Commander Top 10: Linvala, Shield Of Sea Gate

Bennie Smith builds his next Commander deck around Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate from Zendikar Rising.

Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate, illustrated by Wayne Reynolds
Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate, illustrated by Wayne Reynolds

The Commander hits keep coming from Zendikar Rising!  I’ve written about really cool decks already built around Orah, Skyclave Hierophant; Ashaya, Soul of the Wild; Charix, the Raging Isle; Omnath, Locus of Creation; and Kaza, Roil Chaser.  You can check out my archives if you missed any of them, but I’m not done yet!  This week, I want to talk about Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate, which is a format home run!

Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate

This is the sort of card that has such a bonkers rate that even if you’re not taking full advantage of the full party trigger, it’s still worth running in the 99 for just about any deck you can. For context, this is a staple for just about any white deck that runs creatures:

Selfless Spirit

For one more blue mana than Selfless Spirit, you get an extra point of power, two extra points of toughness, and the choice of making your team hexproof if that works better than indestructible for your circumstances. Like, maybe you have a creature that’s equipped with a Sword of Feast and Famine plus a Blackblade Reforged, you’re attacking for lethal, and your opponent wants to spoil things with a Swords to Plowshares

One of the coolest things about a card like this is just the threat of it warps the play patterns of your opponents. Are they going to waste a pinpoint removal spell on your biggest threat when it’ll just trade for Linvala?  Or will they cast Wrath of God with this on the battlefield?

Of course, the very coolest thing about Linvala is using it in conjunction with your own battlefield sweeper to blow away all your opponents’ creatures while yours survive and can now attack with no blockers.

Now, if you choose Linvala as your commander, it may behoove you to go ahead and design with Linvala’s full party trigger in mind—slapping a virtual Suppression Bonds on the scariest nonland permanent each turn is pretty sweet!  Though keep in mind there’s a window of opportunity for that permanent to use an activated ability during your turn before the attack step begins, so it’s not totally failsafe.  But the flexibility of changing targets as the battlefield develops and shifts is very nice.

So, is the deckbuilding effort and opportunity costs by filling your deck out with Clerics, Rogues, Warriors and Wizards worth it?  Well first off, you don’t need to worry as much about having enough Wizards in your deck since Linvala fills that role from the command zone, and when I took a look at the available Clerics, Rogues and Warriors in the Azorius color combination, there were more than enough high-quality cards to be totally worth the effort.   Plus, there are a couple of other full party payoffs that are worth achieving. 

So, let’s get brewing!

1. Squad Commander

Squad Commander

Speaking of full party payoffs, Squad Commander’s is one of the best!  Basically, it gives your team Linvala’s indestructible ability for free that turn once you begin combat, plus a power boost. While you won’t be able to combo with a battlefield sweeper like Wrath of God to remove blockers, you can certainly cast Wrath post-combat to sweep away everyone else’s creatures.

And this isn’t even considering the Kor Warrior tokens it could generate just entering the battlefield, so if someone gets rid of Squad Commander you’ve still got the Warrior side of the party covered.

Speaking of Warriors, I found a fair number of other Warrior creatures that do cool stuff while helping to assemble your party:

Glory-Bound Initiate Seasoned Hallowblade Devoted Crop-Mate Ironclad Slayer Solemn Recruit Jazal Goldmane Avenging Huntbonder Stonehewer Giant

I love that Solemn Recruit’s revolt ability can be easily triggered by Linvala’s sacrifice during your turn, helping it hit even harder the following turns.

2. Nimble Trapfinder

Nimble Trapfinder

On the Rogue side of the party we have yet another amazing full party payoff with Nimble Trapfinder.  Each creature you control that deals combat damage to a player draws a card?  Yes, please!  Just be careful you don’t deck yourself.

I’ve included some other good Rogue creatures too:

Ghostly Pilferer Nightveil Sprite Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive Thieving Skydiver Brazen Borrower Glasspool Mimic Sakashima the Impostor Keeper of Keys

Glasspool Mimic is an absolute hero in this deck—not only can you play its backside Glasspool Shore if you need the land, but it’s amazing you can copy the best creature on the battlefield (that’s not one of your own legendary creatures) and it still remains a Rogue for your party.

We can’t say the same about Sakashima the Impostor, but it’s nice that it could copy Linvala for extra full party triggers and backup sacrifice ability, and if you absolutely need to have a Rogue to complete your full party Sakashima can just be a 3/1 Human Rogue.  Later, once you draw a Rogue, you can bounce Sakashima to your hand and recast it later to copy something sweet.

3. Grand Abolisher

Grand Abolisher

The party payoff in Clerics – Archpriest of Iona – is definitely scaled to be much better in a duel than multiplayer, so for the Cleric representative in our Top 10 list that honor goes to Grand Abolisher. It’s nothing all too fancy, just a 2/2 for two mana, but that text box is incredibly helpful in ensuring that you can assemble your full party unmolested or pull together combos with Linvala. 

For instance, you may be a little leery of sacrificing Linvala to make your team indestructible, let her go to your graveyard, and then be able to attack with Bishop of Rebirth to bring her back if you couldn’t shut the door on most interaction from your opponents.

Here are some other Clerics that do good work for Commander:

Archpriest of Iona Mother of Runes Auriok Champion Niambi, Esteemed Speaker Remorseful Cleric Selfless Spirit Mangara, the Diplomat Bishop of Rebirth

Hey look, Selfless Spirit is a Cleric!

4. Magus of the Disk

Magus of the Disk

Linvala quite capably covers the Wizard side of the full party, but there were a few other Wizards that seemed worth the slots, and the best of the bunch is Magus of the Disk. It obviously combos quite nicely with Linvala’s ability to make your creatures indestructible, and since it’s a Wizard that now won’t die to its own ability, you can keep the full party triggers intact.

Siren Stormtamer Mystic Archaeologist Rayne, Academy Chancellor

5. Unsettled Mariner

Unsettled Mariner

Another cool thing we can explore is adding in good creatures that have the changeling ability, and since they’re all creature types they can fill the role of one of your missing full party members. Just keep in mind that any one creature can only fill one part of the full party even if it counts as any creature type. I like Unsettled Mariner because it’s cheap and it taxes your opponents’ targeted spells or abilities, making it harder for them to interfere in your party plans.

Shapesharer Oketra's Monument

Shapesharer is another good one, like a mini-Sakashima the Impostor, filling a role in your full party if you need it, but being able to copy something sweet on the battlefield if you need that instead.

Oketra’s Monument does some work here. Shaving a mana off Linvala is nice when you’re probably going to have commander tax adding up, and each time you cast a creature you automatically get a Warrior for your party, or just chump-blocking duties.

6. Supreme Verdict

Supreme Verdict

Having your commander give your team indestructible is such a fantastic combo with battlefield sweepers I made sure to find room for a fair number of them and since we have access to blue we can play with the best of them all—Supreme Verdict, which cannot be countered.  Boom!  Bye-bye to everyone else’s monsters, and here comes my team rumbling into the red zone.

In addition to the sweepers, I’ve included some pinpoint removal spells and ways to handle noncreature permanents too:

Swords to Plowshares Reality Shift Generous Gift Forsake the Worldly Wrath of God Crush Contraband Cleansing Nova

7. Sun Titan

Sun Titan

Even though Linvala will help protect your team from a lot of removal, sometimes your creatures are going to end up in the graveyard. Bishop of Rebirth is a Cleric that can help with that, but we can add redundancy with the amazing Sun Titan

Sure, it doesn’t directly help build your party, but its triggered ability will likely bring back a creature that will help build your party. Plus, it’s can bring back any permanent with converted mana cost 3 or less so it’s quite flexible.

Here are a few other ways we can make our creatures even more durable:

Nim Deathmantle Cauldron of Souls

8. Spoils of Adventure

Spoils of Adventure

We are an Azorius deck, which means we have some great choices for card drawing and an easy one to slot in here is the amazing party payoff spell Spoils of Adventure. With no creatures on the battlefield it’s straight-up a slightly easier to cast Sphinx’s Revelation for three, but odds are going to be pretty good you can get several points of mana discounted.  And with full party?  We’ve got an Azorius version of Lightning Helix, but instead of the Lightning Bolt side we get Ancestral Recall.   Yeah, that sounds fair!

Path of Ancestry Castle Vantress Lonely Sandbar Desert of the Mindful Secluded Steppe Desert of the True Skullclamp Impulse Supreme Will Sphinx's Revelation

I’ve include Impulse and Supreme Will as card selection spells rather than raw card drawing with the idea that sometimes you’ll just want to dig for one more creature to get the full party.

9. Sword of the Animist

Sword of the Animist

The mana curve on this deck is pretty low but we’re still going to want a lot of mana ramp available, and since our deck has a lot of cheap creatures to try to fill out a party, Sword of the Animist is simply fantastic ramp.

Myriad Landscape Sol Ring Wayfarer's Bauble Talisman of Progress Azorius Signet Arcane Signet

10. Shadowspear


Leaning hard into full party shenanigans doesn’t leave room for much else, but I still wanted to fill a few slots with interaction. Shadowspear does a great job of putting a dent into your opponents’ trying to make their own creatures hexproof or indestructible—folks, there’s little better feeling than blowing up your opponent’s Avacyn, Angel of Hope with a Wrath of God, especially if your own team is indestructible.

We’ll round things out with a little graveyard control and a couple of counterspells:

Scavenger Grounds Tower of the Magistrate Dust Bowl Soul-Guide Lantern Swan Song Arcane Denial

Okay, so here’s how the deck ended up:

Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 10-17-2020
Magic Card Back

Here’s how the deck looks graphically, thanks to our friends at Archidekt:

What do you think?  Are there any cards I’ve overlooked?  If you see any new cards from Zendikar Rising that should find a home here, let me know! 

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And lastly, I just want to say: let us love each other and stay healthy and happy. 

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