MTG’s spoilers for Phyrexia: All Will Be One have begun, and so far there’s been one distinct belle at the ball. Thanks to intriguing abilities and gorgeous card art, Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines has garnered a lot of attention. However, Commander rules committee member Sheldon Menery warns it could seriously harm the format. In a Star City Games article from December 22, Menery writes “As soon as I saw the card, I sent off an email saying, ‘Please never print this card’”.
“This card does not look like it’s going to offer positive play experiences”, Menery says. “It’s dangerously designed and then pushed mana-wise.” The ‘danger’ of Elesh Norn seems to be that the card is too good for the mana it costs. When discussing the card’s strengths, Menery praises its simple-yet-effective core mechanic, one that doubles your entering-the-battlefield abilities while blocking those of your opponent.
Menery says this ability would slot nicely into a wide range of Commander decks. “I don’t think I have a deck with white in it that she wouldn’t enhance”, he says. The Phyrexian shows potential for anything from landfall to lifegain, and Menery claims the card could be vital for shutting down nuisance cards like Thassa’s Oracle.
However, such power could cause problems. “As we on the Rules Committee have repeated with some frequency, we believe cards being generically good is a net negative for the format”, Menery says. “While it can allow deckbuilders […] to explore multiple different types of strategic or thematic lines, the flip side to being generically good means it introduces a sameness to many of our games.”
Though 70% of Magic fans play Commander, Menery acknowledges that not every card is designed to complement the format. “I get that it’s a main-set card, not-in-Commander product, and I’ll return to the recognition that not everything has to be designed with Commander in mind”, he says. “I’ll also point out that it would also be tremendously naïve for a designer/design team to ignore Commander’s existence when designing cards.” “Further, I have concerns that the design of this card getting through may impact the design of future cards”, he adds.
Menery also isn’t the only member of the Commander rules committee that expressed concerns about Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines. After sending his ‘please never print this card’ email, Menery says, “ I found out I wasn’t the only one of the four of us […] who had done that”. “We of course then talked about it together as well and reiterated our point during the joint feedback—this is not a healthy card for Commander.”
Despite his concerns, Menery says it’s not guaranteed that action will be taken against Elesh Norn. He tweeted on Thursday, saying, “remember please that despite commentary on a card, we don’t ban things academically”. “Even if we say ‘this card looks dangerous,’ we wait to see if it actually negatively impacts the format before making a ban decision.” “Elesh Norn isn’t getting banned out of the gate”, he adds.
You can read Menery’s full analysis of Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines in his article for Star City Games. For more Commander, here are some of the best MTG Commanders you can currently play with. This list may well end up changing – the year is nearly over, and the MTG 2023 release schedule is fast approaching.