This summer’s new Magic: the Gathering set, Origins, explores the early history of five of the game’s iconic planeswalkers. Our exclusive Origins preview card shows off one of the other characters that are part of that history, a sphinx with some strong opinions on what spells you should and shouldn’t be playing.
Alhammarret, High Arbiter has a pretty expansive ability that has different levels of effectiveness in different formats. He’s a tough sell in a constructed tournament, because by the time you get to seven mana to cast him the game should be close to over. Your opponent’s hand might even be empty by that point. On the other hand, if you’re able to cheat him into play, with Show and Tell, for instance, he can shut down part of your opponent’s strategy or at least cripple it long enough to gain a huge advantage in the mid-game. I wouldn’t be surprised if some Legacy decks at least took a look at Alhammarret.
But our sphinxy friend is really interesting in multiplayer formats. He hits each opponents’ hand, so in a five-player game you can blank four different cards. This is balanced by the fact that, in Commander no one has more than one copy of a card, so you’re not shutting down anything beyond the one copy you find in your opponents’ hands. Since he’s a legend, Alhammarret could be used as your commander, but that seven-mana casting cost is a steep wall. He’s going to be a target for anyone you anger with his ability, so good luck keeping him on the battlefield. You might employ a bounce strategy with something like Deadeye Navigator — protect Alhammarret, and when he comes back into play you get another look at everyone’s hand and pick new cards to shut down, replacing whatever you picked last time (which they, perhaps, discarded since you’d previously rendered them useless).
Let’s not forget that that ability comes on a 5/5 flying body. That’s significant, especially compared to cards with similar abilities. Meddling Mage and Phyrexian Revoker are powerful, but they don’t exactly pack a punch in combat. Alhammarret even compares favorable to other arbiters: less annoying and much larger than Grand Arbiter Augustin IV, less conditional than Leonin Arbiter, not as limiting as Silent Arbiter (though they’d probably work well together).
Magic Origins will be released on July 17.