The pre-release weekend has come and gone, and now that I’ve had some time to actually play with the cards I have a whole new appreciation for some of these generals. I was afraid initially that Return to Ravnica would only give us “big” legends and not companion “small” legends like the original block had; but they pulled it off, this time differentiating not by converted mana cost but instead by rarity. All the “big” generals are splashy mythics with notable effects; the “small” ones are balanced to be rares in limited, and thus their abilities are less explosive. They’re still great cards, though, and I love them. So, without further ado, here are the new players!


Emmara Tandris (green and white)

I, like everyone on the internet, was initially unimpressed with Emmara. It’s rumored (probably truthfully) that she was supposed to be Voice of Resurgence, but they found putting that card at rare was too bonkers for limited. I grok that change, even if I am disappointed that it means we don’t get any two-mana generals. But I played with Emmara during my two-headed giant experience (Selesnya and Izzet), and I found out that she’s amazing if you can pair her with something like Hold the Gates. Being able to swing in unceasingly with vigilant, damage-proof tokens is a powerful ability, since your opponent has no chance to crack back at you. Pair it with something like Spidersilk Armor, Akroma’s Memorial or Eldrazi Monument, and you’ve got yourself a pretty nasty board position your opponents will find difficult to disrupt.

DGM Exava

Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch (red and black)

So, here’s my brilliant Exava deck concept. Start with some sort of Pandemonium effect, although preferably Warstorm Surge so your opponents aren’t picking your creatures off as well, and the pair it with Mephidross Vampire. And like that, every creature you play has haste! If that’s not your style, there’s always dark Mikaeus. Pair him with some non-humans and a sacrifice outlet, and you get twice the Pandemonium and still your dudes have haste.

DGM Lavinia

Lavinia of the Tenth (white and blue)

I saw Lavinia and immediately saw the soft-lock potential for her in standard. Throw her on the field with a Conjurer’s Closet, and your opponent better have some Thundermaw Hellkites if they want to have a shot at swinging at you. In EDH, though, we get more options. I would combine her with Restoration Angel and Venser to keep my opponents from using their mana rocks or attacking me, allowing for a slower late-game plan to take shape. Maybe this is finally the deck for Stormtide Leviathan!

DGM Melek

Melek, Izzet Paragon (red and blue)

This is the guy for whom I am most excited. For a long time now I’ve wanted to make a UR deck that focuses on casting instants and sorceries. Unfortunately, there weren’t any great generals for such a deck. One of the Nivs is too overpowered while the other is pretty underwhelming; Tibor and Lumia are just weird, and Nin is like a fair(ish) pinger? Nothing there really screams, “run almost entirely spells!” Melek, of course, does. And not only that, but Melek being the game day promo makes me really want to top eight that event, or at least trade for him at an unreasonable price. Just brilliant on the part of Wizards; finally, it’s a full-art rare that’s going to be relevant to the more causal parts of the community who tend to like the bling. Anyway, I wish his stats were a little better (a 1/5, even), but he’s got a great effect.

DGM Mirko

Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker (black and blue)

MIND TAKER!  Ah, the card is flavorful, I will give it that. It’s not necessarily good, per se, but it oozes with the flavor. The real problem with Mirko Vosk is that he’s more of an enabler than something with a cool power on his own. It doesn’t help that he has stiff competition in the category of black and blue generals, but even if you’re full in on the mill plan I still think you’d probably rather be playing him IN your Wrexial or Lazav deck, and not the other way around. But you can certainly play all three in the same deck and switch it up now and again; people all too often forget that’s a possibility, and if you have a strong concept it can be fun to experiment with different generals from time to time.

DGM Ruric Thar

Ruric Thar, the Unbowed (red and green)

I guess there’s a new griefer in town! Because let’s face it, EDH decks like to cast spells! Still, he’s strong on attack or defense and has two of the more relevant EDH keywords: vigilance and reach. Luckily, his “punch you in the face” ability doesn’t do general damage, but he’s going to make it difficult to keep planeswalkers on the table, I suspect. Six damage takes out most of them. Obviously he gets paired with the better mulldrifters; Cloudthresher and Eternal Witness come to mind as strong inclusions, although the Witness is basically just a Gravedigger at this point. Still, it would be a fun limitation to make a deck with 100% creatures, and if that’s the plan Ruric Thar is a definite contender to lead such a legion.

DGM Tajic

Tajic, Blade of the Legion (red and white)

Speak of the Legion and it shall appear! Tajic is a classic combat general. Someone is going to put a Whispersilk Cloak on him, swing in with him and two friends and you’re dead in three hits. Sure, he dies to Mutilate and Final Judgment, but he survives most other wrath effects (and people tend to be a little less eager to pull the trigger on mass exile cards). Anyway, put him on a team with a few other indestructible or unblockable creatures, like Commander Eesha or Cho-Manno, Revolutionary, and you have a soldier-themed deck that can unfailingly swing in with some nasty pieces of work. Still, a deck like this is a strong contender for a card like Mobilization, so that you can attack freely and still have an ironclad defense.

DGM Teysa

Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts (black and white)

Ever since I had a bad experience with a new EDH playgroup I’ve been trying to reconstitute the wrath deck. Normally I make it Rock, because green gives you access to permanent ramp and Pernicious Deed effects, but I decided to go more traditional and try to keep it to two colors. Teysa 2.0 is a good general for this strategy. Vish Kal is too expensive and requires too much commitment to the board to be valuable in that way, Ghost Council 1.0 works well with wraths but has such a mediocre board effect, and Ghost Council 2.0 doesn’t even work well in a wrathful environment, if you want to be the one pulling the trigger. So Teysa 2.0 made the cut. Teysa 1.0 is more of a token or sacrificial general, but look at all the abilities she has grown into having! She’s vigilant, unblockable, the perfect defense against attackers and if things do get through she blows them up. She’s wonderful, and I am going into an equipment subtheme for post-wrath power, especially since she’s almost always going to hit your opponents with whatever Sword of X and Y that you happen to have equipped.

DGM Varolz

Varolz, the Scar-Striped (green and black)

Varolz is making some waves in standard and Mondern, but I am not as huge a booster for him in EDH. Yes, he’s a free sac outlet. Yes, he plays well with Birthing Pod. Yes, there are disgusting things you can do with him and some of the high-power one-drops. But he’s a weird mix of graveyard reliance tied to expending the resources in your graveyard, and I don’t know if I think that’s going to be strong enough. Still, there’s always the dream of sacrificing a Lhurgoyf to Jarad and then scavenging it back onto a creature to sacrifice again for a mass kill, but then Varolz is shrinking Jarad every time you use the ability. It’s probably good in practice, but I remain underwhelmed.

DGM Vorel

Vorel of the Hull Clade (green and blue)

And we end on the Simic hero, Vorel the Human Merfolk. There are some who argue that Vorel is unexciting, because you can’t use him as a doubling season for planeswalkers and such. I think that’s a shortsighted view of him. I have two different cards with amusing interactions with this dude: Fathom Mage and Mycosynth Lattice. The first lets you draw ridiculous numbers of cards for only two mana, while the second one lets you double your planeswalkers for easy ultimate. Vorel’s a ton of fun, but he’s a little more outside the box than people were expecting. Plus, if you’re a monster you can use him to reload divinity counters on Myojin, which seems like a fairly broken way to repeat that effect.

And that’s our tour of the generals of Dragon’s Maze! Before leaving, I want to mention one last card I promised to discuss: Ral Zarek, Izzet planeswalker. First, I am happy they finally made this guy. He’s ramp in colors that aren’t used to it, and in multiplayer the tapping an opponent’s creature has more of an influence (since you can drop someone’s shields in a non-consensual fashion).  I don’t necessarily agree he’s destined to be a $30 walker, but he’s certainly not above the curve for fair play. Now, the one concern he raises is his bonkers ultimate, since taking a ton of extra turns is usually somewhat frowned upon, but I don’t think he’s going to be the type of walker you drive to ultimate as soon as possible. He’s a ultility card, like original Garruk, and that’s fine by me.

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