In January of 1994 I was leafing through an issue of White Wolf magazine, a publication that mostly serviced The World of Darkness tabletop roleplaying games. At the time I was running a Vampire: The Masquerade campaign, but I’d also bought the books for Werewolf: The Apocalypse and Mage: The Ascension. So, I bought White Wolf mostly to help with my campaign, but White Wolf also had reviews of other games and as a consummate gamer I loved to read about other games, especially new ones. This is where I first heard about Magic: The Gathering, which was this issue’s feature review.
The very first Magic cards I laid my hands on was an Unlimited Starter Deck, 60 cards that included two rares, thirteen uncommons, and 45 commons including basic lands. One of those rares was Force of Nature.
When sifting through the cards, Force of Nature really stood out. Mons’s Goblin Raiders was a 1/1. Pearled Unicorn was a 2/2. Phantom Monster was a 3/3. Even the mighty Craw Wurm was just a 6/4. Force of Nature rocked in as an 8/8, with trample no less, and even though I didn’t fully understand trample I knew it had to be awesome. What I did know was that Force of Nature was the biggest and baddest creature in my deck and I knew I wanted to play it. I soon learned that Force of Nature doesn’t come easy — it’s six-mana cost included four green mana and four green mana needs to be paid every upkeep, so you’ve got to be incredibly dedicated to green just to play it. Which was fine by me and started a long love affair with big green creatures that continues to this very day.
Flash forward 24 years to 2018 and the release of Battlebond. I don’t remember where I first saw the preview of one of the biggest and baddest green legends ever printed but I knew instantly that I’d need to build a Commander deck around Grothama, All-Devouring!
What a delightfully weird and wonderful card! Five mana for a 10/8 is a crazy rate, supposedly balanced by a “drawback” where any attacking creature can choose to fight Grothama and when Grothama leaves the battlefield each player draws cards equal to the amount of damage dealt to Grothama this turn by sources they controlled. Basically, if you attacked with a five-power creature, had it fight Grothama, and followed up with a Lightning Bolt to kill it off, you got to draw eight cards for your trouble. Potentially letting one or more opponents draw so many cards certainly waved away many a deck brewer, but I saw a lot of potential in this giant green Wurm in the right deck.
The week before SCG CON in June, starcitygames.com published my first decklist around Grothama, and I spent my free time at the convention picking up some singles to finish out the deck. I remember talking with people about the card during the Commander Celebration and meeting a ton of skepticism. Which of course pushed me further to build the deck and start playing it whenever I could. It became known as “Bennie’s Weird Grothama deck” locally, and I definitely surprised people when I brought it to the next SCG CON. I went on Twitter to talk about it frequently. People were still skeptical about it, but I did notice over time other brave souls were out there running their own Grothama decks and having a ball with it.
Last year when the pandemic first started raging, I decided to dip my toes into video content creation, and since I was constantly being asked just how my Grothama deck worked, I decided to do a deck tech (which you can find below):
The deck has undergone some changes since then, but many of the core strategies remain the same, so check it out if you like Magic deck tech videos. But enough time has passed since I first wrote about Grothama, and more and more people seem to be interested in Mr. All-Devouring, I thought it was a good time to pop the hood on what the deck looks like right now and go over the general strategies built into the deck. Before we dig in, let’s go over the release notes on Grothama just to clarify any questions you may have on how the abilities operate:
The controller of the attacking creature chooses whether that creature fights Grothama.
If multiple creatures attack, each desired fight happens individually in the order the attacking players choose. Once Grothama has been defeated, any remaining attacking creatures can’t fight it.
Creatures fight Grothama before blockers are declared. Any creatures that die in the fight can’t be blocked. Any attacking creatures that survive the fight will still be attacking, may be blocked as normal, and will deal damage to the player or planeswalker they’re attacking if unblocked.
Grothama’s last ability triggers even if it dies without being fought by attacking creatures. For example, if you use Blaze to deal 10 damage to Grothama, you draw ten cards.
Let’s start things off with Vigor. When Vigor hits the battlefield alongside Grothama, the entire game changes. Now each fight trigger that resolves equals +1/+1 counters instead of damage on Grothama, and if it’s your own creatures fighting they get +1/+1 counters too. Let’s say you attack with a 2/2, a 3/3, a 4/4 alongside Grothama. Resolve the fight with the 4/4 first, it gets ten +1/+1 counters and Grothama gets four. Now you fight with the 3/3, it gets fourteen counters and Grothama gets three more. Finally, you fight with the 2/2, it gets seventeen counters and Grothama gets two more:
- 10/8 Grothama plus four plus three plus two counters = 19/17
- 4/4 plus ten counters = 14/14
- 3/3 plus fourteen counters = 17/17
- 2/2 plus seventeen counters = 19/19
So yeah, that’s 69 points of damage rumbling into the red zone!
Next up is Mossbridge Troll, and here’s the dream line: you have Mossbridge Troll on the battlefield, and you play Grothama. You tap Grothama to give the Mossbridge Troll +20/+20 and then attack with the Troll. The Troll fights and kills Grothama and you draw 25 cards while you crash into somebody’s battlefield with a 25/25 regenerating Troll. Sure, you may have to discard a lot of cards during your end step unless you’ve got a Reliquary Tower, but you can best believe you’re going to have an amazing seven card hand!
Up next is Stuffy Doll, which is usually an indestructible defensive card that you use to keep the lifegain deck in check. But with Grothama on the battlefield, you can actually attack with Stuffy Doll, fight with Grothama and send ten points of damage straight at the named player’s life total.
Then we have Psychosis Crawler. Remember when we drew 25 cards with Mossbridge Troll and Grothama? Or maybe we’ll just sacrifice Grothama to Greater Good to draw ten? Our Phyrexian Horror artifact can send that mass card draw right at your opponents’ life totals as life drain. This has been in-person certified as a “dookie” play by none other than Sheldon Menery, so you know it’s good!
Rounding out this section are two lands. First is Endless Sands, which can be used as a way to have Grothama leave the battlefield if you’re unable to kill it with the fight trigger but still want to draw cards. You can simply move Grothama to the command zone, so you have access to it without having to sacrifice Endless Sands. This is also nice in case an opponent is trying to kill Grothama with damage. Lastly is Witch’s Clinic, a card from Commander 2021 that I just recently added; giving a fighting Grothama lifelink seems like it could result in a huge life swing with some of the best lines in this deck.
Large Creatures Matter
Green has a fair number of cards that care about you controlling large creatures, and Grothama’s whopping ten power for five mana satisfies the conditions fast. Cast Ghalta or The Great Henge for just two green mana each? Yes, please! Goreclaw makes it cheaper to cast your larger creatures and then gives them trample when they attack alongside the Bear, which is something that Grothama definitely appreciates. Grothama easily satisfies the formidable conditions for Surrak, the Hunt Caller and Shaman of Forgotten Ways.
Green is pretty good at destroying artifacts and enchantments and I want to ensure I had a fair number of those in my deck. I recently added Liquimetal Torque so I could even use this removal on an opponent’s creature or planeswalker that suddenly became an artifact! And I’m excited to try Outland Liberator from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, especially when it transforms into Frenzied Trapbreaker.
When it comes to creature removal, green looks to things like the fight mechanic (with the notable exception of Beast Within) and we’ve gotten some real good ones lately with Kogla, the Titan Ape and The Tarrasque. I even have around seven Human creatures in the deck to make Kogla indestructible!
Any good Commander deck needs decent options to fight graveyard recursion, and I was thrilled to recently add Froghemoth to my list. Its trample ability is particularly nice if we end up with both Grothama and Vigor on the battlefield when we got to our attack step!
Since we’re playing green, we have no end to mana ramp possibilities. I’d like to point out two cards in particular: the extra land drops of Exploration and Wayward Swordtooth. This deck has no problem drawing cards and will quite often get a huge infusion of cards where playing extra lands will be quite helpful in making the most of the extra draw.
Speaking of extra land drops, I wanted to maximize the chances of being able to play at least one land every single turn, so I tapped into some of the Dual Face Cards from Zendikar Rising. I actually have all three of them sleeved with their land side up, so I count them as part of the 40 lands I run in this deck. I’d also like to mention Guildless Commons and Multani, Yavimaya’s Avatar as ways to pick up these cards later in the game to use the front side if you don’t particularly need the mana.
Even though Grothama will often draw me a bunch of cards in a typical Commander game, I still want to run other ways to draw cards since I don’t run tutor effects. Green certainly has access to plenty of options and I’m pretty happy with this current selection.
Not running tutors also leads me to play some of green’s card selection options, either from my graveyard with Timeless Witness or the top of my deck with Sylvan Anthem. Ranger Class’s last ability and Augur of Autumn can even let you play cards right from the top of your library, which is just incredible if your opponents let you get away with it.
In early builds I focused a much larger portion of the decklist to ways to protect Grothama from dying to my opponent’s fight triggers or mass damage like Blasphemous Act. But over time I’ve found that neither thing happens all that much in actual gameplay, so I’ve trimmed down a bit. That’s not to say I don’t want to occasionally be able to counter such a move by an opponent, but I also want to leave open the possibility of an opponent taking full advantage of Grothama’s drawback and drawing a ton of cards. Because that would make for a heckuva story to tell afterwards, you know?
I was recently asked whether Avoid Fate would be better than Not of This World, and it’s a very fair question. And honestly, I have yet to draw Not of This World when it would be helpful, so the jury is still out. But I will say that this deck taps out quite a bit and doesn’t always have a Wall of Roots to pay for Avoid Fate, so I’m still hanging on to this weird Eldrazi Instant for its surprise value.
Rounding out the deck are a bunch of sweet green cards, lands, and the incredible Shadowspear. I’ll specifically call out Questing Beast for its ability to hose Fog effects, and one of my all-time favorite cards Mirrorpool. In this deck in particular sacrificing Mirrorpool to make a copy of Stuffy Doll has won games, and it’s also a techy way to get Grothama off the battlefield before something happens to it you don’t want to, while still keeping Grothama around for Grothama shenanigans.
Okay, here’s the deck as it currently sits on my desk:
- 1 Glissa Sunseeker
- 1 Wall of Roots
- 1 Stuffy Doll
- 1 Magus of the Library
- 1 Vigor
- 1 Mossbridge Troll
- 1 Elvish Visionary
- 1 Joraga Treespeaker
- 1 Tajuru Preserver
- 1 Psychosis Crawler
- 1 Scavenging Ooze
- 1 Ulvenwald Tracker
- 1 Reclamation Sage
- 1 Shaman of Forgotten Ways
- 1 Surrak, the Hunt Caller
- 1 Tireless Tracker
- 1 Deathgorge Scavenger
- 1 Ghalta, Primal Hunger
- 1 Wayward Swordtooth
- 1 Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar
- 1 Grothama, All-Devouring
- 1 Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma
- 1 Questing Beast
- 1 Kogla, the Titan Ape
- 1 Llanowar Visionary
- 1 Elder Gargaroth
- 1 Ashaya, Soul of the Wild
- 1 Tangled Florahedron
- 1 Toski, Bearer of Secrets
- 1 Battle Mammoth
- 1 Timeless Witness
- 1 Tireless Provisioner
- 1 Werewolf Pack Leader
- 1 Froghemoth
- 1 The Tarrasque
- 1 Augur of Autumn
- 1 Outland Liberator
- 21 Forest
- 1 Treetop Village
- 1 Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers
- 1 Yavimaya Hollow
- 1 Dust Bowl
- 1 Mosswort Bridge
- 1 Reliquary Tower
- 1 Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
- 1 Blighted Woodland
- 1 Mirrorpool
- 1 Desert of the Indomitable
- 1 Endless Sands
- 1 Castle Garenbrig
- 1 War Room
- 1 Guildless Commons
- 1 Witch's Clinic
- 1 Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth
- 1 Lair of the Hydra
- 1 Rancor
- 1 Exploration
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Greater Good
- 1 Not of This World
- 1 Cultivate
- 1 Beast Within
- 1 Heroic Intervention
- 1 Guardian Project
- 1 Force of Vigor
- 1 The Great Henge
- 1 Shadowspear
- 1 Mirror Shield
- 1 Ram Through
- 1 Khalni Ambush
- 1 Bala Ged Recovery
- 1 Commander's Plate
- 1 Old-Growth Troll
- 1 In Search of Greatness
- 1 Sylvan Anthem
- 1 Liquimetal Torque
- 1 Ranger Class
- 1 Unnatural Growth
- 1 Ruinous Intrusion
Here is how the deck graphs out:
So, what do you think of Grothama, All-Devouring? Is there anything you’d run in your own build that I don’t currently have?
Do me a solid and follow me on Twitter! I run polls and get conversations started about Commander all the time, so get in on the fun! 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 decks over on Archidekt if you want to dig into how I put together my own decks and brews. I’ll be keeping my Grothama list there on Archidekt as I make changes when new sets come out, along with a change log so if you’re a fan of the big green Wurm bookmark it!
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!