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While the banding ability was never actually removed from the game, no cards have been printed that use the ability in any set following sixth edition and it has never appeared on any rules summary I've seen from the past several years. Why is this? I've heard it's because the ability was 'too complicated'. What exactly was so complicated about it that might have encouraged its extinction? What is a good situation/example that demonstrates why it was probably exiled from the game?

List of cards that reference the banding ability

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3 Answers 3

up vote 26 down vote accepted

Take it from the horse's mouth:

The short explanation of banding is that if your creatures attack or block in a band, the controller of any creatures that deal combat damage to them doesn’t get to assign that damage -- you do. Pretty cool. Everything else about banding, though, elicits a “huh?” It works differently when attacking and defending. (In an attacking band of X creatures, at least [X-1] of them must have banding. In a defending band, only one creature must have banding.) A lone blocker could block multiple creatures if they were banded together. If an attacker with evasion (flying, swampwalk, whatever) is banded to a creature without evasion, the whole band can be blocked. Then it gets really complex: What if the only defensive creature with banding is destroyed before damage is dealt? What if my band of three attacking creatures, one of which has trample, is blocked by your band of three defending creatures, one of which has first strike?

The only answer I can give you is, “I dunno.”

Banding was an ability that was flavorful and simple enough in the simple cases. But when you left the simple cases and got into more unusual situations, the rules suddenly became very complex, unintuitive, and opaque. You wind up with a mechanic that cannot be understood or accurately applied simply by reading the text on the card and applying your general rules knowledge. Instead, you have to know a whole bunch of banding-specific rulings, and hope you have a copy of the comp rules handy if it ever comes up.

And all of this complexity is maintained for a mechanic that rarely actually mattered. I could be wrong, but I don't believe there is any card with banding that has ever been a tournament staple. Under these conditions, the best choice is the one that Wizards made, which is to let banding lay fallow and pretend the whole thing never happened.

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The creatures stay together (e.g. Serra Angel won't fly on but will help her band) and you'd both assign damage of the opposing creatures instead of your own. I don't see what's the problem. –  Cees Timmerman May 3 '12 at 20:34
    
@CeesTimmerman But do I as the attacker get deal the first strike damage of your first strike creature first, or all the damage first, and if I then use that damage to kill my own banding creature does the band you've blocked fall apart and you now can only assign the damage to one of the creatures, if so do I get to choose or do you? And does that mean that my trampler which is now no longer blocked gets to deal full damage to your face? And the fact that you weren't worried about this when you assigned the blockers probably means you made the wrong call and I now win. –  deworde Nov 5 '13 at 12:58
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Oh, and I forgot to mention, this is before 6th Edition, so the damage rules aren't as clearly defined, so there may not even be an answer, let alone a modern M10 intuitive one. P.S. Oh look all the fun's fallen out and all we're left with is maths and an argument. Oops. –  deworde Nov 5 '13 at 12:58
    
@deworde Hasbro tunes the rules as such issues arise. Right now it's declare attack, specify which creatures band together (until end of combat) and what each creature or band attacks, assign blockers (bands count as one creature), assign first strike damage, assign normal combat damage. Damage is dealt simultaneously. –  Cees Timmerman Nov 5 '13 at 16:04
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@CeesTimmerman Well, no. By definition, damage is only dealt simultaneously within its "strike class". Which brings me back to my question. If I kill the actual creature with banding using first strike damage, does the band fall apart before the normal combat damage step, during the intermediate stage? Does a creature with first strike that's in a band even still have first strike? This is the problem. Even if you know the rules, the fact that you have to learn them, that they have to be "tuned" and that these questions are open is the problem that you "don't see". –  deworde Nov 5 '13 at 18:05

The current official reminder text for Banding is as follows:

Banding (Any creatures with banding, and up to one without, can attack in a band. Bands are blocked as a group. If any creatures with banding you control are blocking or being blocked by a creature, you divide that creature's combat damage, not its controller, among any of the creatures it's being blocked by or is blocking.)

Yes, it's taken them 20 years to distil the "simple explanation" of Banding into that - and I bet you still can't tell what it means without reading it slowly and carefully at least three times.

Wizards has made it a bit of a rule of thumb, for quite a few years now, to remove complexity from the game where it isn't needed. Could the game survive with Banding, Phasing, interrupts and mana burn still in it? Almost certainly. Is it better off without them? Again, almost certainly.

The real nail in Banding's coffin is that you can get a similar flavour out of a much simpler rule. Take for example the en-Kor ability from Stronghold:

0: The next 1 damage that would be dealt to [this en-Kor] this turn is dealt to target creature you control instead.

This does almost everything Banding did - gives the owner some power to control how damage is assigned to his creatures. But with the great advantage of not causing your head to explode while trying to calculate how it works in complicated situations!

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Banding allows me to take all damage with an indestructible Pegasus in my Fluttershy deck. –  Cees Timmerman May 7 '12 at 16:01

I still don't get the difficulty. I don't know if this was just our house rule back in the day or if it was explicitly stated but everyone I knew back in Alpha and Beta days unless all creatures in a band contained a keyword ability then any who had that keyword lost it for the duration of the band.

So in the examples provided, the creatures with trample and first strike lost those abilities the instant they were added to the band. Also once the band is declared it lasts until the end of the turn, so if you take out the only creature with banding in a band the band remains.

The one complexity that existed which could have been completely removed by a rules update was it working differently on attack and defense, just make it so that they are the same requiring all creatures in a band but 1 to have banding regardless of whether you are attacking or defending.

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I guess this is sort of an answer to the question, in that you're saying "nothing was complicated", but that's kind of obviously false: in the first paragraph you've essentially stated that either everyone you knew was playing with it wrong or the rules weren't clear enough to tell what was right, so obviously it was too complicated for a lot of players to get right. –  Jefromi yesterday
    
This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post - you can always comment on your own posts, and once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post. –  My Turn Yet yesterday
    
@MyTurnYet As I tried to say in my comment, I think it's just a bad answer, not a not-an-answer. The claim here is that there actually was no complexity (i.e. Wizards was wrong), which does address the question; I just don't think that it's really true. –  Jefromi yesterday
    
-1: "It's not complicated as long as you play it wrong" is probably the ultimate reason to deprecate a mechanic. –  deworde 15 hours ago

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