MTG Banding – Cards, Decks & Tips

Today’s topic revolves around the MTG Banding keyword, a quite controversial ability that is on its way to be forgotten.

In this article I’ll go over the official rules, I’ll share what I consider the best cards with the Banding ability, the most useful cards that could help you raise your chances of victory, how to play against Banding in MTG and some general tips that you’ll find spread here and there throughout the article.

What follows are thoughts based on my personal experience of playing the game since the late ’90s, I hope you’ll find something useful!


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What does Banding mean in MTG?

Banding is an ability that we can consider old school, having been introduced with the first edition, alpha, later abandoned with the Weatherlight expansion due to its complexity in being played.

It is an ability that changes the rules of combat, and it varies in relation to the attack and the blocking phase.

How does it behave during the attack?

The band can be composed of any number of creatures having this ability and only one creature without a band.
The attacking player may compose an indefinite number of bands, as long as each creature belongs to only one band. The entire group of creatures must attack the same player and, once declared, remains so until the end of combat. If the defending player removes one of our creatures that are part of the combat, it is also removed from the band.
When the band is blocked, the attacking player decides the allocation of damage points.

And what about in defence?

When a player blocks with a band, it is the defending player who chooses how to divide the damage.
If a player attacks with a band and the defending player blocks it with a band as well, the attacking player chooses how to divide the damage of his or her creatures, to be followed by the defending player.

Bands with other is a variation of the banding ability, imposing a restriction on the creatures that can do so. Bands with other indicates that the creature can form the band with only other creatures that possess that quality.

MTG Banding Rules

I have briefly described what Banding means but let’s have a look at what the official rules state:

702.22a Banding is a static ability that modifies the rules for combat.
702.22b “Bands with other” is a special form of banding. If an effect causes a permanent to lose
banding, the permanent loses all “bands with other” abilities as well.
702.22c As a player declares attackers, they may declare that one or more attacking creatures with
banding and up to one attacking creature without banding (even if it has “bands with other”) are
all in a “band.” They may also declare that one or more attacking [quality] creatures with
“bands with other [quality]” and any number of other attacking [quality] creatures are all in a
band. A player may declare as many attacking bands as they want, but each creature may be a
member of only one of them. (Defending players can’t declare bands but may use banding in a
different way; see rule 702.22j.)
702.22d All creatures in an attacking band must attack the same player or planeswalker.

MTG Banding Best Cards

Let’s quickly go over some of the best creatures that have the Banding ability.

Kjeldoran Knight

Kjeldoran Knight - MTG Banding
MTG Kjeldoran Knight – image: Wizards of the Coast

A 1/1 knight at the cost of 2 plains, who can boost himself both in attack with a +1/+0, and in defence, with a +2/+0, spending two single mana per skill.

Urza’s Avenger

Urza's Avenger - MTG Banding
MTG Urza’s Avenger – image: Wizards of the Coast

This polymorph creature doesn’t possess the banding ability itself, but it can be very versatile.
Without spending mana, and potentially as many times as we want, by paying a fee of a small depowering, we can make it gain the banding ability, or alternatively others that may be more decisive at a specific time of the game.

Kjeldoran Skycaptain

MTG kKjeldoran Skycaptain – image: Wizards of the Coast

He is the captain. True, he has a somewhat high cost, but he has as many as two other very strong and useful abilities beyond banding, such as flying and first strike.
Some people, considering the mana curve, might prefer “his” knight, the Kjeldoran Skyknight, but I always prefer to have more strength and toughness at my disposal.

Camel

Camel - MTG Banding
MTG Camel – image: Wizards of the Coast

He is a 0/1 creature, but he possesses bands ability and can help us a lot in several complicated attack or defence situations thanks to his ability to prevent damage to other creatures he forms a band with. Very situational but nevertheless useful.

Ayesha Tanaka

Ayesha Tanaka - MTG Banding
MTG Ayesha Tanaka – image: Wizards of the Coast

The only non-colourless creature, specifically white, on the list.
Straight from the multicoloured set of Legends, Ayesha helps us defend against artifact-loaded decks by neutralizing one of their abilities, as long as its controller doesn’t spend white mana.

Benalish Hero & Mesa Pegasus

Benalish Hero - MTG Banding
MTG Benalish Hero – image: Wizards of the Coast
Mesa Pegasus - MTG Banding
MTG Mesa Pegasus – image: Wizards of the Coast

Honourable mention for the 2 iconic creatures of the banding keyword, introduced in alpha and much loved by vintage/old school nostalgic.

We can choose other creatures to include in our banding-based deck, possessing this ability, but at the same time, they can also add another static ability to the creatures that are part of the band. These are:

  • Icatian Skirmishers
  • Urza Engine

Icatian Skirmishers

MTG Icatian Skirmishers – image: Wizards of the Coast

These human soldiers possess bands as well as first strike. They help our creatures, part of the band, by giving them first strike until the end of the turn.

Urza’s Engine

MTG Urza’s Engine – image: Wizards of the Coast

An artifact creature, 1/5 with trample, that can gain banding by spending 3 colourless mana; or, again at the cost of 3 colourless mana, have the attacking creatures banded with Urza’s Engine gain trample until the end of the turn.

MTG Banding deck examples

Let’s see together an example of an old-school deck with banding.
This is a mono-white deck that revolves around the banding ability.

Full Banding deck

Useful cards with Banding in MTG

In Magic: the Gathering, there are also non-creature cards that help us in building our Banding deck, in case not all the creatures included in the deck have this ability:

  • Formation
  • Helm of Chatzuk
  • Baton of Morale
  • Fortified Area

Formation

MTG Formation – image: Wizards of the Coast

Instant, obviously white, with a mana cost of 1 colourless and 1 white specific mana. It gives banding to a target creature and it allows us to draw a card at the beginning of the next turn’s upkeep. Not so bad to have the ability to draw in a mono-white deck.

Helm of Chatzuk

MTG Helm of Chatzuk – image: Wizards of the Coast

A low mana cost Artifact that, by spending the same amount of mana and tapping it, allows a target creature to gain banding until the end of the turn.

Baton of Morale

Baton of Morale - MTG Banding
MTG Baton of Morale – image: Wizards of the Coast

Also an artifact, very similar to the above, but with a substantial difference. It costs 1 more colourless mana, and its ability also costs 1 more colourless mana, but the big difference lies in not tapping the card and making one creature gain banding. By spending more mana we can make more creatures gain banding.

Fortified Area

Fortified Area - MTG Defender
MTG Fortified Area – image: Wizards of the Coast

If we are fans of walls, now identified by the keyword defender, we can include this spell in our deck that enhances them with a +1/+0 and give them our chosen banding skill.

Lands

In magic everyone loves lands, and of course, even for a banding-based deck there are fantastic lands, with even more fantastic artwork, that give the bands with other ability to our legendary creatures in the deck.
There is one for each mana colour, and each of them assigns bands with other to the legendary creatures of its colour.
All of these lands were released with the legends set:

  • Cathedral of Serra: white legends
  • Mountain Stronghold: red legends
  • Seafarer Quay: blue legends
  • Unholy Citadel: black legends
  • Adventurers Guildhouse: green legends

MTG Cathedral of Serra – image: Wizards of the Coast
MTG Mountain Stronghold – image: Wizards of the Coast
MTG Seafarer Quay – image: Wizards of the Coast
Unholy Citadel - MTG Banding
MTG Unholy Citadel – image: Wizards of the Coast
MTG Adventurers Guildhouse – image: Wizards of the Coast

How to deal with MTG Defender

But how can we defend ourselves against a deck that heavily relies on the banding ability?

Shelkin Brownie

MTG Shelkin Brownie – image: Wizards of the Coast

Thanks to this green brownie we can make a target creature lose its bands with other ability.

Tolaria

Tolaria - MTG Banding
MTG Tolaria – image: Wizards of the Coast

The best choice, obviously a land.
Besides giving us blue mana if tapped, let’s analyze the second ability it possesses: we can only activate it during our upkeep and it allows us to remove banding or bands with other abilities from a target creature.