Adrian: Why do you wanna fight?
Rocky: Because I can’t sing or dance.
In the First Age of Magic, green was for suckers. Spells were powerful, creatures were terrible, and green, ostensibly the “best” creature color, often ended up with the worst creatures. They were bad in part because they died to everything while other colors had creatures that, either by clever design or dumb luck, could actually survive and be win conditions.
For instance, look at these three premier, tournament-winning creatures from this bygone era:
Now, if these three creatures clashed in the Red Zone, there’s no doubt which would usually come out on top—the mighty, mighty Erhnam Djinn! But these creatures rarely clashed in the Red Zone, because all too often Erhnam Djinn would be removed from the battlefield by commonly played removal.
Over time, design philosophy changed. Green got creatures that were actually some of the best in the game, along with other nice goodies from the color pie. One of the last unfair pillars of “old” green philosophy – that green couldn’t kill creatures – finally crumbled when Wizards made the “fight” mechanic into something it wanted to do with some frequently and that could be firmly in green’s flavor wheelhouse. What could be more natural than creatures fighting for dominance? Kill or be killed?
Even so, most fight cards haven’t exactly risen to the level of being good enough for Standard (with a notable recent exception of Dromoka’s Command), and few make the transition over to Commander. But like Apollo Creed reaching out and picking a bum from the mean streets to fight on the world stage, I think the fate of fight cards is about to change, thanks to the best God in Amonkhet!
Rhonas’s two static abilities make it the perfect creature to fight with, outside of oddball corner cases. Indestructible means Rhonas won’t die in the exchange, while deathtouch means its sparring partner won’t survive the brawl. I’m really excited about playing this card in Standard and think that Rhonas might quietly make Cartouche of Strength a viable removal spell in that format. But you probably didn’t come here to read about my Standard musings, so instead let’s talk about Rhonas in Commander, where we can make use of all the fight cards!
As I was compiling this list, all I could think about was just how savage it was going to be to play these at the Commander table. I mean, who wants to get into a fight with an indestructible cobra God with deathtouch? I expect to be swatting down opposing Commanders like flies.
Of course, some of these aren’t even really fight cards, or at least not fair fights—Rabid Bite and Nature’s Way have your creature deal damage without taking it in return. In this deck, I like to think of it as Rhonas being a spitting cobra, striking with its venom from a distance. Nature’s Way piles on even more benefits—not only will it have Rhonas strike down a threat, but then you give Rhonas vigilance and trample too. Ah, trample, that delicious chocolate that goes oh so nicely with the peanut butter of deathtouch.
Which reminds me—we should definitely load up on some cards to give Rhonas trample!
For the uninitiated, here’s the scoop: trample damage gets assigned to blockers just enough to be considered lethal, and then the rest gets assigned to the defending player. Combined with deathtouch, one point of damage is considered lethal, so once you assign a single point of damage to each blocker, all other damage is assigned to the defending player. When that’s your Commander punching through, killing with Commander damage is a very real possibility.
Like I said – savage! Thunderfoot Baloth, Roughshod Mentor, and Nylea, God of the Hunt all give Rhonas trample. Loxodon Warhammer gives trample, a significant power boost, and lifelink to pad your own lifetotal.
Berserk is an oldie but a goodie, and thanks to its printing in Conspiracy: Take the Crown, it’s not unreasonably priced. The beauty of Berserk in multiplayer games has always been the ability to play it on an opponent’s large threat that’s attacking another player—not only do you double the damage and give it trample, but at the end of the turn, that creature is destroyed and won’t be bothering you later. Berserk gains even more utility in this deck, since Rhonas won’t die from the Berserk’s effect (it says “destroy,” not “sacrifice”) and the deathtouch makes doubling the trample damage even more lethal.
Then there’s Rancor, one of my all-time favorite cards. One mana, super-efficient, and resilient to removal, it’s even better when enchanting Rhonas.
Speaking of Auras…
Last week, when writing about Hazoret the Fervent, I talked about how awesome it was to pile Auras on a resilient target like an indestructible God. Red has many sweet Auras over the years that haven’t gotten a lot of play due to their typical inherent card disadvantage, and green certainly does too. One in particular I’m very excited to bring back to the party – Lure! One “classic combo” from the earliest days of Magic was to enchant Thicket Basilisk with Lure and attack your opponent, wiping out all of their creatures that might be available to block. Sadly, this usually meant losing both of your cards in the exchange, since Thicket Basilisk only has four toughness. But hey—it’s 2017, baby, and green creatures are awesome! It’s your lucky day, Lure. You get to enchant an indestructible God and sweep aside opposing armies over and over again.
Predatory Urge gives Rhonas the ability to fight on demand with just a tap, so even if it can’t attack or block, it can still rule the battlefield. Bear Umbra’s totem armor ability isn’t relevant on an indestructible creature, but the ability to untap all your lands when you attack seems good alongside Rhonas’s activated ability. Speaking of, don’t forget that sometimes it’ll be handy to give your opponent’s creature a power boost and trample, especially when it comes to getting rid of pesky planeswalkers.
Verdant Embrace makes Rhonas a bigger, badder Verdant Force, but who are we kidding? What we really, truly want to do is load up on the serious savage green Auras that give a huge power boost and trample—Epic Proportions and Mythic Proportions! Heck, why stop there? Let’s go for Eldrazi Conscription too! Can we boost our God big enough to one-shot with Commander damage? Achievement unlocked!
Of course, all the Aura fun can be stopped by a few pesky removal spells that don’t care about indestructible. That classic Erhnam Djinn killer Swords to Plowshares can send our God out working the fields, no matter what its proportions, so we’ll want a few ways to curtail that sort of nonsense. I really like Heroic Intervention here too, since it can even protect our enchantments from mass removal.
I’ve Got the (Four) Power
And new in Amonkhet:
So I’ve been having fun thinking up ways to fight with Rhonas and Auras to enchant Rhonas, but sometimes I’m going to want to attack or block with Rhonas. Luckily, the condition of controlling another creature with power of four or greater isn’t really too tough for green to meet, especially given that Rhonas’s activated ability can add two power to something small. I picked these looking specifically for four power or greater, and paid special attention for resiliency to removal with cards like Weatherseed Treefolk, Vorapede, and Mossbridge Troll. I particularly like Thrun, the Last Troll, since its hexproof ability makes it a good backup target for Auras if your opponents have been successful in keeping Rhonas off the battlefield. Boon Satyr and Dread Statuary are ways to get four power onto the battlefield out of nowhere for a surprise Rhonas block.
The difficult-to-pronounce Prowling Serpopard is a fun four-power addition from Amonkhet for just three mana. I expect there might be one or two other green creatures from Amonkhet that have been pushed to have four power to play nicely with Rhonas and might make their way into this deck once the full set is available.
You have to love the synergy of Rhonas’s Monument, providing a power boost if you need it to turn on Rhonas or to give Rhonas trample to combo with its deathtouch. It’s almost like they were designed to be played together!
Green Deck Good Stuff
A good Commander deck can’t run on awesome God combos alone, so I’ve rounded things out with plenty of good stuff cards. Scuttlemutt is a nice way to get around any “protection from green shenanigans” that might otherwise stop our fights. Rhonas starts with a high power and will often get even bigger with many of our other cards, so cashing in that power for cards makes Greater Good a slam dunk. Also, I have to admit it feels good getting the old band back together — Greater Good, Weatherseed Treefolk, and Rancor, what a jam!
Without further ado, here’s how the deck has shaped up, reading and waiting for our indomitable cobra God and the release of Amonkhet!
- 1 Weatherseed Treefolk
- 1 Genesis
- 1 Seedborn Muse
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 1 Chameleon Colossus
- 1 Mossbridge Troll
- 1 Roughshod Mentor
- 1 Scuttlemutt
- 1 Garruk's Packleader
- 1 Thrun, the Last Troll
- 1 Vorapede
- 1 Ulvenwald Tracker
- 1 Yeva, Nature's Herald
- 1 Polukranos, World Eater
- 1 Nylea, God of the Hunt
- 1 Boon Satyr
- 1 Phytotitan
- 1 Thunderfoot Baloth
- 1 Surrak, the Hunt Caller
- 1 Prowling Serpopard
- 1 Rancor
- 1 Sylvan Library
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Lure
- 1 Berserk
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Loxodon Warhammer
- 1 Mythic Proportions
- 1 Mind Stone
- 1 Greater Good
- 1 Exoskeletal Armor
- 1 Verdant Embrace
- 1 Epic Proportions
- 1 Deglamer
- 1 Blight Sickle
- 1 Predatory Urge
- 1 Bear Umbra
- 1 Eldrazi Conscription
- 1 Asceticism
- 1 Nim Deathmantle
- 1 Green Sun's Zenith
- 1 Swiftfoot Boots
- 1 Prey Upon
- 1 Time to Feed
- 1 Unravel the Aether
- 1 Setessan Tactics
- 1 Savage Punch
- 1 Epic Confrontation
- 1 Unnatural Aggression
- 1 Bonds of Mortality
- 1 Zendikar Resurgent
- 1 Seasons Past
- 1 Rabid Bite
- 1 Nature's Way
- 1 Untethered Express
- 1 Rishkar's Expertise
- 1 Lifecrafter's Bestiary
- 1 Heroic Intervention
- 1 Rhonas's Monument
- 1 Cartouche of Strength
What do you think of the deck? Does it look as savage as I think it does? Have I forgotten any obvious or not-so-obvious cards, especially ones from Amonkhet that had not yet been revealed as I wrote this?
New to Commander?
If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:
Commander Primer Part 1
(Why play Commander? Rules Overview, Picking your Commander)
Commander Primer Part 2
(Mana Requirements, Randomness, Card Advantage)
Commander Primer Part 3
(Power vs. Synergy, Griefing, Staples, Building a Doran Deck)
Commander Starter Kits 1
(kick start your allied two-color decks for $25)
Commander Starter Kits 2
(kick start your enemy two-color decks for $25)
Commander Starter Kits 3
(kick start your shard three-color decks for $25)
Commander write-ups I’ve done
(and links to decklists):
• Zurgo Bellstriker (Bellstriking Like a Boss)
• Dragonlord Ojutai (Troll Shroud)
• Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund (Dragons, Megamorphs, and Dragons)
• Dromoka, the Eternal (One Flying Bolster Basket)
• Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest (Tempests and Teapots)
• Tasigur, the Golden Fang (Hatching Evil Sultai Plots)
• Scion of the Ur-Dragon (Dragon Triggers for Everyone)
• Nahiri, The Lithomancer (Lithomancing for Fun and Profit)
• Titania, Protector of Argoth (Titania’s Land and Elemental Exchange)
• Reaper King (All About VILLAINOUS WEALTH)
• Feldon of the Third Path (She Will Come Back to Me)
• Sidisi, Brood Tyrant (Calling Up Ghouls with Sidisi)
• Zurgo Helmsmasher (Two Times the Smashing)
• Anafenza, the Foremost (Anafenza and Your Restless Dead)
• Narset, Enlightened Master (The New Voltron Overlord)
• Surrak Dragonclaw (The Art of Punching Bears)
• Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient (Ghost in the Machines)
• Jalira, Master Polymorphist (JaliraPOW!)
• Yisan, the Wanderer Bard (All-in Yisan)
• Selvala, Explorer Returned (Everyone Draws Lots!)
• Grenzo, Dungeon Warden (Cleaning Out the Cellar)
• Karona, False God (God Pack)
• Karador, Ghost Chieftain (Shadowborn Apostles & Demons)
• Roon of the Hidden Realm (Mean Roon)
• Vorel of the Hull Clade (Never Trust the Simic)
• Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)
• Derevi, Empyrial Tactician (Tribal Birds)
• Gahiji, Honored One (Enchantment Ga-hijinks)
• Nicol Bolas (Kicking it Old School)
• Oloro, Ageless Ascetic (Life Gain)
• Polukranos, World Eater (Monstrous!)
• Reaper King (Taking Advantage of the new Legend Rules)
• Roon of the Hidden Realm ( Strolling Through Value Town)
• Shattergang Brothers (Breaking Boards)
• Sliver Overlord (Featuring the new M14 Slivers!)
• Varolz, the Scar-Striped (scavenging goodness)