Commanders and Banishing Light

Welcome back to the Rules Tips Blog! We’re coming up on the home stretch before the Prerelease, and returning readers will be happy to hear that our Prerelease Primer Week will be coming a week from today, to get you ready for your Prerelease events! In the meantime, we’re dipping into the well of Commander- because where there’s new cards, there’s Commander players.

As many of you know, Commander has a special rule that helps keep your Commander constantly ‘available’. Any time your Commander would be sent to exile, graveyard, your hand, or your library from anywhere, you can shunt it off to the Command Zone instead. But how does that interact with ‘temporary’ exiling? Let’s look at two different types: Oblivion Ring and Banishing Light.

Oblivion Ring effects used to be much more common- a pair of linked triggers, one that exiles something and one to bring it back. For a few reasons we won’t dive deep into today, these have largely been phased out in favor of a new wording. But how do they work with Commanders? Well, you can absolutely put your Commander into the Command Zone rather than exile if it eats an Oblivion Ring. But if you do, then the Ring won’t do much of anything anymore. Blowing up the Ring will cause that LTB trigger to look for ‘the exiled card’, but since there IS no card in exile (the only zone it looks in!), the trigger finds nothing, shrugs, and moves on. You can keep your Commander under the Ring if you plan to get it back with a Disenchant, but while it’s there you can’t cast it like you can from the Command Zone. You can put it in the Command Zone for usual access, but then you can’t get it back by blowing up the Ring. Choices!

Banishing Light is the ‘newer wording’ we spoke about in the O-Ring block. This isn’t two linked triggers, it’s just ONE trigger with a stated duration- “until Banishing Light leaves the battlefield”. If a duration would end before it begins, it just never begins, so you can’t do the permanent exile trick by blowing up Banishing Light in response to the trigger. And since it’s just a duration ending, if someone leaves a multiplayer game with your stuff under their Banishing Light, you get it back! And if you guessed these work differently with Commanders, you’d be right. Since there’s not a second trigger specifically referring to ‘the exiled cards’, we can get a little tricky. Banishing Light can “track” the card it hits, to the first public zone it actually goes to. That means if you let it go to exile, then move it somewhere else (like having a Pull from Eternity yank it into a graveyard), the Light will still be looking in Exile to return the card. But if you use, say, the Commander replacement effect to put your Commander into the Command Zone instead of exile… well, that’s the first public zone the card actually went to, innit? That means that Banishing Light will be looking for the card THERE, in the Command Zone. So where sometimes the right call with O-Ring was to let the card be exiled so you could get your Commander back on the cheap, the ‘correct’ call with Banishing Light is almost always going to be “Command Zone”. You can still get your Commander back with a Disenchant, or you can cast them as normal if you just topdeck 4 lands and really need your Commander again. It’s a lot less feel-bad. Do be aware though- if you cast your Commander out of the Command Zone, Banishing Light loses track of it, because it becomes a new object. Even if it ends up right back in the Command Zone, that Banishing Light won’t bring it back anymore.

Whew! Hell of a post today.

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