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Tarrasque By The Numbers

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Screenshot from Disney's Fantasia (1940). Gishath, Sun's Avatar by Zack Stella.

I have a soft spot in my heart for big Green creatures. They usually cost a ton of mana to get onto the battlefield, but if you've built around them correctly you can get them out and you can get up to all kinds of fun with them. Today's commander is a classic big Green stompy general.

The Tarrasque

The Tarrasque is a 10/10 that will have haste and ward 10 if it was cast. As your commander, this big boy isn't going to get cheated out of the command zone very easily, but decks that want The Tarrasque in the 99 should take notice of that extra restriction. While The Tarrasque doesn't have evasion or trample and can be chump blocked by a Squirrel, it does have an attack trigger. When it attacks it fights target creature defending player controls. Note that this is not a "may" trigger, so be careful who you swing at because Mr. T's going to throw down whether you like it or not.

One of my favorite decks ever is my Multani, Maro-Sorcerer deck, and Multani has a power and toughness equal to the number of cards in all players' hands. He also has shroud, so he can't be targeted by anyone. It's a real challenge to give him trample or get him through your opponents' defenses. He can't be equipped, you can't give him an aura and you can't target him with instants and sorceries, but he's also usually a lethal threat on the turn he hits the field. The Tarrasque might not start out with a power and toughness in the mid-20s, but the fact that it can be targeted opens up all kinds of possibilities for me as a deckbuilder.

Nine

The Tarrasque is a 9-mana commander. This deck won't be pushing out of casual play because even in green it's going to be hard to reliably cast him in every game. We will have games where we just don't get to 9 mana because we happened to shuffle up against a high-powered deck that is simply too fast, or a lower powered deck that got lucky and fired on all cylinders, winning the game way sooner than normal.

If our commander's mana value is our first major challenge, it makes sense to devote a lot of his deck to ramp. We'll want to run all the staples, a bunch of mana dorks, and anything else we can think of to help get this guy onto the battlefield. I'm not going to bore you with pictures of Sol Ring, Rampant Growth and Llanowar Elves, but there are some cards worth calling out.

Nylea, Keen-Eyed
Krosan Drover
Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma

I may be ramping and playing rocks and mana dorks to get to 9 mana to cast my commander, but I'll also be trying to pull that lofty casting cost down a bit. I can't expect to ever have all of these out, but the beauty of reducing your casting costs is that it will help with casting other spells as well.

The question of how hard to focus on dealing with interaction is a big one. Some playgroups understand that people build Commander decks to play strategies around their commander and everyone will have more fun if it isn't a constant struggle to get your commander to resolve. If your friends will see that ridiculous casting cost and will do everything they can to make you pay as much commander tax as possible, you might want to build in some protection.

Veil of Summer
Prowling Serpopard
Destiny Spinner

Veil of Summer will give you a chance at pushing through a counter spell. Prowling Serpopard, Allosaurus Shepherd and Destiny Spinner will both make your creature spells uncounterable. Conqueror's Flail might be worth a look if you're really dealing with a ton of interaction, as it will lock your opponents out of your turn, but I usually reserve that little trinket for my combo decks.

Ten

If the first big number to think about when building around The Tarrasque is nine, the next is 10. It's not that often that you get to build around a commander with double digit power and toughness. If we manage to get our big Dinosaur onto the battlefield, we'll want something cool we can do with that 10 power.

Fungal Sprouting
Traverse the Outlands
Grafted Exoskeleton

A spell like Fungal Sprouting might not seem like much, but having 10 1/1 Saproling creature tokens sets us up to be able to have an alpha strike if we can pump them up. That many bodies also lets me more easily block any opponents who are going wide.

Ten saprolings might not seem like much, but how about 10 lands? Traverse the Outlands will go get lands equal to the greatest power among creatures I control. I might be able to get more than 10, but for five mana if I've got The Tarrasque out this seems like a pretty good way to set myself up for a push to victory.

Anyone who has played against an infect deck knows full well that 10 is the number of poison counters it takes to kill a player. Equip The Tarrasque with Grafted Exoskeleton and you're a Rogue's Passage away from being able to start knocking an opponent out in one shot. Technically, that will make Mr. T a 12/12, but 10 is all you'll need to kill someone with infect.

Dragon Throne of Tarkir
Rishkar's Expertise
Soul's Majesty

One of the shortcomings of Multani is his native shroud. While Multani can't work with equipment, The Tarrasque will be happy to sit on the Dragon Throne of Tarkir to tap and give all my creatures +10/+10 and trample. Those early-game mana dorks might have seemed underwhelming, but with 10 more power and toughness, they could actually close out a game for you.

If you've played much commander at all, you know that one of the most exciting things you can do is draw a ton of cards. Ten cards is a tenth of your deck, and if you're a reasonably good deckbuilder you should be set up to do all kinds of fun stuff after filling up your hand like that. Rishkar's Expertise, Soul's Majesty and a raft of other card draw spells should give you a good chance at drawing ten cards or just drawing out a counterspell from one of your tablemates.

Greater Good
Momentous Fall
Life's Legacy

I'm not going to want to sacrifice a creature I spent nine mana to cast unless I've got a really good reason to do so. Drawing cards might just be that really good reason. I've just got to be careful because I really don't want to send Mr. T back to the command zone only to have my spell get countered.

Twenty

The last big number worth mentioning is 20. This deck might be able to win by commander damage, but it's not designed specifically to shoot for commander damage kills. If it were a voltron deck I would surely be running a bunch of swords and other trinkets to push The Tarrasque's power up so he can one-shot opponents.

I've got a few other cards in mind that will make 20 an important number for this deck.

Predator's Rapport
Overwhelming Stampede
Pathbreaker Ibex

Verdant Sun's Avatar is in this list and will gain me 10 life when my commander hits the battlefield, but Predator's Rapport will gain me life equal to the power plus the toughness of target creature I control. Three mana for 20 life is a pretty good deal and I'm not one to put a lot of stock in lifegain in Commander.

Both Pathbreaker Ibex and Overwhelming Stampede will give my creatures trample and +X/+X where X is the power of target creature I control. That will turn my 10/10 The Tarrasque into a 20/20 and every other creature I control will also get +10/+10. Fireshrieker might not turn The Tarrasque into a 20/20 but it will give double strike, letting it dish out a total of 20 damage in a single combat step.

Backup Plans

It's worth noting that having a deck designed to revolve around your commander can be pretty risky. One well-timed Darksteel Mutation and you might be stuck until you draw into some removal. Fortunately Green has lots of other big creatures we can throw into the mix.

Ghalta, Primal Hunger
Gigantosaurus
Old Gnawbone

It's worth asking why you would run The Tarrasque instead of Ghalta, Primal Hunger as your commander. Ghalta has native trample and is also a 12/12, so with double-strike or doubled power she's lethal in a single combat step. In this deck you might make that swap, but in today's list Ghalta is going to serve as a very capable backup plan.

Gigantosaurus and Old Gnawbone can both step into the role of "big bad" if we're unable to get The Tarrasque onto the battlefield. The former is very well-costed, and the latter can help us generate a ton of mana, so I'm very comfortable having both in my 99.

Whiptongue Hydra
Bane of Progress
Steelbane Hydra

I'm running a few extra creatures that have the potential to get big, but there's no guarantee they'll get all the way up to 10 power. Managorger Hydra is in the list and will grow over time, Whiptongue Hydra will clear the skies and get +1/+1 counters for its efforts. Bane of Progress will sweep away artifacts and enchantments in the same way. Steelbane Hydra will be as big as we can afford to make it, and has the added bonus of being able to work as removal.

I expect there will be games where we don't even need to cast The Tarrasque, but having a threat like that in the command zone is pretty good for casual play.

Tarrasque by the Numbers

Can we win games with a 9-mana 10/10 in today's EDH? Can we turn him into a 20/20, maybe hit him with a Berserk to make him a 40/40, murder one opponent and sacrifice him to Greater Good to draw 40. Will we have the presence of mind to feign disappointment at having to discard three cards, and did we drop a land in the first main phase so we can plop down the Reliquary Tower we just drew into?

Those are the kinds of numbers we'll be dealing with and the sort of questions we're hopefully going to have to answer when playing this deck.

The Tarrasque | Commander | Stephen Johnson

I don't know if there's much point to trying to power this list up, but if the price tag feels like it's a bit much you would want to drop out cards like Allosaurus Shepherd and Jeweled Lotus. A budget list for The Tarrasque might pack every bit as much of a punch, just a turn or two slower than a tuned-up list.

If you drop out some of those high-priced cards, I'd point you towards all the removal options I lazily left on the cutting room floor. Naturalize, Return to Nature and Nature's Claim alongside a Beast Within and maybe a Lignify will set you up for dealing with removing problems and should arguably have been in my very first draft of this deck. I guess I got distracted by all the giant monsters, but if you are in a strong enough meta that you can't get away with going light on removal you should definitely consider adding those in.

Final Thoughts

I suspect a more lore-focused build for The Tarrasque would focus on protection and a voltron strategy. You might want to run Earthquake and other spells that would bring the feel of a giant behemoth that shakes the countryside with every step. That would probably be a lot of fun, but I know about as much about The Tarrasque's lore as I did about Drizz't's life story and that's not much.

I think this could be a very fun list if you're okay with being in mono-Green and you don't mind having a 9-mana commander that might not get out as early as most other decks at the table. I am down for both of those challenges, but I'm also not likely to move on from my Multani, Maro-Sorcerer deck any time soon.

If you've followed my recent experiments with "dEDH" I should mention that my playmat came in and it looks great. The text is readable and I'm probably going to try playing in paper tomorrow at NexGen comics in Pelham, NH. I'll keep posting notes here and there about how that is going, but don't expect to see another column devoted to the format unless I've really got major news to share.

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

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