Ranar the Ever-Watchful is one of two Commanders leading the Commander decks being released alongside Kaldheim. Unlike his Elf counterpart in Lathril, Blade of Elves, who is quite straightforward, Ranar was released to power up a brand new mechanic in Foretell. But, Ranar has an additional ability that makes him useful in existing Commander decks without cards having Foretell.
What is Foretell? Before the details of the mechanic were revealed, many players speculated that it was like the Forecast mechanic in the Time Spiral block. It allowed you to reveal the card from your hand to activate a Forecast effect for some amount of mana. Considering the context of Ranar’s second ability, it seemed likely has something to do with exiling a card from your hand.
Indeed, Foretell does involve exiling a card from your hand. You pay 2 generic mana to remove a card with Foretell from your hand in exile face-down. You can then cast that card on a future turn for its Foretell cost. Notably, this allows you not only to play a card for a lesser mana cost later, but it also allows you to dodge discard spells and means you aren’t ever truly empty-handed.
While Foretell isn’t a huge cost reducer like Suspend was, essentially “paying” for the cost of the spell by delaying its casting for several turns, splitting the cost of casting a card is neat. While some players may argue that you’re giving up a turn using the Foretell ability of a card, it gives you a mana sink for turns where you may have not had a play otherwise. The fact that Ranar makes the first Foretell ability you use in a turn free makes it an even better mechanic. It’s far from the first time that Wizards has pushed a mechanic with a Commander deck, and it’s surely not to be the last.
While it’s neat to be able to use such the Foretell ability for free once per turn, the true power of Ranar comes in his second ability. The second ability reads: “Whenever you exile one or more cards from your hand and/or permanents from the battlefield, create a 1/1 white Spirit creature token with flying.” That doesn’t sound like much, especially as it doesn’t give you a token for each card or permanent going into exile, but just per exile trigger. Still, there are plenty of decks already in Commander who rely on permanents being exiled from the battlefield and returning either right away (aka “blinking”) or at the end of the turn.
Spirits are a pretty good tribe in Magic to begin with, and they were a competitive deck for some time. It’s possible Ranar could put the tribe back into the competitive mix, especially as Spirits are happy to be part of a “blink” strategy. It really depends on what Foretell cards happen to become competitive, especially in Blue and White.
In any case, I can see this being played in a variety of Commander decks at the very least, especially as it’s the format this card was designed for in the first place. If Foretell turns out to be a competition worthy mechanic, especially with Yorion, Sky Nomad still blinking things in and out of play for a while longer in Standard, Ranar the Ever-Watchful should see some type of play.
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