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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
May 19 2021 12:00pm
4.6
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 Are the Sphinges living statues of lions with human heads, or lions with human heads that sometimes turn into statues? Did you know that the Egyptian Sphinges were male ("androsphinges") while the Greek Sphinges female? And that the former where benevolent, if fearsome, while the latter malevolent? Does this qualify as a Bronze Age double standard? Were the riddles just an over-complicated form of password-protected access? Does drawing and discarding cards really qualify as solving the Sphinx's riddles? Why did Magic wait so much before making Sphinges the iconic creatures for blue, just like Angel were for white, Demon for black, and Dragon for red? Are we done with the questions already?


1.  

  • Name: Alhammarret, High Arbiter   >> summary
  • Sets: Magic Origins, Magic Origins Promo
  • Additional Type: Legendary
  • Converted Mana Cost: 7
  • Body: 10
  • Evaluation: This austere guy with an Arabic-sounding name is essentially a big Meddling Mage. On top of the large flying body, for five more mana compared to the little Wizard you also get to look at the opponent's hand before choosing what to block. The deal appears sweet: you see the removal that would hit Alhammarret, and you stop that particular spell from ever happening. But what if there's nothing useful to name? What if your High Arbiter shows up in front of an opponent with an empty hand? Well, then you'll be stuck with a strictly worse Mahamoti Djinn, because, unlike Meddling Mage, Alhammarret can't just name any card, he has only power over what's in front of him. Which also means that the opponent might not have any removal in hand when the ETB trigger resolves, but they can still topdeck one right after. Yeah, that ability won't always deliver, but of course it acquires additional value in multiplayer.
  • Backstory: Alhammarret was young Jace's tutor on Vryn. He exploited the budding mind mage's powers for his own schemes, trying to keep the plane's two warring factions in conflict, in order to maintain his own lucrative position as High Arbiter. He used to erase Jace's memory after each reconnaissance mission (hence the card's mechanic of making others "forget" about things), including the memory of his spark igniting; in the end, Jace successfully rebelled and killed the bearded crook, if at the cost of permanently losing the memories of his own family and childhood.
  • Rating: 6

2.  

  • Name: Arbiter of the Ideal   >> summary
  • Sets: Born of the Gods, Born of the Gods Promo
  • Converted Mana Cost: 6
  • Body: 9
  • Evaluation: Admittedly, Arbiter of the Ideal does a couple of extremely cool things. The most prominent, of course, is putting one card onto the battlefield for free each turn, counterspell-proof, using a mechanic that seems to foreshadow manifest (even the name of the counter all but suggests a design link with the keyword that would debut one year later in Fate Reforged), and Whisperwood Elemental's ability in particular. Except, the Arbiter's manifestations are dropped face up, so you won't have to pay additional costs to have them on the battlefield as the proper selves; and this covers noncreature artifacts and lands as well, while you can put enchantments, instants and sorceries back on the top of your library where you found them, so nothing gets wasted by being made into unturnable 2/2s. The second cool things is that everything that gets on the board this way is given the enchantment type, triggering all the "enchantments matter" cards, from Enchantress effects to constellation. But what's the price of all this, ultimately? Mostly, just choosing to run this Sphinx over the similarly-costed, similarly-bodied godmother of all the card advantage fatties, of the Sphinx variety or otherwise: Consecrated Sphinx. What's better, two more cards in hand, or likely one more card on the battlefield? The card advantage says the former, but the tempo advantage is with the latter, which could even lead to bombastic consequences, especially if we have ways to manipulate the top of our library (and the Arbiter's tribe at the very least provides one easy way to know what's coming). Still, barring tapping and untapping shenanigans to facilitate the inspired trigger, you'll have to wait until the Arbiter successfully survives the opponent's entire turn, then your combat phase, then another enemy turn, and only at that point she'll be ready to deliver on its promise. That's a long life expectancy for something that's not exactly hard to kill. Whereas with Consecrated Sphinx you're already profiting the moment she lives to see the opponent's next draw step. This said, Arbiter of Ideal remains the proud handler of a potentially game-breaking trigger, if perhaps one more attuned to a casual environment.
  • Rating: 7

3. 

  • Name: Argent Sphinx   >> summary
  • Sets: Scars of Mirrodin, Duel Decks: Mirrodin Pure vs. New Phyrexia, Modern Masters 2015
  • Converted Mana Cost: 4
  • Body: 7
  • Evaluation: Argent Sphinx's main characteristic is being elusive. And her other characteristic is loving artifacts, while unfortunately not being one herself. If you don't own enough artifacts, she won't do her dimension-shifting trick for you – or for herself, really, given that it'll usually be all about dodging removal. And with toughness only equal to three (despite the artwork making her look gigantic), odds are there'll be a lot of removal to dodge, which is the main issue with this silvery critter. At the time of its release, there were only two other Sphinges with CMC 4 (of only four in total that cost less than five mana), but they both had higher toughness and no obsession for any permanent type, which made them better than Argent Sphinx in almost every situation. And the options are even wider now. One might find some use for Argent Sphinx in artifact-heavy builds (indeed, it saw some play in Scars of Mirrodin Block Constructed at the time), but it's not exactly a staple even there.
  • Rating: 6

4. 

  • Name: Arjun, the Shifting Flame   >> summary
  • Set: Commander 2015
  • Additional Types: Legendary, Wizard
  • Converted Mana Cost: 6
  • Body: 10
  • Evaluation: Leave it to the first and still only red Sphinx in existence (if we're not counting Sphinx of the Guildpact) to bring a semi-random effect into the usually solemn world of the tribe. To be fair, there's an aspect of unknowability to most Sphinges, some degree of not being able to tell what will happen, what card will you draw, what effect some trigger will end up engendering; but there's usually also some kind of key to it, some way to control it, to exploit the Sphinx's gifts once you "solve the riddle". With Arjun, the riddle is unsolvable by design: your hand will inevitably get replaced every time you cast a spell. It's in the mold of other "chaos" effects a la Warp World, but in this case it's entirely one-sided, which makes it not just less fun, but also devoid of any strategic value whatsoever: there's no way you won't end up exchanging good stuff for bad stuff at some point. Perhaps you could pair him up with some gizmo that bounces lands back into your hand, so you might turn surplus mana into more potential gas. Or not.
  • Backstory: We don't really know who this guys is or where he comes from, as the two stories that accompanied the release of Commander 2015 didn't mention him at all (one was about Meren of Clan Nel Toth, the other about Teysa Karlov's ghost grandpa, so we can assume Arjun is neither from Alara nor from Ravnica). The flavor text tells us he incites the passions of his supplicants, so he's the kind of Sphinx that grants audiences and then is a jerk about it.
  • Rating: 6

5. 

  • Name: Atemsis, All-Seeing   >> summary
  • Set: Core Set 2020
  • Additional Type: Legendary
  • Converted Mana Cost: 6
  • Body: 9
  • Evaluation: Atemsis is an alt-wincon Sphinx that essentially proposes a mini-game: can you build your deck in a way that emphasizes enough different mana costs to end up with six of them in hand when Atemsis connects? It helps that mana cost zero will likey be represented by a land, and that, until we're ready to go, we can just use Atemsis's activated ability to loot into the missing pieces of the puzzle. It's not an impossible trick to pull off, but it clearly has casual written all over it.
  • Backstory: We know absolutely nothing about Atemsis, except that at some point she was apparently annoyed by up to three people, according to Captivating Gyre.
  • Rating: 5

6. 

  • Name: Azor, the Lawbringer   >> summary
  • Set: Rivals of Ixalan
  • Additional Type: Legendary
  • Converted Mana Cost: 6
  • Body: 12
  • Evaluation: Yet another Sphinx that asks for Titan mana, though in this case we're rewarded with a body even larger than the 5/5 paradigm set by classic Sphinx of Jwar Isle. Azor also comes with the non-trivial ability of casting Sphinx's Revelation once per attack, which is appropriate (it's a Sphinx-named card that was originally printed with an Azorius watermark, and this guy's name is Azor, so draw your own conclusions). Further point of interest is the fact that he also casts Sphinx's Decree as an ETB trigger. This allows us to soft-lock the opponent out of playing sorceries by using repeatable flicker – or just Karakas if we're willing to hardcast Azor over and over. A mana-intensive guy for sure, but he simply oozes power.
  • Backstory: And yes, he really is the founder of the Azorius Senate on Ravnica, not to mention the creator of the Guildpact and the Implicit Maze. Azor is an ancient planeswalker, who for thousands of years would visit planes and establish system of laws among their population (hence his moniker), while influencing the looks, mindset and customs of many fellow Sphinges along the way, especially on Alara and Zendikar. He was also friends with Ugin, and once the two of them tried to trap Ugin's evil twin Nicol Bolas on Ixalan, but in order to do so, Azor had to sacrifice his spark, thus giving birth to the Immortal Sun, which trapped him on Ixalan (Bolas, not so much). Jace and Vraska later met him and didn't have many kind words for the old Sphinx, letting him know the system he devised to run Ravnica ultimately proved more than a bit messy. Also, he violated the Prime Directive or something.
  • Rating: 8

7. 

  • Name: Belltower Sphinx   >> summary
  • Sets: Ravnica: City of Guilds, Magic 2012, Jumpstart
  • Converted Mana Cost: 5
  • Body: 7
  • Evaluation: Belltower Sphinx is both the first uncommon Sphinx and, along with fellow Ravnican Cerulean Sphinx, one of those responsible for relaunching and consolidating the tribe as a blue staple after the original Petra Sphinx from Legends had unsuccessfully tried to make it a white thing. Historical value aside, Belltower's body is severely sub-par for a five-mana creature, and his power particularly abysmal. As for the ability, it's doubtful even devoted milling builds would bother with such a slow, unreliable effect. If we aim to self-mill, we might find some interaction with repeatable source of damage; but even then, we'd be better off using Swans of Bryn Argoll instead.
  • Rating: 2

8. 

  • Name: Cerulean Sphinx   >> summary
  • Set: Ravnica: City of Guilds
  • Converted Mana Cost: 6
  • Body: 10
  • Evaluation: As far as stats go, a 5/5 flyer for six is still on curve. However, Cerulean Sphinx doesn't add much to such basic package, just the most awkwardly drastic removal dodge conceivable, where you essentially Condemn your own creature to spare it the graveyard or the exile. It only makes some sense against steal  effects, but with so many better six-drops to choose from, including some that can't even be targeted to begin with, one can't find any reason to ever considering playing this one. Of course when he was released, back in the first Ravnica set, he was the third Sphinx ever printed (alongside the second, just with a higher collector number), so we could cut him some slack. But we won't.
  • Rating: 3

9. 

  • Name: Chancellor of the Spires   >> summary
  • Set: New Phyrexia
  • Converted Mana Cost: 7
  • Body: 12
  • Evaluation: The Phyrexian Sphinges mean business (if we ever needed further proof). The blue member of the Chancellor cycle happens to be this finely compleated Sphinx, who grants us a free instant or sorcery from the opponent's arsenal as a properly abusable ETB effect. She's also wise enough to raise the odds of finding a worthy target in the enemy graveyard via some pre-game milling, which admittedly might backfire a little, had our opponent actually planned to mill themselves. Plus, a seven-mana creature in our first hand is hardly good news, and until we actually manage to drop her on the battlefield, all that milling is essentially moot. Not to mention, Torrential Gearhulk kind of puts her to shame. Nonetheless, she comes with a free spell. There's not a more alluring sentence in Magic.
  • Rating: 7

10. 

  • Name: Citywatch Sphinx   >> summary
  • Sets: Guilds of Ravnica, Mystery Booster
  • Converted Mana Cost: 6
  • Body: 9
  • Evaluation: Simple Sphinx with a simple death trigger linked to the set's mechanical structure, and designed as a curve-topper in Limited. Apparently, House Dimir uses Sphinges as spies. Not very inconspicuous, are they?
  • Rating: 4

11. 

  • Name: Cloudreader Sphinx   >> summary
  • Sets: Dominaria, Mystery Booster, Jumpstart, Double Masters
  • Converted Mana Cost: 5
  • Body: 7
  • Evaluation: You can see Cloudreader Sphinx as an Air Elemental that traded one point of power for some scry; or better, as a more cost-effective Horizon Scholar, whose blueprint wasn't that great to begin with. Look, it's just a common, the second common Sphinx ever, and we can't ask a midrange common to be all that, now, can we? It was happily picked in Dominaria drafts, and reprinted three times in Limited-adjacent supplemental sets between 2019 and 2020.
  • Rating: 4

12.   

  • Name: Consecrated Sphinx   >> summary
  • Sets: Mirrodin Besieged, Masterpiece Series: Amonkhet Invocations, Iconic Masters, Secret Lair
  • Converted Mana Cost: 6
  • Body: 10
  • Evaluation: What could even be said about Consecrated Sphinx that it's not already evident by looking at her ugly, original Phyrexian face? (Before being given an ancient Egyptian identity and then reinvented as a child-carer in the Secret Lair). Yeah, she doesn't impact the board right away, meaning that if she instantly meets removal (as she should), you didn't accomplish much. But she just needs to survive a tiny bit more, until the opponent's next draw step, and at that point, boy, your card advantage is already worth the mana you invested by a three-to-one ratio: two are the cards you drew, one is what the opponent has to use to deal with her. She ever sticks around some more, and it's very likely game over. Seriously, very few creatures spell good game so consistently. Consecrated Sphinx laughs at Frost Titan and plays poker with Wurmcoil Engine (and often wins). Protection? Who needs that? Well, no, she does need that. Kindly provide it to her, if you want her to perform that trick where she wins the game for you. And, oh, multiplayer, you said? It's so overpowered there it's not even funny. If you play blue in Commander and don't include Consecrated Sphinx in your deck, you should consider switching format to something you understand better.
  • Rating: 10

13. 

  • Name: Conundrum Sphinx   >> summary
  • Sets: Magic 2011, Commander, Commander 2018
  • Converted Mana Cost: 4
  • Body: 8
  • Evaluation: Conundrum Sphinx is one of the most well-rounded among the four-drop Sphinges, a group that's been growing lately and now counts several members, including the less robust Argent Sphinx, the multicolored Sphinx of New Prahv, and Conundrum's more direct rivals Curator of Mysteries and Sphinx of Foresight. These latter two and Conundrum are 4/4 flyers, which isn't a deal you get all the times for four mana – although it's now more frequent than it used to when Conundrum was first printed – and deserves some attention in its own right. The equal-opportunity guessing card ability is just cute, even if it's a bit baffling that apparently this Sphinx decides to riddle us along with our enemy while she's attacking them. Don't worry, though, they won't probably guess it right. On the other hand, we might, with a little help from a friend.
  • Rating: 8

14. 

  • Name: Curator of Mysteries   >> summary
  • Sets: Amonkhet, Commander 2020
  • Converted Mana Cost: 4
  • Body: 8
  • Evaluation: This guy from Amonkhet is arguably the worthiest challenger to Conundrum Sphinx's hold on this spot of the Sphingian curve. Same cost, same body, but instead of a fancy ticket to the card lottery, he offers us a more prosaic one-mana cycling option, which makes him ideal in a Living End or Living Death kind of build. His triggered ability also grants us free scry when we cycle or discard other cards in his presence, which is further synergy with those archetypes. Overall, a pretty solid entry for the tribe, if not a particularly exciting one to play with.
  • Rating: 8

15. 

  • Name: Dazzling Sphinx   >> summary
  • Set: Commander 2021
  • Converted Mana Cost: 5
  • Body: 9
  • Evaluation: Dazzling Sphinx aspires to be a variation on Thief of Sanity. Her upsides are: she's a bigger threat on her own; she's reasonably sure to always hit, since it's a conditional cascade, and even the most creature-oriented deck is bound to have some instants or sorceries in there, so the fail case is pretty rare; and the stolen card is automatically cast, so if we're lucky, we can have a big spell for free. On the other hand, her downsides are: she drops two turns later than Thief of Sanity, although this might not be too relevant to her functioning; she can hit situational cards like countermagic, resulting in a whiff of sorts, because unlike the Thief, the stolen spell cannot be saved for later, it's now or never; and she's not legal in smaller, slower formats that might have liked this effect the most. All things considered, though, she packs enough potential for a resonable investment. I wouldn't call her an essential component of any Sphinx deck, because the outcome of her attack is almost completely unpredictable, but I wouldn't call her a bad Sphinx either.
  • Rating: 7

16. 

  • Name: Dream Eater   >> summary
  • Set: Guilds of Ravnica
  • Additional Type: Nightmare
  • Converted Mana Cost: 6
  • Body: 7
  • Evaluation: Dream Eater is, first and foremost, a smart finisher for control decks that prioritize flash creatures as their win conditions, because they synergize with their instant-speed interactions and card-drawing. It was in fact heavily played in that role while it was legal in Standard. The somewhat lacking body, marred by an especially frail toughness, is counterbalanced by the amount of extra value its entering the battlefield generates, from the tempo play of its bounce to sculpting the next draws four-deep, with even some potential synergy with surveil and/or graveyard-based shenanigans. All this bonanza being the fruit of an ETB trigger also makes it a prime target for flickering, through Thassa, Deep-Dwelling and the likes.
  • Rating: 8

17. 

  • Name: Dream Trawler   >> summary
  • Set: Theros Beyond Death
  • Converted Mana Cost: 6
  • Body: 8
  • Evaluation: The plane of Theros is flavorfully styled after ancient Greece, which makes it one of the two most natural settings for Sphinges (the other is, of course, the ancient Egypt-inspired Amonkhet). So it came to no one's surprise that we met one of the most damn powerful members of the tribe during our second visit to the home world of the late Gideon. This slender, blue-skinned lady boasts a degree of resilience close to the untouchable Sphinx of Jwar Isle, and an equal to higher clock (that base power is really misleading, since Dream Trawler will swing for at least five in most circumstances). More so, her automatic card-drawing is almost on par with top-tier Consecrated Sphinx. And then lifelink ties it all together, making her the only Sphinx to feature that keyword aside from the much more expensive Sphinx of the Steel Wind. Resolving a Dream Trawler in Standard has spelled good game in many an occasion since her inception, as she can hardly be bothered with targeted spells, while racing such a big, evasive lifelinker becomes nearly impossible, and the card advantage guarantees both a stocked hand to protect her as well as the general means to outvalue the opponent. This sexy winged lioness quickly qualified as one of the worthiest ramp payoffs and reanimation targets in the entire game.
  • Rating: 10

18. 

  • Name: Eligeth, Crossroads Augur   >> summary
  • Set: Commander Legends
  • Additional Type: Legendary
  • Converted Mana Cost: 6
  • Body: 11
  • Evaluation: Eligeth does only one thing (well, two; he's also a big flyer, even slightly above the curve for his cost), but he does it thoroughly, which means we'd certainly want him as a co-commander (since he has partner) of a deck that's all about turning scry into actual draw. Just as a flying body that can incidentally improve our Opts, it's probably not worth it.
  • Backstory: We don't know where Eligeth is from, but we know he exists "five minutes into every possible future", which, according to his official description, means conversing with him is extremely frustrating because he has already answered all our possible questions in all the possible ways – which doesn't make a ton of sense when you think about it, but it sure sounds cool. And I have an inkling that they'll never elaborate further on that, so it'll remain an isolate oddity anyway.
  • Rating: 6

19. 

  • Name: Enigma Sphinx   >> summary
  • Sets: Alara Reborn, Planechase 2012, Planechase Anthology, Commander 2018
  • Additional Type: Artifact
  • Converted Mana Cost: 7
  • Body: 9
  • Evaluation: Enigma Sphinx is one expensive cascader, still one of the largest ever printed. The things we might end up casting for free through her have a chance to be pretty beefy – like, for instance, any six-mana Sphinx in a Sphinx deck. And we even get to do it again a few turns down the road if she dies. All of this isn't bad, and even if her overall body and stats lack the punch that we should expect from a seven-drop, she can still deal five evasive damage per combat. This said, seven mana across three colors is a pretty serious commitment, even with a free extra card involved. Which is, at the end of the day, a random card. Not a land, at least, but not necessarily much more, and definitely not something we can predict too easily, as it'll probably amount to just about anything else in our deck. By the way, for some reason, the Vanguard card with the same name switches the effect with Sphinx Summoner's, perhaps in virtue of the two of them being both artifact Sphinges from Alara.
  • Rating: 6

20. 

  • Name: Enigma Thief   >> summary
  • Set: Zendikar Rising Commander
  • Additional Type: Rogue
  • Converted Mana Cost: 7
  • Body: 10
  • Evaluation: This guy is pretty good if we can enable the prowl cost consistently – and that's probably only true of a Sphinx deck in particular, since even a four-drop could be deemed too expensive for a competitive Rogue build. As a seven-drop is just strictly worse than the already mediocre Riddlemaster Sphinx, though, and prowl is hardly a guarantee on turn four with Sphinges. So, overall, it's kind of a forgettable entry.
  • Rating: 5

21.  

  • Name: Glyph Keeper   >> summary
  • Set: Amonkhet
  • Converted Mana Cost: 5
  • Body: 8
  • Evaluation: Amonkhet has contributed two compelling tools to Sphinx reanimator, both the self-discarding Curator of Mysteries and this graveyard-friendly embalmer, which doubles as sort of a cheaper Sphinx of Jwar Isle, with the same fast evasive clock and comparable resilience. Granted, Glyph Keeper's localized Kira, Great Glass-Spinner ability is not exactly shroud nor hexproof, but in a way it's even better, because the opponent is forced to waste two removals on him, and if none of them was an exiler, they'll have to do it again when Glyph Keeper's mummified revenant form will rise – it can be unnerving. The only thing he really fears are board sweepers, but very few creatures are immune to those. (Bandaged mummy wings shouldn't sustain fly anymore, by the way. Just saying.)
  • Rating: 8

22. 

  • Name: Goliath Sphinx   >> summary
  • Set: Worldwake
  • Converted Mana Cost: 7
  • Body: 15
  • Evaluation: Looking up the mythological Sphinges, one realizes there wasn't really much in the way of mystical in what they were supposed to do. They guarded stuff, mostly a passage, and asked riddles as passwords. So they were essentially oversized club bouncers with a knack for puzzles. In most of Magic's incarnations, they somehow have become sort of all-knowing seers that will share their wisdom if you appease them, hence (or due to) the choice of making them part of the blue slice of the color wheel. Originally, they would just beat up (and eat) people who tried to crash their parties. So Goliath Sphinx may be just a dull, uninteresting brute with a great hairstyle, but he's also the most faithful to the job description from the source material. Plus, he's still one the most massive flyers for his cost. But yeah, also a big French vanilla dork. His flavor text says he has "endless patience". He'd better, considering he likely has to wait a long time between occurrences of being actually put into a deck.
  • Rating: 4

23. 

  • Name: Guardian of Tazeem   >> summary
  • Set: Battle for Zendikar
  • Converted Mana Cost: 5
  • Body: 9
  • Evaluation: This very leonine Sphinx is the kind of decent midrange beater that'll just never make the cut in a competitive build. The landfall ability is cute, but clunky compared to Frost Titan, which just sits one mana away.
  • Rating: 5

24. 

  • Name: Horizon Scholar   >> summary
  • Sets: Theros, Core Set 2019, Commander Legends
  • Converted Mana Cost: 6
  • Body: 8
  • Evaluation: Another instance of an uncommon Sphinx that just didn't come together for any application outside of Limited. Why should I spend six mana to scry 2, ending up with a body that's the same I could have obtained for two fewer mana? Riddle me that, Horizon Scholar.
  • Rating: 2

25. 

  • Name: Inspired Sphinx   >> summary
  • Sets: Game Night, Kaldheim Commander
  • Converted Mana Cost: 7
  • Body: 10
  • Evaluation: This Game Night exclusive was clearly designed with casual play in mind, the kind of cream of the crop that only maintain its status when it's a precon deck facing another precon deck. It does draw one to three cards (through a trigger that clearly indicates its multiplayer origin), and can take over the game with an army of flyers if left unanswered. But Faerie Formation, which is still not a competitive card outside of Brawl/Commander, does the very same, while drawing many more cards, and for a vastly inferior mana value. Although, the Thopters from Inspired Sphinx synergize better with Sharding Sphinx, I guess.
  • Rating: 5

26. 

  • Name: Isperia the Inscrutable   >> summary
  • Sets: Dissension, Ravnica Allegiance Guild Kit
  • Additional Type: Legendary
  • Converted Mana Cost: 5
  • Body: 9
  • Evaluation: Isperia, both the first legendary Sphinx and the first multicolored Sphinx to see print, was also only the fourth Sphinx in existence at that point in time, following the progenitor Petra Sphinx, then Belltower Sphinx and Cerulean Sphinx from the first set in the original Ravnica block. By looking up these first four instances of the tribe, we can safely say that, oh boy, Sphinges sure were pretty crappy and sort of Griffin-like originally. And apart from her legendary status, Isperia didn't do much to change this state of things. She was by far the best Sphinx back then, but still, for five mana, of which four colored in two different colors, you get a weirdly unbalanced, heavily defensive body that you're however encouraged to swing with, triggering an unnecessarily complicate chain of events. Let's see, you have to attack with Isperia, then actually connect, then you'll be asked to guess a card in the opponent's hand, in sort of an reversed Cursed Scroll business, and if you guess right, you can go fetch another flyer from your library. I'm sure there was some flavor or logic underneath all of this, but it's lost on me (she is "inscrutable", after all). And sure, it's potential card advantage plus three damage if you pull it off, which is a big if. I'd personally go with something less convoluted, even if she might make for a fun, casual commander.
  • Backstory: Isperia was Guild Champion for the Azorius Senate on Ravnica, back when their leader was the Grand Arbiter Augustin IV. Ultimately, she replaced him.
  • Rating: 5

27.  

  • Name: Isperia, Supreme Judge   >> summary
  • Sets: Return to Ravnica, Ravnica Allegiance Guild Kit, Commander 2020
  • Additional Type: Legendary
  • Converted Mana Cost: 6
  • Body: 10
  • Evaluation: After her promotion to Guild Leader, Isperia apparently started lurking from the roof of the Azorius Senate like a gigantic Batman. Also, she left behind the intricacies of card-guessing from her previous iteration in favor of a most straightforward card-drawing trigger. Which is linked to the opponent's creatures attacking us, so it's more like using the threat of card-drawing to stall attacks. We can't really count on Isperia to replenish our hand the way the six-drop queen Consecrated Sphinx does, and she's not very resilient or fearsome otherwise, despite producing a decent clock; but at least she'll give our opponents pause when it comes to actually send their armies to our side of the battlefield. She also costs one colorless mana more than her original version, for just one point of overall body improvement, luckily all skewed towards the power side this time (it's unclear what this means in terms of story development). In Commander, she's a valid general that embodies the ageless political statement, "Go bother someone else and leave me alone."
  • Backstory: Apparently, when the Senate was in dire needs following the breach of the Guildpact (before Jace became its living incarnation), Isperia put aside her Sphinx-like preference for solitude and accepted the ruling position for the good of the people. So very Cincinnatus of her. In the end, Bolas had Vraska murder her (which resulted in a cool trophy), then placed the wily Dovin Baan as new Guild Leader during the War of the Spark. The trusty Lavinia is currently the acting Guild Leader of the Azorius Senate.
  • Rating: 7

28. 

  • Name: Jelenn Sphinx   >> summary
  • Sets: Dragon's Maze, Battlebond
  • Converted Mana Cost: 5
  • Body: 6
  • Evaluation: Flavor tells me that the Sphinges of the Jelenn variety are Ravnica's law-makers. That's the most interesting thing I can say about a five-mana, uncommon Sphinx that swings for one in order to give your other attackers a temporary anthem. I get that they wanted to broaden the tribe's range of action, but aggro enhancer? That just ain't how the Sphinges roll. And, you know, there are actually good creatures at uncommon, they don't necessarily need to suck.
  • Rating: 4

29. 

  • Name: Jwar Isle Avenger   >> summary
  • Sets: Oath of the Gatewatch, Mystery Booster
  • Converted Mana Cost: 5
  • Body: 6
  • Evaluation: The first common Sphinx ever printed is... well, just some common filler designed for Limited. If you happen to fulfill the surge requirement, you'll get a 3/3 flyer for three. Yeah, let's say that if Ulamog and Kozilek were ultimately defeated, it hasn't been thanks to the help of the Zendikari Sphinges of that time.
  • Rating: 3

30. 

  • Name: Magister Sphinx   >> summary
  • Sets: Conflux, Archenemy
  • Additional Type: Artifact
  • Converted Mana Cost: 7
  • Body: 10
  • Evaluation: Magister Sphinx's ETB effect doesn't exactly spell "target player loses 10 life". In fact, the more we wait before committing her to the battlefield, the less effective she'll be – if we wait long enough, we might even end up giving the opponent their life back. This said, let's instead envision a grindier game where we're setting things up while leaving the opponent's life total alone; by dropping a Magister Sphinx onto the battlefield, and later successfully connecting with her even just once, we'll be suddenly looking at an opponent on the brink of death. The effect is of course at its most impactful when employed against any lifegain-based build, and could even occasionally be used to replenish our own life total. The truth is, Magister Sphinx's effectiveness is kinda hard to judge in a vacuum – it might end up being only an overcosted 5/5 flyer. There's also the specific wording to be accounted for: when it comes to formats with higher starting life, like Commander, a card with the text of Magister Sphinx goes up in value, as it could translate into as much as 30 point of life loss (in more recent cards, this templating has in fact been changed to more correctly refer to the starting life total, instead of setting an arbitrary number based on standard conventions).
  • Rating: 6

31. 

  • Name: Master of Predicaments   >> summary
  • Set: Magic 2015
  • Converted Mana Cost: 5
  • Body: 8
  • Evaluation: Created by guest designer David Sirlin, Master of Predicaments is a Sphinx that actually poses a riddle, which is a good marriage of mechanic and flavor. And it's one damn hard riddle, too: the web of second-guessing triggered by his ability is mindboggling, which I suppose was the whole point. Let's say my hand contains a flashy six-mana spell (possibly another Sphinx) and a three-mana targeted removal, and I hope to be able to play both this turn with some help from my Master of Predicaments. What should I choose? Will the opponent say "greater than 4" by default, to prevent me from casting expensive stuff for free? Or will they say "lesser than 4", thinking I wouldn't choose "greater than 4" because I already know they would choose it? And what if I choose it for this very reason? A real predicament, indeed! The result outcome is never easily predictable, though you should get something out of it in average over the course of a few attempts. Still, you have to connect first; and guessing game and pompous name aside, Master of Predicaments is just an Air Elemental. Definitely not a Spike-friendly card, but at least an entertaining one.
  • Rating: 5

32. 

  • Name: Master of Winds   >> summary
  • Set: Zendikar Rising
  • Additional Type: Wizard
  • Converted Mana Cost: 4
  • Body: 5
  • Evaluation: The second ever Sphinx Wizard (after Arjun, the Shifting Flame, so the first released in a premier set, mostly due to the party mechanic) is a relatively cheap flyer that immediately provides value through advantageous looting. In the right build, which is bound to be a Wizard tribal deck rather than a Sphinx tribal deck, she could also manage to swing for four with some consistency, though she does so at the risk of ending up pinged to death. And the moment the enabling falters, she won't do much as a 1/4.
  • Rating: 6

33. 

  • Name: Medomai the Ageless   >> summary
  • Set: Theros
  • Additional Type: Legendary
  • Converted Mana Cost: 6
  • Body: 8
  • Evaluation: Is there anything sexier than extra turns? Just the thought of it evokes primordial battles fought with jewelry and black flowers and weird skeletons walking alongside road cones. Medomai dangles the carrot of an extra turn every other turn, so he has to be good. But is he? For starters, his stats are a bit underwhelming for a six-drop that can't even attack during the extra turns he procures. Granted, by the time we have him online, we're likely to also have something else to turn sideways 50% more often, possibly even enough of a strike force to end the game at the first opportunity we get of attacking twice in a row. Plus, extra turns mean extra board development, extra card draws, extra everything. Medomai is good. Although sometimes he may not be good enough – the time when he's just an easily answered attempt at a Time Warp for more mana than it's worth.
  • Backstory: Medomai is a prophet that routinely comes to Meletis (which is Theros's Athens) to warn people of upcoming disasters. I don't think they ever believe him. They never do.
  • Rating: 7

34. 

  • Name: Ominous Sphinx   >> summary
  • Set: Hour of Devastation
  • Converted Mana Cost: 5
  • Body: 8
  • Evaluation: The one uncommon Sphinx from Amonkhet block. It's a "discarding matters" kind of guy, but not in a particularly crucial way, even in a tribe featuring cards like Vexing Sphinx and Sphinx of Lost Truths. And for being one of the five inconic tribes, doesn't it feel like there are way too many Sphinges that are just Air Elemental variants?
  • Rating: 3

35. 

  • Name: Ormos, Archive Keeper   >> summary
  • Set: Jumpstart
  • Additional Type: Legendary
  • Converted Mana Cost: 6
  • Body: 10
  • Evaluation: Jumpstart was devised for an enchanced form of casual play, but the new cards that debuted in its packs aren't necessarily low-powered oddities, just think of Muxus or Tinybones. Now, Ormos is more in the oddity territory. In singleton formats, it's repeatable "discard three (nonbasic lands), draw five", which is okay. The ability to stop us from losing to an empty library is not going to be relevant too often – I mean, sure, we can engineer it ourselves, and Ormos's rummaging even helps with that, but at that point, maybe we'd rather have a payoff that spells "you win the game", than one that just makes our one Sphinx larger.
  • Backstory: Ormos is some archivist on some undisclosed plane. Yeah, his back story is pretty lazy.
  • Rating: 5

36. 

  • Name: Petra Sphinx   >> summary
  • Sets: Legends
  • Converted Mana Cost: 5
  • Body: 7
  • Evaluation: There she is, the Original Sphinx! Look at how fluffy her mane is! Look at her beautiful plumage! Look at her nearly unreadable fine print text! Here's the Oracle version of it: "Tap: Target player chooses a card name, then reveals the top card of their library. If that card has the chosen name, that player puts it into their hand. If it doesn't, the player puts it into their graveyard." So, she basically does what Conundrum Sphinx does. Only without actually, you know, dealing any damage in the process. And she comes with one point of power less and costs one mana more (three of which are white, for inexplicable reasons; but I long stopped trying to understand the thought process of the Legends designers, as I fear for my own sanity). But look at how white she is! Remarkable Sphinx, the Petra, isn't it?
  • Rating: 2

37.  

  • Name: Prognostic Sphinx   >> summary
  • Sets: Theros, Magic 2015 Clash Pack, Archenemy: Nicol Bolas
  • Converted Mana Cost: 5
  • Body: 8
  • Evaluation: In Theros Block Constructed, as well as during his Standard era, Prognostic Sphinx was all the rage. And this bearded old man is still pretty good, as he proves himself useful in several different ways. For starters, he's able to dodge removal while simultaneously being a free discard outlet for graveyard-exploiting purposes. And when he attacks, he gives us a serious chance at fixing our new few draws by scrying three cards deep. His main competitor in Sphinxdom is Sphinx of Lost Truths, bearing the same exact body and mana cost, as well as similar functions, with admittedly better interactions with mass reanimator strategies. But nitpicks aside, Prognostic firmly remains among the good ones.
  • Rating: 8

38. 

  • Name: Rescuer Sphinx   >> summary
  • Set: War of the Spark
  • Converted Mana Cost: 4
  • Body: 5
  • Evaluation: What kind of rescue is this, if it can't even answer an emergency because it exclusively happens at sorcery speed? Flavor fail aside, this is just a good Limited card, capable of being a 4/3 four-drop flyer and maybe resetting another creature with a relevant ETB trigger of its own.
  • Rating: 5

39. 

  • Name: Riddlemaster Sphinx   >> summary
  • Sets: Core Set 2019, Core Set 2020
  • Converted Mana Cost: 6
  • Body: 10
  • Evaluation: I can't believe they waited 24 years before giving a Sphinx the moniker of "riddlemaster". And then they did it with one that doesn't even have a mechanic involving something suggesting riddles. I guess you can see it as riddle-adjacent, the consequence of a creature failing to answer correctly the Sphinx's question and being "sent away". It doesn't really stand to flavor scrutiny (does the Riddlemaster teleport the travelers? Wouldn't it make more sense if she tapped them?), and at the end of the day, it's just a fattie version of good old Man-o'-War, which isn't a bad deal per se, but it's nothing new. She's strictly better than an Angler Drake used offensively, if that counts as an accomplishment, but she's sorely beaten by fellow six-drop Sphinx Dream Eater. At least she doesn't bounce herself when she enters on an empty battlefield. Though at that point you're just dropping Mahamoti Djinn and you're even one toughness short.
  • Rating: 6

40.  

  • Name: Sandstone Oracle   >> summary
  • Sets: Commander 2015, Iconic Masters, Commander Anthology Volume II, Mystery Booster, Double Master, Zendikar Rising Commander, Commander Legends
  • Additional Type: Artifact
  • Converted Mana Cost: 7
  • Body: 8
  • Evaluation: For being just an uncommon, Sandstone Oracle has a valuable ETB trigger, even if it's hard to envision replenishing our hand this way, and outside of multiplayer, the odds are she won't actually give us anything, aside from a far from ideal 4/4 flying body for seven mana. But she's still the only colorless Sphinx in existence, so there's that. It might be the reason why she was reprinted so many times, especially in Commander products or unconventional draft environments.
  • Rating: 5

41. 

  • Name: Scholar of the Lost Trove   >> summary
  • Set: Jumpstart
  • Converted Mana Cost: 7
  • Body: 10
  • Evaluation: Within the power range described by the new cards introduced in Jumpstart, Scholar of the Lost Trove falls near the top. It's just an amazing reanimation target for decks that self-mill aggressively, then flashback Unburial Rites to bring a Scholar back and have it cast something big like Emergent Ultimatum for free. It's what happens in Historic, for instance, but the options are many and encompass a quantity of formats. And the fact that artifacts are also eligible as free spells opens more and more possibilities, including a reanimation chain with Sphinx's own Sharuum the Hegemon.
  • Rating: 8

42. 

  • Name: Serra Sphinx   >> summary
  • Sets: Planar Chaos, Double Masters
  • Converted Mana Cost: 5
  • Body: 8
  • Evaluation: The alternate reality of Planar Chaos turned Serra Angel into a Sphinx (therefore Serra's Realm into a plane populated by Sphinges). Which further illuminates how the modern-bordered Sphinges has been made into "blue Angels"; but nothing more than that, I'm afraid. It's playable, as Serra Angel still kind of is. It once more renders Air Elemental (and all its functional clones) completely obsolete. But there are also many creatures that make Serra Sphinx semi-obsolete, so it's not that high on the food chain as it'd wish to be.
  • Rating: 4

43.  

  • Name: Sharding Sphinx   >> summary
  • Sets: Shards of Alara, Commander 2013, Commander 2018, Jumpstart
  • Additional Type: Artifact
  • Converted Mana Cost: 6
  • Body: 8
  • Evaluation: Sharding Sphinx is a bit clunky, but she actually impacts the board from the get-go, because the token generation effect (which is nothing to sneeze at, since those are flying Thopters she creates) is triggered by any artifact creature, including those already primed for immediate attack, and later by the Thopter tokens themselves, so it's a geometrical progression. There have plenty of better finishers to cast for six mana, within the Sphinx tribe as well as elsewhere, but let's at least concede that Sharding Sphinx does have some built-in inevitability, and can leave a significant trace behind even when dealt with soon enough. Plus, it interacts with artifact-finding and artifact-reviving cards like Sphinx Summoner and Sharuum the Hegemon.
  • Rating: 7

44.  

  • Name: Sharuum the Hegemon   >> summary
  • Sets: Shards of Alara, From the Vault: Legends, Commander 2013, Commander 2016, Double Masters
  • Additional Types: Legendary, Artifact
  • Converted Mana Cost: 6
  • Body: 10
  • Evaluation: Sharuum is the Karmic Guide of the Sphinx tribe, which is to say extremely powerful. Compared to the mentioned Angel, it's all moved up one notch or two, both cost-wise and stats-wise. However, six mana is still not a lot to pay for what potentially amounts to putting two big creatures onto the battlefield (or a creature and an expensive noncreature). Plus, Sharuum is an artifact herself, so nicely exploitable in all sorts of ways. And she makes for a great commander, both for Sphinx tribal or, even better, for any artifact-based build. In fact, it's important to point out that her ability doesn't just care for artifact creatures; she very much likes to return Mindslaver and Oblivion Stone back to the battlefield. Also, according to her flavor text, she wants to hear our riddles, rather than annoying us with hers. How cute is that?
  • Backstory: Sharuum is the sovereign, or "hegemon", of the Esper shard of Alara, and her story has a bit of a "romance among Sphinges" angle. Centuries ago, she had a lover named Crucius, the Sphinx and likely planeswalker who first introduced the etherium into the plane. When Crucius disappeared mysteriously, Sharuum devoted her life to find him, even resorting to accept the dubious help of Tezzeret. In an atypical show of morality, though, the metal-mage actually managed to reunite Sharuum with her lost lover, and with their son Kemuel. It's all so jarringly sweet that is probably not even canon anymore.
  • Rating: 9

45. 

  • Name: Sphinx Ambassador   >> summary
  • Set: Magic 2010
  • Converted Mana Cost: 7
  • Body: 10
  • Evaluation: Sphinx Ambassador was one of the first mythics to make perfectly clear that not all the cards printed under the new rarity (introduced less than a year prior) had to be powerful, or even just not crappy. She's a seven-mana beater with a twist, but no impact, no resilience, no real reason for her cost to go beyond Titan mana. Granted, she does cast a Bribery if she deals combat damage to an opponent – or not exactly a Bribery, as you have to engage your opponent in a battle of wits where they'll try to name their best creature, so you won't end up with some gigantic Eldrazi on the battlefield. Or maybe they'll anticipate your move so they will actually name their second best? Okay, scratch that, there's too many "if" factors here (if she connects, if you choose right, if your opponent doesn't, if there's even actually something good to take in their decks), for too high of a mana investment to begin with. It is crappy. Just play freaking Bribery instead.
  • Rating: 4

46. 

  • Name: Sphinx Mindbreaker   >> summary
  • Set: Theros Beyond Death
  • Converted Mana Cost: 7
  • Body: 12
  • Evaluation: Is casting a seven-drop with an ETB trigger really a sensible play to corroborate a mill strategy? I don't think it is. I'm confident nobody does.
  • Rating: 4

47. 

  • Name: Sphinx of Enlightenment   >> summary
  • Set: Game Night 2019
  • Converted Mana Cost: 6
  • Body: 10
  • Evaluation: A six-drop 5/5 flyer that draws three cards right away is far from terrible. We have to also give one to an opponent, which in the context of Game Night, where this originated, is probably seen as a political move. Outside of multiplayer, it reduces the card advantage by 33%. And we're still talking of somethng that has to compare itself to Consecrated Sphinx, so, eh.
  • Rating: 5

48. 

  • Name: Sphinx of Foresight   >> summary
  • Set: Ravnica Allegiance
  • Converted Mana Cost: 4
  • Body: 8
  • Evaluation: The tribe's best four-drop alongside Conundrum Sphinx. They share the same cost and body; Conundrum may potentially draw us a card, while with Sphinx of Foresight we're sure to have a free scry every turn, so the preference could slightly skew towards the latter, unless we have a consistent way to look at the top of our library. Like scry 1? Come to think of it, Conundrum Sphinx and Sphinx of Foresight do play wonderfully together, so maybe they're best friends after all. The one-time scry 3 as an opening hand trigger is also valuable, and is the reason why this Sphinx became very popular for a minute in Standard, back when Fires of Invention decks desperately needed that initial sculpting to set up their plan.
  • Rating: 8

49. 

  • Name: Sphinx of Jwar Isle   >> summary
  • Sets: Zendikar, Commander 2014, Archenemy: Nicol Bolas, Commander 2018
  • Converted Mana Cost: 6
  • Body: 10
  • Evaluation: Sphinx of Jwar Isle proves that Sphinges don't need to have particularly complicated mechanics to be good. He's just a big flyer for a reasonable price that's out of spot removal reach. For these reasons, he earned himself a rich history as a finisher in control builds, particularly in Modern. He doesn't outshine his fancier sister (then again, who does?), but he does surpass Frost Titan in my book. And I like knowing what my next draw will be and not sharing this information with my opponents. It's just a small little bonus, but it's nice, and it interacts with effects that care about knowing what's on top of our library, including the tribe's own Conundrum Sphinx.
  • Rating: 9

50. 

  • Name: Sphinx of Lost Truths   >> summary
  • Set: Zendikar
  • Converted Mana Cost: 5
  • Body: 8
  • Evaluation: Possibly my favorite Sphinx, this crazy rasta guy is such a great discard outlet for reanimation targets that were both sitting in our hand or we were digging for. And he digs deep. Plus, he can drop early enough, but still gets the option to become the most amazing card-drawing ETB effect ever once we've reached the mana resources to pay for the kicker cost, which merely requires two extra mana anyway (that's another reason why Sphinx of Enlightenment is not great). His big butt also makes him useful as a blocker, to set up things in preparation for some big play (e.g. Living Death), as fending off attackers in the meantime is another thing he does well. It's surprising he was never reprinted since his original Zendikar release, now almost twelve years ago.
  • Rating: 9

51. 

  • Name: Sphinx of Magosi   >> summary
  • Sets: Rise of the Eldrazi, Commander 2014, Welcome Deck 2016, Conspiracy: Take the Crown, Welcome Deck 2017
  • Converted Mana Cost: 6
  • Body: 12
  • Evaluation: It seems to me that for a tribe involved with riddles and enigmas, the best Sphinges are actually the most straightforward and uncomplicated ones (perhaps that's just a rule for Magic cards in general). Sphinx of Magosi boasts a great body for six mana, as he's essentially a flying Titan, and has an impressive activated ability to boot, growing bigger while drawing cards at instant speed. If unanswered, he could easilly net us two extra cards per turn while threatening an increasingly faster clock, which is even slightly better than what the much celebrated Consecrated Sphinx usually does. Granted, Consecrated Sphinx doesn't tap our mana in the process, whereas Sphinx of Magosi is just a sitting duck the turn he drops. But he still packs enough potential value to be forgiven of his complete lack of protection, and is especially strong in Commander, where digging deep into our library is absolutely crucial and powerful mana sink effects are always in high demand.
  • Rating: 8

52. 

  • Name: Sphinx of New Prahv   >> summary
  • Set: Ravnica Allegiance
  • Converted Mana Cost: 4
  • Body: 7
  • Evaluation: This Azorius Sphinx anticipates the ward keyword that would be introduced two years later in Strixhaven (although this version doesn't cover abilities, while ward does). It doesn't have much else of note, unfortunately; it's just a solid four-drop finisher for Limited, with a bunch of relevant abilities in exchange for a steep mana requirement.
  • Rating: 4

53. 

  • Name: Sphinx of the Chimes   >> summary
  • Set: Return to Ravnica
  • Converted Mana Cost: 6
  • Body: 11
  • Evaluation: Let's get this out of the way first: Sphinx of the Chimes was not conceived for singleton formats. That much is clear. In other formats, it's still not that easy to come across two nonland cards with the same name that you feel comfortable to discard; the chance that they were stuff that you actually wanted in the graveyard is astronomically poor, unless you really built around this Sphinx, which is probably a casual approach to begin with (and note that CottonRhetoric in the linked article doesn't even try to have the discarded cards matter in and of themselves). It could maybe work with a lot of flashback spells, or with Squee, Goblin Nabob and a way to fetch him, twice. A couple Squees sure make for a great draw engine with Sphinx of the Chimes. And who knows, maybe one day they'll print a card that says, "All cards in your hand count as having the same name".
  • Rating: 4

54. 

  • Name: Sphinx of the Final Word   >> summary
  • Set: Oath of the Gatewatch
  • Converted Mana Cost: 7
  • Body: 10
  • Evaluation: Sphinx of the Final Word is evidently meant as an improved Sphinx of Jwar Isle. For one extra mana, you get shroud upgraded to hexproof, plus uncounterability, both for the Sphinx himself and all instants and sorceries you'll cast afterwards. If it's not strictly better, it's just because by reaching beyond Titan mana, it becomes harder to include lightheartedly in our decks. The increase cost alone should suggest to stick with the Jwar Isle dweller, since the most relevant part of the entire package was steering clear of removal anyway. But one must admit that, as a finisher in a control deck, Sphinx of the Final Word is up there with the best of them.
  • Rating: 8

55. 

  • Name: Sphinx of the Guildpact   >> summary
  • Sets: Ravnica Allegiance, Double Masters
  • Additional Type: Artifact
  • Converted Mana Cost: 7
  • Body: 10
  • Evaluation: Sphinx of the Guildpact is the flying version of Transguild Courier, which had the same "I'm all colors though I don't require any" rule text deal back in Dissension. The Sphinx is a much more expensive and threatening creature than the Golem, and even gets some flavorful protection from monocolored removal, but all in all, it's only useful as the enabler of those combos that require a creature or permanent of every color on the battlefield, like Coalition Victory or Happily Ever After.
  • Rating: 4

56. 

  • Name: Sphinx of the Second Sun   >> summary
  • Set: Commander Legends
  • Converted Mana Cost: 8
  • Body: 12
  • Evaluation: Sphinx of the Second Sun is one of the most expensive Sphinges in the game, and the reason he's so over-the-top resides not in his tactical value on the battlefield, but in his unique, rule-changing static ability. As the reminder text helpfully spells out, getting an additional beginning phase entails all of the following: we untap all of our permanents, so we essentially double our mana resources; we trigger every upkeep trigger again; and we draw an extra card. And then we enter the second main, so we can exploit all of this immediately. It's pretty busted, and certainly worth an eight-drop mythic. It was released in Commander Legends, so it's not designed for any format, but the power is undeniable. This guy is a must-kill for the opponents, and if we manage to keep him alive even just a couple turns, we'll probably be able to take over the game.
  • Rating: 8

57. 

  • Name: Sphinx of the Steel Wind   >> summary
  • Sets: Alara Reborn, Premium Deck Series: Graveborn, Commander 2013, Eternal Masters
  • Additional Type: Artifact
  • Converted Mana Cost: 8
  • Body: 12
  • Evaluation: First came Spirit of the Night, then Akroma, Angel of Wrath and her alternate-dimension counterpart, and lastly Sphinx of the Steel Wind. What are they? Well, they are the battlefield overlords, the most proficient of the battleworthy creatures, equipped with such a plethora of keyworded abilities that they are bound to win almost any engagement. Steel Wind is more precisely a direct take on the white Akroma. They share casting cost (albeit the Sphinx is Esper-colored, so a bit more difficult to hardcast), body, the first three abilities, and the double protection, with green replacing black as part of the Sphinx's opposite colors. The main difference is that our Sphingian Akroma trades trample and haste for lifelink, which makes the two of them better suited for different roles: Akroma is about winning the game faster, Sphinx of the Steel Wind is about coming back from an unfavourable position and ensuring your advantage over time. Other slight differences: Steel Wind isn't legendary, which probably only matters for tutors like Time of Need and  Captain Sisay or the "historic matters" cards; and she's an artifact, which doesn't make her any more fragile, due to her protection to the main artifact-hating colors, while at the same time giving her more interactions with effects like Sharuum the Hegemon and Open the Vaults. Their divergent sets of protections also cause some variance in how they play against other decks. Akroma is protected against two of the three colors that are best at removal; Steel Wind dies to Murder but blocks Tarmogoyf (both are vulnerable to white, which is something only the red Akroma avoids). All in all, Sphinx of the Steel Wind, just like the two Akromas, is a great reanimation/cheat-into-play target: not as explosive as the original Akroma (which was later "fixed" in Commander Legends), but still pretty resilient and fully capable of dominating the battlefield all on her own.
  • Rating: 9

58. 

  • Name: Sphinx of Uthuun   >> summary
  • Sets: Magic 2012, Duel Decks: Venser vs. Koth, Magic 2013, Duel Decks: Speed vs. Cunning, Commander 2014, Iconic Masters, Commander 2018, Commander Legends
  • Converted Mana Cost: 7
  • Body: 11
  • Evaluation: In the same core set that gave us the Demonic Tutor Demon, we also got the Fact or Fiction Sphinx. Granted, Sphinx of Uthuun comes three turns later than an actual Fact or Fiction, and works at sorcery speed, but you get a Mahamoti Djinn out of the deal. As far as high-costing creatures go, he's a solid one, provides card advantage and he's a reasonably scary and resilient threat (at the very least, he's out of Dismember reach). Of course he's nowhere near as effective as Consecrated Sphinx, or even Sphinx of Magosi in the long-term, and the printing of Unesh, Criosphinx Sovereign more or less made him obsolete in formats where the latter is legal. But he's still the most reprinted Sphinx ever. Must be the beard.
  • Rating: 7

59.  

  • Name: Sphinx Sovereign   >> summary
  • Set: Shards of Alara
  • Additional Type: Artifact
  • Converted Mana Cost: 8
  • Body: 12
  • Evaluation: She costs too much for sure (she's one of the most expensive Sphinges, alongside the vastly superior Sphinx of the Second Sun and Sphinx of the Steel Wind). But I still think she's a valid reanimation target. She can't really be compared to a powerhouse like Sphinx of the Steel Wind, but if it's life we're after, then the Sovereign delivers the goods right away (or at the end of her first turn, at least). And she sort of swings for nine damage. Those are certainly two powerful end-phase triggers, and even if she gets tapped to prevent her attack, she'll still deal three, and to each opponent, to boot. Of course, eight mana, half of which colored, are a steep investment for a creature with no way of protecting herself, but just like in the case of her Steel Wind sister in most circumstances, the plan is not actually to hardcast her. (By the way, the solution to her flavor text riddle is "the wind").
  • Rating: 7

60. 

  • Name: Sphinx Summoner   >> summary
  • Sets: Conflux, Commander 2016, Double Masters
  • Additional Type: Artifact
  • Converted Mana Cost: 5
  • Body: 6
  • Evaluation: Tutors are a critical component in Magic, it goes without saying. Sphinx Summoner is a conditional tutor, but at the same time it covers enough possibilities to feel useful in a wider range of decks. Worst case scenario, we can just fetch multiple copies of the Summoner itself, in an overblown Squadron Hawk sort of way. True, a fragile 3/3 flyer isn't the best of the deals you can get for five mana. But the potential for shenanigans is there. Of course, Commander is its environment of choice: most decks run Solemn Simulacrum and Duplicant, if not also Wurmcoil Engine and Steel Hellkite – all cards we're more than happy to tutor up while putting an evasive body on the board at the same time.
  • Rating: 8

61. 

  • Name: Unesh, Criosphinx Sovereign   >> summary
  • Set: Hour of Devastation
  • Additional Type: Legendary
  • Converted Mana Cost: 6
  • Body: 8
  • Evaluation: The very first Sphinx tribal lord, Unesh has a smaller body than Sphinx of Uthuun, but other than that, he completely steals the thunder of his fellow Fact or Fiction surrogate, even with his ability being one card short of the real deal. He makes up for that minor flaw by costing one mana less than Sphinx of Uthuun, repeating the trigger at every following Sphinx you put on the battlefield, and reducing by two the cost of all of his tribesmates, which also results in the successive copies of Unesh becoming more or less just a Fact or Fiction for Fact or Fiction's regular cost. And as far as tribal lords go, Sphinges can certainly use the cost reduction, surely more than your regular anthem effect.
  • Backstory: Unesh is a criosphinx, i.e. a sphinx with the head of a ram. Sphinges are not specieist, though, because they still follow Unesh's lead despite his apperances, which make him look like not particularly smart livestock. Before the Second Sun aligned with Bolas's monument, precipitating the situation, Sphinges on Amonkhet were silent; the population believed it was due to a vow they took, but in fact it was a curse Bolas cast on them to ensure they won't give his machinations away, since even he wasn't able to control their impenetrable minds (one would think they could use nonverbal communication to warn everyone, though. Maybe charades? Then again, it's probably hard for a Sphinx to mime "throwing weapon made of weights on the ends of interconnected cords, five letters").
  • Rating: 8

62. 

  • Name: Vexing Sphinx   >> summary
  • Set: Coldsnap
  • Converted Mana Cost: 3
  • Body: 8
  • Evaluation: Hard to suggest playing Vexing Sphinx if you aren't employing a graveyard strategy of some kind; but if you do, man, Vexing does his job like gangbusters. At three mana, he's still the cheapest Sphinx currently in existence, while still being a 4/4, which means he'll buy you time early on while you're advancing your battle plan, or will easily land 4 to 8 damage to the opponent's dome in the meantime, if you so choose. Usually we don't keep him active for more than two turns, thus discarding a total of three cards to his cumulative upkeep; but the great part is that, the turn we decide to let him go, he'll still get an age counter before heading to the graveyard, therefore drawing us one extra card. So in the end we discard three cards and draw three cards, the same ratio as the tribe's other main discarding outlet, Sphinx of Lost Truths. Compared to that, Vexing drops earlier but works in reverse (you discard first, draw later, sort of a delayed rummaging) and needs to survive for a couple turns in order to achieve the same goal. But he fits perfectly the curve of a deck that cares for this kind of strategy.
  • Rating: 8

63. 

  • Name: Windreader Sphinx   >> summary
  • Sets: Magic 2014, Core Set 2019, Jumpstart
  • Converted Mana Cost: 7
  • Body: 10
  • Evaluation: Yet another variation on the always welcome "Sphinges get you cards" theme, Windreader Sphinx is definitely not the best of the bunch, particularly considering she started her career as a mythic, before being demoted to rare for all her subsequent reprints. Her power is too low, her cost is too high, and if you don't combo her with cards like Lingering Souls or Bitterblossom to fill your battlefield with a reasonably large number of flyers, she's just going to draw you one card per turn, and she even has to attack for that to happen – she does have a big butt, but in the army-of-flying-tokens ideal scenario, she'd be better off holding the fort while her tiny friends perform the card-drawing duty. Had she cost one fewer mana, she could have seen play; as it is, it's hardly something we'd want to bother with, in a world where so many better options exist.
  • Rating: 5

64. 

  • Name: Witness of Tomorrows   >> summary
  • Set: Theros Beyond Death
  • Additional Type: Enchantment
  • Converted Mana Cost: 5
  • Body: 7
  • Evaluation: Very basic common Sphinx, with the peculiarity of being the only enchantment Sphinx. It's okay in Limited, but that has to be the most expensive way to scry 1 in the entire game.
  • Rating: 3

65. 

  • Name: Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign   >> summary
  • Set: Commander 2018
  • Additional Type: Legendary
  • Converted Mana Cost: 5
  • Body: 8
  • Evaluation: Here's a role model for Windreader Sphinx. For the comparative cost of a Prognostic Sphinx, Yennett at worst will draw us one card per turn (vigilance, menace and a significant toughness are all elements designed to make her attacks as much painlessly as possible), and at best she will cast one spell per turn, the chances of which can even be improved by building the deck in a specific way. And you know what has an odd converted mana cost? Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, and Worldspine Wurm, among others. Just in case you wanted to know what to Brainstorm to the top of the library before Yennett attacks.
  • Backstory: We don't know where Yennett comes from, but we do know on her home plane she's a queen with powers over the future, hence her third eye.
  • Rating: 8

STATISTICS

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 Sphinx History (first appearances only)

  • Core sets: 8 (M10: 1, M11: 1, M12: 1, M14: 1, M15: 1, Magic Origins: 1, M19: 1, M20: 1)
  • Starter sets: 0
  • Commander products: 7 (Commander 2015: 2, Commander 2018: 1, Zendikar Rising Commander: 1, Commander Legends: 2, Commander 2021: 1)
  • Special sets: 4 (Game Night: 1, Game Night 2019: 1, Jumpstart: 2)
  • Ancient sets: 1 (Legends: 1)
  • Ice Age block: 1 (Coldsnap: 1)
  • Mirage block: 0
  • Tempest block: 0
  • Urza block: 0
  • Masques block: 0
  • Invasion block: 0
  • Odyssey block: 0
  • Onslaught block: 0
  • Mirrodin block: 0
  • Kamigawa block: 0
  • Ravnica block: 3 (Ravnica: 2, Dissension: 1)
  • Time Spiral block: 1 (Planar Chaos: 1)
  • Lorwyn/Shadowmoor block: 0
  • Alara block: 7 (Shards of Alara: 3, Conflux: 2, Alara Reborn: 2)
  • Zendikar block: 4 (Zendikar: 2, Worldwake: 1, Rise of the Eldrazi: 1)
  • Scars of Mirrodin block: 3 (Scars of Mirrodin: 1, Mirrodin Besieged: 1, New Phyrexia: 1)
  • Innistrad block: 0
  • Return to Ravnica block: 3 (Return to Ravnica: 2, Dragon's Maze: 1)
  • Theros block: 4 (Theros: 3, Born of the Gods: 1)
  • Khans of Tarkir block: 0
  • Battle for Zendikar block: 3 (Battle for Zendikar: 1, Oath of the Gatewatch: 2)
  • Shadows over Innistrad block: 0
  • Kaladesh block: 0
  • Amonkhet block: 4 (Amonkhet: 2, Hour of Devastation: 2)
  • "Pre-War" pseudo-block: 2 (Rivals of Ixalan: 1, Dominaria: 1)
  • "Ravnica at War" pseudo-block: 6 (Guilds of Ravnica: 2, Ravnica Allegiance: 3, War of the Spark: 1)
  • "Post-War" pseudo-block: 3 (Theros Beyond Death: 3)
  • The MDFCs pseudo-block: 1 (Zendikar Rising: 1)

 Conclusions: In the first 12 years of its history, Magic didn't care much for the Sphinges. In fact, Petra Sphinx (who remains an oddity) is the only one that saw print before Ravnica brought back the subtype with Belltower Sphinx and Cerulean Sphinx, even if Vexing Sphinx technically belongs to an older block in virtue of Coldsnap being attached to Ice Age. Starting with Ravnica, more than half of the blocks has featured at least one Sphinx. More so, to attest their relatively recent iconicity, every core set since Magic 2010 debuted one new Sphinx, with the only exception of Magic 2013, which repeated Sphinx of Uthuun from the previous year. To date, the most Sphingian block is still Alara, which included seven of the flying hybrids, and it was also the first setting to pay homage to the "living statue" lore. And while both Zendikar and Scars of Mirrodin regaled us with some of the tribe's finest, neither the Greek-themed Theros nor the Egyptian-themed Amonkhet ended up featuring as many Sphinges as one would expect, with just four each.

 Sphinx Colors

  • White: 15 (of which 1 mono, 7 Azorius, 6 Esper, 1 pentacolor)
  • Blue: 63 (of which 47 mono, 7 Azorius, 1 Dimir, 1 Izzet, 6 Esper, 1 pentacolor)
  • Black: 8 (of which 1 Dimir, 6 Esper, 1 pentacolor)
  • Red: 2 (of which 1 Izzet, 1 pentacolor)
  • Green: 1 (of which 1 pentacolor)
  • Colorless: 1

 Conclusions: Once the original anomaly of Petra Sphinx was left in the past, Sphinges became entirely blue creatures, and when they're not monoblue (which most of the times they are, especially in the latest iterations), they deal exclusively with blue allied colors. The only modern exceptions both came from Commander 2015, where we found the first colorless Sphinx, Sandstone Oracle, as well as the first red one, Arjun, the Shifting Flame. Sphinx of the Guildpact technically counts for all colors, while only requiring generic mana to be cast.

 Sphinx Cost

  • CMC 3: 1
  • CMC 4: 7
  • CMC 5: 17
  • CMC 6: 22
  • CMC 7: 15
  • CMC 8: 3

 Conclusions: The Sphinges are definitely late midrange beasts, with 60% of the tribe distributed between CMC 5 and CMC 6. The fastest to drop is Coldsnap's Vexing Sphinx, the most ponderous ones are Alara's Sphinx of the Steel Wind and Sphinx Sovereign, later joined by Sphinx of the Second Sun from Commander Legends. Recent releases have increased both the number of four-drops (which went from from 3 to 7 between 2018 and 2021), but also the number of six-drops (from 15 to 22) and seven-drops (from 10 to 15).

 Sphinx Rarity

  • Mythic: 17 (of which one later downgraded to rare)
  • Rare: 36
  • Uncommon: 9
  • Common: 3

 Conclusions: As an inconic tribe mostly populated by midrange beaters or late-game finishers, Sphinges mostly show up at rare or mythic rarity. However, the first uncommon Sphinx was also the second ever printed, Belltower Sphinx from Ravnica: City of Guilds. The first common Sphinx came much later, with Jwar Isle Avenger in Oath of the Gatewatch.

 Additional Types

  • Legendary: 12
  • Artifact: 9
  • Wizard: 2
  • Enchantment: 1
  • Nightmare: 1
  • Rogue: 1

 Conclusions: Sphinges don't mix themselves with other types – they have one job: being enigmatic, aloof guardians of knowledge and passages. Aside from the legendary ones, we only have a few artifacts, reminding us of the historical tradition of statuary Sphinges. Arjun, the Shifting Flame is the lone exception again, since he's the first Sphinx with a class, Wizard, later revisited by Master of Winds due to the party mechanic from Zendikar Rising (same reason Enigma Thief from that set's Commander decks was given the Rogue class). The only hybridization with another race comes from Dream Eater being a Nightmare.

 Keywords (or so)

  • Flying: 65
  • Scry: 6
  • Vigilance: 5
  • Hexproof: 3
  • Lifelink: 2
  • Protection: 2 (of which 1 from red, 1 from green)
  • Surveil: 2
  • Cascade: 1
  • Cycling: 1
  • Embalm: 1
  • First strike: 1
  • Flash: 1
  • Menace: 1
  • Partner: 1
  • Prowler: 1
  • Shroud: 1
  • Surge: 1
  • Uncounterable: 1
  • Ward: 1

 Conclusions: All the Sphinges fly, but for the rest they have very few recurring keyworded abilities. Scry and vigilance compare more often, to suggest their roles of seers and/or immovable watchers. It's however interesting to note that 17 Sphinges have some kind of card-drawing ability and six others grant another genre of card advantage; seven Sphinges dodge removal; and five Sphinges "pose riddles".

 The Sphinx Commanders (click on any of them to go to its review)

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 Latest Additions (click on any of them to go to its review)

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SUMMARY
(click on any of them to go to its review)

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 Alhammarret, High Arbiter, Arbiter of the Ideal, Argent Sphinx , Arjun, the Shifting Flame, Atemsis, All-Seeing, Azor, the Lawbringer, Belltower Sphinx , Cerulean Sphinx , Chancellor of the Spires , Citywatch Sphinx, Cloudreader Sphinx, Consecrated Sphinx , Conundrum Sphinx , Curator of Mysteries, Dazzling Sphinx, Dream Eater, Dream Trawler, Eligeth, Crossroads Augur, Enigma Sphinx , Enigma Thief, Glyph Keeper, Goliath Sphinx , Guardian of Tazeem, Horizon Scholar , Inspired Sphinx, Isperia the Inscrutable , Isperia, Supreme Judge , Jelenn Sphinx , Jwar Isle Avenger, Magister Sphinx , Master of Predicaments, Master of Winds, Medomai the Ageless , Ominous Sphinx, Ormos, Archive Keeper, Petra Sphinx , Prognostic Sphinx , Rescuer Sphinx, Riddlemaster Sphinx, Sandstone Oracle, Scholar of the Lost Trove, Serra Sphinx , Sharding Sphinx , Sharuum the Hegemon , Sphinx Ambassador , Sphinx Mindbreaker, Sphinx of Enlightenment, Sphinx of Foresight, Sphinx of Jwar Isle , Sphinx of Lost Truths , Sphinx of Magosi , Sphinx of New Prahv, Sphinx of the Chimes , Sphinx of the Final Word, Sphinx of the Guildpact, Sphinx of the Second Sun, Sphinx of the Steel Wind , Sphinx of Uthuun , Sphinx Sovereign , Sphinx Summoner , Unesh, Criosphinx Sovereign , Vexing Sphinx , Windreader Sphinx, Witness of Tomorrows, Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign

10 Comments

4 power with evasion is a by AJ_Impy at Fri, 11/29/2013 - 12:58
AJ_Impy's picture
5

4 power with evasion is a jump of two turns on 3 power: Four power with evasion for 4 mana is worth the risk of getting bolted, especially if it can try to dodge it. Argent to my opinion is better than a 6. Great work as always.

Argent doesn't have evasion, by Kumagoro42 at Fri, 11/29/2013 - 19:18
Kumagoro42's picture

Argent doesn't have evasion, though, she has "situational evasion" (if for evasion you mean the flicker effect, not the flying). Not being an artifact herself, you need 3 artifacts in play for that to work. Even in Tribal Wars, that would mean adding a bunch of artifact lands, and in a blue/mostly blue deck, after the first 4 Seats of the Synod, it'd be like adding colorless sources. Maybe Argent deserves a 6.5/7, but Conundrum is definitely the superior creature in most occasions.

Generally, yes. (And I'm by AJ_Impy at Fri, 11/29/2013 - 21:32
AJ_Impy's picture

Generally, yes. (And I'm referring to the flying rather than the occasional flicker.) But three artifacts aren't too hard to come by, especially in a tribe with other artifact creatures, and a colour with one of the finest anti-creature artifacts in the game.

Halfway through I stopped by Paul Leicht at Fri, 11/29/2013 - 20:34
Paul Leicht's picture
5

Halfway through I stopped because I needed to comment concerning Magister Sphinx. Typically the "Becomes 10 life" ability works in your favor whether it is to get you BACK to 10 or put your opponent within sudden death range.

Also I noticed some odd grammar errors:

"And why did Magic wait so much before making Sphinx the blue equivalent of Angel, Demon and Dragon?" "...wait so long..." would be better.
"The things you'll end up playing for free when you cast her risk to be pretty beefy..." "Risk to be" is really not how this phrasing should go. Better is "...cast her are likely to be pretty beefy...". Risk indicates a strong negative. And this phrasing is an incorrect usage because of the infinitive "to be".

"...you even risk to give the opponent their life back!" the problem here is the "to give" part. "Risk giving" is better. (gerund vs infinitive verb form)

"It might also come the case where you use her to save yourself... " This is quite awkward. Better would be: "There might come a case where..."

"Possibly because I didn't see him played yet, neither in Commander nor in regular constructed formats." "...didn't see him played yet..." should be "...haven't seen him played yet..." also the "neither,nor" negative should instead be the positive "either, or" since otherwise you would have a double negative. (The not in didn't or haven't is the first negative.)

I won't pick apart the entire article. These just jumped out at me. I will be happy to help you proof your articles if you so desire. Just email me the copy you want proofed and I'll try and be helpful.

==Edit==

I'd like to point out that while I did find a number of errors in this article I don't think that reflects on your ability Kuma. You generally write some of the best articles on the site and perhaps in the game. Without your hard work there would be a huge gap to fill. And one of the reasons I've felt comfortable not writing much is because I don't see the need.

The errors within this particular article were anomalous which is why I pointed them out. I hope you understand how well regarded you are for the work you do.

"I'd like to point out that by Kumagoro42 at Thu, 08/23/2018 - 09:36
Kumagoro42's picture

"I'd like to point out that while I did find a number of errors in this article".

And now all has been fixed and mostly rewritten with this (long-needed) update!

Very nice as usual. Just a by Leviathan at Fri, 11/29/2013 - 19:24
Leviathan's picture
5

Very nice as usual. Just a few random comments from a Commander perspective.

Conundrum Sphinx has burned me every time I've played it. You never realize how many Sylvan Libraries, Top's, Scroll Racks and other ways there are to view the top of a library until you play Conundrum and start giving all your opponents free cards.

Isperia and Sphinx Ambassador are fun little mini-games in a game. Ambassador is even better because you get to look at an opponent's library, and you almost never see an opponent guess the right creature. And it's even more funny when people forget what's in their decks.

Medomai is amazing, especially with haste. I was happy every time I drew him in my Daxos deck.

Yeah, I don't think I would by Kumagoro42 at Fri, 11/29/2013 - 20:45
Kumagoro42's picture

Yeah, I don't think I would ever play Conundrum Sphinx in Commander. Then again, I don't usually play any creature in Commander under 6 CMC (if any at all, now that I think of it) that doesn't come with some utility angle. Even Thrun looks mostly pointless to me.

And of course Ambassador works better when you target a 99-card deck with a potential large number of useful creatures (did I name Duplicant? Terastodon? A finisher?). But I still can't get behind how convoluted the mechanic for Isperia 1.0 is, and what the flavor of it is even supposed to be. (Then again, it's the same block that gave us Haunt, which experienced MTG players use as a campfire story to scare newbies.)

Sphinx of the Chimes will by CottonRhetoric at Fri, 11/29/2013 - 20:07
CottonRhetoric's picture

Sphinx of the Chimes will live forever!!!

Herein lies a riddle:I am by MichelleWong at Thu, 08/23/2018 - 09:30
MichelleWong's picture
5

Herein lies a riddle:

I am surrounded by water yet never wet.
I am broken yet wholly in tact.
I am besieged in more ways than one, but worries I have none.
I am an artist, and I draw perfectly.
I am a drawer, but nothing is stored in me.
I am consecrated to power, yet my power wanes.
I am the envy of Oracles, yet I am not from Theros.
I have rotated away but I still see play.
I command the cryptic, yet I am not a Cryptic Command.
My bride is all white, yet she is not my wife.

What am I?

If you guessed correctly that I am a Consecrated Sphinx + Moat combo (a combo I loved in Tribal Wars!), then you can go ahead and draw a card. If however you are playing on Magic Online, sorry you will not be able to draw a card even if you guessed correctly!.

Nice. :) by Kumagoro42 at Thu, 08/23/2018 - 09:30
Kumagoro42's picture

Nice. :)