With recent changes to the planeswalker rule, lets talk about Captain Sisay in Commander
Hey there, everyone! Chris here, presenting my first ever blog post for Manaleak.
I don’t know about you guys, but Ixalan is looking like a whirlwind. The return of Vehicles and Transform, with 4 incredible tribes and a nice little sprinkling of modern playables scattered about? You bet I’m interested. Today though, I’m here to break down the change to the Planeswalker legendary rule, which impacts my favoured format of Commander – in particular, a Legendary Creature who I have long carried a torch for in the format, that being the very unique Captain Sisay.
Changes to the Planeswalker Rule
A few months ago, the Magic community was shaken by a leaked rare sheet from Ixalan. Immediately following this, the community noticed something peculiar: The Planeswalker on the sheet (later revealed to be Jace, Cunning Castaway) seemed to possess the Legendary supertype. Curious for sure, but without any form of acknowledgement from Wizards the community carried on their speculation.
Fast forward to Monday 28th August, and players were greeted by The Ixalan Mechanics Article, which stated in no uncertain terms that not only are all Planeswalkers – past, present and future – going to be Legendary permanents, but also the fact that with Ixalan and the implementation of these new rules, the Planeswalker sacrifice rule will be identical to the Legendary creature rule. Whereas multiple creatures can exist as long as they don’t have the same name (Olivia Voldaren can fight alongside Olivia, Mobilized for War, for example), since Planeswalkers have existed they have always been super-Legendary; instead of checking name, the planeswalker’s subtypes needed to be unique – if you tried to control two Jaces, for example (Jace Beleren and Jace, Memory Adept, for the sake of this example), previously you could only keep one and sacrifice the other. Under the new ruling, you’ll be able to keep them. This allows non 4-5 colour superfriends decks to exist without having walkers trapped in hand.
This is a very exciting time to tinker with Captain Sisay (though with her currently sitting at her all time high, I recommend watching the market if you need to acquire one), but what can she do now?
The first thing that everyone’s mind went to, naturally, was superfriends. Superfriends is the name given to a type of deck that skips over the creature-base of a deck. Instead, it opts for Planeswalkers, and lots of them. This seems just the sort of deck to abuse new Sisay synergy, right? Unfortunately, Most people quickly discarded the idea. 2 colour superfriends? In the colours of non-Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker? That seems weak as anything – surely it can’t be done, can it?
…well, I’m not going to disagree. As far as superfriends go, they like their colours greedy and their mana base greedier. A green white superfriends seems like a rough sell… but. There is potential there, and it gets the wheels turning.
For a start, if we’re treating Sisay superfriends as another strain of the Legend Tribal deck, we have a plethora to work with already. Reki, the History of Kamigawa also triggers off of Planeswalkers now, a sizeable buff to an already established Sisay staple. Previously tenuous sisay inclusion Yomiji, who Bars the Way also gets a decent buff from the change, allowing to further extend the gameplan of the superfriends strategy, allowing felled (or sacrificed, if you need a greedy loyalty downtick) planeswalkers to simply recur again and again. With this change comes the unsettling realisation that Yomiji himself forms a loop with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, who can sacrifice himself at any time to create his ultimate emblem; even if this is only achieved once, any token-producing Planeswalkers go berserk. Elspeth, Sun’s Champion starts cranking out bears instead of soldiers, and Garruk, Primal Hunter gets the taste for even bigger game.
Conveniently, Green/White is the colour pair that cares most about planeswalkers. She has access to Doubling Season (a ridiculous superfriends staple, capable of Planeswalkers immediately achieving ultimate), Call the Gatewatch, and Deploy the Gatewatch in addition to Sisay’s already powerful tutoring ability to use her planeswalkers like silver bullets; these combined with on-tap access to Oath of Gideon and Oath of Ajani looks to pump the deck’s walker suite to surprisingly efficient levels.
Regarding the flexibility of the planeswalker suite, you’d think the lack of colours would hurt the quality of the ‘walkers. On closer inspection, however, this is pretty inaccurate. Given Sisay’s unmatched abilities to manipulate her deck like a toolbox, you can easily access naturalise effects (through Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury), early game token chump blockers (with Elspeth, Knight-Errant or Nissa, Voice of Zendikar), wrath effects (through Gideon, Champion of Justice, or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon), or even grindy value engines with Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, or the game ending Karn Liberated.
Now, bear with me a moment. Sisay Stax is a highly competitive archetype, made around finding hate pieces in order to make your opponents’ lives miserable. While it definitely isn’t for every group (I’m still trying to convince mine), this is an area in which I have a fairly deep understanding – for the last year or so, I have been playing about with Sisay Stax in my meta (the list is nowhere near original, and is a carbon copy of RattleandHum’s Sisay list on Mtgsalvation), and I think there might be mileage in this change for even the most competitive builds.
Now, this isn’t superfriends – we’d need to pick and choose our tech carefully. When I first saw this change, my mind went to one ‘walker in particular: Karn Liberated. Typically possessing a Gaia’s Cradle (and a way to consistently tutor it up turn 2-3), Sisay Stax decks produce a stupid amount of mana incredibly quickly. The outlets for this are present in Kamahl, Fist of Krosa or Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, the latter forming an expensive but incredibly difficult to remove answer to anything. During my time learning the deck, however, people don’t often let Ulamog stay long. With a combination of indestructible and lot of decks running efficient exile removal, an Ulamog isn’t necessarily a consistent finisher. Karn remedies this problem, allowing the same initial outcome as Ulamog (exile target problem) while resisting Swords to Plowshares and Diabolic Edict. Karn also provides a relevant ongoing effect in his uptick ability, picking apart people’s hands while picking apart boardstates. Karn’s a resilient threat that deprives already dwindling resources while you use your mana production to cut off more options. Perfect for Captain Sisay.
Another option to the more competitive Sisay’s arsenal is Elspeth, Knight-Errant. On a stale board state, usually one thing will set you back to square one: a boardwipe. Elspeth offers a backup plan to players who lose their Gaddock Teeg to spot removal, whilst also churning out chump blockers (which are important in my decidedly stompy meta). While ultimates aren’t something to bank on, Elspeth protects herself well enough.; Even the softest of locks guarantees her safety. And if she does ult? The game ends more or less on the spot.
The door isn’t as wide for planeswalkers in competitive lists as it is in a dedicated superfriends deck; Sisay being a scalpel instead of a sledgehammer at least allows the idea to be entertained.
In the 99
As with most of the community, I believe that this is probably where Captain Sisay has her fiercest impact. Outside of the command zone, what the user of Sisay loses by having her on demand, they gain in colours.
If she was in the deck of Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice, for example, she could get rushed out (if she proves to be a staple of the deck, consistently so with access to black for tutors such as Demonic Tutor or Diabolic Intent), or even dug for by creature-happy ‘walkers such as Garruk, Caller of Beasts, or Ajani, Mentor of Heroes. When she comes online (handily being much easier to protect, with blue’s counterspell suite), she can engineer a win on her own, finding pieces previously inaccessible in her colour combination, such as Tamiyo, Field Researcher, or Sorin Markov.
This extends her options to five colours too, as superfriends decks that opt for Atraxa often miss out on the God-Pharaoh himself Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker – and that is a sacrifice not all ‘walker fans are willing to make. The introduction to a deck across the whole spectrum would allow Sisay to fish up powerful red-based planeswalkers such as Ajani Vengeant or Xenagos, the Reveler, making her an easy inclusion to any five colour build.
With all options considered, what does this mean for Sisay?
Right off the bat, in the grand landscape of Commander, this is a drop in the ocean. It pales in comparison to the unbanning of Protean Hulk, for example, or the introduction of the Partner Commanders. For most of us, Captain Sisay is as likely to warp the Commander scene as Ruric Thar, the Unbowed – a solid choice, both in the Command Zone or not, but no tables are being bent to their will.
For those in the competitive scene, Sisay players will continue to be an underlying presence (there are dozens of us). In these decks, she’ll continue to put in the good work she has done since the inception of the format. Regarding the rest of the format, who have a conscience, they will not realistically feel this. When Sisay comes to play, it will be heading a more traditional legend tribal build. Despite this, I imagine she’ll see an uptick of play among the superfriends community, at least for the short term.
All in all however, this is an exciting time to tinker with Captain Sisay. As a Sisay player myself, you can bet I’ll be trying out all sorts of inclusions in the coming weeks. My play groups won’t know what hit them, but they will know for sure that it was green and white.
If you made it this far, thank you so much for reading! I’d like to thank Manaleak for allowing me the opportunity to produce content for them. I hope that this isn’t the last you’ve heard from me. If you like what you saw, feel free to check out the content that I produce with my pals at www.Rainofsalt.com; it’s a relatively new site that specialises in Commander and breaking down the newest tech, the best commanders, and the changes that affect our format. Until next time guys, I’ll catch you later!