99 Problems – Smashing Face With The Guru Of Spores

This week, Sean McKeown gets to help out Chris with his Ghave Commander deck. He’s tired of running all the same stuff in his decks; how can Sean spice it up for him?

Howdy Sean.

So I waffled for a while on emailing you, as usually you are working with people who love their decks and are now having a crisis of faith with regards
to their current card choices, and I, as you can see from the general, am simply trying to work out a deck with a great general that looks like a lot
of fun and allows me to pummel people to death with Saprolings.

See, I started in the before time, in the long, long ago, so I was around for when Fallen Empires came out… And yes, I made a Thallid deck. I mean
with cards as OP as Thallid Devourer and Feral Thallid, how could I not make one? Now though, I am jaded and grumpy. I pretty much only play EDH
(yes it is EDH, not Commander) with my friends (groups of 3-5 people including myself). Some of them are recovering MTG addicts, so I invariably make
decks for them and pick up cards they particularly want, as honestly I am okay with dropping a little cash to have some fun with friends…

Which brings me back to Ghave… I love this guy; he lets me ignore creatures without trample or flying; he has neat tricks… and I cannot stress this
enough: I get to maul people with Saprolings, which is awesome! What is not awesome, however, is as I have access to most any card I want… this deck
is already starting to look like other decks of the W or B or G flavor, as there are some cards I can’t pass on because they are “that good.”

Here is the deck as it stands:


Ghave, Guru of Spores

Creatures: (26)

Acidic Slime

Good ETB creature, but in a world of Saprolings and Aura Shards, is it needed?

Angel of Despair

Problem solver; I love this girl, but she ends up in all my decks that can run her… but honestly, how can one not use a Vindicate on a 5/5 flier…?

Avenger of Zendikar

Not a Saproling, but still spews out the green critters… But again it is a card I am too tempted to run in every deck that can cast it.

Brutalizer Exarch

Good ETB creature, but in a world of Saprolings and Aura Shards, is it needed?

Creakwood Liege

First of many cards that are nonbos with Sigil Captain… but, do I care? Only one Sigil Captain, seems like it should be okay… though I know I will
complain when it happens.

Deathspore Thallid

Potential removal, sac outlet, makes Saprolings, seems good.

Extractor Demon

Alternate win condition if I run up against Constant Mists etc.; then again it’s pointless if they have an Eldrazi, so maybe it goes?


Acceleration, +1/+1 counters, seems okay.


No need for me to sing the praises of this one… but again… does deck have green? Does it have Genesis? Both of these answers should be yes or no.

Juniper Order Ranger

Cute with Ghave, mildly silly with Doubling Season.

Knight of the Reliquary

Finds me Gaea’s Cradle or Volrath’s Stronghold, as well as general thinning of deck… but it is so far off theme it is not even funny.

Krosan Tusker

It’s a Tusker…. Comments pretty much in line with the ones I had on Genesis.

Oracle of Mul Daya

Acceleration, great with Sylvan, can be fetched with Green Sun’s Zenith

Pallid Mycoderm

Furthering the “I killed you with Saprolings” cause.

Protean Hydra

I have a foil one… Okay, that is crap justification, as I have a foil lots of things, but it seems good with Ghave and seems downright stupid with
Doubling Season.

Psychotrope Thallid

Card draw off Saprolings, sac outlet; as I can’t really run Greater Good, it seems like a good plan.

Regal Force

He’s good… but he goes in all my decks…


He’s awesome, gets back Ghave if I want to skip the 2CMC cost increase, gets back Spike Weaver and a bunch of other guys… but again I run him a lot.

Sigil Captain

Make lots of 1/1s… check, run Sigil Captain… check.

Spike Weaver

I love this creepy Spider… thing, great with Ghave, great in general.

Sporesower Thallid

Speeding up the Saproling agenda.

Sporoloth Ancient

Speeding up the Saproling agenda.

Thelonite Hermit


Verdant Force

Yep… more Saprolings.

Wilt-Leaf Liege

See comments for Creakwood Liege.

Wood Elves

Because I can produce green mana.

Legendary Creature (8)

Braids, Cabal Minion

Seems good with Verdant Force and co… Though I wonder if it is pushing the boundaries of Wheaton’s Law.

Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite

Seems good, run it a lot, stops Rith decks, makes Saprolings silly.

Nemata, Grove Guardian

Pretty much out of clever things (least moderately clever things) to say about things that make Saprolings.

Saffi Eriksdotter

She is great, combos with Ghave, and a lot of the deck.

Sheoldred, Whispering One

Hurts them, helps me, but not really on theme.

Tolsimir Wolfblood

See Liege comments.

Verdeloth the Ancient

See Nemata Comment

Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter

Sac outlet, flying beater, and removal… but not overly theme-y.

Artifacts (4)

Darksteel Ingot
Eldrazi Monument
Slate of Ancestry
Sol Ring

Nothing much to say about the artifacts…

Enchantments (15)


Removal, sac outlet, all around fantastic card.

Aura Shards

Fantastic with tokens.

Doubling Season

The main reason I really wanted to make this deck; this plus Ghave makes me giggle like a schoolgirl… though, if you want a less creepy image “cackle
manically” can be substituted instead.

Glare of Subdual

I never see this card played; seems solid, seems on theme, as I can lock down big threats with a token.

Grave Pact

Another Wheaton’s law card… but… it’s just so darn good.

Grim Feast

I bet you had to look this up… I love this card; it’s goofy and usually nets me a pile of life…. and no one ever plays it, as it is a “bad rare”
from Mirage.

Martyr’s Bond

See Grave Pact


GY hate and makes me little green friends.

Oblivion Ring

So versatile and good, I can’t imagine not running it.

Phyrexian Arena

Card draw at a pittance.

Privileged Position

Seems good?

Sterling Grove

“Cute” with Privileged Position and finds me Doubling Season.

Survival of the Fittest

Another “oh look I should pull it out with my other every-green-deck-ever-gets-it cards.”

Sylvan Library

Good in every format ever.

Unspeakable Symbol

Another card I bet you had to look up and another card I love; it looks like a bunch of fun with Ghave too.

Sorcery (9)

Austere Command

Does everything I want a bomby sorcery to do, leaves my tokens around, kills enchantments, artifacts, or blows up the world… hard not to run it.

Decree of Pain

I love me some bomby sorceries… and this is one of them; it and Plague Wind simply change everything when cast.

Genesis Wave

On the fence on this… it’s good, but… eh… I dunno. It seems like something I should run, but it does not really sing to me.

Green Sun’s Zenith

I hear it’s pretty good.

Hallowed Burial

My creatures getting tucked is sort of not the end of the world, but usually the same can’t be said for other people.

Hour of Reckoning

Yup… I hear Plague Wind is good, may as well run two.

Plague Wind

Who would’ve thought Saprolings carried the black death?

Promise of Power

Cute card, cheap card draw (five cards for five mana and five life); also if I have the mana can pop out some rather large flying creature(s) if
Doubling Season is out.

Saproling Symbiosis

So many Saprolings.

Instant (2)

Eladamri’s Call

Just a great card.

Krosan Grip

Is it needed? Kills a lot of things, but between Acidic Slime, Exarch, Aura Shards, Austere Command… do I need it?

Planeswalker (5)

Ajani Goldmane

Seems good, especially as I can move around the counters with Ghave, or my men get huge with Doubling Season.

Elspeth, Knight-Errant

Makes white Saprolings? Okay, I can’t really justify her beyond wanting to ultimate her.

Elspeth Tirel

Works great with my token theme.

Garruk Wildspeaker

Only thing better than Saproling death squads is trampling Saproling death squads.

Karn Liberated

Kind of meh… it’s here because it’s silly with Doubling Season; it gets around things like Ulamog and Forge[/author]“]Darksteel [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author].

Land (25)

Barren Moor
Bojuka Bog
Command Tower
Godless Shrine
Golgari Rot Farm
Krosan Verge
Marsh Flats
Mosswort Bridge
Murmuring Bosk
Orzhov Basilica
Overgrown Tomb
Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author]
Secluded Steppe
Selesnya Sanctuary
Stirring Wildwood
Strip Mine
Sunpetal Grove
Temple Garden
Temple of the False God
Tranquil Thicket
Verdant Catacombs
Windswept Heath

Legendary Land (4)

Gaea’s Cradle
Serra’s Sanctum
Volrath’s Stronghold
Yavimaya Hollow

Is this even the right deck for it? It seems just like a fantastic card.

Basic Land (9)

3 Forest
3 Swamp
3 Plains

Some quick math will show a few problems… to be exact… eight of them… as I am at 108 cards. You may have also noticed a few cards missing:

Demonic Tutor
Eternal Witness
Enlightened Tutor
Vampiric Tutor
Idyllic Tutor
Overwhelming Stampede
Coat of Arms

I have these cards… well aside from Idyllic Tutor, but I was trying to avoid running them… Some because I always run them—see Tutor/Witness—and
others because of laziness and an indecisive personality… I have gone through like five different themes on this deck. They all seem cool, and they
all try to make it in (at one point I was, and still am, considering adding enchantresses in here as I have a ton of enchantments)… Bottom line is I
am lost… I have a deck with cool stuff that could be a lot of fun, but it is currently stuck in between three different versions. It is missing cards
it really should be running, but are not in there as I am making an attempt at breaking from my comfort zone…

Cost is not really an issue, though about the only cards left I could buy would be Grim Tutor. The group I play with is competitive, but not to the
point where Jhoira is suspending Ulamog then obliterating; we tend to avoid Geddon effects, or Blood Moon. We like being able to have fun, interactive,
hard-fought games… Man this email is a mess… Hopefully my rambling makes sense to you, and hopefully I will hear back from you.

Cheers Sir.


Hi Chris,

I’ve decided to choose you for this next week’s upcoming article, and just had a follow-up question for you: what direction do you want to take the
deck? What elements of play do you want to focus on as a deck’s strength? Before I can offer any advice, I have to get a better sense of what you see
as Ghave’s possible strengths and how you want to play the deck out—be it controlling, full of combo-riffic card interactions, or more of a beatdown
deck—before I can try and help.

– Sean

Wow, sorry about the delay. Was not actually expecting a response. 😀

Anyway, as far as “what direction do you want to take the deck? What elements of play do you want to focus on as a deck’s strength?” I think the deck’s
strength is simply the versatility and fun behind Ghave. He can either make a mound of Saprolings, which is sort of what I was doing with my deck, and
he can also do some silly things with previously limited +1/+1 counter creatures. Back in the day, having a Spike Weaver out was tough to deal with,
but with Ghave supplying things, it seems like it would be even worse. Also cards like Mycoloth (which I had forgotten about in my first list) seem
like they could produce some pretty darn amusing interactions with Ghave.

It also has a mild political aspect, as I can give other people’s creatures a +1/+1 counter to allow a persist body to come back a second time, etc.
It’s a first-world problem to have, I guess… too many cards; too many options :/

My favorite cards I have in deck are by far Doubling Season, Ghave, and some of the odd enchantments (Grim Feast and Unspeakable Symbol leaping to
mind). So I think I probably want to go combo-rific beatdown if at all possible, though that does not mean I want Animar/Grinning Ignus level of
combo… as really the only person having fun at that table is the person playing it… and even then for only the first five min. Feel free to ask any
other questions, sir, and thank you again!

So I hate to disappoint you, but I didn’t have to look any of your cards up; I have the misfortune at this point of having spent more than half of my
life now playing this game and have something of an encyclopedic memory when it comes to these delightful colored scraps of cardboard. And since my
memory is strongly visual, I can even usually see the card art when I think about one, and since Magic cards have pictures, I find it much easier to
remember any of the 11,000+ Magic cards than to remember some of the 110-or-so chemical elements I presumably spent my college education learning
about. Not only did I know Grim Feast, but I remembered just how delicious he seemed to think that arm was.

Fortunately, this means I’m perfectly happy to put this waste of memory space to the benefit of my readership and everyone who writes in, since it
means I can dredge up some forgotten gems of my own to suggest for decks. Now enough about me… let’s talk about you, or if you’d rather, about Ghave.

Ghave is a lot of pure power in one very aggressive package, since he is a 5/5 for five mana that is just chock full of combat tricks and spare
creatures for you to take advantage of. I like a lot of where you’re going with Ghave, but I think you’ll benefit the most by focusing on a mode of
play and following through with that focus in your design. It’s entirely true that you’re adding more ‘things in these colors that I like’ instead of
‘things that will work well in this deck,’ and that is a tough hump to get over, because you love all of these favorite cards for a reason. But when
you’re just drawing off a list of your favorite things, you’ll notice that list is pretty long, and easily overflows the ninety-nine card slots you
actually have. I found I had exactly that same problem trying to work on a Damia deck that happened to have all my favorite black and green cards in it
plus an entire mono-blue deck’s worth of cards I wanted to still play when I took my Memnarch deck apart to build with the new commanders now available
to us. You’ve overflowed by nine cards in your list above, and another eight you feel are obvious additions, giving us 116 to pare down from and that
means a sharp knife indeed.

Usually I’ll try to shave a little at the mana-base, but since you’re focusing on making strong plays on-curve it’s very important that you make your
early land drops, since you will likely have a lot fewer cards to back you out of a shortage than other commander decks might, no Kodama’s Reach or
Cultivate to solve your problems in one shot if only you can manage to get to three mana. I would normally try and fix your mana a bit nonetheless, but
considering it had everything I considered important save for one or two teensy little things, you’re doing great there, you even remembered the Krosan
Verge that too often goes forgotten because it’s a weird old card. With all the bouncelands and the easy-to-cycle Onslaught lands, you’ve already taken
all of my best tricks and put them to work, so there won’t be much I can shift around here unless something just doesn’t work with a change to your
other cards. Spoilers: there is one, and it’s Serra’s Sanctum.

The plan of action then is to pare it down to only cards that really work very well with Ghave active, and support your aggressive plans. We can’t just
build a beatdown curve and build in token creature / +1/+1 synergies and call it a day, though. What I find I add most often to the decks that are
submitted to me are robust ways to recover from the sorts of positions you can expect to find yourself facing in a world with Oblivion Stone and other
mass sweepers commonly showing up by the bucketful in the format’s control decks. It’s highly important to stay relevant even after board wipes start
to come down, and while Ghave does that very well almost by himself, he’ll have an easier time with more cards in your hand and a few recursion effects
to help you catch back up when your board is kicked over.

Subtractive Magic

Focusing on being a synergistic beatdown deck, then, led me to the following strips:

Eldrazi Monument — Great before a board wipe, terrible after one. I don’t think pure token swarm is the best way to attack this problem, so I’m taking
out most of the cards that go for that with just the brute-force method.

Slate of Ancestry — There are better ways to draw cards, and this will take more time to get moving than it seems to be worth to me. Sure, it can take
advantage of the number of tokens you’re able to produce, but it’s only good when things are working well enough already, and I am not a fan of purely
fair-weather friends.

Karn Liberated — I don’t favor planeswalkers “just because.” Sure, Karn’s great. He seems like a boatload of fun in Commander, and if you happen to
have your Doubling Season he can play the role of Upheaval, a card so good they had to ban it. But capable as you are of defending against nonflying
creatures, you’re not really building a defensive deck, so Karn gets the axe for being too hard to utilize well against anything more determined to
kill it than a stiff breeze.

Elspeth Tirel — I know she makes tokens so that’s on-theme, but unlike Elspeth, Knight-Errant she’s not pure upside. I don’t think you want any sides
of her really besides her ultimate, and like Karn, it can be difficult to keep her in play to do the job you want her to do without trying to control
the entire table. ‘Being the control deck’ is not the focus you were shooting for, so a lot of things that are better in controlling decks will get

Garruk Wildspeaker — Only getting cut because I think you are better served playing the new Garruk instead of the old, and having the planeswalkers you
do play be able to generate immediately relevant effects at a profit is to your benefit. Garruk’s ultimate sounds great with your token army, but it’s
easy to stop if someone doesn’t want you to do that, and the Garruk that makes creatures as a plus instead of a minus, and happens to add more card
drawing to your deck, is more useful to you than the one that might sometimes end the game. ‘Doing your thing’ will lead to the game ending naturally
enough, so you don’t have to get flashy to do it.

Austere Command — Almost got a pass since you can keep your tokens or just use it to destroy artifacts and enchantments, but the role of sweepers in
your deck should not be nearly as present as it is, since you’re the one who wants to have the creatures and thus not the one who should be trying to
kill them all.

Genesis Wave — Added for ‘good card’ status, not specifically because you can do a lot with it. You’re not a control deck so you aren’t planning to
hold it till turn twenty, and you don’t have a lot of mana-ramp going on, so you won’t be able to make big Waves more quickly than is reasonable. It’s
a fair card at best in your deck, and being misapplied here, so I’m cutting it not to disrespect it but because it is not going to live up to the
potential you’re expecting here.

Green Sun’s Zenith — Nothing is compelling me to include it over just good creatures instead, and having a limited group of options to choose from that
notably excludes many of your best creatures takes it off the table for me.

Hallowed Burial, Hour of Reckoning — Same as Austere Command, no wraths in your beatdown deck.

Saproling Symbiosis — Doubling a massive board won’t actually do much, since more-winning is still winning according to Charlie Sheen, and when it’s
underperforming, it’ll do so drastically. On-theme, I know, but not enough so I don’t think to really get me excited.

Grim Feast — I know, and I’m sorry. I want to find it a good home too, I really do, but that good home is a green-black control deck that will
routinely wipe the board and really appreciate the life boost. I have a very specific replacement in mind for this one though, and one that’s a harder
worker, since it will focus on your ability to trigger it at-will instead of the fickle fates of the opponent’s having creatures die.

Privileged Position — It’s not things that individually target that I worry about, and so granting shroud to your permanents is not the solution I am
seeking to those problems. Non-targeted mass removal is the common means of stopping you in your tracks, and thus has to be the one you design around

Sterling Grove, Serra’s Sanctum — I don’t think the enchantment theme is really going to work for this deck, so the things that focus on that overmuch
will have to get pared down. You still end up with several enchantments after the cuts I want to make, and you’re the right colors to consider Debtors’
Knell and Lurking Predators when we build things back up again, but it’d make more sense to add other tutors before Sterling Grove, and the design as
it ends up will not support enough enchantments to make it worthwhile to keep Sterling Grove in play just to protect them. And at the rate we’re going,
you’ll be hard-pressed to make Serra’s Sanctum better than basic Plains, so it’s an open slot in your manabase as well.

Sylvan Library — Just kidding. You should be adding Sensei’s Divining Top before you add your Sylvan Library to your green deck, and since
there’s no Top I wanted to joke about cutting it… and see how many people yelled at me for it. It’s in, but a deck with real dual lands in it
shouldn’t be skimping on its Sensei’s Divining Top, it looks like you plumb forgot about it when you were putting your favorite cards together.

Unspeakable Symbol — Another one that makes me sad to cut, but it’s just not very efficient at its job of putting something useful into play for Ghave
to work with. Ajani Goldmane is absolutely brilliant at this task, you’d think Unspeakable Symbol’s mana cost of zero would convince me, but even
starting with 40 life this runs down far too quickly for my liking and I don’t want to focus on life-gain just to make this work. Some more ways to do
it, that happen to involve spending mana, will have to suffice.

Brutalizer Exarch — A pure ‘good stuff’ addition. Note that you added the Primal Command Exarch but not Primal Command itself; I don’t think this guy
fits your theme.

Extractor Demon — There are better ways to follow through that are also on-theme. This one’s cute, but not really effective, since you don’t really use
your own graveyard and can expect an Eldrazi to stop you from milling any of your opponents out.

Knight of the Reliquary — Not on-theme, as you noted, and not synergistic in any beatdown sense either. I like that it can get Krosan Verge and profit
you on mana pretty cheaply, but not enough to give it the slot to do so.

Krosan Tusker — This is a slow mana-fixer and weak card advantage, on a creature you’re never really going to be tempted to put into play nine times
out of ten. I see someone you omitted that will do this better, and will be suggesting it instead, since it does that job more powerfully and provides
a beatdown body as well in the early game to help get momentum going.

Reveillark — Another ‘good stuff’ addition. Sure, Reveillark is awesome, and most of your Thallids and plenty of your other creatures fit under his
umbrella. But you’re not really taking advantage of it, and I would rather build in something with more synergy with your deck and Commander first, so
Reveillark will be benched here.

Braids, Cabal Minion — Sure, you can sacrifice a saproling at a much lower price than anyone who has to sacrifice a real permanent, but this isn’t
on-theme or even really something you can capitalize on. Nine times out of ten this won’t do much to justify its inclusion, and that tenth time it’ll
make the game unfun because it sets back the flow of play too easily and too early, so I say skip it.

Saffi Eriksdotter — Paired with your Reveillark, I suspect.

Of the other eight you penciled in, only Demonic Tutor and Eternal Witness seem to be too good to exclude. Overwhelming Stampede, Overrun, and Coat of
Arms all focus on converting token creatures into a rush kill, while I feel that having your deck working on all cylinders will lead to a win naturally
enough based on synergy and Ghave’s pure power. It sounds to me like you enjoy winning a good game based on your own decisions both in deckbuilding and
over the course of a well-fought game, so you shouldn’t be playing cards that can steal a game out from under the opponent when you can focus more on
good games and good play. No one writes me to say they want to play Grim Feast, then really pats themselves on the back for beating their opponents
with a rush Overrun. Enlightened Tutor and Idyllic Tutor fit in the enchantment theme that I suspect is being put to better use in other decks you love
already and, and would be added only after Vampiric anyway. Vampiric Tutor I’ll keep in mind, but it’s not an auto-include, so we’ve cut that extra
eight down to just two that want to be included and we’ll see where things go from here.

Of course, not every card left in so far is going to definitely make it into the final deck, but I want to see the Saproling theme furthered
alongside the rest of what I would try and see you accomplish before cutting into any of that. Not counting the Witness and Demonic, we’re at 84 cards,
leaving the removed land as a blank slot to be filled instead of assuming I can cut it and replace it with something else. And now that we’ve taken
things down from the over-full hundred and eight, we get to chase the enjoyable pleasure of suggesting new additions instead of killing our darlings.

Building things back up from there, I’ll note my slight change to your mana-base and then put your creatures on a mana curve to see where things are
at, because the hallmark of a beatdown deck in any format—even 99-card singleton formats—is making reasonably good plays on every critical turn of the
game, and while Commander pushes things further back along the mana curve away from one-drops and more towards four- and six-drops, you still want to
establish a good series of plays out of most hands while you’re busy doing everything else you otherwise allocated all of those resources for.

Lands: 1 Empty Slot (was: Serra’s Sanctum), -1 basic Plains.

Additions: Thawing Glaciers, Grasslands

Thawing Glaciers is added just for its application as pure card advantage; beatdown decks don’t want to have to spend extra cards on building up their
mana, as you’re well aware with your bouncelands and Temple of the False God already, and you are going to have profitable things to do with extra mana
if it’s made available. Even with less than ten basics in the deck, Thawing Glaciers is well worth the addition, because even if it runs dry very
quickly for a Thaw, it’s still a Thaw. If you get two lands out of it without hurting your curve, it’s done its job, and much more likely is
that you’ll be able to squeeze four or five lands out of it before it might run out of targets. Each time you use it, you’ve drawn an extra card even
if that card was ‘just’ a land, and a free resource is well worth having. Grasslands is added as the next best fetchland available in addition to the
ones you already have — you’ve limited yourself to just the entirely on-color fetchlands from Onslaught and Zendikar, but in addition to the Krosan
Verge that happens to be awesome in green/white decks there’s another purely on-color option with the original Mirage sac-lands.

I’d also strongly
for the addition of Winding Canyons as well to your deck, but worry about telling you to add too many lands that can be rough on
your colored mana in the early game, and it’s much less important in a beatdown deck than it would be with a controlling build. That said, I think
you’ll get more mileage out of a Winding Canyons than out of some of your other utility lands, and would definitely have included it before a Kor Haven
made it into the list. I’ve found I tend to build a whole lot of recursion and card advantage into my decks to the point where Volrath’s Stronghold
doesn’t have an ability I actually ever use, so it may very well be that this best-beloved legendary land may serve you better as a Winding Canyons,
but I won’t ask you to kill one of your favorites just to play one of mine.

Additive Magic

The first two additions are easy, for sheer power purposes—they’re ones you wanted to make anyway, because every deck of the appropriate color finds it
very profitable to include them. Welcome to the team, Eternal Witness and Demonic Tutor! While we’re at it, we’ll call it even and throw in your
format-standard Sensei’s Divining Top, because pretty much every Commander deck that exists without a Top would be better with a Top in it… and I’m
only waffling because I like to leave myself the puzzle of trying to figure out what deck wouldn’t and coming up with ‘something with Null Rod
and Damping Matrix to prey on everyone else’s soft spots, and just because I’ve never seen anyone try it doesn’t mean there is no answer. That leaves
us just eleven slots to work with, and now we have to figure things out on a mana curve.

1cc: Protean Hydra (sort of?)

2cc: Deathspore Thallid

3cc: Wood Elves, Eternal Witness, Fertilid, Psychotrope Thallid, Thelonite Hermit

4cc: Creakwood Liege, Wilt-Leaf Liege, Oracle of Mul-Daya, Pallid Mycoderm, Sigil Captain, Spike Weaver, Sporesower Thallid

5cc: Sporoloth Ancient, Genesis, Juniper Order Ranger, Acidic Slime

6cc: Nemata, Grove Guardian, Tolsimir Wolfblood, Verdeloth the Ancient (sort of?)

7cc: Angel of Despair, Avenger of Zendikar, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, Sheoldred, Whispering One, Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter, Regal Force

8cc: Verdant Force

This is actually very light on the early drops, a little light on the three-drops, and then hits its stride right from four up to seven. I’ll try to
add some cheap drops, then, to lower this curve, but some of the additions I want to make the most are in the middle of that curve so there’s not much
we can do about it. Out of the list of cards I most wanted to add while I was mulling over your problem, then, I looked at them in mana-cost order and
will be using that to decide which ones I actually suggest you add. Cheap creatures need to be given preferential treatment here, to accomplish what
you’re trying to achieve, so I’ll try to pad that a little before just bloating the middle some more.

Selesnya Guildmage — You of course still want to be able to boost your team’s stats, but this way happens to fill the deck out just better than
something like Eldrazi Monument would, because it’s a thinking man’s tool instead of just a blunt object and can create an army by itself in addition
to pumping one. Selesnya Guildmage is an army in a box all by itself, just add mana.

Golgari Guildmage — Part of a solid recursion theme, and just able to create pure profit for you: you can generate +1/+1 counters at-will, and your
commander turns +1/+1 counters into 1/1 creatures, which Golgari Guildmage can then feast upon and turn into dead creatures. He’s solid early and good
with a whole lot of mana to work with, just like his fellow wizard up above, and the best beatdown creatures are the ones that are on-curve but still
good whenever you draw them.

Scavenging Ooze — Another two-drop, this time one that can grow his own size to scrap with more expensive creatures while also providing a bit of
utility. Ooze defends against graveyard recursion very readily, and can give you a slight hint of life-gain back after I took so much of it out of your
deck already plus another way to generate +1/+1 counters that you can then use to your profit however you see fit.

Yavimaya Elder — My nomination for the replacement of your Krosan Tusker, just for being flat out more powerful at the appointed task. Yavimaya
Elder happens to also be able to beat down a little, not that this should be happening all that much, but it should be happening at least once when
he’s drawn on-curve.

Savra, Queen of the Golgari — My nomination for the replacement of your Grim Feast, based on the fact that she can gain you the life off of your
creatures dying instead of theirs, and thus is at least something you can control. With Savra in play alongside Ghave, you now have the ability to
spend mana to gain life directly, and can keep yourself ahead of danger between the ability to block nonflying creatures and the incidental life-gain
that happens as you’re doing it. You won’t be emulating Grave Pact with her very often, but you do have the ability to trigger the life gain so easily
it hurts, and all while just doing what you normally want to do anyway.

Ant Queen — Another way to build an army out of just one piece of cardboard, and in your deck Ant Queen will just prove to be a must-kill creature as
she will rapidly turn things over to ‘completely out of hand.’ Excellent food for Ghave to work with, and a highly efficient beatdown creature in her
own right besides.

Puppeteer Clique — Nothing to do with your token theme, but the sheer disgusting things you can do with Puppeteer Clique and Ghave if you simply try
called it immediately to mind. I am envisioning game states where your Puppeteer Clique steals some ridiculous creature like Primeval Titan, over and
over again, using Ghave to trigger Persist and the stolen creature to remove that pesky -1/-1 counter. “Spend mana, do something awesome!” is a great
chain to have available especially when one of the two cards is your Commander and thus easy to rely upon, and the sheer awesomeness of Puppeteer
Clique’s potential in this deck can close a game out in its own right. The creature you steal doesn’t even have to be that good, you can ‘just’ muck up
combat or get powerful attacks with it and get a ton out of the card by reusing it, but we play a lot of creatures like Solemn Simulacrum and Sower of
Temptation in Commander, all of which do nasty things with this combo active.

Twilight Shepherd — Another persist creature, and this one is able to help protect you from board sweepers while also being awesome with Ghave. With
Twilight Shepherd in play, a board sweeper just puts a -1/-1 counter on it and returns all of your other creatures to your hand, and so long as Ghave
is put into play before the next sweeper hits, all you have to do to repeat this is pay a mana and sacrifice any of your creatures (it’s okay, you’ll
still get them back). Part beater, part combo, and part recursion engine, and all awesome.

Just like that, most of the available slots have been eaten, and we’ve cut a lot of spells and not-a-lot-of-creatures but filled every slot so far with
a creature card. The last three, then, I’ve biased towards spells, trying to give you some more creature control to make up for the fact that I looked
at your sweepers and cut them all. It’s not that I am against creatures dying, I just don’t want yours to die, not voluntarily at least. I’ll
make exception for Decree of Pain, since we all know that’s actually just an awesome card drawing spell that happens to masquerade as a sweeper spell,
but I much prefer things that make the opponent’s creatures vanish while leaving your own.

Hex — “Exactly six creatures” may be more than all of your opponents have for you to target, but if that’s the case the awkward text on this card can
be made up for in Saproling tokens while doing the job you wanted done with your sweepers in the first place. In this case, what’s more likely is that
you hit the things that need to be hit, leave most of the rest, and still profit greatly from neutralizing the most important threats without touching
your own.

Contagion Engine — With time and a bit of mana, Contagion Engine will decimate exactly one specific opponent’s creatures, leaving your own undamaged by
the so-called sweeper. However, there’s more! Proliferate works with all your Thallids to increase the spore count, all of your planeswalkers’ loyalty,
and all of the +1/+1 counter themes running throughout the deck that is agreed can be easily converted into other resources quite readily. So it’s
doing double duty as a backup Doubling Season as it’s trying to erode an opposing board position, an admirable task indeed given just what Doubling
Season can do for you.

Garruk, Primal Hunter — Able to serve as card drawing if that’s what you fancy, making it more interesting to me than ‘just’ adding Harmonize to the
deck, and like Elspeth this version of Garruk is an ‘all-upsides’ planeswalker for generating token creatures. The Overrun was nice but as I said not
necessary to generate a win, just happened to be an easy way to do it, and this Garruk’s ability to bury an opponent beneath a mighty weight of 6/6
token creatures can just as easily replicate that same effect if you want it to. But in the meantime, the difference is this: add one green mana, get
your Beast token as a +1 instead of a -1… or as I like to think of it, “have your cake and eat it too.” This Garruk is better for what you’re trying
to accomplish than the original one is, it’s just that it seems like a weird and somehow off-putting card that is difficult to get a hold of, so it
isn’t getting valued properly quite yet.

Having made it up to 99 again from our previous 115, it’s worth noting that the Saproling sub-theme, while adorable, is taken as a matter of course to
be the weakest part of the deck. So I’m going to have a look at everything else I was considering adding, and seeing what stacks up as tempting enough
to dig into the remainder that had previously been left untouched, and if nothing else it gives you a list of cards that I thought deserved
consideration beyond the ones noted already if you want to make any more substitutions on your own.

Creatures: Seedborn Muse, Primeval Titan, Woodfall Primus, Mirror Entity, Primordial Sage, Twilight Drover

Spells: Sprout Swarm, Harmonize, Debtors’ Knell, Lurking Predators, Swords to Plowshares

I’m hesitant to add another eight-mana creature, and of the sixes it seems pretty clear that Primeval Titan gets added before Primordial Sage, but I
thought that Primordial Sage deserves mention ever since I forgot it existed when building my Animar deck last week. One
of the players who saw my deck in its sort-of-going-off phase asked if the Sage was in there, and I was sad to say that it was not, and that reminder
happens to go very nicely with a deck as chock-full of creatures as this one is looking to be. But you wanted this to be a deck with its own individual
character, instead of just a mish-mash of all the best cards in all three of your colors, so I shall resist the urge to jam in Seedborn Muse
‘because it’s awesome’ or cram in Lurking Predators because ‘no green deck should go without one.’

I really, really want to fit Twilight Drover into the deck, and unlike all of these other cards it’s super synergistic with the rest of what you
have going on and can actually tempt me to substitute out of your Thallid-base to remove the Thallid who is doing the least work already for you. The
Thallid I identified as your weakest link was unfortunately Deathspore Thallid, making me all the more glad that I added a few other two-drops before
cutting what had previously been your only one, and I’d swap out Deathspore Thallid for Twilight Drover as another way to profit massively with Ghave
in play. Juggling +1/+1 counters into sacrificed token creatures just puts more +1/+1 counters onto Twilight Drover, and that’s something you’d
otherwise be doing just to block, or will naturally expect to happen with some regularity over the course of the game. Add some more mana to the mix
and Twilight Drover can turn one counter into two tokens, another way to profit with Ghave active that happens to give you something quite meaningful
to do when you don’t, as Twilight Drover can mimic Ghave’s ability to block continuously in a pinch as well.

I will note one fact that I find somewhat curious though, given that I recently jumped so hard onto the Sheoldred bandwagon that she’s taken
Ob-Nixilis’s place at the helm of my mono-black deck, and point out that Sheoldred, Whispering One is a little bit weaker than would be expected in
this deck, since as a creature herself she is very vulnerable to board sweepers… the exact class of card you’d want to use her to counteract. The
extra bit of removal is nice, but not going to do all that much for you since you don’t have a lot of creature removal, and Debtors’ Knell in the slot
currently given to Sheoldred would greatly ease your recovery from board sweepers with a level of surety that a creature card simply does not have.
Creatures die, that’s Commander, if it has power and toughness it’ll probably jump to the graveyard at some point in time. Debtors’ Knell doesn’t have
as many abilities, and will never attack for lethal, but it will always do the job you task it with, and giving up Sheoldred’s advantages does
give you access to creatures out of the opponents’ graveyards as well. That leads me to make one last substitution before accepting that some ‘good’
cards happened to not make the cut, and don’t have to in order for the deck to function synergistically and at a reasonably high power level.

This gives us the following final decklist:

Ghave, Guru of Spores
Sean McKeown
Test deck on 07-17-2011
Magic Card Back

As always, for your participation today, as per usual with my columns there will be a $20 coupon for you to spend here at the StarCityGames.com online
store, and since at least one of the expensive cards mentioned is probably in at least one of your existing Commander decks, the only truly
expensive things are an M12 Planeswalker that you may very well have been wanting to get anyway at some point and one of the cards out of the Commander
decks that is being chased by Legacy players. If you cracked a Garruk at the Prerelease this weekend and had picked up the Commander decks, and already
own a Sensei’s Divining Top somewhere, the $20 coupon just happens to cover all of the rest. Admittedly, that’s a lot of ifs, but I see three
original dual lands and you’d said you were not opposed to a little investing to get the Commander cards you want to play with, and I am pretty sure
the hefty price tag on Garruk will have been worth it the first time he disgorges a dozen Wurm tokens in the general direction of your soon-to-be-dead

Golgari Guildmage $0.49
Grasslands $0.49
Twilight Drover $0.49
Ant Queen $0.75
Hex $0.75
Puppeteer Clique $0.99
Savra, Queen of
the Golgari
Yavimaya Elder $0.99
Twilight Shepherd $1.49
Contagion Engine $1.99
Debtors’ Knell $4.99
Scavenging Ooze $14.99
Sensei’s Divining Top $14.99
Garruk, Primal

I do hope you will forgive me for cutting two of your favorite cards. Unspeakable Symbol and Grim Feast interact very nicely with each other, after all
when you have all the life in the world it doesn’t matter how much you over-pay for a +1/+1 counter so long as it’s not mana you have to spend on it.
That shell however does not fit on a beatdown deck, that sort of life gain begs for a controlling stance to the game, and thus would work not with
Ghave but some other commander — even with Ghave putting those counters to exceptionally good use. I don’t like pulling cards anyone has listed as
their favorites out of a deck, but I try to give my honest advice, which in this case is that those favorite cards may be best used in another deck,
and some new favorite cards will prove themselves to you soon enough. You mentioned playing politics with +1/+1 counters on other people’s Persist
creatures, and I expect a Puppeteer Clique to call your own will earn a new home as a favorite to supplant those I’ve asked you to set aside for now.

Sean McKeown
— s_mckeown @ hotmail.com

Want to submit a deck for consideration to 99 Problems? We’re always accepting deck submission to consider for use in a future article, likeStefan’s
Thraximundar deck or Mike’s
Doran, the SiegeTower deck
. Only one deck submission will be chosen per article, but being selected for the next edition of 99 Problems includes not just deck advice but also a $20 coupon to the StarCityGames.com

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