The Magic community is a funny collective, filled with all sorts of fans. Commander fans are a significant sub-section, and even those folks are sub-divided into some wild interest groups. One group of Commander fans have apparently been clamoring for a legendary Bear they can build around.
" One of the side effects of being a spokesperson for the game, especially one with a blog where anyone can easily write to me, is I get a lot of requests. One popular type of request is for legendary cards for creature types that have never had a legendary card. For quite a while now, the creature type that gets requested the most often is legendary Bear. I have mentioned that I regret I didn't realize the Bear theme that ended up in Khans of Tarkir , as it would have been the perfect place for a legendary Bear. I'm happy to say that, finally, a legendary Bear has made it to print. Interestingly rather than a Bear lord, Goreclaw is more of a build-around for big creatures. It allows you to play bigger creatures for less mana and pumps them when Goreclaw attacks. I hope many of you who have wanted a Bear Commander can have some fun with Goreclaw."
Apparently, Goreclaw didn't really fill the niche that Bear tribal fans have been clamoring for. Not only does Goreclaw not call out and help Bears specifically, but its special abilities pretty much don't work on any Bears. Not surprisingly, these Bear tribal enthusiasts seem to be quite disappointed in their first legendary Bear.
But come on. Seriously, "Bear tribal" isn't exactly a world of excitement. Just look at the available Bears:
I, for one, am super-stoked that Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma went a different route rather than trying to boost a relentlessly mediocre tribe.
Goreclaw as printed is a very cool bundle of abilities that are a nice call-back to the world it comes from, Tarkir. The savage Temur clan had an affinity for creatures with power four or more and so does Goreclaw. In a clever bit of design, Goreclaw shaves two mana off the casting cost of any creature spell with power four or greater-and two mana happens to be the typical mana cost for a "bear" (see Grizzly Bear). So, our Goreclaw deck is going to want to have quite a few creatures that have at least four power.
Since we're going to be able to play big creatures for cheaper, we can realistically expect to have a couple of creatures on the battlefield with power four or more, and that's when Goreclaw's second ability kicks in. While a lot of large creatures have trample already, there are a ton that don't, and they end up being chump blocked for days by token creatures and regenerators. So, giving all our already large creatures +1/+1 and trample is incredible-what a great one-two punch!
Okay, let's get brewing!
Big Creatures for Cheap
First up, lots of big creatures! All these creatures are flat-out amazing at a significant mana discount, right? I'm super excited that I can play Rhonas the Indomitable or Wayward Swordtooth for just one green mana with Goreclaw on the battlefield. Bramble Sovereign for just two mana gives you that extra two mana to copy creatures.
Goreclaw definitely goes into my Grothama, the All-Devouring deck, but I definitely think it can return the favor and join in the fun here.
Panglacial Wurm is a neat card I've always been intrigued about playing, but the mana cost to cast it has always left it sitting on the sidelines. However, only costing five mana to cast it from your library definitely seems much more doable.
Playing big creatures for cheaper should make paying the emerge cost on Decimator of the Provinces a snap!
I love that Goreclaw effectively pays half the mana for Ghalta, Primal Hunter. Any other big creatures I missed?
I Like Big Creatures
With all these big creatures, we can take advantage of cards that like big creatures. Going back to the Temur theme of four power or greater there's Whisperer of the Wilds, Winds of Qal Sisma, Roar of Challenge, and Shamanic Revelation.
Back on Alara, the Naya shard liked big creatures too, specifically those with five or more power. Sacellum Godspeaker can help generate a bunch of extra mana to cast those big creatures. Paleoloth can help keep your hand gassed up with action as your opponents kill your creatures.
Drumhunter is a neat source of some card draw and can often trigger off Goreclaw even though its toughness is only four. If you attack with Goreclaw and get the +1/+1 boost until the end of the turn, it lasts long enough to satisfy Drumhunter's requirement. From the rules clarification on Drumhunter: "Power-boosting effects that last until end of turn will still be in effect when this kind of ability triggers and resolves." Yeah!
Of course, the best effects are those that scale the bigger the power is on your creatures. Selvala, Heart of the Wilds is perfect, giving you huge infusions of mana to cast bigger and bigger creatures, and likely letting you draw a lot of cards. Traverse the Outlands will single-shot give you all the ramp you'll likely need. Rishkar's Expertise should give you a huge influx of new cards.
Trample is Nice
Not that we really need anything extra to make trample on large creatures even more awesome, but tossing in a few cards that are already decent enough to play anyway gives a big power boost to the deck. Blackblade, Reforged scales bigger as the game goes on, so having it out there with Goreclaw is going to make any of your creatures a potential game-ending threat. Then there is the super-cool combo of deathtouch with trample. If you're not familiar with the interaction, trample works like this: you assign lethal damage (typically the blocking creature's toughness) and then the rest of the damage gets assigned to the defending player. A creature with deathtouch only needs to deal one point of damage to be considered lethal, so when you combine that with trample you only need to assign one damage to each blocker and the rest goes right to your opponent. Boom! Basilisk Collar gives lifelink and deathtouch for one creature, but then Bow of Nylea combines with Goreclaw to make your large attackers truly devastating.
Our commander provides a big dose of mana ramp, but we can't put all our eggs in that basket. If your opponents keep Goreclaw off the battlefield, you don't want to just choke on a bunch of cards in hand you can't cast so let's go ahead and play a solid number of mana ramp cards. I'm focusing quite a few slots on being able to cast Goreclaw on turn 3 since ain't no big beats party like a turn 4 big beats party.
I anticipate the typical way a Goreclaw deck is going to play out could leave your gas tank dangerously low if any of your opponents plays a spell that sweeps the battlefield clean of creatures. Lucky for us green has a fair number of quality ways to keep the cards flowing. Greater Good is always a good inclusion in green decks, but is even better here due to the high quantity of large powered creatures.
Evolutionary Leap isn't technically card drawing, but I think it'll serve well here since your opponents will likely be throwing removal spells at your creatures early and often. Cashing an already doomed creature in for a replacement creature will keep the pressure on.
Green is quite good at non-creature removal, so I've got a fair number of those in here. Cards like World Breaker, Woodfall Primus, and Terastodon are great in here as utility spells that also play well alongside Goreclaw.
When it comes to creature removal our options are limited, but Ulvenwald Tracker arranging fights with our superior creatures can get the job done. Song of Dryads is another fantastic card that can handle situations conventional removal cannot.
Rounding out the deck is Heroic Intervention to save your side of the battlefield from mass removal, Swiftfoot Boots to protect individual creatures from pinpoint removal, and then Deathrender there to swap a creature that dies with another large creature from your hand.
Sweet deck! But wait… there are too many cards! Let's figure out where to make out cuts.
Let's start by taking a look at our mana curve:
1 mana: 5
2 mana: 16
3 mana: 13
4 mana: 10+commander
5 mana: 9
6 mana: 7
7+ mana/X-spells: 12
73 total cards, plus 39 lands, equals twelve cards over the line. Let's start at the top of the curve and see if there are some cuts we can make.
As much as I like the idea of a discounted Decimator of Provinces, honestly, its cast trigger is pretty much covered by our commander already. Sifter Wurm's scry ability plus lifegain is a very appealing package for just five mana, but Verdant Sun's Avatar will generally net us much more life, and Regal Force draws us raw cards.
I was eyeballing Panglacial Wurm but heck-if it can't do work in this deck then what hope is there for it? I'm going to try and keep it in the deck.
Vigor is an insane combo with Grothama and is an MVP in my Grothama Commander deck, but I don't think it does too much here. Grunn seemed like a slam dunk until I realized that he couldn't get trample from Goreclaw without Goreclaw attacking, but if Grunn doesn't attack alone then he doesn't double his power.
The thought of playing Thragtusk for just three mana is quite appealing, but honestly compared to the other creatures in this deck Thragtusk looks fairly tame. I like Shamanic Revelation's lifegain potential, and it will often draw a couple cards too, but I don't really have too many ways to go wide to really power up the card, so I think it can be cut.
Of our mana ramp, I think Drumhunter, Sacellum Godspeaker, and Emerald Medallion are probably the weak links. Thaumatic Compass is a fine card, but a bit less useful in a mono-colored deck and is a bit of a mana hog; I would rather spend my mana casting giant creatures.
Eleven cards down, one more cut to make. Ugh, I love all these cards! I suppose one of the giant creatures needs to go, but which one?
Okay, these are the four I think I have to choose from. I really don't want to cut Panglacial Wurm, and Myojin of Life's Web has the potential of doing some truly heinous haymakers if you sacrifice another large creature to Greater Good and fill your hand with giant creatures at the end of an opponent's turn. Ghalta, Primal Hunter and Terastodon are pretty close in size, and Ghalta's trample ability is a bit extraneous with Goreclaw. Terastodon's ability to destroy noncreature permanents and replace them with 3/3 Elephants is very handy, and the Elephants are fairly inconsequential to our creature suite. I think Ghalta gets the boot, but I'm definitely not 100% certain. What last cut would you make?
Here's how the deck ended up after my cuts:
- 1 Golden Guardian
- 1 Bramble Sovereign
- 1 Endbringer
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 1 Garruk's Packleader
- 1 Genesis
- 1 Hydra Broodmaster
- 1 Mossbridge Troll
- 1 Paleoloth
- 1 Panglacial Wurm
- 1 Phytotitan
- 1 Regal Force
- 1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
- 1 Seedguide Ash
- 1 Shaman of Forgotten Ways
- 1 Terastodon
- 1 Thornling
- 1 Ulvenwald Tracker
- 1 Verdant Sun's Avatar
- 1 Wall of Roots
- 1 Wayward Swordtooth
- 1 Weatherseed Treefolk
- 1 Whisperer of the Wilds
- 1 Woodfall Primus
- 1 World Breaker
- 1 Archetype of Endurance
- 1 Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma
- 1 Grothama, All-Devouring
- 1 Myojin of Life's Web
- 1 Polukranos, World Eater
- 1 Rhonas the Indomitable
- 1 Selvala, Heart of the Wilds
- 1 Surrak, the Hunt Caller
- 1 Thrun, the Last Troll
- 1 Yeva, Nature's Herald
- 19 Forest
- 1 Bant Panorama
- 1 Blighted Woodland
- 1 Command Beacon
- 1 Desert of the Indomitable
- 1 Encroaching Wastes
- 1 Endless Sands
- 1 Jund Panorama
- 1 Mirrorpool
- 1 Mosswort Bridge
- 1 Myriad Landscape
- 1 Naya Panorama
- 1 Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
- 1 Reliquary Tower
- 1 Slippery Karst
- 1 Tectonic Edge
- 1 Tranquil Thicket
- 1 Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
- 1 Miren, the Moaning Well
- 1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
- 1 Yavimaya Hollow
- 1 Basilisk Collar
- 1 Deathrender
- 1 Lifecrafter's Bestiary
- 1 Mana Vault
- 1 Mind Stone
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Swiftfoot Boots
- 1 Thought Vessel
- 1 Treasure Map
- 1 Evolutionary Leap
- 1 Greater Good
- 1 Song of the Dryads
- 1 Sylvan Library
- 1 Deglamer
- 1 Heroic Intervention
- 1 Krosan Grip
- 1 Unravel the Aether
- 1 Blackblade Reforged
- 1 Rhonas's Monument
- 1 Bow of Nylea
- 1 Harmonize
- 1 Kodama's Reach
- 1 Rishkar's Expertise
- 1 Roar of Challenge
- 1 Traverse the Outlands
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?
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):