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Tahngarth the G.O.A.D.


Tahngarth, First Mate
Being the Greatest On All of Dominaria isn't easy, but someone has to do it. Is it fair to call Tahngarth, First Mate the Greatest of All Time? Don't be ridiculous, he's the least popular Commander 2019 commander per EDHREC data and he doesn't seem to be exciting people. I think that's a mistake, however, because I think forcing people to stop playing their own game and play a different kind of game, one that you've rigged, is a perfectly 75% way to play the game. Is Tahngarth the G.O.A.T.? Despite the horns, I'm going with no. But he did inspire a new approach to 75% and for that, I'm going to give him his due respect.

One weakness I've found with my favorite brand of 75% deck-building which revolves around stealing as much of their junk as I can is that the decks on the more tuned and competitive end of the spectrum are a little more resistant to it. They play fewer creatures and more spells and while stealing their artifacts and enchantments can help you win and deprive them of combo pieces, it's not as effective as it is to steal a bunch of big, dumb creatures from a more casual player. I recently had to retool my Estrid deck to have more win conditions because it wasn't always reliable to be able to steal enough to win the game, and the better I got at stealing creatures, the more I had to steal because the whole table saw me as an increasingly large threat and also they got salty that I swiped all of their creatures. The Chain Veil into Helix Pinnacle isn't a satisfying way to lose per se, but it's better than a protracted, boring battle on a clogged board and it's better than the Archenemy being the player with Sphere of Safety and 30 enchantments. I don't want to be the archenemy when everyone has creatures and I don't want to be powerless when no one does. That happens pretty infrequently and having your own ways to win can head a lot of that off, but I also think there is a new way we can play certain matchups that allows everyone to participate in ending the game much faster if they want to and forces them to participate in ending the game much faster if they don't want to.

Tahngarth isn't exciting people because it doesn't really do much of a thing. It's hard to know what you're supposed to be doing on your turn when your commander doesn't modify anything you do on your turn. I think a lot of people look at Tahngarth and see a kind of Magic they don't want to be playing. The thing is, I think people forget that what the deck wants to do is impose a kind of Magic that players don't want to play on everyone. Give them creatures if they don't have any. Goad those creatures. Add a beefy Minotaur monster to the mix. Voila - protracted board states don't happen. If they do and players don't want to attack because they see their 10 attackers and their opponent's 11 blockers and their eyes glaze over because they don't want to do math, too bad, get out your old TI-83 if you need to, because it's going down. By turning the game into the Thunderdome and letting everyone borrow your Master Blaster, you're throwing everyone off and that's how a 75% deck can beat anyone.

Thantis, the Warweaver
Thantis, the Warweaver has a lot of ideas for our Tahngarth deck to draw from and while Thantis is the supreme Thunderdome overlord, Tahngarth can put a new spin on the deck that Thantis can't, namely that we don't want them attacking us because we don't benefit from it like we would with Thantis. We can give them some creatures and goad them to force them to get Tahngarth involved, but we're not looking to goad anyone into attacking us, so let's look at ways to keep that from happening. Instead, we're going to make our opponents have to focus so much of their energy on battling each other that they won't be able to execute their own strategies. It doesn't matter what kind of deck your opponent has, this is going to give them a hard time and that's what 75% is all about. I also like that Tahngarth doesn't force our creatures to attack which allows us to play some utility creatures if we want.

If our opponents are going to do our dirty work for us, we're going to give them some creatures to beat each other with, but that's not exactly an innovation for Tahngarth or Thantis. "Hunted" creatures are a popular choice - they give you a big body and give them opponent a lot of tokens, which are great for goading. We'll have to goad creatures a ton because Tahngarth doesn't do it for us like Thantis does. That's a feature, not a bug - there are some times when it's advantageous not to have everyone attacking and being able to choose our moment better is important. We may play a creature or two with a static goading ability like Avatar of Slaughter, but we're mostly going to pick our opening.

Your opponents must not be allowed to pick their own opening. One way we can avoid being the Archenemy is by limiting the number of creatures that can attack you and preventing some of the damage we might take. Fog is a bad spell in a deck like this because you want combat damage dealt. You want the player on your left to attack the player on your right with your Tahngarth and you want to laugh as they do it. What you don't want is to take any damage in the exchange, so spells like Druid's Deliverance that specifically prevent damage to you are the way to go. Deliverance isn't as utilitarian as Constant Mists or Spore Frog on a loop, but you shouldn't need too many fogs and, besides, you want some damage dealt and you could benefit from the Populate on Deliverance. Another card I'm going to annoy people with is Glacial Chasm. Chasm slows the game down a bit because creatures you control can't attack when it's in play. However, since Tahngarth ends up being under the attacking player's control when it joins combat, it's still eligible to attack someone else while Chasm is down. Cumulative Upkeep too high? Want to take a turn off from not attacking? Pick it up with Mina and Denn, Wildborn or let it go to the 'yard and replay it with Crucible or Excavator after you attack. Between Crawlspace, Chasm, Kazuul, Tyrant of Cliffs and your sneaky Fog spells, attacking you is going to be a losing proposition.

We could hope we get Glacial Chasm some of the time, but I think this build could use a lands-matter subtheme. Tutoring for a variety of lands, bringing them back from the graveyard, ramping by playing extra lands and getting landfall triggers are all useful to have. I want to be able to get Chasm often but I don't want Expedition Map or Pir's Whim to merely be second copies of Chasm. The stock Tahngarth list has a lot of ways to give Tahngarth menace to make him unblockable and I'll be cutting a lot of that in favor of the landfall package. To compensate, I'll add Skullclamp and Infiltration Lens so we benefit when he's blocked. We'll still have plenty of equipment to beef our Tahngarth, but now Blackblade Reforged and Strata Scythe are better. I also think that despite our card-drawing infrastructure in the deck, which is significant, Red Green decks need to get the most of every draw phase and cards like Courser of Kruphix and Oracle of Mul Daya can go a long way toward making that happen. Oracle in particular is great for helping you not lose the race to your own Glacial Chasm.

Tahngarth, the G.O.A.D. | Commander | Jason Alt

Overall, I'm pretty happy with how this turned out. There are a few ways to go with this list, which is a rough draft as always.

If you want to crank up the amount of landfall, the deck can support it. Avenger of Zendikar is an obvious addition, but if you look at all the landfall cards, there are some interesting ones beyond Lotus Cobra and Omnath that we could have added. I added Retreat to Valakut, but there are a few more we could play with.

Speaking of lands, I added some utility lands but you can add a lot more if you want. We don't want Expedition Map to be another copy of Glacial Chasm and we don't want it to be useless if we already have the Chasm. To that end, I added lands like Nykthos, Spinerock Knoll (easy as heck to trigger), Kessig Wolf Run and Strip Mine. There are a lot of utility lands in Magic and even something as simple as Smoldering Spires coupled with Retreat and Mina and Denn could help out a ton. It seems like everyone runs one annoying deathtouch creature these days and keeping it out of blocking could be the difference between mashing three people with Tahngarth in a turn cycle and a bunch of equipment and auras falling off of a dead Minotaur because a snake bit him.

If you need more Goad, have at it. I tried to avoid cards that made everything attack because I have a few more utility creatures than stock lists and I don't want to have to serve my Oracle of Mul Daya into a woodchipper because I couldn't come up with a more creative inclusion than Grand Melee. You can certainly add more cards like that if you aren't forcing your opponents to attack enough.

If they don't have enough creatures to attack with, try Varchild and Hunted Troll. If you want to look at some Thantis lists for inspiration, that stock list has plenty of ideas. However, I think you'll find that people play more creatures than you think, and most times people have a Reclamation Sage or Consecrated Sphinx that you're happy to send into harm's way. Goading is probably the most interesting form of creature removal and it was overlooked for a long time because before EDH, cards like Nettling Imp said "do a lot of work to tap this or it's coming at your face." Now that there are other people to attack apart from you, Goading is back in vogue and I'm all about it.

What do we think? Are you excited to make people slam your big, beefy commander into other players until you can pick off the last person standing? Are you ready to give Thantis another look? Are you surprised Tahngarth is the least popular Commander 2019 commander? Leave it for me in the comments section. Until next time!

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