Lore Seeker - Galvanized Goddess
Welcome to Lore Seeker, a series devoted to the legendary creatures left by the wayside of Magic story. In this series I analyze a legendary creature card in depth, one that does not have much mythos surrounding it. I consider everything from the name and mana cost to the art and flavor text, extracting the essence of the card and applying that essence liberally to the deck. I also investigate a playstyle that fits the flavor and personality of the commander. For this installment, we're building around Sharuum the Hegemon.
Looking through EDHREC, the average Sharuum deck has a heavy artifact theme that relies on combos. Before Breya, Etherium Shaper came out, Sharuum was a top artifact commander. Her combos are plenty; Time Sieve + Thopter Assembly for infinite turns, and Thopter Foundry + Sword of the Meek creates a Thopter for 1 mana (or generates infinite mana, Thopters, and life with Ashnod’s Altar). For a full breakdown of a traditional Sharuum the Hegemon decklist, check out Joseph Schultz’s commander showdown article comparing Sharuum to Breya here.
Sharuum came out in Shards of Alara and is the leader of Esper, a section (or shard) of the plane containing only white, blue, and black mana. She had a minor run-in with Tezzeret the Seeker, a planeswalker who calls Esper home as well. They went on an excursion to find Sharuum’s lost love, but she returned, and still rules Esper. And that is all that is really known.
I love this card and I have a deck built around her myself (the main goal of that deck is to get out Divine Intervention. Yes, I'm one of those people). When I went to the Sharuum page of Magic’s wiki I was disappointed to find only a few paragraphs describing this magnificent beast and thought she deserved better. Thus began my Lore Seeker quest.
Hegemon: a leading or major power; someone who enjoys a predominating influence over others.
Sharuum is a ruler, someone with control and excessive power over others (i.e. dominance). It’s interesting that the word 'hegemon' was chosen over something like 'queen.' This implies Sharuum worked towards becoming the power in Esper that she is today rather than inheriting power as a queen would, and that others recognize this.
Because Sharuum is a leading power, she needs a government structure to do her bidding. I landed on a political control build (laying down the law/permission) mixed with light taxing effects, but nothing too oppressive; a government has to run somehow!
Mana Cost // Color Identity:
To gather information about the color identity, I broke down the components, identifying the philosophy and values of each color and color pairing:
White: peace for all; the good of the many over the good of the few.
Blue: strive for perfection; you can be whatever you desire.
Black: power at any cost; morality has no sway over decisions.
Azorius (white-blue): Bureaucratic, excessively formal, and fastidious.
Dimir (blue-black): Secrecy, manipulation, and underhanded deals.
Orzhov (white-black): Tradition, ritual, and exploitation of law to meet their own end.
The traits I can’t ignore are the basic color philosophies of peace, perfection, and power. They are rather broad and generally fit with the government theme. The guild values have a little more wiggle room as Sharuum is not specifically associated with a guild, so I am going to focus on bureaucratic manipulation and exploitation of law. These ideas exemplify Sharuum as the hegemon of Esper and supply a guideline for the government structure of the deck.
A Sphinx coated in metal surrounded by pillows, supplicants at her feet, white obelisks in the background; this art oozes regality and supreme dominion over her subjects and the Blind Obedience they show her. Blind Obedience provides excellent flavor, making subjects bow. Looking deeper into forcing a foe to bow, I found a few delicious cards to toss in the list as well as some payoffs for tapping down creatures.
Now that we’ve learned proper technique when approaching the hegemon, let’s take a closer look at the clerics in the foreground and the clean sanctum-esque background. It invokes the sensation of a church-state, or theocracy. The deific Sharuum must have a high council of subordinates alongside a network of spies and underlings to spread her Propaganda.
Grand Arbiter Augustin IV fits nicely with our taxing themes, and is also the best ramp spell in colors that do not have much of it. Plus, just look at him. This guy is sitting in a weird floating chair, doling out justice surrounded by a beautiful cathedral.
“Everyone has a price.” Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer provides protection and political opportunities galore. This guy may be a candidate for an article himself, as he is dripping with flavor.
Another tax effect, but Kambal, Consul of Allocation accepts only blood.
Memnarch is the head of converts and acquisitions for the church.
Obzedat, Ghost Council is a literal council on a card; this ghostly group hides behind the scenes and pops up to offer a suggestion and dole out justice in their own way. This is also a decent beater as it has innate protection on a 5/5 body.
Underlings, Enforcers, and Spies
I also collected a list of the background workers, whose work is less noble then the clerics above, but is just as important to help Sharuum maintain her dominance.
High Priest of Penance
Minister of Impediments
Protector of the Crown
Thopter Spy Network
Let's analyze some other pieces of our Sphinx ruler. Sharuum is an artifact herself; she is coated in an aether-infused metal known as 'etherium.' Esper inhabitants are obsessed with the metal and are encouraged to replace parts of their body with it (Tezzeret’s metal arm is made of etherium, for example). This makes me want to include Liquimetal Coating in the deck and support it with some synergies: Memnarch is one of Sharuum’s council and may seem like a strange include, but his philosophies and card mechanics are very Esper: coating permanents with metal. Liquimetal Coating gives a nice discount to that ability. Two other enablers also synergize well with that tapping effect: Dismiss into Dream and Horobi, Death’s Wail both do a very similar thing, and are an absolute nightmare for opponents to deal with. Leave it to Sharuum to effortlessly banish those she deems unworthy.
This is the text that draws other players to build Sharuum and I don’t think it’s right to ignore that. The deck is first and foremost a control deck but things like removal, big creatures that end the game, and other various utility needs can look to Sharuum for extra value. Dispeller’s Capsule, Executioner’s Capsule, Solemn Simulacrum, Baleful Strix, and one of my personal favorites: Magister Sphinx. Grabbing Magister Sphinx with Sharuum is amazing because after you’ve set someone to ten life, you have ten power in the air. Another great synergy is with a card that I don’t see much of: Lotus Bloom. Suspend it on turn one and you have a turn three Sharuum for essentially three mana with the lotus right back in play. I couldn’t help but add a Mindslaver combo with Sharuum and Conjurer's Closet to lock down one opponent forever.
Let’s bring her some riddles! One of the first cards I added was Enigma Sphinx. It’s a Sphinx, it’s an artifact, and it’s confusing. If anyone can make heads or tales of this enigma, it would be Sharuum. Fact or Fiction is amazing on its own, but if we look at the name and the actual mechanics of the card, it fits even more perfectly here. Giving an opponent this choice is a joy to watch and is itself a riddle they must solve.
As I was looking for some utility lands to play, I remembered the ever-annoying Maze of Ith and realized that a maze is a physical riddle! Are there more mazes? Yes indeed! Mystifying Maze and Nimbus Maze, get in there! Etherwrought Page mentions both a riddle and the hegemon in its flavor text so it automatically gets a slot. It’s a fine card that gives incremental value and won’t draw any hate.
I based a few slots around the flavor text on Sanctum Prelate: “These halls are sacred. You will be silent.” Sanctum Prelate is a flavor home run for the deck, because Sharuum does not like hearing the same riddle twice.
Filling the deck out are some staples, ramp and a couple tasty sweepers. I would highly recommend playing the Esper lands painted by Chippy for further flavor. Let’s check out the final list!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey into Sharuum’s Esper realm as much as I enjoyed fabricating it. I didn't have time to discuss the flavor of every card in the list, but I implore you to browse through it, and always be sure to read the flavor texts!
Is there anything I missed or that I should add? What are some legends you think deserve more story? Leave a comment below, I would love to know!