Elspeth. Sun’s Champion – Theros
Date Reviewed: May 18, 2023
Commander [EDH]: 4.13
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Do you remember simpler times, when Elspeth was just on a quest to breach the veil between worlds and kill a satyr who’d risen to the status of a god? I . . . kind of do, partly because I own this card. And it was really, really good in tournaments back in 2013 and 2014, and has not declined as much as some six-mana cards do when they leave Standard. That cost is pretty high for a planeswalker, but considering how much she can jam up the table with tokens and then turn them deadly, it’s an attractive price point for control and midrange decks to try and meet. Consider that she came in the same block as Sylvan Caryatid, which was and is quite good even among eternal-level mana creatures. Her -3 is also deceptively good, even when you’re paying six mana for it. It was intended to represent her fighting monsters on behalf of Heliod, and it does indeed destroy nearly all the most dangerous threats in Theros block limited. But it also wipes out Bonecrusher Giant and Sheoldred, the Apocalypse in Pioneer, and charged-up Pelt Collectors and Quirion Dryads at casual tables. That makes this card a comeback mechanic and finisher all in one – even among planeswalkers, there’s a limited number of cards you can say that about.
Commander [EDH]: 4
If you remember some of the flavor text from the Theros block, you might recall that we learned there were previous Champions of the Sun, all of whom seem to have been women. That shouldn’t be a surprise, because Heliod is literally Magic’s equivalent of Zeus and/or Apollo; but it’s the kind of lore that’d be much harder to learn in new sets, where there’s so little flavor text . . .
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion might not look great at first. It’s simple in its mechanics and its execution, and it costs six mana. Naturally, she was a hugely defining, warping card for her entire run in Standard, and she’s shown up over the years in Modern and Pioneer, which says a lot.
Elspeth’s abilities synergize really well with each other: her -3 is a board wipe that leaves behnd small creatures, and her +1 makes said small creatures. White’s ability to go wide is often formidable, and while it can go big, it often wants to see numbers to overwhelm instead of just one, big, smashtacular body. If Elspeth doesn’t need to wipe the board, her -7 is certainly an incentive for opponents to try and kill her as quickly as possible, as she’ll have generated nine 1/1 bodies on the way there, and those can quickly represent lethal damage if she gets that far. She’s an excellent “finisher” for control decks, a fast clock that threatens to overwhelm opponents, and she can even help with comebacks by knocking out a large force and threatening to repopulate the board in short order.
As I’ve often said, planeswalkers are most defined by their day-to-day suite of abilities, and Elspeth’s ability to double as both a comeback tool and put pressure up on her own was a large part of what defined Theros. She hasn’t ever soared in deeper formats like she once did in Standard, but she might have a claim for being the most powerful six-mana planeswalker.
Constructed: 3.5 (it’d be higher for Standard, maybe a 4.75; she’s playable in deeper formats, but needs a bit more care there)
Limited: 5 (she was probably the biggest bomb you could open in Theros; I never lost a game in Draft or Sealed where I resolved her, and I played a fair bit of Theros block Limited)
Multiplayer: 4.25 (scales quite well with more players, thanks to her -3 hitting everyone)
Commander [EDH]: 4.25 (a board wipe with flexibility is good, and she’s a very threatening clock)
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. 😉
Click here to read over 5,000 more MTG Card of the Day Reviews!
Daily Since 2001.