The Wreck by Frederic Edwin Church (1852).
Darigaaz, the Igniter by Mark Zug.
I like to joke that every commander has a "party trick" or two that they like to do, like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Today's commander is no exception, but instead of pulling a rabbit out of his hat, Goro-Goro, Disciple of Ryusei will pull a 5/5 Dragon Spirit out of his hat.
The first thing to know is that Goro-Goro can give your creatures haste for a Red mana. That's pretty sweet, but for five I can pull the aforementioned rabbit out of his hat. Before you get too excited, Goro-Goro can only make a 5/5 Red Dragon Spirit creature token with flying if I'm attacking with a modified creature, so it has to happen in combat.
Goro-Goro is notably one of those delightful legendary creatures that gives you an infinite mana outlet right in the command zone. If you know me at all, you know I'm going to look at how I can make that infinite mana to pour into Goro-Goro to make a zillion Dragons.
Making Mad Mana
Wanna see me pull a rabbit out of my hat? How about a Dragon? How about a million Dragons?
There's only one way to achieve that silliest of silly scenarios with today's commander. Combo.
We will make mad, insane, infinite mana by hitting a combo. That doesn't mean this deck won't be fun if we can't assemble a combo. We're in Red, and we can give haste to our creatures for one mana with Goro-Goro on the field. What's not to love? Still, it's worth nailing down our best-case scenario.
This combo is the kind that I first played in Green, but Alena, Kessig Trapper is a combo piece with Goro-Goro and a number of different artifacts. Staff of Domination, Sword of the Paruns and Umbral Mantle can all untap a mana dork, and if that mana dork taps to create five mana, you can untap and tap again and keep going until you've got as much mana as you like.
Goro-Goro lets you pay five mana you can make a 5/5 Dragon Spirit. That lets Alena tap and make five Red mana. With one of my combo enablers out or attached to Alena, I can now tap her for five mana, pay three or four mana to untap Alena, combo off and pay for a zillion Dragons.
Our remaining options for this neat trick are going to require a mana filter so we can turn colorless mana into Red mana. That's not incredibly hard, and these are artifacts, so we should have ways to recur them.
Rings of Brighthearth can be used to copy the untap activation on Basalt Monolith or Grim Monolith to let you get two taps and net an extra mana so that you can combo off and make infinite mana. Rings can also copy your Goro-Goro's Dragon-making activated ability, so it has plenty of value on its own even if you never see either of your Monoliths.
This last card might only let you combo off when you're already well positioned to push for a win, but I don't care. Commander is a format where you get to do some truly dumb stuff, and the idea of creating a fifth Dragon Spirit and getting at least five mana from Mana Echoes so you can filter it into Red mana and do it again and again and again will be a fun way to combo off. It's unlikely to happen often, and if you're already at that point you won't exactly be winning out of nowhere, but it's still too cute to leave out of this deck.
I'm not going to be hitting a combo in every game, but this deck is going to want to make a lot of mana, it's going to want ways to recur combo pieces, and it's absolutely going to want ways to make sure it has "modified" creatures to attack with so that I can actually use Goro-Goro's cute party trick.
A "modified" creature is a creature with an aura or equipment attached to it, or a counter on it. Auras and Equipment can be removed, but also offer valuable benefits. Counters are more difficult to remove but are generally less helpful. A +1/+1 counter will make a creature "modified" but giving that creature hexproof or evasion will be much more advantageous in the long run.
The choice I make on which type of "modified" creature I want to play with will have a huge impact on this build.
If I were to go with +1/+1 counters, I might end up going with modular creatures and I would probably throw in The Ozolith. I could go with some Act of Treason effects and a few creatures with the devour keyword. It's not a bad plan at all, but a lot of those creatures won't survive combat. Modular creatures tend to be small.
Building around auras might be interesting, but a lot of Red auras give haste and Goro-Goro does not need help in that department, so it just isn't a great color for playing with auras.
Elemental Mastery is an exception, as I can use it on a 5/5 Dragon to make five Elemental creature tokens. With Mana Echoes on the field each of those Elementals will see five Elementals and will give me five mana. With a mana filter on the field, I can make that mana Red, pour it into Goru-Goru and combo off.
The problem with using Elemental Mastery to make a creature "modified" is simple. My creatures don't have vigilance so I won't be able to attack with the creature enchanted with Elemental Mastery and also tap it to make Elementals. All this infinite mana nonsense has to happen in combat, as I have to have an attacking creature when I activate Goru-Goru's ability. That means Elemental Mastery might stay in, but it isn't a solution for my problem of having to attack with a modified creature.
That leaves equipment as our main option. If I want to use Goru-Goru's ability that means I'll have control of him. I might as well load up on equipment that grants evasion and swing with my commander. He won't be much of a commander damage threat, so hopefully folks won't overreact to the prospect of getting dinged for two when he attacks.
Evasion is important, because I expect to have a lot of turns where I want to attack and make a single Dragon, but I'm not ready to combo off. I need Goru-Goru to survive combat and the best way to do that is to be unblockable, but also to hit for a small enough amount of damage that my opponent won't be that concerned. I might kid about putting someone on an 11-turn "clock" but my real goal is just to be able to make those 5/5 Dragons.
Trailblazer's Boots will let me swing freely at anyone with a nonbasic land. Whispersilk Cloak might give shroud, but I don't expect to be targeting Goru-Goru beyond just making sure he's been modified so I can use him as my attacking modified creature.
Sword of Feast and Famine will not only make the equipped creature unblockable by Black and Green creatures, it will let me untap my lands so I can pay to make more Dragons. I'll be able to go to combat, tap lands to make mana, declare my attackers, pay for Goro-Goro's ability to make a Dragon, deal combat damage, untap my lands and in the end of combat step, tap them again to make mana and make another Dragon. I'm tempted to throw in some double-strike equipment like Embercleave and Fireshrieker so I can get an extra untap in, but my gut tells me that's being too optimistic.
Hedging Our Bets
There will be games where I simply don't see any equipment, so I don't want to build this deck with that as my only option for attacking with a modified creature. Backup options are important, even if I'm just trying to maximize my chances of making a single Dragon every now and then.
Creatures with the riot ability enter the battlefield with either a +1/+1 counter or haste. Since I can give my creatures haste with Goro-Goro and I want my attackers to be modified, I'll almost always be choosing the counter option. Burning-Tree Vandal, Clamor Shaman and Ghor-Clan Wrecker all have riot, as does Skarrgan Hellkite, which can also help if I get Mana Echoes out.
The devour ability will allow me to play a creature and then sacrifice one or more creatures to put +1/+1 counters on it. Predator Dragon and Preyseizer Dragon both have devour 2, so each of them could get two +1/+1 counters for each creature I sacrifice. Voracious Dragon is also in the list and has devour 1. I'll only ever need to devour a single creature if my goal is just to have an attacking modified creature and I should always have something I can throw under the bus. I might even have Goro-Goro get devoured, as he's cheap enough at two mana that re-casting him with an extra two mana for the commander tax shouldn't be a big problem. This isn't trying to be a blisteringly fast cEDH deck, so waiting a turn should be fine.
Scourge of the Throne may not have devour, but it does have dethrone. Treasonous Ogre also has dethrone, though most people use it for its ability to pay 3 life to make a Red mana. The dethrone ability will give that creature a +1/+1 counter if it's attacking the player with the highest life total. Scourge is especially good on a turn that I can combo off because I'll be able to make a zillion 5/5 Red Dragon creature tokens and I can get an additional combat phase in which I can give my shiny new Dragons haste with Goro-Goro and swing for the win.
Goro-Goro Dragon Combo
This list is pretty heavy on mana rocks, but that is really the best way to try to make big mana in mono-Red. I'm not exactly looking to ramp with lands like a Green deck, but if I can get my Extraplanar Lens or Caged Sun onto the battlefield I might be able to set up to make two Dragons in a single combat. That would cost 10 mana, but in the late game that could happen if I did nothing else that turn. Two 5/5 Dragons don't win the game on their own, but churning out a Dragon or two every turn should give me a puncher's chance in a fair game if I don't combo off and nobody else gets up to any crazy shenanigans.
Goro-Goro Dragon Combo | Commander | Stephen Johnson
- Commander (1)
- 1 Goro-Goro, Disciple of Ryusei
- Creatures (22)
- 1 Alena, Kessig Trapper
- 1 Burning-Tree Vandal
- 1 Burnished Hart
- 1 Clamor Shaman
- 1 Dockside Extortionist
- 1 Feldon of the Third Path
- 1 Ghor-Clan Wrecker
- 1 Goblin Engineer
- 1 Goblin Welder
- 1 Ornithopter of Paradise
- 1 Pilgrim's Eye
- 1 Predator Dragon
- 1 Preyseizer Dragon
- 1 Prismite
- 1 Scourge of the Throne
- 1 Signpost Scarecrow
- 1 Skarrgan Hellkite
- 1 Skittering Surveyor
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Stonework Packbeast
- 1 Treasonous Ogre
- 1 Voracious Dragon
- Artifacts (27)
- 1 Arcane Signet
- 1 Basalt Monolith
- 1 Caged Sun
- 1 Chromatic Orrery
- 1 Extraplanar Lens
- 1 Fellwar Stone
- 1 Fleetfeather Sandals
- 1 Gemstone Array
- 1 Grim Monolith
- 1 Hot Soup
- 1 Liquimetal Torque
- 1 Mana Crypt
- 1 Mind Stone
- 1 Mycosynth Lattice
- 1 Prowler's Helm
- 1 Rings of Brighthearth
- 1 Ruby Medallion
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Staff of Domination
- 1 Sword of Feast and Famine
- 1 Sword of the Animist
- 1 Sword of the Paruns
- 1 Thought Vessel
- 1 Trailblazer's Boots
- 1 Umbral Mantle
- 1 Whispersilk Cloak
- 1 Zephyr Boots
- Planeswalkers (1)
- 1 Daretti, Scrap Savant
If you wanted to tune this deck down, you would start by dropping Grim Monolith and Mana Crypt. You might replace them with more budget-friendly big mana rocks like Thran Dynamo or even Hedron Archive. I don't run those in my decks, but in more casual circles with lower powered decks and longer games you can get away with less efficient mana rocks. You might even throw in Foriysian Totem and Fire Diamond, but you know your meta and what is "playable" in your LGS or playgroup better than I do.
I'll be the first to admit that I struggled a bit with today's column. I was initially drawn to the combo potential of that infinite mana outlet, but then I had a feeling that I've been churning out a lot of infinite mana combo decks lately. Combo is a lot of fun, but would Goro-Goro, Disciple of Ryusei be more interesting as a Goblins deck with the ability to pop out the occasional 5/5 Dragon? It would be a pretty "hipster" choice for a Goblins deck, that's for sure, and Goblin decks often wish they had flying blockers.
Every build these days finds me asking myself if my clever plan is really all that clever, or if it's worth trying to push a commander up toward a higher or even fringe cEDH level when playing janky casual builds can be every bit as much fun. I think for me, the answer is yes - I love to explore those weird interactions and odd combos even if sometimes it just boils down to making infinite mana and pouring it into an outlet.
My love of Dragons in Commander was what drew me to this commander and it has only grown in recent years. I'm currently working on a Morophon list with recent Dragons like Tiamat and Piru, the Volatile thrown in to see if a focus on double-strike and the old cycle of combat damage trigger Dragons could make for a fun deck.
For next week's column I'm looking forward to finally diving into Dragon death triggers with all 10 of the Dragon Spirits, led by O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami. I've been hoping to get that list together for a few weeks and if they have all been spoiled in time, I'll have that for you next Monday.
That's all I've got for today. Thanks for reading and I'll see you next week.