Welcome to part 4 of this ongoing series where I look at and grade every card that is currently a legal choice to use as a general in EDH/Commander. the first three parts of this series looked at those cards in white that can head up your EDH deck, and now with this installment we move on to blue. I will look at each general individually and give my opinion on whether or not I think they make a good general choice, and also I will try and look at what they offer and how they might be included in a deck. Each general is summed up with a grade on the A-E scale, to attempt a definitive assessment of each card. Without further ado, let’s get on with it.
Our first choice of general in blue is a card with a fairly unusual creature type: Cephalid. Aboshan makes use of his unusual tribal type, allowing him to tap another creature at the cost of tapping an untapped Cephalid. After a quick check it turns out there are 15 Cephalids in Magic that are mono-blue, including Aboshan himself. So that’s a pretty shallow selection pool. However, Aboshan’s second clause offers more hope: pay , tap all creatures without flying. Ouch! That makes for a mean creature lockdown, as long as you aren’t up against enemy flyers. Looking at the rest of Aboshan, he is a 3/3 for 6 CMC which isn’t great, but at least it’s tough enough to offer hopes of survival. I honestly think there are more exciting choices in mono blue, but I do think there is a place for an Aboshan deck… I’m looking at you Tromokratis[/card}…
General Grade C
Cyclonic Rift on a stick, for a steep, steep cost. Alexi is a tough one to assess for me because the ability to return target creatures to their owner’s hand repeatedly is one superb effect, but at the cost of and two cards every time is painful. This could be a great controlling strategy as long as you have a great supply of card draw and a big finisher, but without that, it gets expensive very very quickly. Once again we have a good body to go along with the effect, with a 3/3 for being respectable in blue, so that gives Alexi some bonus points, as she could be a reasonable source of Commander damage. I think a deck built to take advantage of Alexi could be quite powerful, but very niche and somewhat fragile. In the 99 she becomes a very handy tool, and is very likely worthy of inclusion in a number of blue strategies.
General Grade C+
Laquatus gives us a pretty interesting package, being a 1/3 for 3 CMC (not awful) and a repeatable ability for . That’s quite a good package in my eyes. So what does the ability do? Well this is where things get a bit sticky: it mills 3 cards off the top of target opponent’s library (that is to say they put 3 cards from their library into their graveyard). This ability is one that splits opinion in Magic, with some folks thinking that it doesn’t do enough to make it a viable win condition, whilst others love milling their opponent out. In a 1-1 scenario it can be a pretty powerful way of defeating your opponent, but when up against multiple opponents it gets much more difficult. Laquatus has the advantage that his ability is repeatable and allows you to dump mana into it, but without support is unlikely to get you the point of victory, and much of the required support is in black. I wouldn’t pick Laquatus as a general, as i don’t think he offers enough but he would always be one of the first on the list of creatures in a milling deck 99.
General Grade D
Two words: card advantage. It’s an important aspect of the game especially in EDH where the games tend to run long enough that card advantage matters. Arcanis allows you to tap for 3 extra cards a turn: now that is some very serious card advantage! On top of that he has an in-built ability that allows you to protect him by paying to return him to your hand which can be so very useful. His cost of 6 CMC for his 3/4 body isn’t dreadful, and combined with his ability make him a potent general. There is another mono-blue general who can compare for raw card advantage, but she requires being built around, where as Arcanis can function without support, no problem. Arcanis is one of the generals that would draw me into mono-blue, and he is just as good in the 99, going into any deck with blue in it so long as you can pay the in his casting cost.. It would be worth it.
General Grade A
Blue has long been a colour that is strongly linked with artifacts, and Arcum is one of those cards that demonstrates this link. He is a 2/2 for 4 CMC, that allows you to tutor up an artifact and put it into play, at the cost of sacrificing an artifact creature. As it is pretty easy to create small artifact creature tokens, Arcum can make a pretty tasty way to cheat artifacts into play for cheap. This kind of potential means that Arcum can be one terrifying threat if the deck has been built correctly, and a reliable threat too. I think Arcum is likely to be one of the best generals in mono-blue, with the potential to be a board dominating beast.
General Grade A
Whilst Arcanis the Omnipotent offers an easily accessible way to get a whole ton of cards, Azami gives a way to get even more card advantage, if only you are willing to buid around her. Slightly less expensive than Arcanis, Azami has a horrible body coming in as a 0/2 for 5 CMC. However, if you have built around her correctly she gives you a way to get a lot of cards very quickly. If she is made as the general of a Wizard tribal deck, then she can become frighteningly powerful, meaning you can get through your deck pretty quickly. However, when she is just jammed into the average blue deck, she loses a little something. So in this case she can be excellent as a general but as one of the 99 needs as much building around as if she were leading it.
General Grade B+
Poor old Barrin. Here we have an example of the evolution of creatures and their power throughout Magic’s history: Barrin is a 1/1 for 3 CMC who has an ability that is very powerful (allowing creatures to be replayed for enter-the-battlefield effects, removing blockers, removing attackers etc) but has a cost that seems quite high to the eyes of a modern Magic player. Does all this mean he doesn’t make a great general? To me, yes I think that’s the case. His body is too weak, his effect is too expensive and in the end underwhelming. I can see a case where he might be useful in the 99, perhaps in Wizard tribal, but even there I think there are better options.
General Grade D
Well this card is a whole bag of interesting. First off it’s a Legend with no name, and that relates to it’s second interesting point: it’s Urza in card form! So what does the greatest planeswalker in Magic’s story have going for him? Well he comes with a 3/3 body fpr which in blue is pretty damned good. His ability is also pretty interesting: for he can change the colour of a target permanent until the end of the turn. This is one of those things thats power level becomes more apparent the more you play with it and the better you build around it. It might be held back by only being able to use blue, but it can have a really powerful impact on the board. Blind Seer is certainly an interesting choice as a general, and could play a neat role in the 99 too.
General Grade B-
The “nice” Braids is another blue general choice that screams “build around me!”. This card has a reputation of being something of a Group Hug general, but if you build a deck with nasty, nasty artifacts and a way to flash her in, then she can be devastating, as she allows you to drop artifacts, creatures, or lands from you hand straight into play. The fact that your opponents get this benefit too can be a huge drawback, but if built right you can mitigate it. As a card, Braid’s 2/2 body for 4 is pretty underwhelming, and it does increase the risk that if you cast her without Flash, she gets removed before you ever get chance to use her, further demonstrating that she needs to eb really built around.
General Grade B-
Initially it looks like a 4/4 flyer for with a drawback to balance out the decent cost. However that drawback can be a real boon with the right kinds of cards such as those with Cumulative Upkeep, or Persist. Once you have those kinds of counters on cards, Chisei becomes a really useful card, keeping costs down and allowing Persist cards to have their full strength. This may well be a niche ability, and I am not sure how powerful a deck with these kinds of cards would be, but if there is enough synergy then Chisei would make a pretty decent general. As a quick aside, Chisei also makes a really handy part of the 99 if you come up against Infect, as it can keep down the number of -1/-1 counters on your creatures; it’s just a shame it only happens once per upkeep.
General Grade C
Hmmm a milling card that cares about Spirit and Arcane cards… I am not sure that there is enough good Spirit or Arcane cards in blue to make this a real deal general, even if you throw Ambassador Laquatus into your 99 to enhance the mill. Cloudhoof Kirin does come with a 4/4 flying body for it’s 5 CMC cost, but I don’t think it’s worth the pain and effort to build a Spirit/Arcane milling deck, and I don’t think it will make much impact on the 99 of a milling deck due to the Spirit/Arcane clause.
General Grade D
My first thought on this card is, “ouch, that’s a steep cost for a 1/3!”, but then I read her ability: “, tap: Gain control of target Legendary permanent”. In most forms of Magic, that’s pretty niche. In EDH that can be devastating! getting your general stolen and not returned can really wreck your strategy, as well as kill you off. If you add in Leyline of Singularity then anything becomes fair game. A deck built around the idea of stealing your opponents things can be terrifying to play against and if it is in mono-blue then Galina is a pretty solid general choice, as well as a fine role player in the 99.
General Grade B
Currently banned in EDH, so not worth worrying about. Personally, I am glad I am not having to face this across the board.
Ertai is exactly the kind of general that I can imagine you might want to build an EDH control deck around: an on-board counterspell at 4 mana might seem expensive, but then you realise that it costs you nothing in terms of card advantage, and the fact that Ertai only costs you to get onto the board and you realise he is a pretty cool looking package. Ertai does have a really obvious weakness and that is his 1/1 body; this makes him vulnerable to an awful lot of removal, but this can be worked around. I can see Ertai heading up a deck built around control, with a strong or sneaky win condition and the need to keep others off the player until they are ready. I can also see Ertai being in the 99 for a number of different decks, and playing an equally important role. Overall, I like Ertai and think he makes a strong general choice based on his effect.
General Grade B+
Hmm Hakim offers some interesting Voltron possibilities, being able to return enchantments from the graveyard directly onto himself. This, along with a 2/4 flying body means that the possibilities for using him to deliver Commander damage look pretty good. The downside to this plan is that when sued as a general, he is limited to using only blue auras, so I am not sure how effective that would make him. I can see that if you wanted to use him in the 99 of an enchantment focused deck, he could be pretty cool, especially with some of the Bestow creatures from Theros block. As the pool of blue auras grows, Hakim gets better over time, but I am not quite convinced just yet.
General Grade C-
So Boomerang on a 3/3 stick that costs me to activate? And I only have to have 4 snow covered lands to enable it? Ok! Heidar is another nasty choice for a control general, in that he can really have a huge effect on who gets to play what. With the correct support he can ensure that only cards his controller wants to allow can come onto the table, and that support isn’t difficult to achieve. You could put heidar into the 99 of a deck, but it would require pretty much the same support as building around him so I think he serves his purpose better at the head of a deck, or not included at all.
General Grade B
Higure is a pretty cool card, allowing you to tutor up other Ninjas as long as he connects, which is pretty simple thanks to his Ninjitsu ability. However, there are a couple of issues with Higure: first off you cannot play his Ninjitsu ability out of the Command zone, he has to be in your hand; this rather limits that ability. The second issue is that there are only 4 other mono blue Ninjas in Magic: even if all of them are playable that’s a lot of room left in a deck to fill out. Even if Higure were to play in the 99 of a Ninja tribal deck, where there is a general, there are still only 10 Ninja in the whole game. For me this is one to give a miss to, unless you want to add the 10 Ninja to a blue/black deck, as a subtheme. As a general though, he is pretty terrible.
General Grade E
Oh dear… Hisoka looks like a cross between a Spellshaper and Ertai, Wizard Adept without having the good points of either. An overcosted 1/3 body for 4 CMC don’t help his counter ability which is too costly and too narrow to be worthwhile. I honestly wouldn’t use Hisoka as a general or in my 99, there are just so many better choices. I would love to say this was down to power creep, but since some of the better choices are older, I would just say Hisoka is a bad card.
General Grade E
Hey, you want to play with Morphs? In mono-blue? Here is your man! There are a decent number of Morph cards just in blue, meaning there are possibilities for Ixidor. He is quite reasonably costed for a blue 3/4 coming in at , and the fact he boosts power and toughness of facedown creatures can be handy, especially with the addition of Manifest in Fate Reforged. Still, I am not sure there is enough real depth in just blue to make me want to play a Morph theme deck, and without that Ixidor is just a 3/4. Where he does shine is if you want to play him in the 99 of a Morph deck that uses more than just blue. Animar, Soul of Elements is where I play my Ixidor, and it can make for some beastly fun once Animar has 3 counters on him!
General Grade C-
Phew, that brings us to the end of this part. Next time I will kick off with Jalira, Master Polmorphist as we continue to work our way through blue. Let em know what you think about my grade on these blue generals in the comments below, and if any of these is your favourite then hit me up, tell me why!