Hello all. Shadows over Innistrad is fully upon us. I’m hoping to get this article done in time to go to the last Prerelease event my local store is holding, which means that, by the time you’re reading this, a new dose of Gothic Horror is legal in Commander. Other formats have to wait another week, but we hundred-card fanatics can dive fully into the insanity right now.
It has been on my Commander bucket list for quite some time to make a land-centric deck. However, the options have mostly been mono-green, which I found a bit boring. The newest Omnath allowed for a Gruul-colored brew, but that didn’t really tickle me either. However, our new frog overlord, the Gitrog Monster, has given me a Golgari-tinted gift!
Here’s my list:
Life From the Loam
Nissa, World Waker
The general idea is to create a bunch of land creatures and/or tokens and then pump them full of counters for a sort of Nature’s Revenge sorta theme. I love that the frog horror turns lands going into the graveyard into draw. I love how well it pairs with Titania and Mazirek, as well. Those two and the Monster are the core of what I would like to build around, so help streamlining that trio would be most appreciated. However, if you feel as though the deck should steer in a different direction, steer away!
When The Gitrog Monster was first spoiled, I started thinking about what I could do with it and came up with half a dozen ideas almost immediately. There’s potential for a discard/dredge engine, an all-in ramp deck that tries to get as much value out of sacrificing lands as possible, and any number of other strategies. The Gitrog sort of reminds me of Animar, Soul of Elements in terms of the sheer power and flexibility it has. Paul’s list uses elements from all over the map to fuel his Living Lands theme, and there’s a lot of fine-tuning to be done.
Okay, let’s start simple here. Budoka Gardener comes out because you’re going to be very well set up to dump lands out of your hand without it. Once he flips, six mana to make a token is really steep. Satyr Wayfinder is basically a cantrip that only finds a land, but that isn’t necessary when your commander lets you draw cards as rapidly as The Gitrog Monster does. Mold Shambler is the worst of the “Naturalize on a stick” creatures that you’re running, and you don’t need all of them. Sporemound is getting upgraded to a similar effect that makes bigger tokens. More on that later.
Nylea, God the Hunt, Corpsejack Menace, and Plaguemaw Beast are all coming out because your +1/+1 counters theme didn’t have the support it needed. There were only a handful of good counter-makers and no way to tutor for them, so I’m scrapping the theme rather than trying to flesh it out. Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest and Vigor are still staying because those cards are insane, but you don’t need support cards to make them good. It might seem a bit odd to include Nylea here, but her pump ability isn’t impressive, and granting the team trample only made sense when your tokens were pumped up by the counters theme.
Sacrifice outlets are good, but in this deck you want ways to get rid of lands, not creatures. Combine that with the fact that you don’t flood the board like most token decks, and I’m happy cutting Phyrexian Plaguelord.
Realm Seekers gets huge pretty easily, but turning those counters into lands is surprisingly clunky in a real game. There are better late-game engines out there. On the other end of the spectrum, Oblivion Sower will disappoint most of the time because it’ll hit one to two lands on average, unless your metagame is full of library exile and there’s somebody with a chunk of lands already exiled that you can hit. The 5/8 body is nice, but there are much better ramp spells to be had.
Finally we come to Nissa, Vastwood Seer. This might sound absolutely bonkers, but I’d rather have Wood Elves’s ability to act directly as ramp than get the land to hand and eventually act as a repeatable Eternal Witness. You’re free to disagree with that and get rid of the Elves instead, but my vote goes to cutting Nissa.
Kamahl is a much better way to make your tokens dangerous than Nylea and comes with the added benefit of dissuading Wraths. Sure, anyone can blow up your creatures, but are they willing to Armageddon themselves to do it?
Meren of Clan Nel Toth adds a powerful recursion engine to your arsenal and is especially silly with Eternal Witness. Oracle of Mul Daya comes in because you want every possible way to make extra land drops available to you, and getting to play them off the top of your deck is just what the deck needs.
Sylvan Safekeeper is the first of some much-needed land sacrifice outlets and will also let you protect any creature you want for the low cost of one land. Finally, Mindless Automaton acts as a discard outlet, which triggers The Gitrog Monster’s draw ability and eventually draws you more cards with its second ability. Sure, it would have been even more crazy with the proliferate cards, but even without that synergy it’s really good here.
Contagion Clasp and Contagion Engine fall victim to the counter theme getting removed, which is a shame because they’re good cards. Druidic Satchel can give you a bunch of benefits, but of the three modes you’re only really interested in getting extra lands, and you can’t control what you’ll get.
Seer’s Sundial seems like everything the deck wants, but I’ve always been underwhelmed by the card when I see it played, and you need a ton of extra mana to make it anything but extremely awkward.
Mesmeric Orb is one of the cheapest ways to dump a bunch of cards into your graveyard. With your Commander out, that means drawing a card for every land you hit. You run the risk of helping other people build up to their own graveyard shenanigans, but in my mind that’s acceptable. Zuran Orb is another way to sacrifice lands on command, this time to gain life. It’s also free to cast, which means you can drop it with no loss of tempo and try to go off immediately.
I’ve never liked spells like Grisly Salvage, even in decks that are set up to abuse the graveyard as much as possible. You aren’t really set up to recur anything other than lands, so dumping a bunch of spells is less than ideal. It’s basically a cantrip with filtering, but you’re not really short on card drawing.
Gild and Silence the Believers are both good removal spells, but I’m more inclined to commit to your own gameplan as fully as possible, since you already have several ways to deal with noncreatures and you’re unlikely to get completely trumped in combat. Maybe I’m wrong and there’s something like Avacyn, Angel of Hope that you need to deal with, but I’m moving these slots over to having more action.
Boundless Realms is a big top-end ramp spell to ensure you’ll have as many lands as possible to fuel your future shenanigans. Edge of Autumn is a Rampant Growth early and a free Divination when you have your Commander out.
Constant Mists is a strong card in any situation, and in a deck that can fish lands out of the graveyard and make multiple land drops, it’s downright brutal. Crop Rotation lets you get any utility land at instant speed and draws a card on top of that.
Creeping Renaissance lets you rebuy all of the lands that you’ve discarded and sacrificed over the course of the game and then do it all again later. Meanwhile, Worm Harvest turns all of the lands in your graveyard into a repeatable source of tokens, and acts as a discard outlet for lands.
Primeval Bounty is getting the ax for similar reasons as Druidic Satchel. It gives you a variety of benefits, but most of them aren’t really relevant (looking at you, lifegain) and the six-mana price tag isn’t worth that inconsistency. Greed is a fairly good draw engine, but you’re already covered in that department thanks to the Frog Horror. In that context it just seems underwhelming.
Speaking of token-makers, Crawling Sensation has the same trigger as The Gitrog Monster, although it’s limited to once a turn. Zendikar’s Roil spits out 2/2s with every land drop and isn’t nearly as vulnerable as Sporemound was.
Nature’s Revolt joins Kamahl as a hilariously on-theme Wrath deterrent and feeds into the plan of killing people with lands.
Rites of Flourishing and Manabond both come in as ways to increase the number of land drops you can make, and in Manabond’s case that can be extremely explosive. Knowing when to pitch your hand will be fairly challenging, but once you figure it out, the card is crazy powerful.
Oblivion Crown is a free discard outlet, and thanks to flash you can surprise people with it after blockers have been declared (or not). This on The Gitrog Monster plus a Dakmor Salvage in hand can easily one-shot an opponent out of nowhere, but even without that combo it will be very useful.
Perilous Forays is a way to turn your chump-blockers and tokens directly into new lands, although it’s limited to basics. Finally, Squandered Resources lets you sacrifice lands for additional mana. Anyone who’s ever seen this card in action knows how absolutely brutal it can be, and that’s without your commander drawing you a card for every sacrifice.
Let’s face it, a 0/1 every turn isn’t all that exciting, and giving your team a +1/+1 counter isn’t all that great for a planeswalker. Sure, Nissa’s ultimate is on-theme, but how often are you going to get to it?
Garruk, Primal Hunter is a different story. Normally I like Primal Hunter as a Soul’s Majesty with occasional upside, but your creatures don’t get much bigger than 6/6s and an occasional 8/8, and this deck isn’t lacking in the card flow department.
Not much to see here. I wanted to make room for some utility lands, and the basic count could afford to be trimmed a little.
I mentioned Dakmor Salvage in conjunction with Oblivion Crown earlier, but it’s not there just for that combo. Whether discarded or sacrificed, you can use The Gitrog Monster’s trigger to immediately redraw it, potentially netting more draw triggers from milling lands.
Drownyard Temple creates a very slow engine with The Gitrog Monster. You can return it for three mana whenever it’s in your graveyard, and that will help ensure that you don’t slowly lose all of your resources to The Gitrog Monster’s sacrifice trigger. It’s also an ideal land to sacrifice whenever you want to draw a card.
Dust Bowl is yet another sacrifice outlet and has the potential to let you slowly Wasteland people out of the game while overwhelming them with more land drops. Even if that plan never comes through, being able to repeatedly snipe utility lands is really good.
Finally we have Glacial Chasm, which doesn’t make mana but it is an ideal way to stonewall attackers for full turn cycles. You don’t really mind sacrificing a land to play it. With Life from the Loam or Crucible of Worlds, you can replay it every turn without needing to pay life on your upkeep. You’ll be vulnerable for a brief window in your upkeep and draw steps, but against sorcery-speed threats it will work wonders. Just be careful to remember that life loss will still get to you, even if damage doesn’t.
Putting everything together, here’s the finished decklist:
- 1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Wood Elves
- 1 Kamahl, Fist of Krosa
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 1 Yavimaya Elder
- 1 Mindless Automaton
- 1 Groundskeeper
- 1 Sylvan Safekeeper
- 1 Vigor
- 1 Tilling Treefolk
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 1 Oracle of Mul Daya
- 1 Rampaging Baloths
- 1 Avenger of Zendikar
- 1 Liege of the Tangle
- 1 Hornet Queen
- 1 Courser of Kruphix
- 1 Reclamation Sage
- 1 Titania, Protector of Argoth
- 1 Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest
- 1 Centaur Vinecrasher
- 1 Meren of Clan Nel Toth
- 1 Embodiment of Insight
- 6 Swamp
- 1 Slippery Karst
- 1 Polluted Mire
- 1 Tainted Wood
- 1 Tranquil Thicket
- 1 Barren Moor
- 1 Glacial Chasm
- 1 Dust Bowl
- 1 Blasted Landscape
- 1 Terminal Moraine
- 1 Golgari Rot Farm
- 1 Overgrown Tomb
- 1 Terramorphic Expanse
- 1 Dakmor Salvage
- 1 Jund Panorama
- 1 Evolving Wilds
- 1 Woodland Cemetery
- 1 Golgari Guildgate
- 1 Temple of Malady
- 1 Jungle Hollow
- 1 Myriad Landscape
- 1 Blighted Woodland
- 1 Drownyard Temple
- 12 Forest
- 1 Exploration
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Burgeoning
- 1 Constant Mists
- 1 Kodama's Reach
- 1 Crucible of Worlds
- 1 Mesmeric Orb
- 1 Squandered Resources
- 1 Explosive Vegetation
- 1 Nature's Revolt
- 1 Harrow
- 1 Zuran Orb
- 1 Manabond
- 1 Crop Rotation
- 1 Golgari Signet
- 1 Life from the Loam
- 1 Perilous Forays
- 1 Hunting Wilds
- 1 Edge of Autumn
- 1 Oblivion Crown
- 1 Rites of Flourishing
- 1 Scapeshift
- 1 Worm Harvest
- 1 Khalni Heart Expedition
- 1 Realms Uncharted
- 1 Cultivate
- 1 Command Tower
- 1 Creeping Renaissance
- 1 Boundless Realms
- 1 Wave of Vitriol
- 1 Zendikar's Roil
- 1 Nissa's Renewal
- 1 Thought Vessel
- 1 Crawling Sensation
And the additions, sorted by price:
The changes add up to $76.05, which is a hefty chunk of change but far cheaper than my first draft of the deck. If you really want to go all out, any of the green or black fetchlands would do wonders in this deck, as would a number of other cards like Azusa, Lost but Seeking and Volrath’s Stronghold.
Wherever he decides to take this list, Paul will receive twenty dollars in store credit to StarCityGames.com to help him make the transition.
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