– Masters 25
April 2, 2018
Commander [EDH]: 3.00
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale.
1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
It’s a longstanding tradition in Magic for cards to tell a story. The original version of Ihsan’s Shade absolutely took my breath away when I first saw him twenty-three years ago. I was desperate to know more about him, and what happened to him – especially since the quotes attributed to him on other cards didn’t make him sound particularly evil. Even after all these years, much of his story remains enigmatic and ambiguous, but our new version assures us that there are hidden depths behind all that black armor, that there is something to think about beyond the simple numbers, and that no matter how far we wander on the long and winding road through the Multiverse, there’s always a homeland behind us.
Perhaps we are used to six-mana creatures having more than one ability nowadays – and in fact, I remember even some players in 1995 being uncertain what a resilient 5/5 creature needed with just that one specific ability, especially since many of us only owned one copy of Swords to Plowshares. But I actually think Ihsan’s Shade is still a pretty good creature. It’s true that there has been an explosion in the possible options for dealing with him, and in all five colors to boot, but there are still situations when facing casual archetypes that he can show just what made him feared in the early tournaments. Suppose you’re playing a white deck based on, say, the exalted keyword. What do you do when he enters the fray? You’ll basically be hoping your opponent can’t deal with your Sublime Archangel, and noticing that most other exalted creatures are not great when they have to go wide. He also races Astral Slide and Lightning Rift quite effectively, and is an awkward size for most Sligh decks to deal with even when using modern cards (Goblin Guide and Lightning Bolt combine against him, but that’s still a one-for-two).
Ihsan’s redemption will not come on the tournament scene (whose does?), but we as players have nothing to be ashamed of when summoning him.
Ihsan’s Shade has an interesting history, considered the “best creature in Magic” many years ago. And this was largely a confluence of several factors:
Long has it been since it’s been the game’s best creature, and it’d have trouble keeping up today. Even factoring in protection, which is a subtly powerful ability, an awkward casting cost and merely passable stats do it no favors. To see it in Masters 25 is a nice homage to its role in the game’s history, though, and it’s a fitting representative from Homelands.
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