“We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” – Martin Luther King.
I could not agree more.
Many great men and women have walked the earth before we – through the cycle of birth and death – learn of its wonder and beauty firsthand. Countless lifetimes and tales, triumphs and tragedies, marvels, masterpieces and mishaps of epic proportion litter the halls of history, many of which are sadly forgotten with the passing winds of time. Some people, however, make enough of a fuss, for better or worse, to have their legend pass through time for future generations to learn from. These people’s names had passed from mouth to mouth, mind to mind, and heart to heart long before we took adequate note. Before the time of the internet – nay, the printing press or even further still when books were scribed by hand or chiseled into stone – humans have been passing information to better understand the intricacies of the universe, the heights that their enlightenment rest upon and the names of those bold enough to seek it. For these reasons and more, I am a history buff, and the “historic” mechanic being introduced in Dominaria to my long-time mistress, Magic: the Gathering (I call her Midge) has created the most interesting interactions in the game since Mirrodin made its well-deserved dent in the Glimmervoid, if you will, and deserves a deep dive to do it justice.
Let us start, as history would prefer, at the beginning…
It was the start of a new era, as Mirage began the three-set expansion release format and the introduction of the metaplot that would set the Magic lore all the way up to Khans of Tarkir before WOTC dipped its toes into the tempting and oft-satisfying “time-travel-stuff” box on the shelf in the garage. I joined the game at the beginning of this time-bubble, and the first card I remembered seeing was a Brainstorm as Ige Age was rotating. Between these bookends of playsets rests a myriad of tales that would shape the landscape of lore and card design for many years to come, all heavily influenced by the debut of the Weatherlight crew that capped the expansion off after Visions and the rippling effects that their epic battle to stop Yawgmoth’s Phyrexian invasion had wrought upon the multiverse. The ‘Abduction’ of Captain Sisay, their harrowing battle through Volrath’s Stronghold on Rath to rescue her and Karn set the stakes; shenanigans and political mischief run rampant throughout the Mercadian Masques block set the stage; Urza’s Block, rife with revelations of a slew of key characters, Jhoira and Teferi included, set the tone and the culmination of this Homeric tale as Yawgmoth’s final thrust is thwarted by the long-sought “Legacy Weapon” set the summit just high enough to show that unity in purpose can defeat any evil that challenges that ideal.
It gives me the tinglies just thinking about it.
Books to support and explain the backstory of the rich characters have been released over the years, and I highly recommend reading any you can find (especially for a favorite set; Apocalypse was EPIC, and, for Squee fans, a must-read), but the pièce de résistance is The Thran by J. Robert King. It is the prequel to the Invasion Cycle and the Weatherlight crew, respectively. Without giving too much of the book away, it catalogues Yawgmoth’s first rise to power and steps towards near-godhood, and the unfortunate fates of those alive to witness his first assertion of dominance over Dominaria. He had many followers, one named Gix in particular, who’s fate is left unknown, and he also had followers, whose name is mentioned in Dominaria, the set we took this LONG journey to talk about.
She is Rona, Disciple of Gix.
I know what you may be thinking: Rona? Some random uncommon? 2020 wasn’t enough? SERIOUSLY?!?!
Not at all. I have been tinkering with this deck since the set released and introduced “guild wars” to my playgroup. We all chose a guild from Ravnica and had them on standby for challenges from anyone participating. I chose Dimir, acquired a foil Rona (because it made her Phyrexian eye glow red and, I mean, check that ‘fro, BABY!) and began to brew my favorite commander deck.
Suffice to say, I could not be happier. Read the card a few times. In the psychographic profiles of players, it is very Johnny, and has a tinge of Spike “Tuner” archetype in her also, much like me, and when I say very, I mean very much so. Her ability even costs four, just like Johnny, Combo Player (although it taps to limit it), and plays cards from outside the game that are influenced by said ability. Not to mention her ETB trigger that exiles a historic card for play later if she remains safe with your ill-gotten gains is a joy to abuse, since it essentially reads “draw a card” when timed properly to squeeze advantage out of idle play.
I drooled at the opportunity to try to break it. The historic mechanic gave me plenty of options: artifacts, legendaries, and sagas are all under the banner and it was easy to see what it wanted to do at first, utilizing tech creatures and permanents under the umbrella with enough power to hold a slot or some crazy combo that is easily retrievable by Rona in case someone gets to bashing my toys. I already had the core of a Sharuum the Hegemon deck I have decommissioned for a while lying about, so the build felt catered to my play style of reanimator and soon received the five-star treatment any pet deck deserves: Mana Crypt. I made all the cuts and swaps necessary to streamline it, but a recent erratum change made it much more interesting. Planeswalkers were legendary permanents now.
I immediately set about finding which ones fit best in the deck, and, as one who preaches synergy above all, I chose the four most powerful of the Tezzerets and added them to the deck, including Karn, the Great Creator and Karn Liberated to round out the roster, because of course I would. With all the obvious ramp you would play in this build, being able to sacrifice and reuse cards like Hedron Archive and Dreamstone Hedron for their card advantages and their mana abilities often, there are a ton of artifacts in this deck, alluding to the necessary Conjurer’s Closet that tie the whole thing together tightly with a neat little bow.
Needlessly to say, the current decklist is included with this list, bells, whistles and all, but it really shifted gears with these twin revelations, as in its infancy I relied on bounce effects more so to keep it versatile and it evolved so much that there is a full “B” build on my shelf to bequeath to another player if need be. With the addition of slick cards like Phyrexian Metamorph, Sculpting Steel, and Mimic Vat, paired with a Trading Post to transmogrify anything in my possession into some other useful thing, I began to feel like I had built Rona into a museum of sorts. It features cards from across the Magic landscape, from Sol Ring to Urza, Lord High Artificer. Many of the creatures have amazing ETB effects, and the power of the Closet made me think: If she goes through the closet to meet these characters and treasures abound, what would her perspective be from meeting these characters out of time? What would she learn?
Now, it had a deeper purpose. It had depth. It had acquired its own lore.
I reimagined her as a time bandit of sorts. Having a background in Tolarian tradition while also being a member of the Society of Mishra (making her adept with biomechanical magic to alter her human form to approach the “completation” Gix had achieved), her story is left open to interpretation as her origins are not defined. I made her Magic’s version of Marvel’s time heist, with her popping through time for treasures and tutelage from the greats of the Magic timeline if she knew who to ask and what to look for. Being of age in the mending years of Dominaria, it was easy to imagine it as so, and the deck took form.
Rona, Disciple of Gix EDH
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Rona sits satisfied deep in her treasure trove laden with all the gadgets, trinkets and gizmos to make her THE most fun of the legendary creatures that use historic in commander. With access to cards such as Nevinyrral’s Disk ready to combo with the Soul Of New Phyrexia, another fun 4-card hidden combo in my build, and the best Planeswalkers, Legendary tech creatures and Sagas to keep play strong, synergistic as well as dynamic, she is no slouch and can hold a table of 4 or more if left to squeeze card advantage in the shadows. It can and will suffer to aggro, as any control deck does, but it can respond with its own brand of muscle to change the pace of a game in a snap. It hovers dangerously close to being a colorless deck, so there is a Blue Sun’s Zenith included to remind me it’s still a blue deck. No counterspells, however (besides Venser, Shaper Savant, of course). Reanimator builds rarely need them, and this deck basically reads, “Pay 1UB: you may cast target historic card from your graveyard,” and THAT’S rad.
The deck has more than just options. It has imagination.
Time will tell which direction the deck will go beyond this build…but in the meanwhile, let us continue to believe and appreciate the magic of unity and continue to believe in OUR heroes, for even if they are now absent, we will pick up their swords and flags to fight on; they will live on in our hearts and minds; they will always be historic.