Choose Your Own Adventure With Etali

The Elder Dinosaurs have been huge Commander hits, and Bennie Smith is one of their biggest cheerleaders! He continues his exploration with Etali, Primal Storm!

The Elder Dinosaurs from Rivals of Ixalan make awesome Commanders, and I’ve been having a great time building decks around each of them. I wrote about Ghalta, Primal Hunger here; Zetalpa, Primal Dawn here; and Tetzimoc, Primal Death here. Then I dipped outside of the five-card cycle and wrote about Zacama, Primal Calamity, and last week I wrote about Nezahal, Primal Tide. This week I finish up the Elder Dinosaurs with Etali, Primal Storm.

Etali scales in power based on how many players are around the table, so that makes it a great card for Commander. Our angle of attack is pretty simple: we want Etali to hit the battlefield as soon as possible and start attacking. Let’s get cracking.


Six mana isn’t terribly expensive for a Commander, but it’s not nothing, so we’ll want a fair amount of ramp so we can get Etali out early (which is why I’ve included Mana Vault). My deck is going to focus on attacking, so Curse of Opulence seems like a good inclusion. Scuttlemutt provides mana but it can also attack, and when you run across something that has protection from red that would otherwise stymie you, Scuttlemutt can change colors to help out.


Ideally we can cast Etali early, and we can shave a turn off the wait by giving Etali haste, so I’ve gone deep on the haste enablers here. Generator Servant provides ramp and haste. Urabrask the Hidden slows down your opponents from deploying blockers.


So we’ve got Etali out early and attacking. Now what?

How about getting extra attacks!

Cards like Aggravated Assault, Combat Celebrant, and Hellkite Charger give us more attacks and more triggers. Since we’re going down this path, why not have other creatures and effects that reward us for each attack step? Neheb, the Eternal gives you mana for each postcombat main phase. Sword of the Animist, Sword of Feast and Famine, Prophetic Flamespeaker, Wildfire Eternal, and Grenzo, Havoc Raiser provide all sorts great combat damage triggers you want to take advantage of.

Key to the City gives you the ability to attack with Etali even if your opponents all have the ground blocked with creatures that might otherwise kill your commander.

Top of the Library Cards

I don’t usually play Sensei’s Divining Top since it’s so time-consuming, but Etali’s ability is much better when you can at least make sure the top of your library has a spell worth casting off the trigger. Scroll Rack and Seer’s Lantern can help with that too. Strionic Resonator let you double Etali’s triggered ability for double the fun!

Since we’re adjusting the top of our library, Vance’s Blasting Cannons seems like a good card to add to the mix.


Commander is all about the big plays, and sometimes Etali’s triggered ability is going to reveal some big haymaker spell you can cast for free. So why not copy it? Reverberate, Reiterate and Dualcaster Mage let you copy something sweet that you cast for free. Howl of the Horde works even better, since Etali is going to give you that raid trigger. Paradox Engine untapping stuff seems pretty good if you’re casting multiple spells in a turn.

Sunbird’s Invocation doesn’t combo with Etali’s trigger, but it plays nicely with the themes of playing cards off the library, so I tossed it in. It can certainly add to the chance of big, swingy plays.


I’m a little light on removal spells, but I am hoping to hit some off Etali or Grenzo triggers.

Good Stuff

We will round things out with some quality cards. Skullclamp, The Immortal Sun, and Magus of the Wheel provide some raw card draw. Disrupt Decorum is a fun card that can help make sure your opponents don’t gang up on you if you’ve pulled too far ahead casting spells from their decks.

Here is the full list including the lands:

Etali, Primal Storm
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 02-12-2018

What do you think? How would you go about building this deck differently? Do you think the big red Dinosaur has what it takes?

It occurred to me while building the deck that there is a lot of overlap between this and my Neheb, the Eternal deck. Both decks revolve around attacking and do good things with additional attack steps…which then had me think about Aurelia, the Warleader, the commander that has an extra attack step built right in. I think I am going to break down my Etali and Neheb decks and add the two cards to my Aurelia deck. Here’s the current list if you are interested:

What do you think of Aurelia with Neheb and Etali added to the mix?

For more Commander goodness, be sure to check out the 2018 edition of Sheldon Menery’s Can’t Get Angry and Mark Nestico’s Commander deck built around Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca.

Last but not least… did you hear about the Commander Celebration going on at SCG CON June 8th through 10th? I’ll be there, along with Sheldon and the Commander VS. crew Jonathan, Stephen, Justin, and Jeremy. If you’re within driving distance of Roanoke, Virginia, come down for a fantastic fun weekend and play Commander with us! I am super-stoked and hope to see a lot of you there!

New to Commander?

If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:

Commander write-ups I’ve done
(and links to decklists):

Zurgo Bellstriker (Bellstriking Like a Boss)

Dragonlord Ojutai (Troll Shroud)

Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund (Dragons, Megamorphs, and Dragons)

Dromoka, the Eternal (One Flying Bolster Basket)

Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest (Tempests and Teapots)

Tasigur, the Golden Fang (Hatching Evil Sultai Plots)

Scion of the Ur-Dragon (Dragon Triggers for Everyone)

• Nahiri, The Lithomancer (Lithomancing for Fun and Profit)

Titania, Protector of Argoth (Titania’s Land and Elemental Exchange)

Reaper King (All About VILLAINOUS WEALTH)

Feldon of the Third Path (She Will Come Back to Me)

Sidisi, Brood Tyrant (Calling Up Ghouls with Sidisi)

Zurgo Helmsmasher (Two Times the Smashing)

Anafenza, the Foremost (Anafenza and Your Restless Dead)

Narset, Enlightened Master (The New Voltron Overlord)

Surrak Dragonclaw (The Art of Punching Bears)

Avacyn, Guardian Angel; Ob Nixilis, Unshackled; Sliver Hivelord (Commander Catchup, Part 3)

Keranos, God of Storms; Marchesa, the Black Rose; Muzzio, Visionary Architect (Commander Catchup, Part 2)

Athreos, God of Passage; Kruphix, God of Horizons; Iroas, God of Victory (Commander Catchup, Journey into Nyx Edition)

Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient (Ghost in the Machines)

Jalira, Master Polymorphist (JaliraPOW!)

Mishra, Artificer Prodigy (Possibility Storm Shenanigans)

Yisan, the Wanderer Bard (All-in Yisan)

Selvala, Explorer Returned (Everyone Draws Lots!)

Grenzo, Dungeon Warden (Cleaning Out the Cellar)

Karona, False God (God Pack)

Child of Alara (Land Ho!)

Doran, the Siege Tower (All My Faves in One Deck!)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (my Magic Online deck)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (Shadowborn Apostles & Demons)

King Macar, the Gold-Cursed (GREED!)

Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind ( Chuck’s somewhat vicious deck)

Roon of the Hidden Realm (Mean Roon)

Skeleton Ship (Fun with -1/-1 counters)

Vorel of the Hull Clade (Never Trust the Simic)

Anax and Cymede (Heroic Co-Commanders)

Aurelia, the Warleader ( plus Hellkite Tyrant shenanigans)

Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)

Bruna, Light of Alabaster (Aura-centric Voltron)

Damia, Sage of Stone ( Ice Cauldron shenanigans)

Derevi, Empyrial Tactician (Tribal Birds)

Emmara Tandris (No Damage Tokens)

Gahiji, Honored One (Enchantment Ga-hijinks)

Geist of Saint Traft (Voltron-ish)

Ghave, Guru of Spores ( Melira Combo)

Glissa Sunseeker (death to artifacts!)

Glissa, the Traitor ( undying artifacts!)

Grimgrin, Corpse-Born (Necrotic Ooze Combo)

Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord (drain you big time)

Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge ( Suspension of Disbelief)

Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)

Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer (replacing Brion Stoutarm in Mo’ Myrs)

Karona, False God (Vows of the False God)

Konda, Lord of Eiganjo ( The Indestructibles)

Lord of Tresserhorn (ZOMBIES!)

Marath, Will of the Wild ( Wild About +1/+1 Counters)

Melira, Sylvok Outcast ( combo killa)

Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker ( Outside My Comfort Zone with Milling

Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis (evil and Spike-ish)

Nicol Bolas (Kicking it Old School)

Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius ( new player-friendly)

Nylea, God of the Hunt ( Devoted to Green)

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic (Life Gain)

Oona, Queen of the Fae (by reader request)

Phage the Untouchable ( actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)

Phelddagrif (Mean Hippo)

Polukranos, World Eater (Monstrous!)

Progenitus (

Fist of Suns and Bringers


Reaper King (Taking Advantage of the new Legend Rules)

Riku of Two Reflections (

steal all permanents with
Deadeye Navigator + Zealous Conscripts


Roon of the Hidden Realm ( Strolling Through Value Town)

Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)

Savra, Queen of the Golgari ( Demons)

Shattergang Brothers (Breaking Boards)

Sigarda, Host of Herons ( Equipment-centric Voltron)

Skullbriar, the Walking Grave ( how big can it get?)

Sliver Overlord (Featuring the new M14 Slivers!)

Thelon of Havenwood ( Campfire Spores)

Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice ( new player-friendly)

Uril, the Miststalker (my “more competitive” deck)

Varolz, the Scar-Striped (scavenging goodness)

Vorosh, the Hunter ( proliferaTION)

Xenagos, God of Revels (Huge Beatings)

Yeva, Nature’s Herald (living at instant speed)