With our return to Ixalan, we again get another card depicting the former planeswalker from this plane, Huatli. The previous versions were all planeswalkers:
Thanks to the events of the Phyrexian invasion of the Multiverse earlier this year, many planeswalkers lost their spark, including Huatli, who is now a legendary creature and so can be our commander!
I find this new Huatli to be an incredibly cool design. Transforming into a Saga gives the card an almost planeswalker feel, and having a warrior-poet transform into a Saga is a huge flavor win.
Aspects of Huatli
Let’s break down all the various things Huatli brings to your deck.
First, Huatli has a nice enters-the-battlefield trigger that lets you search up a basic land from your deck and put it into your hand, helping you find a white or red mana source if you need to fix your colors, and ensuring your next land drop. This means, if something happens to Huatli, you’ll already be halfway towards paying the next commander tax to recast her.
Then there’s Huatli’s activated ability to turn her into the Saga Roar of the Fifth People. It can only be activated as a sorcery, so you can’t use it to protect her from creature removal. One thing to keep in mind: at the end of the four chapters, Roar of the Fifth People will be sacrificed and go to the graveyard, so you’ll need to put Huatli back into the command zone unless you’ve got ways to bring back creatures from the graveyard. You do have access to white, which has reanimation spells and effects, especially for creatures with a cheap mana cost and Huatli fits that bill.
Roar of the Fifth People
When Roar of the Fifth People hits the battlefield, Chapter I creates two 3/3 green Dinosaur tokens. Chapter II gives the Saga “Creatures you control have ‘Tap: Add R, G, or W.'” Note that this ability sticks around until the Saga leaves the battlefield. Assuming you already had access to five mana, plus at the very least the two 3/3 Dinosaurs survived, that gives you at minimum seven mana, so having a couple of other creatures on the battlefield means even more mana. What’ll you do with that mana? Hopefully something huge and fun!
Chapter III lets you search your library for a Dinosaur card, reveal it, put it into your hand, then shuffle. Since the Saga still gives your creatures the ability to tap for mana, you can search up and cast some expensive Dinosaur that can impact the battlefield in your favor. There are a lot of Dinosaur cards with awesome utility, so being able to tutor up the perfect silver bullet is pretty sweet!
Chapter IV says Dinosaurs you control gain double strike and trample until the end of the turn. You don’t need many Dinosaurs on the battlefield for this to hit your opponents really, really hard. Note that you add lore counters after your draw step, so you can potentially still use the mana ability for your creatures before the Saga goes away.
Putting It Together
If you sit back and look at all these abilities, it’s clear you want a fair number of Dinosaurs, but you don’t necessarily want to build a full-blown Dinosaur typal deck. For me, it’s weird having a typal deck where the commander doesn’t have that type, and if I was building a true typal deck, I’d just use Gishath, Sun’s Avatar as the commander.
Since Huatli’s Saga side creates Dinosaurs and lets you search up Dinosaurs, I think building a deck around Huatli will play out much differently from a typical typal deck, letting you play high-impact Dinosaurs but also run other creatures that help support your gameplan, especially since Roar of the Fifth People will turn those creatures into mana producers that can let you cast big Dinosaurs or other high-impact spells.
So, what sort of cards would we fill out our Huatli deck with? Let’s dig in!
Huatli’s Activated Ability
The choke point of Huatli is her activated ability; you’ll need a total of eight mana to cast Huatli and use the activated ability, and that’s not counting any commander tax. If you can’t do that, Huatli will be hanging in the wind until your next turn and vulnerable to creature removal spells.
I would play some ways to shortcut that requirement, and the first card that sprung to mind was Nature’s Will. Assuming you have five mana from your lands, you can cast Huatli, attack an opponent with a creature that will hopefully go unblocked, and then untap your lands and activate Huatli. Sword of Feast and Famine can do the same thing and provides protection abilities that might make it easier to run past blockers. Bear Umbra will let you untap your lands on attack, so you don’t need to deal combat damage to a creature, but keep in mind that, if you put the Aura on Huatli, it will fall off when Huatli transforms, so some other creature will be a better target.
Another option is to discount Huatli’s activated ability, which leads me to Zirda, the Dawnwaker. Agatha of the Vile Cauldron is another option if you’re playing ways to some ways to boost her power by one or two.
Once Chapter II fires on Roar of the Fifth People, we should have plenty of mana to sink into a high-impact spell or ability. Etali, Primal Conqueror seems like the perfect card here – it’s a Dinosaur, so you can search it up with Chapter III’s ability, and it will give you immediate value when it enters the battlefield. If it’s already on the battlefield, its activated ability is a fantastic mana sink, turning into an 11/11 creature with trample and indestructible, and any combat damage it deals to an opponent gives them that many poison counters. Vorinclex isn’t a Dinosaur, but it can help you keep making your land drops, and its activated ability is an excellent mana sink, also turning into a Saga like our commander.
Zacama, Primal Calamity is pretty much mana sink incarnate, letting you untap all your lands when you cast it, and having three abilities that you can sink extra mana into for various effects. Those abilities are awesome to discount with Zirda too, by the way.
I simply love The Tarrasque, and it’ll definitely appreciate Chapter IV from Roar of the Fifth People – giving a 10/10 trample and double strike is the epitome of hard-hitting!
Silver Bullet Dinosaurs
I love the idea of “silver bullet” Dinosaurs, with Kogla and Yidaro or Tranquil Frillback providing excellent utility options. Dinosaurs on a Spaceship can be a Dinosaur “lord” if you already have some Dinosaurs on the battlefield you want to attack with, or you can just suspend it and churn out 2/2 flying Dinosaurs with haste for the next four upkeeps. Regal Behemoth makes you the monarch, so you’ll get to draw a card immediately, andit lets you squeeze extra mana from your lands so long as you are the monarch—an excellent choice if you’ve got one of the ways to untap your lands I mentioned above!
I love the fact that we can make excellent use of some of the cool Human cards that care about Dinosaurs in this deck, such as Otepec Huntmaster and Knight of the Stampede. There are also actual Dinosaur cards that care about other Dinosaurs, like Regisaur Alpha and Pantlaza, Sun-Favored. The more Dinosaurs we play, the better Curious Altisaur becomes – just imagine if this is out when all your Dinosaurs get double strike and trample from Chapter IV!
Remove Lore Counters
Ideally, we’d like to remove a lore counter from Roar of the Fifth People after Chapter III has triggered every turn, so we can tutor up a Dinosaur and keep the ability to let our creatures tap for mana indefinitely. There are a few ways to do that, and I’d likely run all of these in the Huatli deck. Power Conduit can remove a lore counter and give a creature a +1/+1 counter. Scholar of New Horizons can remove a lore counter and let you search up a Plains card. The unblockable Ferropede can remove a lore counter when it deals combat damage to a player. And Nesting Grounds can move a lore counter onto some random permanent that you can move back later if you want.
We might want to lean into some Saga or enchantment synergies, since we effectively have a Saga in the command zone. Yenna, Redtooth Regent does some interesting work here—you can use the ability to copy Roar of the Fifth People, and once Chapter IV of the original triggers and Huatli is put back in the command zone, you can use Yenna to copy the copy and keep going.
Historian’s Boon is a good choice if you want to add some token synergies to the deck, since Chapter I already makes two 3/3 Dinosaur tokens. I also like some card draw triggers from cards like Eidolon of Blossoms and Femeref Enchantress.
But perhaps my favorite thought is transforming Huatli when Displaced Dinosaurs is on the battlefield – since Roar of the Fifth People is a historic permanent entering the battlefield, it will be a 7/7 Dinosaur that can attack or tap for mana while the chapters are triggering. I wish the card was much cheaper than it is, but if you have a copy, this would be a great place to run it.
I wanted to look for ways to get around having to put Huatli in the graveyard once Roar of the Fifth People’s Chapter IV resolves. Sanctum of Eternity can return your commander to your hand on your turn. Flicker of Fate or Scrollshift can blink the Saga and bring it back as Huatli, letting you search up a basic land and put it in your hand for your troubles. You can let it go to the graveyard and bring it back with Cosmic Intervention.
Lastly, I thought having some ways to give your creatures haste would be an excellent way to further leverage the mana abilities from Chapter II, letting you cast creatures and then immediately tap them for mana and cast more spells. Urabrask the Hidden and Samut, Voice of Dissent seem to be the best options for this.
What cards do you think I’ve overlooked for the deck? I’m particularly eager to hear what sort of other mana sink cards you think would be awesome to run here.
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.
Visit my Decklist Database to see my decklists and the articles where they appeared!