The Wizards of the Coast R&D team has our best interests in mind, folks.  They do…I really believe that.  But they seem to miss the target quite a bit when it comes to designing legendary creatures, at least as they apply to EDH. 
Now, I understand that not every one that they pop out is designed with EDH in mind, but I’m counting the Commander boxed product when I say this as well.  As exciting as those pre-cons were, I was fairly disappointed in the long run with most of the new options for Generals. 
Really…I am.  I know that sounds crazy, so here’s the mission statement:

R&D needs to design more “Broad Application” Generals and less “Build Around Me!” ones.

Let’s take a look at the Commander pre-cons to see what I mean, before we move on to the new stuff.


WE’RE ALL INDIVIDUALS!





Hugely popular, right?  Everyone has a Kaalia deck.  I had a Kaalia deck until very recently.  My mom doesn’t play Magic, and I’m pretty sure she has a Kaalia deck.
What do 99% of these decks look like? 
I’ll accept “A big pile of angels and/or demons and or/ dragons.”  (“Identical” is also a correct answer…)
Kaalia simply suggests a very narrow strategy.  Now, she’s exciting, and she can be incredibly strong.  But no one is out there thinking, “Man…finally, a Cleric Tribal general I can get behind!”  No one is building W/B/R goodstuff with Kaalia at the helm. 
The underlying problem is that she not only suggests a single, narrow strategy, but her overall design discourages you from trying anything else.
Karador, Zedruu, Ghave and Animar suffer similarly.  To be fair, this isn’t a flaw in R&D thinking; design is all about balancing power by rewarding certain strategies while penalizing others.  If you’re paying eight mana to have Karador be the leader for your B/G/W token deck, you’re overpaying drastically for a small body – and that’s really it.  Go reanimator, though, and you’re getting tons of value. 
Is anyone playing Aggro Zedruu?  Ghave Reanimator?  Beyond trying to do something that hasn’t been done before, it doesn’t make sense. 

…AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

The card pool we as EDH builders have available to us is absolutely enormous.  The ratio of Legendary Creatures to other cards is damn-near thirty-to-one.  It stands to reason that when our General options dictate what strategies we should play, a vast majority of those other cards are left in boxes and binders. 
I want Generals that leave the door open to anything my little head can come up with, limited only by color.  
Keeping that in mind, let’s look at the Legendary Creatures of Avacyn Restored.


Avacyn, Angel Of Hope



Avacyn is a great place to start.  Blanket indestructibility is something that helps any strategy across the board; it clearly makes for a great aggro enabler, but it protects everything.  If my aim is to craft some insane Rube Goldberg machine that pieces together Circle Of Protection: Black, Doubling Cube, Alabaster Dragon, Heap Doll, and Caribou Range in order to draw my deck, gain infinite life, and deal infinite damage to my mailman, Avacyn can protect me from an untimely Oblivion Stone.
Avacyn may suggest a good aggro build or a tribal angels list, but she doesn’t discourage any other strategies at the same time.

Broad Application Grade: B+


Bruna, Light Of Alabaster



Bruna is a step in the right direction.  She has a favorable size-to-cost ratio, and vigilance and flying make her a decent value.
The problem is that her ability falls exactly in line with what I was taking R&D to task with Kaalia for.  Sure, there are countless possibilities as to what you can do with auras, but the fact remains that you’re going to do something with auras.  If you wanted a cheaper aggro option, Geist of Saint Traft is probably better bang for your buck.  If you just want colors, you’re playing Sygg on turn two. 
You can build Bruna into an aggro powerhouse, or likely a decent control General.  There may be a combo a la Zur in there somewhere.  But there are better (and cheaper) W/U options that don’t force a strategy on you if you’re not trying to play with enchantments.

Broad Application Grade: C-


Gisela, Blade Of Goldnight



Gisela seems to be the darling of the set so far.  For every other Bruna or Griselbrand list out there, there are twelve for Gisela. 
She’s also the worst of the bunch.
Okay…she’s the be all, end all of R/W aggro generals.  She promotes getting into the red zone every single turn without a care in the world for leaving back blockers – she makes everything hit opponents like a tank, and everything opponents hit back with like a…er…tank that is roughly a quarter of the size of your comparable tanks.  (Or something like that.)
Maybe there’s a direct-damage build out there too. 
But she’s damn expensive, so you’re not playing her over Brion Stoutarm if you’re on the hunt for a general that simply offers the correct color blend you’re looking for…
…Well, actually, she is cheaper than Razia.  So there’s that. 
And I guess R/W generals really only want to do aggro things.  No one’s playing Agrus Kos Control or Jor Kadeen Combo.
You know what?  Screw it.  Gisela gets a pass here.  However –

Broad Application Grade for R/W in general:  D-

Moving on…


Sigarda, Host Of Herons



Any regular readers know I’m enamored of my blurry-art birdwatcher here.
(Aside: Seriously, Mr. Rahn…look at the detail in Bruna and Gisela and tell me you don’t want to try again here.  I love the old Hollywood cheesecloth-over-the-lens soft-white glow as much as the rest of us…when I’m trying to watch 1930’s-era “Studio System”rom-coms made to feature a starlet and not do much else.  Now ask me how often I do that.)    
The reason is simple; Sigarda falls in line with Avacyn, offering an aggressively-costed package stapled to an ability that attempts to prevent bad things from happening to you.  It’s not trying to force you to play equipment-based aggro, or run tokens or a control shell, but you could reasonably do either under her watch.  She’s not trying to tell you that you should be donating your permanents to another player or forcing a tribal strategy, and her casting cost is reasonable, so she fits at the helm of pretty much anything you’d want to be running in color. 
Sure, there are better dedicated options for tokens (Rhys, Tolsimir) or recursion combo (Saffi) or Sir Shandlar of Eberyn theme decks.  (Heh…)  There are cheaper generals in-color.  But Sigarda doesn’t force anything, and doesn’t discourage anything either.

Broad Application Grade: A


Griselbrand



Christ, this thing scares the hell out of me the more I think about it. 
There are debates about whether or not Ol’ Gris needs to be banned in EDH.  It’s hard to wade through all of the heated responses, and my feeling is that at this point, it’s time to put out feelers to get actual results on how broken Griselbrand really is.  To be honest, I was on the “Whatever…no big deal.” side of the fence until just the other day, when this phrase was pointed out to me:

“In response to that, I’ll draw seven.”
Get used to hearing that, folks.  In response to everything you do.
Staying on target, though, Griselbrand meets our criteria fairly well.  He takes hits for being very expensive, but offers a reasonable body and evasion in return, on top of lifelink in black.  If he didn’t have a pseudo-Yawgmoth’s Bargain stapled to his back, he’d probably still see play on those merits alone.
And then you add in raw card draw.  That fits in any mono-black strategy you can come up with.  Or any strategy period.  Who doesn’t want to draw cards?
If you’re just looking to get into mono-black, you should look elsewhere.  Otherwise, Griselbrand seems like a solid General that doesn’t push you anywhere you don’t want to go.

Broad Application Grade: B-
.   .   .   .   .

All in all, I think R&D is getting better about keeping options open with new General options.  I’d like to see things continue down this path moving forward, and if Maelstrom Wanderer (a card that promotes getting more stuff rather than focused strategy) is any indication, I think things look good. 
EDH is a format that is ruled by creativity, and I want to see Wizards to continue to realize and promote this through Generals that keep the doors open to as many strategies and themes as possible.  
Have a great weekend, folks.

àDJ