Did anyone get a chance to play in a Battlebond preview event this weekend? I couldn't make one myself, unfortunately. Next weekend I'll be spellslinging in the Command Zone at the SCG CON, so I won't be able to play Battlebond then either, but hopefully I'll find a chance soon. In the meantime, though, I've been busy brainstorming using a lot of the cards in Commander decks. One card in particular has really piqued my interest, the first ever legendary Wurm, Grothama, All-Devouring!
What a delightfully weird card that really takes a lot of thinking to unlock the inherent power in it. On its face, it looks like a classic case of "overly large card for the mana cost with a severe drawback to balance it out." This used to be green's bread and butter back in the days of Erhnam Djinn, but we've come a long way since then. Creatures now are often quite large and loaded with abilities for a reasonable mana cost, so I imagine a lot of people looking at this and dismissing it as bad. Why would I play a creature that's going to draw my opponents cards?
But let's think about how things might play out in the real world. If an opponent wants to kill Grothama, they're going to have to have eight power in attackers, which likely means at least two creatures. Each of those creatures will most likely be killed by Grothama dishing out ten points of damage to each. So, yeah, your opponent might be drawing eight new cards, but they're going to be losing two or three of their creatures on the battlefield, in addition to the mana they invested to cast those creatures. So there's actually a significant trade-off here…and that's assuming everything goes the way your attacking opponent thinks it should.
If you're playing Grothama, why would you make that decision easy? An instant-speed pump spell or something to give Grothama indestructible for the turn would prove to be a disaster for the opponent. Aha, now that sounds much more interesting, right?
Okay, let's get brewing!
Okay, the first thing we should keep in mind is the size of Grothama. This thing is ten power for just five mana, which means it's coming down pretty early and commanding respect. Of course, with no evasion, there are usually going to be plenty of options available to chump block Grothama so giving it trample will be a top priority. Rancor immediately springs to mind, but also Elvish Herder, Hunter's Prowess and Nylea, God of the Hunt. Song of Freyalise's final chapter provides trample and indestructible for a truly scary alpha strike.
Grothama alone satisfies the requirement for formidable, so Shaman of Forgotten Ways power out Grothama early and potentially use its other activated ability too. Surrak, the Hunt Caller likes formidable creatures too, so it can give Grothama haste.
Grothama's size satisfies all the colorless requirements to cast Ghalta, Primal Hunger. A two-mana 12/12 sounds like the perfect companion to your legendary Wurm.
Basilisk Collar does great work in most Commander decks that attack and block, but in this deck, we get a flush of ten life each time Grothama fights. The deathtouch won't matter all that much, since ten power is going to be lethal most of the time, but if you happen to combine it with trample, then that's going to be a whopping nine points of damage coming through a chump blocker.
My favorite combo here, though, is having a Mossbridge Troll on the battlefield. You can tap Grothama to give the Troll +20/+20 until the end of the turn. Attack and elect to fight Grothama, which kills it and you draw 25 cards (not to mention being a huge threat attacking an opponent).
To break the symmetry of Grothama, you'll want to make sure it survives your opponents' attempts at killing it. One of the best cards for this is Asceticism, which grants all your creatures hexproof and the ability to regenerate for two mana. I also like Broken Fall and Molting Skin, since you can cast one of them early before casting Grothama and not have to pay any mana to regenerate it. Blinding Fog is an interesting combat trick in this deck; you can allow the fight triggers to resolve up until the one that will result in Grothama dying and then cast Blinding Fog to prevent all the rest of the damage to creatures this turn.
I also like cards like Caltrops, Raking Canopy and Katabatic Winds to prevent opponents from effectively attacking Grothama with a token swarm or fliers. Sword of Feast and Famine effectively blanks any green or black creatures fighting Grothama.
On the flip side of breaking Grothama's symmetry is fighting the Wurm with your own creatures. Rhonas the Indomitable is a great choice here, being indestructible and able to dish out five points of damage with deathtouch, so at a minimum you can cash out Grothama for five fresh cards. Grothama conveniently gives Rhonas enough power to wake it up. If you don't want to fight, Rhonas can boost Grothama and give it trample. Predator Ooze is another indestructible creature that can fight with Grothama if you want and survive. What's even better is Stuffy Doll, which can attack and fight Grothama so you can hit an opponent for ten!
Darksteel Plate and Hammer of Nazahn can serve different roles, first of which is protecting Grothama from dying, but you can also make one of your own creatures indestructible, which lets you attack and kill Grothama yourself and draw a bunch of cards.
Vigor does some crazy things in this deck. Not only will it strongly dissuade your opponents from fighting with Grothama, but if you attack with all your creatures with Vigor out there and fight Grothama, each of those creatures will gain ten +1/+1 counters!
Leaves the Battlefield
One important thing to remember with Grothama is that it doesn't have to die in order to activate the card-draw trigger – it says "When Grothama leaves the battlefield." You can use something like Voyager Staff, Erratic Portal, or Temur Sabertooth to time when Grothama would leave the battlefield, either before you opponents deal damage to it or after your own creatures deal damage to it. There are also quite a few ways to sacrifice Grothama for profit, from Greater Good (drawing a whopping ten cards!) to Helm of Possession. I like Perilous Forays too, since you can sacrifice Grothama to get another land on the bttlefield to pay for half of the next step in Commander tax to replay Grothama, and hopefully you'll have drawn another land in your rush of cards drawn.
Since we're set up for fighting with and against Grothama, I figured a few more cards that set up fights would be complementary to our theme. I also wanted to include some creatures that we wouldn't mind fighting Grothama with. Saber Ants is an old favorite and will spit out ten 1/1 Insects from the fight. It's a pretty good bet you can transform Golden Guardian in this deck. You won't mind throwing Destructor Dragon, Protean Hulk, or Woodfall Primus under the Grothama bus.
Myojin of Life's Web is a great creature to fight Grothama. Its divinity counter will allow it to survive the fight, and you can draw eight cards. Then, during another player's turn, you can remove the divinity counter to drop any number of creatures onto the battlefield!
Card Draw Matters
If we're going to be drawing a bunch of cards off Grothama, why not leverage that for even more profit? Let's play some creatures like Maro and Masumaro, First to Live. Psychosis Crawler can actually turn into a game-winning card in this deck. With a fistful of cards, Kozilek, the Great Distortion can be a surprising control card out of a mono-green deck, assuming we've got the mana to cast it.
Grothama is relatively cheap to cast, but the sooner I can get it onto the battlefield, the more it can slam hard into my opponents before they can accumulate creatures to fight Grothama with. I'm also anticipating Grothama dying quite a bit and probably stacking up the commander tax quite a bit, so I want plenty of mana ramp in the deck.
Mono-Green Good Stuff
I'll round things out with some quality good stuff cards and want to make room for removal spells like Deglamer, Song of the Dryads, and Beast Within. Storm Seeker can punish an opponent for drawing too many cards from Grothama.
Sweet deck! But wait… there are too many cards! Let's figure out where to make our cuts.
Let's start by taking a look at our mana curve.
Converted Mana Cost
Number of Cards
10 (+ Grothama)
7+ / X
92 total cards, plus 37 lands, equals a whopping 29 cards too many, yikes! Let's take a look at the top of the mana curve for some possible cuts.
These are some hard cuts, but I think I can afford to lose these over some of the other choices. Elixir of Immortality is probably enough to keep myself from decking, so Ulamog hits the bench. Let's go a little further down the mana curve.
Some more tough cuts. I want to make sure I have plenty of creatures I can potentially fight my own Grothama with, so I'm leaning more towards cutting noncreature cards.
More noncreature spells bite the dust. I've decided to drop the other fight cards because Grothama itself is going to do plenty of fighting, so I don't think I need to have fighting as a Plan B. I'm cutting Lightning Greaves because I have some instants I'd want to be able to play to save Grothama. Blackblade Reforged is awesome, but Grothama is naturally big enough already.
Okay, after that bloodbath, I've still got four more cuts to make. Looking at the mana curve of my remaining cards, I should probably cut two from the three-mana slot. That's going to be tough, but I think I'll go with Caltrops and Beast Within.
Two more. As much as I love Acidic Slime, I think there is some concern that an opponent might Clone or reanimate it and then fight with Grothama and having Grothama die to my own creatures deathtouch sounds like a bummer, so I'm going to cut it.
What's the final cut? One of the Maros? Conjurer's Closet? Helm of Possession? Is Kozilek, the Great Distortion too cute? I think it might be, so I'm going to go ahead and cut it, but I'm not entirely sure that's the right call. What do you think?
Here's how the deck ended up after the cuts:
- 1 Golden Guardian
- 1 Psychosis Crawler
- 1 Scuttlemutt
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Stuffy Doll
- 1 Destructor Dragon
- 1 Elvish Herder
- 1 Elvish Skysweeper
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 1 Maro
- 1 Mossbridge Troll
- 1 Phytotitan
- 1 Predator Ooze
- 1 Saber Ants
- 1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
- 1 Seedborn Muse
- 1 Shaman of Forgotten Ways
- 1 Spearbreaker Behemoth
- 1 Stonehoof Chieftain
- 1 Temur Sabertooth
- 1 Tireless Tribe
- 1 Vigor
- 1 Wall of Roots
- 1 Weatherseed Treefolk
- 1 Yavimaya Elder
- 1 Ghalta, Primal Hunger
- 1 Masumaro, First to Live
- 1 Multani, Maro-Sorcerer
- 1 Myojin of Life's Web
- 1 Rhonas the Indomitable
- 1 Surrak, the Hunt Caller
- 1 Nylea, God of the Hunt
- 1 Basilisk Collar
- 1 Conjurer's Closet
- 1 Darksteel Plate
- 1 Elixir of Immortality
- 1 Empyrial Plate
- 1 Erratic Portal
- 1 Helm of Possession
- 1 Mind Stone
- 1 Nim Deathmantle
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Swiftfoot Boots
- 1 Sword of Feast and Famine
- 1 Thaumatic Compass
- 1 Thought Vessel
- 1 Treasure Map
- 1 Asceticism
- 1 Evolutionary Leap
- 1 Greater Good
- 1 Molting Skin
- 1 Perilous Forays
- 1 Rancor
- 1 Song of Freyalise
- 1 Song of the Dryads
- 1 Blinding Fog
- 1 Deglamer
- 1 Heroic Intervention
- 1 Withstand Death
- 1 Hammer of Nazahn
- 1 Hunter's Prowess
So, what do you think? Do you agree with the cuts, or would you have gone another way? Are there any great cards I overlooked?
Don't forget: #SCGCON is this weekend! I'm so excited to be a part of the
New to Commander?
If you're just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:
- Commander Primer Part 1 (Why play Commander? Rules Overview, Picking your Commander)
- Commander Primer Part 2 (Mana Requirements, Randomness, Card Advantage)
- Commander Primer Part 3 (Power vs. Synergy, Griefing, Staples, Building a Doran Deck)
- Commander Starter Kits 1 (kick start your allied two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 2 (kick start your enemy two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 3 (kick start your shard three-color decks for $25)
Commander write-ups I've done (and links to decklists):