Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
– New Phyrexia
March 30, 2020
Commander [EDH]: 4.13
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Those of you who have previously noted a dearth of white-aligned villains in Magic’s history will be interested to know that Elesh Norn was the dominant praetor in New Phyrexia, as of the last time we got an update on that plane. Everyone, regardless of what analysis they may have taken part in, will have cause for alarm when she hits the table on the opposing side. In many contexts, her global -2/-2 to all opposing creatures can clear the table as soon as she comes into play; she’s even highly relevant against creature-light opponents because her anthem effect speeds up attackers so much. Since white has little in the way of straight-up mana acceleration, decks will often be cheating her into play, and she holds up very well even compared to some of the long-time favorite reanimation targets. Blazing Archon doesn’t destroy utility creatures, and Akroma can be raced by token decks. That level of power makes her a worthy face of New Phyrexia (even if she doesn’t have a face as humanoid species define the term!).
This week’s theme looks to be Phyrexians, potentially in tribute to world events going on, and Elesh Norn is a pretty good starting point. Part of the New Phyrexia Praetor cycle, which presented five creatures with mirrored effects, Elesh Norn plays well with and against her own deck. A flat +2/+2 effect to your board means they’ll rip through your opponents, even before the flat -2/-2 your opponents take to their creatures. Elesh Norn also can protect herself adequately against toughness-based removal, thanks to that 7 toughness, and she’s a good brick wall against attackers that can chip away at life totals steadily.
Her brutal effects mean she actually sees a healthy amount of Constructed play in Legacy and Modern (and even Vintage), usually through cheating her out to duck around that high mana cost; seven mana is a bit high, even if she ends the game pretty quickly. While she is susceptible to removal, it’s hard for her to not leave a mark, thanks to her flat stat reduction effect and anthem triggers. Definitely a card to be wary of.
Constructed: 3.75 (mostly a reanimation target, but certainly a brutal one)
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