The Magic community is a funny collective, filled with all sorts of fans.
Commander fans are a significant sub-section, and even those folks are
sub-divided into some wild interest groups. One group of Commander fans
have apparently been clamoring for a legendary Bear they can build around.
One of the side effects of being a spokesperson for the game,
especially one with a blog where anyone can easily write to me, is I
get a lot of requests. One popular type of request is for legendary
cards for creature types that have never had a legendary card. For
quite a while now, the creature type that gets requested the most often
is legendary Bear. I have mentioned that I regret I didn’t realize the
Bear theme that ended up in
Khans of Tarkir
, as it would have been the perfect place for a legendary Bear. I’m
happy to say that, finally, a legendary Bear has made it to print.
Interestingly rather than a Bear lord, Goreclaw is more of a
build-around for big creatures. It allows you to play bigger creatures
for less mana and pumps them when Goreclaw attacks. I hope many of you
who have wanted a Bear Commander can have some fun with Goreclaw.”
Apparently, Goreclaw didn’t really fill the niche that Bear tribal fans
have been clamoring for. Not only does Goreclaw not call out and help Bears
specifically, but its special abilities pretty much don’t work on any
Bears. Not surprisingly, these Bear tribal enthusiasts seem to be quite
disappointed in their first legendary Bear.
But come on. Seriously, “Bear tribal” isn’t exactly a world of excitement.
Just look at the available Bears:
I, for one, am super-stoked that Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma went a
different route rather than trying to boost a relentlessly mediocre tribe.
Goreclaw as printed is a very cool bundle of abilities that are a nice
call-back to the world it comes from, Tarkir. The savage Temur clan had an
affinity for creatures with power four or more and so does Goreclaw. In a
clever bit of design, Goreclaw shaves two mana off the casting cost of any
creature spell with power four or greater-and two mana happens to be the
typical mana cost for a “bear” (see Grizzly Bear). So, our Goreclaw deck is
going to want to have quite a few creatures that have at least four power.
Since we’re going to be able to play big creatures for cheaper, we can
realistically expect to have a couple of creatures on the battlefield with
power four or more, and that’s when Goreclaw’s second ability kicks in.
While a lot of large creatures have trample already, there are a ton that
don’t, and they end up being chump blocked for days by token creatures and
regenerators. So, giving all our already large creatures +1/+1 and trample
is incredible-what a great one-two punch!
Okay, let’s get brewing!
Big Creatures for Cheap
First up, lots of big creatures! All these creatures are flat-out amazing
at a significant mana discount, right? I’m super excited that I can play
Rhonas the Indomitable or Wayward Swordtooth for just one green mana with
Goreclaw on the battlefield. Bramble Sovereign for just two mana gives you
that extra two mana to copy creatures.
Goreclaw definitely goes into my Grothama, the All-Devouring deck, but I
definitely think it can return the favor and join in the fun here.
Panglacial Wurm is a neat card I’ve always been intrigued about playing,
but the mana cost to cast it has always left it sitting on the sidelines.
However, only costing five mana to cast it from your library definitely
seems much more doable.
Playing big creatures for cheaper should make paying the emerge cost on
Decimator of the Provinces a snap!
I love that Goreclaw effectively pays half the mana for Ghalta, Primal
Hunter. Any other big creatures I missed?
I Like Big Creatures
With all these big creatures, we can take advantage of cards that like big
creatures. Going back to the Temur theme of four power or greater there’s
Whisperer of the Wilds, Winds of Qal Sisma, Roar of Challenge, and Shamanic
Back on Alara, the Naya shard liked big creatures too, specifically those
with five or more power. Sacellum Godspeaker can help generate a bunch of
extra mana to cast those big creatures. Paleoloth can help keep your hand
gassed up with action as your opponents kill your creatures.
Drumhunter is a neat source of some card draw and can often trigger off
Goreclaw even though its toughness is only four. If you attack with
Goreclaw and get the +1/+1 boost until the end of the turn, it lasts long
enough to satisfy Drumhunter’s requirement. From the rules clarification on
Drumhunter: “Power-boosting effects that last until end of turn will still
be in effect when this kind of ability triggers and resolves.” Yeah!
Of course, the best effects are those that scale the bigger the power is on
your creatures. Selvala, Heart of the Wilds is perfect, giving you huge
infusions of mana to cast bigger and bigger creatures, and likely letting
you draw a lot of cards. Traverse the Outlands will single-shot give you
all the ramp you’ll likely need. Rishkar’s Expertise should give you a huge
influx of new cards.
Trample is Nice
Not that we really need anything extra to make trample on large creatures
even more awesome, but tossing in a few cards that are already decent
enough to play anyway gives a big power boost to the deck. Blackblade,
Reforged scales bigger as the game goes on, so having it out there with
Goreclaw is going to make any of your creatures a potential game-ending
threat. Then there is the super-cool combo of deathtouch with trample. If
you’re not familiar with the interaction, trample works like this: you
assign lethal damage (typically the blocking creature’s toughness) and then
the rest of the damage gets assigned to the defending player. A creature
with deathtouch only needs to deal one point of damage to be considered
lethal, so when you combine that with trample you only need to assign one
damage to each blocker and the rest goes right to your opponent. Boom!
Basilisk Collar gives lifelink and deathtouch for one creature, but then
Bow of Nylea combines with Goreclaw to make your large attackers truly
Our commander provides a big dose of mana ramp, but we can’t put all our
eggs in that basket. If your opponents keep Goreclaw off the battlefield,
you don’t want to just choke on a bunch of cards in hand you can’t cast so
let’s go ahead and play a solid number of mana ramp cards. I’m focusing
quite a few slots on being able to cast Goreclaw on turn 3 since ain’t no
big beats party like a turn 4 big beats party.
I anticipate the typical way a Goreclaw deck is going to play out could
leave your gas tank dangerously low if any of your opponents plays a spell
that sweeps the battlefield clean of creatures. Lucky for us green has a
fair number of quality ways to keep the cards flowing. Greater Good is
always a good inclusion in green decks, but is even better here due to the
high quantity of large powered creatures.
Evolutionary Leap isn’t technically card drawing, but I think it’ll serve
well here since your opponents will likely be throwing removal spells at
your creatures early and often. Cashing an already doomed creature in for a
replacement creature will keep the pressure on.
Green is quite good at non-creature removal, so I’ve got a fair number of
those in here. Cards like World Breaker, Woodfall Primus, and Terastodon
are great in here as utility spells that also play well alongside Goreclaw.
When it comes to creature removal our options are limited, but Ulvenwald
Tracker arranging fights with our superior creatures can get the job done.
Song of Dryads is another fantastic card that can handle situations
conventional removal cannot.
Rounding out the deck is Heroic Intervention to save your side of the
battlefield from mass removal, Swiftfoot Boots to protect individual
creatures from pinpoint removal, and then Deathrender there to swap a
creature that dies with another large creature from your hand.
Sweet deck! But wait… there are too many cards! Let’s figure out where to
make out cuts.
Let’s start by taking a look at our mana curve:
1 mana: 5
2 mana: 16
3 mana: 13
4 mana: 10+commander
5 mana: 9
6 mana: 7
7+ mana/X-spells: 12
73 total cards, plus 39 lands, equals twelve cards over the line. Let’s
start at the top of the curve and see if there are some cuts we can make.
As much as I like the idea of a discounted Decimator of Provinces,
honestly, its cast trigger is pretty much covered by our commander already.
Sifter Wurm’s scry ability plus lifegain is a very appealing package for
just five mana, but Verdant Sun’s Avatar will generally net us much more
life, and Regal Force draws us raw cards.
I was eyeballing Panglacial Wurm but heck-if it can’t do work in this deck
then what hope is there for it? I’m going to try and keep it in the deck.
Vigor is an insane combo with Grothama and is an MVP in my Grothama
Commander deck, but I don’t think it does too much here. Grunn seemed like
a slam dunk until I realized that he couldn’t get trample from Goreclaw
without Goreclaw attacking, but if Grunn doesn’t attack alone then he
doesn’t double his power.
The thought of playing Thragtusk for just three mana is quite appealing,
but honestly compared to the other creatures in this deck Thragtusk looks
fairly tame. I like Shamanic Revelation’s lifegain potential, and it will
often draw a couple cards too, but I don’t really have too many ways to go
wide to really power up the card, so I think it can be cut.
Of our mana ramp, I think Drumhunter, Sacellum Godspeaker, and Emerald
Medallion are probably the weak links. Thaumatic Compass is a fine card,
but a bit less useful in a mono-colored deck and is a bit of a mana hog; I
would rather spend my mana casting giant creatures.
Eleven cards down, one more cut to make. Ugh, I love all these cards! I
suppose one of the giant creatures needs to go, but which one?
Okay, these are the four I think I have to choose from. I really don’t want
to cut Panglacial Wurm, and Myojin of Life’s Web has the potential of doing
some truly heinous haymakers if you sacrifice another large creature to
Greater Good and fill your hand with giant creatures at the end of an
opponent’s turn. Ghalta, Primal Hunter and Terastodon are pretty close in
size, and Ghalta’s trample ability is a bit extraneous with Goreclaw.
Terastodon’s ability to destroy noncreature permanents and replace them
with 3/3 Elephants is very handy, and the Elephants are fairly
inconsequential to our creature suite. I think Ghalta gets the boot, but
I’m definitely not 100% certain. What last cut would you make?
Here’s how the deck ended up after my cuts:
- 1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
- 1 Myojin of Life's Web
- 1 Weatherseed Treefolk
- 1 Genesis
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 1 Wall of Roots
- 1 Panglacial Wurm
- 1 Seedguide Ash
- 1 Mossbridge Troll
- 1 Woodfall Primus
- 1 Regal Force
- 1 Paleoloth
- 1 Thornling
- 1 Terastodon
- 1 Garruk's Packleader
- 1 Thrun, the Last Troll
- 1 Ulvenwald Tracker
- 1 Yeva, Nature's Herald
- 1 Polukranos, World Eater
- 1 Archetype of Endurance
- 1 Hydra Broodmaster
- 1 Phytotitan
- 1 Whisperer of the Wilds
- 1 Shaman of Forgotten Ways
- 1 Surrak, the Hunt Caller
- 1 World Breaker
- 1 Endbringer
- 1 Selvala, Heart of the Wilds
- 1 Rhonas the Indomitable
- 1 Verdant Sun's Avatar
- 1 Wayward Swordtooth
- 1 Golden Guardian
- 1 Bramble Sovereign
- 1 Grothama, All-Devouring
- 1 Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma
- 19 Forest
- 1 Slippery Karst
- 1 Yavimaya Hollow
- 1 Tranquil Thicket
- 1 Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
- 1 Miren, the Moaning Well
- 1 Mosswort Bridge
- 1 Bant Panorama
- 1 Jund Panorama
- 1 Naya Panorama
- 1 Reliquary Tower
- 1 Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
- 1 Tectonic Edge
- 1 Encroaching Wastes
- 1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
- 1 Myriad Landscape
- 1 Blighted Woodland
- 1 Command Beacon
- 1 Mirrorpool
- 1 Desert of the Indomitable
- 1 Endless Sands
- 1 Sylvan Library
- 1 Mana Vault
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Kodama's Reach
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Mind Stone
- 1 Greater Good
- 1 Krosan Grip
- 1 Harmonize
- 1 Deathrender
- 1 Deglamer
- 1 Basilisk Collar
- 1 Swiftfoot Boots
- 1 Bow of Nylea
- 1 Unravel the Aether
- 1 Roar of Challenge
- 1 Song of the Dryads
- 1 Evolutionary Leap
- 1 Thought Vessel
- 1 Rishkar's Expertise
- 1 Lifecrafter's Bestiary
- 1 Heroic Intervention
- 1 Rhonas's Monument
- 1 Traverse the Outlands
- 1 Treasure Map
- 1 Blackblade Reforged
So, what do you think? Do you agree with the cuts, or would you have gone
another way? Are there any great cards I overlooked?
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 Primer Part 1
(Why play Commander? Rules Overview, Picking your Commander)
Commander Primer Part 2
(Mana Requirements, Randomness, Card Advantage)
Commander Primer Part 3
(Power vs. Synergy, Griefing, Staples, Building a Doran Deck)
Commander Starter Kits 1
(kick start your allied two-color decks for $25)
Commander Starter Kits 2
(kick start your enemy two-color decks for $25)
Commander Starter Kits 3
(kick start your shard three-color decks for $25)
Commander write-ups I’ve done
(and links to decklists):
• Nahiri, The Lithomancer (Lithomancing for Fun and Profit)