Thank goodness for Magic 2013! Just a month or two back, I was pretty down on Standard Magic and was losing a lot of desire to make the trip up to the StarCityGames.com Open in Washington D.C. in August that I’d been planning on attending. Now I’m chomping at the bit to sleeve up Rancors and Thragtusks and kick some ass in Standard!
As a fan of Commander, there is a lot to get excited about from M13 as well. Sheldon’s given his usual Commander’s eye review of the set, but meâ€”I get to take one of the new legends and build a deck around it. I’ve been having fun building a couple bottom-up Commander decks lately, but the real joy of building Commander decks is to take a legend and make it a star!
Luckily for me, M13’s got a green legend that is truly star material. Check her out:
That’s some gal! I remember when Wizards printed Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir and it pissed me off to no end. Giving your creatures flashâ€”shouldn’t that be something green gets to do?! Green’s come a long way in Magic in terms of its relative power level, but having so much of the color’s power locked into the main phase is always a massive limiter. Multiplayer games very clearly illustrate the advantages of having powerful effects at instant speed since if you tap down to cast something during your main phase, you’ve got several opponents who now know you’ve got very limited responses available to you for their own shenanigans during the next turn. It’s why Seedborn Muse is so off-the-charts ridiculous in Commander (The Case Against Seedborn Muse).
While Teferi is still miles better for just one colored mana more, Yeva, Nature’s Herald finally gives green a way to break out of that severely limiting box, and I’m thrilled! Building a Commander deck with Yeva as the general is unlike any other mono-green Commander deck I’ve ever built before.
Open Mana Is Your Rattlesnake
Once you’ve got four mana available to you, your whole game style changes. Now, you don’t have to worry about any random 3/X creature getting sent to attack you. The four mana you’ve got open plus Yeva in your Command Zone means you’ve got a blocker available at instant speed. Not only that but…you’ve got four mana open. What does that mean for the green mage? What does that mean indeedâ€”how often does a green mage have a fistful of cards and four mana open?
I daresay most Commander players aren’t used to the green mage at the table having reactive instants that could actually fit and be effective in their deck and, if they’re smart, they’ll probably be a little fearful. While green doesn’t have the sheer volume of scary instants that blue and black have, over the years there’s been some good stuff that’s slipped through the cracks. The problem of course is that green’s mostly been locked into the main phase all this time, so hardly any of those sweet instants have ever really been utilized!
Green’s had Fog and its clones since the beginning of time, and it’s certainly quite handy to pull your bacon out of the fire when someone’s coming in for an alpha strike in Commander. However, green’s got some Fog variants that are absolutely brutal in multiplayer. Tangle is a brutal weapon, leaving someone vulnerable to counterattacks not once but twice from everyone else at the table. Spore Cloud does the same thing but even better, potentially screwing up two other players at the table who attacked each other.
Crop Rotation, Autumn’s Veil, Sprout Swarm, Tribute to the Wild, Evolution Charm, Krosan Grip, Reincarnation, Storm Seeker
Green’s got some great utility spells that can be cast at instant speed, but you so often find yourself torn between casting one of your more powerful spells (some giant green creature) or holding your mana up for a reactive spell that you might end up not needing and end up wasting your turn. Typically you just go ahead and tap down for the guaranteed play and hope that you don’t need that utility spell available at instant speed to stop some shenanigans.
Yeva helps change that around and lets your utility spells be even more effective. I particularly love being able to more effectively use Storm Seeker against the greedy decks who so often draw a ton of cards at instant speed when they think they’re otherwise rather safe. Reincarnation is a totally cool spell that I hardly ever run because pre-Yeva holding up three mana for a situation that may or may not occur was too often a waste, but in this deckâ€”particularly with all the creaturesâ€”it’s perfect!
La Yeva Loca!
When the player to your right ends his or her turn while you still have four mana up, that’s when you get to really switch over to playing different than any green mage ever has before. You cast Yeva, untap…and the world has opened up to you. That open mana you have out there isn’t just a rattlesnake; it’s a freaking black pit of doom from which anything could spring out! Not only might you cast some nasty green instant spell, but now you’ve got the potential to play any number of nasty green monsters at instant speed, of which there are roughly two and a half metric truckloads available throughout the history of Magic.
Enters the Battlefield
Elvish Visionary, Wall of Blossoms, Riftsweeper, Eternal Witness, Fierce Empath, Loaming Shaman, Llanowar Empath, Masked Admirers, Acidic Slime, Indrik Stomphowler, Garruk’s Packleader, Wolfir Silverheart, Brutalizer Exarch, Deadwood Treefolk, Paleoloth, Primeval Titan, Avenger of Zendikar, Tornado Elemental, Terastodon, Woodfall Primus
Green creatures ride at the front of the value train, and there are all sorts of choices available to you depending on what you expect to be facing down. Creatures that replace themselves like Visionary or Fierce Empath make great instant speed chump blockers, while monsters like Wolfir Silverheart make an awesome ambush. Instant speed Terastodon or Woodfall Primus can wreck someone’s carefully laid plans when timed just right or at the very least bait a counterspell on their own turn.
Just to have even more fun with casting these value creatures at instant speed, let’s run a Cloudstone Curio as well!
Essence Warden, Ulvenwald Tracker, Fauna Shaman, Primal Forcemage; Omnath, Locus of Mana; Wickerbough Elder, Seedborn Muse, Garruk’s Horde, Craterhoof Behemoth
Being able to play utility creatures at instant speed is quite helpful as well. Too often playing something like Fauna Shaman or Garruk’s Horde during your own main phase can be the tipping point that provokes a sorcery speed board sweeper from one of your opponents, so waiting until the end of your opponent’s turn to flash it in and then getting to untap and be able to use it can really be clutch.
I decided to go ahead and include Concordant Crossroads and Thousand-Year Elixir to be able to flash in and immediately use those creatures with tap abilities. Primal Forcemage seems particularly sweet when paired up with creatures coming into play at instant speed, and while I don’t see flashing in Craterhoof Behemoth on other people’s turns very often, you’ve got to admit it’s a pretty awesome combat trick to cast once blockers have been declared!
Omnath, Locus of Mana seems like he’d be quite comfortable playing second fiddle to Yevaâ€”soaking up mana you’ve got lying around to get bigger and bigger, letting you carry that mana around and accumulate turn after turn…and if you’ve got Seedborn Muse out there! I have visions of floating a ton of mana, sacrificing Omnath to Greater Good, drawing a bunch of cards, then casting a couple creatures…
Bosk Banneret, Thornbite Staff; Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro; Leaf-Crowned Elder
Yeva can pretty obviously be the leader of an Elf tribal deck that’s a bit less vulnerable than most Commander Elf decks, but I decided instead to focus a bit more on Yeva’s other creature type: Shaman! There’s a surprising number of cards I’ve already listed above that just happen to be Shaman creatures (Essence Warden, Ulvenwald Tracker, Elvish Visionary, Riftsweeper, Fauna Shaman, Loaming Shaman, Primal Forcemage, Llanowar Empath, Masked Admirers, Wickerbough Elder, Woodfall Primus), so let’s sprinkle in some sweet Shaman love.
Bosk Banneret makes all our Shaman cards cheaper to cast; Sachi lets us tape our Shaman cards for mucho mana; Leaf-Crown Elder potentially lets us cast more Shaman creatures for free; and lastly Thornbite Staff can attach itself to a Shaman when it comes into play, even at instant speed, so if you’ve got Concordant Crossroads or the Elixir in play you can take advantage of any creatures getting ready to die by flashing in something like Fauna Shaman, attaching the Staff, and going nuts with the activated ability.
Other Cool Stuff
Kudos to my friend Jay Delazier for reminding me of this card recently, and it goes perfectly in a Yeva deckâ€”it’s like a green super Moat!
This is one of my all-time favorite green cards. I’ve had my Unlimited Berserk for sixteen years and at one point owned four of them, and I even have the cool alt-art shiny one that came in From the Vault: Exiled. I love how you can use it on creatures your opponents control, so if they’re attacking someone else you can simultaneously have the defender take a ton more trampling damage than they expected while also killing the other player’s most threatening creature. It becomes even sweeter on your own creature when you’ve got Greater Good in play.
Despite all the awesome things Berserk lets you do for just one mana, I’ve often found myself not playing for the reasons listed above; too often I’ve found Berserk languishing in my hand because I decided to tap out to play some large main phase spell. Yeva gives me a perfect excuse to bring back an old favorite, with lots of opportunities for good times.
If your opponent had some number of Islands in play, Carpet of Flowers used to work as a super Black Lotus that you could keep using each turnâ€”you could play it and then use it. Then the rules changed, and the mana came to you as a triggered ability at the beginning of your main phase. Well, now the rules have changed again, and you can use it again as a super Black Lotus that you can keep using each turn with just a slight bit of clunkiness. It’s now an optional trigger that you can choose to go off at the beginning of either main phase…so long as you don’t declare your attack step you can play it, announce your attack step, then after the attack step get your mana.
Even though a lot of this deck is set up to play at instant speed, there are some cards that you have to play during your main phase, and Carpet of Flowers should let you cast those spells and still keep your mana up for the instant speed shenanigans.
- 1 Wall of Blossoms
- 1 Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro
- 1 Seedborn Muse
- 1 Tornado Elemental
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 1 Fierce Empath
- 1 Indrik Stomphowler
- 1 Loaming Shaman
- 1 Primal Forcemage
- 1 Deadwood Treefolk
- 1 Essence Warden
- 1 Llanowar Empath
- 1 Riftsweeper
- 1 Masked Admirers
- 1 Bosk Banneret
- 1 Leaf-Crowned Elder
- 1 Woodfall Primus
- 1 Wickerbough Elder
- 1 Elvish Visionary
- 1 Paleoloth
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 1 Avenger of Zendikar
- 1 Omnath, Locus of Mana
- 1 Terastodon
- 1 Fauna Shaman
- 1 Garruk's Packleader
- 1 Primeval Titan
- 1 Brutalizer Exarch
- 1 Garruk's Horde
- 1 Hornet Queen
- 1 Craterhoof Behemoth
- 1 Wolfir Silverheart
- 1 Ulvenwald Tracker
- 1 Yeva, Nature's Herald
- 1 Sensei's Divining Top
- 1 Sylvan Library
- 1 Storm Seeker
- 1 Reincarnation
- 1 Concordant Crossroads
- 1 Arboria
- 1 Berserk
- 1 Tangle
- 1 Spore Cloud
- 1 Vedalken Orrery
- 1 Survival of the Fittest
- 1 Crop Rotation
- 1 Greater Good
- 1 Carpet of Flowers
- 1 Chord of Calling
- 1 Cloudstone Curio
- 1 Krosan Grip
- 1 Evolution Charm
- 1 Sprout Swarm
- 1 Summoner's Pact
- 1 Thousand-Year Elixir
- 1 Thornbite Staff
- 1 Summoning Trap
- 1 Temple Bell
- 1 Autumn's Veil
- 1 Beast Within
- 1 Tribute to the Wild
The Panoramas might jump out to some of you as odd choices over fetchlands or just basic Forests. I like the Panorama lands over fetchlands because they give you mana if you’re not in the market for shuffling your library. With cards like Sensei’s Divining Top, Sylvan Library, and Scroll Rack (which didn’t make the cut here), I like being able to hold the sac and search until you’ve got a pile of yuck on top of your library. It’s like having a pseudo-Ponder on tap in your mono-green deck!
Lastly, I wanted to point out that Winding Canyons and Vedalken Orrery are in here as some backup in case something happens to Yevaâ€”she gets stolen, tucked, or killed too many times. That way you can still keep the deck mostly on plan.
A couple cards that didn’t make the cut but I thought would go great in a Yeva deck:
Being able to play him at end of turn, then untap and have plenty of green mana open to regenerate is awesome, but what’s even better is being able to give someone the Faerie token creatures at instant speed, which can prove to be a sweet political maneuver!
Not only can you toss this out at the end of turn, untap, and be able to attack with impunity, but you can time it so that another player gets left wide open to attacks by multiple opponents.
Wren’s Run Packmaster
"Save" Yeva at instant speed, as well as make deathtouch Wolves at instant speed. Seems like fun times!
If you’ve got a bunch of dorks lying around, send Mycoloth in at instant speed, untap, and make a bunch of Saprolings during your upkeep.
What cards are you going to be rocking in your Yeva, Nature’s Herald Commander deck? What are you excited about playing from M13?
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
Make sure to follow my Twitter feed (@blairwitchgreen). I check it often so feel free to send me feedback, ideas, and random thoughts. I’ve also created a Facebook page where I’ll be posting up deck ideas and will happily discuss Magic, life, or anything else you want to talk about!
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 3Â (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)
My current Commander decks (and links to decklists):
- Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)
- Riku of Two Reflections (steal all permanents with Deadeye Navigator + Zealous Conscripts)
- Phelddagrif (Mean Hippo)
- Sigarda, Host of Herons (Equipment-centric Voltron)
- Bruna, Light of Alabaster (Aura-centric Voltron)
- Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind (Chuck’s somewhat vicious deck)
Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus:
- Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)
- Phage the Untouchable (actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)
- Ghave, Guru of Spores (Melira Combo)
- Glissa, the Traitor (undying artifacts!)
- Grimgrin, Corpse-Born (Necrotic Ooze Combo)
- Damia, Sage of Stone (Ice Cauldron shenanigans)
- Geist of Saint Traft (Voltron-ish)
- Glissa Sunseeker (death to artifacts!)
- Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer (replacing Brion Stoutarm in Mo’ Myrs)
- Thelon of Havenwood (Campfire Spores)
- Melira, Sylvok Outcast (combo killa)
- Konda, Lord of Eiganjo (The Indestructibles)
- Vorosh, the Hunter (proliferaTION)
- Progenitus (Fist of Suns and Bringers)
- Savra, Queen of the Golgari (Demons)
- Uril, the Miststalker (my "more competitive" deck)