Visiting the Twingrove

Posted in Command Tower on July 3, 2014

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

There's an idea I keep coming back do that many of you share too: Lands are where it's at in Commander.

Forest | Art by Noah Bradley

We've talked about lands before in Commander and today isn't about them again in as much as specific lands matter more than others for today's Magic 2015 preview.

We'll get to that in just a moment. I have a story.

One of my earliest decks for Commander was built around Kamahl, Fist of Krosa. It was the deck that pushed me in the direction of a token-focused deck (since making all of my lands creatures and Overrunning two or three times typically ended things in short order) and showed me how powerful a monocolored deck could be.

Among the ways to maximize making mana and activating Kamahl numerous times, I found a few cards that naturally lent themselves to a mean, green deck:

My big deck really was a mean, green machine, and there was even a four-way game where I battled others with their mono-green Commander decks to determine who had "the best" at the store.

I won that game and immediately decided to take the deck apart.

The point of the story wasn't to brag about my vague, casual exploits (well, maybe a little) but to illustrate that being one color with one type of land is still more than enough to wreak havoc in Commander. The newest card to join the ranks of "big green fatties" is one I'd have jammed into my Kamahl, Fist of Krosa deck. Meet Kalonian Twingrove.

Two for the price of one? Sign me up!

Seeing the Forests for the Tree(folk)

Kalonian Twingrove reads as obvious as its predecessors:

  • Are you playing with lots of Forests? Exclusively Forests?
  • Do you plan to attack with fatties?
  • Is diversifying your powerful ways to attack something you want?
  • Are you including ways to copy triggers abilities (Strionic Resonator) or double up on tokens (Parallel Lives, Doubling Season, Primal Vigor)?

While it isn't a card packed with subtle nuance and shenanigans, like last week's look at Avacyn, Guardian Angel, it is a card that makes the decision to add more Forests to a deck easier. I firmly believe basic lands get overlooked for flashier options in Commander, even more than any other format. Basic lands have more ways to be searched out of decks (including many colorless ways), come into play untapped from your hand, don't require life or other resources to produce mana, and are among the easiest cards to find in the game.

So, of course I asked you to consider your Commander decks that work well with a recently revealed mythic rare in Magic 2015, Nissa Worldwaker.

Of all her abilities, there's one that jumped out at me above the others:

While the original Garruk Wildspeaker might lend himself to a whole variety of cheeky lands (Cabal Coffers, Gaea's Cradle, Oran-Rief, the Vastwood, Thawing Glaciers, and many more!), Nissa's ability is one I can't wait to pair with Vernal Bloom or Gauntlet of Power to generate an unbelievable amount of mana.

And I'm not alone in that mission, as Sterling shared:

I'm the guy trying to turn it up to 11 in Commander. I play and have played many of the big decks in the format, but every once in a while an odd deck catches my eye. I was doing Conspiracy Draft with my friends the other day when someone opened Selvala, Explorer Returned and mentioned how "bad" she is. I said I could break her, and was prompted to try to make a decent deck around her using mostly cards I had on me. I ended up making an enchantress-style deck with cards that paired well with Selvala and Elf/Druid tribal. So when Nissa, Worldwaker was previewed I immediately went "This works so well in my new deck!"

These cards are why:

 

With these cards enchanting Forests, Nissa can make some ridiculous amounts of mana.

Cool Selvala cards include Mind's Eye and Well of Lost Dreams (use the mana you get from other people drawing to make yourself draw extra) and Sword of the Paruns makes a pseudo-infinite with Selvala, if enough players are in game you can hopefully pull off repeating her effect indefinitely till everyone dies of drawing. It seems mean, but if you can pull off a randomized infinite combo like this one it's pretty impressive. In this deck, the ramp from the untap effects and land Auras is to enable as many shenanigans as possible.

The deck has no real win condition, just trying to make a bunch of undervalued cards kind of good, and I think Nissa fits the bill. You can make lands beat someone up. I love upcycling!

Last but not least, the Vorthos in me loves the idea of the Planeswalker from the exploration plane teaming up with Fiora's master Explorer!

—Sterling

Sterling's Selvala, Explorer Returned Commander

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Selvala, Explorer Returned
Planeswalker (1)
1 Nissa, Worldwaker
99 Cards

I told you we'd see Selvala sooner or later! When you care about lands and what you can do with them, commanders like Selvala, Explorer Returned can share their true power. Having 14 basic Forests may seem a small number for a deck looking to use Nissa, Worldwaker, but with plenty of ways to search them up and put them onto the battlefield, getting six or seven of them out is pretty easy.

Kalonian Twingrove approves of that count in play, and Mike approached it from a different angle:

It's difficult to build around a Planeswalker. Either you're playing black and green so you can fetch it from the library and return it from the graveyard, which takes up a lot of a deck's energy, or that Planeswalker is just the seed for your deck's theme(s). For today's deck, I'm using Nissa, Worldwaker as a seed. While black/green is my favorite color combination, I felt that she fit nicely into a lands-as-creatures deck with an Elemental tribal subtheme. I've built the lands-as-creatures theme in the past with some success; it was a BUG deck, but that was before Kruphix, God of Horizons was an option for the Commander.

Despite not playing black, this deck still puts some effort in getting Nissa on the battlefield, utilizing Mangara's Tome, Parallel Thoughts, Long-Term Plans, and Library of Lat-Nam. While none are super-effective tutors, they're all fun to play. I particularly enjoy the politics of getting someone to choose what you want with Library of Lat-Nam.

The Elemental tribal subtheme is supported by Master of Waves, Obelisk of Urd, and key Elementals like Supreme Exemplar and Liege of the Tangle. Liege of the Tangle also supports the lands-as-creatures main theme, while other green Elementals provide lands-matter effects: Avenger of Zendikar and Molimo, Maro-Sorcerer.

Obviously, a deck like this wants a fair number of land-fetching and manipulating spells and creatures. Hibernation's End is the trickiest of these, being used to fetch creatures like Courser of Kruphix, Seedguide Ash, and Realm Seekers.

Next are a variety of ways to untap your lands: Reset, Early Harvest, Sword of Feast and Famine, and Bear Umbra.

Last but not least is one of my favorite "junk" rares of all time: Earth Surge!

—Mike

Mike's Kruphix, God of Horizons Commander

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Kruphix, God of Horizons

Using Nissa to make a few Elementals isn't a bad way to go: Koth of the Hammer had his time in the spotlight a few years back and still works well as a way to create a quick attacker with haste after someone else wiped the battlefield clean.

Andrew wants to use Nissa to animate lands, too, and it reminded me of my Kamahl, Fist of Krosa plans from before:

When I first saw Nissa, Worldwaker, my first thought was her similarity to Koth of the Hammer. It got me thinking...could I make a whole deck based around animating lands? My first hurdle was figuring out ways to keep Murder from becoming a three-mana land-destruction spell. My mind immediately jumped to Terra Eternal and Sacred Ground. Since my lands will also be creatures, Archetype of Endurance also helps. If things do go bad, cards like Crucible of Worlds and Planar Birth can grab my lands back from my graveyard. This might be the only deck where Equinox is an amazing card.

While the deck can beat down with lands, it can also accelerate into ridiculous amounts of mana. Cards like Comet Storm and Banefire offer a secondary route to victory. I also think there will be hilarious games where I just outright win by bloodrushing a Rubblehulk onto Inkmoth Nexus. I chose Marath, Will of the Wild as my commander for the colors; but he can keep dumping off his +1/+1 counters onto my lands when I don't need him to win on his own. Also amusing that Feroz's Ban makes Marath better.

—Andrew

Andrew's Marath, Will of the Wild Commander

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Marath, Will of the Wild

Unlike the selective and temporary lands-cum-creatures ability of Kamahl, with a little setup Nissa can unload an entire army at once. It's certainly an exciting way to play, but I wouldn't want to plan on it happening every game.

That's the striking difference between cards like Nissa, Worldwaker and Kalonian Twingrove: One might open adventurous avenues of games that otherwise wouldn't exist, the other is consistently capable and provides its utility without pomp or flair.

It might be a bit droll but I suspect Kalonian Twingrove will result in more players dying than Nissa, Worldwaker in the next few months, particularly in decks like Reginald's:

Nissa breaks my heart. She's awesome but she is replacing my favorite Planeswalker in his time of need; she will replace Garruk Wildspeaker in my Yeva, Nature's Herald deck.

Reginald's Yeva, Nature's Herald Commander

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Yeva, Nature's Herald

This deck is an ever-evolving project of playing mono-green "Draw-Go." I will play stompy creatures on your turn! In order to really push the deck to a critical mass of flash fat I run a lot of double-the-mana-produced cards and Nissa just untaps more Forests—with one doubler she lets me jump from 8 (4 Forests, enough for Vernal Bloom) to 16, as opposed to Garruk's 12.

The fact that I can use extra lands to rumble into the red zone is just extra sweetness that may or may not come up too often, but as Garruk prime(autocard to Garruk, Primal Hunter) only acted as a strange mana rock and occasional political tool to fix someone else's colors and such, any extra is just gravy. Overall, I'll miss my first walker and he's still one of my favorites, but Yeva loves Nissa.

—Reginald

In a Forest-focused deck, Nissa certainly outshines old Garruk in some ways. (Although don't be hasty: 3/3 Beast tokens are surprisingly sized for Commander battlefields. His other abilities are certainly great in their own ways!)

Hotswapping

According to a very reliable source, the entire Card Image Gallery for Magic 2015 will be available soon. In typical Command Tower fashion, I want to know what you're looking for: What are the Magic 2015 cards you're most excited about for Commander, and why?

  • Feedback via email
  • 300-word limit to explain which Magic 2015 cards, and why
  • Sample decklist is requested (does not count against word limit)
  • Decklists should be formatted with one card per line with just a leading number, such as "3 Mountain"—just a space (no "x" or "-") between the number and the card name, without subtotals by card type (Submissions that don't follow this rule will be ignored.)
  • Name and email required (non-personal information to be used in column)

There's so much going on in this set I'm hard-pressed to find it all myself. I'm looking forward to see the clever ways—from new commanders to powerful abilities never seen in the game before—you choose to mix the latest into your decks.

And speaking of a lot going on with commander, check out this tweet from Top 25 leader, Reid Duke:

Join us next week when we make a "list" of cards to find at the Magic 2015 Prerelease . See you then!

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