Elspeth Conquers Death – Theros Beyond Death
Date Reviewed: December 21, 2020
Commander [EDH]: 4.13
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale: 1 is bad; 3 is average; 5 is great.
This card was #6 on my Top Ten list.
It didn’t always get complete attention in a year that had some crazy things going on (in Magic and elsewhere), but Elspeth Conquers Death is one of the stronger examples of what the Saga card type is capable of doing. Whenever decks focus on getting big permanents into play, it’s a powerful play: the first mode is not only good on its initial impact, but the card includes a way for you to potentially turn the game around. In fact, the first two modes are worth playing on their own, even without the third one. The inverse of that may not be the case, as you have to wait a couple of turns to get the card back from your graveyard – if that’s all you want to do, there are other options. The only wrinkle I can see is that it’s also good in the very ramp decks it’ll be used to fight, as they can of course hit five mana very early. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s a versatile tool for midrange decks. And from a design point of view, this is a much better way to give white card advantage than shoehorning Divination-in-all-but-name into its section of future sets. (I don’t know if Rosewater and Ari Lax would listen to me, though!)
This card did not make my top 10 list, nor was it on the shortlist for inclusion.
While I wasn’t as bullish as David was on Elspeth Conquers Death, this is hardly an especially egregious inclusion. It’s a removal spell, a sort of soft tax, and a reanimation spell all in one nice little package, and it can definitely do a lot over the three turns it’s on the board. I wasn’t as high on this card as with other spells from its set; while it has had some legs in Standard as part of an engine with Doom Foretold from Throne of Eldraine and sparing play elsewhere, it’s still a heavy investment for what’s fundamentally a removal spell, and the “upshot” of its other modes requires time to go off. Still, I can’t complain about this card making the list, and it’s a strong tool to the deck that’s able to milk it for maximum value.
Multiplayer: 4 (it’s a global hit for the second effect, which is pretty nifty)
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