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It's Raining Lands


As I do these series of four articles with an underlying theme, I normally increase the budget as I go along. Because I've decided to blow the budget on this particular series, that means I'm allowing myself to put in whatever cards I want.

I also shape the series before I ever start brewing or writing. Most of the time, I have a sense of what the four articles/Commanders will be as I go in, with a basic idea of what I'm going to do with them. I allow for flexibility here, as sometimes a new idea will strike or whatever, but most of the time I'm pretty well planned out. That means I knew I was going to do a Lands-Matter deck based around Gretchen Titchwillow for my second deck.

Gretchen Titchwillow

I thought it would be fun and cute. Uncommon Commander without a ton of power - or so I thought. Turns out when you can draw cards and play lands at Instant speed, you can build a pretty powerful, consistent deck. Let's do this differently than normal, though. We're going to look at the list first, then we'll talk through the various parts.

Gretchen Titchwillow | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

The first thing to notice is we're running 50 lands. That's a lot, even for me, the guy who always puts 40 lands in my decks. But one of the keys of Gretchen is those land drops, and we're going to make really good use of them, so we want to draw a lot of lands. I actually started with 60, and I'm not convinced that's not right, but there were too many good nonland cards to put in!

There are a few things we're looking for out of our lands. The first is fixing, of course, so we've got a good number of lands which tap for both of our colors. The second is tapping for extra mana: Simic Growth Chamber, Temple of the False God, and Guildless Commons all tap for more than one mana. We also like to return lands to our hand (the Commons and the Growth Chamber both do this too) to hit our Landfall triggers, and putting lands into the Graveyard since we can get more drops that way and play them out of the 'yard later.

Reliquary Tower is specifically helpful, since we're likely to wind up with a bunch of extra cards at some point, and Lumbering Falls is actually a bit of a win-con for us; at the very least, it may help. Watch for other abilities, like Boseiju, Who Endures, since we can always get the land back from the Graveyard. And Alchemist's Refuge is surprisingly useful when we have a ton of mana and draw into something we want out right now on someone else's turn.

We're not going to ramp in the standard ways. No mana rocks or land search here! We don't have enough Basic Lands to justify running Cultivate and the like, and why run rocks when we can just play more lands? We are running a few Enchantments to squeeze some more mana out of our lands; Overgrowth, Fertile Ground, and Wild Growth specifically. These can be surprisingly helpful in different situations, but not at all necessary.

We're also going to come up with other ways to play lands out. Ancient Greenwarden and Ramunap Excavator both let us recover our lands from the 'yard (make sure you play that as your regular land drop, since Gretchen insists the lands come from our hand), and Splendid Reclamation will bring them all back at once. Exploration lets us play an extra land every turn, as does Wayward Swordtooth and Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait, plus Druid Class does too at level three, and Llanowar Scout dumps one for us. Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy and Zendikar Resurgent both double the mana output of our lands, and Nyxbloom Ancient triples it; even if we just get a turn or two with it out, it's worth it. Wilderness Reclamation is one of the best things we've got. Giving us another round with all our mana to draw a bunch of cards is fantastic. If someone Wraths the board, we've got all our mana and can activate Gretchen several times in response.

So, what to do with all this land? Well, Landfall seemed pretty obvious. Zendikar's Roil, Tireless Provisioner, and Retreat from Kazandu and Retreat to Coralhelm all do great things. We've also got some pseudo-Landfall, like Tatyova, Benthic Druid and Tireless Tracker. And of course, there's Scute Swarm, which can get out of hand rather quickly (try Flashing that in with Alchemist's Refuge, then dropping about six lands, then untapping for your turn. People will notice). Avenger of Zendikar and Rampaging Baloths seems great when we've got a bunch of lands hitting the 'field all the time. Maybe Flash in one of those, then play Reshape the Earth and get 10 lands? Should be fun.

We're also going to be able to pick up our lands and replay them; Vapor Snare and Trench Behemoth both pick up our lands and give us useful abilities.

There are other ways to play extra lands and draw some cards, but mostly we're going to focus on leveraging Gretchen's ability. We've also got a couple ways to reduce the cost of her ability, Training Grounds and Biomancer's Familiar, which let us draw even more cards at a cheaper cost. What we really need to talk about is how to win the game.

We have a couple of ways. The first is just overwhelming people with Plant tokens via Avenger or Beast tokens from Rampaging Baloths. It's worth noting we're not running any Eternal Witness-type effects, so it's probably better to only play out one of these big threats at a time, so if they get removed we have more options later. Sylvan Awakening is another thought in this vein; it's very likely we can cast the Awakening with a single land (think Temple of the False God with Wild Growth), and every other land can come thundering in. This could be especially useful after someone else Wraths the board for us.

Second is going big on one creature, like Beanstalk Giant // Fertile Footsteps or the other side of Boseiju Reaches Skyward // Branch of Boseiju. We can even suit it (or a random token) up with Blackblade Reforged for double the fun. We can even put the sword on our Lumbering Falls.

Finally, we've got a couple of tricky ways. Because we can make so much mana, we can use that to put a bunch of counters on something and win with Simic Ascendancy. We can just dump 60 mana into it and win, or we can play tricks with things like Retreat to Kazandu and our extra land drops, or even something like one extra land drop and Avenger of Zendikar, since each land puts a counter on each of the Plant tokens, so with 10 lands already out (10 Plants) and two land drops, we put 20 counters and win on our upkeep.

And we have Triskaidekaphile, which is a hilarious way to win. This is where Alchemist's Refuge comes in, because what we want to do is draw ourself up to 13 on our opponent's turn right before ours, then Flash in Triskaidekaphile at the last minute and win after our Untap step. Whoops! Probably worth keeping Deprive or Plasm Capture up for trying to pull that off.

We have very little by way of interaction; we're going to try to brute force our way into a win. However, this deck has a lot of toys in it, and it's quite possible to cut some of them and only leave a few key pieces and replaces many of them with interaction or more lands. One thing I wouldn't do is cut any lands; you want to hit your lands drops all the time, most often multiple per turn.

A couple more things. Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar and Molimo, Maro-Sorcerer are both big, tramply, and care about how many lands we have, so both could be good additions, especially if you're finding closing the game is difficult. Cultivator Colossus is similar and might let us get some extra lands out. Burgeoning could be good; it's best when it's in your opening hand, which is why I chose Exploration over it, but by all means. Seedborn Muse is also super-strong and would be excellent, but I've found it draws hate; nothing will pull a Wrath out of someone's hand like Seedborn Muse. The final thing is this deck will be quite vulnerable in the early game. This shouldn't be a problem in a casual game, when the first few turns are dedicated to setting up, but if your playgroup is a little more aggressive, consider Constant Mists. We can afford to sacrifice the lands, plus we can always get them back!

This deck needs attention in play. You can have multiple triggers going off at the same time, and the order you play things can be very important. You will also need a large supply of tokens. Make sure to watch those triggers and lines of play!

What would you play in Gretchen Titchwillow? I'd love to hear your ideas. Or would you rather play Zimone, Quandrix Prodigy? Not sure which one is better!

Thanks for reading.

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