Landscape with Waterfall by Jacob Van Ruisdael (1660s). Golos, Tireless Pilgrim by Joseph Meehan.
I am often wrong about new cards. I like to try to evaluate whether a new card or a new legendary creature is going to be busted. When I saw Moraug, Fury of Akoum, my initial reaction was that it was going to be really strong. Before I go any further, I think it's worth taking a step back and talking about power levels.
When I suggest a new commander is really strong, players and deckbuilers who mostly play cEDH and in high powered metas will react with an appropriate level of skepticism. When you compare nearly any new commander to the top end of our format, it will almost always come up short. Simply put - I'm almost never going to be comparing cards and decks to the top end of our format. If nothing else, I'm simply not well versed enough in competitive play and top tier decks to make such a comparison. I'm generally comparing my decks with mid-power and casual decks.
This new card isn't going to break the format wide open and it isn't going to be seen in cEDH, but today's column is going to explore how busted it can really be. At first glance, it looked pretty bonkers to me.
Moraug is a legendary Minotaur Warrior, which makes me think he'll find his way into a lot of tribal Najeela, The Blade-Blossom decks and a lot of Minotaur decks as well. Moraug is a 6/6, but each creature we control will get +1/+0 for each time it attacked this turn so it will hit as a 7/6 and will only get bigger if we somehow find a way to get extra combats.
Fortunately, we only have to read a few lines further down in Moraug's text box to find out why I was so bullish on this guy. He has an awesome landfall trigger. Whenever a land enters the battlefield under our control, if it's a main phase I'll untap my creatures and get an additional combat phase.
It doesn't help that the extra combat step trigger is tied to getting land drops and not something more abusable like Najeela's extra combat step ability or Godo's synergy with Helm of the Host. Moraug is also a 6-drop, which puts him on the edge of playability in high powered metas. The last strike against Moraug is that he's only in red, so he has no access to colors that might open up more opportunities to squeeze extra value out of his abilities.
It stands to reason that Moraug will be very powerful in mid-power decks that are going to try to win on the battlefield without going into infinite combat steps. Gruul decks will want to take advantage of green's ability to get more land drops than any other color. White and Blue both have access to cards that can flicker a land. I definitely think Moraug will be a star in the 99 of a number of already powerful decks. Thank goodness he can't go in Chulane, Teller of Tales.
My goal today isn't to find the best deck to put Moraug in - my goal is to try to answer the question of how busted Moraug, Fury of Akoum really is when he's at the helm of his own Commander deck.
Because I'm exploring what the "top end" of a Moraug deck might be, you're going to see more than a few expensive cards in today's list. Mana Crypt and Mana Vault are auto-includes because Moraug costs six mana, and we'll want to get him out early.
Setting Up Land Drops
There are cards that lots of deck-builders are going to think of when they first start to build Moraug. Sword of the Animist and Explorer's Scope both can put lands onto the battlefield and seem perfect for this deck. The problem is that those land drops will be happening during combat. Moraug specifically requires that your landfall occur during your main phase in order to trigger an extra combat step.
Fortunately, there are ways to squeeze extra main phase land drops out of a deck, even when you're just in red. Both Burnished Hart and Solemn Simulacrum would find their way into any mono-red deck anyways, but in today's list they'll be particularly strong. Beyond those staples we've got a few cards worth mentioning.
Druidic Satchel will sometimes pay off, but is far from a sure thing. Walking Atlas will be happy to tap to let me get an additional land drop and then untap thanks to Moraug and tap again in my second main phase for another one. Any combat phases I get after my second main phase will lead into my end step, so while I might be able to get more Walking Atlas land drops, I won't get combat steps if they don't occur during one of my main phases. Wayfarer's Bauble is that odd trinket that will put a land into play, not just into your hand like Traveler's Amulet and Wanderer's Twig.
A lot of my extra land drops are going to have to come from lands. I'll run every fetch land that can fetch a Mountain, so that means we'll have Arid Mesa, Bloodstained Mire, Scalding Tarn, Wooded Foothills, Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse. I'll also be running Grixis Panorama, Jund Panorama and Naya Panorama, as they can all fetch a mountain. Mountain Valley and Rocky Tar Pit both enter the battlefield tapped, but since we're trying to maximize our main phase land drops, they also make the cut. Fabled Passage will let us get a land and will probably see it untap even if we don't have our Amulet of Vigor on the field. Warped Landscape will get a basic land and Myriad Landscape will get two.
Isolated Watchtower might get us a land drop, but it might not. At least it doesn't have to be sacrificed to use its ability. Terminal Moraine will get sacrificed, but it will let us search for a basic land and put it onto the battlefield tapped. Terrain Generator will let us drop lands from our hand onto the battlefield. That might not seem great, but I'm also running a bunch of cards that will put lands into my hand.
There are a couple of options we can run beyond creatures and lands, though it is striking to think about much more we'd have access to if we were also in green.
From the Ashes might seem like a bad fit since so many of our nonbasic lands actually go get lands for us, but not only will it let us get land drops from each of our nonbasic lands, it will also deal with any problematic nonbasic lands our opponents have. Geomancer's Gambit not only replaces itself, it can put a basic land into play untapped, so it effectively costs just 2 mana to play.
Making Combat Matter
It won't do me a bit of good to get lots of extra combat steps and then not have anything useful to do with them. We're going to want to protect Moraug with hexproof but we're also going to want ways to make him unblockable.
I've got a few creatures who can prevent target creatures from being able to block, but the best options will be the ones that simply make Moraug unblockable.
So, we've got our commander on the field and we're able to make him unblockable. That begs a simple question: how many combats do we need to win the game?
We get one combat with every turn, and while Moraug is a 6/6, he'll be hitting as a 7/6 because he gives our creatures +1/+0 for each time he has attacked this turn.
If we get a second combat, Moraug will be hitting as an 8/6, then as a 9/6, and so on.
That means that if we can line up four extra combats with an unblockable Moraug and there are no fogs or other interaction, we should be able to kill two players.
- Combats 1-3: 7+8+9 = 24 points of Commander Damage
- Combats 4-5: 10+11 = 21 points of Commander Damage.
Getting four land drops in our first main phase is trivial with this build.
If we just save up a Myriad Landscape from an earlier turn we can drop a fetch land for #1, crack it for #2 and then crack Myriad Landscape for land drops #3 and #4. With a Whispersilk Cloak attached to our commander, that should be two dead opponents if my math is correct. If I'm smart and spare whoever is the most behind, we should have a decent shot at winning the game.
If you're not into voltron, this first draft has a few other tricks up its sleeve.
Drakuseth, Maw of Flames has the kind of attack trigger I normally don't get excited about, but if we can stack up a few combat steps that direct damage can really add up. Etali, Primal Storm almost didn't make it into this list, but the possibility of swinging into a series of Etali triggers is just too good to pass up. Utvara Hellkite might seem like an odd inclusion as Hellkite Charger might seem like a more natural fit. If you're able to swing Utvara Hellkite three or four times in a single turn you'll be putting that many 6/6 Dragons onto the battlefield. If you untap on your next turn and can swing with them all, you should be set up to close out the game pretty nicely.
If you just want to play dirty and grab everyone else's creatures, Mob Rule and Insurrection will do the trick. They're not exactly low mana investments, but if you can swing with all the creatures on the table and get an extra combat step or two you'll probably be winning the game. Even a meager boardstate can turn into a win if you're careful about how you spread out damage and you don't lose any of your stolen army until the final combat step when you kill everyone off.
The first draft of this list fared pretty well in early goldfishing. I was able to consistently hit land drops and was able to demonstrate that Moraug can reliably threaten to kill an opponent on the first turn he is able to attack. The key is to save up anything that would get you a landfall trigger until you've got Moraug out and you're ready to swing into your extra combat steps.
I'll be the first to admit that I have some very bad habits when I goldfish a deck. I'm generally just playing out how the deck would unfold its game plan with zero interaction. That can be a useful exercise and I do find it fun, but it also sets me up with a false impression of how strong the deck really is. In today's game of EDH the tables I actually play at have so much interaction that no plan ever goes uninterrupted. As I write this, just last night I had a "casual" game stolen from me (well, my Ramos, Dragon Engine was stolen) by a $200 Gilded Drake. Stuff happens and your plans should and probably will get interrupted.
In mono-Red it's not always easy to deal with heavy removal and stack interaction. The good news is that if you got yourself a bunch of land drops and extra combat steps and have your Moraug stolen or exiled, you still have those combat steps. You might not have much to swing with, but they'll be there for you.
Moraug combat steps is not a subtle deck. There's no hiding what you're trying to do. Your Whispersilk Cloak and Myriad Landscape will be sitting there on the table and if your opponents can't figure out what you're going to try to do, they probably deserve what they'll get.
I think my takeaway has to be that Moraug will definitely make for a fun and strong casual deck with the potential to steal games if uninterrupted. I don't think it lends itself to combo at all so I don't think it will ever make its way into the top levels of mid-power decks or into fringe cEDH territory. It'll be fun and mostly fair, but not that overpowered.
My desire to maximize the number of landfall triggers led me to include a lot of creatures and artifacts that put lands into my hand in the first draft of this list. I've gone through and pulled out a few cards to add in 2-CMC mana rocks that are really essential to making any 6-mana commander have a chance at hitting the field ahead of schedule. This isn't really tuned up as much as possible, but I think it represents a pretty good exploration of how much you can do with Moraug.
Moraug's Fury | Commander | Stephen Johnson
- Commander (1)
- 1 Moraug, Fury of Akoum
- Creatures (29)
- 1 Boldwyr Intimidator
- 1 Captivating Crew
- 1 Clamor Shaman
- 1 Combat Celebrant
- 1 Dockside Extortionist
- 1 Drakuseth, Maw of Flames
- 1 Etali, Primal Storm
- 1 Firefright Mage
- 1 Frenzied Goblin
- 1 Farfinder
- 1 Goblin Champion
- 1 Goblin Heelcutter
- 1 Goblin Wardriver
- 1 Hanweir Garrison
- 1 Hardened Berserker
- 1 Hero of Oxid Ridge
- 1 Inferno Titan
- 1 Kargan Intimidator
- 1 Lord of Shatterskull Pass
- 1 Pyreheart Wolf
- 1 Treasonous Ogre
- 1 Utvara Hellkite
- 1 Burnished Hart
- 1 Pilgrim's Eye
- 1 Skittering Surveyor
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Suspicious Bookcase
- 1 Walking Atlas
- 1 Wild-Field Scarecrow
- Artifacts (24)
- 1 Amulet of Vigor
- 1 Arcane Signet
- 1 Crucible of Worlds
- 1 Druidic Satchel
- 1 Executioner's Hood
- 1 Expedition Map
- 1 Fellwar Stone
- 1 Fireshrieker
- 1 Glaring Spotlight
- 1 Key to the City
- 1 Lightning Greaves
- 1 Mana Crypt
- 1 Mana Vault
- 1 Manifold Key
- 1 Mind Stone
- 1 Renegade Map
- 1 Ruby Medallion
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Swiftfoot Boots
- 1 Trailblazer's Boots
- 1 Traveler's Amulet
- 1 Wanderer's Twig
- 1 Wayfarer's Bauble
- 1 Whispersilk Cloak
- Lands (36)
- 13 Mountain
- 1 Ancient Tomb
- 1 Arid Mesa
- 1 Bloodstained Mire
- 1 Buried Ruin
- 1 Evolving Wilds
- 1 Fabled Passage
- 1 Field of Ruin
- 1 Grixis Panorama
- 1 Hanweir Battlements
- 1 Isolated Watchtower
- 1 Jund Panorama
- 1 Mountain Valley
- 1 Myriad Landscape
- 1 Naya Panorama
- 1 Prismatic Vista
- 1 Rocky Tar Pit
- 1 Rogue's Passage
- 1 Scalding Tarn
- 1 Terminal Moraine
- 1 Terrain Generator
- 1 Terramorphic Expanse
- 1 Thespian's Stage
- 1 Warped Landscape
If you wanted to tune this deck up, I'm sure better deck-builders could drop out creatures like Farfinder or the high-CMC Boldwyr Intimidator and load in some additional combo pieces. I'm running Combat Celebrant and that generally means that Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker joins the party. Moving this list towards a more generic Mono-Red fringe cEDH combo list wouldn't be hard, but I really wanted to explore the landfall angle today.
If my goal was to explore the question of how "busted" Moraug, Fury of Akoum is, I think the answer has to be "somewhat." It's strong and in the right meta this deck should be able to win its share of games and have a fun time doing it. The emphasis on landfall and land tutoring means you'll be setting yourself up to be less likely to have mana issues. The focus on winning with your commander does make this list something of a glass cannon. I've added Etali, [card]Primal Surge and Drakuseth, Maw of Flames to give you some interesting late game beaters that will benefit from extra attack steps. Having a main goal of having to win on the battlefield is going to wind up being a disadvantage in some metas, particularly if they are combo heavy.
I haven't yet decided if I'm going to build Moraug, Fury of Akoum in paper. I find him tempting, but in a meta with heavy removal and very good threat assessment I'm not optimistic that it will wind up being that fun. Someone will likely just counter him so he doesn't resolve or steal him with a Gilded Drake and I'll be left sitting there with a Farfinder and a Pyreheart Wolf watching an opponent milk extra combats out of my commander.
The real power of Moraug will probably only get unleashed in a deck with access to Green. Xenagos, God of Revels might have just gotten a lot better, along with a handful of other decks that have access to both Red and Green and which focus on land drops and combat. Those aren't seen in high power circles, but battlecruiser EDH is still alive and well at kitchen tables and in game stores everywhere.
That's all I've got for you today. If you've got your eye on a deck to slot Moraug, Fury of Akoum into, I'd love to hear about it! Comment below and tell me what I missed or where you'd put this big red Minotaur Warrior.
Thanks for reading and I'll see you next week!