View of Haarlem with Bleaching Fields by Jacob Van Ruisdael (1665-70).
Pillage by Jesper Ejsing.
After a week away from deck-building, I'm back at it with a much spicier, much more dangerous build that I'm very excited to share with you.
Today's Commander is Marwyn, the Nurturer and today's decklist is an answer to a question I've been wrestling with for years. This deck might be old hat for those of you with experience building Mono-Green elves or high-powered Selvala, Heart of the Wilds Commander decks, but for me this is somewhat new territory.
Before we jump into the build, let's take a look at our Commander.
Marwyn is a 1/1 Elf Druid who costs and has some pretty powerful abilities. Whenever another Elf enters the battlefield under our control she gets a +1/+1 counter, and she can be tapped to add an amount of to our mana pool equal to her power.
There are a number of ways to build Marwyn and they're all going to involve elves. You're also going to want to have big spells or possibly X spells so that if Marwyn gets a lot of counters you can have something to play with all the mana she'll be making.
The question I've been wrestling with for years is how to consistently combo off with Karametra's Acolyte. It might seem like an easy enough thing to do, but, until Marwyn, I hadn't yet pulled it off.
If you can get enough devotion to Green, there are a few artifacts that can let you generate infinite mana with Karametra's Acolyte. If she can tap for four mana and you can pay three mana to untap her, you can do that as many times as you like to make as much mana as you want.
The problem I had with Karametra's Acolyte was that I was building decks that were trying to do lots of other things as well and never really went solely for the combo. It was a nice add-in that I always wanted to make happen but never actually went after it.
With Marwyn, the Nurturer, we've now got half of our combo in the command zone. That means I can now easily build a deck dedicated to the Karametra's Acolyte infinite mana combo. We're in Mono-Green, so our ability to tutor up a piece of equipment is somewhat limited. Even if we can't go to infinity (and beyond), we should still be able to make significant amounts of mana and play a strong game.
Marwyn isn't the first legendary creature capable of tapping to produce huge amounts of mana. I've got a really strong Selvala, Heart of the Wilds player in the Commander League I run. I've been flattened by that deck more than a few times, but I never opened Selvala in a booster. I also want to buy and build around a commander that already had a strong presence in the store's meta. I went for years without building around Marath, Will of the Wild for the very same reason. Originality matters to me.
You probably noticed that I titled this section "The Questions". The first question was how to consistently assemble the combo, and Marwyn is a great answer. The second much more interesting question is what we do with our infinite mana. That is the part that will give the deck its unique character. The type of creature we choose for our infinitely wide board doesn't really matter that much, but I build decks both for functionality and for feel. I want to play and win with cards I love or at least find amusing.
Let's look at some elves.
There are a lot of great elves in Magic: The Gathering. Because we're interested in running ways to untap our creatures, we're definitely going to run elves with worthwhile tap abilities.
Jagged-Scar Archers will help us clear away any flyers our opponents might want to send our way, as long as they can be targeted. Wellwisher will gain us life equal to the number of elves in play. If we need a backup mana engine, Priest of Titania will serve nicely. Gyre Sage is another mana-generating elf that we can throw in, but it will have a harder time getting big enough to become a combo piece.
Seeker of Skybreak, Wirewood Symbiote, and Seedborn Muse will all help us get more value out of everything we have that we want to untap and tap again. Those last two may not be elves, but these are all ways to try to have a strong game plan in case we can't go infinite.
We'll also throw in a whole mess of cheap elvish mana dorks so we have lots of ways to put +1/+1 counters on Marwyn. To help with that we'll supplement our creature list with a few sorceries that can pump out elf tokens.
I'll also run Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury and Lys Alana Huntmaster but I'm not sure I'm running enough token generators to warrant including Parallel Lives, Doubling Season, or Primal Vigor. Rather than adding token doublers I want to make sure I have lots of ways to use infinite mana. Every card we include takes up a slot in our deck, so leaving out token doublers in a deck that's more about elves than about tokens makes sense.
Digging out the Combo
Just to remind you, the first half of our combo is a mana dork that can tap for four or five mana. We've got our commander, Marwyn, along with Priest of Titania, Gyre Sage and Karametra's Acolyte as backup combo pieces. I don't own a Selvala, Heart of the Wilds but if I had a copy I'd probably throw her in for good measure.
These three cards are the the other half of the combo. All we need is one of these and a "big mana" mana dork and we can generate infinite mana. Any one card from each half of the combo with the ability to tap for enough mana and we're there.
We don't have a lot of ways to tutor up equipment or artifacts in Mono-Green but there are a few. Ring of Three Wishes costs five and another five to make one of three possible "wishes" that will let you tutor up a card from your deck. Since your commander is half of your combo and you're running lots of elves, you'll probably just have to tutor up the other half of the combo.
Tamiyo's Journal will create clue tokens and when you have three you can tap it, sacrifice them and tutor for a card. Inventors' Fair just requires you to pay four mana and sacrifice it, but restricts your search to artifacts only. Any of these three cards will let you go get a combo piece.
How You Win
Unsurprisingly, this is the fun part.
Since this deck is devoted to making infinite mana we want to find lots of ways to win. That means that a pretty huge portion of our deck is going need to be able to turn into a win if we have unlimited Green mana.
Green Sun's Zenith with infinite mana becomes a tutor for any Green creature in our deck. Genesis Hydra does the same thing but will give us an infinitely large hydra to attack with. Sadly, it can be blocked by a squirrel, but that's still pretty good. Kamahl's Druidic Vow will put all our lands on the battlefield along with any legendary permanents we still have in our library. These on their own don't win the game, but they are important ways to get to our wincons.
Ezuri, Renegade Leader will pump our creatures and give them trample, and he's legendary so Kamahl's Druidic Vow will get him for us. When playing with infinite mana, that should be game as we will likely have entered the turn with enough elves on the field to send one or more at each of our opponents. We're running equipment that lets us untap creatures, so Imperious Perfect and Presence of Gond will allow us to create an infinitely wide army of elf warriors. If we can make it to our next turn we should be able to win with that.
Joraga Warcaller and Wolfbriar Elemental are both spells with kicker. When they are kicked infinitely they should both put us in a position to win either by making our elves huge or by making a huge number of wolves. If we have either one on the field before we go infinite we'll be running Temur Sabertooth so we can bounce them back to our hand. Since wolves are fun we'll also run Wren's Run Packmaster, which if on the field can be used to create an infinitely wide army of wolves with deathtouch.
Soul of Zendikar is a way to spend eleven mana to create a single 3/3 Green beast. While that might be a pretty terrible return on your investment, it's a wonderful way to take infinite mana and create an infinitely wide beast army that can survive having an Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite on an opponent's battlefield. Waker of the Wilds is a risky way to turn your lands into infinitely large Elemental creatures that you can swing with that turn. They won't have trample, and it doesn't untap them, so it's far from a perfect solution. Wildheart Invoker is a trample enabler and can be used to pump our creatures.
Assault Formation is an enchantment that lets your creatures assign their power based on their toughness, but more importantly can be used to pump your creatures toughness until end of turn. These may not seem that scary sitting on your battlefield if your opponents don't understand how your deck is going to try to win. Once they know what you're trying to do, they'll have to run through a lot of removal to keep you free of any of your infinite mana outlets.
If you're willing to get a little sticky, you can cast Gelatinous Genesis and create an infinitely wide board of infinitely huge oozes. If you're struggling to find options to combo off, Genesis Wave will let you dump all of the permanents in your library onto the battlefield. Whatever you don't get will go to your graveyard, so you might want to leave a few cards in your library just in case something goes wrong.
All those creatures you make that don't have haste won't be worth much if an opponent boardwipes before your next turn, so running Concordant Crossroads will let you swing with any creatures you just created. If you have a Swiftfoot Boots and Lightning Greaves you should have the capacity to swing with at least one or two gigantic creatures even if nothing else has the ability to attack, and both are valuable ways to protect your commander in the early game.
If you're stuck having to play fair, you can still make outlandish amounts of mana and use the aforementioned mana outlets to put up a good fight. Let's say your combo pieces have all been destroyed, exiled or are just hiding at the bottom of your library next to your tutors. We're also going to run ways to pump up Marwyn, the Nurturer that are a little fairer than going infinite.
Stoneforge Masterwork will give Marwyn +1/+1 for each other elf we control. Coat of Arms does the same thing but for all of our elves. That's a very strong card in a deck like this but it can help our opponents, so I'm torn about running it. I have won a game with Marwyn after an opponent played one, so I should probably reconsider throwing it in.
Predatory Hunger will let us give Marwyn a +1/+1 counter every time an opponent casts a creature spell. It's super cheap at one Green mana and in the early game when players are establishing their boardstates it's sure to get us a steady flow of counters. Increasing Savagery is the real deal. It's worth five +1/+1 counters and can be flashed back to put another ten +1/+1 counters on a creature. More often than not we'll want to save the flashback for insurance in case Marwyn gets removed and we need a way to put counters on her again.
All this mana production is great, but it's even better if we can double it. Wirewood Lodge, Seeker of Skybreak and Thousand-Year Elixir can all untap Marwyn and let us tap her again. While that might not seem like enough to win a game, if you have the right pieces out it should be enough to let you compete.
Playing A Little Unfair
No deck would be complete without a little sprinkle of "goodstuff". These are the cards that help to push the deck over the top and give it the ability to make really big plays.
Seedborn Muse is a bit of a staple in Green decks that want to untap and do stuff on everyone else's turn. Archetype of Endurance is a great way to protect your board, giving all of your creatures hexproof. Sandwurm Convergence will keep anyone with flyers from attacking you and will pump out a steady stream of 5/5 Green Wurm creature tokens.
We've got ramp covered pretty well, as we'll be running a pretty impressive number of mana dorks. No deck is complete without draw, removal and recursion. Since we're in Green, we'll have an easy time covering those bases.
I generally fall back on the same cards for stuff like this. Rishkar's Expertise, Shamanic Revelation and Harmonize seem to find their way into all my Green decks, and with good reason. They are reliable, effective and do the job. For removal, I tend to run Krosan Grip, but in this deck it looks like I'm pretty light on removal. This deck is much more interested in doing its own thing than stopping anyone else from doing their thing, but I'll acknowledge that I should probably be running more.
Having ways to get key pieces back from the graveyard is pretty important. I'm slightly chastened to see that I'm running Eternal Witness, but not much else. I think the bottom line is that when faced with running more elves or running more removal & recursion, I chose elves. So far the deck has been playing really well, but in time I'm sure to have games where it becomes clear that I need to drop a few out and add in more answers. That's pretty much how you can tell I play in a midrange meta. If I were in a highly competitive meta, I'd probably have no choice but to build all of my decks with tons of answers.
Marwyn, The Nurterer -- Commander | Stephen Johnson
- Commander (1)
- 1 Marwyn, the Nurturer
- Creatures (32)
- 1 Arbor Elf
- 1 Archetype of Endurance
- 1 Argothian Elder
- 1 Boreal Druid
- 1 Druid of the Cowl
- 1 Elvish Harbinger
- 1 Elvish Visionary
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 1 Ezuri, Renegade Leader
- 1 Genesis Hydra
- 1 Gyre Sage
- 1 Imperious Perfect
- 1 Jagged-Scar Archers
- 1 Joraga Warcaller
- 1 Karametra's Acolyte
- 1 Leaf Gilder
- 1 Llanowar Elves
- 1 Lys Alana Huntmaster
- 1 Masked Admirers
- 1 Priest of Titania
- 1 Regal Force
- 1 Seedborn Muse
- 1 Seeker of Skybreak
- 1 Soul of Zendikar
- 1 Temur Sabertooth
- 1 Unyaro Bees
- 1 Waker of the Wilds
- 1 Wellwisher
- 1 Wildheart Invoker
- 1 Wirewood Symbiote
- 1 Wolfbriar Elemental
- 1 Wren's Run Packmaster
- Planeswalkers (1)
- 1 Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury
- Sorceries (12)
- 1 Elvish Promenade
- 1 Gelatinous Genesis
- 1 Genesis Wave
- 1 Green Sun's Zenith
- 1 Harmonize
- 1 Harvest Season
- 1 Hunting Triad
- 1 Increasing Savagery
- 1 Kamahl's Druidic Vow
- 1 Rishkar's Expertise
- 1 Shamanic Revelation
- 1 Sylvan Offering
- Enchantments (8)
- 1 Assault Formation
- 1 Concordant Crossroads
- 1 Elvish Guidance
- 1 Growing Rites of Itlimoc
- 1 Predatory Hunger
- 1 Presence of Gond
- 1 Sandwurm Convergence
- 1 Zendikar Resurgent
- Artifacts (11)
- 1 Lightning Greaves
- 1 Mask of Avacyn
- 1 Mirage Mirror
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Staff of Domination
- 1 Stoneforge Masterwork
- 1 Swiftfoot Boots
- 1 Sword of the Paruns
- 1 Tamiyo's Journal
- 1 Thousand-Year Elixir
- 1 Umbral Mantle
So far, this build has played in four games, two of which were on our casual night and two of which were in our Commander league. At this point, it is winning at a 75% rate and, in its only loss, I would have gone infinite if someone hadn't landed Aurelia, the Warleader and won with Helm of the Host. In that game, I actually had Sandwurm Convergence out but they happened to have removal for it.
I went into the last week of our Commander League in second place in our rankings, behind the leader by 9 points. As a result of both some bad luck on the part of the first place player and two really strong games by Marwyn, I was able to overtake him and win my second month of Commander League in a row. I was pretty taken aback at how well she performed in a midrange meta. Against top tier decks I would guessed that she'd have trouble, but I'd be interested in seeing if a spikier deck-builder could tune this list up into a cEDH build.
I don't always succeed when I build around a new commander. The Firesong and Sunspeaker deck I wrote about two weeks ago has yet to win a game, but I've been really pleasantly surprised by how Marwyn has been performing.
Yes, I know. Walking Ballista. How could I possibly call myself a good deck-builder and not put that amazing insta-win infinite mana outlet into this build?
I've won games with Ballista, but when I built this deck I wanted to do something different. I wanted to try to make a deck with wincons that I found more fun and entertaining. Losing to a Walking Ballista is about as entertaining as losing to Mikaeus, the Unhallowed and Triskelion. It's highly effective, but for me it feels uninspired.
If I can get some elves out and give them infinitely big butts with Assault Formation, I can joke about sitting on my opponents with my board of big-butt elves. If I really wanted to nail home the point, I could always cue up Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls" when I start my turn. Fat Bottomed Elves, they make the rockin' world go round.
I actually had Sprout Swarm in the very first draft of this deck, as paying five mana for a saproling is really stupid and I wanted to be able to win the game with bad cards. I'm sure that makes me a bad deck-builder, but with any luck it will also make me just a little more fun to play against.
That's all I've got for you today. If you like to win games, like Mono-Green, and can think of some fun things to do with infinite Green mana, I highly recommend checking out Marwyn, the Nurturer. Run both halves of the combo with recursion and tutors and then have fun digging around for goofy ways to turn infinite mana into a win!
If you enjoyed reading about Yarglefest 2018 last week, you'll be happy to know that we are on for May 20th at NexGen Comics in Pelham, NH. Anyone else running their own Yarglefest can let me know and I'll help spread word here in my weekly articles. It'll be here before you know it, so if you're in New England get your Yargle, Glutton of Urborg deck built and come on up to meet me and play with us in two weeks. It's free and the winner will get a Grand Yarglemaster playmat.
If you want to follow the ups and downs of my Commander games, I write about them every week over on the old blog site where Commanderruminations first started out (http://dantesdad.wixsite.com/commanderruminations). I don't always do a great job of detailing the gameplay but I'm working at getting better and I figure more practice writing is probably a good thing.
Thanks for reading and I'll see you next week!