Commander Deck Of The Week: Tahngarth, First Mate

Minotaur fans, Bennie Smith has a treat for you! He’s made Tahngarth, First Mate his Commander Deck of the Week. Get ready for nonstop attacking action!

Tahngarth, First Mate
Tahngarth, First Mate, illustrated by Anna Steinbauer

When I first started playing Magic, I came to the game as a long-time Dungeons & Dragons fan, and a big part of the appeal was how many of the monsters I loved from the D&D Monster Manual showed up on the cards. Some of the cards properly evoked what I would expect; for instance, the iconic Shivan Dragon!

Shivan Dragon

Others, fell a bit short; for instance, the iconic Hurloon Minotaur?

Hurloon Minotaur

Minotaurs in D&D were fierce creatures, and I was always a bit disappointed in this card, especially with that incredible Anson Maddocks artwork from the earliest Magic editions.

Homelands came around and offered up some Minotaur tribal support, but outside of Didgeridoo, the Minotaur cards still fell short in my mind.

Didgeridoo Anaba Ancestor Anaba Bodyguard Anaba Shaman Anaba Spirit Crafter Labyrinth Minotaur

When Planeshift came along, we got a Legendary Minotaur representing Tahngarth, a badass warrior from the Weatherlight crew that flavor-wise properly embodied that Minotaur fierceness I’d been longing for.

Tahngarth, Talruum Hero

Vigilance and the ability to fight was pretty incredible, and I began brewing up decks ready to smash face at the tournament table. There was only one problem – that four toughness.  You see, in that very same set, Wizards of the Coast (WotC) also created a card called Flametongue Kavu, an easily splashable card that immediately saw tournament play and invalidated any creature that cost more than four mana and had four or less toughness.

Flametongue Kavu


Another Tahngarth

Years later in Commander 2019 we got a new version of Tahngarth that truly embodies all that I had been hoping for in a badass Minotaur warrior: Tahngarth, First Mate.

Tahngarth, First Mate

I was thrilled to see that this version of Tahngarth notably wouldn’t die to a Flametongue Kavu. A 5/5 for four mana isn’t exactly something the Commander pod is going to be terrified of, but looks can be deceiving. You see, it’s possible that Tahngarth could dish out up to twenty points of damage in a single turn cycle by attacking on your own turn and then joining each of your opponent’s attack steps, assuming they attack with one or more creatures and Tahngarth is tapped. If you boost Tahngarth with Equipment or Auras to increase his power and give him evasion, he can punch through a single chump blocker quite well.

Luckily, we’ve had a fair amount of goad effects printed over the past few years, forcing your opponents to attack each other, and that’s exactly the sort of situation where Tahngarth shines.

One thing I’d like to point out in case you haven’t played Tahngarth before: when you have him join someone else’s combat, that player gets control of Tahngarth until the end of combat. Effects that trigger off your creatures attacking don’t work when Tahngarth is under someone else’s control. 

Okay, let’s dig into what I’ve got in my Tahngarth decklist!

Tapping Tahngarth

Survivors' Encampment Holdout Settlement Springleaf Drum Cryptolith Rite Relic of Legends Nautiloid Ship Thunderhawk Gunship

Sometimes you don’t have a good attack during your own turn, so it’s good to have ways to tap Tahngarth in case an opponent is attacking another opponent and it looks like the sort of combat Tahngarth wants to join. Relic of Legends is a fantastic new mana rock for lots of Commander decks, but the added utility here is gravy.

Vehicles are another good way to tap Tahngarth if you need to, but I really like that Thunderhawk Gunship gives all your attacking creatures flying when you attack with it; Tahngarth probably feels like he’s back on the old Weatherlight!

Boost Tahngarth

Rogue's Passage Kessig Wolf Run Rancor Soulbright Flamekin Blackblade Reforged Jeska, Thrice Reborn Gruul War Chant Karlach, Fury of Avernus Embercleave Blast-Furnace Hellkite

Ways to give Tahngarth trample were high on my list, and Rancor is perfect—boosting Tahngarth to seven power means he can take someone down with commander damage in three attacks. Embercleave is another awesome choice, making it a real possibility to kill with commander damage in just two attacks. Soulbright Flamekin is another awesome choice here, handing out trample like candy, and if you do it three times in a single turn, you get a whopping eight red mana back to do with as you will.

Blast-Furnace Hellkite and Jeska, Thrice Reborn are there to push even more damage through; Jeska’s ability on Tahngarth lasts until your next turn, which hopefully means at least one extra attack during an opponent’s turn.

Gruul War Chant is a wombo-combo with Tahngarth’s ability to restrict blockers; if both are out and it’s your turn, Tahngarth cannot be blocked.  Note this won’t work when Tahngarth is under an opponent’s control, but I still think it’s worth playing.

Force Attacks

Goblin Diplomats Coronation of Chaos Fumiko the Lowblood Disrupt Decorum Agitator Ant Vengeful Ancestor Death Kiss

Forcing my opponents to attack is what Tahngarth lives for, preferably attacking each other so that Tahngarth can join the party, so I’ve got some goad action in here.  Fumiko the Lowblood doesn’t goad, but her bushido ability certain dissuades from attacking in my direction. 

I have a Magic 2014 Promo version of Goblin Diplomats that’s hilarious, so I’ve added it to the deck in the hopes that not everyone will be attacking me when I poke them with that ability. 

Don’t Attack Me, Bro

Deadly Recluse Hornet Nest Questing Beast Brash Taunter

To help make Goblin Diplomats a bit more effective, I’ve included a handful of ways to dissuade my opponents from attacking me, with Brash Taunter at the number one slot, and Hornet Nest not far behind. Questing Beast is a card I love for all combat-oriented decks that can run it, though its ability to push through damage won’t work on Tahngarth when he’s controlled by an opponent.


Nature's Claim Haywire Mite Vandalblast Return to Nature Hull Breach Delayed Blast Fireball Beast Within Storm's Wrath Kogla, the Titan Ape

Gruul can stomp on artifacts and enchantments, so I’m running a bunch of those cards here.  I’ve decided to run Storm’s Wrath over Blasphemous Act since Storm’s Wrath won’t kill off Tahngarth, and I’d rather not annihilate the battlefield when I want opponents to be attacking each other. Wiping away chump blockers sounds perfect, which is why I’m also running Delayed Blast Fireball.

Card Draw

Bonders' Enclave Skullclamp Sylvan Library Ranger Class Wheel of Misfortune Garruk's Uprising Tireless Tracker Augur of Autumn Kharn the Betrayer Harmonize Toski, Bearer of Secrets Return of the Wildspeaker Ohran Frostfang The Great Henge

I’ve squeezed in a lot of card draw, since I’m going to need to draw into stuff to enhance what Tahngarth wants to be doing, including the raw card draw of Harmonize and Return of the Wildspeaker. Garruk’s Uprising also happens to grant trample, which makes it doubly good here. Sylvan Library, Augur of Autumn, and a fully leveled up Ranger Class provide card selection advantage from the top of my library. Toski, Bearer of Secrets will hopefully let us draw cards from our other creatures, and we can always tap it for some of our tap effects above if it can’t successfully attack.

I just recently added Khârn the Betrayer and I’m eager to try it out. It’s card draw connected to another creature you pass to your opponents, so I’m hoping it will encourage opponents to attack each other.  I do worry a bit that two opponents may just keep passing it back and forth between each other while attacking me, but hopefully goad will help with that possibility.


Gnottvold Slumbermound Tectonic Edge Strip Mine Scavenger Grounds Shadowspear Heroic Intervention Tajuru Preserver Sardian Avenger Chef's Kiss Rhythm of the Wild Battle Mammoth

I’ve got three lands in here specifically to take out Maze of Ith, since I imagine that would put a crimp in my style.  Tajuru Preserver is a bit of a signature card that I squeeze into decklists where I can as a prebuttal to cards like Grave Pact. Sardian Avenger is there to punish those Treasure decks. Chef’s Kiss is always a fun surprise card that people don’t expect coming and will sometimes crack a game wide open.

Mana Ramp

Joraga Treespeaker Sol Ring Goblin Anarchomancer Nature's Lore Rampant Growth Wall of Roots Sakura-Tribe Elder Cultivate

Last up is mana ramp, most of it designed to get down a Turn 3 Tahngarth.  Wall of Roots is a favorite. I love that it gives you an extra green mana on your opponents’ turns if you happen to need it.

The List

Okay, here is the full decklist:

Tahngarth, First Mate
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 02-03-2023

Here are the deck stats from our friends at Archidekt:

What must-have cards might I have missed including in this deck?  Are there any cool new cards from Phyrexia: All Will Be One that I should consider?

Talk to Me

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And lastly, I just want to say: let us love each other and stay healthy and happy. 

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