Serra the Benevolent
– Modern Horizons
March 5, 2019
Commander [EDH]: 4.13
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
According to Mark Rosewater, Magic’s creative department generally has the policy “dead is dead” when it comes to legendary creatures and planeswalkers. I never understood why. Specifically, there is a glaring hole in this policy when it comes to expansions set in the past, or that are designed to be compilations of some kind: there is nothing to stop you playing those characters along with cards from the “present”. I would think that a multiverse of infinite mystery would lend itself more to the idea that they might be from an alternate timeline, or been resurrected by some kind of mysterious force. (Maybe we even are that force: consider that Gideon, a planeswalker, had little recourse against Heliod, and you can summon either by tapping four Plains.) I mean, nobody even stays dead in Mortal Kombat, where the literal point of the game is to pull your opponent’s spine out through their nose.
I for one say that Serra was never truly dead, merely sleeping in Avalon (or Ulgrotha?) and waiting for the right time to return, and that return is genuinely exciting. Even knowing nothing else about Modern Horizons, I can see that she has the potential to be a central figure in certain kinds of decks. Her +2 is perhaps less consistently weighty than Elspeth, Knight-Errant, but this doesn’t always matter in a world where there are now enough creatures with flying that every creature in your deck might have flying (especially in Commander). Her -3 isn’t just for synergy with the first ability, as it can effectively get you a four-mana Serra Angel; that card might have remained a staple in more Constructed formats than Old School if it cost four mana. And if you thought it was difficult for red decks to beat Worship as an enchantment, I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do when it’s in the emblem zone. It would, ironically, be harder in Standard where hexproof and protection are no longer as common as they were during Urza’s Saga, yet that’s the one format where Serra will not be legal on release . . .
At long last, Serra has her own planeswalker card. One of Magic‘s most famous names through its early history, lending her name to spells like Serra Angel and lands like Serra’s Sanctum, she’s been desired as an actual card for some time in spite of her being dead in the lore. Modern Horizons is where we’re finally seeing Serra show up, and she is…pretty good.
Let’s start from the top: she’s definitely more powerful than the average Standard planeswalker. An unremovable Worship is a nasty ultimate, and she can pop it on the second turn she’s out on the board! Her +2 is an anthem effect for your creatures (a single-shot Serra Aviary), and her -3 makes…you guessed it, a Serra Angel. (Well, a close approximation.)
Even just looking at her -3, a 4/4 with flying and vigilance is a pretty good deal for four mana, and she can start pumping it if she lives to the next turn. I’m not sure how powerful she’s going to be, exactly, but it’s safe to say that she’s definitely on the more threatening end; she’s a good play into an empty board (thanks to that vigilant flying 4/4), she can push a good board state into a great one, and I would be surprised if she sees no Modern/Legacy play.
note: For Serra and for Cabal Therapist, I don’t know what the Limited of Modern Horizons is going to look like, so this is an approximation. That said, Serra in particular is very much an archetypal Limited bomb in almost any format.
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