Gladiator Staples: Part 2

Greetings Gladiators! In this follow up article to The Staples of Gladiator Part One I will be going over some of the most iconic multicolored and colorless cards available in Gladiator. This list is by no means exhaustive however, so many powerful cards will go unmentioned. I also chose to focus on cards that see play in a multitude of decks and archetypes. In addition, J21 and MID were released between the release of Part One and this article, so this article will be including the new cards in its list. With that said, let’s see what cards are the power players in the format!

Multicolored

Soulherder

This is the most popular white card in the format. Whether you are playing Aggro, Control, or Midrange, it is the most efficient Soulherder joins Teleportation Circle and Thassa, Deep-Dwelling as a repeatable source of blinking a creature. These three cards enable Azorius-based Blink decks to outvalue their opponent in the late game, recycling effects such as card draw, removal, and token generation. This creature additionally grows into a large threat itself, and has a lower mana value, making it the best of the bunch. These three cards when combined with Shipwreck Dowser or similar effects can also result in infinite turns with the aid of Time Warp. While this deck hasn’t taken over tournaments, it is only a matter of time until someone finds the winning list.

Lurrus of the Dream-Den

This card is the namesake of board wipes for a reason. Though Nightmare is certainly an appropriate creature type for Lurrus. Despite the fact that it cannot be run as a Companion in Gladiator, this card still packs a punch in both Aggro and Aristocrats decks. Against Mono-White Aggro, Lurrus is nearly impossible to remove thanks to cards like Selfless Savior and Dauntless Bodyguard. Aristocrats pilots can use Lurrus to recur more than just two drops thanks to Priest of the Fell Rites and can also bring back multiple pieces of fodder at once with creatures like Nested Shambler. And now with the Adversary cycle from Innistrad:Midnight Hunt, Lurrus can also bring back Intrepid Adversary and Tainted Adversary and let you sink mana into their ETB effects. What makes this card such a staple is its hybrid mana cost, letting it be run in Mono-White, Mono-Black, and Orzhov decks easily, and sometimes in Bx or Wx decks as well.

Lightning Helix

Though its body is unassuming, its enter the battlefield trigger (ETB) is anything but. By exiling any nonland permanent, it grants great utility in removing either threatening creatures,  pesky planeswalkers, or even utility artifacts and Both a burn spell finisher for Aggro decks and a hybrid removal-lifegain spell to stabilize with for Control, there exists no RWx deck in the format that doesn’t want Lightning Helix. There isn’t much more to say, as this card is powerful despite its simplicity.

Knight of Autumn

Upon being spoiled this card was called the white Tarmogoyf, and for good reason. An early Reclamation Sage sees play, so of course one with even more utility will as well. And the utility this card provides is relevant in every matchup. Up against Control? Give yourself an above rate threat with the +1/+1 counters. See a pesky Equipment or another artifact or enchantment? No problem, just destroy it. Low on life against Aggro? Just gain four life and leave behind a chump blocker. And if these situations weren’t enough to justify the power of this card, then consider how well these abilities fit in with existing archetypes. Blink, Counters, and Lifegain can all make use of these effects synergistically to support their game plans. In a format with no sideboards, cards like this are in high demand no matter what deck you play.

The Scarab God

While it mostly sees play as a finisher for UBx decks, this card also excels in Zombies and Reanimator. It is an army in a can, and every creature, no matter how small, is a great target for its activated ability since they all come back as 4/4s. Additionally, you can activate this ability at instant speed, meaning you can hold up answers and protection alongside it. The upkeep triggered ability allows you to dig for the cards you need while also lowering the opponent’s life total without going to combat. In addition to these powerful abilities, The Scarab God is difficult to remove due to its ability to return from the graveyard from your hand. You’d better have your exile removal or graveyard hate ready or this card will take over the game.

Click to Flip Card

Prismari Command

Like my list for white, I am leading off with the most efficient answer available in the color, and this one is the namesake of The Prismari command you to put this in your deck. It has four powerful modes, all useful in various situations. First, it shares “deal two damage to any target” and “destroy target artifact” with another format staple, Kolaghan’s Command. The damage will usually kill a pesky creature or damage the opponent. Removing an artifact is great against the Equipment common in Aggro decks or the mana rocks of opposing Control decks. Looting twice is also incredible for digging for answers and filling the graveyard. And don’t underestimate creating a Treasure token. Playing a turn four Iymrith, Desert Doom or Goldspan Dragon can be backbreaking. But the real power of this card isn’t from any one mode, but the six different combinations you can choose from. This card is close to an auto-include in all URx decks, once again demonstrating how valuable versatility is in Gladiator.

Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath

This enchantment enables Control players to make an early proactive play that sets them up for both smoother draws and late game card advantage. By filling the graveyard it synergizes Banned in four formats, Uro has incurred much wrath from players and WOTC alike. The titan sees play in many decks in Gladiator, including Lands, Blink, Control, and Ramp decks. If it is so prevalent and powerful, you may ask “How is it still legal?” Well, this is because none of the decks it sees play in are achieving top finishes in tournaments. Thus, Uro serves as a way to give these decks a fighting chance against more powerful Aggro and Control variants. It does so by gaining life, ramping, and drawing cards with its ETB effect. Then later in the game it returns from the graveyard as a 6/6 threat, and if not exiled it can do so again and again.

Kolaghan’s Command

Like Prismari Command, this card has four powerful modes that when put together produce an extremely versatile card. The first two modes have the same benefits as with Prismari Command. Making your opponent discard a card may seem low-impact, but since the command is an instant this can be done on the draw step before the opponent reaches their main phase. The final mode of recurring a creature card from the graveyard can also be extremely powerful, letting you grab your best threat to march to battle once again.

Fiend Artisan

Fiend Artisan is one of the best creature tutors in the format, while serving doubly as a game ending threat. This card can find a Craterhoof Behemoth to end the game, a Reclamation Sage to remove a threatening artifact or enchantment, or even just grab an Elder Gargaroth to put an end an opponent’s attack in the air. Each time it tutors in this way, it also gets bigger and fills your yard, something Golgari decks are eager to do. Outside of Hoof and Graveyard decks, Find Artisan sees play in Bant Blink and Mardu Aristocrats due to its hybrid mana cost and ability to find the right ETB effects and trigger the best death triggers when you need them. Once again another card with versatility climbs to the top of the list.

Burning-Tree Emissary

This early play enables some of the fastest starts available in the format, making it arguably one of the best two drops available to Aggro decks. While a vanilla 2/2 body may not seem threatening, casting this on turn two alongside another threat gives a tempo advantage in that spot removal is no longer enough to halt your advance. Even when drawn later in the game, you can cast it alongside any of your spells effectively for free. Like Lurrus, this card is a staple due to its hybrid mana cost, seeing play in Mono-Green, Mono-Red, and Gruul Aggro.

Colorless

Bonesplitter

An aptly named Equipment, as it will soon describe your opponent’s fate. Two additional power turns any creature into a threat, allowing the equipped creatures to trade up with even high toughness blockers. The most critical point in its favor is that low-curve Aggro decks can often cast threats and equip the Bonesplitter in the same turn, thereby never taking a turn off from applying pressure. In fact, the ubiquity of this card single-handedly makes decks want to pack some amount of artifact removal.

Golos, Tireless Pilgrim

To both the joy and dismay of Commander players, Golos is legal in Gladiator! Golos is a staple curve-topper of Midrange decks, as it can fetch The World Tree to pay for its activated ability no matter the colors of your deck. Additionally, its casting cost consists of only generic mana making it easy to cast as well as activate. After it enters play, in order to generate card advantage you need do nothing except activate Golos’s ability to “draw” and play three cards a turn. If your opponent takes a little longer to answer Golos, since you have been activating Golos each turn and not casting spells, your hand should be fully stocked. Even if Golos is answered immediately by removal, you still keep the land it found, accelerating the deployment of your game ending threats and enabling you to double spell more often. Thus Golos is the perfect top end for Midrange decks looking to outvalue the opponent.

Stonecoil Serpent

Stonecoil Serpent has slithered its way into many top decks in Gladiator, most noticeably Mono-White Aggro. Its flexible mana cost lets it be cast as a threat anywhere on the curve, and its keywords make it good on both offense and defense. Its oft forgotten Protection from Multicolored clause is also relevant, sometimes letting it block a powerful threat indefinitely or resist removal like Prismari Command or Kolaghan’s Command . Most importantly in Mono-White is that it has a mana value of zero, allowing it to be searched for by both Ranger-Captain of Eos and Ranger of Eos whenever they have extra mana to use.


That’s All For Now

That’s all the cards I have time to talk about today. I’m leaving out the lands because another Blog author will be releasing a series of articles on a Gladiator Lands Tier List, and they’ll go into more detail than I would here. If you have questions about what I included or left off of the list, shoot me a message on Discord at #WreckDeck4901 or leave a comment on this article.