There’s an age-old truism that just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s right, and often the thing that is right often isn’t going to be popular.
On the one hand, it sounds like a completely reductive and overly simplistic, especially in the age we currently live in. But there is sage wisdom in understanding that sentiments espoused within a particular group of people aren’t always based on the best rational interests of the group as a whole. Whether it’s an aversion to change, fear of the unknown, dogmatic adherents to traditions of the past, or the naivety of the topic being presented to them, groups can often become emotionally (and often irrationally) intransigent about all manner of things if what’s being presented to them appears to go against the prevailing group consensus.
This can pertain to everything from deep socio-philosophical ideas to which is the best Star Wars movie. Or, in this case, all manner of preferences when it comes to the multifaceted nature of Magic: the Gathering.
Take mechanics, for instance. Although I enjoy graveyard strategies, I for one find Dredge decks completely boring and heavily overrated. Yet after Storm it’s one of the most widely used (and powerful) deck archetypes in numerous Constructed formats. There are likely far more Magic players that like Dredge than dislike it. Who is right? Is it overrated? Or is the majority opinion in the wrong?
Of course, while there are occasions where an objectively ideal consensus exists for the group, in most lines of opinion – including this one – usually it boils down to a matter of personal opinion. Just because you may or may not like one part of the game doesn’t inherently make it bad, just as being a fan of something doesn’t inherently make it good.
(I mean, I’m one of those crazy people who actually enjoyed Kamigawa, but I’m apparently in a notable minority; WotC has been more than adamant that it was so poorly received they have very little interest in revisiting that world beyond an occasional Tamiyo cameo.)
Which leads to the ultimate trump card when it comes to group dynamics: barring truly democratic decision-making, regardless of what the prevailing opinion on a topic may be, if the ruling body of that group isn’t behind you, things get a whole lot harder.
With Magic, that’s the game’s developers. They freely admit that many of their decisions to include or remove things are in response to player opinion, but they make their own decisions as well on what they feel is best for the game. That means if they themselves adore something (such as Scry or Prowess), then they increase its frequency, but if they feel something is problematic (say like Regeneration, Protection, or the plane of Dominaria), then they may avoid it in favor of other things.
Sometimes this lines up with the majority sentiment. Other times, not so much.
One such classic case is the use of the ability Shadow during the Tempest block. Shadow was an evasion ability that said the creature could only block or be blocked by other creatures with Shadow. It was particularly liked among both competitive and casual players at the time, but it took until the nostalgia-heavy Time Spiral block years later to bring it back again. And barring a similar repeat during next year’s Dominaria block, it’s unlikely we’ll have access to it a third time – mostly because R&D aren’t huge fans of how it plays.
And, well, what they say goes.
Still, Shadow was a fun mechanic for a number of reasons, and it bestowed us with a number of interesting creatures during its short tenure that can still be of use today. So let’s look at one of those.
Today we have: Soltari Visionary
Name: Soltari Visionary
Focus: Evasion / Enchantment Destruction
Highlights: During its tenure, Shadow really only existed in three colors: Black, Blue, and White. Among those, the White contingent was the least represented, arguably because it was the most out of place to begin with given that White as a color it doesn’t usually get unmitigated creature evasion. Despite that, though, numerous Shadow decks over the years were well represented with the Soltari faction, and the Soltari Visionary was often at the forefront of those selections.
As with all Shadow creatures, Soltari Visionary exists as a double-edged sword when it comes to creature efficacy in combat. In most casual formats nowadays, and especially in Commander, it’s unlikely for multiple Shadow creatures to be on the battlefield at the same time, ensuring this 2/2 creature is essentially unblockable. This is particularly handy when you want to get through someone’s defenses with minimal ease. Barring spot removal, there’s very little most people can do to stop a Shadow creature from doing damage. Because of this, it also heavily invites buffing it to do even more unstoppable damage to an opponent – which is helpful since nearly all Shadow creatures are on the smaller end size-wise.
Soltari’s usefulness comes through even more though thanks to its damage-dealing trigger that states anytime it deals damage to an opponent it you get to destroy an enchantment they control. Due to the high volume of powerful enchantments that float around most EDH games, Soltari Visionary usually has no shortage of viable targets to choose from. This creature makes for a great enchantment headhunter, and it’s so good at what it does you can almost overlook that it’s only going to poke at an opponent for 2 damage.
In truth, they’ll likely be more upset at losing the enchantment than the damage anyway.
Indeed, there is a great deal of political clout that can be wielded with this creature on the battlefield, letting you pick off the most problematic enchantments from the board as needed. And given its mere three mana casting cost, Soltari can be leveraged at any stage of the game.
The flip side to Shadow, however, is that it also makes them useless as blockers. Its ethereal nature removes the possibility of being used as a last-ditch blocker, should the unfortunate necessity ever arise. This, combined with the creature’s fairly fragile frame, can give some brief pause to include in a deck, as you have to be careful about it not dying off easily from spot removal.
Still, that seems to be a minor inconvenience given the degree of advantage and opportunity it otherwise presents to a White EDH deck.
And to bring the whole thing full circle: it should also be noted that Soltari Visionary was once voted the second most popular card with Shadow. So it definitely has fans. Though I’m sure there likely still debate over its standing.
Keep an eye out for us to be regularly featuring other more accessible-but-worth-it Commander cards going forward. In the meantime, we’ll keep the light on for you.
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