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A Band Apart (for Magic)

So “banding” hasn’t been seen since 1997 because it’s the most complicated mechanic of all time.

It wasn’t really played a lot even when it was legal. Not because the cards were weak. No, banding is both a very powerful and very flavorful mechanic.

But it caused confusion. Both rules confusion (as in: a lot of people — maybe not you, dear reader, but a lot of other people even at the highest levels of play, were unable to explain how the rules worked) and board state confusion (range strike and “Samite”-style healing have also been removed: they both had super simple rules but caused complicated board states and difficult combat math). And, the interaction of those two types of confusion was out of this world. So it had to go.

And I miss it so much.

But… we can solve two problems in one go by… splitting it up!

Part of the problem of the mechanic is that it just does too much.

Instead, now we have two separate abilities. (Hold your references to the xkcd standards joke…!)

Some cards would have one, some the other, and (especially in the beginning) only very few would have both. If, and only if, both abilities prove themselves, then we could start seeing them appear together on the same more often. And if that works, well, then we have the return of banding as we knew and loved it.

Here is how they would look with the reminder text for both.

Attack banding (When attacking, this creature may form a band with one other creature, or join an existing band. A blocker that blocks any part of the band blocks the entire band.)

Tactical assignment (You choose how damage from any creature blocking or blocked by this creature is assigned.)

Banding (This creature has both Attack banding and Tactical assignment)

As you can see, still kinda complicated even on their own… but managable.

One of the things people found weird was that when attacking, you could have at most one non-bander, but when blocking, you only need at least one bander for it to be useful.

But when split up, you could see how that kind of does make sense. Because you’re not actually forming any bands when blocking. You’re just blocking normally.

Another thing that’s always been kind of a let down is how evasion abilities (like flying) is kind of a nonbo with banding. Although banding is a very strong ability, this dysergy can be frustrating and confusing. “Whaddaya mean my Mesa Pegasus is blocked by your Craw Wurm just because I banded it with a Benalish Hero? I wanted the hero to ride on the pegasus… T_T”
This proposal doesn’t fix that but hopefully the “A blocker that blocks any part of the band blocks the entire band” is clear enough.

So that’s rules complexity addressed. What about board complexity? I think a lot of the board complexity did directly stem from the rules complexity. As far as how they play… these abilities are kind of like reverse menace. You can block me (or attack into me), but I’m gonna bring a buddy along. Sure, I can see how tactical assignment could result in board stalls or feel like it’s hard to math out what would happen if I attack into it. And board stalls is something that R&D has taken steps to try to avoid. Could be that tactical assignment, as flavorful and interesting as it is, is an ability you’d might want to use sparingly and keep out of low rarities. Only playtesting can tell.

Attack banding on the other hand can help break up board stalls. It’s something I can see being very healthy for limited. (Or, rather, I know it’s healthy for limited because we play with banding cards all the time since our Mirage cube includes the banding cards from Weatherlight.)

I get that the words “blocker” and “attacker” aren’t really rules language but reminder text isn’t rules text.

If you want rules text…
Here’s how this proposal would look, edited into the current comprehensive rules. (Note to people who stumble upon this page randomly: this is only my suggestion for how the rules could be written. If you’re looking for the real rules, they are here.)