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Bonny Pall, Clearcutter in Commander

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Outlaws of Thunder Junction was a really interesting set. It represented yet another experiment with Wizards of the Coast taking Magic into uncharted waters... or in this case, deserts. We had never seen a Western themed Magic set and I for one was skeptical that it would fit and feel "right."

I play Commander, so I have gotten used to seeing all kinds of ridiculous nonsense peacefully coexisting on a battlefield. Even if gunslingers and outlaws might run rampant through Standard, in the long run we're unlikely to have any single set have an outsized impact on EDH.

For the unaware, there is an old American legend about a character named Paul Bunyan and his companion, Babe the Blue Ox. The character was first referenced in 1893 but didn't come into popular culture until 15 years later. This iconic frontier hero is clearly the inspiration for Bonny Pall, Clearcutter and her Blue Ox, Beau. Whether or not you like the somewhat heavy-handed joke characters that we've been seeing in recent years from Wizards of the Coast (I'm looking at you, Gingerbrute), it's hard to argue that some of these cards feel like they belong in an Un-set.

Bonny Pall may or may not be your cup of tea, but she gives us some really interesting things to build around for EDH. Let's give her a look.

Bonny Pall, Clearcutter

The first thing to note is that Bonny Pall, Clearcutter costs a whopping six mana. In today's EDH, that kind of mana cost relegates her to more casual games where you are likely to be able to play a commander that costs this much. We're in Green and Blue, so we've got access to the kind of land ramp that can make her playable, but we'll still get blown out every so often by a low mana aggro deck that can win earlier than we can even get things set up.

Bonny Pall is a Giant Scout with reach, which gives us a convenient blocker for smaller flying threats. She also comes with a buddy and a party trick. Her buddy is Babe... er... Beau, the Blue Ox. This pair is basically just a gender-swapped Paul Bunyan and Babe, which isn't incredibly creative but it's fine.

Beau has a power and toughness equal to the number of lands I control, which is very cool. For my six mana I might be getting twelve or more total power on the board, which is a decent return on my investment. Beau is also very likely to get bigger, as Bonny Pall has an attack trigger that will have me draw a card and put a land card from my hand or graveyard onto the battlefield. That graveyard part is important, as I'm incentivized to run fetch lands. The attack trigger isn't tied to her attacking, so I can send Beau into battle and possibly make him bigger before blockers are declared.

I think the Blue in this card's color identity is solely there because of Beau the Blue Ox, but the result is that this feels like a really interesting take on the Maro Sorcerer type of legendary creature. In this case the * / * is on the token Ox instead of on my commander, which makes it weaker in terms of commander damage, but more interesting in other ways. I can still run a lot of the cards I use in my Multani, Maro-Sorcerer deck to get damage through, but I can also turn to Blue for some stack interaction and even flicker spells for a cheap way to make another Beau.

Oxtail Soup

The first thing I thought of when building around Bonny Pall was that I was going to want to play lots of lands, and therefore I should load up on creatures that have a power and toughness equal to the number of lands I control. Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar, Ulvenwald Hydra, and Greensleeves, Maro-Sorcerer were all easy picks.

It took some time for me to come around to the idea that the best thing I could probably do with Beau, the Blue Ox was probably not going to go over well with Beau, the Blue Ox.

Life's Legacy
Greater Good
Momentous Fall

I had already included a few ways to draw me cards equal to the greatest power among creatures I control. Rishkar's Expertise and Return of the Wildspeaker were in the list, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to go all in on this part of the deck. I soon added Soul's Majesty and Garruk, Primal Hunter, both of which would give me that same type of card draw. Then I turned my attention to cards like Life's Legacy, Greater Good and Momentous Fall. Normally I don't like to sacrifice my commander to draw cards equal to their power but in this case I'd be sacrificing Beau. While I wouldn't technically be making Food tokens, I imagine that big of an Ox tail would probably make for some amazing Oxtail soup.

The next logical step would be to add a tutor for Greater Good and to load up on ways to flicker my commander to get a new Beau. I did throw in Blur, which is a cantrip that can flicker a creature, and I included Illusionist's Stratagem, which can flicker up to two creatures and draws me a card, but I didn't run Ghostly Flicker or any flicker combo packages. I could have included more flicker spells but Deadeye Navigator would likely just spook my opponents, and I wasn't ready to drop out anything else to make room for more flicker spells.

How We Win

This deck has a lot of ways to play extra lands and to put lands into my hand. I ended up running one combo that may not win the game but should put me in a really great position if it happens to go off.

Abundance
Cultivator Colossus

With Abundance on the field I get to choose whether I'm going to draw a land or a nonland every time I would draw a card. It's a great enchantment that can help me hit my land drops, but it plays a key role with cards like Bonny Pall or Cultivator Colossus. With Bonny Pall, her attack trigger will have me draw a card and put a land onto the battlefield from my hand or graveyard, so it guarantees an extra land drop if I choose land for my draw.

Cultivator Colossus is just nasty with Abundance on the field. It has a power and toughness equal to the number of lands I control, and when it enters the battlefield I can put a land onto the battlefield tapped and draw a card. Then I'll "repeat this process," meaning I'll be able to put another land onto the field and draw another card. If I'm always drawing lands, that means I'll put all of the lands from my deck onto the battlefield.

That combo does not win me the game, but it does give me access to some truly huge creatures. Beau and any other creature I have with a power and toughness equal to the number of lands I control will likely be in the mid to high 30's. If I can get some power-based card draw I'll be off to the races, and if I can hit this combo with an Amulet of Vigor to untap my lands, I'll be able to play a lot of spells before I pass the turn.

This deck can also win games the "old fashioned" way, without resorting to some silly combo to dump out all of the lands in my library.

Traverse the Outlands
Fungal Sprouting
Overwhelming Stampede

Traverse the Outlands won't get all my lands, but it will essentially double my manabase and double the power of Beau and any other creature I control with that lands-based P/T. Fungal Sprouting doesn't do much in most decks, but in this list it's not unrealistic to think that I'll be able to make a dozen or more 1/1 Green Saprolings. If I can follow that up a turn later with Overwhelming Stampede I could be setting up for a nice alpha strike with my creatures getting +X/+X where X is the greatest power among creatures I control. Beau, the Blue Ox would make that X equal to the number of lands I control, so that could easily kill someone, if not outright win me the game.

I'm also running a landfall package that includes Avenger of Zendikar, Scute Swarm and Rampaging Baloths. If I'm expecting to play lots of extra lands, I might as well play into that strategy. I did leave out Craterhoof Behemoth, as this deck doesn't seem to be built to reliably go wide. I wouldn't blame you for throwing in Craterhoof along with Tooth and Nail, but I feel like that's edging into goodstuff staple territory and I don't always want to be running too many staples in my decks.

Pall Bonyan

This deck, like most of my decks, has its share of format staples. That said, I also have some fun cards that should work nicely to help us out without being true staples. I'll have a lot of lands around so Constant Mists, with its buyback cost of sacrificing a land, felt perfect for Bonny Pall. her attack trigger can even let me get that land back into play.

Shinen of Life's Roar is another cute little 1 mana Green creature from my Multani, Maro-Sorcerer list that should work well here. It's a Spirit that has a lure effect right on it, so all creatures able to block have to block it when it attacks. It has a channel ability for four mana that lets me discard it and then force all blockers to block target creature this turn. That kind of interaction can open the way for one or two big attackers to get through and wipe a player out. It's risky to use in the mid game but when you have one player left it's nice to know you've got something like that to try to close out the game.

Bonny Pall, Clearcutter | Commander | Stephen Johnson

If you wanted to increase this deck's power level I think you would lean into the combo aspects of the deck. Putting all of the lands in your library onto the field is a powerful move, and hitting that more often by running tutors feels like a good plan if the deck isn't keeping up with your meta. I don't see a flicker combo making a ton of sense but you are in Blue so you could certainly load up with more stack interaction and play Rhystic Study, Consecrated Sphinx and other Blue staples. You might also throw in the aforementioned Craterhoof Behemoth and Tooth and Nail because they are proven ways to close out games in EDH.

To power this down you'd likely drop out the combo lines and load in more creatures. You might keep that card draw package, but you could get cute and move the deck in a fun direction. Simic Giants could be entertaining and I'm sure there are plenty of options that would result in a fun and interesting deck that isn't likely to result in anyone feeling pub-stomped. You'd be missing out on a lot of great Red Giants but we got eight Green and Blue giants in Wilds of Eldraine and Throne of Eldraine so I'm pretty sure this could work. You're even starting with a deck that is built around lots of ramp to help pay their admittedly high mana costs.

Final Thoughts

I was able to get in one game with this deck and my suspicions were confirmed - drawing based upon the power of a creature like Beau feels fantastic. Everything went right and I was able to draw into an Ashaya, Soul of the Wild and Overwhelming Stampede with a wide enough board to kill the table. The deck ramped like crazy but it took a while and I had to go through a Heroic Intervention and two counterspells to get there. I got very lucky in the game, but it was nice to see confirmation that Bonny Pall absolutely has the ability to get there in low and mid powered games.

One amusing note about my Bonny Pall game is that it was in a group where one player just loathes Sol Ring. Those games are online in Tabletop Simulator so I decided to drop out my Sol Ring and replace it with a Forest. Later I was kicking myself for not picking Fog, but it was a small and easy change to accommodate a friend with strong feelings about a format staple.

I probably wouldn't play this deck in high power and expect much but as always your results may vary.

Next week I'm going to share one final OTJ commander build and then I'll be ready to pivot to Modern Horizons 3. I generally like to pull legendary creatures out of precon decks and see how they might fare if they were put in the command zone, so that's probably what I'll end up doing.

That's all I've got for today. Thanks for reading and I'll see you next week!


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