Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths available now!
   Sign In
Create Account

A Tale of Two Toothys


The Subsiding Waters of the Deluge by Thomas Cole (1829).

Slimefoot, the Stowaway by Alex Konstad.

I've got a lot for you today, as I was going to write an article about the casual theme deck I built around the new Battlebond legendary partners Pir, Imaginative Rascal and Toothy, Imaginary Friend. My problem was that my Pir and Toothy deck isn't the only one in my life. My daughter Lilian, who is a much spikier player and deck-builder than me, also built a Pir and Toothy deck, and it's about as optimized as mine is silly and fun.

Rather than just post mine or post my list and follow it up a week later with hers, I've decided to include both decks and a write-up about each one in today's column. I'll try to not beat any dead horses, but get comfortable because this looks to be a long one today.

Our Commanders

Before we dive into our decks, let's take a look at our commanders.

Pir, Imaginative Rascal
Toothy, Imaginary Friend

Pir and Toothy are 1/1 creatures. Pir costs 2g and is a legendary Human who basically works like Hardened Scales. If you would put counters on any permanent you control, you put that many plus one instead. Toothy is an illusion who costs 3u and gets a +1/+1 counter for each card that you draw. When Toothy leaves the battlefield you draw a card for each +1/+1 counter on him.

Any commander who helps you draw cards is very powerful to begin with. When Toothy was spoiled, Lilian decided she was going to build a Pir and Toothy deck. She saw the potential and just couldn't resist. I figured I'd build around someone else from Battlebond. I don't like to build decks that someone else I play with a lot has built.

Then I opened a Pir and Toothy in a Battlebond booster pack. They went right into a binder, but before long they found their way into my command zone.

The first half of today's article is the story of how and why I built . . . 

Pir and Toothy's Dog Park Adventure

No. I'm not kidding.

Have you ever listened to the podcast Welcome to Night Vale?

If you haven't, you should give it a listen -- but start from the beginning. Welcome to Night Vale premiered in 2012 and depicts the strange events that occur in the fictional small desert town of Night Vale.

One of the storylines revolves around a local dog park. The residents of Night Vale are warned not to go near the dog park and absolutely not to look at the hooded figures in the dog park. The entire plotline, if you can call it that, feels like something out of a Twilight Zone episode.

You might be wondering what on earth this has to do with my Pir and Toothy commander deck.

Let me explain.

I had been thinking of ways to build Pir and Toothy that might be interesting and fun, but not overly powerful. I've got a number of decks now that are powerful enough that I don't break them out very often. I've been trying to build more casual decks lately.

Jiang Yanggu
Mu Yanling

I was at Target recently and spotted the new Global Series planeswalker decks featuring Jiang Yanggu and Mu Yanling. They're in Blue and Green just like Pir & Toothy and I have a Doubling Season I could throw into the mix as well. I've never built a superfriends deck before. That was the start.

Moon-Eating Dog
Chakram Retriever

Jiang Yanggu has the ability to create a 3/3 Green Hound token named Mowu. That's adorable. I also found a 3/3 Blue Hound in the global series decks who can fly if you control a Yanling planeswalker. It was a little less adorable, but it made me think of the recently printed Chakram Retriever from Battlebond. Chakram Retriever's partner, Chakram Slinger is in Red, but the doggo is in Blue and could join in the fun if I wanted to run a subtheme of Simic Hounds.

That's when I thought of Welcome to Night Vale's Dog Park.

It should be mentioned that in Night Vale one does not even speak of the Dog Park. We are hopefully far enough away from the fictional town to be able to broach the subject with little risk. The black helicopters won't arrive in time to stop me from finishing up this article, and the Night Vale librarians don't yet have my IP Address or current location. You don't want to mess with Night Vale librarians.

I think it's safe to continue.

If our Hounds are going to visit the Dog Park -- or more likely NOT visit the dog park and try very hard NOT to make eye contact with the hooded figures in and around it -- they'll need someone to walk them. Chakram Slinger may be outside of our commanders' color identity so she's not an option.

I have not yet built a superfriends deck. Doubling Season and Pir, Imaginative Rascal both LOVE planeswalkers so the part of our dog walkers is going to be played by whatever Simic planeswalkers I happen to have lying around.

I build my deck with real cards (not proxies), and for a casual build I usually don't order too many extras unless I have a pretty good reason to do so. Later on if I find I'm loving the deck I might go out of my way to pick up better planeswalkers than the ones I'm starting out with.

Teferi, Temporal Archmage
Kiora, Master of the Depths

In a deck with Doubling Season and led by Pir my initial thought was that it would be nice to have a bunch of walkers who make emblems. Teferi has one of the best emblems around, but he really wants to be in a deck that's got way more planeswalkers than I'm going to be running. Kiora gives us a pretty sweet emblem if we can hit her "limit break". So far so good, but nothing too amazing yet.

Jace, the Living Guildpact
Nissa, Steward of Elements

Jace doesn't give you an emblem, but his ultimate is quite powerful in its own way. Nissa's final ability is OK, but her middle ability is normally the one I'd be excited by. In this deck it's less than amazing. As you'll soon find out, we're running a few "X" creatures that we wouldn't want to just plop down onto the battlefield for free.

We're looking at a total of six planewalkers. Over time I may swap some of these out and put in some better choices, but it's a start. If I were being as true as possible to the Welcome to Night Vale storyline about the Dog Park, I might fill out the rest of the deck with support cards and the aforementioned hooded figures, but I decided to take a slightly different route.

What if the public service announcements warning us to not look at, go near, talk or even think about the Dog Park were because it contained some kind of horrible monsters? That would be appropriate for the town of Night Vale.

In an ideal world, that might mean using Eldrazi.

Eldrazi are giant, unimaginable, scary monsters who are beyond comprehension and understanding. They'd be perfect except that they don't care much about Pir's Hardened Scales effect or Doubling Season, and I want to build a little synergy into this deck, not just a theme.

For the mysterious threat that my deck will have in its Dog Park, and as the major combat threat in this deck, I chose to run Hydras.

Hungering Hydra
Feral Hydra
Genesis Hydra

Lifeblood Hydra
Managorger Hydra
Mistcutter Hydra

Oran-Rief Hydra
Scourge of Skola Vale
Vastwood Hydra

I'm missing some key players here like Kalonian Hydra, but I like both the feel of this choice and the synergy they have with parts of the deck that care about +1/+1 counters.

Hydras are far from overpowered and should give this build the ability to present a threat without running away with games. The goal isn't to combo off, go infinite, exile my opponents' decks or anything like that. I want to beat my opponents on the battlefield. It's not an optimal way to build Pir and Toothy, but as you'll soon see -- the optimal build isn't particularly casual.

Fathom Mage
Plaxcaster Frogling

The deck has some ramp, some additional ways to draw cards and put counters on creatures. I've got a few extra creatures thrown into the mix like Fertilid, Fathom Mage and Plaxcaster Frogling. It's not very focused but should be able to present a threat at a casual table.

The deck isn't currently built to stop anyone else from blowing up, and one might argue that playing a Simic deck and not running any counterspells or removal is malpractice at its finest. They'd be right, but this is just a first draft and more than likely I will give it a few games and then replace cards that aren't impressing me with cards that represent more "responsible choices" in deck-building. I might pull out a hydra or two and drop in a counterspell, Lignify, Heroic Intervention or some better dog-walkers (Planeswalkers).

The Decklist

For me, building a deck is an iterative process and it's OK to have the first draft not perform great in its first few games. Tinkering with a list is part of the fun, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Pir and Toothy's Dog Park Adventure -- Commander | Stephen Johnson

So that's Pir and Toothy's Dog Park Adventure.

It's a deck inspired by a very odd podcast. Anyone not familiar with the strange and mysterious town of Night Vale might have no idea why I would build such a deck. I did it because it was fun, and because I wanted to have another low-power casual deck for when I'm at a table where that level of play would be appropriate.

For those of you who are familiar with their Dog Parks and Bowling Alleys and wonder if one of these hydras might someday rise to prominence (as Mayor?) in the small desert community, I hope you enjoyed this.

Not all decks are built around goofy themes, and many of my own decks are built to be much more ruthless and mean than a bunch of random planeswalkers, hounds and hydras. Next let's take a look at a much more competitive Pir and Toothy list.

Optimized Pir And Toothy

As I mentioned earlier, today's article is a look at two decks. The second is my daughter Lilian's Pir and Toothy deck. She is a bit of a spike and she built this to be as competitive as possible within the budget she has to build with. I'm calling it "optimized" because neither of us think it rises to the level of a true cEDH deck. It has a very healthy winrate so far, though it does sometimes wind up playing against casual decks not unlike my own Pir and Toothy list.

Her basic plan is to get both Pir and Toothy out, maybe get some counters on Toothy and start to work. In this case "work" means flickering Toothy as often as possible.

Deadeye Navigator
Ghostly Flicker

Deadeye Navigator works very nicely, but cards like Ghostly Flicker and Displace work pretty well too. When Toothy leaves the battlefield and returns you wind up putting counters on Toothy for each card you would draw. If Pir is on the field, Toothy gets twice as many counters, so he doubles in size each time he is flickered.

Sakashima's Student
Phyrexian Metamorph
Dance of Many

The deck is also running clones like Sakashima's Student, Phyrexian Metamorph and Dance of Many to have additional ways to have the old Toothy leave and a new Toothy show up and get +1/+1 counters. With both commanders or with Toothy and the enchantment Hardened Scales on the field, the new clone Toothy will be double the size of the original.

Peregrine Drake
Blue Sun's Zenith
Force of Will

The deck is running Deadeye Navigator, so it also runs Peregrine Drake so that it can create infinite mana. The primary wincon is to draw a huge portion of your deck, make infinite mana and then use Blue Sun's Zenith to force opponents to draw themselves out of the game. Lilian draws so many cards that she will nearly always have a counterspell in hand. She is running a full slot (7-8 cards) of counters including high-end ones like Force of Will that I don't even own, much less run in my list.

Rapid Hybridization
Imprisoned in the Moon

She is also running answers. I cannot stress how important it is for a competitive deck to run answers. It is almost as important as card draw.

My casual list is just full of dumb stuff that I wanted to play with and I didn't bother putting in much in the way of removal or counters. It's a conscious choice and that will probably be one of the first things I tweak as I move past my "first draft" and make adjustments. I have over 20 decks so my removal staples are spread pretty thin and wind up in my more serious, competitive decks. Casual games often see less interaction and if I lose a game because my opponents were able to remove my big dumb hydras, it's not a big deal to me.

My daughter on the other hand doesn't mess around.

Her first draft is more often a fairly complete and robust deck with appropriate levels of ramp, removal, protection, threats and wincons. As I said, she is a far spikier player and better deck-builder than I am. Her list will eventually get a Laboratory Maniac added in so that drawing into a Lab Man win is also an option. As of this writing, that card hasn't been added yet.

The Decklist

Optimized Pir and Toothy -- Commander | Lilian Johnson

This deck performs quite well.

If Pir and Toothy are allowed to stay out for any length of time, the card draw that gets generated is enough to consistently position her for a win. Toothy easily gets big enough to swing for a commander damage kill, but that is rarely needed. While there is no Rogue's Passage to get Toothy through blockers, an overloaded Cyclonic Rift is easy to pull off with counterspell support and there are a number of ways to recur instants and sorceries from the graveyard. If you've got hexproof and can't be the target of Blue Sun's Zenith, and if for some reason Lab Man isn't available (it isn't in the list yet) you might just take an enormous Toothy, Imaginary Friend to your face for your trouble..

If you're interested in a deck that might only win in one or two ways, but will do it reliably with commanders that might not yet be on anyone's radar as major threats, Lilian's list is definitely worth a look.

Final Thoughts

This is the first time I've ever included two decklists, so I hope you've found it interesting to be able to look at two very different approaches to the same commanders.

When comparing the two decks, the amazing thing is that I think I spotted only the commanders, Birds of Paradise, Sol Ring, and a few lands in common. I still need to pick up a Thought Vessel and Hardened Scales for my list, and I expect as I play it and make adjustments I may well grab a few cards she's running. I can pretty much guarantee she won't be picking up any tips from the Night Vale's fabled Dog Park.

She knows not to look at those hooded figures.

Hooded figures.

Hooded Hydra.

I really need to throw a Hooded Hydra into my list.

See? I'm making questionable choices because it's fun and entertaining to me, even if it doesn't necessarily make the deck that much better. I can't be the only one to sometimes build decks like this.

Are you the kind of deck-builder that builds casual theme decks with a little synergy but no serious focus on competitiveness?

Do you throw all considerations for theme and flavor out the window and try to hone the deck to achieve its wincon as efficiently as possible?

Do you find ways to embrace both playstyles and just build according to your current mood?

One of my favorite things about Commander is that we have so much room for different levels of play and different approaches to deck-building. I doubt that if I had taken the "spike" approach to Pir and Toothy I could have built a better list than my daughter, but the two decks both shine in their own environments.

Mine is fun and casual and should make for a great game against other decks of a similar power level.

Hers is fun and competitive and should be able to stand up against other very powerful decks where mine would be unable to keep up.

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

Magic Core Set 2019 is Now Available!

Limited time 35% buy trade in bonus buylist