A while back I was playing Commander after a Friday Night Magic. One of my opponents was running a ramp Golgari-themed deck that included big beef and sexy
spells. I liked it because you often see the green ramp strategy paired with red or blue, but not normally black. The board had reached a state of
equilibrium and two players were already defeated, leaving three left. Two mass removal spells, one of which was a Pernicious Deed, had left us with lands
and few cards in hand. Then the ramp player top-decked nothing but a fetchland.
“That’s an awful top deck!” he complained.
I’m confused. I didn’t say anything because I don’t want to lose, so I let it slide. Then a few turns later, the third player dropped some minor stuff, but
rode it to victory against our weakened life totals. After the game I asked to see the deck of our Golgari friend. Yup, it’s missing.
“Why are you not running Panglacial Wurm? I asked. It had been a house in our Five Color matchups for years. Any tutor, including a Terramorphic Expanse or
Solemn Simulacrum, can turn into a 9/5 trampling Wurm for an additional seven mana. In a ramp deck, you often run so many ramp cards that you can run out
of juice. Why not turn that Cultivate into a beater?
Over the years I’ve noticed a decided lack of Panglacial Wurms in decks. It improves a lot of them. It also inspired today’s article. After all, the same
question can be asked of you –
Why aren’t you running Panglacial Wurm?
It fits in a lot of ramp decks. Not all of them, as it didn’t fit the special requirements of my Borborygmos Enraged deck that used
cards such as Wildfire and Destructive Force. It does fit in a lot of other places though.
Today’s article is about the Panglacial Wurms of Magic. We’ll take a look at some cards I think might have been dismissed as crap or forgotten about and
give them a once over.
Almost the exact opposite of Panglacial Wurm is Ambush Viper. It’s hugely underappreciated at the Commander table. I thought so too, until I got one in one
of my Deckbuilder Toolkits that I turned into a Commander deck. I have played with it a bunch of times in the Teneb deck, and I have to admit I’ve been
really impressed with how well it plays.
I know it’s just a two-mana flash, deathtouch dork. It’s not a sexy card at all! But let’s unpack it a bit.
First of all, it costs just one more mana than Sedge Scorpion and Typhoid Rats. Both of those are commonly played early game creatures that turn interested
opposing creatures onto other paths. We know how good they can be. Plus, we’ve all played Acidic Slime, so we’re used to a small deathtouch creature and
what it can bring to the table.
What Ambush Viper does is give us several options. Firstly, you can drop it and forget about it, just like other cheap deathtouch creatures. It will act as
a potent rattlesnake, warning off approaching prey. Second of all, it has swing-ability. A two-powered dork is not unreasonable, and you can notch in the
occasional hit before your defense is needed. I’ve often squeezed four or six damage from him before I started needing to keep the snake untapped after my
shields need to be raised. Thirdly, after you’ve established your defense with other cards, you can often swing with the Viper, knowing that a person isn’t
likely to trade with your snake. So I’ve notched even more damage after someone has a nice board position. Finally, the Ambush Viper can be used with flash
to hit someone attacking you out of nowhere. I’ve used it that way myself many times, like pseudo-removal spell.
Ambush Viper is no joke. Just try it out and see if you agree. Give it a spin.
I’ve been wrong before about dismissing a card that later on proved to play really well. Cards like Starke of Rath and Capricious Efreet have proven their
power after play. Don’t miss out on Ambush Viper. Do you like to unleash some random card on folks at the kitchen table? Something that truly turns the
tables and gets respect? Then Ambush Viper is your friend.
And I’ve got another common for you. I’ve given it a whirl in today’s post-Theros Block enchantment friendly world. It’s an aura from a long time ago –
Tempest in fact. You might not have ever have known that a card like this even exists. It’s that random. And it’s pretty potent. Let’s have a look at…
Look at that thing! It’s basically an enchantment version of Howl from Beyond or Enrage. It will amp up a creature considerably in the front. Some of you
are looking at that card and salivating at how good it is. Others want to know what I’ve been smoking. Allow me to explain.
First of all, Gatherer has changed this card’s text slightly. It comes into play with X counters, and the creature gets +1/+0 for each counter. That’s one
reason to salivate right there!
Imagine you are running a Golgari-themed deck. You have seven mana out, a planeswalker of your choice, a decent creature like Spiritmonger, and say,
Doubling Season. Now you drop the Scream for six, and suddenly your 6/6 Spiritmonger is now an 18/6 monstrosity. You are about to seriously smash some face
in! With a decently-sized Commander, you can win in one hit with a Doubling Season out. And you did it with style! (If you lean Spike-ward, allow me to
take a second and introduce you to Hatred. Play it to pump your Commander to lethal heights and kill someone in one turn.)
Plus, the Scream will stick. It’ll turn a Commander like Nath of the Gilt-Leaf into Nath of the Death Machine.
Note that the Scream plays well with things like, say, proliferate. It will make a bunch of counters for fuel for things like Power Conduit.
Want to know something else that enjoys a Scream every now and then? Infect decks! Can you imagine a Commander deck with, say, Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon
rocking the table. A Scream for just six mana is enough for Skittles to be lethal! And it’s not unreasonable for you to kill out of nowhere with it either!
(Playing Skittles, giving it haste, and then Screaming it for six counters is just thirteen mana. That’s not out of bounds as an amazingly fun play out of
nowhere for the win. I’d buy you a Coke if you pulled that off!)
Because the Endless Scream works well in decks that already exist, it has a lot of spaces to play. It’ll be your mana sink, your counter enabler, and your
death dealer. It turns any creature into a mega-threat.
Oh, and while I’m pimping out a common black enchantment from Rath Block, allow me to remind you of one of my favorite cards of all time – Tortured
Existence. It’s a Survival of the Fittest for the graveyard. You can discard big stuff early to bring back cheap things, small stuff late for expensive
things, and every single creature you draw immediately becomes the best creatures in your graveyard for one more black mana. You can return cards like
Shriekmaw and Rune-Scarred Demon, among many others. It’s downright awesome. I’ve extolled its virtues here on SCG for about a decade, but I haven’t given
it any press recently, so here’s another reminder of the awesomeness of a card that’ll cost you a quarter to acquire.
Another card that seems forgotten is Venser’s Journal. Considering how often Commander players sit on a ton of cards, it’s good two ways – both to enable
lots of cards in the hand (a la Reliquary Tower) and to gain a bunch of life for it.
Sure, the thing might cost five mana to run, but it fits a lot of strategies. The foil has a high price, so I’m sure some Commander players are running it
somewhere, but I’ve not run into a single one in real life, (outside of my own decks) and rarely see one in online deck lists. It works in decks that draw
lots of cards – and that’s a standard in Commander! Everybody is running Blue Sun’s Zenith, Recurring Insight, Necropotence, Mind’s Eye, Rhystic
Study, Staff of Nin, and lots more. When you are drawing cards en masse, the Journal is a great adjunct.
If you like that idea, take a gander at Gerrard Capashen too. Note that Gerrard will gain you life every upkeep based on the cards in target opponent’s
hand. Like I said, people have a lot of cards that draw in their deck, so they tend to have a bunch of cards in the grip. You can easily gain tons of life
turn after turn with Gerrard. Plus, people don’t fear lifegain as much as other things, so it’s not like Gerrard has a huge target on his head or anything.
He’s like a mid-game Soul Warden that increases the amount of lifegain by a bit and has some size and beef to him.
Gerrard’s reprinting in Duel Decks: Phyrexia vs The Coalition brought him to a new audience a while ago. (And he is a soldier, which is helpful if you have
a deck that cares.)
There are a lot of fun cards that you can harness to spring on folks at your next Commander game. Unleash the might of Panglacial Wurm, Tortured Existence,
Endless Scream (Hatred), Ambush Viper, Gerrard Capashen, Venser’s Journal, and a lot more this week.
Enjoy the fun!