Heliod’s Pilgrim is the new Trinket Mage
Aura toolboxes are more powerful than you think in decks that aren’t aura-centric.
Trinket Mage has been an auto-include for many EDH players since it’s been printed. Trinket Mage does it all— it ramps with Sol Ring, its provides selection with Sensei’s Divining Top, it gets removal with Pithing Needle or Engineered Explosives, graveyard hate with Relic of Progenitus and more. In any situation, there is probably something you want that trinket mage can get you.
Heliod’s Pilgrim in EDH
But Trinket mage isn’t the only three mana creature that grabs spells for value. Enter Heliod’s Pilgrim. This card is insane, and I’ve never seen it ran outside of janky enchantment decks. That’s almost certainly wrong, since this card is rarely bad. People fall into the trap of forgetting how versatile auras are: they immediately think of cards like Rancor or Steel of the Godhead, and forget about all the awesome broken utility that some auras have.
There are very few decks that are abusing this guy as a toolbox card, which is crazy when you consider Heliod Pilgrim’s potential targets.
Let me show you why you should be playing this card.
While Trinket mage is stuck grabbing Pithing Needle and Brittle Effigy for removal, Heliod’s Pilgrim can grab some of the best removal.
Since the tuck rule changed, auras often represent some of the most permanent ways to deal with commanders (as unintuitive as that sounds). This is more playable than you’d think. Darksteel Mutation is specifically a great way to deal with commanders, since the indestructiblity becomes an upside when it makes it nearly impossible for them to get their commander back, barring enchantment removal.
This card rarely appears outside of mono-green, but it’s such a powerful answer to any problem permanent. Although it comes with the downsides of both Path to Exile and Oblivion ring, it’s still a great answer.
Lignify is another great trick against commanders. The upside is that the creature dies to a wrath, unlike creatures stuck under oblivion rings. This is often just much better than actually killing a creature.
Not only can Heliod’s Pilgrim answer creatures, he can steal them too. Treachery is already a great card to be playing, and having it more often can never be a bad thing.
It would be easy to argue that this is the single greatest reanimation spell in EDH. Not only is it cheap (and comes with a nearly nonexistent downside), but it can hit a creature in any graveyard. The number of times when there are no creatures that you want in any graveyard is rare enough that this will always be live. And five mana for a reanimation spell (three for the pilgrim, two for Animate Dead) is already a reasonable rate even without the Pilgrim’s versatility.
This alone makes the Pilgrim a better card than something like Beacon of Unrest even when you don’t take the versatility of the Pilgrim into account.
Underworld Connections is one of the best Pilgrim targets in most games. While there are better cards in EDH than Underworld Connections (Phyrexian Arena comes to mind), many decks want to be playing both cards. And Underworld Connections gets a lot more powerful when you can tutor for it whenever you need it.
For the decks without black, Curiosity and Keen Sense are both very reliable card draw effects in certain metas. At one mana, the oppurutnity cost is very low. Although, most decks aren’t set up to take advantage of these.
It’s pretty obvious that Pilgrim won’t be nearly as good as Trinket Mage when it comes to ramping, but it has some solidly playable options.
Not only does this card untap your lands, it provides protection for a creature you control. That’s some good value if you can afford it, and it’s insane if protecting a creature is a core part of your strategy.
This is one of the most underplayed spells in EDH. In most decks, it’s ultimately just better than Birds of Paradise and other mana dorks who will often just die to a Toxic Deluge before you get good value from it, but it still is a turn ramp. Grabbing it off the pilgrim seems underwhelming, but having the option is always powerful, especially when it’s a card you already ought to be playing.
What Heliod’s Pilgrim can do best that Trinket Mage can’t even approach is enabling combos.
This is one of the best combos in EDH, commonly found in competitive Karador, Ghost Chieftain lists. It works by using Boonweaver Giant to find the Pattern of rebirth in combination with a sacrifice outlet, sacrificing the giant to get Karmic Guide to bring back the Giant, to bring back the Pattern of rebirth. Sacrifice the giant and the karmic guide to get Revilark, and sac that to bring back the Karmic Guide, etc.
The nice thing to think about this combo is that either half of the combo tutors for the other half of the combo, meaning that you can strap a Pattern of Rebirth on your Heliod’s Pilgrim to get the combo started. At 7 mana to cast both the Pilgrim and the Pattern of rebirth, that’s just as expensive as hardcasting a Boonweaver Giant.
This combo is popular solely because winning with squirrels nets a lot of style points. With Earthcraft, this card makes infinite tokens. Sadly, the Pilgrim can only tutor for half the combo.
This card goes infinite with Basalt Monolith or Grim Monolith. The decks that run this combo generally struggle to find the Power Artifact, while the artifact half tends to have a lot of redundancy and tutors.
Why not? It basically needs to be on this list, even if no one will play it.
I discussed a lot of cards above, but remember that a good package only needs to be 3-6 cards: there is no need to skew your deck building a lot to include a single card.
If I know EDH players, some of you would lament the idea of this card, saying that Academy Rector is strictly better. I’d argue against it being strictly better, but I’d also argue that you could very easily run both. Redundancy is what makes EDH decks consistent.
If you play Heliod’s Pilgrim, post your toolbox in the comments!