Some cards deserve more love that you’re currently giving. Maybe they came out before you started playing, and haven’t made it to the top of EDHREC. Maybe you drafted it, slotted it in your binder without a second a thought, and now it’s collecting dust. Maybe it’s always the first draft of your deck, but always ends up being your 101st card. No matter what, you should be playing: Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate.

Folks, it’s time we had a talk. I get it reading is hard. But sometimes you have to work your way through a paragraph on a card before you realize how bonkers it is.

Case in point – Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate

 

Nobody is taking Linvala seriously, but you definitely should. Don’t believe me? Let’s check out the stats from EDHREC. Linvala currently has a meger 45 decks listed. She’s the 26th most played Azorious commander (or the 12th least played if you want to think about it that way). 

OK, I get it you can’t compare her to all Magic. She’s new. So let’s look at how Linvala compares to some other new legends in Zendikar Rising:

I guess Linvala doesn’t need to be the most played commander in the set, but do we really think a  GW Elemental Pig is twice as exciting or powerful than Linvala? She’s an aggressive flier who’s better than Selfless Spirit at protecting your team. She’s in great colors. And she opens the door to a ton of really interesting interactions. 

Why You Want to Play Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate

You don’t have time to read all the words on a card. You want to build up massive board states of mediocre creatures. You don’t want to play Stax (but you kind of really want to play Stax). You’re Eddie Murphy’s girl because you like to party all the time.

Tech, Tactics, and Strategies

Until it’s recent reprinting, Heroic Intervention was a double-digit money card. Linvala does the same thing, but gives a 3/3 body to boot. Don’t underestimate this ability. Constant protection for your creatures means you can set up combos with little fear of having it split up. It means you get to survive wraths. Ultimately, it means you get to do what you want, when you want. 

I don’t think people recognize how this is the important part of Linvala. There are just too many words above her key ability, so we get confused and stop reading. The pseudo-detain ability is nice, but not really what this card is about. 

While we might occasionally get to party, we will be able to lock down the board and build up an army of unsung heros ready to dominate your local pod. 

You get a wrath, and you get a wrath, and…

Throughout its history, Commander has put a lot of value in cards that help you recover from Wrath of God effects. Cards like Ghostaway, Eerie Interlude, and the aforementioned Heroic Intervention have a lot of value, but the big one is keeping your creatures alive when someone wipes the board. 

Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate has a similar ability – with one major and important difference. With Linvala, you don’t have to keep up mana in order to protect your team. You are free to keep developing your board. 

Most importantly, it gives you the chance to proactively wrath at reasonable mana costs. There are some fringe decks that try to cast both a Ghostaway and a Supreme Verdict on the same turn. But that costs seven mana, and you don’t even get a chance to take advantage of the clean board until everyone else has a turn. But with Linvala, you can pull that off with only four mana on a turn AND your guys will still be around to do some damage. 

If you’re going to be wrathing a bunch, Linvala is going to need to find new ways to get into play. Casting her for three is great. Five is doable. But it really starts hurting when you get to the seven-mana range. Luckily, white provides some great reanimation tools that work perfectly with Linvala. Imagine that scenario we talked about above, but this time you also have a Sun Titan in play. Now you sac Linvala, wrath, attack, and get a sparkly new Linvala back onto the battlefield. 

Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle is similar. She turns all your late games “useless” mana rocks into extra Linvalas. Your opponent’s will have a really hard time keeping you down with these types of advantages.

Life of the Party

Earlier I mentioned that Linvala’s party ability isn’t really what we care about, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore it entirely. If you have access to a full party after your wrath tricks, you can invalidate another players comeback attempt. You can also force them to commit even more resources to the board so your next wrath is even better. 

The challenge is there are few UW rogues and warriors actually worth playing in this deck. Linvala herself is a wizard, so you’ve got that role covered. And there a ton of worthwhile clerics. But the math just doesn’t work if you are trying to get to a full party naturally in these colors. 

Playing changelings helps some. Mirror Entity is a great card. If you lean into the traditional UW blink abilities, then Irregular Cohort becomes interesting. 

What I actually care about is making my own party. With Unnatural Selection, Imagecrafter, and Amoeboid Changeling (double dip!) you can pretty easily make sure you have a full party whenever you want one.

Changing creature types also opens the door to a ton of interesting, yet unplayed cards. Have you seen Mercenary Informer? He’s repeatable removal that gets rid of indestructibles. Undead Slayer is similar. Tivadar of Thorn points you back to the bounce direction. My favorite is Rashida Scalebane. There are plenty of dragon’s running around commander tables, but now you’ll always have a target. 

All of these activated abilities synergize with Linvala. Normally, you’d think twice about running a 5cc card that doesn’t give you any value until your next turn. They are just too vulnerable. But with Linvala in play, you can be generally confident that you’ll get to use your investment.

Into the Unknown

While we’re on the topic of protecting our investments, I want to draw our attention to one of my favorite underappreciated mechanics. If we are comfortable building out a go-wide board of creatures, we should really take a look at morph and manifest. Often these mechanics get sidelined because they aren’t efficient. They offer some really interesting game play, but it’s really hard to justify a three mana investment that might get blown up before you have a chance to do anything with it. 

But with Linvala around, manifest becomes a powerful advantage engine. 

Mastery of the Unseen let’s you draw cards throughout the entire game. It gives you an instant speed board presence with some significant potential upsides. Primordial Mist is similar. It’s a bit slower, but in the right deck it can be better than Phyrexian Arena

One of the secret power cards in this deck is Scroll of Fate. All of the sudden you don’t need to pay three for those morphs any more. It turns extra lands into something that might help you win. On top of it all, Scroll of Fate does a pretty good Vedalken Orrery impression. You can activate it on your opponent’s turns to drop a dude into play. This works especially well with all the activated abilities in this deck. It’s a great way to get around summoning sickness, and ensure that you get at least one activation from your guys. 

With all these powerful manifest engines, it makes sense to play a few morphs. We’re not going overboard here, but a handful of carefully selected morphs gives you even more value. Imagecrafter shows up again in this section alongside great surprise cards like Willbender and Chromeshell Crab. Hidden Dragonslayer gets bonus points for being a warrior. But my favorite is Frontline Strategist. With a Scroll of Fate and a single white mana, your shields are never down. 

Linvala’s Bouncy House

I’ve mentioned it a couple times already, but the bounce/flicker mechanic is one of UW’s signature moves. And it is SO GOOD here. 

Flickering manifested cards gets you around mana costs and eliminates most of the downside for manifesting non-creatures. If you manifest a noncreature permanent, it will come back into play sort of like if you simply cast it. Blinking a manifest can turn into extra lands, a planeswalker, or something much worse. Even if you only blink a creature, you can still save a ton on mana and trigger some abilities. 

The key is having good blinkers. Venser, the Sojourner is one of my all-time favorite cards. Not only does he give you a mana free blink engine, but he also serves as a game winner all by himself. Mistmeadow Witch and Eldrazi Displacer are two of the cheaper blink creatures. You could go heavier with favs like Deadeye Navigator, but be careful not to make your blinkers too expensive. You want to be investing on the board, not taking a turn off to cast an engine piece. 

There’s no lack of blink targets too. In addition to our manifests, we’ve already mentioned cards like Sun Titan and Tivadar of Thorn. But also look at Fiend Hunter, Archaeomancer (gets wraths back), and Thalia’s Lancer (finds Venser).

Breaking Hearts and Wills

All of the engines we’ve covered up to this point are intricate, interlocking pieces that create a surprisingly robust machine. But you might have some trouble winning the game. Sometimes you need a card to just dominate a table. For us that’s Willbreaker

I love Willbreaker in this deck. He’s potentially expensive, but we have ways to cheat him into play. We have a ton of targeting abilities from guys like Imagecrafter and Fatesticher. Linvala protects him. He’s even better than Detain as a way to ensure your opponents can’t come back after a wrath. He even supercharges cards like Unnatural Selection that don’t look like they do all that much. 

Willbreaker is so important we need to make sure we’ve got ways to find him and back him up. The first is Dismiss into Dream. This enchantment is super expensive, but we’re never paying full retail for it. It is a perfect manifest and blink target (that can incidentally be grabbed with Enlightened Tutor). 

The second key card is Vedalken Aethermage. I don’t think anyone really thinks too much about this little guy – and when they do it is almost always for Wizard tribal decks. We’re definitely using his Wizardcycling ability here to grab Willbreaker (or Amoeboid Changeling if we already have the breaker), but that’s not all he does. Vedalken Aethermage becomes a key cog in our machine. He gets brought back with Teshar and Reveilark. He gets regularly flickered. And he gives you a good reason to turn your opponent’s creatures into Slivers. Not bad for a forgotten two drop.

So What Does a Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate Deck Look Like?

Linvala is a powerful commander that protects your key strategy. She’s super flexible and gives you a ton of options when it comes to deck building. You can go with a Voltron strategy because she’s an aggressive 3/3 flier. You can heavy-up on wraths and aggro creatures. I think you can even play hard with creature types and run Arcane Adaption and Rebels. 

This week, we’re going a little weirder. We’re using Linvala’s presence to allow us to develop a board full of combos. We’re using every part of the buffalo to change creature types, flicker, manifest, and activated abilities to create a surprisingly aggressive and disruptive type of Azorious deck.

This deck is intricate. Every piece combos with two or three others to produce value. There are some many combos that I couldn’t cover all of them in here. Take a look at the deck list below and sound off in the comments with the coolest synergies you can uncover.

Linvala, Shiled of Sea Gate | Commander

Commander (1)
Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate

Creatures1 Frontline Strategist (32)
Willbender
Hidden Dragonslayer
Chromeshell Crab
Vesuvan Shapeshifter
Imagecrafter
Amoeboid Changeling
Alphetto Alchemist
Fatestitcher
Arcanis the Omnipotent
Mistmeadow Witch
Eldrazi Displacer
Fiend Hunter
Archaeomancer
Venser, Shaper Savant
Thalia’s Lancers
Revilark
Vedalken Aethermage
Willbreaker
Mercenary Informer
Tivadar of Thorn
Undead Slayer
Rashida Scalebane
Irregular Cohort
Mirror Entity
Weathered Wayfarer
Eight-and-a-Half Tails
Soltari Visionary
Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle
Frontline Medic
Oketra the True
Sphinx of the Magosi
Sun Titan

Planeswalkers1 Venser, the Sojourner (1)
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Enchantments1 Unnatural Selection (7)
Mastery of the Unseen
Land Tax
Rhystic Study
Smothering Tithe
Bident of Thassa
Leyline of Anticipation
Dismiss Into Dream

Instants & Sorceries1 Eerie Interlude (10)
Enlightened Tutor
Counterspell
Arcane Denial
Muddle the Mixture
Fact or Fiction
Sphinx’s Revelation
Supreme Verdict
Wrath of God
Rout
Austere Command

Artifacts1 Lightning Greaves (8)
Scroll Rack
Puppet Strings
Scroll of Fate
Sol Ring
Arcane Signet
Talisman of Progress
Mind Stone
Firemind Vessel

Lands1 Command Tower (35)
Skycloud Expanse
Prairie Stream
Celestial Colonnade
Azorious Chancery
Hallowed Fountain
Seachrome Coast
Temple of Enlightenment
Kor Haven
Winding Canyons
Zoetic Cavern
Temple of the False God
Ancient Tomb
Hall of Heliod’s Generosity
Strip Mine
Lonely Sandbar
Minamo, School at the Water’s Edge
Secluded Steppe
Plains
Islands