– Archenemy: Nicol Bolas
May 7, 2019
Commander [EDH]: 4.00
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
I’m so used to Gideon standing tall, a tower of strength in the front line of the battle, that it’s genuinely disconcerting when I pick up the version of this card from Archenemy: Nicol Bolas. There are few people in the entire multiverse who can tower over Gideon, and it’s a suitably ominous perspective for that box set and its themes.
Recall that Gideon Jura, as of Rise of the Eldrazi, was one of the first planeswalkers that had an unconventional ultimate of this type, and the various Gideons are still the only ones who actively become creatures themselves. This offers an angle of attack that is genuinely hard for many opponents to handle at all. Not only do they have all the advantages of creature lands, they have their other loyalty abilities. It’s hard to block Gideon Jura when he uses his zero, and it’s hard to attack him or his controller when he’s active (six starting loyalty was not especially common before War of the Spark). That’s why he was a force in Standard in 2011, and that’s why he’s still a force in casual formats to this day.
Both of the planeswalkers in Rise of the Eldrazi were fairly unique. Gideon Jura’s uniqueness is that his ultimate was not a conventional ultimate: costing 0 instead of a large amount of loyalty, it saw him take to the field in what would become Gideon’s planeswalker hallmark. He can’t attack the turn he comes down, but a 6/6 that can’t be killed through combat damage is very much a hard nut to crack for an opponent, and he represents a quick clock on his own.
His +2 and -2 are secondary, but still promising. The +2 forces an opponent to attack Gideon with everything they have; Gideon might have a chance to survive (since he’ll sit at 8 loyalty after that, a fair amount to try and chip away at), and you can use creative blocking to punish an opponent forced into combat. His -2 is simpler, but still good: even if you’re using him as a five-mana kill spell, you can still kill tapped creatures thrice with him with no additional effects.
Gideon Jura may have been overshadowed by other Zendikar-block planeswalkers at the time (hi Jace), but his unique on-board presence gives control decks a way to try to end the game and, if needed, room to breathe. Five mana is that planeswalker “dead zone” of sorts, but Gideon was considered the strongest of that cohort for a while, hitting hard and creating chaos wherever he went. He’s a fringe Modern option in control decks, but five mana is definitely a tall order, and no indestructible as a creature means that he’s weak to removal all the same.
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