It’s already that time again, Commander preview season! It seems like just a few months ago I was raving about all the fun and exciting new generals coming out of Commander 2017, but this year we get another round of planeswalker generals. I have to admit, I like this theme the most out of all the themes we’ve gotten over the last seven years.

I think planeswalkers coming out of this product are exciting because they can play a dual role of digging up old characters from the past that we never got to see as planeswalkers on cards, while also setting others up for developments in the future. While similar things could be said about the legendary creatures in these sets—and this set have a few—what makes the planeswalkers noteworthy is the smaller card pool and splashiness of the cards overall. For the sake of giving time each of the planeswalkers heading up this year’s decks and the fact that one of the decks won’t be previewed until after this goes live, I have chosen to split my commentary into two articles this week and leave myself open to talking about all the craziness of this weekend’s Grand Prix Minneapolis. More on that later.

Kicking if off this week, we have two generals that explore pretty tried and true space—artifacts matter and lands matter—in Saheeli the Gifted and Lord Windgrace respectively. And tomorrow we’re going to discuss the more unique space of top of the library and enchantments matter. Believe me, the extra time was helpful in hindsight.

Saheeli the Gifted

One of the low points of Kaladesh from a Vorthos perspective was that Saheeli, who had been billed as the face of the set, was rather underwhelming for many, as she never proven important to the block’s story. I blame this partially on the Gatewatch fatigue that was going on at the time—as the block was really Chandra’s story—and the fact that Wizards really has no idea which characters are going to take off. While Saheeli Rai’s notoriety in Standard spiked momentarily with the printing of Felidar Guardian; overall, she was not the artificer many had been hoping for. But in a different world, Saheeli the Gifted is the kind of planeswalker I would have expected to headline an entire block!

Up front, I have to admit that the artificer deck hasn’t been my thing. When Breya, Etherium Shaper was printed a few years ago, I was super excited to finally build some really cool around the artifact theme. What I ended up with just didn’t jive with me, probably because more than half the deck was just good stuff and combos. With Saheeli the Gifted, I’m willing to admit that this might not be the card for everyone, but I really love her, even if only in the other 99. I do think she’s a fantastic general though, armed with the ability to protect herself with a servo token or give your next artifact spell this turn affinity for artifacts when she enters the battlefield. She feels really explosive. Since Darksteel Citadel, Great Furnace, and Seat of the Synod are all legal in Commander; it is very possible that the turn she comes down or the one after, you should be able to cast a Blightsteel Colossus for close to no mana. If you are playing more humbly, a Spine of Ish Sah.

Her ultimate being an overloaded Saheeli’s Artistry is also highly potent. Whether you’re getting extra copies of Solemn Simulacrum and Sol Ring for value, or trying to go over the top with Master of Etherium and Sword of Fire and Ice to level the player life totals, this is a story maker.

There has been a pretty big outcry for an artifact matters general with the purity of color identity in Izzet, with Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain fitting the bill well enough for the diehard advocates. This might not be artifacts matter general 100% of the player base was looking for—for those players, I hope Townos, Urza’s Apprentice can be that—but to me, it’s pretty fantastic and might change my opinion on the archetype.

Lord Windgrace

Lord Windgrace is a character I’d had heard whispers of going as far back as my early days with the game, though I didn’t know he was the panther warrior featured on Planeswalker’s Fury until many years laters. I remember seeing the art for this card in the Dominaria art book and knowing it must be something we’d be seeing in the near future. And thanks to The Vorthos Cast and their supply of resources, I felt very prepared for the unavoidable card linked to the art.

From Gamepedia:

“Windgrace was one of the eight other planeswalkers Urza recruited for the war with Phyrexia. Windgrace survived the Phyrexian Invasion, and became a leader and guardian of Urborg.

During the events of Planar Chaos, Windgrace attempted to seal the time rift in Urborg located where the Rathi Stronghold had overlaid to prevent a mass of Phyrexians from pouring in. As the rift began to fold in on itself under Windgrace’s magic, it sucked the life essence from him.”

This card was really worth the wait! A lands-matter general who gains you card advantage and acts like a Life from the Loam on request as your general is fantastic. But as a brewer, the option to play hidden gems like Aggressive Mining, Devastating Dreams, and Squandered Resources without losing card advantage made Windgrace very promising to me.

It’s rough that he doesn’t protect himself until he’s achieved his ultimate—unless you’re regrowing folk lands—but seeing as his ultimate is very good in an established board of Commander, he’s really going to make an impact. He fits really nicely into my folk lands deck I wrote about, being a wonderful support spell; but as a general, I think he’s going to capture a lot of players’ imaginations. The easy picks are going to be The Gitrog Monster, Crucible of Worlds, and Ramunap Excavator. Since Lord Windgrace cannot naturally protect himself, it’s vital that you have a plan for keeping him safe and that will likely come in the form of static effects like Lost in the Woods, Marchesa’s Decree, or Illness in the Ranks to keep creatures from threatening your general. Chiefly, I think it’s also important to be remember Fog effects, most importantly, Constant Mists. While Fog is not nearly as splashy as other spells, without access to counter magic, sometimes the best way to gain an advantage is to simply blank an entire attack step. This also means that we have use for Darkness, a black variant that I personally have a soft spot for and wish more people would consider.

I don’t want to undersell Windgrace’s ultimate, either. In my day blowing up permanents en masse like this meant you were also giving your opponents 3/3 Elephant or Beast tokens. This is twice the permanents, twice the creatures—all yours, just with smaller bodies. These cat tokens have a lot of open-ended space as well. We can play some cat tribal effects or Gaea’s Anthem to pump up our team, Purphoros, God of the Forge dishes out fourteen damage on top of the salt from the cards you blew up, and Song of the Dryads takes on extra value as the permanent—might I recommend an opposing general—now is also the source of free forestwalk damage.

I am very excited with everything we’ve seen thus far, so much in fact that my discussions are going to have to bleed over to another article tomorrow to make room for next week’s article where I discuss some of the awesome stories from this weekend’s Grand Prix Minneapolis. For all those in town, stop by Light Grey Labs to see the Magic: the Gathering art exhibit and be sure to buy art from the artists on site at the event. And since Minneapolis is the home of not only Vorthos Mike, but the entire art-loving cast of the Goblin Lore podcast, there are at least a few Vintage Artist Constructed events going on at the event site over the weekend. Stop by, look for my ugly mug sporting a Hipsters of the Coast shirt and let’s play some Commander, draft a cube, or just chat about this week’s previews. See you there.

Ryan Sainio is a Graphic Designer who writes about EDH, the story of Magic and the EDH community in his down time. He has been playing Magic: The Gathering since 7th Edition in 2002 and values flavorful and fun gameplay over competitively optimized decks.
Pet Deck – Shattergang Eldrazi

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