Devoted To Commander Nylea, Goddess Of The Hunt

Join Bennie as he builds his first Commander deck around one of the Gods of Theros and let him know what you think in the comments!

Last week I took a look at the Gods from Theros and their weapons with an eye towards Standard. This week I thought I’d go ahead and dive into building a Commander deck around one of the Gods, and the green God seemed like the natural (heh) place to start.

Before I get to it, though, I want to put on my Vorthos hat for a moment. Now, maybe my eyesight ain’t what it used to be, but I’m pretty sure that the artwork for Nylea depicts a deity of the female persuasion. I went back to Planeswalker’s Guide to Theros, Part 1 just to make sure:

"Nylea is the god of the hunt, the seasons, and the forest. Because of her reign over the hunt, she is also associated with predation and hunger. And because of her rule of the seasons, she is also the god of metamorphosis and rebirth. Nylea receives strength and peace from sleeping inside the chrysalis at the center of her grove."

Okay, so the pronoun definitely indicates she is a she. So shouldn’t her card name be Nylea, Goddess of the Hunt? In the write-up they also use the word "god" instead of "goddess." Were they worried about confusion as to whether Nylea was a "God" card type like the others if her card name said Goddess instead?

Over on Mark Rosewater Tumbler, someone asked, "Why is it Thassa, God of the Sea and Nylea, God of the Hunt instead of Thassa, Goddess of the Sea and Nylea, Goddess of the Hunt? They are obviously female." His answer: "The word "god" does not have to be gendered. It can apply to both males and females."

Sure, it can . . . but should it in Theros, where flavor and top-down design is certainly at the forefront? In the Greek mythos that Theros is heavily based on, the gods were . . . well, to put it gingerly, very much male and very much female, so it seems like an odd choice to downplay the gender of the gods of Theros.

For instance, imagine what someone called "God of Storms" might look like. Chances are the picture in your mind is male, maybe looking something like Thor, right? Now imagine what someone called "Goddess of Storms" might look like. Definitely female, maybe looking something like Ororo from the X-Men comics. Removing the flavor of gender from god and goddess and just calling everyone "God" feels like a missed opportunity to tap into our instincts and imagination.

I know this isn’t really a big flavor fail (unlike how unscary and bad the minotaurs are in the set), but I just wanted to point out one reason why the set might not have gotten that A+ grade.

Overall, though, I’m pretty well stoked to get my hands on Theros!

Dedicated To The Goddess

I can’t wait to build a deck around Nylea, God of the Hunt. The other Gods are pretty sweet, but I really like the direction she wants to push me in when putting together a deck. Let’s break it down.

Devotion To Green

When building monocolor decks, I often make heavy use of artifacts to shore up holes and weaknesses the color might otherwise have. Unfortunately, most artifacts don’t provide any green mana symbols to help turn on Nylea’s devotion to green, so as I began sketching out the decklist I kept stopping myself when I instinctively jotted down an artifact that would otherwise be a gimme for mono-green. It made me wonder—is there a green permanent that can do this instead? Sometimes the answer was an easy yes, and sometimes the answer was kinda sorta . . . if you squint your eyes and look at it sideways.

Then I thought well, why not run zero artifacts in the deck? That fits into the flavor of green, whose hostility to artifice justifies its near infinite ways to destroy artifacts. And why stop with cutting out artifacts—what about getting rid of instants and sorceries too? In a deck dedicated to Nylea, wouldn’t it make sense that every nonland card in the deck be devoted to green?

There are a couple of green cards that key off the number of green mana symbols we have in play, and they are already pretty decent in a mono-green deck but seem amazing if we’re going in this direction: Primalcrux and Khalni Hydra. Primalcrux in particular seems like it could get insanely huge in this deck!

When scrolling through potential cards, I tried to keep a particular close eye out for permanents that have more than one green mana symbol in its casting cost.

Mana Acceleration

Sol Ring, Fellwar Stone, Darksteel Ingot . . . these staples of Commander help accelerate mana in all sorts of decks, and if you’re playing green, you’ve got sorcery options like Kodama’s Reach and Cultivate. But if I’m eschewing artifacts, instants, and sorceries, how do I accelerate my mana? Sure, there’s no end to creatures like Birds of Paradise and Llanowar Elves, but I’m already going to be a little bit vulnerable to mass removal as it is.

No, seems to me the better choice is some enchantment-based acceleration:  Exploration, Burgeoning, Carpet of Flowers (fingers crossed for Islands around the table), and Gaea’s Touch. For those to be most effective I’ll want to be playing a larger number of lands, so I upped the count of lands that produce mana I usually run and also threw in some extra utility lands that don’t tap for mana. My final decklist has 47 lands in it.

Nylea herself is perfectly fine with having a bunch of extra mana lying around, being able to convert four mana into +2/+2 to any creature, including herself. Continuing that theme we’ll want Gaea’s Cradle, Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary, Karametra’s Acolyte and Gyre Sage (potentially), and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx in the mix.

Weapons For The Hunt

I’m aware I’m hamstringing the power level of this deck by giving up very powerful artifacts, instants, and sorceries, so I made an effort to include some potent cards and synergies to make up for it.

Survival of the Fittest / Fauna Shaman: In a deck full of creatures, being able to search up the right man for the job at the cost of pitching one less useful is a proven winning strategy. I made sure to include the awesome Genesis here to feed the engine. Defense of the Heart is like a double shot of these cards but also kinda like a delayed blast Tooth and Nail that can give you some devotion to green if your opponents don’t cooperate and play out creatures.

Squirrel Nest / Earthcraft: Death by infinite Squirrels can feel pretty cheesy if it’s something that’s pulled together consistently and fast with tutors; I have no way to assemble this combo outside of naturally drawing them, but both parts contribute to devotion and are decent enough cards on their own that I’m okay with putting an "oops, I win!" in a deck that might otherwise struggle against some of the other decks I’ll be facing.

Bow of Nylea: Okay, technically this is an artifact, which could be a fly in the "no artifact" ointment except for the fact that it’s Nylea’s weapon, so I think she’ll make an exception. I talked last week about how sweet the Bow’s ability to give deathtouch to your attackers is combined with Nylea’s trample. None of the choices on the activated ability are particularly powerful, but the flexibility is quite nice to have, especially the ability to shuffle some cards back into the deck to be searched back up with Survival of the Fittest or Fauna Shaman. The +1/+1 counter ability is sweet combined with Woodfall Primus’ persist ability or just to feed Spike Weaver.

Greater Good: With some of the monsters I’ve got in this deck, Greater Good is going to draw a bunch of cards. However, I am also including Rancor and Weatherseed Treefolk, both of which turn Greater Good into a crazy card draw engine. Hmm . . .  I have visions of sacrificing Woodfall Primus to Greater Good, drawing some cards, then activating the Bow to knock the -1/-1 persist counter off it so I can do it again. Mmmmm, good times!

Sylvan Library, Yavimaya Elder, Eternal Witness, Holistic Wisdom, Masked Admirers, Seedborn Muse, Primeval Bounty, Mikokoro, Center of the Sea: In addition to Greater Good, I tried to add additional ways to generate card advantage and card quality to help weather the inevitable storms of mass removal.

Hall of Gemstone: I rarely play this card because it can be a real pain for your opponents, sometimes even shutting them down completely if they lean too heavily on colored mana and don’t have nonland color fixing. I added this for the same reason I put in the Squirrel Nest / Earthcraft combo: to give this deck a potent weapon to offset my self-imposed limitations.

Predators For The Hunt

One thing I noticed while looking for creatures with high devotion to green was as I went up the mana curve quite a few of them were quite large and beastly. Many of them already have trample, which is a bit redundant with Nylea’s static ability, but that’s okay—Nylea is content to feed them +2/+2 pumps just as well. Arbor Colossus, Vigor, Paleoloth, Cloudthresher, Pelakka Wurm, Sylvan Primordial . . . And while Nacatl War-Pride isn’t necessarily huge itself, I’m pretty sure it could do some nutty things while attacking in conjunction with Primalcrux—each temporary War-Pride copy adds three devotion to green, right?

I like Spearbreaker Behemoth to give some of these huge monsters indestructibility alongside Nylea and Predator Ooze to help make the deck less vulnerable to overextending into mass removal.

Since I’ve got such big monsters, I even nabbed some available "fight" abilities with Arena and Ulvenwald Tracker to help take down opposing creatures or even land if we want to get froggy with Kamahl, Fist of Krosa.

Alright, so here’s what I’ve got, ready and waiting to pop in a Nylea, God of the Hunt:

I’m hoping to attend a Friday night Prerelease, and fingers crossed I’ll see that saucy green mythic deity lurking in one of my packs. What sort of cards do you want to play in your Nylea, God of the Hunt Commander deck? Hit me up in the comments below!

Take care,


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