MTG Commander Deck Of The Week: Ellie And Alan, Paleontologists

Can you dig it? Bennie Smith puts Ellie and Alan, Paleontologists in charge of his Commander Deck of the Week.

Ellie and Alan, Paleontologists
Ellie and Alan, Paleontologists, illustrated by Zoltan Boros

I’ve long thought that Ellie and Alan, Paleontologists is a really cool card, and it surprises me that I haven’t seen it show up in more decks. I recently pulled together a deck with Ellie and Alan as the commander and wanted to share the list today, as I think it really illustrates just how good the card is.

Ellie and Alan, Paleontologists

Discover is a very powerful ability, essentially an upgrade to cascade, since you can choose to put the card into your hand if you don’t want to cast it immediately. Ellie and Alan’s ability has a sorcery-speed restriction, but notably it doesn’t cost any mana, so if you have ways to untap it, you could potentially use the ability multiple times a turn.

The only limiter is how many creatures you have in the graveyard, and while creatures naturally fill the graveyard over time due to being destroyed or potentially countered or milled during the due course of a game, I’ve decided to push the matter further by including a large amount of cycling creatures.  Of course, this means that sometimes the discover ability will end up hitting a cycling creature, which won’t necessarily be ideal, but it’s still going to be a free creature and, in many cases, a creature of significant size.

Let’s dig in and discover what’s in the list!

One-Mana Cycling Creatures

River Serpent Imposing Vantasaur Eagles of the North Generous Ent Striped Riverwinder

The creatures that cycle for just one mana are particularly valuable, since it should be easy to find a spot to cycle them in an earlier part of the game before Ellie and Alan hit the battlefield. I particularly like Eagles of the North and Generous Ent, since they can help you fix your colors by finding a dual land that counts as a Plains or Forest but provide more colors, such as Canopy Vista or Spara’s Headquarters.

Two-Mana Cycling Creatures

Topiary Panther Greater Sandwurm Yoked Plowbeast

Creatures that cycle for two mana are a little more cumbersome to use early on, but still worth including to help fill the graveyard.

Cycling Creatures with Triggers

Windcaller Aven Bant Sojourners Vizier of Tumbling Sands Avian Oddity Krosan Tusker Nimble Obstructionist Shefet Monitor

I’ve also included cycling creatures that have an ability that triggers when they cycle, which can be quite useful for filling the graveyard, drawing a new card, and having an extra effect on the game. Shefet Monitor even provides some mana ramp to ensure you have five mana to cast your commander. As an old man, I love finding a great home for a classic card like Krosan Tusker, which cycles and lets you put two cards in your hand.

Cycling Matters

Flourishing Fox Fluctuator Valiant Rescuer Drannith Healer Drake Haven Curator of Mysteries New Perspectives Herald of the Forgotten

With a strong cycling theme in the deck, I’ve added some other cards that support that theme. Flourishing Fox, Valiant Rescuer, and Drannith Healer all cycle, but are better being on the battlefield and benefitting from the cycling going on. I’m running the old school Fluctuator to discount cycling costs, but also the more recent New Perspectives, which turbocharges cycling so long as you have seven or more cards in hand.

I’m a little less sold on Herald of the Forgotten, since my plan is to exile cycled creatures from the graveyard to fuel Ellie and Alan’s discover ability, but it’s possible there will always be enough cycling creatures in the graveyard to make Herald worthwhile.  I’ll keep an eye on that as I play the deck more.

Untap Ellie and Alan

Sting, the Glinting Dagger Halo Fountain Thousand-Year Elixir Saryth, the Viper's Fang Colossification

Ellie and Alan is all about the tap ability, so Thousand-Year Elixir jumps right into the 99. Halo Fountain and Saryth, the Viper’s Fang offer more ways to untap to use again. I also like Sting, the Glinting Dagger in this role, and since I’m playing Sting, I also want to play Colossification, since the card is splashy and fun. Sting lets me untap the equipped creature before combat, so if I target the equipped creature with Colossification, I can attack with it the same turn.  Boom!

Ellie and Alan Helpers

Surrak, the Hunt Caller Robaran Mercenaries God-Eternal Rhonas God-Eternal Oketra Experiment Kraj

I put Surrak, the Hunt Caller in here to potentially give Ellie and Alan haste the turn they hit the battlefield, though I’d need one more pip of power on the battlefield to meet the formidable condition of the ability. I like using Robaran Mercenaries and Experiment Kraj to copy Ellie and Alan’s discover ability.

God-Eternal Rhonas and God-Eternal Oketra are solid creatures in their own right, but if they die or go to exile, you can put them into your deck and potentially just discover them back onto the battlefield.

Card Draw

Esper Sentinel Gretchen Titchwillow Harmonize Firemane Commando Dragonlord Ojutai Guardian Scalelord Sun Titan

Even though the cycling will help keep the cards flowing, I did want more ways to draw cards. I’ve long been a fan of Dragonlord Ojutai and love to have found it a home here. Guardian Scalelord and Sun Titan “draw” and play permanents from the graveyard. I’ve got creatures in a lot of these slots, since if they die, they become discover fodder for Ellie and Alan.


Swords to Plowshares Haywire Mite Dauntless Dismantler Trygon Predator Knight of Autumn Tranquil Frillback

Continuing the heavy creatures theme, a lot of my removal options are also creatures. Dauntless Dismantler is my awesome anti-Treasure engine tech, and it even puts itself in the graveyard if I need discover fodder.


Gold-Forged Thopteryx Saffi Eriksdotter Selfless Spirit Blackblade Reforged Malanthrope Dauntless Escort Shalai, Voice of Plenty

Eventually opponents realize Ellie and Alan need to be stopped, so I’ve got several slots filled with creatures that can help protect the commander from removal spells. Some sacrifice for the effect, and then they can be brought back with like Sun Titan or exiled to fuel the discover ability. Blackblade Reforged counts here as a way to make my commander less vulnerable to damage-based removal spells, and in a pinch, you can get your attack on and kill with commander damage.

I often forget about Malanthrope, but it does an awesome job of temporarily hosing a graveyard deck, while putting a significant flying threat on the battlefield.

Mana Ramp

Blighted Woodland Krosan Verge Sol Ring Noble Hierarch Coiling Oracle Dryad of the Ilysian Grove Cultivate Kodama's Reach Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle

The commander costs five mana and commander tax will add up quickly, so I’m running a fair amount of ramp here. A number of them are creatures that can turn into discover fodder later. Dryad of the Ilysian Grove is here mostly to color-fix, but it can let me make extra land drops if I have them in hand.

Okay, here’s the full decklist!

Magic Card Back

Here are the deck stats from our friends at Archidekt:

Note: the mana curve looks much better when you put the cycling creatures in the mana columns equal to their cycling costs, since I mostly plan on cycling the larger creatures.

So, what other must-have cards might I have missed including here?  Which cards from Jurassic Park do you have the most fun playing in Commander?

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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