MTG Commander Deck Of The Week: Strong, The Brutish Thespian

Bennie Smith takes a moment to look back at Fallout for his Magic Commander Deck of the Week, built around Strong, the Brutish Thespian.

Strong, the Brutish Thespian
Strong, the Brutish Thespian, illustrated by Jason Rainville

If you’ve followed my columns for any length of time, you know I’ve a fondness for green Magic cards, and when there’s a new mono-green legendary creature, chances are good I’ve given it a look-over for a potential new Commander deck. Fallout legend Strong, the Brutish Thespian definitely caught my eye.

Strong, the Brutish Thespian

Strong starts out as a sizeable 7/7 with ward 2 for six mana and grows at a swift clip whenever it is dealt damage. The most typical way of dealing damage to Strong is through combat damage, but that requires a cooperative opponent willing to block or attack into Strong. Another option is playing a bunch of fight spells, forcing the issue on the damage front, and potentially clearing away a blocker and letting Strong crash into someone’s life totals. But what other ways might be available in mono-green to deal damage to your own creature?

Splintering Wind

When I ran across this weird old enchantment from Alliances that is perfect for a Strong deck, I knew I just had to build this! I can remember trying to make Splintering Wind work in both casual and competitive decks way, way back in the day without much success—in large part because green creatures generally were much smaller back then, and the risk of having a couple of Splinter tokens killing off my own creatures was pretty large. But one huge benefit from playing Commander is that you can often find a proper home for some old and dusty weirdo card.

Let’s dig in!


Hail Storm Splintering Wind Cyclone Endbringer

In addition to Splintering Wind, I ran across another cool old green enchantment – Cyclone! It will take time to really get going, but it does an excellent job of clearing away small chump blockers while growing Strong at the same time. I wouldn’t mind snagging a beat-up original copy from Arabian Nights for the deck at some point. Hail Storm is another cool card from Alliances that can surprise an opponent trying to swarm you while Strong is tapped from attacking, killing anything with toughness two or less, while also growing Strong.

Lastly, there’s Endbringer, which can simply tap each turn to deal a point of damage to Strong, even during your opponents’ turns, since Endbringer untaps during each other player’s untap step. Endbringer requires a colorless mana to cast, and colorless mana for some of its other abilities, so I kept that in mind when putting together my mana sources, but since we’re mono-green, it’s not hard to build a reliable number of colorless mana sources directly into the land slots.


Arena Blizzard Brawl Tail Swipe Bushwhack Prizefight Barroom Brawl Bridgeworks Battle Grothama, All-Devouring

I went ahead and made all my Forests Snow-Covered Forests to unlock the full power of Blizzard Brawl, letting me fight down a deathtouch creature with Strong if need be. Putting an old-school Arena in my deck makes me happy, and Strong should easily grow big enough to fight whatever creature an opponent chooses to step into the Arena with my commander. Note that Arena taps the creatures as part of the resolution of the ability, but your creature can already be tapped, so you can activate this after you’ve already declared Strong as an attacker. I’m also happy to put Barroom Brawl in the deck to see if the copies of the spell might make it around the table and back to me again!

Bridgeworks Battle is more costly than your typical fight spell, but it’s a sweet new modal double-faced card, so you can always play the back side as a land – untapped if you’re willing to pay three life!

Now, I have a mono-green Grothama, All-Devouring Commander deck that I love, and you can read about it below.

But I thought it would make a great card to add into the 99 of the Strong deck, where it will basically be a huge card draw spell once Strong gets big enough to survive fighting and taking ten damage – which only takes two incidents of damage for Strong to get up to 13/13 in size.

Self-Damage Payoffs

Ranging Raptors Ripjaw Raptor

Since I am playing ways to damage my own creatures, I went searching for Dinosaurs with the enrage mechanic that can leverage that damage for a benefit. Ripjaw Raptors was an immediate choice, since drawing cards is gas, and then Ranging Raptors jumped in because ramping lands will be awesome when your commander is six mana. The other Dinosaurs didn’t really look like a good fit for the deck.

Self-Mill Payoffs

Tato Farmer Aftermath Analyst Shigeki, Jukai Visionary Glowing One Timeless Witness Creeping Renaissance The Mending of Dominaria

As Strong grows, it will give you rad counters, and at the beginning of the precombat main phase, you’ll mill cards equal to the number of rad counters you have. Normally you’ll lose a life and a rad counter for each nonland card milled this way, but Strong lets you gain life instead of losing life.

These rad counters had me look for cards that take advantage of your self-milling, and one of the first ones I added was Tato Farmer, also from Fallout. Tato Farmer can trigger rad counters itself with the landfall mechanic, and once you can tap it, you can take advantage of its ability to take a land from a graveyard that was milled this turn and put it onto the battlefield under your control. And it can nab a land from anyone’s graveyard if they mill it, not just yours!  Glowing One is another Fallout creature that gains you life whenever a player mills a nonland card.

The Mending of Dominaria is a cool card that I often put in a deck, only to cut from the final list, but it made it through the cuts for my Strong deck. While there might already be some creatures in your graveyard through the normal course of play, the rad counters from Strong should really help with that. The last chapter can go a long way towards ensuring you can pay your commander tax several times over if you need to.

Timeless Witness and Creeping Renaissance are particularly sweet, since you can make good use of them even if they get milled into your graveyard from rad counters.

High Power Matters

Mosswort Bridge Fanatic of Rhonas Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma Bighorner Rancher Ghalta, Primal Hunger

Strong starts big and quickly gets much bigger, so I’ve got some cards that love that. Fanatic of Rhonas and Bighorner Rancher are incredible once Strong hits the battlefield, providing a huge rush of mana. Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma will let you cast Strong for two mana less, and then provides Strong with trample and a boost if it attacks alongside Goreclaw!

Gain Trample

Shadowspear Rancor Berserk Surrak and Goreclaw

I definitely want ways to give Strong trample in order to push damage through blockers. Surrak and Goreclaw are awesome for that, with haste too! Shadowspear and Rancor are incredibly cheap and reusable ways to give Strong trample, while Berserk is a surprise combat trick that could very easily just kill an opponent out of nowhere.

Card Draw

Bonders' Enclave War Room Garruk's Uprising Outcaster Trailblazer Harmonize Guardian Project Disciple of Freyalise Rishkar's Expertise

Outcaster Trailblazer has been an all-star card in lots of different formats, and I’m happy to include it here, where it can potentially act as mana ramp (thanks to its plot ability) to power out Strong ahead of schedule and draw a card to boot. Garruk’s Uprising is great at drawing cards for each high-power creature you cast, but giving all your creatures, including Strong, trample is a great bonus.

I’m excited to add the new Disciple of Freyalise to the deck. It can act as an extra land drop if you need it, or you can sacrifice another large creature for an infusion of cards. One way to neutralize a big monster like Strong is to slap it with a Pacificism or something similar, so Disciple can sacrifice it and let you put it in the command zone to recast.


Pick Your Poison (MKM) Collective Resistance Voracious Varmint Cankerbloom Kogla, the Titan Ape Ezuri's Predation

The fight spells listed above give you removal options, but I like having Kogla, the Titan Ape and Ezuri’s Predation higher up the mana curve. Assuming Kogla survives to attack, you can start picking off problematic artifacts or enchantments. Collective Resistance is a fantastic new modal spell that does one or more of three effects, depending on how much mana you want to put into it.


Homeward Path Tower of the Magistrate Heroic Intervention Cathedral Acolyte Tranquil Frillback Questing Beast Battle Mammoth

Once Strong gets big enough, it will be an attractive target for steal effects from some opponents, so I made sure to find room for Homeward Path. I also like Tower of the Magistrate in mono-color decks to help protect against Equipment giving protection from your color. I absolutely don’t want to get attacked by or stymied by a creature equipped with Sword of Feast and Famine – which is being reprinted in Assassin’s Creed! Questing Beast is clutch for any deck that wants to win by attacking, shutting down Fog effects that might otherwise stop Strong from crushing opponents’ life totals.

Mana Ramp

Myriad Landscape Castle Garenbrig Sol Ring Wild Growth Utopia Sprawl Joraga Treespeaker Twists and Turns Prize Pig Gaea's Touch Sakura-Tribe Elder Kodama's Reach Cultivate Gwenna, Eyes of Gaea Chittering Dispatcher Harold and Bob, First Numens Case of the Locked Hothouse

Strong costs six mana and will quickly become a threat worth answering, so we’ll want to ensure plenty of mana ramp to help pay for commander tax. Green’s got a ton available, and I’ve got a lot of the best in the deck, including one of this year’s best cards, Case of the Locked Hothouse. Fellow Fallout card Harold and Bob, First Numens is here since, if it dies, you get to bring it back as an Aura that lets you tap enchanted Forest to add three mana of any one color and get two rad counters.

I’m even trying out Chittering Dispatcher, whose myriad ability guarantees you should get two triggers to generate Eldrazi Spawn creatures that you can sacrifice for mana.

The Deck

Okay, here’s the full decklist!

Here are the deck stats from our friends at Archidekt:

Note that I’ve got a copy of Thespian’s Stage in the list primarily for flavor reasons, since every thespian needs a stage, though occasionally someone will play a land worth copying!

So, what other cards would you run in a Strong, the Brutish Thespian deck?  Are you as excited as I am to dust off Splintering Wind in a Commander deck?

Talk to Me

Do me a solid and follow me on Twitter!  I run polls and start conversations about Commander all the time, so get in on the fun!  You can also find my LinkTree on my profile page there with links to all my content.

I’d also love it if you followed my Twitch channel TheCompleteCommander, where I do Commander, Brawl, and sometimes other Magic-related streams when I can.  If you can’t join me live, the videos are available on demand for a few weeks on Twitch, but I also upload them to my YouTube channel.  You can also find the lists for my paper decks over on Archidekt if you want to dig into how I put together my own decks and brews.  

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


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