Commander Emmara Tandris

Bennie continues exploring the legendary creatures in Dragon’s Maze by building an Emmara Tandris Commander deck. Check out his tokens-centric list!

Last week I wrote up a sample Commander deck featuring my Golgari homie Varolz, the Scar-Striped. This week I’m sticking close to my green love and moving over to the light side of Selesnya to focus on Emmara Tandris. There was a bit of disappointment surrounding this card due in part by some expectations built up after her artwork was spoiled first, revealing a creature in the background that’s obviously the X/X Elemental token generated by Voice of Resurgence. I know a lot of people—myself included—were hoping that Emmara would end up being a powerful tournament staple card that might push populate decks into the upper tiers.

Unfortunately for the tournament scene, we got this instead:

It takes a lot for a seven mana creature to make a big splash in Standard; it needs to pretty much just blow out the game on its own, like an Angel of Serenity or a…well, that’s about it. Not even the Primordials (Sylvan Primordial and the gang) have the stuff to make it at the top tables.

If her text box said “Creature tokens you control get +4/+4 and trample,” then we might have had something going here, but “Prevent all damage that would be dealt to creature tokens you control” isn’t going to be blowing anyone out.

If I’m going to be honest, her ability isn’t overtly exciting from a Commander point of view either. Sure, there are a metric crap-ton of token-producing cards available in green, white, artifacts, and lands that we can consider for an Emmara Tandris deck, but there are other green/white legends that could make much better commanders for token decks. Rhys the Redeemed immediately springs to mind, but we could also look at Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice and Tolsimir Wolfblood. Asmira, Holy Avenger could well make use of a bunch of token creatures that are sacrificed for fun and profit (such as the many flavors of Saproling sacrificing cards).

So why choose Emmara Tandris? It’s gotta be her damage prevention to your token creatures ability. How do we leverage that?

The first thing that springs to my mind are cards like Pariah—redirecting damage done to me as a player to a token creature that is then prevented. General’s Regalia, Pariah’s Shield, and Shaman en-Kor come to mind.

My next thought is do we have cards that dish out damage to all creatures that Emmara Tandris would help us break the symmetry on? White and green aren’t exactly the colors known for that, but searching through the card database I found the following possibilities:

Corrosive Gale, Hurricane, Prey Upon, Scattershot Archer, Triangle of War, Tropical Storm, Ulvenwald Tracker, Windstorm, Squall Line, Hail Storm, Cyclone, Lightmine Field, Master of the Hunt, Master of the Wild Hunt, Predatory Urge, Splintering Wind, Squallmonger, Time Bomb, Volatile Rig, Silklash Spider, Wave of Reckoning, Cloudthresher, Tornado Elemental

Green does get to damage flying creatures, and since a lot of white’s token-generating effects make 1/1 fliers (Spirits, Birds), we might want to look at that avenue. Also, the “fight” mechanic is green, and with Emmara Tandris around what scrappy token wouldn’t want to get in a fight where his opponent can’t land a blow? I particularly like Master of the Wild Hunt here since he makes Wolf tokens that are the ones fighting.

Old school enchantments like Cyclone and Splintering Wind start to have little downside when Emmara Tandris is in play.

Okay, so I think a game plan is starting to develop for how an Emmara Tandris deck will differ from other green/white token decks. Now we’ve got to add a bunch of cards that make our token creatures or care about tokens! Querying the card database reveals a ton of possibilities, so I’ve scanned through and pulled out a list of the ones I could see putting in an Emmara Tandris deck. This is obviously not a comprehensive list, and if I really missed the boat on one of your favorites, let us know in the comments below.

Rhys the Redeemed; Aura Mutation; Druid’s Deliverance; Elvish Farmer; Mycologist; Night Soil; Jade Mage; Selesnya Evangel; Sprout Swarm; Spontaneous Generation; Mycoloth; Sundering Growth; Luminarch Ascension; Mortarpod; Spawning Pit; Blade Splicer; Rootborn Defenses; Wayfaring Temple; Kemba, Kha Regent; Mobilization; Sacred Mesa; Squirrel Nest; Twilight Drover; Acorn Catapult; Carrion Call; Bonehoard; Batterskull; Fresh Meat; Growing Ranks; Leyline of the Meek; Phantom General; Advent of the Wurm; Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice; Phyrexian Processor; Beacon of Creation; Cenn’s Enlistment; Savage Conception; Elspeth, Knight-Errant; Garruk Relentless; Garruk Wildspeaker; Elspeth Tirel; Saber Ants; Gutter Grime; March of Souls; Mitotic Slime; Reach of Branches; Imperious Perfect; Wren’s Run Packmaster; Myr Matrix; Myr Turbine; Parallel Evolution; Phyrexian Swarmlord; Wurmcoil Engine; Rampaging Baloths; Myr Battlesphere; Wurmcalling; Martial Coup; White Sun’s Zenith; Decree of Justice; Hour of Reckoning; Storm Herd

There are some tribal synergies you could take advantage of in an Emmara Tandris deck: Saprolings, Squirrels, Snakes, even Golems!

One thing that jumped out at me as interesting are the Living Weapons—the 0/0 Germs are token creatures, so while they’re equipped and hanging on for dear life they don’t have to worry about taking damage when Emmara Tandris has got their back!

One thing that’s prevented me from building a full-tilt token deck is how inconsistent they can be in Commander—too often having a bunch of 1/1s, a few 2/2s, and a 3/3 token on the board isn’t really going to be crushing your opponents. If you don’t draw an enabler—something to pump them up to scary size—you are not someone your opponents need to worry about. Emmara Tandris makes your tokens fantastic defensive creatures and not just chump blockers. This will often discourage opponents from bothering to attack you at all.

But that gets me thinking—how can we make these token creatures deadly in the red zone? Giving them deathtouch and infect seem to be the best things to do here, so I’m looking at cards like Basilisk Collar, Nightshade Peddler, Quietus Spike, Grafted Exoskeleton, Trigon of Infestation, Triumph of the Hordes, and Hornet Queen. The token creatures with infect on their own offer up a tough choice to your opponent—have a creature slowly whittle away to a token that cannot die to combat damage or start racking up the poison counters. In fact, I think having a strong element of poison is a good way for a deck like this that relies on tokens to have added reach in long games.

One last thing to keep in mind: having a lot of token-generating cards makes it much easier to take advantage of cards that require sacrificing creatures to power them, such as Worthy Cause, Martyr’s Cause, Elvish Skysweeper, Eldrazi Monument, Ashnod’s Altar, Helm of Possession, Natural Order, Perilous Forays, and Plaguemaw Beast.

Okay, so with all those thoughts swimming through my head, I started pulling cards from my collection, and this is what I cooked up:

Emmara Tandris
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 05-05-2013

I’ve built this deck to really take advantage of Emmara Tandris, but she does cost seven mana, so I thought it wise to add Mark of Asylum and Rune-Tail, Kitsune Ascendant as early back-ups to Emmara Tandris. Rune-Tail, Kitsune Ascendant in particular is amazing in any white Commander deck since if you’re anywhere close to your starting life total, she flips as soon as you play her. I really like having these in here because they help ensure that your deck doesn’t just crumble if your opponents start focusing on killing Emmara Tandris (though if I can slap a Shield of the Oversoul on her, that gets much more difficult).

For the token cards, I leaned heavily on trying to pick spells that were powerful on their own and not just creating tokens for tokens sake. Luminarch Ascension, Garruk Relentless, Advent of the Wurm, Batterskull, Elspeth Tirel, Wurmcoil Engine, and Avenger of Zendikar are all powerhouse cards that get better the more we care about tokens. We can also keep the number of token-creating cards high by taking advantage of the lands that do that for us: Urza’s Factory; Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree; even Springjack Pasture. I have to admit it felt good to dust off the classic “dude ranch,” Kjeldoran Outpost, and I’m also looking forward to finally seeing Grove of the Guardian shine—especially if I can get some populate action working.

I like how I can set the modes for Austere Command so I can sweep the board of most of the scary creature cards while leaving my token creatures unharmed.

Check out Brindle Shoat—looking forward to slapping a Skullclamp on that little guy!

Having a bunch of tough-to-kill tokens out there made me think that Worship might be worth trying out. I figure you won’t want to lean on it too hard—make sure to climb your life total when you can—but it can offer up a lifeline if you end up in a race with someone.

Lastly, I know the list is a little soft on removal spells, but I wanted to try out a bunch of these cards. As some of them prove to be less than impressive, I will pull them and replace them with utility spells.

Alright, that’s it for this week. Tonight I’m hoping to finally get to do my first Dragon’s Maze, Gatecrash, Return to Ravnica draft! If you have any drafting tips for this brand new format or ideas for the Emmara Tandris Commander deck, please let me know in the comments below!

Take care,


starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com

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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:

My current Commander decks (and links to decklists):

Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus: