The preview train for The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth keeps a-rolling, chock-full of flavorful cards that are sweet for Commander. For this lover of green cards, one new legend loomed large in my eyes, and I instantly knew I wanted to dig into the deckbuilding implications of it: affectionately known as Treebeard, it’s officially called Fangorn, Tree Shepherd!
Verdeloth the Ancient from Invasion was the first and only tribal lord that cared about Treefolk, but its boost was more effective at increasing the size of a horde of Saprolings rather than a few other already decently sized Treefolk.
Doran, the Siege Tower wasn’t exactly a tribal lord, though it functions well enough given the power to toughness ratio that most Treefolk have. Lorwyn brought a bunch of high-toughness Treefolk throughout the Abzan color scheme, and Doran allows access to all of them.
But Doran cares much more about toughness than Treefolk specifically, which is why Treefolk fans must be excited about Fangorn, Tree Shepherd.
A Shepherd’s Vigilance
Instead of a not-really-needed size boost, Fangorn grants all your Treefolk vigilance, which is an incredible ability to have in a multiplayer format. This way, you can attack with a creature and still have it available to block, and Fangorn’s triggered ability makes you definitely want to be attacking with Treefolk. Whenever one or more Treefolk you control attack, add twice that much green mana, and Fangorn’s other static ability means that (or any) unspent green mana doesn’t go away as steps and phases end.
This is a pretty nifty ability to have when your commander costs seven mana! You can tap out to cast Fangorn, attack with just one Treefolk that’s already on the battlefield, and get two green mana that just hangs around. That’s enough to cast a Heroic Intervention (or shall we say Ent-ervention) to protect your team from an untimely removal spell, or something like Tyvar’s Stand to protect Fangorn.
If you get to untap with Fangorn and get to attack with multiple Treefolk, that can add up to a ton of mana you can use on your second main phase. And casting big spells for big effect is where Commander really shines!
But let’s not get too hasty! First, let’s sit a spell and discuss some things about what cards you might want to plant in your Fangorn deck.
Many cards care about Treefolk, and most of them are actual Treefolk themselves, so these are the first guests invited to our Entmoot. I particularly like Timber Protector, since it protects all your other Treefolk – and Forests – from destruction. Another new card from The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth that works great here is Quickbeam, Upstart Ent, which provides a mini-Overrun effect whenever Quickbeam or another Treefolk enters the battlefield under your control. You’d want Quickbeam to have flash so that you could use it as a combat trick, but that would be far too hasty for the ever-deliberative Treefolk of Middle-earth.
You know, even limiting my search to just green rather than Abzan, there are a ton of quality Treefolk available to us to put in our tribal deck. I was pleasantly surprised to see a decent number of them lower on the mana curve, which is important if we’re going to have a few Treefolk on the battlefield to attack with once we cast Fangorn. Scurry Oak can even churn out some Squirrels as chump blockers as it evolves for each larger-sized Treefolk you cast. I tend to run quite a few cycling lands in my mono-color decks, so Tilling Treefolk will provide some nice value if it gets back one or two of them.
Dungrove Elder scales up with each passing turn you get to play more Forests, and being hexproof makes it difficult for opponents to handle without a battlefield sweeper. Wrenn and Seven makes a Treefolk token, so it fits the theme, and it helps make your land drops. Reach of Branches is a rare tribal spell that makes a 2/5 Treefolk token at instant speed and is pretty easy to get back to cast multiple times.
Gnarled Professor might go overlooked in Commander due to not being able to have Lesson cards available outside the game, but its learn ability can cycle off a card in hand that’s not useful for a fresh new card.
While we don’t really need to dip into changelings to round out the roster as compared to some other lesser-supported tribes, it’s tempting to choose some of these just to boost our early battlefield presence. Realmwalker in particular is an excellent way to get some virtual card draw when there’s a Treefolk on top of your library that you’d want to cast.
To further boost our tribal themes, I’d add a few of these to the mix, particularly Metallic Mimic as a two-drop “Treefolk.” I’m not sure it’s in flavor for Treefolk to pick up weapons to use, but Heirloom Blade seems worth a slot, especially since it provides a boost in power. I also like Cryptic Gateway here. It’s a great way to pop out more Treefolk without paying retail, and it works particularly well with the vigilance that Fangorn provides the team.
Speaking of vigilance, I was looking for other ways to take advantage of that, and Cryptolith Rite gives us even more mana from a Fangorn party of attacking Ents. It also makes spells with convoke, like Chord of Calling, even better!
It’s important to note that Fangorn’s ability to let you float your green mana through steps and phases isn’t just limited to its triggered ability, so any extra green mana you’ve not spent on your or other players’ turns can be floated right into your next turn. That’s why I’d want to have ways that will let us untap our lands for even more floating mana, such as Sword of Feast and Famine and Nature’s Will, or even Wilderness Reclamation. I don’t have Seedborn Muse on the list since it’s not a Treefolk, but I wouldn’t blame someone for having that Spirit crash the tribal gathering.
Even though we don’t have access to Doran, we can still toss an Assault Formation in here to make a bunch of the Treefolk with high toughness much scarier. And I would love to put a Treefolk Umbra on Fangorn to have it attack for twelve damage!
Ulvenwald Observer is a Treefolk that lets you draw cards when most of your Treefolk die. Fruit of the First Tree gives you a big life boost and draw cards if your high-toughness Treefolk dies, plus its name fits right into the theme!
Spidersilk Armor boosts toughness and lets our vigilant Treefolk block flyers, which seems quite handy in a mono-green deck.
Fangorn’s nickname is Treebeard, and he and his kinfolk get riled up by Saruman’s savaging of the wilderness for raw materials, so adding some “Forests matter” cards seems quite on-theme. In particular, I like Beacon of Creation and Staff of Titania as ways to create smaller creatures that can chump block more dangerous attackers.
Big Mana Payoffs
Having access to extra mana from Fangorn’s triggered ability makes it easier to cast more Treefolk, but I’d want a handful of big, splashy spells to really pay off that big mana. The Great Henge is always a winner, and it might otherwise be a bit more difficult to play in this particular mono-green deck, since Treefolk tend to be lighter on their power stat.
The Lord of the Rings Flavor
For even more Treebeard flavor, we can dip into a few more cards from The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth, such as Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took! The two Hobbits – er, Halflings – befriended Fangorn and helped rally the Ents to take down Isengard, so their cards certainly earn a slot in an otherwise tribal Treefolk deck. The Food tokens they make can even eventually end up drawing you cards.
Last March of the Ents is a fantastic payoff card for extra mana, and if Fangorn is on the battlefield, that’s a whopping ten cards you can draw and then put any number of creature cards from your hand onto the battlefield. Now that’s a big, swingy spell!
Long List of the Ents isn’t exactly a powerhouse spell in a Treefolk deck, but there’s no doubt it’s got a ton of flavor. Ent’s Fury is another flavor win, though I wish it cared more about its target having toughness four or more rather than its power.
To round out the flavor of trees and the forest, these cards jumped out at me. Tribute to the World Tree is just a powerful card for any green-heavy deck, so getting that flavor win is a bonus. There are half-Elves in Middle-earth, so Jaheira, Friend of the Forest could certainly fit into the story here and make friends with the Treefolk. She can even have the Food tokens that Merry and Pippin make provide green mana!
If you snag the reskin of Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth from Tales of Middle-earth Commander, it’s “Fangorn Forest,” which will be another flavor win for this deck.
What other cards do you think will go great in a Fangorn, Tree Shepherd deck? Would you slide Merry and Pippin in the deck, or keep it pure Treefolk?
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