Rule of Law: Are you in a band?

The problem with banding is that hardly anyone understands what it does. And since Rule of Law is designed to give people understanding of the rules, it only makes sense that I at least try to tackle banding (and its ugly stepsister,”bands with other”).

"Back in the day," there was an ability called banding. It was considered to be a natural fit for White (along with protection), although Timber Wolves was a 1/1 for {G}. When the Microprose game of Magic was the most accurate computer version out there, I had eventually morphed my deck into a monstrosity that relied on cheap White creatures with banding, Crusades, and Armageddon to prevent creature sweeping. When you understand what it does, banding is an amazingly cool idea that is no longer used because it has a major problem.

The problem with banding is that hardly anyone understands what it does. And since Rule of Law is designed to give people understanding of the rules, it only makes sense that I at least try to tackle banding (and its ugly stepsister,”bands with other”).

While I normally post the relevant rules sections for my articles, in this case, I will not. The reason is, after looking at them, I can see that they will bring more confusion than clarity to the explanation of banding. So what I will do instead is give you the model for banding, and then you can look up the rules yourself with the model in mind. (The relevant sections of the Magic Comprehensive Rules are 502.10 and 502.11.)

When a creature has banding, think of it as having one of those grappling hook guns with the rope attached. After you declare your attackers, but before anyone gets priority, you can have any attacker with banding fire the gun and "attach" itself to any one of your other attackers. Naturally, if you have more than one attacker with banding, they can attach to each other, or you can have them all attach to some other creature that doesn’t have banding.

Creatures with the "bands with other (blank)" ability have defective grappling hooks. The only things they can attach to are other grappling hooks of the same kind. So something with "bands with other Legends" can only form a band with another creature with "bands with other Legends". It has to be an exact ability match; you can’t use any other "bands with other" ability. Thus "bands with other Legends" is not the same ability as "bands with other Wolves-of-the-Hunt".

Once you have done this rope trick, every set of creatures connected to each other by one or more of these ropes is now a band for the rest of that combat. Removing banding from a creature removes the rope that it fired, but doesn’t remove the band. Removing a creature from combat also removes it from the band.

When you declare blocks, the fact that certain creatures are in a band together doesn’t change which creatures can legally be blocked. If a Ferropede is in a band, you still can’t declare anything to be blocking it. However, once blockers are declared, anything that blocks one member of an attacking band automatically blocks all of them, even if one of the members can’t be blocked. The idea is that, since you have this rope attached to you, once one of your bandmates gets blocked, you can’t pound the opponent anymore and so instead you turn your attention to the thing that dared to interfere with your band member.

The other ability of banding is this: When the combat phases reaches the combat damage step, if there is a member of either side with banding, that side assigns damage for the other side. Once again, the "bands with other" ability is defective, and only grants this ability if the grappling hook has a proper connector in another creature on the same side and in the same combat with the same "bands with other" ability. This is the reason you might put your creatures in a band instead of just sending them out in single batches. If you sent your Mesa Pegasus (1/1 flying, banding) out into the face of a Wind Drake (2/2 flying) by itself, it would probably get killed. But send it out banded with a face down Liege of the Axe, and things get interesting. If the band isn’t blocked, you get three damage through you wouldn’t have otherwise. If it is blocked and you have the mana to unmorph the Liege, you can assign the Wind Drake’s damage to the Liege so you lose nothing. Even if you don’t unmorph, you still choose which of your creatures dies.

I mentioned it in the last paragraph, but it bears repeating. The ability to choose how your opponent’s creatures deal damage works as long as at least one of your creatures has banding at the moment combat damage is assigned. It only works in the combat with the banding creature, but it works on both offense and defense. This means that, if you want, you can block a Darksteel Colossus (11/11 trample, indestructible) with a Benalish Hero (1/1 banding) and choose how much damage goes onto the Hero and how much tramples through to you. And if both sides have a creature with banding, each side assigns the other side’s damage in that combat. All assignments done this way must be legal, although they don’t have to be optimal.

Again, if you have a rules topic you want me to tackle, be sure to tell me what it is. And don’t forget to mention Rule of Law in your subject line!

Next time: Don’t forget Protection!