Commander Top 10: Esika, God of the Tree

Esika, God of the Tree is mono-green in the front, rainbow in the back. Bennie Smith builds a legendary five-color deck around the Kaldheim commander.

Esika, God of the Tree, illustrated by Collin Estrada

It’s Prerelease weekend for Kaldheim, and I’m excited to get a couple of Prerelease packs from my local game store to open up and play with my sweetie Wendy!  This set is so stuffed with new legendary creatures, it feels like The Year of Commander is bleeding over into 2021.  I’ve already written about four of them — Sarulf, Realm Eater; Halvar, God of Battle; Valki, God of Lies; and Toski, Bearer of Secrets — and I feel like I’m just scratching the surface!  If you haven’t read those write-ups yet, go check out my writer page once you’re done with this one, and today is a really cool one — Esika, God of the Tree!

Esika, God of the Tree

While this looks like a mono-green legend, since the back face is all five colors, picking this as your commander gives you access to all five colors.  Neat!  Let us dig in.

Esika has vigilance, which is a great ability to have in multiplayer Magic.  Its power is just one though, so for this to be relevant we’ll need something else going on.

Esika can tap to add one mana of any color.  This a very handy ability to have in a five-color deck, and since Esika has vigilance you can attack and then tap it for mana during your second main phase.

The last ability on the front face is where the really cool stuff starts happening:  all other legendary creatures you control have vigilance and tap to add one mana of any color.  So, to really unleash Esika’s power, we’ll want a whole bunch of legendary creatures that we don’t mind attacking with and also lots of ways to leverage all that extra mana.  And we’ll especially want to have good legends at the one- and two-mana spots so on the turn we cast Esika we can potentially tap any legends for mana right away, either for another play that same turn or a reactive spell.  With that in mind, let’s keep an eye out for instant-speed reactive spells that we can take advantage of when we’d otherwise be occupied tapping out to play cards to the battlefield.

The Prismatic Bridge

The flip side of this card is The Prismatic Bridge, a five-mana enchantment that costs one of each color and has an upkeep trigger where you reveal cards from the top of your library until you reveal a creature or planeswalker card; you then put that card onto the battlefield and the rest on the bottom of your library in a random order.

Now, I could see one version of this deck not playing any other creatures or planeswalkers but the one big baddie you want to fetch up with The Prismatic Bridge’s trigger, but putting all your eggs in one big basket isn’t really my style. For my money, the front side of Esika is Plan A, and if your battlefield gets swept away and you don’t have many cards in hand to recover, you can cast The Prismatic Bridge as Plan B, a way to start recovering your battlefield presence.

Okay, let’s get brewing!

1. Sisay, Weatherlight Captain

Sisay, Weatherlight Captain

I’m going to lean hard into legendary creatures in this deck, so naturally among the first things I started to look for were cards that care about legends, and at the top of the list is Sisay, Weatherlight CaptainSisay is able to search your library for legendary permanents (with converted mana cost tied to her power) and put them onto the battlefield for a big mana investment of one color of each mana — which Esika’s ability helps provide!  Sisay can even tap to help pay for her own ability.

I’ve got a lot of other great cards that play nicely with lots of legends:

Blackblade Reforged Hero's Blade Niambi, Esteemed Speaker Champion's Helm Kethis, the Hidden Hand Reki, the History of Kamigawa Kolvori, God of Kinship Arvad the Cursed Primevals' Glorious Rebirth

Look at that, another legend from Kaldheim that cares about legendary creatures — Kolvori, God of Kinship!  With two other legendary creatures, Kolvori is a 6/6 with vigilance that can tap to search for a legendary creature card from the top six cards of  your library and put it in your hand. 

2. Najeela, the Blade-Blossom

Najeela, the Blade-Blossom

I wanted to find legendary creatures that had cool or powerful abilities that could help our cause, and the one that jumped out to me is crazy powerful:  Najeela, the Blade-Blossom!  Decks built around Najeela are some of the most busted Commander decks around but having it as one of the 99 makes it slightly less terrifying.

Much like Sisay above, Najeela has an activated ability using one of each color in Magic, which untaps all attacking creatures and they gain trample, lifelink, and haste until the end of the turn. After this phase there’s an additional combat phase. Each time a Warrior attacks, you may have its controller create a 1/1 white Warrior creature token that’s tapped and attacking, and while this isn’t a Warrior deck, Najeela herself is a Warrior and can get the party started.

Rhys the Redeemed Emmara, Soul of the Accord Saffi Eriksdotter Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate Shalai, Voice of Plenty Koma, Cosmos Serpent

Rhys the Redeemed and Shalai, Voice of Plenty give some less spectacular but still solid activated abilities that can make good use of extra mana.  Emmara, Soul of the Accord can tap for mana with Esika and then you get a 1/1 white Soldier token with lifelink for your trouble.  I also really like Saffi Eriksdotter and Linvala, Shield of the Sea Gate as legendary creatures that can also help protect your battlefield.

3. Dragonlord Ojutai

Dragonlord Ojutai

Unless disaster strikes, Esika likely means we’ll have plenty of mana available, but we’ll need ways to draw cards to ensure we have things to do with all that mana.  Dragonlord Ojutai is a powerful card, and if we can power it out a turn or two early, chances are good we’ll have one opponent who won’t be able to block flyers so we can get its combat damage trigger.  What’s insane about Dragonlord Ojutai in conjunction with Esika is that Esika gives all creatures vigilance, which means that Ojutai never taps to attack and so remains hexproof unless you need to tap it for mana.

I looked for other ways to draw cards, in particular legendary creatures:

Skullclamp Fblthp, the Lost Edric, Spymaster of Trest Toski, Bearer of Secrets Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait

I wrote about Toski, Bearer of Secrets last week as the commander of its own deck, but it does fantastic work here.  Since Esika gives vigilance to all your creatures, it doesn’t matter that Toski has to attack — this indestructible Squirrel can also play defense.

4. Zacama, Primal Calamity

Zacama, Primal Calamity

With the potential for generating large swaths of mana in this deck, I went looking for either big spells to cast or ways to sink that mana for big effects. Lo and behold, Zacama, Primal Calamity fits both bills like a taloned glove!  It natively has vigilance, but it can sure take advantage of Esika’s ability to let it tap for mana to help pay for its Swiss Army knife selection of abilities. You want a big mana payoff?  Zacama brings the heat!

Golos, Tireless Pilgrim Kenrith, the Returned King Kamahl, Fist of Krosa Ruinous Ultimatum Genesis Ultimatum Kamahl's Druidic Vow

Golos, Tireless Pilgrim and Kenrith, the Returned King are right up there as powerful high-end cards with self-contained mana activated abilities that generate value, so I made room for them too. Kamahl, Fist of Krosa can give all your creatures +3/+3 and trample until the end of the turn, and with enough attackers that could be game over.  But the secret ability here is Kamahl’s ability to punish someone casting a battlefield sweeper to wreck your plans — for each green mana you have available (remember Esika can make it easy) you could activate Kamahl to turn target land into a 1/1 creature until the end of the turn.  You may want to remind players of that if you suspect one of them is contemplating casting that Wrath of God.

Ruinous Ultimatum and Genesis Ultimatum are very powerful sorceries well worth sinking seven mana into casting, but of course the ultimate sorcery has got to be Kamahl’s Druidic Vow!  With all the legends in this deck, it should be easy to fire this off, and with enough mana for X this could be a huge game-changer.  Even if an opponent sweeps the battlefield afterwards, odds are pretty good you’ve snagged a few lands from the Vow, so you’ll have plenty of mana to recover. 

5. Urza’s Ruinous Blast

Urza's Ruinous Blast

With access to all five colors, we have any removal spell under the sun to choose for our decks, but one rises to the top — another legendary sorcery, Urza’s Ruinous Blast!  While it won’t get rid of your opponents’ commanders, its doubtful that your opponents will have nearly the number of legendary permanents that you have, breaking the symmetry quite nicely.  Plus, exile is a fantastic effect in Commander in light of graveyard recursion being so plentiful and powerful.

I’m including a bunch of other removal spells, especially cheap ones that can be leveraged with Esika’s ability to generate mana:

Vandalblast Swords to Plowshares Nature's Claim Golgari Charm Hull Breach Go for the Throat Reality Shift Despark

Golgari Charm’s various modes are quite useful, especially the ability to regenerate all your creatures from an otherwise calamitous spell like Blasphemous Act!

6. Raff Capashen, Ship’s Mage

Raff Capashen, Ship's Mage

Dominaria brought cards that care about historic spells, a category which includes legendary creatures, so I went looking for those cards and Raff Capashen, Ship’s Mage adds a nice angle of attack. This deck is going to want to push towards having a lot of legendary creatures on the battlefield, and with each one cast your exposure to a battlefield sweeper grows.  With Raff’s ability to give all historic spells flash, you can wait until an opponent’s end step to cast your legendary creatures, and then make use of them during your turn.

Here are some other great cards from Dominaria that enhance our strategy:

Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle Weatherlight

7. Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist

Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist

I wanted more and more legends for the deck, so I kept an eye out for ones that provided some utility to our deck, and one in particular seemed perfect:  Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist!  Now, normally giving Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist vigilance is going to keep you from unlocking her full potential, but Esika also lets you tap Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist for mana after she attacks, which will mean that no more than one creature can attack you each combat.

I made room for some other utility legends, particularly ones that are lower on the mana curve that we can utilize for mana early on:

Hope of Ghirapur Kytheon, Hero of Akros Esior, Wardwing Familiar Radha, Heart of Keld

Radha, Heart of Keld offers fantastic library sifting, keeping you from drawing too many lands along the way, while also offering a potent ability to sink extra mana into.

8. Ukkima, Stalking Shadow & Cazur, Ruthless Stalker

Ukkima, Stalking Shadow Cazur, Ruthless Stalker

When I first started compiling this list, I included nearly all the legendary creatures that had the “partner with” ability since each of them has built-in card advantage to search for their partner. But as I was forced to make cuts to get down to 100 cards, I ended up with just two partner pairs and I think Ukkima, Stalking Shadow and Cazur, Ruthless Stalker are the better duo.  Ukkima is great and swiping down planeswalkers and Cazur’s triggered ability can grow a battlefield’s presence without committing too many more resources if you can get through unblocked.

Nikara, Lair Scavenger and Yannik, Scavenging Sentinel do good work too!

Nikara, Lair Scavenger Yannik, Scavenging Sentinel

9. Farseek


I’m counting on our commander Esika to provide a lot of the mana ramp in this deck, but one thing I definitely need to find room for is ramp that also fixes our mana. The five Triomes from Ikoria are perfect ways to fix three colors of mana at a time, and Farseek lets you find any one of them and puts it on the battlefield.

Sol Ring Three Visits Nature's Lore

Three Visits and Nature’s Lore specifically mandate you find a Forest, which leaves out Raugrin Triome and Savai Triome, but you should still be able to cover your mana needs with one of the other three Triomes.

10. Arcane Denial

Arcane Denial

Many of the legendary creatures I’ve chosen for the list have great ways to interact with our opponents, but I wanted to find room for a few other spells to help in that regard and Arcane Denial covers a lot of bases for just two mana — no matter the spell, Arcane Denial should usually let you say “no” at a critical time.

Shadowspear Swan Song Heroic Intervention Dragonlord Dromoka

Swan Song and Heroic Intervention are two cheap, instant-speed ways to interact which play perfectly into our gameplan.  Dragonlord Dromoka is a big legendary creature that shuts down your opponents on your turn, giving you free rein to do something big, splashy, and fun with all your mana.  Huzzah!

Okay, so here’s how the deck ended up:

Esika, God of the Tree
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 01-29-2021
Magic Card Back

Here’s how the deck looks graphically, thanks to our friends at Archidekt:

What do you think?  Are there any cards I’ve overlooked?  If you see any new cards from Kaldheim that should find a home here, let me know! 

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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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