I have to thank you for taking time to read my email and help me out.
I have been reading your articles for quite a while, and I finally decided to send you an email.
I built this deck with my best friend the day we found out about EDH and decided to play it. I love this deck, but it isn't working. I end up always losing (and that's not so fun). The problem is that I can't decide what to change.
Can you help me?
1x Ancestral Mask
1x Boundless Realms
As you can see, my deck revolves around getting lots of mana and making Omnath the biggest guy around. I try to use as many cards as I can that support him (like Hurricane and Stream of Life). I think my biggest problem is the late game and not having any answers to commander kills or steals.
I will very much appreciate if you help me out!
P.S. Sorry for my bad English, I am not used to it.
Franco, this is either your lucky day or else I owe you an apology.
One of the things I like to do with Dear Azami is to try to keep things as fresh as possible by discussing the strategy that will drive the changes I make to a deck. It's nice to be able to explain how certain cards fit in the holes I like to make an (over)abundance of when I do my thing, and I think it's an important method for keeping things interesting without resorting to slotting cards based on individual merit with nothing but the hopes that the deck will somehow end up more than the sum of its parts.
However, even when attempting to keep myself honest in this regard, it's still easy to lose sight of the surroundings. My esteemed cowriter Sean pointed out that he was shouldering the mono-colored deck load a few weeks back, and he was absolutely correct; I've been severely slacking, and I aim to change that today. Fortunately for me, the correct deck in the correct color appeared at just the right time in the Dear Azami inbox, and here we are.
That said, what's the strategy this week? Easy.
Growing up, my father was very frugal in his choice of automobiles. He preferred to save his money by purchasing used cars that, to put it nicely, had seen some really long miles. Inevitably, these cars would reach a point where things started going wrong. Usually lots of things. At that point, my father would tell me that the car needed a very simple repair.
"What is possibly simple about this fix?" I'd ask, often after the engine seized or the rear wheels fell off and destroyed the neighbor's mailbox.
"Well…" he'd explain, "I need to roll it into a repair shop, take off the radiator cap, roll the car back out, roll in a new one, and put the cap back on."
He said this with enough of a straight face that I was probably about seventeen before I finally figured out the joke. (I didn't get out much as a kid...)
But it is something that stuck with me over the years. I'm looking forward to telling it to my son some day, assuming I can stop my bad habit of buying a new car every two years or so out of sheer boredom. I assume it'd be a hard sell if the car never breaks down…
All of this came to my mind when I started really looking closely at your list, Franco. Not because it looks old and rusty and just threw a piston, but because I see a lot of room for improvement if the goal here is adding some wins to your resume.
Here's the page directly out of my notebook after breaking it all down:
- A little too commander-centric—break from the Omnath mold!
- Some head-scratchers in the creature department.
- Lots of small effects that err on the side of "less than relevant."
- No artifacts? Is this on purpose?
- Not nearly enough lands.
- Hurting for card draw.
- Could use a few more creatures while we're at it.
- Curls up in a fetal position to board sweepers.
- Holy auras! Am I missing some weird Enchantress thing or something?
- Doubling Season? Why?
As you may have guessed by now, your deck is kinda like my dad's car. I'm very nearly just lifting up the Forests and rolling a new card pool underneath.
Like I said, Omnath…meet chainsaw.
Let's Talk About Good Stuff
If I had to categorize this deck, I'd put it way out on the casual end of the Commander power scale. There are some strong plays without a doubt; it has the capacity to produce a decent amount of mana and really beef up Omnath to make him a must-answer threat, and there are some bomb plays available, some just as simple as tabling Rogue's Passage and attacking. That's good.
However, there is some room for improvement. I'm not crazy about the soft life gain theme, and as I detailed above, things are sort of spread out strategy-wise once you get past "Play Omnath, tap Forests, swing." I also want to steer the ship into slightly less-familiar waters as well; Omnath decks are not unheard of, and very frequently they favor a Voltron strategy.
My primary goal is going to be to take the linear nature of an Omnath deck and spin it in a more creative direction. One of the best ways to deal with tuck or control effects is to diversify, so I want to use all of this mana to fuel some big card draw and flood some bigger, better creatures in case Omnath gets bored and takes off on you.
While we're (not at all) on the topic, I did want to address the idea of "need versus good stuff." I bring this up because I'm going to be adding more than a few cards that regular readers will identify as format staples and that usually goes against my Commander morals. There are two mitigating factors here, however:
- Franco wants to do something other than lose every game he plays.
- Sometimes, the shoe just fits.
As I've said in the past, a card is only a good stuff inclusion if it doesn't have a good excuse to be in a list. Everything I'm going to be adding will belong, and as I'm not going the direction of a turbo Genesis Wave or a Primal Surge combo deck, it's going to be okay to let this deck pick up some reasonably powerful additions.
Let's see what's under the hood, shall we? Today, I'm going by usage to define the dynamic changes as we go forward.
The Land Changes
The land count here is in the realm of "dangerously low," even for a deck with an inexpensive Green Mana Battery for a commander. For these cuts, I'm focusing on removing some fragile mana-producing bodies and replacing them with far more stable lands themselves (and one fragile mana-producing land while I'm at it). This will hopefully ensure that you're gaining some solid utility and not missing any land drops in the meantime.
At least in my neck of the woods, Commander games are punctuated with mass removal, and 1/1 Elves aren't really sticking around long enough to matter in that sort of an environment. Your basic land count seems good, so I'm slotting in some of the best utility you can get, and it all is aimed at making sure Omnath is protected and enabled.
Miren and High Market will give you an answer to tuck or steal strategies. Homeward Path also prevents Omnath from walking off to the other side of the board, while Winding Canyons allows you to immediately replay your commander if he gets killed off at any time other than your main phases. (I'd hate to waste any mana you have floating around, after all.) Finally, Tectonic Edge will put a stop to Maze of Ith or Kor Haven. Solid utility, plain and simple.
The Mana Acceleration Upgrades
I know the 'join forces' mechanic was born and bred with Commander in mind, but the last thing I want to do is give everyone a landslide of free mana ramp. (Let's be honest…who's willingly adding to Collective Voyage with an Omnath player at the table anyway?)
The rest of the existing effects seem pretty pedestrian as well, and I think we can (no pun intended…mostly, anyway) ramp things up a bit in this category:
- Reap and Sow is going to give you another way to deal with problematic lands while also giving you a restriction-free land Tutor.
- Silverglade Elemental brings a decent-sized body that doesn't need to be sacrificed to find a basic land.
- Ranger's Path gives you two Forests for the price of one instead of asking you to pay a flashback cost or sacrifice a creature.
- Seedguide Ash is like stapling three Diligent Farmhands together and then some. Unless you're a big fan of Muscle Burst, anyway…
- Sakura-Tribe Elder does away with having to pay a sacrifice tax to get the land you're looking for.
- Finally, Mana Reflection. If there's an accelerator that belongs in this deck…it's probably Boundless Realms. But past that, Mana Reflection lets Omnath grow like a glowing green humanoid-shaped weed without enabling the rest of the table or being an artifact. (Remember the 'no artifacts' thing? I'm keeping it around. Stay tuned.)
The Draw Suite
This deck needs card draw. Part of what I assume is the main problem is that it looks to have a really hard time refilling cards in hand, which is a great way to just lose to a midgame Damnation. The cards coming out are going to be upgraded (from the singleton Enchantress effect to the multi-lateral helping hand Rites of Flourishing provides everyone else before you) or replaced due to obsolescence (Roar of the Wurm without Doubling Season is just not nearly as good, and Ooze Garden's timing restrictions drive me up the wall).
The replacement draw is some of the best green can offer a deck like this. The gold standard is obviously Harmonize; from there, I'm adding a decent portion of draw based on creatures entering play with Garruk's Packleader and Soul of the Harvest, both of which can serve up a reasonable beatdown as well.
Lastly, I'm adding the very finest in draw effects that love to have a giant Elemental stuffed with mana like a Thanksgiving turkey around. Greater Good is arguably the best of the bunch as it offers you a free sacrifice outlet with no restriction, but Momentous Fall will tack on a huge swing in life as well for a small investment Soul's Majesty and Hunter's Insight will more than refill your hand—and make me think twice about slotting in Reliquary Tower.
If only there was a green effect that did the same thing…
The Recursion Options
You always need a return on your investment. While I like the cost of Piper's Melody, I don't see why you'd want to stop with just creatures. You could instead grab everything back and not ever worry again about snapping off Momentous Fall when someone targets your 28/28 Omnath with removal then having to discard a quarter of your deck to your cleanup step. As I said before, I don't particularly think a minor life gain theme is well-used space here, so instead we pick up one of a very few artifacts in the deck, one which allows you to not deck yourself after you've drawn and played those 28 extra cards, and it throws in a small amount of life as well. (We're still safe with the 'no artifacts' theme here since this isn't sticking around for long anyway…)
Finally, your lonely Troll is getting upgraded to a double creature Regrowth on legs. That seems better.
The Removal Overhaul
Making room here, we'll start with the Doubling Season cut. It plays slightly nice with the handful of token producers you started with and I guess Bramblewood Paragon digs it, but otherwise it simply doesn't serve much of a purpose. Maybe if Omnath got actual +1/+1 counters, I'd be singing a different tune.
In its place I'm slotting All Is Dust, which offers this deck a reasonable board wipe option that isn't artifact-based.
Creeping Mold gets an arguable upgrade to Bramblecrush, which will let you get rid of planeswalkers as well. Beast Attack clears out space for Spine of Ish Sah, which offers you some more flexible removal and plays very nice with the Molder Slug that replaces the second Dryad Arbor you mistakenly had in your initial list. (This iswhy I'm trying to stay artifact-less!)
Rounding things out, Harrow and Might of Oaks are getting repurposed for an additional (not to mention instant speed) Hurricane effect in Squall Line and some solid reusable removal in a snappy hat who loves to hang out with Omnath.
The Moment's Peace Slot
OUT: Deep Wood
IN: Moment's Peace
A card so nice it deserves its own category. And as we all know, two Fogs are better than one.
The Creature Recruits
Finally, we get to the meat of the deck. Some of these are direct upgrades; Yeva, for example, isn't opening the door for your opponents to add flash to their creatures and enchantments like Vernal Equinox does. Pelakka Wurm takes the six life Nourish gives you, tacks on a seventh, and then adds a 7/7 trampling beater that draws you a card when it kicks the bucket.
Bramblesnap is decent sometimes, but Dungrove Elder seems like a solid upgrade with this many Forests lying around. Saber Ants, while cute, pales in comparison to Verdeloth the Ancient, which works well with the other Treefolk that I added and does offer some tokens to play around with as well.
I love a good regenerator. That's why I'm cutting Pygmy Troll. (Rimshot!) Silvos gets the nod here instead. Likewise, Retaliation is nice and all, but Vigor doesn't stop at the end of the turn, protects your team, and generally makes every creature you control a potential huge problem.
The last two slots are shifted for repurposing. Krosan Restorer and Aspect of Wolf make way for Spearbreaker Behemoth and Thicket Elemental; the former pairs with Omnath to make a self-sufficient bodyguard, while the latter brings a friend (and some card advantage) to the party.
The Creature Improvements
Again, no surprises. There are a lot of upgrades here, such as Gaea's Embrace over Regeneration for the added trample and Wildsize over Giant Growth for the same reason (plus a card to boot). Instead of the surprise factor of Jolrael's Favor, Asceticism protects your whole gang with both hexproof and regeneration.
I did let you keep some auras, and I went for some upgrades here as well. Bear Umbra is possibly the best aura Omnath can get his tentacles on, offering him some extra protection and a potential ton of extra size and mana. Ancestral Mask lost that coin flip.
Compost is an odd include for me. I'm hoping there's a ton of black in your metagame, but without really knowing for sure and taking into account the upgrades to your card draw I've already added, it seems like a reasonable cut.
Ferocity and Untamed Might round out final cards pulled; in the last three slots, I'll add Primal Rage (you can never give your team too much trample), Overwhelming Stampede (you can never give your team too much trample plus extra size), and Strength of the Tajuru. (You can never give your team too much extra size. See what I did there?)
Here's the aftermath:
- 1 Bramblewood Paragon
- 1 Deadwood Treefolk
- 1 Dungrove Elder
- 1 Engulfing Slagwurm
- 1 Fangren Firstborn
- 1 Garruk's Packleader
- 1 Krakilin
- 1 Molder Slug
- 1 Oracle of Mul Daya
- 1 Pelakka Wurm
- 1 Penumbra Wurm
- 1 Rampaging Baloths
- 1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
- 1 Seedguide Ash
- 1 Silverglade Elemental
- 1 Soul of the Harvest
- 1 Spearbreaker Behemoth
- 1 Thicket Elemental
- 1 Ulvenwald Tracker
- 1 Vigor
- 1 Worldspine Wurm
- 1 Omnath, Locus of Mana
- 1 Silvos, Rogue Elemental
- 1 Verdeloth the Ancient
- 1 Yeva, Nature's Herald
- 1 Elixir of Immortality
- 1 Spine of Ish Sah
- 1 Asceticism
- 1 Bear Umbra
- 1 Beastmaster Ascension
- 1 Blanchwood Armor
- 1 Druids' Repository
- 1 Gaea's Embrace
- 1 Gravity Well
- 1 Greater Good
- 1 Mana Reflection
- 1 Mark of Sakiko
- 1 Primal Rage
- 1 Rancor
- 1 Spidersilk Armor
- 1 Triumph of Ferocity
- 1 Beast Within
- 1 Hunter's Insight
- 1 Moment's Peace
- 1 Momentous Fall
- 1 Squall Line
- 1 Strength of the Tajuru
- 1 Tangle
- 1 Wildsize
- 1 Boundless Realms
- 1 Bramblecrush
- 1 Calming Verse
- 1 Cultivate
- 1 Explosive Vegetation
- 1 Far Wanderings
- 1 Harmonize
- 1 Hurricane
- 1 Overrun
- 1 Overwhelming Stampede
- 1 Praetor's Counsel
- 1 Rampant Growth
- 1 Ranger's Path
- 1 Reap and Sow
- 1 Soul's Majesty
- 1 All Is Dust
Like I've said, this is the most significant surgery I've performed since coming onboard here at Dear Azami, and I wouldn't be shocked if I just set some sort of record for cuts. Fortunately, most of these changes fall on the low end of the pricing scale; in fact, more than half of the list rings in at under a dollar. Furthermore, I'd wager that you should be able to either trade pretty easily for most of these cards or possibly even find them just lying around in boxes and binders.
We're going to go a step further in softening the blow by giving you a $20 coupon to StarCitygames.com for your participation in this week's Dear Azami. You've still got a little way to go from there, but I think the beauty of what we've accomplished here is that each change is an incremental improvement; nothing is particularly dependant on anything else, but rather they all just pull a little more weight and make the deck a little better than before. Think of this as a roadmap and get there at your own pace.
The most costly card is All Is Dust, and without any real way to Tutor for it, you need to rely on drawing into it; you could choose to omit it to save some money (or choose to swap it out for something altogether cheaper that serves a similar purpose, such as Oblivion Stone).
Here's what you're looking at price-wise:
|Reap and Sow||$0.49|
|Elixir of Immortality||$0.49|
|Spine of Ish Sah||$0.49|
|Strength of the Tajuru||$0.49|
|Yeva, Nature's Herald||$0.99|
|Verdeloth the Ancient||$1.49|
|Hall of the Bandit Lord||$1.99|
|Silvos, Rogue Elemental||$2.99|
|Miren, the Moaning Well||$5.99|
|All Is Dust||$14.99|
Thanks for sending in your deck, Franco! I really hope you enjoy the direction I took here, and I hope your luck with it turns around.
And sorry about the mess…
Want to submit a deck for consideration to Dear Azami? We're always accepting deck submissions to consider for use in a future article, like DC's Gwendlyn Di Corci deck or Eric's Progenitus deck. Only one deck submission will be chosen per article, but being selected for the next edition of Dear Azamiincludes not just deck advice but also a $20 coupon to StarCityGames.com!
Email us a deck submission using this link here!
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