Spiders Matter In Commander With Shelob, Child Of Ungoliant

Arachnophiles, look no further! Bennie Smith shows how to build around your new Golgari Spider overlord, Shelob, Child of Ungoliant from The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth.

Shelob, Child of Ungoliant
Shelob, Child of Ungoliant, illustrated by Lorenzo Mastroianni

When I first read The Lord of the Rings in middle school, one of the scenes that most captivated me was the journey through Cirith Ungol and the confrontation with Shelob, the giant spider. The scene in the movie was a masterclass in terror and suspense, and it does me great joy to see that Shelob gets not one, but two cards in the new Magic sets inspired by The Lord of the Rings.  The first card previewed was from The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth, Shelob, Child of Ungoliant:

Shelob, Child of Ungoliant

This Shelob is Golgari; the perfect successor to Ishkanah, Grafwidow; and the premier commander to build a Spider deck around for Commander. For one thing, Shelob actually buffs all your Spiders, giving them all deathtouch and ward 2, which she has herself.

Food Fight

The rest of her card text is quite cool:  “Whenever another creature dealt damage this turn by a Spider you controlled dies, create a token that’s a copy of that creature, except it’s a Food artifact.” (An explanation of what Food does follows).

The mechanics of this are wild, and dependent on what sort of creatures with nifty abilities your opponents might have in any given game. It’s also not going to come up all that much unless you force the issue, since it requires your six-mana commander be on the battlefield, and then your opponents willingly getting into combat with one or more of your Spiders, which have deathtouch.

I would probably run a lot of ramp spells in the deck; Shelob is going to have a target on her back, and she’s already quite expensive.  I’d also play a fair number of spells to protect her like Tamiyo’s Safekeeping and Tyvar’s Stand.  I would mostly just lean into Spider synergies but with a smattering of fun ways to force a creature to take damage from one of your Spiders when there’s a juicy target you’d like to copy as a Food token!

Dread Weaver

There’s a mono-black version of Shelob that was just revealed yesterday from the Hosts of Mordor Tales of Middle-earth Commander deck: Shelob, Dread Weaver!

Shelob, Dread Weaver

Shelob, Dread Weaver goes right into the 99 of the Shelob, Child of Ungoliant deck, coming down a few turns earlier to terrify your opponents’ creatures with exile effects, and then activated abilities that will either draw a card or put the dead creature onto the battlefield under your control.  Shelob, Dread Weaver could certainly make a fine mono-black commander in a non-Spider themed Commander deck, but that’s a chapter from another story.  Today, we’re digging into Spider themes with our Golgari Shelob!

Let’s push away the cobwebs and peer into the creepy caverns!

Silly Combos

Thornbite Staff Mutavault Noxious Field Karn, Silver Golem Assault Formation

First off, I want to give a shout-out to @LennyWooley on Twitter for the Noxious Field + Mutavault combo with Shelob. Sure, it’ll kill off all of your own creatures, including Shelob herself and the Mutavault, but the time you pull it off and gain control of a whole mess of Food tokens with crazy abilities, it will totally be worth it!

Thornbite Staff is an obvious combo, and something you can set up on another Spider you control before you cast Shelob.  Another card I thought about was Karn, Silver Golem, since for one mana he can animate a Food token that’s a copy of a creature and turn it into an actual creature for the turn.

Last but not least, since most Spiders tend to have a much higher toughness than their power, Assault Formation might be worth a slot.

Spiders Deal Damage

Ram Through Bite Down Cosmic Hunger Master's Rebuke Nature's Way Spinning Wheel Kick

To help force the issue of your deathtouch Spiders dealing damage to opponents’ creatures with Shelob on the battlefield, we might want to pepper in a few of these one-sided fight spells in place of some of the traditional black creature removal. In particular, Spinning Wheel Kick makes me giggle, thinking about an eight-legged Spider kicking a bunch of creatures and turning them into Food token copies.

Lure Effects

Lure Nemesis Mask You Look Upon the Tarrasque Revenge of the Hunted Destined

We might want to play a couple of Lure effects to take down more than one creature an opponent controls with Shelob on the battlefield. In particular, I like spells like You Look Upon the Tarrasque that grow the Spider and make it more likely that you can take down an entire army of blockers and turn them into Food token copies.

Spiders That Deal Damage

Chainweb Aracnir Silklash Spider Spitting Spider

There are a few Spiders that deal damage through their own abilities, and we’d probably want to run these for sure. While I wouldn’t normally want to use Spitting Spider’s ability since it requires sacrificing a land, there are circumstances where it will certainly be well worth getting set back a land.

Spiders Matter

Swarmyard Ishkanah, Grafwidow Arachnus Spinner Arachnus Web Arachnogenesis Blex, Vexing Pest Rotwidow Pack

There are a handful of cards that care about Spiders, and we’d want some of these in the deck. The former Spider lord Ishkanah, Grafwidow is still going to be a welcome card in the 99 and makes a great late-game draw where you can sink a bunch of mana into its activated ability over the course of a few turns to drain an opponent or two of their life. Arachnus Spinner and its “companion spell” Arachnus Web are a fun way to muck with an opponent’s plans, shutting down a problematic creature, only temporarily if its power is four or greater, but you can still tap another Spider to do it again.

I’m not sure Blex’s “lord” ability to boost your Spiders by +1/+1 is worth it, but sometimes it might be, and otherwise I’d cast the back side Search for Blex to dig for some extra cards.

When I see Arachnogenesis played at Commander tables, a lot of people seem to forget that it’s not a strict Fog, but rather prevents damage from non-Spider creatures; you can block with the X 1/2 Spiders and potentially kill something and not lose your Spiders in return.  In a Spider deck, that second sentence gets even more powerful and one-sided.

An uncommon from Modern Horizons, Rotwidow Pack is surprisingly potent in a Spider deck if you’ve got enough mana lying about.

Other Spiders

Arasta of the Endless Web Doom Weaver Ettercap Nyx Weaver Skyfisher Spider Twin-Silk Spider Thran Spider Penumbra Spider Drider Watcher in the Web Sweet-Gum Recluse Deadly Recluse Canopy Spider Ruins Recluse Stingerfling Spider Acid Web Spider Brood Weaver Sentinel Spider Lolth, Spider Queen Spider Spawning Curse of Clinging Webs Hatchery Spider Sporecap Spider Skysnare Spider Root Spider

There are a ton of Spider cards up and down the mana curve that we can fill out our deck with.  I’m a huge fan of Doom Weaver, especially since some of our Spiders do have significant power, such as our commander Shelob. Ettercap is a sweet two-for-one card, shooting down a creature with flying – such as a Dragon – with its Web Shot Adventure, and then coming down as a 2/5 Spider Beast with reach.

Lolth, Spider Queen makes Spider tokens and draws cards, and if somehow you manage to get the ultimate ability emblem, it can make even the smallest Spider attack deadly.

I like Curse of Clinging Webs as a great graveyard hoser for Aristocrats-style decks that gain value and triggers from creatures dying and coming back.

Creature Type Matters

Realmwalker Metallic Mimic Crippling Fear Haunting Voyage Patriarch's Bidding Kindred Summons Pact of the Serpent Kindred Dominance Haunted One Cover of Darkness

We can tap into cards that care about creature types when playing a Spider deck, with Realmwalker jumping out as a way to get card advantage by casting Spiders from the top of the library. Pact of the Serpent can potentially draw a lot of cards if you’ve been able to churn out a bunch of Spider tokens, but even if you’re only drawing three or four cards, that’s still a decent rate for three mana.  In a pinch, you can even burn out the Elfball player who’s flooded the battlefield with Elves and is hunting for their Craterhoof Behemoth.

I love the flavor of old-school creature-type-matters card Cover of Darkness from Onslaught; everyone knows Spiders love to creep along in the shadows, and it freaks us out with fear.

First Strike

Quick-Draw Dagger Power Matrix Chariot of Victory Viridian Claw

First strike is a great ability to pair with deathtouch, so I might want a few ways to give a Spider that ability in the deck.  Quick-Draw Dagger can be a surprise combat trick for when an opponent is planning to trade with a Spider in combat, and its cheap equip cost makes it great to pass around as the battlefield shifts. I’m a big fan of Power Matrix in Commander, but its abilities are fantastic when paired with deathtouch—not only first strike but trample, and a +1/+1 boost as well. You can even target an opponent’s creature if you want to give it flying and then finish it off with a Silklash Spider.

Combat Damage to Player

Toski, Bearer of Secrets Ohran Frostfang Goldvein Pick Mask of Memory Sword of Light and Shadow Sword of Fire and Ice Strixhaven Stadium

Since opponents will be heavily disincentivized to block your attacking deathtouch Spiders, you might want to take advantage of them dealing combat damage to players.  The various Swords have sweet combat triggers, and I like Sword of Light and Shadow and Sword of Fire and Ice best (though the idea of Spiders wielding Swords is a bit terrifying).

Toski, Bearer of Secrets and Ohran Frostfang aren’t Spiders, but their triggers might be worth a couple of slots in the deck.

Deathtouch Matters

Fynn, the Fangbearer Hooded Blightfang

Likewise, Hooded Blightfang and Fynn, the Fangbearer’s abilities with your deathtouch Spiders might be worth deviating from the Spider theme just a bit.

Combat Tricks

Shelob's Ambush Vitalize Benefactor's Draught Emerald Charm Witch's Web

Lastly, I’d consider a few combat tricks that untap your creatures to surprise opponents who might have thought the coast was clear to get an attack in while your Spiders are tapped from attacking. Vitalize and Witch’s Web springs to mind, and Emerald Charm is a hidden gem that will typically destroy non-Aura enchantments but can untap a deathtouch Spider when the opportunity presents itself. Benefactor’s Draught can be surprisingly flexible in a multiplayer format and can combine quite nicely with one of the Lure effects we talked about above.

Shelob’s Ambush likely wouldn’t make the cut based on what the card actually does, but not putting it in a Shelob deck seems like a big flavor-fail.

Do you agree that Shelob is the new queen of the Golgari Spider deck?  Are there other cards I may have overlooked here?  What ideas do you have for the mono-black Shelob, Dread Weaver?

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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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