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Building Pantlaza and Kaheera in Commander

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I didn't pick up any of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan precon commander decks, but that didn't stop me from building around cards that were only printed in them. The inclusion of precon cards in collector booster packs has given us the chance to randomly open legendary creatures that used to only be available if you picked up a precon or bought them as singles in the secondary market.

I got lucky in one of my collector boosters and opened one of the "face" commanders for the Veloci-Ramp-Tor Naya precon deck: Pantlaza, Sun-Favored.

Pantlaza, Sun-Favored

This Dinosaur is a commander that can play at a fairly wide range of power levels. It has a decent 4/4 body for five mana, but its party trick is where things get interesting. Whenever it or another Dinosaur enters the battlefield under your control, you may discover X, where X is that creature's toughness. That trigger can only occur once per turn.

A more casual Pantlaza deck might just jam a big pile of Dinosaurs together and hope for the best. Chances are good that you'll be able to get a lot of value out of a bunch of commons, uncommons and bulk rares even if you don't run any of the usual Dinosaur heavy hitters.

The better the Dinosaurs you run, and the more you focus on abusing Pantlaza's discover ability, the more powerful your deck will be, but this approach will probably top out as a high powered deck. There's only so much you can do when you're "playing fair".

If you're willing to add combo to your gameplan, that's when things get really spicy. Pantlaza is an excellent choice for a Food Chain Combo deck. Every time you cast Pantlaza it will enter as a new instance of Pantlaza and will bring with it a new iteration of the "once per turn" restriction. You could also combo off with Temur Sabertooth and Dockside Extortionist and then cast Pantlaza again and again. There are lots of ways to combo off in these colors. Emiel the Blessed and Cloudstone Curio can also play into an infinite ETB wincon with Pantlaza. Ultimately you can use those discover triggers to play or draw your entire deck and you can win in any manner of ways.

Despite my fondness for Food Chain, I don't have a Food Chain Pantlaza list for you today. I also don't have a simple pile of jank with Pantlaza at the helm. I've found a fun little twist to add to my brew!

Adding a Companion

My build did start off as a pile of every Dinosaur card I could get my hands on. This was going to be a Dinosaur deck so pulling every White, Red or Green dino from my rare binder seemed like a good starting point. As I was going through my rares I came across an interesting Selesnya legendary creature that got me thinking.

Kaheera, the Orphanguard

This cat beast has vigilance and gives every creature I control that's a Cat, Elemental, Nightmare, Dinosaur, or Beast a +1/+1 anthem effect and vigilance. Nightmares aren't often found in my colors, but I was pretty sure I could find my fair share of those other creature types if I wanted to go beyond just Dinosaurs for this build.

Kaheera isn't just a cool legendary Cat Beast, it's also a companion. If I want to run it as Pantlaza's companion, it gets to hang out in the command zone and for 3 mana I can put it into my hand. That can only be done at sorcery speed (with an empty stack in one of your main phases). The requirement for your deck to have Kaheera as a companion is that each creature card in your starting deck is a Cat, Elemental, Nightmare, Dinosaur, or Beast card.

While my deck has over thirty Dinosaurs, it also has a handful of other creatures that are fairly powerful. I was pulling from the cards I had around, and I'm sure you could find an even better support cast than I managed to cobble together.

Oreskos Explorer
Keeper of Fables
Temur Sabertooth

Oreskos Explorer may only tutor up Plains, but in a deck that can't run Sakura-Tribe Elder or any of the staple Elf or Druid mana dorks that we tend to rely upon in a Naya deck, this Cat Scout will help us hit our and drops and put an early blocker into play. Keeper of Fables is a nice little source of card draw in a deck that expects to be going to combat. Whenever one or more non-Human creatures I control deals damage to a player, I'll draw a card. If things go well I should be able to pick up an extra card or two in my combat step.

If I weren't running Kaheera as a companion, I'd be able to consider running Dockside Extortionist and Temur Sabertooth, but this list can only run the latter. Temur Sabertooth is a great card for this deck, as it will let me bounce a Dinosaur to my hand so I can recast it even if I'm empty-handed. Ideally I want to be getting a Discover trigger on every one of my turns to squeeze as much value as possible out of my commander.

Felidar Guardian
Vigor
Zhur-Taa Ancient

I'm running two White flicker/blink creatures in this deck. Felidar Guardian and Flickerwisp will each let me exile a creature and return it to the battlefield. Felidar Guardian will blink a creature I control, returning it to the battlefield immediately. Flickerwisp will flicker a creature, having it return at the beginning of the next end step. The former is a Cat Beast, the latter is an Elemental, and both meet my companion's creature type requirements.

I'm running another Elemental in Vigor, a 6/6 Elemental Incarnation with trample. Vigor will prevent combat damage to my creatures and will have them gain +1/+1 counters equal to the amount of damage prevented this way. Zhur-Taa Ancient has a symmetrical effect that whenever a player taps a land for mana, they'll add one mana of any type that land produced to their mana pool. You'll make more mana. Your tablemates will also make more mana. Sometimes this will backfire, but dinosaurs are expensive and this extra mana could help you play out creatures pretty nicely.

I don't mind a little risk in my game, but many players avoid running cards that might help their tablemates at all. Whether you want to take the risk that you might hand someone else the game that's up to you.

Dinosaurs on Parade

I already had a lot of old favorites like Etali, Primal Storm, Gishath, Sun's Avatar, Zacama, Primal Calamity, and Zetalpa, Primal Dawn. I opened a lot of Dinosaurs in my collector booster box, including my commander, and a few of them are worth putting in the spotlight.

Earthshaker Dreadmaw
Wakening Sun's Avatar
Verdant Sun's Avatar

Card draw is one of the most important things to run in any EDH deck and Earthshaker Dreadmaw is like a Regal Force for Dinosaurs. Regal Force draws a card for each green creature you control, and Earthshaker draws for each dinosaur you control. Regal Force is an Elemental and could put in work in this deck. I've got a lot of Green creatures, but I didn't have a spare copy available as I was brewing.

Wakening Sun's Avatar will destroy all non-Dinosaur creatures if I cast it from my hand. I may lose an extra helper but I should end up with an advantage on board if any of my tablemates weren't able to protect their board. Verdant Sun's Avatar is a 5/5 Dinosaur Avatar that will have you gain life when it or another creature enters the battlefield equal to that creature's toughness. In lower-powered games, lifegain can go a long way towards helping you make it to the late game.

Ghalta, Stampede Tyrant is a monster of a card. This 12/12 Elder Dinosaur has trample and when it enters the battlefield I'll put any number of creatures from my hand onto the battlefield. If I've held back I could turn into a real threat depending on what I had in my hand.

New creatures can be intimidating, but they aren't an immediate threat if they can't attack that turn. To do that they'll need haste, which is something Palani's Hatcher will provide. Hatcher will also create two 0/1 Green Dinosaur Egg tokens. At the beginning of combat on your turn you can sacrifice the egg to create a 3/3 Dinosaur token you'll then be able to attack with.

Quartzwood Crasher will give you a little something if attacked with a trampling creature and your combat phase goes well. Whenever one or more creatures you control with trample deals combat damage to a player, you'll create an X/X Green Dinosaur Beast token with trample, where X is the amount of damage those creatures dealt to that player.

Cheating Costs

These Dinosaurs are going to cost a lot of mana, so it makes sense to run some ways to get them into play for less than we'd otherwise have to pay.

Monster Manual
Wild Pair

Monster Manual has an Elvish Piper effect where you can pay one and a green and tap it to put a creature card from your hand onto the battlefield. It's also got an adventure option where you can cast it as the sorcery spell Zoological Study. For 2 and a green you can mill five cards and return a creature card milled this way to your hand. I'd run Elvish Piper in this list if it fit under Kaheera's creature type restrictions, but it doesn't. The enchantment Wild Pair should also put in work in this list. It's great value if you get to a point in the game where you can get this out. Its biggest drawback is that it's 6 mana and will often do nothing the turn you play it.

Eye of Ojer Taq
Apex Observatory

This 3-mana artifact is a mana rock, but if I can exile two cards that share a card type from my graveyard and/or battlefield, and if I can pay 6 mana, I can transform Eye of Ojer Taq into Apex Observatory. That backside is an artifact that will enter tapped and I'll choose a card type shared by the two exiled cards. It can tap to let me pay zero mana for the next spell I cast this turn of the chosen type.

I'm also running a decent ramp package, including Traverse the Outlands, a sorcery that will ramp me equal to the greatest power among creatures I control. That could open up all sorts of possibilities on my next turn. Getting more lands is almost always better than dropping my casting costs, as land destruction will rarely be much of a threat. Artifacts and Enchantments are much easier to remove.

The Decklist

The biggest thing to note about this deck is that the effect of having vigilance for your main combat threats is better than you'd think it is. If you've got the biggest boys on the block, and you're willing to send them into battle, any that survive should be available as blockers on your turn. That should make you a lot more comfortable going to combat, and that's how this deck is going to win its games.

Vigi Dinos | Commander | Stephen Johnson

Card Display

To tune this deck down you could probably drop out some of the bigger threats like the Elder Dinosaurs. The Great Henge could probably also get dropped, though you'd want to make sure you replace it with card draw. If you dropped the companion, you might run Elvish Piper, Beast Whisperer and a bunch of other good support creatures that don't fit into Kaheera's deckbuilding restrictions. You'll be edging towards Naya goodstuff, and that's fine but I find the challenge of building around a companion much more interesting.

Tuning this deck up would involve dropping out the weaker dinosaurs and adding more card draw, faster mana and better lands. You could even leap into cEDH with Food Chain combo and other fast, explosive wincons. You'd probably load up with stax effects to slow everyone else down, and you'd be all in on Food Chain combo and Dockside Extortionist / Temur Sabertooth. That means you'd also be running tutors to get those creatures out, as they'll be the easiest way to win a higher powered or cEDH match. You're unlikely to be swinging Dinos and adding counters to a Beastmaster Ascension if you're up against legitimate cEDH decks.

Final Thoughts

I've had a few games with this deck and it has largely met my expectations. It has played a very fair game and I haven't yet come out on top, but it's been fun. So far my biggest takeaway is that any upgrade would see me drop out the weakest dinosaurs and add in more removal and probably more card draw. These lists are often first drafts and would benefit from getting played and modified to fit into the meta that you play in.

Before I wrap up, I did want to mention that Pantlaza, Sun-Favored is the sort of commander that you can build a "trick deck" around. You simply need to set up your deck so that your first Pantlaza discover trigger will cast one specific spell. You might even have that single target flicker Pantlaza, put a counter on her, and hit a second spell. I've seen a few discussions online about this sort of experiment and it's a fun concept to be sure. I won't share anyone else's solution for winning this way, but with a little research you should be able to find those lists.

You might even try to figure out how to build this weird 95+ land Pantlaza deck on your own. Trick decks are fun, but they'll play out the same way every time if it works, and if it fails you'll be out of the game entirely. If you like puzzles, it's a fun one to try to solve.

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

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