I have been a Standard player since I started playing Magic, but I have gotten pretty burned out on it for a while now and don’t get to play with the cards I think are FUN!
I’ve always loved playing the combination of Sprout Swarm and Life and Limb just because you have the potential to go CRAZY or FACEPALM when all your lands get wrathed away.
Anyway, I decided to venture into Commander and build a fun Life and Limb deck. I want to keep the Forest count high enough to take advantage of Life and Limb, but I am wary of ALL my lands getting destroyed when someone eventually “kills all creatures.”
I included some fun cards like Hellion Eruption to turn all my Saprolings into nasty 4/4s, lots of enchantments to buff my saprolings or make more of them, and a few X spells to take advantage of all the mana I am sure to make!
There are also a lot of creatures that will buff the power and toughness of my Saprolings, or gain me life, or are just strong on their own. There is also a little bit of a life gain theme in there, but that’s just a side component of all the little guys I am going to be making.
I have most of the cards, but there are a few I will have to shell out some cash for (Doubling Season!). Anyway, I hope you can find some improvements to the deck; I know I am all over the place, but all these cards just seem super fun to play with together! Thanks!
Jacques Le Vert
Leyline of Vitality
SGT Morehead, Jack D
1-163rd CAV REGT (CAB)
I hate tokens.
There are a myriad of reasons for this. On the surface, it could be because of ramp strategies. At least in my neck of the woods, ramp is a very real and
emerging strategy which has long since hit critical mass. It nearly makes me pine for the good ol’ days where people just suspended Obliterate and some
Eldrazi with Jhoira of the Ghitu and called it a day.
(Hey now…I did say “nearly.”)
The problem is that the social stigma attached to ramping into a huge x-spell (either draw or damage) means that most players simply won’t go there
anymore, lest they end up getting chased out of the store we play at whilst being pelted with assorted gaming dice. (Asa is the exception to the rule, and
he seems to have no compunctions whatsoever about running Boundless Realms into Squall Line in his Yeva, Nature’s Herald deck. Also, the only reason I’m
dropping his name is to also give him fair warning that I’ve found a dealer that has some very respectable pricing on pewter D20s.)
The next logical place to sink that mana is into various token producers, which somehow feels less offensive to the gaming population. Of course, with that
much mana, a Wrath effect might as well just be Fog. They’re coming back. Soon.
So that’s a part of it. We have some very talented players and builders in the shop that are taking tokens to some very well-tuned places. (Hi Andrew! By
the way, don’t sit too close to Asa next week. Just saying.) This brings us to the underlying reason that I likely can’t stand tokens:
I just don’t seem to “get” them. And I’m extremely jealous.
I’ve had Hazezon Tamar and Rith the Awakener and Thromok the Insatiable and several other token monstrosities together. They seem to do what they should
most of the time, and nonetheless, I never end up more bored then when I’m playing them. It has been well-documented that the metagame in which I play is
very sweeper-happy, and I think my problem is that I hate going to the trouble of assembling an army of little guys and supporting odds and ends, only to
watch them get swept away before I can leverage them properly.
It’s exhausting to rebuild. In the immortal words of Sweet Brown, ain’t nobody got time for that.
So I sell off Hazezon and Doubling Season and Gaea’s Cradle for the ninth time and go back to building other things.
But it doesn’t mean that I can’t complain about the strategy when I lose to it week-in and week-out. (And I know ramp should be in my crosshairs too. One
thing at a time, folks.)
Life, Limbs, And The Pursuit Of Happiness
But every once in a while, I get the itch. Something catches my eye, some cool new angle that I hadn’t seen before, or some old-school tech that I’d long
forgotten about, and before I know it, I’m re-buying and paying the idiot-tax premium assessed for not just keeping the stuff I knew I’d be coming back to
in the first place.
(You finance guys and gals are probably cringing right now – and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Feel free to run screaming at any time when I tell
you about re-buying at retail on Timetwisters and Mana Drains for the third or fourth time. But I digress…)
Anyway, Jack, your list caught me with the focus on Life and Limb. First, a quick show of hands – how many of you had no idea what this card actually did
and thought it was a split or fuse card? I know I’m not alone in this. It turns out that Life and Limb is actually a pretty interesting token enabler,
working on the land-animation token angle primarily. The reciprocal end of its function turns saprolings into forests as well, so there’s an interesting
element of mana acceleration too.
This is a really cool card, and I approve of the strategy all the way.
Here’s the thing; this deck isn’t going to win any side events at any big tournaments, but it does deliver on exactly what you identify as the reason for
playing Commander in the first place – fun. This is an angle that doesn’t get a ton of love or exposure, and that’s what this format is all about: finding
all sorts of synergistic components that do cool and unusual things, and taking them out for a test drive with a table full of other players in the car
Trust me…the person who loses under a stampede of Forests will have an awesome story to tell. That’s Commander defined.
So I’m onboard here, and I’m ready to see what I can do to take this a few steps further. There’s some awesome potential out there, and I’m ready to get
crazy with it.
Looking Under The Hood
There’s a lot happening here. First off, you’ve got the old-school cred of a non-reprinted Legends commander in Jacques Le Vert. He isn’t the flashiest of
the old guard, but he does hit on a few important criteria; first, he’s cheap to cast, which importantly means he’s cheap to re-cast. Next, his
ability is a passive one, so you’re not waiting to see if he eats removal between now and your next untap step.
Sadly, that’s about where it ends. His buff ability means that he’s a 3/4 for four mana, which isn’t anything to write home about these days. And in a
format that requires forty damage per opponent, he’s also buffing the wrong end of each creature for all intents and purposes.
Still, a buff is a buff, and he’s relatively in-flavor for a token deck, even right down to the flavor text. That’s good.
Moving on, we get to the star of the show – Life and Limb. You’ve recognized and built around a ‘forests matter’ and a ‘saprolings matter’ dual theme due
to this thing, and that’s a cool place to be. Backing it up, you’ve got a good showing of all the right things to fill in around this strategy – more token
makers (lots of those), some protection and combat tricks, and some solid utility inclusions.
Honestly, there isn’t much that really needs to be done here to improve on the original plan, so I’m going to cut back on some areas that you’ve splurged a
bit in, and use the space to enhance the plan you have. That means more ways to protect your creature/lands, a little extra draw and mana fixing, and a few
surprises splashed in for the fun of it.
And again, “fun” is the key here. I want to stay clear of the obvious top-end tokens filler that has hit critical mass in the past few years of printings,
and try to only go to places that really make sense in context. I want to retain what you’ve got and make it even more outrageous in the long run.
Commander, at least in my book, is all about seeing what you can do to make a game-state that will make for a fun and memorable play experience for
everyone involved. This one, win or lose, should make for some fun and unexpected memories.
Out – Gruul Turf
In – Pendelhaven
It’s Jacques le Vert’s home, after all. It says so right there in the flavor text. (Jacques’ flavor text. If you read Pendelhaven, you’ll be under the
impression that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow lived in the tree the Keebler Elves make cookies out of.)
In any case, Pendelhaven will provide an occasional buff for a saproling or two, which seems fine. To make room, one of the Ravnica Karoo lands gets the
axe. I know some of you swear by these things, but the tempo loss and the risk that someone at the table has a Strip Mine and an itchy trigger finger is
more than I typically care to take on.
Out – Druidic Satchel
In – Patron of the Orochi
I don’t mind the Satchel. It’s a fun card that provides a nice, even advantage over the long term. In this case, though, I want the big guns. Patron is a
great late-game tool, working to double up your mana a la a limited Seedborn Muse, or in the case of Life and Limb, give vigilance effectively to your
team. This thing is going to gain you a boat-load of advantage once it gets active. (Yeah, it’s expensive, but this is a big-mana deck.)
Out – Psychotrope Thallid
In – Skullclamp
I get the thematic inclusion. However, that’s a ton of work for a single saproling that really only wants to jump on the sword to draw you a card. I figure
to cut out the middle-man and give you the draw you really want to be able to take advantage of. Staple, schmaple. If the card is right for the job, go for
it. And this is one of those occasions without a doubt.
Out – Arashi, the Sky Asunder
In – Fervor
Arashi isn’t the worst thing this deck can be doing. In fact, it isn’t terrible removal under the right circumstances. However, we’re gunning to be the
problem deck here, not sit back and play defensively. And there’s also the fact that Arashi isn’t all that great as a vanilla creature (why, if he’s a big
tornado-looking thing, is it that he can’t natively fly himself? Mechanic synergy be damned…this is Whippoorwill territory!), and really, he’s getting
channeled most of the time. In which case, he’s a worse Squall Line.
Besides…One great way to deal with opposing fliers? Just kill the person controlling the problem. One great way to do that in a tokens deck? Haste. Plenty
of haste. You’ve got some, and now, you’ve got a little more.
Out – Elvish Farmer
In – Dauntless Escort
Again, the theme adherence is admirable. That said, good lord. At least Psychotrope Thallid gave you a card.
Going in, we’re looking to help with the righteous fear you have of losing your lands to Wrath of God. Dauntless Escort is more solid insurance that this
won’t happen, and that beats two life every three turns or so. Like, by a country mile.
Out – Mycologist
In – Claws of Gix
That goes for you too, Mr. Color-Shifted Elvish Farmer. Get out.
Now, that said, a nice sacrifice effect is never a bad thing to have on hand to ensure that you have the final say in what your opponents do. Claws is a
great catch-all, in that it can allow you to dodge things like Detention Sphere, which I hear all the kids are playing these days, preventing a
one-for-three-hundred blowout on your tokens team.
Even more important (and also why we need a “sacrifice a permanent” effect over, say, “creature” or “saproling”) is the ability to nuke your own
Life and Limb, just in case someone does get through with some mass-removal or a Terminus or something. Think of it as a cheap all-encompassing insurance
Out- Utopia Mycon
In – Terra Eternal
I’m of a mind to take out anything that mixes “on your upkeep, put a counter on” with “remove three counters from”. In this case, since we’re in green,
there are better ways to produce some solid mana, so Mycon gets cut.
Terra Eternal. I can’t begin to explain how long I’ve been waiting to put this into a deck. And this deck is clearly the perfect fit.
I’m not even done in that area yet…
Out- Selesnya Evangel
Evangel isn’t a bad call actually. Once Life and Limb comes online, you’re nearly exponentially increasing the size of your army. Maybe this stays after
(…Reads the card…)
Is that a “tap” symbol in there? Never mind that last bit, then. And man, does this flavor text miss the mark. It should read, “The clamor of the city
drowns all voices. But together, we can sing a harmony that…well, one that no-one gives a crap about, that’s what. Thanks for putting me out of a job,
So…Urborg. Let the crazy commence!
Out – Selesnya Guildmage
In – Karma
This looks like a terrible cut on paper. However, what we lose in utility, we gain in one of the cooler glass-cannon haymakers out there. Color-specific
hosers are a crap-shoot in Commander, since the field is so wide-open and varied. Karma should be terrible.
But…add in Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, wait until late game, and toss this puppy out on the board. It’s suddenly the ultimate hot-potato group-slug option.
Watch the entire table suddenly fall all over itself removing this card from play; even if they do, and then gang-pile you out of the game immediately
afterward, it’s going to be a memorable play.
And if they don’t, you’ve grabbed the brass ring. Congrats either way.
And the best part? I’m still not finished here!
Out – Spore Mound (???)
In – Kormus Bell
Spore Mound is the easiest cut in the list, because it isn’t a real card.
The money is in what’s going back in. Kormus Bell plus Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth takes Life and Limb and brings the rest of the party along for the ride as
well. Forests matter, but lands matter is way better.
It’s great to note that this is also great mass-removal insurance. Either that, or you just handed the game to the guy with Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre in
play, so make sure you can see all the cards on the table before proceeding. Just a bit of fair warning from Captain Obvious. And you’re welcome.
Out – Phantom General
In – Natural Emergence
If we’re going all in on this lands thing, we’re going to do it right. Phantom General is cool and all, but he’s a non-bo with the Forest half of Life and
Limb. That’s no good.
Instead, Natural Emergence gives you the extra +1/+1…er…naturally for all your little sapro-Forests, and it throws in first strike to boot. Sure, it might
be a little harder to play, but if it sticks, your team is actually seriously threatening suddenly. Improved redundancy is a wonderful thing.
Out – Restoration Angel
In – Idyllic Tutor
Everyone’s favorite angel really doesn’t do a whole lot in this deck, unless you’re bouncing Regal Force with Life and Limb in play. Now, that’s a bit of
an over-simplification, but the point is that this deck really wants Life and Limb (or a variant) to be able to do what it wants to do. Idyllic Tutor is a
nice and cheap way to make sure you get there every time.
What’s that? No, I haven’t looked yet.
(…Pulls up Idyllic Tutor in the store…)
What the heck? When did that happen? The next thing you’ll tell me is some crap bulk-rare form ten years ago like Shallow Grave is now a thirty dollar
Out – Jade Mage
In – Vedalken Orrery
Since we’re looking again to focus on the “angry army of lands” theme and less on the “make an army of saprolings” theme, Jade Mage gets chopped in order
to make sure that the protection effects you run, many of which are not instants, will be able to be brought to bear whenever you need them. It also lets
you wait until the last second to play Life and Limb, thus removing the risk of a Wrath effect before you get to untap with it.
Out – Fertile Imagination
In – Parallel Evolution
I like playing guessing games as much as the next guy, and I suppose it’s nice to have information on your opponent’s hand if you can.
That said, one of these things is going to quadruple your token army, and one is going to make you a few tokens and has really disturbing artwork.
Out – Weird Harvest
In – Boundless Realms
I’m really not a big fan of letting my enemies tutor up creatures for free in this format. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Boundless Realms, on the other hand, is a necessary evil in this deck. I know it gets a bad rap as a no-brainer ramp options, and I know that I made it a
point to attack no-brainer ramp options in my introduction up top; the trick here is understanding that what this card really says in this deck is, “Count
up the number of creatures you have in play. Now, double it. Oh, and don’t worry about drawing dead lands for the rest of the game either.”
Takes on a whole new light, doesn’t it?
In – Shared Animosity
Muraganda Petroglyphs gets cut because it doesn’t work at all with Life and Limb; the trick is that your sapro-Forests all have the “Tap this: add G to
your mana pool” ability when Life and Limb is in play, so they don’t qualify for the “vanilla bonus” they’d get otherwise.
Instead, try Shared Animosity. Why give your guys +2/+2 when you can give them + number of guys/+number of guys? It’s like an improved Coat of Arms, which
is pretty good here.
Out – Greener Pastures
In – Kyren Negotiations
I get that you’re probably the only person that will benefit from Greener Pastures. But this is not a very compelling door prize. Also, the art makes no
sense. Why is that plant giving that nice man a gift? Why is that man feeding the plants with sunflower seeds? What’s up with the giant oak leaf in the
Instead, let’s give those sunflower seeds to a group of goblins to spit at people! (And also give you a way to still get some solid offensive value if
someone plays a Moat effect or Propaganda or something.)
Out – Rowen
In – Perilous Forays
If you were running a much-higher count of basic lands, I’d consider keeping this. As it is, you’re only going to get a meager payoff a quarter of the time
with this. It’d be better off as Sylvan Library or some other filter effect instead.
Or better yet, another ramp option that gets some stellar mileage in a tokens deck. Forays is another sacrifice outlet, which is solid in and of itself,
but it has the capability of literally exploding your entire basic land base onto the board in no time at all. In a pinch under Life and Limb, this is
going to pull a land out of your deck and net you a shuffle effect for free in the process, which is pretty good as well.
Out – Blank Slot
In – Pendelhaven Elder
In counting the list up, I came up a card short, so I needed to source an addition. In this case, it only makes sense to go with the only other card I
could find that name-drops Jacques Le Vert personally in the flavor text. Strangely enough, Elder also manages to out-Le Vert him as well, adding an extra
point of power, even if it only stick around until end of turn.
And with that, we’re done!
And here’s where we end up:
- 1 Patron of the Orochi
- 1 Verdant Force
- 1 Jacques le Vert
- 1 Verdeloth the Ancient
- 1 Nemata, Grove Guardian
- 1 Rith, the Awakener
- 1 Tolsimir Wolfblood
- 1 Ulasht, the Hate Seed
- 1 Pendelhaven Elder
- 1 Thelonite Hermit
- 1 Pallid Mycoderm
- 1 Angel of Salvation
- 1 Baru, Fist of Krosa
- 1 Boartusk Liege
- 1 Wilt-Leaf Liege
- 1 Wort, the Raidmother
- 1 Regal Force
- 1 Mycoloth
- 1 Skullmulcher
- 1 Sigil Captain
- 1 Dauntless Escort
- 1 Urabrask the Hidden
- 1 Avacyn, Angel of Hope
- 1 Soul of the Harvest
- 1 Trostani, Selesnya's Voice
- 1 Emmara Tandris
- 1 In the Web of War
- 1 Coat of Arms
- 1 Kormus Bell
- 1 Karma
- 1 Fervor
- 1 Saproling Symbiosis
- 1 Artifact Mutation
- 1 Parallel Evolution
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Night Soil
- 1 Vedalken Orrery
- 1 Collective Unconscious
- 1 Kyren Negotiations
- 1 Rith's Charm
- 1 Natural Emergence
- 1 Aura Shards
- 1 Aura Mutation
- 1 Claws of Gix
- 1 Doubling Season
- 1 Perilous Forays
- 1 Seed Spark
- 1 Life and Limb
- 1 Sprout Swarm
- 1 Idyllic Tutor
- 1 Shared Animosity
- 1 Terra Eternal
- 1 Hellion Eruption
- 1 Leyline of Vitality
- 1 Warstorm Surge
- 1 Parallel Lives
- 1 Intangible Virtue
- 1 Cathars' Crusade
- 1 Boundless Realms
- 1 Rootborn Defenses
- 1 Clan Defiance
I’m totally digging on this list. (It’s possible that I’m just a little giddy about the prospect of Kormus Bell and Karma, so take this with a grain of
salt.) Honestly, though, this is what the format is all about in my opinion; it’s not combo-ing out as fast as possible, but it’s also not sticking to
giant, well-known creatures and spells. The real soul of Commander comes when you find little-known synergies that make the games you play a lot more
interesting – for you and for everyone else. I think this deck, by virtue of some ‘out-of-left-field’ choices, will deliver on that ideal.
And it’s also really nice to see a tokens list that doesn’t start with Avenger of Zendikar and Craterhoof Behemoth these days as well. I won’t lie.
Here’s the breakdown of what these changes will run you:
|Claws of Gix||$0.49|
|Patron of the Orochi||$2.99|
|Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth||$17.99|
The total rings in at just about sixty bucks. Fortunately, we’re handing you a $20 store credit to StarCityGames.com for participating in today’s Dear
Azami, so that should help take some of the sting out of picking this stuff up, should you choose. And I do recommend it; I mean, c’mon – it’s Kormus Bell
and Karma! (Just in case I didn’t mention that before.) I’d bet you’re blazing some pretty new territory here, and it seems like it should be a really fun
deck to run out no matter what.
Thanks for writing in, Jack. I hope you enjoy it!
See you in two, everyone!
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