Bloodbraid Elf – Alara Reborn
Date Reviewed: May 12, 2022
Commander [EDH]: 4.00
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
It hasn’t come up much of late, but Bloodbraid Elf is one of my absolute favorite cards of all time. If you go and dig in the archives, you’ll find at least one Card of the Day where I resorted to poetic prose to review it – that’s how much Magic affects its players, and it’s also a testament to the fact that casting her feels like calling on an avalanche. Unless your deck is constructed very oddly, you’re pretty much guaranteed a free spell, and considering what kinds of spells you get in red and green (and Jund), it might end up being more than a two-for-one. In fact, that’s how Jund decks in Standard were built for a while, maximizing the number of cards that generated such advantages by themselves (even down to un-spectacular-looking creatures like Borderland Ranger), and adding cascade on top. That’s why Spreading Seas was a deck: the only way to really stop Jund was to prevent it from casting spells, and Counterspell wasn’t in Standard.
As a card that dominated Standard, is insanely fun in casual Magic, is surprisingly decent in singleton and Commander, was pre-emptively banned in Modern, was later un-banned but turned out to still be good, and has some of my favorite alternate art of all time, I can’t give Bloodbraid Elf anything but my highest endorsement.
Commander [EDH]: 4/5
Out of the modern era, Alara Reborn stands out in many ways, being both the last premier (Standard-legal) set to have zero planeswalkers and the sole set where every card in it was two or more colors. Bloodbraid Elf might be the card from the set that’s cast the longest shadow, utterly dominating its era of Standard and being initially banned in Modern before a later parole. Way back in 2009, it actually got ranked on Pojo as the no.1 card of its release year…which is both justified and impressive, considering it also had to compete with cards like Baneslayer Angel and Path to Exile.
The long and short is that Bloodbraid Elf is two spells for one mana. A 3/2 with haste is merely okay for four mana, but if you’re spending four mana to get that 3/2 with haste and another powerful effect, things get interesting. Blightning was the archetypal spell back in the era Bloodbraid Elf debuted in that it would chain into, but there are plenty of spells that don’t mind a discount! Bloodbraid Elf usually popped up in Jund decks more than in Naya or other color pairs, simply because the spells below the Elf were more impactful in those colors, but being able to finagle a 2-for-1 is always nasty regardless of the deck. Even a simple Lightning Bolt (which returned to Standard after Alara Reborn) lets you clear an attacker and smash a face in at the same time, which is quite the deal.
Bloodbraid Elf does, indeed, show up in Modern as part of Jund. It’s usually at the deck’s top of the curve, but a “free” 3/2 with haste on top of another spell is rarely a bad deal, and it’s gotten even nastier friends to play with (like Kolaghan’s Command and Liliana of the Veil). I don’t think anyone would call it Modern’s best card, but it is still an excellent, efficient creature that would rip Standard in half if it were to come back.
Constructed: 4 (no longer the king of its formats, but it’s a legitimately strong card in its own right)
Commander [EDH]: 4
When I played Living End in Modern I wanted this to be unbanned so bad but I can see why that isn’t the case. You are essentially getting two cards for four mana and one of them just so happens to be a 3/2 haste. There is a myriad of things that can be chosen that cost less, Goyf, Liliana of the Veil, Dark Confidant, etc. there are a bunch of cards that can change the game in your favor.
I think at the time it deserved the ban hammer, but removing it from the banned list was the right call in the end. I don’t think it is a format warping card like it was back in the day for modern but it certainly has a home and will continue to have a home in Jund builds until they print a 4/3 haste deathtouch creature with the same effect 😉
Commander [EDH]: 4
We would love more volunteers to help us with our Magic the Gathering Card of the Day reviews. If you want to share your ideas on cards with other fans, feel free to drop us an email. We’d be happy to link back to your blog / YouTube Channel / etc. 😉