Wilds of Eldraine: The Starring Roles

(Twisted Fealty | Art by Mila Pesic)

Let's try that A-Ghen

Sometimes a really interesting card just doesn't pan out when it is released. Commander Legends introduced an incredible amount of new potential commanders and commander pairings thanks to the Partner mechanic. One of the many commanders that eventually disappeared into the background was Ghen, Arcanum Weaver.

This commander does something rather unique within the game. There are many cards that have a similar effect but for Artifacts such as Goblin Welder. Having an Enchantment version is more unique. The main problem? Enchantments are far less disposable than Artifacts. However, Wilds of Eldraine may have just solved this problem with the new Aura Role tokens.

What's the Role of Roles?

Roles scream “this is a limited mechanic”, and they mostly are. Roles have struggled to catch on outside of the dedicated Role decks Ellivere of the Wild Court and Eriette of the Charmed Apple. However, much like Food tokens and Powerstones, you should never forget the value of getting multiple resources out of a single card. Roles are an easily disposable Enchantment that allows us to not have to sacrifice a “real” card. Ghen is not the only commander that can take advantage of this.

Braids, Arisen Nightmare and Baba Lysaga, Night Witch are both appearing on the EDHREC page for Not Dead After All for the same reason we want to use the card. It is an easily sacrificed token. Enchantment tokens are also much harder to come by than Artifacts or Creatures and all three of these commanders care about having specifically Enchantments to sacrifice.

This means that we don't care much about which Role a card grants. Our bigger priority is cards that are very cheap or have added flexibility. Not Dead After All and Witch's Mark are borderline playable effects that are desirable in this deck thanks to the token that comes along with them.

Spiteful Hexmage, Embereth Veteran and Conceited Witch all help get the ball rolling on turn one. Spellbook Vendor may not cost a single mana, but for only a single mana each turn it allows us to pump out multiple Role tokens to sacrifice.

Now I know I said all the Roles are interchangeable in this deck, but there is one that provides a nice bonus if we do keep it around. Charmed Clothier and Besotted Knight both provide a Royal Role token which can give our commander Ward 1 making it a slightly less appealing removal target.


Ghen's Other Issues

Ok… ok… The lack of token Enchantments was not the sole weakness of Ghen, Arcanum Weaver as a commander. They definitely played it safe with this card's design. I guess they figured players would not enjoy it being too easy to turbo Overwhelming Splendor into play. The two big weaknesses are that this commander both doesn't have Haste and requires mana to be activated. Haste is especially important once we are forced to recast our commander after a removal spell. That said, there is no shortage of cards that help us grant Haste. There is a reason that Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots are both staples and they are extra strong in this deck. Battlemage's Bracers grants Haste along with another important ability. 

Activating this ability is costly and the colored pips make it hard to lower the cost. It is also a tap ability which limits us to once per turn. That, however, can be circumnavigated by cards that untap our commander or allow us to copy its ability. These include Illusionist's Bracers, Rings of Brighthearth and Thousand-Year Elixir.

Leveraging EDHREC

We have a number of Roles in the Mardu (red, black, white) color combination. However, it takes a lot more to fill out a full deck. For that we can turn to the commander's page on EDHREC. We can use the filter tool to search for decks that include the card Spellbook Vendor as it is new and likely only used in decks which make the most of the new Role mechanic. There are only a few decks here so far so we're breaking new ground, but there is still a lot we can learn.

Not all the Roles are all-stars, so it is helpful to see how others are prioritizing these effects. Charming Scoundrel is the highest played Role, given the early data we have. Not surprising considering the card is extremely flexible and cheap. Following behind the scoundrel is Cursed Courtier for similar reasons.

We can also see here that there aren't quite enough Roles to play the role of sacrifice fodder on their own. Cheap Enchantment creatures with another effect tacked on are highly played in this deck. Mindwrack Harpy and Spirited Companion are both cheap and can be sacrificed to our commander. The Dog cycles itself and the Harpy can be even more impactful, filling our graveyard with huge Enchantments to reanimate. Both are seeing play in over a quarter of the decks that fit our filtered criteria.

But What Are We Reanimating?

The issue with Ghen was never a lack of powerful options to reanimate. The Mardu color combination has some of the most brutal top-end enchantments in the game. Captive Audience is a nightmare to play against. It forces an opponent to slowly choose their own demise. The best part? This card and many of these others give the illusion of hope to an opponent despite almost certain doom. It can be fun to play with your food before dealing the final blow.

Cruel Reality is another obnoxious option that makes our opponents make awful decisions. This is a great option against decks with a lot of big creatures as is the aforementioned Overwhelming Splendor. These cards are not great against a token deck and if you find yourself up against a pod of token decks you can turn to Ethereal Absolution instead.

We can also use this effect to set up a recursion engine to carry us through the rest of the game. Grave Betrayal and the new Virtue of Persistence let us continually bring back creatures to kill our opponents after we have cursed them out of the game. We can even use Starfield of Nyx to repeatedly reanimate these huge Enchantments while circumnavigating our commander all together.

Closing the Game

If the bevy of Curses you have placed on your opponents haven't caused them to concede yet, then you might find yourself in need of a win condition. Luckily, there are some new weapons at our disposal thanks to recent sets. Boon of the Spirit Realm is an ever-growing anthem effect that can make even your smallest creatures into legitimate threats. The aforementioned Starfield of Nyx helps turn all our enchantments into threats and can be combined with Extinguish All Hope to wipe the board except for our threats.

If we do run into a rogue Austere Command or Farewell, fear not! Open the Vaults can resurrect all our biggest and baddest Enchantments for a final alpha strike attack or to overwhelm our opponents with value and Curses. There are a variety of effects that do the same thing such as Replenish and Triumphant Reckoning, but unless you want to pay a hefty price tag, Open the Vaults is your best value version of the effect.

Aristocrats is a popular strategy for a reason. Cheap creatures such as Blood Artist or Zulaport Cutthroat can deal out huge amounts of damage over the course of a game when they come down early. Grim Guardian and Wicked Visitor have a very similar effect that works for Enchantments instead. Neither specify non-token, so these work with the Roles that we want to sacrifice anyway. Knight of Doves has a different effect that can be equally deadly. It can consistently create creatures that you can later combine with Boon of the Spirit Realm to end the game.

In Conclusion

Role tokens without a doubt make Ghen, Arcanum Weaver a more viable and interesting commander. More importantly, it provides a reminder of how easily a new mechanic or card can help boost an old commander. If an effect interests you but doesn't quite have enough support yet, make sure to keep an eye out with each new set for any new toys your deck might gain.

Check out the full deck below!

Commander (1)
Creatures (13)
Enchantments (18)
Artifacts (11)
Instants (9)
Sorceries (12)
Lands (36)


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Ben is a Michigan native who fell in love with Magic just a few years ago in 2019. He loves making big splashy plays in Commander as well as crunching the number to optimize his decks. Outside of Magic, he works in marketing and loves a great cup of coffee to start each morning… maybe with a splash of hot chocolate for his sweet tooth.

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