– Arabian Nights
January 3, 2019
Commander [EDH]: 3.00
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
The concept of Serendib Efreet and cards like it is strongly rooted in flavor, and in Magic’s conceptual ancestors like Dungeons and Dragons: you can summon a demon or an efreet, but it’s a powerful creature that resents serving you and is difficult to control, and this may lead it to turn on you. Recent Magic design has backed away somewhat from creatures with drawbacks, but they were quite common in the early sets. Hilariously, Serendib Efreet would be even more popular in modern Magic’s risk-averse playerbase than it was in 1993. We’re used to creatures with very low power to mana cost ratios, but this guy would give a lot of recent cards a run for their money, with his resistance to direct damage, easily splashable mana cost, and sharing a color with counterspells. You can imagine, given that, the kind of damage he did in formats with the original dual lands back then. Thanks to 93/94 and the Masters sets, he still gets both constructed and limited action today – and is still as good as he ever was.
One of the most iconic creatures of early Magic, alongside Serra Angel and Shivan Dragon, Serendib Efreet managed to be more defining than either of them for what the game would become. A 3-mana 3/4 with flying is an excellent rate of return (even now!), able to soar over your opponent’s army and smash face. Taking 1 damage each turn isn’t that much of a problem in 90% of games, because you’re hitting them for 3 damage (at least) on each of your turns. It even has enough toughness to dodge one of the premier kill spells of early Magic in Lightning Bolt!
Serendib Efreet, hilariously, managed to find itself on the Banned and Restricted list early on in the game’s lifespan, simply because it was more efficient than any other creature…and in blue, the color that should have the weakest creatures. It has since been removed, but it was a format-defining beat stick that gave the game’s best color even more reason to be in that particular color, and the drawback is hilariously negligible in all but the most fringe cases.
Serendib Efreet, sadly, is nowhere near up to par in Legacy; it’d likely make an impact in Standard if it ever were to return, but it hasn’t been in a Standard-legal set since Revised. It has gotten two paper reprintings, though, including as part of From the Vault: Exiled. It’s still an iconic creature of blue, even if you’re not likely to ever see it at a Constructed event anytime soon.
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