  3. Because tutors are legal, the meta can assemble its combo quickly and consistently, forcing other decks to run blue (since the best combos revolve around demonic consultation and/or flash which non-blue colors have a hard time interacting with).

hejtmane says... #2

They talked about this exact thing yesterday here with the professor and someone from the RCA at one point in the video (link below if interested}


That would ban like 200+ cards and even some commanders

February 12, 2020 3:13 p.m.

DrukenReaps says... #3

My first problem is the amount of cards this puts on the ban list. So we need to define what tutors we are talking about, imo. Banning all tutors because tutor seems excessive. Do we include land tutors in this? What about really high CMC tutors? Planeswalkers that have a tutor ability no matter how limited? Is this just the really strong tutors which exist almost exclusively in black? What effect does this have on black's ability to compete with other colors?

Secondly I just built Sisay, Weatherlight Captain damnit :P

Third I don't mean to be dismissive of the plight on competitive play right now but I'm not really convinced this change would be a good thing for 90% of players. Just as tutors can make a good combo stupid powerful they can also make bad decks decent. It can be a nice crutch for entry into the format.

Fourth my original intent in putting tutors in Mairsil was to grab my combo pieces. More often than not I'm grabbing pieces to remove threats or protect Mairsil instead of those combos. I can't speak for people at large but the amount of times I've used tutors to grab a needed answer vs the times I've used them to combo. I'd say I grab answers much more often.

February 12, 2020 3:41 p.m.

jordanalessi says... #4

Yes, lengthening and complicating the ban list is the most common objection people have to this idea. However, I see two ways that banning tutors could actually end up SIMPLIFYING the ban list instead.

  1. If tutors are added to the ban list, then cards that are currently on the list could probably be taken off. For example, the card Channel is currently banned, but if decks have no way of consistently getting Channel to their hand, then that card might no longer be ban-worthy.
  2. If ALL 200+ cards with the word "search" on them were banned, then the ban list could actually be simplified because each individual card wouldn't need to be named on the ban list—it could say "all cards that say 'search' on it are banned".
February 12, 2020 3:45 p.m.

DrukenReaps says... #5

jordanalessi in that case I'm completely against the idea. It is nice and simple and easy to explain but you have completely changed Magic the Gathering at that point too. Even the most basic of mana fixing is out the window...

February 12, 2020 3:56 p.m.

shadow63 says... #6

So you would ban Evolving Wilds?

February 12, 2020 4:10 p.m.

CastleSiege says... #7

I wouldn't be too bent out of shape if the mainstay tutors were banned. Those being Demonic Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, Mystical Tutor, Worldly Tutor and Enlightened Tutor. Maybe even Sylvan Tutor, Mystical Tutor, and Diabolic Intent.

Another powerful and abusable tutor is Survival of the Fittest, although it's more narrow and needs to be in a creature dense deck to be efficient. Birthing Pod is similar in the sense that it is a build-around card. Entomb and Buried Alive are also both very powerful but require other cards and specific strategies to be useful.

Banning land tutors such as Nature's Lore, Skyshroud Claim, and fetchlands seems excessive.

There are obviously tons of other powerful tutors I didn't mention, this was just my quick take. Try talking to your playgroup about banning tutors as a house rule, and have long discussions about which ones to ban and why. Try it out for a few weeks and see how you enjoy it :)

February 12, 2020 4:24 p.m.

griffstick says... #8


February 12, 2020 4:51 p.m.

MagicalHacker says... #9

So, here's my thoughts:

It's undeniable that tutors are not a net positive for a format that's already designed to be inconsistent based on the rules of singleton and 100-card minimum. However, banning tutors is not feasible as many of them do other things that are helpful in other ways. Instead, this is what I propose:

Rule 12: If a player would search a library, they search the top 20 cards of that library instead.

Here are the effects of such a rule being added:

  1. Fetching-based Ramp basically stays the same, although some ramp cards become much harder to abuse, and they are no longer strictly better than mana dorks and mana rocks. Net positive, because it negatively affects something very strong.
  2. Fetchlands themselves are much worse at fixing mana, making 3-color decks resort to using other types of lands instead. Net positive, because it negatively affects something very strong.
  3. Tutors themselves just become very good Anticipates. It doesn't kill their functionality, but it will move them out of "auto-playable" for many players. Net positive, because it negatively affects something very strong.
  4. With decks being less consistent, many cards can come off the banlist. Net positive for obvious reasons.

Thank you for coming to my TedTalk.

February 12, 2020 4:59 p.m. Edited.

jordanalessi says... #10

Oooo, MagicalHacker, I LOVE that idea. I think that's a great proposal!

griffstick, why no?

CastleSiege, great comment. I really want to try out tutorless EDH in real life.

DrukenReaps, that's the question. If we start banning tutors, then which ones? Where do we draw the line? Those are great questions.

shadow63, Evolving Wilds isn't a problematic card, but I think searching libraries in a format designed to be inconsistent is a problematic action. I have no problem with blanket-banning all tutors (even evolving wilds), but I think the format would become healthier even if only the mainstay tutors were banned... but again, the question becomes where do we draw the line? Which tutors are worth banning, and which ones are not?

February 12, 2020 5:24 p.m.

MagicalHacker says... #11

The only thing I've seen people disagree with is the fact that counting up 20 cards isn't fast, so I don't mind changing that number to 10 or whatever number if need be.

February 12, 2020 5:26 p.m.

DrukenReaps says... #12

MagicalHacker I'm not sure I like that idea but it at least brings us to a middle ground I could live with. It is also a rule that can very easily be altered from table to table. All you have to do is say "what do you guys think of doing rule 12 with 50 cards or Rule 12 with 5 cards?"

I guess this whole conversation comes down to if you think commander is suppose to play out with high variability or if you think commander should allow you a high amount of choices to make. I like having a lot of choices but I like some consistency in how things flow. If I have an idea for a combo I'd love for it to actually be possible to do.

February 12, 2020 6:03 p.m.

Nowhere in the official commander rules nor in the philosophy of commander does it say that it is designed to be inconsistent. This is genuinely something that could split the format, and I truly believe that is something that will be terrible for commander players all around.

February 12, 2020 6:05 p.m.

I strongly agree with GhostChieftain on this. Being singleton doesn’t implicitly mean a format was designed to be inconsistent. It breeds creativity to compensate for the singleton nature. E.g. running Elvish Mystic and Llanowar Elves instead of multiple copies of either. (Very simple example but I believe my point stands).

February 12, 2020 6:18 p.m.

Megalomania says... #15

I think inconsistency is a challenge brought by the format and not a goal.

Banning tutors would make combo decks a lot less viable especially in cEDH. I’m not sure if that would be good for the format.

As stated, one of the problems tutors create is that they make combo decks too fast and too consistent. Instead of banning tutors, would reducing the starting life from 40 to 30 or even 20 would be “healthier” for the format?

February 12, 2020 7:17 p.m.

Last_Laugh says... #16

Absolutely not! Spikes are going to be Spikes... don't fight it.

That and I lose an easy way to tune down my decks for underpowered pods...

February 12, 2020 7:20 p.m.

jordanalessi says... #17

GhostChieftain: what makes you say that banning tutors would be "terrible for commander players all around"?

Last_Laugh: I'm not fighting against spikes so much as I'm fighting against 1) unsynergistic decks that 2) all use the same strategies that 3) force other decks to run blue. If everyone's spike deck is pretty much the same, people will get bored and leave the format. If everyone's spike deck looks different, the format will remain dynamic and retain people for longer.

February 12, 2020 8:36 p.m.

enpc says... #18

I am firmly of the opinion that this is a terrible idea. And there are a few reasons why:

If you only ban some tutors, all that's going to happen is that people are going to move to the "next best set".Can't run Demonic Tutor? Just run Grim Tutor. Can't run Grim Tutor, just run Diabolic Tutor or Dark Petition. If you start banning some of the tutors, people will just roll over to the next available option.

If you're going to ban all tutors, then you can't do it by rules text. Ban lists are supposed to be black and white, not open to interpretation. So just banning all cards that contain "search" and "library" in the rules text would also mean that (as well as banning all land ramp), you would be banning cards like Path to Exile and Assassin's Trophy. You also have cards like Lim-Dul's Vault. It's a tutor, is it banned? You MUST have an exhaustive banlist, thats why 99.99% of games/formats within said games have exhaustive lists.

And if you're going to ban all tutors, then draw card becomes the new tutor. All of a sudden, every deck contains blue because they want every cantrip/draw effect available because nobody wants to topdeck. And now since every deck contains blue, you'll see a lot more of a rise in counterspells because more decks are running blue.

On top of that, without tutors, you've made every commander game basically double in length. I don't know about you, but I personally have a busy life and only get to play magic once/twice a fortnight (if that). And I really don't want to spend the whole night playing 1 game of commander where I previously would have gotten 2-3 games in.

Even if aggro suffers somewhat under tutors, getting rid of them would kill the combo archetype. And you would just see combo decks crammed to the brim with redundant pieces/lots of card draw/counterspells to try and counteract the loss of tutors. But it would generally make them unplayable. Not to mention that voltron would suffer as well - voltron needs tutors to assemble its lethality, otherwise it just folds to battlecruiser style decks.

Oh and the other thing - not everybody hates tutors. I for one enjoy having access to them in my deck. I like the idea of being able to make a 100 card singleton deck more consistent. That's why you see poeple running functional reprints of cards and lots of similar effects. While there is a part of the communtity that just wants to play top deck big smashy cards, you'd find that that isn't the majority of players (but that people who are content with the format as it is are generally just less vocal).

If your playgroup doesn't want to play with tutors, that's great for you. If your playgroup wants to enforce any other house rules, again, I'm happy that you're all in agreement. But the long and short of it is; a format is healthiest with a small a banlist as possible. And on top of that, sweeping decicisions like this which make group A happy generally royally screw over group B. The RC has already indicated that if poeple don't like something, the easiset solution is to house rule. But don't try to enforce that crap on the rest of us. And if people just want to play a card game with big, smashy creatures, then go play Yugioh or something.

February 12, 2020 8:39 p.m.

Suns_Champion says... #19

I greatly dislike tutors.

I greatly dislike two card combos.

One of my favorite things about EDH is the singleton nature.

I am a massive proponent of creative deck building and synergistic decks.

Banning tutors would help Boros as a color pair, and white and red individually. My favorites.

But they should NOT ban all tutors. That is a silly idea in my opinion.

February 12, 2020 9:21 p.m. Edited.

I think tutors are a necessary part of the game. Yes they make things more linear, and yes it goes against the spirit of being singleton; but, tutors not only help you it forces your opponents to make better deck building choices. Do I add another splashy card to my deck or do I add some interaction to stop my opponents? I think tutors allow for more interactive games. Does that mean that sometimes games will be quick? Yes. Is that a problem? I don’t think it is. You shuffle up again and put a bullseye on your chest. Being able to quick combo with tutors only hurts you politically. It’s a system of checks and balances. Plus tool box style decks like my beautiful boy Yisan, the Wanderer Bard rely on tutors.

February 12, 2020 11:33 p.m.

Boza says... #21

None of those points are enough to necessitate the banning of tutors.

  1. Nobody should judge what players are "content with running". No card on the current banlist is banned because of that.

  2. Tutors or no tutors, aggro is never viable in edh with 120 life to go through instead of 20. Voltron strategies use a lot of tutors themselves. Tutors are not limited to combo decks. The format itself encourages combos, since it is the easiest way to win versus multiple players at the same time. Banning tutors will not dissuade combos.

  3. Really? White, the color of on-the-board permission, has no way to stop either of those? Regardless of that, is this point that all Eternal formats naturally gravitate towards blue, which is just how Magic is. No amount of bans will fix that as it is a problem of game design.

Even if tutors were banned and combo decks were no longer viable, the next OP thing will come into the radar of players. Such a sweeping change is best reserved as a house rule.

February 13, 2020 10:03 a.m. Edited.

Massacar says... #22

I think banning in itself is already a kind of antithetical practice to EDH which is supposed to be a big an open format that lets you experiment. Tutors are a healthy mechanic to use for actually playing a deck strategically and I think it would be a poor decision both practically and philosophically to ban them.

February 13, 2020 11:43 a.m.

Gleeock says... #23

Tutors are only as lame as the deck they are in. Put less spikey uncreative cards in a deck & you are left with only interesting cards to tutor. I utilize them... But, yeah, I dislike taking the gamble out of the game... It is still a card game after all.

February 13, 2020 9:21 p.m.

DrukenReaps says... #24

TypicalTimmy but how many of those do we ban? 2 card infinite combos

There are tons of them and that list isn't even up to date. EDH is by virtue a broken format with broken interactions. Also you are kinda shitting on my preferred playstyle. If you don't want to play vs combo decks say so at the start of the game.

February 13, 2020 10:16 p.m.

dingusdingo says... #25

Magic is a game with elements outside your control. Your deck is bigger than your starting hand size. This randomness helps balance skill between deck building as well as piloting, and has been noted in a few places. Simply put, even a deck that is only winning 25% of games against a 75% winrate deck still is getting wins when the great deck gets bad hands, or bad draws, and the weaker deck can have their own great starting hands or lucky top decks.

Tutors are seen as one of the ways to reduce variance, and increase skill. If I have 1 card that says "I win when I cast this" and I have 1 Vampiric Tutor, my deck now has 2 cards that lead to winning. If I add Demonic Tutor to the mix, now I have 3 cards that are leading to winning.

Drawing extra cards has a similar effect, but that effect is much more pronounced in a 60 card format with 4x of any specific card. By running cards like Brainstorm or Ponder you gain access to more cards, and get to make meaningful choices about the cards available to you. To put it another way, you're reducing variance in available resources from your total possible resources. Tutors do the same thing. Tutors reduce variance in the game overall, by dramatically increasing the card quality of available cards for a small premium on whichever card you wish to play. A Llanowar Elves that was fetched by a Demonic Tutor cost you to cast, and there were two different points in getting the Elf from the library onto the battlefield where a player could have interacted with you. Big shout out to TypicalTimmy for also understanding this and putting it in a concise way. All tutors do is improve your card quality or give you access to cards. The thing you should be looking at are the combos themselves, and culling the ones that are too hard or too cumbersome to interact with.

Tutors also give information to opponents, especially in EDH where information can be used by more opponents than a 1 on 1 game. Consider the following: Outside of Vampiric Tutor Imperial Seal Demonic Tutor Grim Tutor and Diabolic Intent (and a handful of others), all the other tutors are conditional. Being conditional, the opponents have to know you satisfied the condition for searching. What do these have on common? The word reveal. If someone uses a Worldly Tutor to fetch Protean Hulk, all of their opponents have just received very important information about the options available to the pilot. Any player worth their salt will use this information to hold up counterspells or prioritize playing pieces that shut off Hulk combos, like Cursed Totem

Tutors serve as the missing piece. Sometimes it can be correct to tutor up your combo as fast as you possibly can and cast it. Other times, I expend tutors on finding more mana (I literally used Imperial Seal to find Command Tower three hours ago at my LGS). Sometimes I'll use that tutor to get Dark Confidant early, to help me control other players and stay ahead in cards. Other times I search up protection like Pact of Negation. As it turns out, double tutoring is a BIG TELL for opponents, and anyone who has played this game for a couple years is going to make the intentional choice to hold up mana to stop you. Simply jamming and racing doesn't work in every game, or every deck, even decks designed to do exactly that.

Tutors cost the same mana as Counterspell and all the other 0 or 1 or 2 mana variants that counter spells. You're getting more points during the process of the combo to use that counterspell. Many combos can be stopped by easy includes like Tormod's Crypt or Disenchant or whatever. Many players choose not to slot cards that interact with other players, and this is why tutors are seen to be a problem. If you basically let players Goldfish for 5 turns in a row, they can assemble a win. I don't think players really understand how meaningless inflicting damage to players is when you have to do 120 to win. That is 6x what you do in every other format, and cards are balanced around 20 life, not 120. When you get 30 damage to them by turn 5, they've drawn and tutored cards willy nilly without you busting them apart by killing their creatures, or removing enchantments/artifacts, or forcing them to discard cards or turning off their combos. They can just, combo off.

I firmly believe that tutors are very healthy for the format. If I know my opponent is capable of assembling and executing a combo, it forces me to consider how I'm going to react or respond to them. Opponents who tutor cards are broadcasting their ability to win, and this causes interesting dynamics around the table about expending or saving mana. It causes more dynamic interaction besides simply attacking and blocking. I don't know about you, but games of Magic are more fun when players interact with each other and threaten to win and stop other players from winning.

February 14, 2020 2:25 a.m.

jordanalessi says... #26


  • I really love your view of tutors changing the game from being something that is high variance to something that forces players to make a high amount of choices. Seeing the tutor mechanic through that lens makes me value it a whole lot more. Thanks.


  • Great point about "next best set". I think that applies to anything on the banlist. People use Flash because it's legal. If flash gets banned, they'll go to the "next best set" of wincons.
  • Great point about Path to Exile & Lim-Dul's Vault. I guess a definitive ban list would be necessary. :(
  • I agree that card draw would become the new tutor... but card draw isn't nearly as consistent or efficient as tutors. I think replacing tutors with card draw would create a gap in consistency that would allow for a wider range of strategies to be viable.


  • Your argument of tutors forcing ppl to make better deckbuilding choices doesn't hold up for me. With that logic, unbanning everything on the entire banlist would "force people to make better deckbuilding choices".


  • We can't ban two card combos, because there will always be a "next best" option.
  • Two card combos aren't the problem. The problem is the speed and consistency at which they can be assembled, which forces the format into a stale place where decks aren't built with synergies, there is little variance in viable strategies, and nonblue decks aren't viable. I think if there is less variance in the format, people will get bored of it quicker and the format will shrink instead of grow.
  • Card draw and scry effects will not do "just as good" as tutors. Tutors are way more consistent & efficient than card draw.
February 14, 2020 11:12 a.m.

Boza says... #27


"unbanning everything on the entire banlist would "force people to make better deckbuilding choices"

Actually, a fair point. I play Canadian Highlander, no banlist in that format. Strong cards are assigned points and your deck can have no more than 10 points. For example, flash is 3 points and hulk is 7, so if run that combo, you cannot run any of the pointed tutors. This is the best system by far for Eternal sets, as every deck gets a limited set of goodies.

Link to point list

Maybe try to introduce that list to your playgroup and see if it fixes the issue? This is balanced for 1v1, though with some adaptation can be worked on for multiplayer magic.

February 14, 2020 11:24 a.m. Edited.

Gleeock says... #28

-Boza A neat system there. If my playgroup were ever to get too stale (doubtfull) or our arms race gets out of control I will think of adopting it.

  • dingusdingo damage & life loss can matter plenty. It is just the prevailing thought in the format that the best way to win is by more of an all-or-nothing approach. Life-clock is a real thing, politics accounts heavily, punishers & punishers that double as combo-stoppers figure in, life clock-influences desperation, immediate tutor targets, affordability of waiting, it can be quite meta-dependant.

  • enpc While I agree with the "busy life" bit. I do not agree that tutors inherently expedite the game at that estimate. That prevailing thought in commander of the all-or-nothing wincon discludes the more incremental based decks which can quickly progress the game, all without the need for tutors or run-of-the-mill wincons.

  • As I say with many things. Banning isn't needed. What is needed to balance things out is again is design space used on: strong punishers with upside. Some tutor specific punishers (maybe more options to steal tutors & slap the player using one). More combo stoppers which offer either a fizzle benefit or multimodal benefit.... So unlike Stranglehold an opponent may still do something, but it is quite painful to do so and the punisher also benefits the owning player in some way (so it is not just a useless removal-bait mana waste). This could also solve the issue of "play blue in response".... Which brings me to my idea of having an extra turn punisher that steals the extra turns, slaps a player, maybe even scrounges & punishes for extra turn spells found.. & what color would do this, you may ask? ... because we all know that entropy (red or red/black) is the true constant in time... & how flavorful to have such a Butterflyeffectesque slap to Blue's arrogant dabbling at "controlling" time :)

February 15, 2020 1:57 a.m.

DrukenReaps says... #29

TypicalTimmy "Ban the problem cards, not the implements to find them." Didn't read as just indulging in the thought experiment to me. Thanks for clarifying your stance :)

February 15, 2020 2:35 a.m.

DrukenReaps says... #30

jordanalessi not often that I get that kind of praise. Glad you found something worth while in my words.

February 15, 2020 2:37 a.m.

jordanalessi having someone beat you by tutoring does force you to be a better player by learning what actions you should look out for and try to interact more with those actions.

To say that doesn’t mean that everything should be unbanned. There are cards that are on the ban list due to a lack of interaction. However, to play devil’s advocate if my argument equates to unban everything then your argument to ban all tutors would ban things like Rampant Growth and other spell based land ramp. If you look at things in either extreme peoples arguments sounds ridiculous

As with anything in magic if you learn from past mistakes and learn how to play better tutors aren’t an issue. As TypicalTimmy mentioned the card tutored for is usually more problematic than the tutor itself. I as a player can’t help if other players choose to be bad and not learn from past failures. If you know a deck uses a certain combo you should learn how to disrupt that combo

February 15, 2020 8:30 a.m.

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