Stealing Elspeth Tirel

Concerning:

Elspeth Tirel :: Scars of Mirrodin :: The Politics of Planeswalkers
Elspeth, Knight-Errant :: Five Mana Planeswalkers :: … Did I mention “Elspeth Tirel”?

Here is a kind of bogus picture of Elspeth Tirel, a new Planeswalker from Scars of Mirrodin:


Elspeth Tirel

I can only assume she is a Mythic Rare, but again, the picture is medium bogus.

I savagely stole it from Rob Johnson’s Facebook page, documenting the “Assault on Mirrodin” party at PAX 2010. In return, here are links to Rob’s:

Thanks Rob!

Okay… What can we say about Elspeth Tirel?

Aesthetics:

  1. Superficial “duh” comment – This is a five mana Planeswalker rather than a four mana one (or three, as in the case of Jace Beleren). Obviously Jace is Jace, but for the most part, the most popular Planeswalkers have been the four mana ones (Ajani Goldmane; Ajani Vengeant; Elspeth, Knight-Errant; and Jace, the Mind Sculptor). That is because in the context of competitive Magic: The Gathering, a jump to five mana is basically a jump from four-to-eight, rather than the superficial / obvious / untrained four-to-five. That is the thing holding back Planeswalkers like Liliana Vess or Gideon Jura. Remember when we reviewed Gideon Jura when he was new? We said Baneslayer Angel was the better 3WW… And really, even with the success of the U/R/W Planeswalker deck during the first part of the summer, Baneslayer Angel has had the more impressive continued performance.
  2. The next interesting thing to talk about RE: Elspeth Tirel is the ordering of her abilities. Elspeth starts on four, jumps on a life gain ability that is only really useful when you have creatures on the battlefield, and drops two loyalty by building creatures. In theory you can profitably jump her to six on turn five if you already have creatures in play. Creatures — as in “multiple” — … though you can presumably put her to six loyalty at no value (or very little value and an outlook of chump blocking the following turn).I think the more common strategy (at least depending on matchup… It will be less attractive against decks with Lightning Bolt, for instance) will be to take her down to two loyalty, then build her back up to four mana with an increase in life commensurate with how many animals you’ve got in play (and presumably boosted by her Scatter the Seeds-esque [-2] ability).
  3. What is actually super cool about Elspeth Tirel is her “ultimate” ability. It is not only awesome, but mono-awesome. You can jump Elspeth to six loyalty on turn five (with or without profit) then use her as an improved Nevinyrral’s Disk on turn six. Elspeth will drop down to one loyalty, but unlike the other Planeswalkers that may have been in play — yes, Elspeth Tirel is a Planeswalker-slayer among other gas), she will stick around. In addition, in a protracted game where you are using her tokens production ability, those cats (and by “cats” I mean “Soldiers”) stick around when even mighty monsters all hop into the graveyard.
  4. … Which brings us to her super synergy in multiples! This is kind of the coolest thing, but it takes a second before you can get there.Josh Ravitz used to tell me that people didn’t know how to play Cloudgoat Ranger, and would give all kinds of examples of how they were under-impressive with Cloudgoat Ranger when they could have been slamming for additional damage had they been a little more precise in their play, given multiple copies. Elspeth Tirel has a similar, subtle, clause.Imagine you have a turn five Elspeth Tirel. You immediately go from four loyalty to two loyalty to deploy three Soldier tokens.

    You block, whatever (or maybe you don’t have to, I don’t know what the battlefield looks like). You use Elspeth Tirel‘s [-2] a second time and now you have six or however many Soldiers up in that.

    Now you run out your second copy of Elspeth Tirel! The first one went bye-bye because you took her from four to two to nil with two activations. Your second Elspeth Tirel, piggybacking the token production of the first one makes six life, jumps to six loyalty, and is surrounded by barns.

    Now on turn seven, you can blow up the world leaving not only Elspeth Tirel as the only significant miser on the battlefield, but however many Soldier tokens as well! Talk about teamwork!

  5. What should seem obvious is that if Elspeth Tirel is good enough, she might be good enough as a four-of at the five — something very unusual for five mana Planeswalkers to date — simply because she actually rocks in multiples.

Where can I see this fitting in?

Elspeth Tirel can act as a solo Swiss Army Knife-style threat, similar to Elspeth, Knight-Errant. She does everything… Protects herself (or other Planeswalkers) not unlike Gideon Jura, produces ways to win while generating value, and manages the battlefield a la Akroma’s Vengeance.

In effect, Elspeth Tirel can be the only threat in your deck if you so wish (her [-5] ability actually Annihilates the bejeezus out of defensive permanents like Circle of Protection: White (or whatever theoretically problematic proxy you will lay there).

Or, she can team up with cards like Conqueror’s Pledge for more immediate value on her [+2]. In effect, she can be good in any kind of deck that can afford to cast her. I would not expect Elspeth Tirel to find mass adoption in White Weenie type decks (as Elspeth, Knight-Errant did), but I also wouldn’t be too surprised to see her in creature decks. After all, the previous Elspeth was an “obviously offensive” type Planeswalker, but was successful in every strategy from Mythic (mono-creatures) to U/W Control (mono-defensive). Even combo decks used Elspeth, Knight-Errant; for example Polymorph variants that used her as a non-creature card source of Polymorph fodder.

Snap Judgment Rating:

For once, answering this actually requires more than two words. Elspeth Tirel is kind of like a Wild Mongrel. In some decks she will act as a centerpiece, a four-of finisher; in other decks she will be a high level role player, acting as a sweeper that has other potential applications (sort of both the Icy Manipulator and Wrath of God in Mike Donais’s Swords to Plowshares-less Canadian National Championship deck). It is probably not difficult to imagine decks that can’t beat Elspeth (kind of like decks that can’t beat Gideon Jura, but worse). You can milk and milk with the tokens and life gain; fire off the Nevinyrral’s Disk if and only if you are actually falling behind, but otherwise make the other guy’s life miserable.

And of course, her [-5] craps all over other Planeswalkers, making Elspeth potentially invaluable in the post-Bloodbraid Elf world.

In sum, potentially Flagship.

LOVE
MIKE

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5 comments ↓

#1 Alfrebaut on 09.05.10 at 11:32 am

I don’t know if it’s just me as a non-control player or what, but I haven’t liked any of the latest planeswalkers. Sarkhan, Gideon, Tirel and Venser(aka the Doctor, just try and tell me Venser doesn’t look like David Tennant), all have been pretty ‘meh’ to me. I do have to mention I think that this Elspeth blows itself up with its ultimate, so I don’t think she will “stick around” after it. I think she might be good because her ultimate is very good and you’ll get to it super fast, but I actually think her -2 ability will be better most of the time(a bit like Vengeant). I mean, is a Disk on turn 6 fast enough these days? Wasn’t Magus of the Disk just too slow back in Time Spiral block? As far as Venser goes, his +2 ability is alright, his -1 ability is somewhat boring, and while his ultimate is super spicy, being a 5 mana planeswalker and with requiring 3 activations beforehand makes it seem somewhat out of reach. I might be wrong, though, I mean… there’s Proliferate.

#2 admin on 09.05.10 at 11:57 am

@Alfrebaut

[-5] Destroy all other permanents except for lands and tokens. (emphasis mine)

#3 Alfrebaut on 09.05.10 at 3:33 pm

Well… oops. I swear I read it more than once, I can’t imagine how I must have missed it. I’m going to chalk it up to selective blindness. I still feel like the -2 is the most relevant, though.

#4 MTGBattlefield on 09.06.10 at 8:53 am

Stealing Elspeth Tirel…

Your story has been summoned to the battlefield – Trackback from MTGBattlefield…

#5 Yo! MTG Taps! Episode 37 – Now Available! « I Want My MTG on 09.09.10 at 9:07 pm

[…] Michael Flores on the newly spoiled Elspeth Tirel […]

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