There are a number of rules that you don't run into every day, but you still need to know to keep your Judge arsenal complete. Previous versions of the rulebook may have called them "Obsolete" and put them in separate section, but the latest edition of the Comprehensive Rules simply grants them their own sections (although it still calls some of them obsolete). This week, we'll cover one of the most misunderstood rules in the game, Banding.
Removed from the basic game as of Classic (6th) Edition, Banding is a static ability that modifies the rules for declaring attackers, declaring blockers, and assigning combat damage. Banded creatures don't share abilities, just a common purpose when it comes to attacking or blocking. They remain individual and distinct creatures. Banding can be divided into two separate abilities, referred to by Stephen D'Angelo as "mutual assistance" and "damage sharing."
Any number creatures with banding and up to one creature without banding may form an attacking band. This is declared as the player declares attackers. Once it's been declared, these creatures will be banded until the end of combat, even if something removes the banding ability later. A creature removed from combat, however, will lose banding.
Attacking banding creatures "agree" to be limited by the rest of the band; what can block one of them will block them all. This is the mutual assistance.
Banding a Benalish Hero and a Serra Angel can lead to some interesting results.
Example: Jules attacks with her Banded Benalish Hero (1/1, Banding) and Serra Angel (4/4, Flying). Peter has a Balduvian Horde (5/5) Peter can declare the Horde as a blocking the Hero, and the Serra Angel will be blocked with it, even though the Angel has Flying and the Horde doesn't.
A player who controls a banding creature chooses how combat damage is assigned by creatures blocking or blocked by that creature. This is damage sharing. In the above example, Jules would decide which of her creatures is assigned the 5 damage from the Horde. She could have it all assigned to the Angel, all assigned to the Hero, or split any way she sees fit. Generally, players will attack with a band when the collective can gang up and kill a creature that a single one of them otherwise couldn't.
The Angel is considered in all ways blocked by the Horde. For example, if the Horde is enchanted with Venom ("Whenever enchanted creature blocks or becomes blocked by a non-Wall creature, destroy that creature at end of combat."), the Hero and the Angel will both be destroyed.
Banding is a bit more effective when used defensively. Creatures don't Band to block because multiple creatures are already allowed to block a single creature, but with Banding they can use the damage sharing ability. The difference is that with blocking, only a single creature with Banding need be blocking to share damage. Again, the general idea is to get multiple creatures to gang up and kill a single creature while minimizing the losses on the defending side.
Protection from Red combined with Banding can be very effective
Example: This time, Jules attacks Peter with a Crimson Hellkite (6/6, Flying). Peter blocks with Mesa Pegasus (1/1, Banding, Flying), Thermal Glider (2/1, Flying, Protection from Red), and Roc of Kher Ridges (3/3, Flying). Under normal circumstances, Jules would decide how the Hellkite's damage is divided. Since the Pegasus has Banding, Peter will decide. Obviously, his smartest play is to assign all the Hellkite's damage (it's a red creature) to the Thermal Glider, whose Protection from Red will allow it to survive, while the combined damage from the three creatures will kill the Hellkite.
The situation would seem to get a bit more complicated when both the attackers and blockers have Banding, but the damage sharing still is operative. The attacker decides how the blockers will deal their damage to his creatures, and the defender decides how the attackers will deal damage to hers.
Example: Now, Jules attacks Peter with her Crimson Hellkite and Teremko Griffin (2/2, Banding, Flying) in a band. Peter blocks the Hellkite with his Mesa Pegasus, Roc of Kher Ridges, and Abyssal Horror (2/2, Flying). Jules assigns the Pegasus' 1 damage to the Griffin, and the Roc's 3 and Horror's 2 to the Hellkite. Peter assigns the Hellkite's 6 and Griffin's 2 to the Pegasus. When the damage resolves, the Pegasus is the only creature to die (unless Peter had played something to prevent all the damage to or regenerate it).
Bands with Other is special form of Banding, but otherwise basically follows all the same rules. An attacking creature with "bands with other [creature type]" can form an attacking band with other creatures that have the same "bands with other [creature type]" ability. Creatures with banding can also join this band, but creatures without banding can't. The creatures in this band don't have to have the creature type specified in the "bands with other [creature type]" ability. Blocking this band follows the same general rules as for banding.
Black Legend creatures you control gain bands with other Legend creatures.
Example: Jules has an Unholy Citadel in play. She attacks with her Crosis (6/6, Flying) and her Lord of Tresserhorn (10/4). She can form a band because they're both black (as well red and blue) and both Legends. Peter blocks the Crosis with his Yawgmoth Demon (6/6, Flying, First Strike). Normally, the Yawgmoth Demon would kill the Crosis, but Jules can use the damage sharing ability to assign 3 to the Lord of Tresshorn and 3 to the Crosis. Since both creatures live through the First Strike Combat Damage Step, they deal a total of 16 to the Yawgmoth Demon.
Banding has historically been difficult for players and judges alike to grasp, but is relatively simple once it's broken down. Section 502.10 of the Comprehensive Rules covers the ability in its entirety. If you're still having trouble, email me at email@example.com, and I'll be happy to lend you a hand figuring it out.