Commander Spotlight: Glissa, Sunseeker

Within the extensive library of Magic’s long and storied history, not every mechanic, set, block, or even era of the game is going to be universally loved. It’s simply not possible. Thanks to all of the different mechanics debuted, themes pushed, worlds explored, and formats to balance, every Magic set is a laboriously crafted patchwork of overlapping (and sometimes competing) interests.

It’s not an easy task on a good day, and it’s even more complicated when they’re routinely debuting new concepts and ideas that they can only speculate on the audience’s reaction.

The law of averages dictates that some sets are simply going to be universally more liked than others. While individual locales, planes, and play styles will undoubtedly be popular with certain parts of the Magic community even if they aren’t heavily loved overall (Lorwyn and Odyssey creature types, the plane of Kamigawa, the Infect or Annihilator mechanics, etc), there are going to be some sets that resonate with everyone and some that do rather poorly across the board.

The original Ravnica set, for instance, had something pretty much everyone could get excited about. A set like Battle for Zendikar, on the other hand…not so much.

Personally, most of my favorite sets over the years typically fall into two camps. The first are those that focus extensively on the lore of Dominaria, such as the Urza block, Time Spiral, and, well, Dominaria. The second are those that lean artifact heavy, such as Antiquities, Kaladesh, the Esper parts of Alara, and, of course, the plane of Mirrodin.

When you combine those two criteria, it sort of makes sense what the original Mirrodin is easily among my top three sets in all of Magic. Not because of the problematic power level abuses such as Affinity and the rise of the Ravager deck (which is why many were drawn to it), but because of the fun combination of storyline and casual-friendly cards – many of which routinely appear in EDH decks. There were interesting characters, a noteworthy villain, and a unique artifact-centric world created by Karn, one of my all-time favorite Magic characters.

Unfortunately, Karn, like several of the most prominent heroes of the Mirrodin storyline, didn’t end up faring too well in the end, proving that the Happily Ever After storylines don’t always stay that way. Although the majority of the the older inhabitants of the plane were returned to their original planes thanks to their efforts, those who helped trigger that event didn’t fare nearly as well. Thanks to the fall of the plane to Phyrexians, Karn was corrupted/imprisoned, the genius Goblin whom nearly died in the climax of the story purportedly was killed offscreen shortly afterwards by a horde of his panicky brethren anyhow, the opportunistic necromancer Geth switched sides, and Glissa, the heroic Elf who was the driving force behind saving the entire plane from Memnarch’s ambitions, was turned into a Phyrexian herself.

Honestly, the whole sequel to Mirrodin is arguably one of the darkest Magic storylines going, and that includes two different visits to a gothic horror plane. So, you know, that says something.

But we’re going to remain focused on the high point for the denizens of Mirrodin for the moment with this week’s card pick, continuing that personal adoration of flavor meets artifacts.

Today we have: Glissa, Sunseeker

Name: Glissa, Sunseeker

Edition: Mirrodin

Rarity: Rare

Focus: Artifact Destruction

Highlights: Although Glissa in recent years has gotten a fair amount of attention for her Phyrexianized card version as being both friendly for dueling and combos, her original card is nothing to scoff at either. Despite being from a heavily artifact-based plane, Glissa’s ability focuses on destroying problematic ones. That is, if you time your efforts just right.

Glissa, Sunseeker rarely became a powerhouse card during her Mirrodin block tenure, in large part because of the power and speed of the game at the time. In a sense, Glissa was simply too slow to deal with decks based around expensive artifacts cast cheaply and was nearly swept along with the next wave of new cards.

In the casual world, however, Glissa has always retained a recurring (if infrequent) appearance. And thanks to multiplayer settings like Commander, she can make for a pretty handy addition to many decks.

For four mana, Glissa is a fairly decent 3/2 First Strike creature. This is, admittedly, less advantageous in Commander than in shorter, faster games where you could switch up her function to use as a somewhat potent attacker, but she still makes for a solid defender in a pinch.

It is her activated ability, though, where she really shines, as she has the ability to destroy artifacts on tap. Mostly.

In the game of Magic, there are only about 10 creatures that have the ability to repeatedly destroy artifacts by tapping, and of those, only one of them doesn’t have some kind of restriction to it. Most of this rare short list of creatures either requires some kind of penalty (discard, sacrifice, etc.), or come with some kind of targeting restraint. Glissa’s caveat is that her ability to destroy an artifact is contingent on having mana in your mana pool equal to the converted cost of the targeted artifact. On the surface, this has made for a strangely worded ability that many players historically have either avoided or won’t easily find when doing card searches.

Yet when you get down to it, Glissa’s mana requirement is, well, precisely that: just a mana requirement. It’s no different than having an activation with a mana cost of X – which is why she had trouble taking down larger artifacts that could be cheated out or cast too quickly; players couldn’t match the mana generation on the other side. With Commander, that is far less of an issue, increasing her usefulness substantially. Moreover, she comes with the huge upside that the mana isn’t consumed in this process. Having mana floating in your pool can seem weird when trying to destroy something, but in the post mana burn era, the worst case scenario is that mana goes to waste. More often though, you simply time your destruction at moments when you can put that mana to good use by casting other cards or channeling it into other activated abilities.

Is it a hoop to jump through? Sure. Adequately leveraging Glissa requires a little more finesse than some Magic players may be used to, but it’s well worth the minor timing efforts needed to ensure access to repeated spot removal for artifacts, which are an incredibly common card type in Commander decks.

Additionally, Glissa also happens to be legendary, making her a potential choice for a deck’s Commander. Whether you opt to use her in this capacity will largely depend on personal prerogative, however. While she is useful as a card with a singular purpose, utilizing her in a leader capacity would require some significant fine-tuning to make her more useful than being able to opportunistically destroying an artifact, or as a mere figurehead for an Elf tribal deck.

Still, which ever way you choose to deploy Glissa, her mix of flavor and versatility should help demonstrate why she has remained a regular favorite Green creature among the casual multiplayer crowd.

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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