Magic Memories: Sengir Autocrat

Discussion in 'Single Card Strategies' started by Oversoul, Feb 6, 2018.

  1. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Ha, didn't expect that one, did you? Or perhaps you did. I don't know.

    Homelands is almost universally panned as the worst Magic set. And on that topic, I'm not really interested in swaying from public opinion. There are other contenders, and it really all depends on how you weigh different aspects. But in general, yeah, Homelands was the worst.

    While the mechanics are lackluster and the cards are overcosted (hint: the cards are overcosted because the mechanics are lackluster, a bit of a secret you very likely won't see stated anywhere else), the lore of Ulgrotha, the plane created for Homelands does see some praise. My own reaction is, well, mixed. Positive, overall, I'd say. I'm mostly amused that the story of Homelands creates a bit of a problem for any future return to the plane, which WotC will inevitably retcon with some absurd revisions...

    So, in the story as it is now presented, Nicol Bolas is set up to be the Big Bad. He's the oldest pre-mending planeswalker anyone seems to know about, and he's apparently capable of charging headlong into a pantheon of gods and utterly trouncing them. Not only that, but he used to be even more powerful before the mending. In my own opinion, the character worked better as a puppetmaster and schemer than he does as nigh-omnipotent god-smasher, but that's the direction in which WotC decided to move this. Anyway...

    The backstory for Legends wasn't done away with entirely, so it's still canonical that the five elder dragons (including Bolas) were the survivors of a great war and that they were summoned and used as weapons by ancient planeswalkers, sometimes outright enslaved by them. Because elder dragons were powerful, but planeswalkers could be powerful enough to do that and get away with it. Nicol Bolas became a planeswalker himself, but he fought other planeswalker and we have no reason to believe that by virtue of his being an elder dragon he completely outclassed all other planeswalkers. Some were weaker than him, but others might not be. He had an extended duel with a "demonic leviathan." He fought Leshrac and struggled against him, but ultimately won through trickery. So pre-mending, Nicol Bolas was a powerful planeswalker, maybe one of the most powerful, but not in a league of his own.

    One of the most important planeswalkers in Dominaria (the most important plane) was Serra. While I don't think it's ever outright stated that Serra is more powerful than most other planeswalkers, she does do some spectacular things, like creating powerful angels and Serra's Realm, which Urza needed to use for the Legacy. Urza was canonically established to be one of the most powerful planeswalkers, so it seems likely that if she was doing something he couldn't, Serra herself was extremely powerful too (granted, they specialized in different types of magic, but pre-mending planeswalkers were already established to have little trouble with most ordinary kinds of magic). Also, it just strikes me as implausible and silly for one of the most iconic planeswalkers in Magic's history, one of the original names used in Alpha itself, to turn out to be a run-of-the-mill planeswalker. No, Serra simply had to be extraordinary. Maybe not as powerful as Nicol Bolas, but still a very, very powerful planeswalker.

    After sacrificing her Realm to help fight the Phyrexians, Serra traveled to Ulgrotha, where she met and married Feroz. There, the two planeswalkers, united, opposed Baron Sengir, but could not defeat him. Feroz accidentally blew himself up, and then later Serra fled the realm after a confrontation with Baron Sengir. Maybe Feroz wasn't as powerful as Serra, but they'd still be two planeswalkers, at least one of which was extraordinary. They couldn't beat Baron Sengir. They couldn't even come close. Baron Sengir also took control of another planeswalker, Ravi. So, Baron Sengir wasn't a planeswalker, but he was able to surpass the power of at least some pre-mending planeswalkers. It was also established canonically that the mending massively scaled down the power of the planeswalker spark. All planeswalkers in the multiverse, Nicol Bolas included, lost a tremendous amount of their power. And it is this post-mending Nicol Bolas who is the current Big Bad in the lore. But if Baron Sengir was more powerful than some pre-mending planeswalkers, enslaved Ravi, and drove off Serra and Feroz, and if his power has only grown in the years since (also evidenced: Leshrac visited Ulgrotha and had no desire to tangle with the Baron), it stands to reason that the current Baron Sengir would spank Nicol Bolas like a baby—to say nothing of how easily he'd dispatch the good guys.

    I do think that the story will eventually see a return to Ulgrotha. But they're going to have to make up some clumsy excuse for why Baron Sengir isn't, by this point, untouchably powerful, utterly dominant over just about anything else in the multiverse that might face him. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

    But as for Sengir Autocrat, the card is among my favorite creatures, and one of the few cards in Homelands that manages to be cool on every level.
    Psarketos likes this.
  2. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    In official communications, WotC tend to use the word "mechanic" to describe new rules concepts that apply to multiple cards in a set. So, if just one card does something, it's just what that card does. But if a set has several cards with some common feature, that common feature might be called a mechanic. As far as the rules are concerned, this distinction is irrelevant. I checked Comprehensive Rules. They only use the word in two cases: when addressing the word "Assemble" (because of Steamflogger Boss) in noting that the mechanics from Unstable are not included in the Comprehensive Rules and that information can be sought out in a separate FAQ, and in an unrelated use when listing the cards in Antiquities for the rules description of Golgothian Sylex (because of Orcish Mechanics).

    But I'd grown used to "mechanics" being talked about as shared abilities like "the new mechanic in Rivals of Ixalan is Ascend." So I was actually a bit surprised when, in the Kaervek's Torch thread, Psarketos cited "exile" as a favorite "mechanic." Because that's extremely broad and not normally discussed as being a mechanic. And yet, of course it is. This got me thinking about a broader use of "mechanic" as a term and my favorite mechanic, or one of them anyway, might be "sacrifice." Coincidentally, just like with Exile, it's named after a card.
    Although it is included in the best Magic set, I admit that I hardly ever used the card Sacrifice. Before I ever owned a copy, I was already using the upgraded version.

    Behold, a gallery of some of my memorable sacrifice-based cards...

    I could go on. Way on, really. That's probably too many already. But yeah, I'm a big fan of sacrificing stuff. And that goes hand-in-hand with a proclivity for cards that give me stuff to sacrifice. Battle for Zendikar gave us this little toy...

    I was enamored with it. Still am. Brood Monitor is great fun. I think part of this, though, is that it's one creature that comes packaged with three more. And that's familiar, because that's Sengir Autocrat.
  3. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Oh man, I was browsing old posts and came across this. I had completely forgotten that deck, and I can only assume I never actually played it...

    4 Royal Assassin
    4 Living Plane
    4 Opposition
    4 Deranged Hermit
    4 Sengir Autocrat
    4 Sandbar Merfolk
    2 Cloud of Faeries
    4 Dark Ritual
    4 Will-O'-The-Wisp
    4 Chatter of the Squirrel
    2 Windswept Heath
    4 Polluted Delta
    4 City of Brass
    4 Bayou
    4 Tropical Island
    4 Underground Sea

    The idea, apparently, was to use a surfeit of tokens to tap lock down the opponent's lands, and with Living Plane making all lands creatures, use Royal Assassin to kill all of the opponent's lands (and creatures too). Deranged Hermit is an obvious pick for this sort of thing, and I can see how Sengir Autocrat was another reasonable inclusion. This deck is probably not actually good, but it might constitute (further) evidence that I am, in fact, a jerk.
  4. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I already talked about Hecatomb in the Memories thread for Corrupt, on account of my old Fun With Swamps deck. I didn't really use Hecatomb much beyond that deck, and ultimately I preferred Pestilence, although the enchantments do perform somewhat similar roles. Hecatomb would have been a big deal if not for its EtB trigger. Three mana is pretty cheap and being able to turn every swamp into a virtual Prodigal Sorcerer is a strong effect. Because it doesn't hurt you or your own creatures, you have more freedom to use it in a tactical manner, and most decks can't flood the board with creatures quickly enough to overtake it. But sacrificing four creatures? That's asking a lot. My go-to approach was to Dark Ritual out Sengir Autocrat on my second turn, then cast Hecatomb on my third turn. Strong aggro decks could simply outrace that, but hey, it was a reasonably fun casual deck. Hecatomb needs four creatures, Sengir Autocrat provides four creatures in one card. It's a match made in...uh...somewhere dark and scary, I guess.
  5. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    "It wears the souls of its victims like jewels on a chain."

    At some point in high school, the notion of a first-turn 6/6 trampler appealed to me, and I set about making a deck to achieve that. I named it "Chain of Souls" after Delraich's flavor text...

    It wasn't an especially consistent deck, but it definitely had its moments. I'm trying to remember why I wouldn't have kept that deck around for longer, but nothing comes to mind. Sadly, it was all several years before the advent of this little demon...

    Riskier than Delraich because you're giving up on more than just card advantage if it gets hit by removal, but still pretty cool!
  6. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Black also gets its share of creatures inspired by Lord of the Pit. Big creatures, usually either demons or horrors, that are impressive in combat but have an upkeep requirement to sacrifice a creature or else bad things happen. That bad thing can be as simple as "you lose your big guy" (Devouring Strossus), as harsh as "you big guy hurts you and gets tapped" (Minion of Leshrac), or as convoluted as "put a -2/-2 counter on your big guy, but then you can sacrifice a creature and get rid of the -2/-2 counter, but if the creature you sacrificed was a thrull, then you also get to put a +1/+0 counter on your big guy" (Ebon Praetor). These guys won't tend to hit the board as quickly as Delraich, but there's less of a card disadvantage problem. Sengir Autocrat can feed these monsters for at least four turns, which should be plenty.

    Heh. WotC loves mechanics with +1/+1 counters and -1/-1 counters these days, and they even simplified the system by making the counters cancel each other out. But historically, they were more open about different kinds of power/toughness counters. There was even one with -1/-0 counters!


    As far as I know, that's the only way in the entire game to get power-lowering counters on a creature without changing its toughness. No practical application for that, but it is interesting. Anyway, Ebon Praetor and Dwarven Armorer are the only two cards I know of that can add multiple types of, uh, nonstandard counters to the same creature (Dwarven Armorer can do +1/+0 counters and +0/+1 counters, Ebon Praetor can do -2/-2 counters and +1/+0 counters). Obviously WotC can't do much about the asymmetrical counters, but I'm a bit surprised that they never revised the +2/+2 counters and -2/-2 counters to fit with their modern vision. Ebon Praetor is the only one that has one and also has an asymmetrical counter. The others, like Tin-Wing Chimera, look pretty straightforward.

    Also, did I mention that Ebon Praetor has the best art? Because it does.


    I don't know how much of the card mechanically was established before or after the art was in, but I always assumed that the idea was that the little blue guy was a thrull and that the two creatures holding it were presenting it as a sacrifice to the Ebon Praetor. I've since learned that there have been other interpretations (some people seem to think that the card represents a disupte and that the Ebon Praetor is mediating which of the two gets custody of the little blue guy or something), but I still think mine makes the most sense (and the artist's comment doesn't rule out that possibility, really).

    Sengir Autocrat didn't make thrulls, so it didn't fully optimize Ebon Praetor, but it was still a pretty good interaction.
  7. Oversoul The Tentacled One


    Sengir Autocrat made it into the core set for Fifth and Sixth Editions, and was later reprinted as a timeshifted card in Time Spiral and then again in Eternal Masters. Notably, the Sixth Edition text was responsible for changing the LtB trigger from killing the serfs to exiling them. I have never seen this matter in a real game.
  8. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician

    "I cast Heroic Intervention to save my Serf tokens! Oh no, WotC why?!"
    Oversoul likes this.
  9. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Exactly! I've never seen it come up, but it is a possibility. I almost always used the Serf tokens as sacrificial victims, and not in decks for which the Autocrat dying and exiling the tokens would be noticeably different from the Autocrat dying and burying the tokens.

    Based on the way WotC handles errata, it's very likely the case that if Sengir Autocrat hadn't been reprinted in Sixth Edition, it would retain its original functionality.

    That being said, it might, hypothetically, matter in decks that aim for the Serf tokens to stick around longer. Heroic Intervention wasn't around back then, but I did have some fun with token generators and Bad Moon...

    There's no rule saying that the Serf tokens have to stay 0/1.
    Psarketos likes this.

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