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26 Decks in a Year, Episode 19 — Naya

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My editor and I were talking about what to do for Naya. He suggested “Beast tribal,” and I said I didn’t want to have the column just be a bunch of tribal decks.

He then pointed out we haven’t done a single one.

Duh.

Gahiji, Honored One

Here are a couple of things just to get us started. First off, when I build tribal, I build tribal. There is no “theme.” It’s an all-out commitment to the tribe, which means running cards because of their names and not running cards that would be awesome because they’re off theme. The one place I give a pass is lands—it’s no fun to not play Magic—but otherwise, I figure, if we’re gonna do it, let’s do it right.

Beasts don’t build things, they break them. No artifacts in this one.

Also, it didn’t seem right to build a Beast deck without the beastmaster himself.

Garruk Wildspeaker
Garruk, Caller of Beasts
Garruk, Primal Hunter

Luckily for us, none of these cards sees a ton of tournament play, so the prices have stayed low enough we can run all three and still keep within our $75 budget.

Mana on this one is actually pretty easy. We’re effectively a green deck with a red and white splash. We have a few ramp spells—all of them let us fetch two lands (except for Farseek, which finds us a splash color), a few lands that fetch for basics (always grab a Plains or a Mountain), and a few duals to help the splash along, but mostly, we’re just basic Forests for days. The ramp isn’t serious—it’s mostly there for fixing—but an opening hand with Cultivate is almost certainly worth keeping, no matter what else. Also, has there ever been a better place for Contested Cliffs and Skarrg, the Rage Pits?

Abzan Beastmaster
To keep the cards flowing, we have a few ways, mostly tied to our creatures. Cards like Harmonize don’t fit theme, so instead, we run Triumph of Ferocity, Abzan Beastmaster, and Drumhunter. Garruk, Primal Hunter can refill our hand completely, and his buddies Garruk's Packleader and Garruk's Horde both gain us some extra cards. Wirewood Savage, too, gives us extra each time almost all of our creatures enter the battlefield. We can also generate some card advantage with stuff like Soul of Zendikar and Spawning Grounds, which is both hilarious and a serious threat if no one has an immediate answer.

This deck has its fun with all its giant creatures. Gahiji, Honored One tells us to attack as much as possible, and he nicely encourages our opponents to attack each other, too. Most of the Beasts are formidable in the red zone, so whenever possible, throw them into combat. Paleoloth and Cliffrunner Behemoth are big, Rakeclaw Gargantuan can give a bunch of things first strike (remember its ability can be activated after Gahiji’s trigger has resolved, so our 3/3 Beast tokens can be granted Rakeclaw’s ability), and Terra Ravager will make the Sliver Queen player with the $500 mana base very, very sad. Once Thunderfoot Baloth or Siege Behemoth is out, there’s little reason not to attack every turn—there’s a very good chance the person we’re attacking will just die. Baloth Woodcrasher is super-cool when we play Terramorphic Expanse, crack it, play Kodama's Reach, and attack for 16.

Answers are harder, but the newish fight mechanic helps us quite a bit. Hunt the Weak and Prey Upon are fine, but Gruul Ragebeast solves a lot of creature-based problems because so many of our creatures are so big. Where Ancients Tread is more to kill opponents, but it can take out a troublesome creature in a pinch. The aforementioned Skarrg, the Rage Pits adds to the fighting. Beast Within can take care of any difficult permanent, but we only have one, so use it very carefully. Oxidda Scrapmelter and Batterhorn each smashes an artifact, Molder Slug kills them every upkeep (take that, Daretti, Scrap Savant!), and Indrik Stomphowler hits enchantments, too. Mold Shambler can even kill an opposing Planeswalker, though it’s better just to attack those to death.

Beastmaster Ascension
We do get to play with some killer interactions in this deck, too. Beastmaster Ascension is hilarious and terrifying for our opponents. Krosan Warchief makes a bunch of things cheaper, Nessian Game Warden does some digging, and Mwonvuli Beast Tracker will go find us pretty much whatever we need—such as, say, Siege Behemoth. Rampaging Baloths can get out of hand pretty quickly, and if someone Wraths the board, we have Fresh Meat ready to respond. Totem Speaker gains life like crazy, Steely Resolve protects most of our creatures, and while Aether Charge and Where Ancients Tread throw damage around when we play our guys, Primeval Bounty is gaining us value just for doing anything on our turn. Beast Attack can surprise the heck out of an attacker. Roar of the Crowd is a bit situational, but sometimes, one of our opponents just dies to it. Tribal Forcemage turns an alpha strike into a slaughter, while Elvish Soultiller can refill our library with a bunch of dead Beasts, ready to be drawn and cast again.

Meglonoth tends to keep people from attacking too much—bestow it with Spirespine for extra hilarity. The other Shards of Alara–block 5-power-matters cards are great, too—Spearbreaker Behemoth making things indestructible and Spellbreaker Behemoth making them uncounterable. Ghor-Clan Rampager is best used as an unstoppable combat trick. Fangren Firstborn and Fangren Pathcutter both end games really quickly.

Titanic Ultimatum warrants its own paragraph, mostly because it’s among the coolest cards in the game. rrgggww for the biggest Overrun available seems like a perfectly reasonable price, especially because if we time it right, we can simply kill everyone else in a single attack phase. Normally, theme decks in this column have one card that breaks theme. This deck doesn’t because it has Titanic Ultimatum.

Gahiji, Honored One ? Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

Godsire
If going $2 over budget doesn’t seem too bad, Jungle Shrine for a Forest is the first change. After that, with some extra cash, there are a bunch of things worth considering. Godsire is missing, and it would be both fun and extremely flavorful. I decided to run the three Garruks instead, both for consistency and because there are more creature-kill spells than Planeswalker-kill spells, but the crazy token-maker would be pretty cool. Lurking Predators would also be amazing here. Thragtusk is good, but it wasn’t worth the price tag to me—if you want, though, it’s a good card. Kessig Wolf Run would be a marvelous mana sink. Shared Animosity would be just bonkers, too.

One could also go a different direction. By dialing down on the theme, the deck could gain great utility cards such as Weathered Wayfarer and spells like Wrath of God or Insurrection, all of which are excellent in Commander. Even more Overrun effects—like Overrun itself—would be good, though at that point, it almost just wants to be a token deck, and this deck as it is won’t deploy enough threats to reliably make Overrun worth it. It also would do well with some artifacts—frankly, Burnished Hart would be amazing in here, but even Darksteel Ingot would be good, and Adaptive Automaton is great in every tribal deck.

With this deck, we want to be in the red zone—keeping pressure up is important—but slow-rolling is probably the best way to be. Deploy a threat, and do some attacking. Maybe make a couple more threats and start poking people with some serious damage. But have a few extra cards in hand for when that Day of Judgment hits and we need to start over. Effectively, we want to force our opponents to play fair Magic—attack with creatures, and win on the battlefield. Keep hands with ramp spells, and when an insane play comes along, go for it. As soon as the mana is there, play that Titanic Ultimatum and swing for the fences. The worst thing that happens is someone has a random Fog effect and gets a sweet story about how he or she Fogged your Titanic Ultimatum. Best case is you got to cast Titanic Ultimatum and destroy an entire table with an absurd army of Beasts.

Sabertooth Nishoba
Canopy Crawler seemed too situational for the deck—if there are no cards in hand, it’s just an expensive 2/2. Zhur-Taa Ancient almost stayed in just for the awesome name, but frankly, we don’t need the mana, and it could really help an opponent. Sabertooth Nishoba is worth considering, especially if your meta is filled with annoying blue players who like to do annoying blue things—same with Spinal Villain. Keeper of the Beasts was in till nearly the end, but making 2/2s on a small body didn’t seem worth it. Pulse of the Tangle was the very last cut; it really might be better than a few of the other cards in the deck, so don’t feel bad if you decide to go ahead and run it.

What did I miss? Does the deck suffer too much by being a slave to the tribe? Should I just suck it up and run Mirror Entity? Please let me know! Also, I’m looking for an idea for a Bant commander, so suggestions are welcome.

Some decks are really designed to tell a story more than anything else. This deck does exactly that—and the moral of the story is everyone is prey.

Total cost: $74.56


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