Hello! Welcome to another edition of Fat Stacks, the weekly MtG column dedicated to EDH / Commander! Last week, we tackled Gatecrash and two wedge colors, so this week I want to get into how the shards have been affected by the Return to Ravnica. There are obviously quite a lot of shard generals and strategies to choose from, so I will start off with one of my favorites - Mayael the Anima.
Mayael was my first general that I built around, and I think she makes a great starter legend to get a hang of what Commander is all about. The build for Mayael is very straight forward – put in giant creatures with 5+ power, get to six mana, and see what happens! Whenever a new set comes out, I always check the GWR colors for dudes with a huge front…wait, that came out wrong.
Anyways, Mayael is one of those decks that keeps getting new cards, and lucky for us, there are always stronger creatures getting printed. The rest of the deck tends to remain the same – some sort of ramp to get things going, some staples, and bam, we got a Mayael deck.
As for the ramp, I am partial to Elf-based mana in this deck, due to Mayael's sylvan race. Elvish Archdruid and Priest of Titania will reliably make multiple G's with our general available, which means that Mayael can check out those top five cards even faster. We also have access to Bloom Tender and Knotvine Mystic, which will actually make the other colors we need as well. Oracle of Mul Daya and Wood Elves round out the Elf mana ramp, but there are a few more of them that will fit into other aspects of the deck.
The other major mechanic in this deck is the classic Survival of the Fittest / Sneak Attack package. Those cards are both great on their own, but when you add in Genesis and Squee, Goblin Nabob, there is a cheap engine to get whatever giant creature we want with Survival, Sneak them into play, and then do it again on the next turn. This is the best way to tackle the danger of playing a deck that is so focused on Mayael's freebies, because we could end up with a lot of fatties that we can't afford to employ; we also have Elvish Piper, just in case.
I'll be frank, the main reason I wanted to take another look at actually building another Mayael deck is Borborygmos Enraged, or as I call him, ol' BoBo. You see, BoBo is a super cool card, and makes for a sweet deck of his own, but there is one thing missing from any Gruul build: Land Tax! I mean, it is not really even the best thing going on in this deck, it's just that I really wanted to put it all together, and I tend to take inspiration where I can get it.
BoBo is not the only Gruul card to make it into this deck, and in fact, I ended up using their new keyword quite a bit. In a Mayael deck, a huge creature is best off on top of the library, and in most cases, they are just annoying to have in hand. Bloodrush is the cure for this ailment – the Skarrg Goliath can either come into play off of Mayael, or it can go towards making another creature ridiculously huge. Something like Zhur-Taa Swine might be less-than-compelling if it does end up in play, but if it is the only creature in the top five when Mayael goes a-searching, at least we didn't totally whiff.
The other great the thing about bloodrush is that it goes rather well with Genesis and Survival of the Fittest. This is just about the only way any of these colors can reliably search out a Giant Growth at instant speed, and can really open the possibilities when it comes to combat math. Genesis in particular is the reason I included the Ghor-Clan Rampager, which is an amazing card, but falls shy of the requisite five power.
The bloodrushing creature that is most interesting is the first one that was spoiled: Rubblehulk. Not only is that ability insanely powerful, it has a very sensible price to rush. The Rubblehulk itself has a numerical power in any zone, so if we have at least five lands out, it is a reasonable choice if it comes up in a Mayael activation.
Beyond the bloodrush creatures, there are two other GTC cards that made it into this deck. Gruul Ragebeast is a card I talked about back in my set review, and this is the precise build I was thinking it would fit into. The epic nature of Mayael's summoning captures an even grander scene when the beckoned creature squishes the opposition upon arrival. Most of these creatures are more than adequate matches for a majority of creatures, though we may want to be careful with our little guys, because there are not a lot of fights in which Birds of Paradise would have the advantage.
The other Gruul card included within is the Skarrg Guildmage, which is basically the only new guildmage that is relevant for this deck. Despite being a big-time stompy deck, there are not a lot of creatures with trample in here. Giving all the big creatures trample for three mana is a bargain, and the animate-land ability can be really nice in a clinch. This card is almost like a mini Kamahl, Fist of Krosa, who would probably be in the deck if he didn't lose so much of his strength when he became a hippie.
Oddly, the other two guilds in the Naya shard offered very few options for this type of deck, as both Boros and Selesnya are led by small legends who are obsessed with small creatures. The Boros Charm offers us a lot of versatility for this deck, especially the indestructible / double strike aspects. Selesnya wasn't nearly as kind, and none of their cards really made it into here. We did borrow from the Simic for the Gyre Sage, another Elf that will probably end up making a lot of mana, especially since it will easily evolve with all the prime subjects available.
Well, that was my take on the current state of Mayael, a general I am particularly fond of. As an added bonus, I thought I would share a quick update to a deck I discussed last week: Karador, Ghost Chieftain. You see, there is an EDH tournament at my LGS, New Game in Town, this Saturday at 1. Normally, I have to work on Saturdays, but this week I am off, and it's been a while since I played Commander for prizes.
I was tempted to run my most powerful deck – Omnath, Locus of Mana – but it occurred to me that I had no idea what the meta would be like, so I needed a deck that was well-rounded and able to take on different decks. Omnath can win a game very quickly, but it has turned into a very aggressive deck, having faced down Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur and Bant control many times as of late. In the four-way format of the tournament, an extremely fast Omnath deck could get derailed before it can effectively win the game, depending on what kind of decks opponents are playing. If it is some kind of RUG combo deck, there is a pretty big chance they can win before I even know they need to die.
That is why I decided that I will play Karador this weekend. Now, the Karador deck from last week was more tailored to my own metagame, and especially so to one-on-one games. The mana Elves were very good for a solid early game in 1v1, but I know that my games will need to slow down some, and I will need to have way more bulk to deal enough damage to take out three other players at 40 life.
For those confused, I either play 30-life games of 1v1, but if we are playing multiplayer around here, it is usually a game of THG or Emperor. Either way, there is only one entity to compete with, and not multiple players with different alliances and threat assessment logic.
Anyways, back to the new list, and its need for better creatures. Well, a big part of this deck is the legendary status of a card, which makes it possible for them to interact with Captain Sisay, or Loyal Retainers. The Junk colors actually have a lot of aggressively costed legends, so I decided this would be where I would expand the deck.
My first thought was Doran, the Siege Tower, because he is just a sick beater for three mana. I am pretty confident with the mana base, so I think he can hit play early enough to cause some serious damage. Doran also messes with the board state in a passive manner, so fits in with the general disruption / control utility a lot of the creatures have.
Next, I added the unstoppable Thrun, the Last Troll, as well as the stalwart Sigarda, Host of Herons. Both of these are resistant to so many control strategies, and have the exact P/T as their CMC. I like Thrun because he can get through counter magic like a pro, and can block most creatures indefinitely. Sigarda protects the entire army, and actually ends up making Thrun even harder to kill. I fully expect to see annihilator triggers in the form of Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, or possibly some sort of Grave Pact shenanigans, so I feel like Sigarda will help out a lot.
I also added Glissa, the Traitor, a card I have always admired for sheer brutality's sake. First strike and death touch are a ridiculous combination, and she also has the right ratio when it comes to P/T and CMC. She is the perfect blocker against most creatures, killing them before they can deliver any damage whatsoever; this is especially impressive against massive tramplers, like ol' BoBo Enraged. I have very few artifacts in this deck to interact with her ability, but I am not really worried about it, because I know I will be happy with one of the toughest creatures in the entire game. As a plus, she will also be recur-able removal against an opposing Glissa deck, and everyone knows that Glissa decks can be extremely powerful.
Until now, I kept the deck legal under the French ban list, mostly because it seemed sporting at the time. In this case, though, I don't want to be at a disadvantage like that, so I added back in Crucible of Worlds, Vampiric Tutor, and Sensei's Divining Top. Although I enjoyed the versatility of the new Charms, the cards above are obviously empirically better, so out they went.
Even though the damage level went up a bit, the story remains the same for this deck…mostly. I still plan to spam one-drops to make Karador cheap, and then loop a Yosei, the Morning Star lock, and strangle players out of the game. The extra beef will speed up that process, as well as defend from other aggressive strategies like Ruhan of the Fomori, or Rafiq of the Many. Sure, I have a few decks with empty sleeves right now, but this deck is loaded for bear! Or is bare? Either way, it's loaded with something!
I will let you guys know how the tourney goes. Anyone in the DeKalb, IL area should come check it out.
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