Before I get ahead of myself, I want to send out a call for action! I would like your epic haymaker Commander stories—the kind of crazy haymaker play that is one for the ages. When you’re on your deathbed and your life is flashing before your eyes, this experience will bring a smile to your face. When you’ve had a little too much to drink, you can’t help but recount this story (again!) even to people who don’t know anything about Magic. It doesn’t matter if it’s a play you executed, one which victimized you, or one you simply witnessed; it just has to be awesome, the kind of story that makes you glad to be a fan of the format. Basically, the kind of thing I wrote about in The Hero’s Journey.
Got one? Good. Now open up your email and address it to my email address found at the bottom of my columns. Write it up for me, and make sure it’s told in a way worthy of its greatness—with flair, humor, a sense of drama . . . and preferably not too many spelling errors to detract from the read. In the subject line put "Epic Haymaker Commander Story" and hit send.
Why am I asking for these? Well, I can’t tell you yet. It’s a secret. But it won’t be a secret too long, so be patient with me for now. All I can say is it’s for something awesome I’m working on and I can’t wait to see what you all send in! I can’t promise to answer all your emails back, but I will read each one.
Okay, before I lose my head, let’s get on with the main event!
Heroes and Monsters
So we’ve gotten to see the contents of the new Duel Decks: Heroes vs. Monsters, and we’ve also gotten to see the new Theros cards that are contained within. Luckily for all us Commander fans, there are two new legends we get to build decks around! While I think Anax and Cymede will be fun to build around, my eye naturally turned to Palooka . . . Polukra . . . um, the awkwardly named Polukranos, World Eater. It’s green, it’s potent, and it’s a legendary Hydra—oh yeah!
A quick Vorthosian aside: I’m a bit confused by the name. Something with the moniker "World Eater" has a lot to live up to, and while I like what this card can do, it in no way conveys a sense of world eating. When I first saw the name and the mana cost, I figured it probably had some sort of land destruction tied in. Not that I necessarily wanted that at four mana, but it made some sense. Sprouting a few more heads and gunning down a couple small creatures doesn’t really fit the name.
I do like the flavor of the ability in that you can’t safely leave behind a small chump blocker or two to buy you time against Polukranos. He’ll simply go medieval—I mean monstrous—on those little punks and clear the path for a frontal assault on your life total. No, if you want to stop Polukranos, you’ll need to put someone of more substance in its path.
Yes Sir, Hydra Sir!
Alright, so let’s move on to serving commander Polukranos. When I saw our green friend, it brought to mind the novelty Ashling the Pilgrim Commander deck that popped up a few years back. I wrote about it, but if you don’t recall, here’s the deck:
What was kinda neat about this deck is that really all Ashling wants is for you to pump a ton of mana into it; meanwhile, her ability sweeps away a bunch of creatures in her wake and deals damage directly to players.
Let’s walk through how such a deck would play out. Turn 4 you play your commander. Turn 5 you have five mana to go monstrous, ramping Polukranos to a 7/7 and mowing down one or two little guys. Seven power is conveniently one-third of what you need to defeat an opponent with commander damage, so get swinging!
Let’s say someone gets worried about the early beats and kills your commander. Turn 6 you can cast him again from the command zone. The following turn you can go monstrous and dish out three damage, pushing your guy up to being an 8/8.
As you can see, there’s an interesting tension here. Your commander is obviously a rather threatening presence on the board, not only for its size but the fact that it’s dishing out Commander damage. If an opponent handles it in a way that kills or exiles it, you get to recast it and can then activate its monstrosity ability again with more mana available to make it even bigger.
While this is an interesting thought exercise and playing a 99 Forest deck would make for a funny prank to pull on your playgroup, I suspect it would quickly become rather dull playing this deck for very long—play another Forest, turn your commander sideways, go. And let’s face facts, Polukranos’ monstrosity ability is pretty small potatoes compared to the size of most significant creatures in Commander. He’s going to quickly get outclassed as the game progresses—maybe not in size but in board impact. Polukranos doesn’t have trample or any evasion, and his one way to interact with the board is a relatively small event that requires some hoops to use more than once.
While I think we’re still going to want a good number of lands—and other ways to generate mana—we’ll want some supporting cards too.
Palooka Must Die!
We need a way to keep using the monstrosity ability to increase Polukranos’ usefulness, and the surest way of doing that is to let him die. I’ll often reach for Eldrazi Monument and other ways to make my creatures indestructible in Commander, but not in this deck. Instead, Cauldron of Souls jumps to mind, giving your legendary hydra persist, and you can conveniently remove the -1/-1 counter when you go monstrous. There’s also my Commander favorite Nim Deathmantle—just make sure to keep your powder dry so you have four mana available.
Of course, sometimes your opponents won’t cooperate and kill off your commander (pesky Maze of Ith!), so you’ll want some ways to kill off your guy yourself. I’m fortunate enough to own a Diamond Valley, so that will certainly be going into my deck, but there are other good options too. City of Shadows; High Market; and Miren, the Moaning Well don’t cost us any nonland slots. Metamorphosis is an interesting idea, paying you back the converted mana cost of the Polukranos and the spell itself, though I suppose Food Chain is just better since you can put your commander in the command zone rather than exile.
Greater Good is a classic and is sure to net quite a few cards for your trouble. Birthing Pod is, of course, awesome—just make sure you have some five-drops worthy of upgrading to (perhaps Seedborn Muse?). Helm of Possession—why not borrow a creature from your opponent while you recast your Commander? If you’re playing enough artifacts, Trading Post might be worthwhile. Mycoloth gives you a pretty potent body and a bunch of chump blockers for your trouble, and Feed the Pack does similar good work.
Since killing off your own commander might seem a bit harsh, why not choose exile instead? Cards like Tawnos’s Coffin, Cold Storage, and Conjurer’s Closet let you knock off the monstrous without having to recast your Hydra.
Of course, one thing you need to remember before you go off half-cocked with Polukranos’ monstrosity is that his victims get to fight back, and sometimes that might be a problem if you’re not ready for your commander to die quite yet. One card that naturally sprung to mind was Vigor, which just turns that fight into additional +1/+1 counters for your World Eater. Also, giving your Hydra deathtouch would make its otherwise rather smallish monstrosity ability into a creature killer no matter how big the targets are, so I’m thinking Basilisk Collar is a must have, and we might even want Nightshade Peddler.
Okay, so a more complex, interesting version of a Polukranos, World Eater might look something like this:
- 1 Azusa, Lost but Seeking
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Wall of Blossoms
- 1 Kamahl, Fist of Krosa
- 1 Seedborn Muse
- 1 Forgotten Ancient
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 1 Yavimaya Elder
- 1 Brawn
- 1 Loaming Shaman
- 1 Epochrasite
- 1 Riftsweeper
- 1 Masked Admirers
- 1 Seedguide Ash
- 1 Vigor
- 1 Mossbridge Troll
- 1 Woodfall Primus
- 1 Paleoloth
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 1 Oracle of Mul Daya
- 1 Avenger of Zendikar
- 1 Omnath, Locus of Mana
- 1 Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger
- 1 Hornet Queen
- 1 Nightshade Peddler
- 1 Gyre Sage
- 1 Kalonian Hydra
- 1 Polukranos, World Eater
- 1 Strip Mine
- 29 Forest
- 1 Gaea's Cradle
- 1 Thawing Glaciers
- 1 Hall of the Bandit Lord
- 1 Yavimaya Hollow
- 1 City of Shadows
- 1 Maze of Ith
- 1 Diamond Valley
- 1 Winding Canyons
- 1 High Market
- 1 Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
- 1 Miren, the Moaning Well
- 1 Vesuva
- 1 Bant Panorama
- 1 Jund Panorama
- 1 Naya Panorama
- 1 Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
- 1 Inkmoth Nexus
- 1 Cavern of Souls
- 1 Rogue's Passage
- 1 Thespian's Stage
- 1 Sensei's Divining Top
- 1 Rancor
- 1 Exploration
- 1 Scroll Rack
- 1 Sylvan Library
- 1 Berserk
- 1 Crucible of Worlds
- 1 Beacon of Creation
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Loxodon Warhammer
- 1 Blasting Station
- 1 Crop Rotation
- 1 Greater Good
- 1 O-Naginata
- 1 Cauldron of Souls
- 1 Mana Reflection
- 1 Basilisk Collar
- 1 Nim Deathmantle
- 1 Caged Sun
- 1 Birthing Pod
- 1 Ring of Kalonia
- 1 Glaring Spotlight
I’ve kept the land count pretty high here—46 mana producers along with four specialty lands that don’t necessarily produce mana on their own. To accelerate the land drops, I went ahead and included Exploration; Azusa, Lost But Seeking; and Oracle of Mul Daya, and for added ramp there’s Solemn Simulacrum; Mana Reflection; Caged Sun; and Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger.
I thought Seedborn Muse plus Omnath, Locus of Mana (plus maybe something like Mana Reflection) would actually make Polukranos’ monstrosity ability truly terrifying and added in quite a few ways to give him evasion. Trample with Rancor; Berserk; Ring of Kalonia; Brawn; and Kamahl, Fist of Krosa, and unblockability with Glaring Spotlight and Rogue’s Passage.
If you haven’t heard me talk about my preference for Panoramas over the traditional sac lands, it’s because I like the option to use them for mana and hold off sacrificing them until shuffling the library might be useful with cards like Sensei’s Divining Top, Sylvan Library, and Scroll Rack.
I have to say, I think this looks like a fun deck. I can’t wait to get my hands on Polukranos, World Eater! What sort of cards are you looking to play alongside our new mythic legendary Hydra?
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)
My current Commander decks (and links to decklists):
- Karador, Ghost Chieftain (Shadowborn Apostle & Demons)
- Sliver Overlord (Featuring the new M14 Slivers!)
- Reaper King (Taking Advantage of the new Legend Rules)
- Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker (Outside My Comfort Zone with Milling)
- Vorel of the Hull Clade (Never Trust the Simic)
- Emmara Tandris (No Damage Tokens)
- Varolz, the Scar-Striped (scavenging goodness)
- Doran, the Siege Tower (All My Faves in One Deck!)
- Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)
- Lord of Tresserhorn (ZOMBIES!)
- Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)
- Aurelia, the Warleader (plus Hellkite Tyrant shenanigans)
- Oona, Queen of the Fae (by reader request)
- Karador, Ghost Chieftain (my Magic Online deck)
- Karona, False God (Vows of the False God)
- Skullbriar, the Walking Grave (how big can it get?)
- Phage the Untouchable (actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)
- Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind (Chuck’s somewhat vicious deck)
Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus:
- Yeva, Nature’s Herald (living at instant speed)
- Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis (evil and Spike-ish)
- Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius (new player-friendly)
- Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice (new player-friendly)
- Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord (drain you big time)
- 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)
- Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)
- 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)