Last week I wrote up a sample Commander deck featuring my Golgari homie Varolz, the Scar-Striped. This week I'm sticking close to my green love and moving over to the light side of Selesnya to focus on Emmara Tandris. There was a bit of disappointment surrounding this card due in part by some expectations built up after her artwork was spoiled first, revealing a creature in the background that's obviously the X/X Elemental token generated by Voice of Resurgence. I know a lot of people—myself included—were hoping that Emmara would end up being a powerful tournament staple card that might push populate decks into the upper tiers.
Unfortunately for the tournament scene, we got this instead:
It takes a lot for a seven mana creature to make a big splash in Standard; it needs to pretty much just blow out the game on its own, like an Angel of Serenity or a…well, that's about it. Not even the Primordials (Sylvan Primordial and the gang) have the stuff to make it at the top tables.
If her text box said "Creature tokens you control get +4/+4 and trample," then we might have had something going here, but "Prevent all damage that would be dealt to creature tokens you control" isn't going to be blowing anyone out.
If I'm going to be honest, her ability isn't overtly exciting from a Commander point of view either. Sure, there are a metric crap-ton of token-producing cards available in green, white, artifacts, and lands that we can consider for an Emmara Tandris deck, but there are other green/white legends that could make much better commanders for token decks. Rhys the Redeemed immediately springs to mind, but we could also look at Trostani, Selesnya's Voice and Tolsimir Wolfblood. Asmira, Holy Avenger could well make use of a bunch of token creatures that are sacrificed for fun and profit (such as the many flavors of Saproling sacrificing cards).
So why choose Emmara Tandris? It's gotta be her damage prevention to your token creatures ability. How do we leverage that?
The first thing that springs to my mind are cards like Pariah—redirecting damage done to me as a player to a token creature that is then prevented. General's Regalia, Pariah's Shield, and Shaman en-Kor come to mind.
My next thought is do we have cards that dish out damage to all creatures that Emmara Tandris would help us break the symmetry on? White and green aren't exactly the colors known for that, but searching through the card database I found the following possibilities:
Corrosive Gale, Hurricane, Prey Upon, Scattershot Archer, Triangle of War, Tropical Storm, Ulvenwald Tracker, Windstorm, Squall Line, Hail Storm, Cyclone, Lightmine Field, Master of the Hunt, Master of the Wild Hunt, Predatory Urge, Splintering Wind, Squallmonger, Time Bomb, Volatile Rig, Silklash Spider, Wave of Reckoning, Cloudthresher, Tornado Elemental
Green does get to damage flying creatures, and since a lot of white's token-generating effects make 1/1 fliers (Spirits, Birds), we might want to look at that avenue. Also, the "fight" mechanic is green, and with Emmara Tandris around what scrappy token wouldn't want to get in a fight where his opponent can't land a blow? I particularly like Master of the Wild Hunt here since he makes Wolf tokens that are the ones fighting.
Okay, so I think a game plan is starting to develop for how an Emmara Tandris deck will differ from other green/white token decks. Now we've got to add a bunch of cards that make our token creatures or care about tokens! Querying the card database reveals a ton of possibilities, so I've scanned through and pulled out a list of the ones I could see putting in an Emmara Tandris deck. This is obviously not a comprehensive list, and if I really missed the boat on one of your favorites, let us know in the comments below.
Rhys the Redeemed; Aura Mutation; Druid's Deliverance; Elvish Farmer; Mycologist; Night Soil; Jade Mage; Selesnya Evangel; Sprout Swarm; Spontaneous Generation; Mycoloth; Sundering Growth; Luminarch Ascension; Mortarpod; Spawning Pit; Blade Splicer; Rootborn Defenses; Wayfaring Temple; Kemba, Kha Regent; Mobilization; Sacred Mesa; Squirrel Nest; Twilight Drover; Acorn Catapult; Carrion Call; Bonehoard; Batterskull; Fresh Meat; Growing Ranks; Leyline of the Meek; Phantom General; Advent of the Wurm; Trostani, Selesnya's Voice; Phyrexian Processor; Beacon of Creation; Cenn's Enlistment; Savage Conception; Elspeth, Knight-Errant; Garruk Relentless; Garruk Wildspeaker; Elspeth Tirel; Saber Ants; Gutter Grime; March of Souls; Mitotic Slime; Reach of Branches; Imperious Perfect; Wren's Run Packmaster; Myr Matrix; Myr Turbine; Parallel Evolution; Phyrexian Swarmlord; Wurmcoil Engine; Rampaging Baloths; Myr Battlesphere; Wurmcalling; Martial Coup; White Sun's Zenith; Decree of Justice; Hour of Reckoning; Storm Herd
There are some tribal synergies you could take advantage of in an Emmara Tandris deck: Saprolings, Squirrels, Snakes, even Golems!
One thing that jumped out at me as interesting are the Living Weapons—the 0/0 Germs are token creatures, so while they're equipped and hanging on for dear life they don't have to worry about taking damage when Emmara Tandris has got their back!
One thing that's prevented me from building a full-tilt token deck is how inconsistent they can be in Commander—too often having a bunch of 1/1s, a few 2/2s, and a 3/3 token on the board isn't really going to be crushing your opponents. If you don't draw an enabler—something to pump them up to scary size—you are not someone your opponents need to worry about. Emmara Tandris makes your tokens fantastic defensive creatures and not just chump blockers. This will often discourage opponents from bothering to attack you at all.
But that gets me thinking—how can we make these token creatures deadly in the red zone? Giving them deathtouch and infect seem to be the best things to do here, so I'm looking at cards like Basilisk Collar, Nightshade Peddler, Quietus Spike, Grafted Exoskeleton, Trigon of Infestation, Triumph of the Hordes, and Hornet Queen. The token creatures with infect on their own offer up a tough choice to your opponent—have a creature slowly whittle away to a token that cannot die to combat damage or start racking up the poison counters. In fact, I think having a strong element of poison is a good way for a deck like this that relies on tokens to have added reach in long games.
One last thing to keep in mind: having a lot of token-generating cards makes it much easier to take advantage of cards that require sacrificing creatures to power them, such as Worthy Cause, Martyr's Cause, Elvish Skysweeper, Eldrazi Monument, Ashnod's Altar, Helm of Possession, Natural Order, Perilous Forays, and Plaguemaw Beast.
Okay, so with all those thoughts swimming through my head, I started pulling cards from my collection, and this is what I cooked up:
- 1 Wurmcoil Engine
- 1 Armada Wurm
- 1 Avenger of Zendikar
- 1 Brindle Shoat
- 1 Dauntless Escort
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 1 Fauna Shaman
- 1 Hornet Queen
- 1 Knight of the Reliquary
- 1 Master of the Wild Hunt
- 1 Nightshade Peddler
- 1 Seedborn Muse
- 1 Shaman en-Kor
- 1 Silklash Spider
- 1 Twilight Drover
- 1 Ulvenwald Tracker
- 1 Voice of Resurgence
- 1 Emmara Tandris
- 1 Rhys the Redeemed
- 1 Rune-Tail, Kitsune Ascendant
- 1 Tolsimir Wolfblood
- 1 Trostani, Selesnya's Voice
- 8 Forest
- 8 Plains
- 1 Bant Panorama
- 1 Command Tower
- 1 Gargoyle Castle
- 1 Grove of the Guardian
- 1 Inkmoth Nexus
- 1 Kjeldoran Outpost
- 1 Krosan Verge
- 1 Mistveil Plains
- 1 Naya Panorama
- 1 Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
- 1 Reflecting Pool
- 1 Sapseep Forest
- 1 Savannah
- 1 Selesnya Sanctuary
- 1 Springjack Pasture
- 1 Stirring Wildwood
- 1 Sunpetal Grove
- 1 Temple Garden
- 1 Treetop Village
- 1 Urza's Factory
- 1 Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree
- 1 Wooded Bastion
- 1 Gaea's Cradle
- 1 Basilisk Collar
- 1 Batterskull
- 1 Darksteel Ingot
- 1 Eldrazi Monument
- 1 Expedition Map
- 1 General's Regalia
- 1 Grafted Exoskeleton
- 1 Nim Deathmantle
- 1 Selesnya Keyrune
- 1 Sensei's Divining Top
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Spawning Pit
- 1 Trigon of Infestation
- 1 Aura Shards
- 1 Doubling Season
- 1 Intangible Virtue
- 1 Luminarch Ascension
- 1 Mark of Asylum
- 1 Martyr's Cause
- 1 Parallel Lives
- 1 Rancor
- 1 Shield of the Oversoul
- 1 Sylvan Library
- 1 Worship
- 1 Advent of the Wurm
- 1 Aura Mutation
- 1 Carrion Call
- 1 Rootborn Defenses
- 1 Selesnya Charm
- 1 White Sun's Zenith
- 1 Austere Command
- 1 Decree of Justice
- 1 March of Souls
- 1 Parallel Evolution
- 1 Triumph of the Hordes
I've built this deck to really take advantage of Emmara Tandris, but she does cost seven mana, so I thought it wise to add Mark of Asylum and Rune-Tail, Kitsune Ascendant as early back-ups to Emmara Tandris. Rune-Tail, Kitsune Ascendant in particular is amazing in any white Commander deck since if you're anywhere close to your starting life total, she flips as soon as you play her. I really like having these in here because they help ensure that your deck doesn't just crumble if your opponents start focusing on killing Emmara Tandris (though if I can slap a Shield of the Oversoul on her, that gets much more difficult).
For the token cards, I leaned heavily on trying to pick spells that were powerful on their own and not just creating tokens for tokens sake. Luminarch Ascension, Garruk Relentless, Advent of the Wurm, Batterskull, Elspeth Tirel, Wurmcoil Engine, and Avenger of Zendikar are all powerhouse cards that get better the more we care about tokens. We can also keep the number of token-creating cards high by taking advantage of the lands that do that for us: Urza's Factory; Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree; even Springjack Pasture. I have to admit it felt good to dust off the classic "dude ranch," Kjeldoran Outpost, and I'm also looking forward to finally seeing Grove of the Guardian shine—especially if I can get some populate action working.
I like how I can set the modes for Austere Command so I can sweep the board of most of the scary creature cards while leaving my token creatures unharmed.
Check out Brindle Shoat—looking forward to slapping a Skullclamp on that little guy!
Having a bunch of tough-to-kill tokens out there made me think that Worship might be worth trying out. I figure you won't want to lean on it too hard—make sure to climb your life total when you can—but it can offer up a lifeline if you end up in a race with someone.
Lastly, I know the list is a little soft on removal spells, but I wanted to try out a bunch of these cards. As some of them prove to be less than impressive, I will pull them and replace them with utility spells.
Alright, that's it for this week. Tonight I'm hoping to finally get to do my first Dragon's Maze, Gatecrash, Return to Ravnica draft! If you have any drafting tips for this brand new format or ideas for the Emmara Tandris Commander deck, please let me know in the comments below!
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):
- Varolz, the Scar-Striped (scavenging goodness)
- Doran, the Siege Tower (All My Faves in One Deck!)
- Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)
- Lord of Tresserhorn (ZOMBIES!)
- Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)
- Aurelia, the Warleader (plus Hellkite Tyrant shenanigans)
- Oona, Queen of the Fae (by reader request)
- Karador, Ghost Chieftain (my Magic Online deck)
- Karona, False God (Vows of the False God)
- Skullbriar, the Walking Grave (how big can it get?)
- Phage the Untouchable (actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)
- Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind (Chuck's somewhat vicious deck)
Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus:
- Yeva, Nature's Herald (living at instant speed)
- Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis (evil and Spike-ish)
- Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius (new player-friendly)
- Trostani, Selesnya's Voice (new player-friendly)
- Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord (drain you big time)
- 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)
- Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)
- 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)