Tending the Nest

Posted in Card Preview on August 7, 2019

By Maria Bartholdi

Maria is one half of the podcast Magic the Amateuring. When she's not working on the podcast, she's probably in an improv show, speaking Welsh, or thinking about popcorn. Rakdos is the true nature of her heart.

When I say that I love spam, I'm not talking about a resilient food in a rectangular can. I'm also not talking about a deluge of emails from a deposed prince who promises to lead me to some suspiciously lucrative investments.

I'm talking about spamming the board with tokens. And lots of them.

Tokens—and ways to make more of them—have always held a special place in my heart ever since I started playing ​Magic​ during Return to Ravnica in 2012. The Selesnya guild introduced a new mechanic with that set: populate. Populate allows you to put a token onto the battlefield that's a copy of a creature token you control. Turns out, that effect was pretty busted in RTR Limited. There were lots of ways to make some good tokens (or even semi-good tokens, or, honestly—even pretty bad tokens) and then create a critical mass. A 1/1 flier might seem fairly unimpressive on its own, but make it ​four ​1/1 fliers, and things start to spiral out of control for your opponent. Populate was a winning strategy that was also super fun.

Return to Ravnica populate all-stars

As we welcome Commander (2019 Edition), there's a host of new ways to live the populate dream in bigger and better ways. And if "bigger and better" doesn't describe Commander, I don't know what does.

Let's kick things off with a shiny new legendary creature who's ready to build up your board and give you amazing value while doing so. Everyone, meet Atla Palani, Nest Tender!

Atla Palani, Nest Tender

Besides having one of the sweetest hats in the history of the game, Atla Palani has a lot of awesome stuff tucked into her text box. Her ability to create 0/1 Egg tokens might seem shrug-worthy at first glance but should not be underestimated—particularly when you read the rest of what the card does. Whenever an Egg you control dies, you get to reveal cards from the top of your deck until you reveal a creature card and . . . wait for it . . . put it onto the battlefield.

I'm just gonna let that sink in.

Reveal an Emrakul? Put it onto the battlefield. How about a Craterhoof Behemoth? Put it onto the battlefield. Literally anything Naya and chonky? Put it onto the battlefield.

Picture of Naya Chonky Peanut Butter
Try my new food that I just invented!

Filling your deck with amazing creatures to cheat into play is fun enough, but we can add extra synergy into this delicious recipe as well. First, let's look at two more cards from Commander 2019 that will pair very nicely indeed with our new nest-tending friend.

Roc EggFull Flowering

With Roc Egg, we have another Egg creature to trigger our commander's reveal ability (and a pretty great token to copy). With Full Flowering, we have the ability to make as many tokens as our mana can handle with the help of our old friend, populate.

Now that we have all the pieces of the puzzle, we can start to fill out our deck. We have a few things we need to focus on: creating tokens, making ​more​ of those tokens, sacrificing our creatures for value, and pumping up our team.

Let's start with creating tokens. Obviously, we have our commander as our ace in the hole, but we need more options to round out the other 99 cards. Thankfully, Naya colors (red, green, and white) have a lot to offer us. Consider cards like ​Godsire ​which will make you some of the best tokens in the game, turn after turn. Or how about ​Tolsimir Wolfblood​ who not only makes you tokens but helps pump them up, too? Desolation Twin​ makes a pretty deece 10/10 token for you to copy, ​Rukh Egg​ gives you more Eggs in your basket, as does ​Nesting Dragon ​through​ ​landfall. ​Dragon Broodmother ​adds 1/1 Dragons to the board again and again, and hey—you could even play ​Springjack Pasture​ if you want to make Goats. And let's be honest, who doesn't want to make a fearsome army of Goats? Only people who hate fun, that's who.

Now let's make some copies of all the awesome tokens we've brought into battle! Of course, we have our new all-star in the form of ​Full Flowering​. We've also got our old friends from Return to Ravnica—with my personal favorite, ​Growing Ranks​—which grants you an auto-populate at the start of your turn. ​Trostani, Selesnya's Voice ​not only populates for you, it also gains you life just in case your friends haven't been so friendly this game. ​Wayfaring Temple​ is great because it's probably ​enormous​ on your board and also populates every time you connect. ​Trostani's Judgment​ gives you removal and an instance of populate, ​Rootborn Defenses​ is a terrific trick to use on defense, and ​Sundering Growth​ destroys pesky artifacts or enchantments while it—you guessed it—populates. And those are only ​some​ of the options!

Much like a "Wanted" poster in the Wild West, sometimes our creatures are more valuable to us dead than alive. Especially when they're Egg tokens. ​Ashnod's Altar​, ​Phyrexian Altar,​ and ​Altar of Bone​ are the classic ways to get rid of your own dudes. Classic altars, amirite?! ​Eldrazi Monument​ is a spicy way to give your tokens a boost while also keeping the Egg-sacrificing train rolling. ​Austere Command​ is a nice, flexible way to do what you need when you need it.

Evolutionary Leap​ gives you recurring value, and ​Plaguemaw Beast​ is a fun way to add counters while sending your Eggs packing. Populate ​and​ proliferate? Talk about living the dream!

Speaking of counters for all the creatures you're creating, I'll just leave these here: ​Good-Fortune Unicorn​ and ​Gavony Township​. Or, if we want to get ​really​ awesome, ​Cathars' Crusade, which will help to beef up your buddies. Speaking of beef, ​Beastmaster Ascension​ is second to none. But let's not forget about ​Impact Tremors . . . which isn't really applicable to this paragraph on increasing your creatures' stats, but I just remembered it and it's too good to leave out.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and make like breakfast—start cracking some Eggs for value!

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