Two Watermills and an Open Sluice by Jacob Van Ruisdael (1653). Resplendent Griffin by Sam Rowan.
Last week, I wrote about a deck that had gone through two iterations and was probably headed for a third, but I didn't include a single decklist. While I felt a little bad about that, I didn't consider any of those builds worthy of parading out with the recommendation that anyone follow in my footsteps and buy either one.
Today is a new day and this week I've got a wonderful build to share with you.
This deck is simple and straightforward, but building it was something of a puzzle. It's an experiment in building around an obscure old legendary creature with huge potential but also significant challenges.
Meet Multani, Maro-Sorcerer
The first thing to note is that Multani has a power and toughness equal to the cards in all players' hands. In a multiplayer game like Commander that means that at many tables, when he hits the battlefield, he will represent a potentially lethal threat.
The second thing to note about Multani is that he cannot be the target of spells or abilities. That isn't just hexproof, it's full blown shroud. You can't attach equipment. You can't cast auras and put them on him. Everything you do to affect your commander is going to have to get around that restriction.
I like building unexpected, convoluted or otherwise out-of-the-ordinary decks. That often means that my decks aren't as strong as more traditional builds but every now and then I stumble upon a challenge that is not only fun to take on but incredibly rewarding and surprisingly powerful.
This is going to be a voltron deck. It will usually win via commander damage, though it should also have ways to present a threat even without Multani on the field. It should also be capable of some fantastic card draw if things go right.
Ramping into Multani
Multani is Mono-Green and costs to cast. We want him to hit the battlefield as early as possible unless we have a reason to delay his entrance. That means we're going to try to ramp into a turn four or turn five Multani if possible. Running fast mana rocks could make him show up even earlier, but my build currently isn't running Mana Crypt, Mana Vault or anything that expensive or fancy.
We're definitely going to run a few low-cost mana dorks and some staple instant and sorcery ramp spells, but we also want some ramp options that won't deplete our hand. Both Myriad Landscape and Blighted Woodland are serviceable lands but can also ramp us without costing us a card from our hand. The holy grail of ramp for Multani is Traverse the Outlands. If we can get Multani on the field and cast Traverse, we'll probably be dropping all or at least over half of the forests in our deck onto the table.
Card draw is one of the most important things in deck-building and one of the ones I used to neglect the most. This build gives us lots of reasons to focus on card draw, both for us and for everyone else at the table.
Since we want everyone's hand to be brimming with cards, Howling Mine and Font of Mythos are auto-includes. While draw can give our opponents answers to the challenge we'll be presenting them with, it's a small price to pay to make Multani more of a threat. Mikokoro, Center of the Sea will do double duty as a mana source and as a way to force everyone to draw.
We also want to draw cards just for ourselves, so we'll be running staples like Harmonize and Shamanic Revelation. The big payoff will come when we have Multani on the field and land Rishkar's Expertise or Life's Legacy. The latter will send Multani back to the command zone, but we should be drawing a nice little chunk of our deck.
All this card draw is just going to get flushed into the graveyard if we don't do something to give us an unlimited hand size. Spellbook, Thought Vessel, and Reliquary Tower will all do that for us. I may also run Praetor's Counsel to give us both recursion and no maximum hand size for the rest of the game.
Normally I wouldn't go into so much detail on one topic, but forcing card draw is going to be very important. If we can sit at a four player table, kill one opponent and still have a commander with over 21 power and toughness, we're going to be in a great position.
It again goes without saying that we are helping our opponents find answers. The fact that they can't target Multani is going to go a long way toward compensating for that, but there will certainly be times where we just hand an opponent the game.
Getting Damage Through
We win by swinging with Multani. He doesn't have trample and we can't target him or equip him with anything. In trying to build this deck, I constantly found myself getting excited about cards that wouldn't do me any good. Kessig Wolf Run? It targets. Rancor? Auras may not say "target" on them, but they also target. Soul's Majesty was in the deck for a few weeks without being drawn in a game before I realized that it too relies upon targeting a creature.
We need anthem effects but only ones that give trample. We don't want to have our big threat get blocked by a squirrel. Any way we can force all of an opponent's creatures to block a single creature are also really good so let's start with those. They are traditionally called "Lure" effects, as they duplicate the effect of the Green aura enchantment of the same name.
Roar of Challenge will turn any one of our creatures, even the most lowly mana dork, into a magnet for all of our opponents' blockers. Noble Quarry can be cast as an aura for its bestow cost or can just be played as a creature and like Prized Unicorn, should let Multani get through unblocked. Noble Quarry, if cast on a creature, will fall off the creature when it dies, so you should get two turns in a row with a free shot with your commander. Playing Multani with a mana dork or utility creature on the field and being able to kill an opponent even without having trample available is a great way to eliminate your biggest threat.
Normally, I prefer to use permanents that can be used more than once, but when we swing with Multani and cast these spells we should be killing one of our opponents. These are our most basic trample enablers. Saving Overwhelming Stampede for our last or second-to-last victim might be wise, as we probably won't need to bother doubling Multani's power when we swing early in the game.
The trample-enabling permanents we'll be running are primarily going to be creatures, which should work well to help present a strong board with blockers. Creatures that don't have to attack to give their benefit are the most valuable. Bellowing Tanglewurm will be useless against some opponents but absolutely invaluable against others, giving Multani Intimidate. A free shot with our commander will often be enough to kill someone. Stonehoof Chieftain is expensive but will give Multani both trample and indestructible. Pathbreaker Wurm might seem like a bad choice, but the soulbond ability doesn't actually target, so it can give Multani trample and it doesn't even have to attack.
Some of the trample enablers we'll be running will have to attack. They may not be as good but can still go a long way toward helping us get damage through. Stampeding Elk Herd just has to attack and if we have creatures with power 8 or greater, creatures I control gain rample. Siege Behemoth is even better, letting us just push damage through as if Multani wasn't blocked. Pathbreaker Ibex is probably our best option, giving the entire team trample and +X/+X where X is the greatest power among creatures we control. With a big enough board that could be enough to kill a whole table.
Tribal Forcemage is a morph creature. When turned face up he will give creatures of the type of our choice trample and +2/+2 until end of turn. Brawn and Dragon Fangs can both help but they both need to go to the graveyard. Brawn simply needs to be in the yard to give our creatures trample. Dragon Fangs is an aura that can't be cast onto Multani normally, but when a creature with a converted mana cost of 6 or greater enters the battlefield it can be returned to the field attached to that creature. Because it's coming out of the graveyard, it doesn't target and can be attached to Multani to give him trample.
The Plan of Attack
If things go well, we should be able to get Multani out on turn four or five. The goal is to be able to swing with trample on turn five or six. That should mean one kill before we're even into the mid-game and if we run fast mana it can happen even earlier.
Our first victim should be the combo player or the player most likely to be able to stop us from swinging at someone if we were to let them live. That means we should consider killing any Blue player with six mana or more available, as they'll probably be in range of a Cyclonic Rift. Any player that we know runs boardwipes and looks a little too confident is also worth consideration. Any player with so big a board that we may not be able to deal with them on our own is also worth a look.
One thing to keep in mind is that you can play politics with a threat as big and lethal as Multani. You can tell a player that you've got lethal on anyone you want and that if they don't swing at someone else on their next turn, you'll kill them first. Playing politics like this is risky because you may not want to be a bully. You also don't want to pick a player who will refuse to negotiate with you, because at that point you're locked in. You can't make a threat like that and not follow through if they refuse. Hopefully they'll be able to be convinced that you have a reason to go after them and that you'll be doing them a favor by not killing them first.
Your first kill probably won't require any extra pump, as you'll hopefully have a table full of players with 6 or 7 cards in their hands. At a 5 player table, Multani should be around 30 power, and at a 4-player table he'll be weaker but probably still lethal. You may want to get that first kill as a one-shot using Lure effects or some other way to make sure you don't even have to think about blockers. If you're stuck having to deal with trampling over blockers, pick someone you can still get lethal on.
After a player has been removed from the game, if they were your biggest threat you still have to worry about the reaction your opponents when they realize what they're faced with.
They might not be in full panic mode yet, but here is where you want to pull out a few tricks. If you don't have a natural one-shot kill with Multani, either because of the number of cards in hand or the number of blockers you're faced with, you'll need some tricks. An Overwhelming Stampede or Pathbreaker Ibex will double his power and might let you swing on multiple opponents if you've got enough creatures out. If neither of those are available, Triumph of the Hordes is another option that should let you get that second or third kill out of the way.
When you're down to your last opponent, your commander might be a lowly 10/10. If you've got a Reliquary Tower out and were able to draw cards equal to Multani's power earlier in the game, you might still have a gigantic threat, but it'll be more likely that you can no longer swing for lethal in one attack. This is where your earlier choices will pay off.
In most games someone will be mana-screwed or will just have bad luck with their draws and not have much of anything going on. If you've left a combo player for last or someone with a huge board, you may have a hard time getting enough damage through to finish off the game. Leave the low-hanging fruit for last. Someone having a rough early game is less likely to be a problem when there are only two of you left alive.
The Fun Stuff
Every deck should have some fun stuff. By that I mean cards that might not be exactly on theme but will be fun, effective, situational or just janky and that make the deck your own. My build might be better without them, but the deck wouldn't be mine if I didn't run these cards.
With a commander that can hit the table with upwards of 30 power right from the get-go, Mosswort Bridge should always be easy to crack. Fungal Sprouting will always look good in the early game. For four mana we can get an army of 1/1s that will pair up nicely with a Pathbreaker Ibex or Overwhelming Stampede.
Sage of Ancient Lore will seem only moderately impressive, but if we can convince the player to our right to not cast spells on their turn, it will turn into Werewolf of Ancient Hunger, a creature with vigilance, trample and the same power and toughness boost as Multani gets. Offering to let that player pick who we swing at might be a nice way to bring politics into the game. If they refuse to play ball, we can always kill them and then see if the new "player to our right" is more interested in cooperating.
If we're playing aggressively, it will be nice to have ways to weather some attacks, especially if our opponents decide they need to gang up on us. Constant Mists can go a long way toward helping with that as we can buy it back for the cost of a land. Spore Frog can act as a deterrent, though some players will just swing into it so that they can get it off the board as soon as possible. Hall of Gemstone isn't a Fog but it will stop some multicolored decks dead in their tracks. Hall forces you to pick a color for the turn and each of your mana-producing lands will produce that color instead of its normal color(s). If you can get it out early you can stop all kinds of powerful decks from playing their commander until they draw into removal.
I dislike playing decks that have a weakness to flyers, so when possible I will put in a few cards that can act as blockers. Deadly Recluse and Thornweald Archer both have reach and deathtouch, and that can sometimes get a player to swing on another opponent even when they know you're sitting there with the potential for a lethal swing on anyone you like when your turn comes around. Traproot Kami is a quirky little 1-drop that can block flyers and has a toughness equal to the number of forests in play. If you have flying threats that you absolutely, positively have to remove, Silklash Spider will let you pour mana into a wrath that only affects flyers. It will get around hexproof, which is great, but it won't help with indestructible creatures.
There are lots of cards I've got in my build that I haven't mentioned but this last special card is worth an explanation. We are doubling down on trample in this deck. Bow of Nylea will give our attacking creatures deathtouch.
The way deathtouch interacts with trample is wonderful. All we'll need to do is assign one damage to each blocker and all the rest of the damage will go right through to our opponent. If we swing with a 30/30 Multani with trample and deathtouch and our opponent has 9 creatures with a total combined toughness of 30, they can block with everything and barring any shenanigans, they'll be taking 21 commander damage once the blockers have all been killed.
Deathtouch trample is a wonderful thing, but it's time to get to the decklist.
My Multani Build
The deck I'm going to share isn't necessarily the greatest or fastest build you could possibly make, but it's one I'm actually playing and that I expect to play for quite some time. This is also a snapshot in time. All my decks change as I play and rework them, so this isn't a "final list" by any stretch of the imagination.
Look at it as a starting point.
Walk Softly -- Commander | Stephen Johnson
- Creatures (27)
- 1 Bellowing Tanglewurm
- 1 Boreal Druid
- 1 Brawn
- 1 Caustic Caterpillar
- 1 Deadly Recluse
- 1 Elvish Mystic
- 1 Golden Hind
- 1 Karametra's Acolyte
- 1 Leaf Gilder
- 1 Noble Quarry
- 1 Nylea, God of the hUnt
- 1 Pathbreaker Ibex
- 1 Pathbreaker Wurm
- 1 Roughshod Mentor
- 1 Sage of Ancient Lore
- 1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
- 1 Siege Behemoth
- 1 Silklash Spider
- 1 Spore Frog
- 1 Stampeding Elk Herd
- 1 Stonehoof Chieftain
- 1 Sylvan Ranger
- 1 Temur Sabertooth
- 1 Thornweald Archer
- 1 Thunderfoot Baloth
- 1 Traproot Kami
- 1 Tribal Forcemage
- Instants (8)
- 1 Constant Mists
- 1 Harrow
- 1 Krosan Grip
- 1 Naturalize
- 1 Nature's Claim
- 1 Relic Crush
- 1 Seedtime
- 1 Wrap in Vigor
- Sorceries (17)
- 1 Cultivate
- 1 Fungal Sprouting
- 1 Harmonize
- 1 Kodama's Reach
- 1 Life's Legacy
- 1 Overcome
- 1 Overrun
- 1 Overwhelming Stampede
- 1 Primal Command
- 1 Rampant Growth
- 1 Revive
- 1 Rishkar's Expertise
- 1 Roar of Challenge
- 1 Search for Tomorrow
- 1 Shamanic Revelation
- 1 Traverse the Outlands
- 1 Triumph of the Hordes
- Artifacts (7)
- 1 Bow of Nylea
- 1 Font of Mythos
- 1 Howling Mine
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Spellbook
- 1 Temple Bell
- 1 Thought Vessel
Make it your own.
Tweak it, twist it, speed it up, jank it down, or just find a way to put your own mark on it.
Sensible additions might include Praetor's Counsel, Emerald Medallion, Sylvan Library, and Garruk, Primal Hunter. Mana Crypt and Mana Vault, Chrome Mox, or even Mox Diamond would certainly speed things up in the early game. Do what's right for you, for your budget and for your meta. I may well add some of those to my list in the coming weeks and months.
You'll probably be the only one in your group playing Multani. You'll get people reaching over to look at the card and with any luck you might even get an "oh crap" from one or two of them. Enjoy that, because not all commanders can get you that kind of a reaction before the game has even started. Take note of opponents that don't seem to recognize or respect what you're bringing to the game. They'll either be in for a surprise or have it all figured out and are worth trying to kill earlier in the game.
So far, this deck has been a lot of fun to play. I've been able to reliably eliminate at least one or two opponents nearly every game. If I've planned well and thought ahead, I have found myself able to make sure the last ones left are unable to deal with a now-diminished Multani. This commander is very much a case of diminishing returns. Out of the gate, he's going to be huge but when there are only two of you left you may really have to work to finish off the game.
The title of this deck is no accident.
Don't make a big deal about Multani.
Let folks read him.
See if they can put two and two together and figure out what you're up to.
See if they realize that none of their targeted removal is going to do any good against Multani's shroud ability.
See if they realize how ridiculously big a stick you're bringing into the fight.
If you'd like to keep up with how I'm doing in my casual and Commander League games, feel free to visit http://dantesdad.wixsite.com/commanderruminations. This month I'm playing Red goodstuff, led by Ashling the Pilgrim. I share my league and casual games on that site. So far I'm 1-0-1 in league play for March with a convincing win and a draw.
Thanks for reading and I'll see you next Monday!