If you run into me on any given Halloween, chances are I'll be wearing some sort of mad scientist garb. The goggles, the lab coat, the gloves, the wild cackle... I never seem to get enough. There's something thrilling about the idea of creating monsters, of pushing science past the ragged edge, of blending creativity with terror.
Magic has plenty of outlets for my obsession, but there is one particularly infamous and exciting mad scientist who did not get his own card in either Innistrad block. I figured that we were out of luck until our next visit to his home plane, but I've never been happier to be wrong.
That's right—if you pick up a certain one of the latest Commander decks, you will have the privilege of playing with none other than Ludevic, Necro-Alchemist:
For those of you unfamiliar with Ludevic, allow me to provide a quick summary of what we know about him. For starters, Ludevic is no spring chicken. To many outsiders, he is simply an aged and reclusive merchant—one of the most influential in coastal Nephalia. To those who know him well, however, he is perhaps the greatest stitcher and necro-alchemist in the history of his plane. You might be familiar with some of his creations:
While there was some concern that Ludevic had been forced into retirement thanks to an overconsumption of potions and toxic vapors, we learned otherwise in Shadows over Innistrad. After developing a friendly correspondence with Stitcher Geralf, Ludevic invited the young scientist to work beside him in his laboratory. The collaboration resulted in some of Geralf and Ludevic's finest work—and some of Innistrad's creepiest Horrors.
It's worth noting that while Ludevic and Geralf are both necro-alchemists, their color identities are slightly different—Gisa and Geralf is a blue-black card, while Ludevic, Necro-Alchemist is blue-red. This makes sense. While Geralf often fixates on his never-ending battle with his sister, Ludevic is less concerned with what his abominations are used for. To him, it's the art of creation that's most important.
This brings us to Ludevic's first ability, which is quite good at showcasing his scientific philosophy. Think of your opponents both as potential allies and potential experiments. Ludevic doesn't much care which is which—as long as people are participating in his experiments, (most of which seem to involve the loss of life—no surprises there) they will be rewarded with knowledge in the form of cards. The more experiments occur, the more knowledge is gained. The more knowledge is gained, the more creation can occur.
Ludevic's flavor text helps reinforce this idea. "How does one become a self-taught genius? Naturally, it requires brains." Not just Ludevic's brain, of course, but the brains you have to collect by performing your own experiments. Ludevic will help you learn necro-alchemy, but only if you do the field work yourself. Igor—fetch me a brain!
Ludevic's partner ability plays into this idea as well. He may be the greatest scientist on Innistrad, but he's getting up there in years. At this point, Ludevic is not going to be very useful in combat, and he's going to lose a lot of one-on-one fights against the sort of creatures that used to be nothing more than fodder for his vast collection of experiments.
That doesn't mean that Ludevic can't still be useful, though. As we saw from his fruitful collaboration with Geralf, Ludevic is still able to provide knowledge and inspiration to a younger, more powerful mentee—someone, perhaps, who has stronger ideas about how his creations might be used in battle. If you allow Ludevic to take on a more passive role in your deck, he can reap huge dividends for you as your opponents fight to experiment on each other while you assemble... oh, I don't know, how does an army of the undead sound?
Let's spend a few moments on Ludevic's art, too, because it's quite spectacular. I'm a fan of artists who can organically work a card's color identity into their palate, and Aaron Miller does a great job of that here—everything from Ludevic's apron to the fluid in his syringe is in some shade of blue or red.
I'd especially like to highlight the large, intestine-like tubes sticking out of Ludevic's experiment. Not only is their color scheme a nice nod to Ludevic's color identity, but they bring to mind the blue and red hues of veins and arteries. This blend of science and body horror is creepy in the best possible way.
The visual nods to the 1931 version of Frankenstein are terrific as well. Dr. Frankenstein was clearly an inspiration for Ludevic's character (the outside of his laboratory was featured on Rooftop Storm!), and Miller clearly found some resonance in that source material as well. The inclusion of a body strapped to a slab in mid-reanimation is obvious, but my favorite reference is that big metallic wheel behind Ludevic's head. You'll find a nearly identical prop in the background of Dr. Frankenstein's lab in that film.
In closing, let me leave you with some Parting Thoughts.