Thank goodness for Magic 2013! Just a month or two back I was pretty down on Standard Magic and was losing a lot of desire to make the trip up to the StarCityGames.com Open in Washington D.C. in August that I'd been planning on attending. Now I'm chomping at the bit to sleeve up Rancors and Thragtusks and kick some ass in Standard!
As a fan of Commander there is a lot to get excited about from M13 as well. Sheldon's given his usual Commander's eye review of the set but me—I get to take one of the new legends and build a deck around it. I've been having fun building a couple bottom-up Commander decks lately but the real joy of building Commander decks is to take a legend and make it a star!
Luckily for me M13's got a green legend that is truly star material. Check her out:
That's some gal! I remember when Wizards printed Teferi Mage of Zhalfir and it pissed me off to no end. Giving your creatures flash—shouldn't that be something green gets to do?! Green's come a long way in Magic in terms of its relative power level but having so much of the color's power locked into the main phase is always a massive limiter. Multiplayer games very clearly illustrate the advantages of having powerful effects at instant speed since if you tap down to cast something during your main phase you've got several opponents who now know you've got very limited responses available to you for their own shenanigans during the next turn. It's why Seedborn Muse is so off-the-charts ridiculous in Commander (The Case Against Seedborn Muse).
While Teferi is still miles better for just one colored mana more Yeva Nature's Herald finally gives green a way to break out of that severely limiting box and I'm thrilled! Building a Commander deck with Yeva as the general is unlike any other mono-green Commander deck I've ever built before.
Open Mana Is Your Rattlesnake
Once you've got four mana available to you your whole game style changes. Now you don't have to worry about any random 3/X creature getting sent to attack you. The four mana you've got open plus Yeva in your Command Zone means you've got a blocker available at instant speed. Not only that but…you've got four mana open. What does that mean for the green mage? What does that mean indeed—how often does a green mage have a fistful of cards and four mana open?
I daresay most Commander players aren't used to the green mage at the table having reactive instants that could actually fit and be effective in their deck and if they're smart they'll probably be a little fearful. While green doesn't have the sheer volume of scary instants that blue and black have over the years there's been some good stuff that's slipped through the cracks. The problem of course is that green's mostly been locked into the main phase all this time so hardly any of those sweet instants have ever really been utilized!
Green's had Fog and its clones since the beginning of time and it's certainly quite handy to pull your bacon out of the fire when someone's coming in for an alpha strike in Commander. However green's got some Fog variants that are absolutely brutal in multiplayer. Tangle is a brutal weapon leaving someone vulnerable to counterattacks not once but twice from everyone else at the table. Spore Cloud does the same thing but even better potentially screwing up two other players at the table who attacked each other.
Green's got some great utility spells that can be cast at instant speed but you so often find yourself torn between casting one of your more powerful spells (some giant green creature) or holding your mana up for a reactive spell that you might end up not needing and end up wasting your turn. Typically you just go ahead and tap down for the guaranteed play and hope that you don't need that utility spell available at instant speed to stop some shenanigans.
Yeva helps change that around and lets your utility spells be even more effective. I particularly love being able to more effectively use Storm Seeker against the greedy decks who so often draw a ton of cards at instant speed when they think they're otherwise rather safe. Reincarnation is a totally cool spell that I hardly ever run because pre-Yeva holding up three mana for a situation that may or may not occur was too often a waste but in this deck—particularly with all the creatures—it's perfect!
La Yeva Loca!
When the player to your right ends his or her turn while you still have four mana up that's when you get to really switch over to playing different than any green mage ever has before. You cast Yeva untap…and the world has opened up to you. That open mana you have out there isn't just a rattlesnake; it's a freaking black pit of doom from which anything could spring out! Not only might you cast some nasty green instant spell but now you've got the potential to play any number of nasty green monsters at instant speed of which there are roughly two and a half metric truckloads available throughout the history of Magic.
Enters the Battlefield
Elvish Visionary Wall of Blossoms Riftsweeper Eternal Witness Fierce Empath Loaming Shaman Llanowar Empath Masked Admirers Acidic Slime Indrik Stomphowler Garruk's Packleader Wolfir Silverheart Brutalizer Exarch Deadwood Treefolk Paleoloth Primeval Titan Avenger of Zendikar Tornado Elemental Terastodon Woodfall Primus
Green creatures ride at the front of the value train and there are all sorts of choices available to you depending on what you expect to be facing down. Creatures that replace themselves like Visionary or Fierce Empath make great instant speed chump blockers while monsters like Wolfir Silverheart make an awesome ambush. Instant speed Terastodon or Woodfall Primus can wreck someone's carefully laid plans when timed just right or at the very least bait a counterspell on their own turn.
Just to have even more fun with casting these value creatures at instant speed let's run a Cloudstone Curio as well!
Being able to play utility creatures at instant speed is quite helpful as well. Too often playing something like Fauna Shaman or Garruk's Horde during your own main phase can be the tipping point that provokes a sorcery speed board sweeper from one of your opponents so waiting until the end of your opponent's turn to flash it in and then getting to untap and be able to use it can really be clutch.
I decided to go ahead and include Concordant Crossroads and Thousand-Year Elixir to be able to flash in and immediately use those creatures with tap abilities. Primal Forcemage seems particularly sweet when paired up with creatures coming into play at instant speed and while I don't see flashing in Craterhoof Behemoth on other people's turns very often you've got to admit it's a pretty awesome combat trick to cast once blockers have been declared!
Omnath Locus of Mana seems like he'd be quite comfortable playing second fiddle to Yeva—soaking up mana you've got lying around to get bigger and bigger letting you carry that mana around and accumulate turn after turn…and if you've got Seedborn Muse out there! I have visions of floating a ton of mana sacrificing Omnath to Greater Good drawing a bunch of cards then casting a couple creatures…
Yeva can pretty obviously be the leader of an Elf tribal deck that's a bit less vulnerable than most Commander Elf decks but I decided instead to focus a bit more on Yeva's other creature type: Shaman! There's a surprising number of cards I've already listed above that just happen to be Shaman creatures (Essence Warden Ulvenwald Tracker Elvish Visionary Riftsweeper Fauna Shaman Loaming Shaman Primal Forcemage Llanowar Empath Masked Admirers Wickerbough Elder Woodfall Primus) so let's sprinkle in some sweet Shaman love.
Bosk Banneret makes all our Shaman cards cheaper to cast; Sachi lets us tape our Shaman cards for mucho mana; Leaf-Crown Elder potentially lets us cast more Shaman creatures for free; and lastly Thornbite Staff can attach itself to a Shaman when it comes into play even at instant speed so if you've got Concordant Crossroads or the Elixir in play you can take advantage of any creatures getting ready to die by flashing in something like Fauna Shaman attaching the Staff and going nuts with the activated ability.
Other Cool Stuff
Kudos to my friend Jay Delazier for reminding me of this card recently and it goes perfectly in a Yeva deck—it's like a green super Moat!
This is one of my all-time favorite green cards. I've had my Unlimited Berserk for sixteen years and at one point owned four of them and I even have the cool alt-art shiny one that came in From the Vault: Exiled. I love how you can use it on creatures your opponents control so if they're attacking someone else you can simultaneously have the defender take a ton more trampling damage than they expected while also killing the other player's most threatening creature. It becomes even sweeter on your own creature when you've got Greater Good in play.
Despite all the awesome things Berserk lets you do for just one mana I've often found myself not playing for the reasons listed above; too often I've found Berserk languishing in my hand because I decided to tap out to play some large main phase spell. Yeva gives me a perfect excuse to bring back an old favorite with lots of opportunities for good times.
If your opponent had some number of Islands in play Carpet of Flowers used to work as a super Black Lotus that you could keep using each turn—you could play it and then use it. Then the rules changed and the mana came to you as a triggered ability at the beginning of your main phase. Well now the rules have changed again and you can use it again as a super Black Lotus that you can keep using each turn with just a slight bit of clunkiness. It's now an optional trigger that you can choose to go off at the beginning of either main phase…so long as you don't declare your attack step you can play it announce your attack step then after the attack step get your mana.
Even though a lot of this deck is set up to play at instant speed there are some cards that you have to play during your main phase and Carpet of Flowers should let you cast those spells and still keep your mana up for the instant speed shenanigans.
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 1 Avenger of Zendikar
- 1 Bosk Banneret
- 1 Brutalizer Exarch
- 1 Craterhoof Behemoth
- 1 Deadwood Treefolk
- 1 Elvish Visionary
- 1 Essence Warden
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 1 Fauna Shaman
- 1 Fierce Empath
- 1 Garruk's Horde
- 1 Garruk's Packleader
- 1 Hornet Queen
- 1 Indrik Stomphowler
- 1 Leaf-Crowned Elder
- 1 Llanowar Empath
- 1 Loaming Shaman
- 1 Masked Admirers
- 1 Paleoloth
- 1 Primal Forcemage
- 1 Primeval Titan
- 1 Riftsweeper
- 1 Seedborn Muse
- 1 Terastodon
- 1 Tornado Elemental
- 1 Ulvenwald Tracker
- 1 Wall of Blossoms
- 1 Wickerbough Elder
- 1 Wolfir Silverheart
- 1 Woodfall Primus
- 1 Omnath, Locus of Mana
- 1 Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro
- 1 Yeva, Nature's Herald
- 1 Cloudstone Curio
- 1 Sensei's Divining Top
- 1 Temple Bell
- 1 Thousand-Year Elixir
- 1 Vedalken Orrery
- 1 Carpet of Flowers
- 1 Greater Good
- 1 Survival of the Fittest
- 1 Sylvan Library
- 1 Autumn's Veil
- 1 Beast Within
- 1 Berserk
- 1 Chord of Calling
- 1 Crop Rotation
- 1 Evolution Charm
- 1 Krosan Grip
- 1 Reincarnation
- 1 Spore Cloud
- 1 Sprout Swarm
- 1 Storm Seeker
- 1 Summoner's Pact
- 1 Summoning Trap
- 1 Tangle
- 1 Tribute to the Wild
- 1 Thornbite Staff
- 1 Arboria
- 1 Concordant Crossroads
The Panoramas might jump out to some of you as odd choices over fetchlands or just basic Forests. I like the Panorama lands over fetchlands because they give you mana if you're not in the market for shuffling your library. With cards like Sensei's Divining Top Sylvan Library and Scroll Rack (which didn't make the cut here) I like being able to hold the sac and search until you've got a pile of yuck on top of your library. It's like having a pseudo-Ponder on tap in your mono-green deck!
Lastly I wanted to point out that Winding Canyons and Vedalken Orrery are in here as some backup in case something happens to Yeva—she gets stolen tucked or killed too many times. That way you can still keep the deck mostly on plan.
A couple cards that didn't make the cut but I thought would go great in a Yeva deck:
Being able to play him at end of turn then untap and have plenty of green mana open to regenerate is awesome but what's even better is being able to give someone the Faerie token creatures at instant speed which can prove to be a sweet political maneuver!
Not only can you toss this out at the end of turn untap and be able to attack with impunity but you can time it so that another player gets left wide open to attacks by multiple opponents.
"Save" Yeva at instant speed as well as make deathtouch Wolves at instant speed. Seems like fun times!
If you've got a bunch of dorks lying around send Mycoloth in at instant speed untap and make a bunch of Saprolings during your upkeep.
What cards are you going to be rocking in your Yeva Nature's Herald Commander deck? What are you excited about playing from M13?
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
Make sure to follow my Twitter feed (@blairwitchgreen). I check it often so feel free to send me feedback ideas and random thoughts. I've also created a Facebook page where I'll be posting up deck ideas and will happily discuss Magic life or anything else you want to talk about!
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)
My current Commander decks (and links to decklists):
- Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)
- Riku of Two Reflections (steal all permanents with Deadeye Navigator + Zealous Conscripts)
- Phelddagrif (Mean Hippo)
- Sigarda Host of Herons (Equipment-centric Voltron)
- Bruna Light of Alabaster (Aura-centric Voltron)
- Niv-Mizzet the Firemind (Chuck's somewhat vicious deck)
Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus:
- Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)
- Phage the Untouchable (actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)
- Ghave Guru of Spores (Melira Combo)
- Glissa the Traitor (undying artifacts!)
- Grimgrin Corpse-Born (Necrotic Ooze Combo)
- Damia Sage of Stone (Ice Cauldron shenanigans)
- Geist of Saint Traft (Voltron-ish)
- Glissa Sunseeker (death to artifacts!)
- Jor Kadeen the Prevailer (replacing Brion Stoutarm in Mo' Myrs)
- Thelon of Havenwood (Campfire Spores)
- Melira Sylvok Outcast (combo killa)
- Konda Lord of Eiganjo (The Indestructibles)
- Vorosh the Hunter (proliferaTION)
- Progenitus (Fist of Suns and Bringers)
- Savra Queen of the Golgari (Demons)
- Uril the Miststalker (my "more competitive" deck)