Toymaker Time: Building Around The New Tawnos For Commander

It’s all fun and games until… well, it’s always fun and games with Tawnos, the Toymaker! Sheldon Menery unwraps his latest Commander deck ahead of the holiday season.

Tawnos, the Toymaker
Tawnos, the Toymaker, illustrated by Livia Prima

The Brothers’ War and its companion, Brothers’ War Commander, offer us compelling, if perhaps slightly narrow, choices for new commanders to brew and build around.  Because the backstory is filled with the artifacts that became the centerpieces of the war between Urza and Mishra, it’s natural that most of the new cards we have available focus on artifact strategies.  The question for any brewer then becomes, do we try to find something unusual amidst the stream of possibilities or go completely outside the box?

The answer comes simply in finding the cards that speak to us.  For me, the standout is Gwenna, Eyes of Gaea — but do I really want to build mono-green?  It seems like she’d just turn into Elfball or Druidball pretty easily.  Still, it’s a card I want to play.  That then led me to look harder at the green choices, much harder to find amongst all the Grixis- and Esper-adjacent artifact power the set provides.  Certainly, we want to live the dream of melding into Titania, Gaea Incarnate.  There are also some sweet white cards to play, but adding white would drag us into the singular Bant choice (there’s no Selesnya) of Tocasia, Dig Site Mentor

The other choice then becomes Tawnos, the Toymaker in Simic, and it starts to get into the line we might like, with Gwenna helping cast Beasts and Birds for Tawnos to copy. 

Tawnos, the Toymaker

I look down my list of decks and see that the only assembled Simic deck is the Ten Tix Ezuri, Claw of Progress I built for when the other members of the Commander Rules Committee (RC) and I took the Ten Tix-to-paper challenge.  It seems like we have a winner.  Now to find the angle. 

Tackling Tawnos

First is our power level.  We have to understand what kind of environment this deck gets played in.  It seems appropriate for the battlecruiser space that the RC likes to occupy in its games.  In general, this means decks that like to get to close to double-digit turns before really turning up the volume and threatening to win.  It’s a slower game, still reminiscent of the oldest days of the format.  It often revolves around decks that “do a thing” instead of rushing to a win condition.  That’s the vibe I want to go for here.  It’ll be enough to have a deck that holds its own in the game, but then has a thing that it does.

What I’d like this one to do is have my creatures be indestructible Forests, too.  For that, we’ll have to start with Ashaya, Soul of the Wild as a kind of secret commander.  A fine creature in its own right, Ashaya provides us protection from all the battlefield sweepers that destroy (Planar Cleansing) or bounce (Cyclonic Rift) nonlands.  Sure, the tokens don’t get the protection, but we’ll figure out how to mitigate that.  It’ll also involve Nissa, Who Shakes the World and her ultimate ability. 

What I settled on was something even a little more battlecruiser-y than I expected.  It’s Tawnos, the Toymaker Beasts with a mutate sub-theme and the aforementioned “creatures are lands/lands are creatures” duality.  Let’s look at the list and then talk about some of the relevant cards.

The List

The Basic Plan

At its simplest, the deck is just “cast Beasts, smash; sometimes get a little tricky with the mutates.”  There’s often something liberating about such a straightforward strategy.  Again, I was really vibing on the ancient days of Commander/EDH when it really was all about barely paying attention to the game at hand and hanging out with the gang.  The deck is really not going to hang with decks that can threaten the game state in the Turn 5-7 (or earlier, although I already build few enough of them) range.  I’m pouring a drink while I’m taking my early turns.  Maybe even sending a Tweet or two. 

Overwhelming Stampede

Either the Overwhelming Stampede or some unblockable ability from Rogue’s Passage or Thassa, God of the Sea gets us into some pretty heavy damage, especially if we’ve melded into Titania, Gaea Incarnate.  There are a few things that give our creatures trample, pushing aside silly little chump blockers. 

There are enough Beasts with enough enters-the-battlefield triggered abilities that Roaring Primadox, Species Gorger, and Crystal Shard are well-warranted.  There are classics like Thragtusk, Indrik Stomphowler, and Phyrexian Ingester.  I also like the interaction of bouncing creatures that have mutated, so that we can get the triggers off both creatures again.

The Slightly More Advanced Plan

Once Tawnos, the Toymaker gets onto the battlefield, we start moving a little faster.  I’m not opposed to doubling up on any of those triggers (save one, which we’ll get to) and having more power on the battlefield.  

I didn’t make any effort to leverage the fact that they’re artifacts.  If I had, cards like Chief of the Foundry, Cryptothrall, Cyberdrive Awakener, Master of Etherium, Workshop Elders, and possibly even Thopter Spy Network would have come to the fore.  At that point, we might have to start thinking about Grinding Station, Salvaging Station, Flayer Husk loops, and whatnot.  Skipping Herald’s Horn might be a mistake, but I didn’t want to go too far into the “creature type matters” space other than the rank-and-file being something that follows off the commander. 

Eldrazi Monument

One thing I did think about doing with the extra token copies of creatures is always having something to feed to Eldrazi Monument.  Once it resolves and stays put, Eldrazi Monument becomes an important piece in the deck’s plan to both deal damage and keep creatures alive.  Cards like Greater Good and Momentous Fall occurred to me here, but the honest part is that I play both of them in enough decks and I want to stop repeating myself so much.  Commander can feature so much that I don’t want to focus on so little. 

We start doing some token things with Parallel Lives and Doubling Season.  A third Thragtusk or Elder Gargaroth will not hurt my feelings in the least.  I am a little concerned about the number of legendary creatures (ten) meaning that I’m going to cast fewer creatures that can get copied, but we also have to go in more than one direction.  On the advice of Commander Advisory Group (CAG) member Kristen Gregory, I added Jaheira, Friend of the Forest, who I am told (and I quote) “kinda slaps.” As a side note, read Kristen’s recent piece Treasure Doesn’t Need Dockside to be BrokenIt’s the kind of excellent format philosophy stuff we have all come to expect from her.   

Gilanra, Caller of Wirewood Gwenna, Eyes of Gaea

The two legendary creatures I focused most on are Gilanra, Caller of Wirewood and Gwenna, Eyes of Gaea.  Getting some mana production from unconventional sources is important.  These two will keep the deck’s engines burning brightly, as will Runadi, Behemoth Caller.  Quite a few creatures in the deck qualify as five mana value or greater, so having a little extra haste will be neat. 

In the “card that’s there just because I want everyone to see it as a true Hidden Gem” file, there’s Interdict.  There are lots of very powerful activated abilities in Commander.  Getting to counter one and draw a card is all upside.  There’s also Jaheira’s Respite, somewhat pricey for a non-Inkshield Fog effect, but something that will pay loads of value.  I think that’s even when Rootpath Purifier isn’t on the battlefield.  Three or four lands for five mana is great value.  Being able to yank most of our lands out of the deck while avoiding a late-game alpha strike will be very nice indeed. 

It Starts Getting Trickier

Creatures as lands and lands as creatures.  The latter has especially been something I’ve historically stayed away from because the opportunity for getting blown out is so high. If we’re going to do something we might as well hang it all out there.  Hence, Nature’s Revolt.  The card makes things a two-edged sword now.  Battlefield sweepers get a new, more difficult decision tree. 

As mentioned at the start, Ashaya, Soul of the Wild turning all our nontoken creatures into Forests is the direction, and I’d say more upside than down.  Sure, someone might Strip Mine our Manglehorn, but if so, GGs.  From there, it’s easy to follow the path of the three Nissa planeswalkers, four if you count Nissa, Vastwood Seer.  There are various ways of turning lands into creatures, all culminating at Nissa, Who Shakes the World, one of my most favorite card names ever.  We can get to her ultimate ability right away with Doubling Season on the battlefield.  We’ll need to do a little more work otherwise.  Still, getting it means that our nontoken creatures are also indestructible when Ashaya is on the battlefield. 

Nissa, Who Shakes the World

The deck might be a little bit of a judge-level challenge because of the changing creature types and layers, especially with some of the power and toughness changes, but it should be mostly straightforward.  Rule 613.1 and forward are pretty detailed—to the point where I don’t mind having a little note card with me.  It’s just important to remember that effects that set power and toughness to specific numbers happen in layer 7b (Rule 613.4b).  We’ll sometimes need to refer to Rule 613.7, timestamps.  Mostly, it’s just going to be adding the Forest land type to creatures.  Of course, I suspect that something super-convoluted will happen the first time I play the deck on our stream.

Being Downright Cheeky

Okay, sometimes game need to just end.  Those of you who have been on this journey with me for years know that I’m not the biggest fan of infinite combos—but I came across one here I couldn’t resist.  The creatures that bounce something on upkeep (Roaring Primadox, Species Gorger) were already there.  Because of the prevalence of triggered abilities, I was already looking at Crystal Shard or Erratic Portal.  Then, when looking at the list of Beasts in blue and green, I came across Wormfang Manta.  All I needed was adding Scroll of Fate, and we were home.  We only need 5UU available (5UUU if we need to use Crystal Shard). 

Wormfang Manta Scroll of Fate

It works like this:

  • Some time before our upkeep step (so usually end of last player to the right’s turn), manifest Wormfang Manta with Scroll of Fate.  We avoid the icky enters-the-battlefield trigger (and that’s definitely one we don’t want to copy). 
  • Pay 5UU to turn Wormfang Manta face up.
  • Move to upkeep.
  • Return Wormfang Manta to hand; cash in on the leaves-the-battlefield trigger.  Note that both Roaring Primadox and Species Gorger have abilities that do not target.  If someone kills Wormfang Manta before their trigger resolves, we’ll still have to bounce something else, although we’ll obviously get the extra turn. 
  • Repeat for infinite turns.

(Thanks to the folks at Commander Spellbook for writing out the steps for us.)

Games in Toyland

There’s Tawnos, the Toyland Maker.  It starts simple and goes a little off the rails, which is eminently likeable. 

If I could be allowed a brief personal note before we go, the past few weeks have been challenging for me, fighting off a collapsed lung and pneumonia at the same time.  Through it all, being connected to the legion of friends I have out there in Commander spaces was a lifeline that tethered me in when I could have easily drifted away.  Thanks for being there. 

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