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Jun 02 2015

A Casual Guide to Generals: Part 1

In this series I am going to cast my eye over every card that is currently legal to use as a general in EDH/Commander, as it stands at this point in time. I reckon this could be a bit of a mammoth series, and it is likely that the next scheduled set (Magic Origins) will be released before I can complete this, so I will come back at the end and see what that series gave us too.

The series will offer my view of the card and whether or not I think it makes a good general. Of course, this is simply an opinion and others may disagree (which I welcome, I like discussion!). To put the opinion into context I will also give each general a grade on the A-E scale.
This first part will cover part of white, and to my count there are 71 (!!!) cards that are legal in mono-white to use as a general, so I will split this into multiple parts. Without further ado, lets get into them:

Akroma EDH Deck

Akroma, Angel of Wrath
A big hitting angel with some relevant combat abilities that can impact the board. However she has a very high converted mana cost (CMC), and doesn’t have anything that says “build around me”, so she is a very straightforward general. I think she could work when played as a finisher style general, and comes from a very popular tribe as she is an angel. In my mind, I would prefer her as one of the 99 in an Angel tribal deck though, rather than leading it, as I think there are better choices.

General Grade: C+

Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit

Dead Anafenza is a pretty cheap general, meaning she can be summoned a few times without too much pain: this is a good thing as she has a pretty weak 2/2 body. The ability that she comes with is certainly something you can build around, and she could make a really cool general for a White Weenie deck, but wouldn’t prove much use in a tokens deck due to the nontoken creature clause. Creature type on this deck means that she hits two different tribes, one of which is very well supported in White (Soldiers). However, the ability that she provides isn’t exactly unique, so for me she doesn’t make an exciting general.

General Grade: B-

Atalya, Samite Master

Atalya is a pretty unimpressive body for the CMC that is paid for her, so her ability had better be fantastic, right? Well, it’s not! Tapping for damage prevention (but to one creature only) is very narrow; tapping to gain life is likewise narrow, but can have some applications. The kicker here is that you have to dump X mana into each ability to get them to activate, and both require Atalya to tap, so you can only do one per turn. Not what you want to be doing with your general, in my eyes. It is possible you might find a way to use Atalya as part of the 99 in a Cleric tribal deck, or maybe in a deck that makes use of lifegain, but as a general she is a dud.

General Grade D

Avacyn, Angel of Hope

The second mono-white angel on our list, and another with a CMC of 8, Avacyn, Angel of hope gives us a huge flying body that is good on both offense and defense, since she comes with Vigilance and is an 8/8, making her a 3 turn clock as a general. What is more, she has an ability on her that means she can stabilise a game for you, and means your creatures can swing combat in their favour most of the time. She also provides insurance against Wrath effects, and any kind of destroy effect for lands, artifacts and enchantments. Pretty neat! Despite her high cost to summon, she is likely to be game changing when she arrives and to me, that is what I want in a general.

General Grade A

Avacyn EDH Deck

Avacyn, Guardian Angel

The newer Avacyn, from M15, is a cheaper CMC choice than her older version coming in at only 5, but comes with a much less impressive (although not terrible) 5/4 body; once again she has Flying and Vigilance, meaning she provides a good blocker and a 5 turn clock on offense. This version of Avacyn has two activated abilities in place of the static ability on Avacyn, Angel of Hope, and these are not all that impressive in my eyes. Having instant speed damage prevention for creatures is not too bad, and the fact it is repeatable in a turn makes it more useful. The second activated ability is very expensive (coming in at 7 mana total), and like the first one only prevents damage from one colour, limiting their use in Commander where many decks run two or more colours. It does have it’s political uses, as you can use it on other players whilst making alliances, but all in all I prefer the older, more expensive version of Avacyn as my general.

General Grade C+

Brigid, Hero of Kinsbaile

Hmmm a 4 CMC 2/3 First Striker… Not a great start if I am honest. Her tap ability could be situationally useful, but only against decks that attack or block with a large amount of low toughness creatures, or when the extra 2 damage could make for favourable trades. However i am not likely to want to make that narrow set of circumstances be the focus of my deck or my general. Added to this, she only really has one useful tribe (Kithkin) and it becomes clear Brigid is a pretty poor general choice.

General Grade D

Brimaz, King of Oreskos

Brimaz comes in at the low, low price of 3 CMC, for a highly respectable 3/4 body, and has Vigilance to boot. Add to this he has “free” token creating ability when both attacking and blocking,and is cheap enough to summon back if ever he gets removed. For a tokens deck or a Soldiers deck, King Cat would make a good general, and it is clear that Brimaz is a fine value package.

General Grade B

Celestial Kirin EDH Deck

Celestial Kirin
A flying 3/3 for 4 CMC? If this were Limited I would be really pleased already! However in Commander it will take a little more to impress as the head of a 100 card deck, so what else do we have? A limited Wrath effect every time we play a Spirit or Arcane spell? Ok, this is something we can work with. Celestial Kirin is very much a “build around me” card, as the deck would require a good number of Spirit or Arcane spells, and a strategy for coping with the Wrath effect as it hits your permanents too (including Celestial Kirin if the CMC of the spell is 4). The card pool for white Spirits is reasonable, but for Arcane it is less deep (15 in total), which means that choices might be quite limited. Within these confines though, Celestial Kirin could make for an interesting mono-white control general.

General Grade B-

Cho-Manno, Revolutionary

Another 4 CMC choice, this time with a 2/2 body which is underwhelming. Cho-Manno has an ability which reads like it wants to say Indestructable but has some important differences. Any effect that says destroy will remove Cho-Manno, but Infect has no effect against him. Nor can Lifegain be triggered off of Cho-Manno, as no damage is dealt to him. Sounds nice in theory but in reality poor old Cho-Manno has been outclassed long ago as a creature, and he certainly isn’t someone I would want as a General. Makes it into the 99 for my Rebel Yell EDH deck though!

General Grade D+

Commander Eesha

Yet another 4 CMC general, Commander Eesha is another card that is a good choice for a tribal route, in that he is both a Bird and a Soldier, and isn a 2/4 with Flying (as you would expect) and Protection from creatures. This sounds quite cool, and means he cannot be blcoked by creatures, or damaged by them etc. In reality this means he is an unblockable 2/4, but has little else going for him. I cannot say I find him inspiring as a general, although I do have him in the 99 for my Azorius Birds tribal deck. A fine card just not a great general.

General Grade C-

Crovax, Ascendant Hero

Crovax is a pretty hefty general in both price (a CMC of 6) and in body, being a 4/4 Human. He also grants an Anthem effect to all other white creatures and a -1/-1 effect to nonwhite creatures. As a bonus he also has a return to hand effect for 2 life, which in white paid without too much trouble, making it not insignificant. Crovax is a little unfortunate really in that Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite is a bigger version of what he does both in effect and in body for only 1 more mana. Crovax’s lack of tribal synergies also counts against him, as his type in Gatherer has been changed to simply Human, and this is a marginal nerf. Overall I think that Crovax has been superseded as a general, but is still respectable; as part of the 99 he is pretty useful in a number of white decks.

General Grade C+

Darien, King of Kjeldor

Darien represents another costly 6 CMC general choice, but one with a build around ability in that whenever you as a player take damage, Darien allows you to put that many 1/1 white soldier tokens onto the battlefield. He is an instant army in a bag!
Obviously he is very much a tokens strategy general, and one of the best ones to choose from in mono-white for that strategy. With his type changed in Gatherer, he also makes a decent general for a Soldiers deck too, so he has some versatility in application. All in all a pretty solid choice.

General Grade B

Eight and a Half Tails EDH Deck

Eight-and-a-Half-Tails

A cheaper general choice and one that can play a defensive controlling role very nicely. He comes with a 2/2 body which on par for his cost, but his activated abilities are what draws you in here: he has two and both synergise nicely with one another assuming you have the mana to use both. If you have a strategy you want to excute in white, but need some way to defend it, then Eight-and-a-Half-Tails is the general for you. I’m not sure there is much call for a Fox tribal deck but I could be wrong, where as he makes a decent choice should you wish to go Cleric tribal (although I think there are better). I think Eight-and-a-Half-Tails is a reasonable if not spectacular general choice.

General Grade B-

Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite

As mentioned above, Elesh Norn is a big, beefy general that can really make a mess of your opponents’ creatures. A vigilant 4/7 for 7CMC is ok, but the ability to grant other creatures you control +2/+2, whilst similtaneously giving all creatures you don’t control -2/-2 is huge. This is the kind of ability that makes a premier general, and can put you in control of a game as soon as it hits the table. Add to that some of the most disturbing art in white and you have a top general choicde in my eyes, especially for a White Weenie strategy.

General Grade A

General Jarkeld

Hmm this is a strange one. A 1/2 for 4 CMC is pretty terrible, and the ability he has is rather narrow, but it is not without it’s uses. As he is a Human Soldier, he has good tribal support, and I think it would be possible to find a place for him in the 99, especially in a deck where you have death touch, or have a creature equipped with something like Godsend. However as a general I think he makes a weak choice, and there are far better available.

General Grade D-

Gerrard Capashen

Another Human Soldier, this time with a 3/4 body for 5 CMC, which isn’t too bad a deal in white. The static ability is fine as incidental lifegain but not worth picking Gerrard for, which leaves us his activated ability: when Gerrard attacks he can tap down one creature per 4 mana he spends. Not exactly fantastic if I am honest but I supposed it could enable an alpha strike if it is timed right and you have the mana. That all adds up to a very situational package to me, and I am not convinced this is a good general. Probably one to avoid

General Grade D

Guan Yu, Sainted Warrior

Oh dear. Our first Portal legend arrives and he is terrible if I am honest. 5 CMC for a 3/5 Human Soldier Warrior isn’t awful, but his ability is just worse than letting him to go the Command Zone, even if it does mean you can recast him with out the Commander tax. Horsemanship is pretty cool, it’s like a more difficult to deal with Flying, but it isn’t enough to make me want to build a deck around this guy. Avoid as a general, play as one of the 99 in a Tribal or Horsemanship themed deck.

General Grade D-

Hazduhr the Abbot EDH Deck

Hazduhr the Abbot

Our first entry from Homelands and I feel like he sets our expectations for the rest of the Legends from that set. For our 5 CMC we get a 2/5 Human Cleric with the ability to redirect X damage to him if we tap him and pay X. That’s a pretty inefficient and narrow ability, and really not worth the time to build around. It takes a lot to get me to give an F as someone will find a use somewhere for almost every general, but he comes pretty close to F as he is bad.

General Grade D-

Heliod, God of the Sun

Boo, hiss, the betrayer from Theros block, and the god for mono-white. What does he give us as a general? A 5/6 Indestructable body when he is online, that grants all of our creatures Vigilance, and allows us to make 2/1 Cleric tokens for 4 mana. If he isn’t switched on via Devotion, then he is just an enchantment that grants Vigilance and a way to spend spare mana. That actually sounds like a pretty decent deal to me, especially as a 4 CMC card. He can act as a Cleric tribal general due to his tokens, and makes a good token deck general for the same reason. I think that all of these make Heliod a pretty good general if I am honest, one I would be happy to build around.

General Grade B+

Hikari, Twilight Guardian

This is another card, like Celestial Kirin that cares about Spirit or Arcane cards, this time as a 4/4 Flying Spirit for 5 CMC. If you play another Spirit or an Arcane card then you can blink Hikari until the end of your turn, then return it to the battle field. This can be useful if you have a lot of things that trigger off creatures entering the battlefield, but I think you can get this effect more easily than by playing Hikari as your general. There isn’t much else to say about it other than that: its a below average general.

General Grade D

Hokori, Dust Drinker

Wow! Here is a general that will get you hated out of a table really, really fast. For the low cost of just(!) 4 CMC you too can have a 2/2 body that stops lands untapping during their controller’s untap step, and instead allow one land per turn to untap. This could make some kind of interesting control general (although I am not sure how) but it is too fragile and too weak to have enough of an effect for me to want it as my general, and will make you public enemy number one at your table. Probably best to choose something else, unless you like a challenge.

General Grade D

Huang Zhong, Shu General

Another Portal entry, this one really is rather bad. An overcosted 2/3 Human Soldier for 4 CMC, his only ability is that he cannot be blocked by omre than one creature. Wow…. That’s legendary? With so many other, better choices for Human Soldier generals I would avoid him like the plague.

General Grade D-

Iona EDH Deck

Iona, Shield of Emeria

Now this is a big one! A 7/7 Flying Angel for a total CMC of 9 is big price for a big flyer. If she comes in, she is a3 turn clock for your opponents if unopposed. However, that is not her main attraction: she also allows you to pick a colour. When you do, your opponents cannot cast spells of that colour. Ouch! That can be a real lockdown, and will make you the number one target at the table. There are some cool political ramifications that you can threaten by having her as your general, but you are likely to whalloped long before she ever sees play I would think. However I really do think she is a cool card and a cool general if you can withstand the pressure.

General Grade B

Isamaru, Hound of Konda

Isamaru is unusual in that he is a 1 CMC creature legal for use as a general. For that one solitary mana you get a vanilla 2/2 Hound creature… Well I guess that would be pretty cool in an aggro build if you play one on one but in a multiplayer game this poor guy doesn’t do enough. I guess he is cheap to re-summon? I think I would avoid and build around something that has more effect on the board.

General Grade D+

Jareth, Leonine Titan

Ok, this guy is big! Not only do you get a 4/7 Cat Giant for your 6 CMC, he gets +7/+7 when he blocks! On top of that you can pay and Jareth gains protection from the colour of your choice until the end of the turn. Ok… that looks a very defensive package, but it isn’t that exciting. He will kill almost anything he blocks, and he can get through to damage, whilst avoiding spot removal. Not bad, but not too exciting either. He gets bonus points for being a Giant Cat, but he is a mediocre general.

General Grade C

Jazal Goldmane

Brother of Ajani Goldmane, Jazal is another Cat but this time a Warrior too. For 4 CMC you get a 4/4 body with First Strike, which is a nice, efficient package to start withy. On top of that, he has a repeatable activated ability that pumps your whole team for . This makes for a pretty cool aggro general with a low enough CMC to get the ball rolling quite early, and with enough about him to make a difference when he hits the board. A pretty good general choice for Warrior tribal, Cat tribal or anything looking for a nice power/toughness boost.

General Grade B

Well, that’s a good start to this series, and brings us to the end of part 1, ready for more white generals in part 2. Let me know what you think of my grades in the comments below!

4 comments

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  1. Wally D.

    Great idea on an article series! You seem to be fairly well spot-on with your grades thus far with only few exceptions. I would have to say that you should offer Eight-and-a-Half-Tails a little bit of extra credit, so he can raise his score to a full letter grade to A- or B+. Of course, I may be partial due to the “fun with colors” I have with him in my 8.5 Tails deck. 🙂 He is quite the menace if built around correctly.

    The lower grades on older cards is a pure sign of power creep in Magic over the years. I so wish Hazduhr the Abbot was a good card, because I want to play him just for the artwork alone. Imagine staring down that crazy lookin’ dude across from ya. lol. Creepy.

    Well done sir, looking forward to the next segment!

    1. Gareth Hughes

      I’m really glad you like the idea for the series and thanks for the positive feedback. It looks like it might be a bit of an undertaking but I wanted something to make a series out of and this was somethign I always looked for as a Commander player. I figured it would be useful even if every disagrees with my grades! However I am pleased that you thought they werenb’t too far off.

      The oder cards certainly seem pretty bad so far, although I know there are much better ones coming up in some of the other sections. I mean, what would Vhati il-Dal have to say about poor power level 😀

      1. Wally D.

        Vhati better be a solid B grade or I will be writing an extensive complaint in the comment section! lol.

        1. Kuchisama

          Seconded.

          Vhati rulezzzz… 😉

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