Phelddagrif – Alliances
Date Reviewed: February 2, 2022
Commander [EDH]: 4.25
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
I sometimes wonder what would have happened if Magic had leaned more into some of its really unusual or even absurd things, like Phelddagrif. I know there would have been a little less connection with established stories and folklore, but what impact would it have had on the brand beyond that? Would we now have knights of Eldraine riding phelddagrifs? Would Innistrad’s forests be stalked by vampiric atogs? Could they have actually done anything with the cool concept that is Nameless Race?
Phelddagrif was always a hard card to build around, but it got a lot easier with the advent of Commander. He gets a lot better when you can cast him numerous times from the command zone and spread the price of his abilities around whichever opponents are either less of a threat or more politically expedient. He’s also reasonably well-suited to winning through commander damage, considering he can gain two different types of evasion. I wouldn’t expect him to do much in faster formats, and non-Commander casual decks might need to work on reducing or turning around the “gifts” he gives opponents; but he brings a unique style of play to any casual setting, which is well worth it.
Limited: 3 (I don’t think he’s ever been in a draft-ready set, but he could make a contribution if used carefully)
Commander [EDH]: 4.5
Let’s start at the top: Phelddagrif is pretty absurd, its name (and creature type) being an anagram of “Garfield, Ph.D” (and a reference to Richard Garfield, the creator of Magic and an occasional contributor to this day). One of two Phelddagrifs and the only legendary one, the original Phelddagrif offers an interesting suite of abilities, giving you a benefit if you let an opponent have something.
A 4/4 for four mana is a solid enough rate of return, even in three colors, and the ability to give it trample or flying is a pretty potent way to crash past an opponent. The “target opponent gets a benefit” clause is certainly a slight downside, but these can be turned around with things like Essence Warden and Kavu Predator. Being able to dodge removal on the spot is also good (even at the cost of allowing card draw…but, again, this can be turned around). In sum, the Phelddagrif is a surprisingly efficient creature whose seeming downsides can be turned around…if you have the mana to spare.
I will say that, while it’s a bit better than a purple hippopotamus may initially imply, Phelddagrif is a step too slow anymore, thanks to it needing mana to come out and lacking intrinsic keywords to take advantage of. That said, Commander is a perfect enough home for it, thanks to the politics-playing angle and the ability to turn those “downsides” against the beneficiary in the long run.
Limited: 2.5 (hasn’t really been a part of Limited, but its “floaty” ability set is not well-suited for such formats)
Multiplayer: 4 (“target opponent” makes this have a surprising amount of flexibility)
Commander [EDH]: 4
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