With War of the Spark previews in full effect, the viability of Planeswalkers as generals has become a big discussion amongst Commander players. I’ve covered this topic before, though I admit that I had some blindspots that skewed my analysis—for example the existence of Doubling Season and just how degenerate Tezzeret the Seeker could be. But I think the truth is really in how people have taken to the generals that are already legal as commanders.

Let’s take a look at where each planeswalker general currently sits on EDHrec:

Daretti, Scrap Savant (1418) #2 in Red
Lord Windgrace (873) #3 in Jund
Teferi, Temporal Archmage (753) #4 in Blue
Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury (677) #5 in Green
Liliana, Heretical Healer (670) #6 in Black
Aminatou, the Fateshifter (650) #6 in Esper
Nahiri, The Lithomancer (558) #5 in White
Estrid, the Masked (502) #7 in Bant
Nicol Bolas, the Ravager (442) #11 in Grixis
Nissa, Vastwood Seer (441) #8 in Green
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy (438) #9 in Blue
Saheeli, the Gifted (386) #12 in Izzet
Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh (364) #12 in Red
Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath (270) #17 in Black
Kytheon, Hero of Akros (209) #15 in White

Planeswalkers being generals have been a fairly popular, with a majority of the legal generals being in the top ten of their respective color identities. I take that as reasonable proof that planeswalkers would rise to the top if a rules change came down from the Rules Committee. I question if that would change the landscape of the format for many players, as that level of popularity would still likely leave them outside of the top 20 most popular generals of all time by EDHrec’s numbers.

In all honesty, I think the Rules Committee should seriously consider making this change. Allowing planeswalker generals would make anyone who has already gone deep on Vraska, Relic Seeker or Huatli, Warrior Poet happy, while also empowering hesitant people to explore the new space.

A Case for Saheeli

As I worked towards trying to refine my thoughts about Planeswalker generals beyond where I had landed a year ago; I was taken aback by the placement of Saheeli, the Gifted in the ecosystem of Commander, both within her color identity and as twelfth in a list of fifteen planeswalkers. I like this incarnation of Saheeli, even going as far as to say in my first impressions of her that she felt like the kind of planeswalker I would have expected to headline the Kaladesh block if it hadn’t been Chandra’s story. But her relatively low showing means that she hasn’t connected strongly with the player base and was not the artifact-matters Izzet general many have been asking Wizards for over the last two or three years. Additionally, Tawnos, Urza’s Apprentice seemingly wasn’t either.

So this week I would like to explore Saheeli, the Gifted as a viable Commander which deserves more time at the table. I will analyze each of her abilities and how to best tell tailor a deck to take advantage of them. She is a strong general that can often fly under the radar until becoming the biggest threat at the table.

Protect Your Saheeli

One of the traits of a good planeswalker is its ability to protect itself. Saheeli does this with a plus ability. A 1/1 body probably looks insignificant and in this case, but we have an imperfect imitation of Goblin Assault. Luckily we can curve out for Tezzeret, Artifice Master as a possible second copy of the ability the turn after dropping our general, protecting our planeswalkers further and allowing Saheeli to focus on her other abilities. But this week we also saw the preview of Saheeli, Sublime Artificer from Commanderin’, further pushing our plans by allowing us to start generating 1/1 servos when we cast our general.

We can go beyond protecting our suite of planeswalkers with simple chump blockers and focus our attentions on bigger creatures that might be able to withstand an attack. To help push the artifact theme, I recommend Wing Splicer, Golem Foundry, Hammer of Purphoros, and Precursor Golem to make and augment some sizable golem tokens.

I wouldn’t leave home without Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer also plugged into the deck, a workhorse that can turn any tokens you do create into your best creature token. From there a well timed Rite of Replication—which can be kicked easier with Saheeli’s second ability—means that you can possibly knock a player out if they don’t keep their defenses up. All this protecting and token flooding is going to need a purpose however, if we’re not winning through repeated alpha strikes.

Basic Affinity

Saheeli, the Gifted gives a spell you cast Affinity for Artifacts each turn. Affinity can essentially make spells free if they don’t have colored mana in their cost. While Saheeli’s ability will ultimately be overshadowed some by Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge, it doesn’t take away from how powerful this ability can be on a board with even two artifacts.

This is one of those decks where I would not feel ashamed playing Fireball, Comet Storm, or Banefire, because I know that the X cost in those spells can be enormous with the right board state. For the purposes of Commander, I feel it’s important to try to go wide with the amount of artifacts we have in play, especially as tokens or noncreature permanents.

Much of what I outlined in the previous section will do that; but if we’re going to be casting something like Blightsteel Colossus or Banefire, we will want to look for cards that can represent more than one artifact. Myr Battlesphere is one of the better creatures we can summon to fill the board very quickly. But it’s also possible that with the pseudo affinity ability we can cast into Brass’s Bounty and work our way to an even bigger spell on the next turn. While powerful, I don’t plan for this to be our path to victory. Everything we’ve done so far is really setting up for the eventual ultimate.

Maximizing the Ultimate

Before discovering proliferate was in War of the Spark, I did not think Saheeli’s ultimate was a realistic goal. While we are in the right colors for Time Warp effects and we have access to The Chain Veil, going from four to seven loyalty felt unlikely when people are paying close enough attention. At the time of writing, we only have Flux Channeler and Karn’s Bastion as viable proliferate options within the color identity. But in combination with future previews, Steady Progress, and Contagion Engine there may be the cardpool to make her ultimate more realistic.

Amassing a second copy of each artifact we have in play is always going to scale to our boardstate. But I think if we’re already going big on the Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer exploits, ultimating once is all we’re going to need. We would all love to Brudiclad our tokens into copies of Blightsteel Colossus, but our opponents would need to be catatonic for that to actually happen. But what if we suddenly had fifteen copies of Aetherflux Reservoir? A few instant-speed spells later, we’d have more life than we knew what to do with and a finger resting on the metaphorical “destroy target player” button.

There is no reason we need to be fancy with winning through our general’s ultimate. I have fallen back into near-unbeatable alpha strikes without much effort while piloting this deck. A second copy of Darksteel Juggernaut or Master of Etherium with Archetype of Aggression or Goblin War Drums in play might be all you need. In fact, for a clean victory, I would look back to Wing Splicer and Precursor Golem. With just those creatures and their tokens in play, we’d suddenly have 39 flying power on the battlefield after the ultimate. The real point is that Saheeli is a synergistic card that can appear not to be the threat until it’s too late.

Obviously I can’t make you build this deck, or any deck really. But as I looked at the numbers and saw how relatively low the submitted decks of Saheeli, The Gifted were, I felt there was a bit of a stigma holding her back. As we move into War of the Spark, players should reassess some of these Planeswalker generals and think through what is possible with the new tools we’re getting, especially in the color identity of Izzet. Green is going to spike in popularity with new proliferate cards, making Estrid, the Masked or Nissa, Vastwood Seer suddenly more appealing. I plan to cover another deck with a planeswalker at the helm next week. So until then, thanks for reading.

Ryan Sainio is a Graphic Designer who writes about EDH, the EDH community, and streams on Twitch 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. Join him for a stream at twitch.tv/hipstersainio on Tuesday nights.

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