War of the Spark Set Review - White
(The Wanderer | Art by Wesley Burt)
"Welcome to the Thunderdome"
--Nicol Bolas, probably
Hello white mages, and welcome to the War of the Spark White Review! Nicol Bolas has sponsored your mandatory ticket to the Ravnica Rumble, and you will rumble.
Without any ado, let's see what tools you have to do so from the brand new set!
On the face of things, Gideon doesn't seem that exciting for Commander, despite the excitement you might see from Standard players. Still, for three mana you can get a couple swings in early or even late, given that he's indestructible and you're not worried about blocking. The versatility of his +1 to give your other creatures the buff of your choice is just gravy at that point. Add in that, if he sticks around, he can exile something, and he could find his way into more than just aggro decks.
Lifegain decks are the second most popular theme on EDHREC, and they love themselves some lifelink. A deck like Karlov of the Ghost Council might enjoy Gideon for the lifelink, but if he already has it (from Whip of Erebos or some such card) maybe he'd prefer to have indestructibility, or perhaps vigilance, to ensure you have a blocker to make it back to your turn. Add these abilities to the free aggro from Gideon himself, and it's not too hard to imagine this popular archetype making some room for this new tool.
Oh, and speaking of commanders that like free aggro and combat abilities... Odric, Lunarch Marshal, this one might interest you, buddy. A solid enough card that could show up here and there. Speaking for myself, though, I would have enjoyed a potentially Blackblade-corrupted version of Gideon down the line.
Gideon, the Oathsworn
Baby Gideon has a reputation of his Planeswalker Precon versions being better than his compatriots, and I think this proves true once again. He won't make any waves in Standard, nor in Commander, but swinging with a 5/5 that pumps the rest of the team every attack step does have the potential to get out of hand. The one-sided board wipe is the best part, though. That can be game-winning if played right. All this said, six mana is a lot; True Conviction will probably feel better for aggro decks most of the time. He's not a shoo-in, but the upside on his ultimate might be enough to replace a few of the cheaper Ajanis out there.
Teyo, the Shieldmage
While he's more vulnerable than an enchantment, and doesn't come into play for free if you have him in your opening hand, Teyo does an excellent impression of our old friend Leyline of Sanctity. Plus, he makes free Walls! If you manage to keep him from being attacked, he can make two 0/3's before he tuckers himself out, and protects you from people pointing fingers.
As with all of the uncommon planeswalkers, there will also be those who try to put some counters back on him through external means, but the payoff in this particular case is fairly low. That is not to say, however, that Teyo doesn't have a home in the vast world of EDH:
The obvious deck that cares about our Hatebear-not-on-a-stick here are the Walls commanders. Whether it be with our old friend Doran or our new friend Arcades, decks that care about cheap, large rear ends will be ecstatic to see a means to put free Walls down on the board. They won't try to put extra counters on Teyo to make more Walls, but he's a fine rate for those decks anyhow.
On the other side of things, where counter abuse is a real thing, Teyo actually makes sense in Superfriends decks. He makes Walls to protect other planeswalkers, keeps you from being targeted, and will naturally get more counters through your Oath and Proliferate shenanigans to make more Walls. For those of you that are putting together a Djeru deck in light of all the new planeswalker options, this guy is a natural fit.
Man, Wizards nailed it with this one. The only thing I've seen more than people wondering about her identity is people wondering where she fits into existing strategies. The Venn Diagram of "Creatures in Commander that are power 4 or greater" and "Creature that needs to be handled quickly" is almost a circle. Staple her removal to an immunity to noncombat damage, and things get really serious. The Wanderer shuts down any deck that wants to burn you out, while also making sure that your creatures survive as well. She could find her way into all sorts of decks regardless of what strategy they're pursuing, as her ability is just that strong.
The Wanderer also slots into some specific Group Slug strategies. For those of you not familiar, Group Slug is the antithetical twin of Group Hug, causing damage and misery to all players instead of handing out cards and Hippos. When that damage doesn't affect you or your creatures, you are free to burn out everyone's board and life total without having to worry about your own! Tajic, Legion's Edge decks are especially happy about this. The Wanderer protects our stuff... now we just need to find a way to protect The Wanderer.
Finale of Glory
Finale of Glory joins a long and prestigious line of X-spell token generators, and may just shine through to a 99 near you. The 2/2 Soldiers could certainly be worth the sorcery speed in the right deck. Secure the Wastes is the obvious comparison, costing less mana and at instant speed, but I know when I'm playing tokens, I don't mind slower cards for more power, especially when you're talking about twenty of them (totaling 60 power) for a 12 mana investment. Does that 12 mana seem outlandishly high? It shouldn't; most token decks are also green, like Trostani, Selesnya's Voice, so they won't struggle with that cost very much.
Other competition includes:
- White Sun's Zenith, which makes 2/2 Cats, no Angels, but costs an extra white mana.
- Entreat the Angels, which makes 4/4 Angels (without the vigilance) without a minimum mana requirement, but can be quite costly if you don't manage to get the Miracle cast.
- Martial Coup, probably the biggest competitor at sorcery speed; it only makes 1/1s, but in truth, it's more of a board wipe spell than just a token creator.
All in all, Finale is pushed enough that you're going to see it at your tables. The only real question is whether or not it will be you using it.
In 2001, Apocalypse broke out as the third set from the Invasion block. With it came a bombshell that many have declared as one of the first blatant instances of power creep: Spiritmonger. For a mere five mana, it was a 6/6, and rather than having a then-customary downside for a creature with more power and toughness than its mana cost, it instead had three upsides.
Fast-forward 18 years and we've only hit the gas pedal. We now have a 3/6 double-striking God who recurs herself and creates tokens whenever you cast the creatures you were already going to cast. Those tokens aren't just any 1/1 Soldiers, either - Oketra gives you 4/4 black Zombies. With vigilance!
With a power level this high, God-Eternal Oketra will definitely be playable as her own Commander, although I recommend you bring as many Swiftfoot Boots as you can. The recursion ability is perhaps slow, and even dangerous if you wind up having to shuffle your library, but the ability to avoid commander tax is certainly enticing.
Plus, there are tons of ways to exploit her token trigger. Stonecloaker, Aviary Mechanic, and Whitemane Lion can return themselves to your hand. Even without a Pearl Medallion, this means you can effectively make 4/4's for super cheap, as much as you'd like, possibly at instant speed! Combine that with a Cathar's Crusade or a Cloudstone Curio and it starts to seem a little vicious.
Even with all those options, most of the times you'll see Oketra will probably be in the 99. Karametra, God of Harvests uses Whitemane Lion effects already, so she'll be interested in a new win condition. Varina, Lich Queen Zombie tribal would love to have the extra Zombies even if they weren't big and vigilant.
No matter how you choose to abuse our new (Zombie) Cat God, one thing is for sure: cat skulls are weird, man.
Ignite the Beacon
Superfriends decks will be at an all-time high in the wake of War of the Spark (if you don't believe me, go look at the price of Atraxa), which means this tutor will be in demand. In similar fashion to Plea for Guidance, any deck playing a significant number of planeswalkers will want to tutor up their best two.
Plus, you get the opprtunity to tutor two walkers that complement each other, such as Saheeli, the Gifted and Tezzeret the Schemer. Or, if you'd like to stick to one color, go get two Gideons, and make sure that nobody can win with Gideon of the Trials?
Regardless of who you choose to tutor for, Ignite the Beacons has a place in your planeswalker deck. At five mana, it's cheaper than any other two-card tutor. That is just too much value to ignore.
There's not a whole lot to say here other than this is pure Timmy & Tammy. It's eight mana, doesn't do anything the turn it comes down, there's no way the tuned decks will be playing it, and it's probably bad.
But who cares? It's a giant flying fortress that makes Angels when you attack with it, and the Angels can turn around and Crew it again! You're definitely going to see this across the table, and the person playing it is going to have a huge grin on their face. For a lot of us, that is exactly what Commander is about.
Ravnica at War
I'm a little torn on this card, but if you do happen to be in mono-white, it's certainly worth a look. Almost every Commander you play against is multicolor, and there are entire decks that this card hoses. Add to that that it is an exile effect, and this might see play more often than people think.
Let's also stroll through the Top Cards in EDH:
Multicolor Permanents in the Top 100 Cards in EDHView on Archidekt
Looking through that list, I'd say at four mana it's worth it to take out a lot of those cards (especially the indestructible Gods). The fact that this hits so many commanders is also very compelling. It won't knock it out of the park every time, but at best, it does have a chance to be a one-sided Wrath, and at worst, it's an expensive piece of spot removal.
Single Combat is a bit harder to place. It won't be a one-sided board wipe for you the way Winds of Rath could be, nor is it one you can cater your board to take advantage of, like Fell the Mighty or Citywide Bust.
Single Combat, then, is for the moderate deck that has a good reason to keep a single specific creature or walker alive. If that's not your deck, you'd be much better served by playing a Wrath of God. While Single Combat's sacrifice clause is nice to get around enemy indestructibility, the restriction on casting creatures or planeswalkers until the end of your next turn could end up blowing you out if an opponent removes the card you kept alive.
Probably the most obvious place for Single Combat will be in Voltron decks, where you've sunk a lot of value into a single creature. You'll want that creature to survive, and you don't want people to be able to put more blockers in its way. Because it can do so while also keeping your Auras or Equipment, it will be a step above Tragic Arrogance in some decks.
Now that that's over with, can we talk about who's gonna end up in a wall this time?
Tomik, Distinguished Advokist
Coming to a Hatebears build near you, it's Tomik, Spelling Extraordinaire! We've seen bureaucratic lawmages of the Advokist ilk before in things like Orzhov Advokist. It is appropriate, then, that Tomik places some regulations on lands, namely by restricting your opponents from messing with them. Indeed, it would appear that this particular legislation has very little to do with protecting your lands at all, as opponents are also not able to play lands from their graveyards!
Tomik is a classic hate card. If you have a Lands Matter or land destruction deck in your meta that's gone just a step too far, he can be your secret weapon. I would hesitate to include him in just any deck, but he does a good job of holding back a now-popular strategy. Hatebears, then, is a natural place for Tomik, playing a whole bunch of small creatures that throw a wrench in your opponents' strategies. While Tomik doesn't fit the bill quite as nicely as say, Gaddock Teeg, he nonetheless will do some work against certain decks, and is therefore worthy of some consideration.
PS: He looks like he'd almost be good in Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper, but Noyan Dar's problem tends to be Wrath effects more than single-target removal, so I think it would be a trap to add him there.
Rejoice, players who care about counters of any form! It's Proliferate! In white! A remake of everyone's favorite tiny Phyrexian Thrummingbird, Grateful Apparition will immediately see play in all sorts of +1/+1 counter decks, Superfriends decks, and anything else under the sun that cares about stacking counters on permanents.
Previously white had to resort to the likes of Contagion Clasp or its big brother Contagion Engine, but now it can fly over everyone's head and get more counters for much cheaper.
More options are always a good thing. Besides, you don't really want to be the person playing the same "good" Commander everyone else is, do you? Get out there and build mono-white or Boros Superfriends, and do your part to bat back the Atraxa menace! Or just put it in your Atraxa deck, right alongside your Thrummingbird. That works too.
While Prison Realm won't be kicking Grasp of Fate out of anyone's removal lineup anytime soon, that doesn't mean that it won't see play. It would be competing against something like Banishing Light. Light is more flexible, given that it can exile any nonland permanent, but it doesn't have an enter-the-battlefield scry ability. In a deck that likes to abuse those effects, that could make a real difference.
Some Blink commanders can flicker any type of permanent, which means they can always shift this enchantment to exile the biggest bad while also filtering their draws. That kind of card quality adds up over time, especially in Aminatou, the Fateshifter decks with a library manipulation theme as well.
Rally of Wings
Vitalize and To Arms! only show up in approximately 1,300 and 800 decks, respectively, and while there are cases where untapping your creatures can have combo potential, this is no Dramatic Reversal.
Martyr for the Cause
Hey look, more Proliferate in white!
...That is all.
Unless of course, you happen to be working a counter theme of some sort into your Teysa Karlov deck. Seems unlikely though.
Wowza. A one-mana single-use Pariah, at instant speed. You can use this to Holy Day a huge attack and chump it all onto one of your creatures (particularly enticing when one of them is Shielded by Faith or wielding Hammer of Nazahn).
Or you could turn that creature into a conduit and Stuffy Doll, Boros Reckoner, or Spitemare someone for a real, real good time. The new Feather, the Redeemed could use this to great effect too, redirecting any aggression coming your way to her, then following it up with a Shelter or Ajani's Presence. Every turn. All the time. Which is gross. But also awesome.
Finale of Glory
Which white cards are you most excited to put into your EDH decks? Will the Wanderer wander into your library? Are you ready to Parhelion II, Electric Boogaloo? Let us know in the comments below!