How Good Is Elspeth Resplendent?
Hello everyone! There’s already a lot of super sweet cards spoiled from Streets of New Capenna, but one of the cards that’s been getting a whole lot of discussion is Elspeth Resplendent. Elspeth finally escaped her untimely demise from Heliod’s hands on Theros and made her way to the mafioso world of New Capenna! Now that she’s back, is she a great addition to Standard or will she be lost in the mix of great 5 drops?
So for starters, a 5 mana double White pip walker with 5 loyalty is more or less the standard now a days and should be relatively hard to kill in combat. Right now there really aren’t other 5 drop White cards that this will compete with which inherently helps with this card’s playability.
The +1 on Elspeth adds a +1/+1 counter on a creature and then adds a keyword amongst Flying, First Strike, Lifelink, or Vigilance which is a tough ability to gauge. Adding a counter and then a permanent keyword is a relatively great upgrade, but the question is whether or not that’s good enough on a 5 mana planeswalker. I feel like that’s a bit weak for an expensive walker, but this may play out better than it seems.
All that said, like many other 5 mana planeswalkers in Standard, Elspeth is going to be more about the minus ability. Elspeth’s -3 is pretty strong where you look at the top 7 cards, getting a permanent that’s 3 or less, and putting it right on the battlefield with a shield counter. What this is most often going to do is grab a 3 drop creature that’s harder to kill in combat, but at absolute worst, you’ll hit a smaller drop or even a land. My concern with this ability is that not only you have a chance of whiffing, but I’m unsure how strong a 3 drop with a Shield Counter even is. Compare that to Lolth, Spider Queen or Wrenn and Seven. Lolth makes two 2/1s with Menace and Reach where Wrenn can make a huge Treefolk with Reach. While there are fantastic 3 drops in White, having one that can just be destroyed with a kill spell and Elspeth presumably attacked down is a bit of a scary prospect. This is the same issue that Wrenn and Seven has, but again, it makes a much scarier token to compensate.
Finally, we get to Elspeth’s ultimate ability that makes five 3/3 Angel tokens. This is already a bit of a head scratcher as Angels are almost always 4/4s, but I digress. Making 15 power in the air is obviously very powerful, but I’m somewhat surprised that for a 5 mana planeswalker ultimate, this isn’t necessarily game ending. If you’re playing against a deck that can wrath the board, there’s a risk that it doesn’t do anything. Against most other decks, this will likely be game winning, but it’s something to consider.
So all in all, how would this card normally play out? Generally Elspeth is going to come in and plus on an existing creature or minus to find something to defend with. If you plussed, you’re likely to keep plussing to try and ultimate quickly and if you minused, you’ll obviously need to plus and you may just minus again the next turn. Both play patterns are solid, nothing too amazing, but definitely solid patterns. With those play patterns, a natural fit for Elspeth would be in a bigger variant of Mono White Aggro.
So how good is Elspeth? Overall, I think it’s fine, but far from great. I’m not thrilled with the play patterns compared to the other 5 mana walkers and I don’t see many decks that can make good use of this. I would love to be proven wrong as Elspeth giving a lot of buffs to creatures could be a powerful snowball that’s hard to stop, it seems you already have to be in a strong position to make the best use of it.
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