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Building with Flavor: Tahngarth, First Mate


Welcome back to Building with Flavor! In my original article, I described the tools at your disposal to build the most flavorful deck possible. Today, I'm back with the Legendary Creatures of Commander 2019! There's a lot to cover, and not a lot of time to do it, so let's dive in!

Tahngarth, First Mate

Tahngarth, First Mate by Anna Steinbauer

When writing for Sisay, Weatherlight Captain, I pretty much identified all the big Weatherlight tentpoles, but given that Tahngarth, First Mate isn't five-colors, it's worth diving in with a little more specificity on Tahngarth himself. You can always refer to Sisay's article for more broad strokes cards, but Tahngarth is a different beast (or minotaur) altogether.

First off, Tahngarth begs for a more Voltron-y approach as your Commander. As a black border Party Crasher, there's all sorts of fun to be had with Tahngarth that just aren't possible with other Voltron Commanders, even with Assault Suit. Let's look at Tahngarth's abilities, here.

Tahngarth, First Mate can't be blocked by more than one creature

Whenever an opponent attacks with one or more creatures, if Tahngarth is tapped, you may have that opponent gain control of Tahngarth until end of combat. If you do, choose a player or planeswalker that opponent is attacking. Tahngarth is attacking that player or planeswalker.

Right away there are some pretty strong directions to build around here. The fact that Tahngarth can't be blocked by more than one creature, and that he can attack any time a player attacks? Keep that in mind. But remember that you have to attack with Tahngarth, or otherwise cause him to be tapped, in order for that triggered ability to work. Whatever you do, don't give him Vigilance.

Tahngarth's Flavor

The minotaur Tahngarth was one of the first members of Sisay's Weatherlight crew and her dutiful, if impulsive, First Mate. I talked about his story quite a bit in Commander 2019 Flavor Gems: The Weatherlight Saga, so I'm not going to go into too much detail here. He was kidnapped by Greven il-Vec and mutated on Rath, so he looks a bit different between his early appearances and the rest of the Weatherlight Saga. Let's talk about his most flavorful cards:

  • Seething Anger is a great boost for Tahngarth that few people would suspect. The buyback ability means you can reuse this over and over, or multiple times in a turn, to push through more damage.
  • Overrun's original printing has a Tahngarth quote that's very appropriate. If you're looking at a build with more creatures than this one, it's definitely worth looking into.
  • Smash's original printing prominently features a post-mutation Tahngarth. It's a great flavor include to kill artifacts that might hamper your ability to use Tahngarth effectively.
  • Onslaught will allow you to tap down the few threats on the board when you're attacking. It's a low-cost card that will help you keep your opponent's big threats from blocking.
  • Maniacal Rage's Invasion printing will bring Tahngarth up to that much-desirable 7 power, and considering that Tahngarth can attack on each opponent's turn (with the right conditions), you might find Tahngarth killing opponents from Commander damage on other player's turns. As for the 'Can't Block' rider... who cares? You shouldn't be blocking with Tahngarth.
  • Flaming Sword makes for an unusual combat trick. Pushing Tahngarth from a 5/5 to a 6/5 after blockers have been declared on someone else's turn? Not something most people would expect.
  • Ferocity makes Tahngarth stronger as he's blocked, and before combat damage. If you're playing a full table, this adds up fast. And the counters go on Tahngarth, so if you lose the enchantment, no big deal.
  • Brawl is a pretty janky card, but it can be a handy surprise when someone wasn't expecting Tahngarth to factor into their attacking decisions.
  • Tahngarth's Rage is a nice low-cost boost for Tahngarth, although be careful about that math. If you're attacking like you should, it shouldn't matter much.
  • Tahngarth's Glare, because why not? Maybe you can mess with your opponent's strategy a bit.
  • Hand to Hand is great if you don't want other people using combat tricks.
  • Tahngarth, Talruum Hero is a fine addition as a blocker while your Commander is constantly tapped, and for some chump blocker removal.
  • Seismic Assault is handy for those late game land draws to reduce the number of chump blockers.
  • Furnace of Rath instantly doubles Tahngarth's damage output, if you can survive the attack.
  • You could Zap or Strafe, I guess, but I don't know why.

Voltron Build

With the main flavor out of the way, let's look at some other good cards for a Tahngarth Voltron build. Unfortunately attack triggers don't work with Tahngarth's attacks on other turns, so effects that look like they would be awesome (like Tahngarth and Mage Slayer) aren't quite as strong as you might like.

  • Obsidian Battle-Axe gives haste, bumps you to the 7 damage sweet spot, and equips for free if you cast it before Tahngarth.
  • Assault Suit gives you some additional options, but most importantly prevents Tahngarth from being sacrificed.
  • Undying Rage is a [Maniacal Rage] that doesn't die with Tahngarth.
  • Rancor Trample and re-use is always helpful
  • Swiftfoot Boots and Lightning Greaves protect your boy.
  • Loxodon Warhammer to make sure that damage gets through. Gaining life whenever OTHER people attack is pretty great, too.
  • Blackblade Reforged is just a great piece of equipment.
  • Sword of Vengeance is a great keyword soup.
  • Hero's Blade when Tahngarth inevitably dies, it's great to bring him back and get him equipped immediately. Ditto for Obsidian Battle-Axe
  • Hammer of Nazahn is a must for any equipment-based Voltron build. Also it's just nice to get Indestructible on this boy.
  • Champion's Helm is hexproof with a low equip cost, great for protecting this cowboy.
  • Bloodforged Battle-Axe triggers on combat damage, meaning you could have multiple new axes to equip every turn, giving you some serious scale.
  • Helm of the Host gives you more Tahngarths. Why wouldn't you want that?
  • Sword of the Animist doesn't trigger on other player's turns with Tahngarth, but if you're going to be attacking every turn anyway it's some great ramp.
  • Umezawa's Jitte gets counters based on combat damage (of which you'll be doing a lot) and gives you a range of options.

The various Swords, which I'm not going to list here, trigger on combat damage. Play them if you got them, you're going to get ridiculous value out of them. I'm not including them in this deck, because it gets a little silly after a while, but I am including the ones I think mix both their combined utility and reasonable price.

Also, if you can make Tahngarth unblockable, that always helps too.

Forcing Combat

One of the key's to Tahngarth's success over other Voltron Commanders is forcing the attacks of other players. Make sure to include plenty of cards that make sure at least one of your opponent's creatures will attack each turn! In some cases, just encouraging them to attack is enough.

The Decklist

Like Sisay, this is not an optimized decklist, nor is it meant to be. It's meant to be a starting place for your own deck, with the flavor already baked in.

Updating Sisay

Oh, and speaking of Sisay, I think between Gerrard and Tahngarth, it was worth taking a second look at her deck. I've changed the mana base significantly, moving away from the fetch/dual heavy land base to a more flavorful one, full of Titus Lunter's Weatherlight lands from Dominaria and other flavorful additions.

Sisay, Weatherlight Captain | Commander | Jay Annelli

Thanks for reading! Next time I'll be back with Greven, Predator Captain and the flavor of Phyrexia!