Single Card Strategy: Ain't No Exhumer Thrull!

Posted in Feature on March 5, 2007

By Bennie Smith

Bennie Smith began playing Magic in 1994 and started writing about it shortly after. A Virginia State Champion, he enjoys few things better than winning at tournaments with home brews. Bennie has a weekly column on He also recently published The Complete Commander. Follow him on Twitter, on Facebook, and the occasional Commander games on Magic Online under the handle "blairwitchgreen."

When the spoiler came out for Planar Chaos, I quickly turned to the batch of green cards and scanned them over. Yeah, my eyes popped at Magus of the Library, Groundbreaker, and Harmonize, but I have to admit that Damnation weighed heavily on my mind. See, I'm a big fan of creatures that sit out on the board and do cool things in addition to turning sideways into the Red Zone. Wrath of God is not my friend, and now I've got another one to worry about. As I was lamenting the fact that all these cool new green creatures are all just going to get tossed into the graveyard, a high-mana cost uncommon caught my eye: Deadwood Treefolk.

Deadwood Treefolk

As a six-mana card with only 3 power, it's obvious he was primarily designed as a Limited card, a way to generate a little card advantage in the late game. Yet, the more I thought about it, the more it seemed this little gem could be a real player in the metagame! His high cost was actually a good thing, since you're not going to want to play him too early or else there won't be any creatures in your graveyard worth retrieving. Once you get to six mana, there should be at least one or two worthy targets. Remember Restock? That card saw a little bit of play; now for one extra mana, you get a 3/6 body that sticks around a few turns as a blocker or beater. Sure, you can only get creatures back, but you're green - you're playing creatures!

I chat with Building on a Budget's Ben Bleiweiss a few times a week, so I dropped him a bold prediction - Deadwood Treefolk is going to be a sleeper hit in Planar Chaos!

Me: ok, whatcha think of one of my sleeper picks-- Deadwood Treefolk?
Ben: Poop. Complete and utter poop.
Me: I think most people are just going to think of it as good in limited and not consider how nice it'll be in constructed. I see you're in the "most people" category.
Me: I'll enjoy holding it over your head when I prove you wrong ;)
Ben: You're wrong… Unless you think Exhumer Thrull has been breaking the metagame.
Me: Deadwood Treefolk is miles and miles better than Exhumer Thrull.
Ben: No it's not.
Me: we'll see.
Ben: Oh, I've seen and the future does not belong to Treefolk.

Exhumer Thrull

Exhumer Thrull?! How insulting!

Exhumer Thrull?! How insulting! Deadwood Treefolk is infinitely better than Exhumer Thrull. Let us count some of the ways!

1. Exhumer Thrull removes itself from the game when it dies. Deadwood Treefolk does not. Sometimes you want to have creatures in the graveyard, playing cards like Mortivore, Golgari Grave-Troll, or Svogthos, the Restless Tomb (and yes, I know my Dredge roots are showing on that one).
2. Exhumer Thrull is a puny 3/3. For six mana, that's rather insulting. Deadwood Treefolk's 6 toughness is built to survive creature combat and laugh off burn. Granted, Exhumer Thrull kind of wants to die in order to get its second gravedigger ability to trigger, but sometimes you need to have a blocker out there for more than one turn.
3. Deadwood Treefolk has a built in ability to die. Creature control doesn't always include a trip to the graveyard; just imagine a Faith's Fetters getting slapped on your Thrull. A Fetters on a Treefolk is just taking out a blocker; he'll eventually die off and trigger his leaves-play ability.
4. Deadwood Treefolk doesn't have to die to leave play. Boomerang on an Exhumer Thrull isn't a bad play; Boomerang on a Deadwood Treefolk is going to fill their hand up with a bunch of creatures you thought you'd already dealt with.
5. Exhumer Thrull requires another creature in play to Haunt in order to get another use out of him. Deadwood Treefolk doesn't, nya-nya!
6. Deadwood Treefolk gives you a reason to break out the Skittles for Vanishing tokens.

I could go on and on, but you tune in here to read about the combos I've cooked up featuring the amazing Deadwood Treefolk, so let's get down to it!

Deadwood Treefolk and… Deadwood Treefolk

Bouncing off point #1 above, Deadwood Treefolk is 1,000 times better than Exhumer Thrull because once you've drawn your second Deadwood Treefolk, you won't ever run out of creatures to play (barring an unfortunate Tormod's Crypt incident or something). The pair will eventually overrun any amount of Wrath of God or Damnation shenanigans your millionaire opponents may play. Draw into your third, and your hand overflow-eth with creatures that simply refuse to stay good and dead.

Body Double

Deadwood Treefolk and Body Double

Similarly, Body Double seems like a good creature to partner with Deadwood Treefolk. Play Body Double early on to copy some utility creature, and when it dies, play Deadwood Treefolk to get it back. Then when your Treefolk dies, play Body Double and copy the Treefolk, and get the Treefolk back and do it all over again. You save a mana off the Double and gain the flexibility to copy something else, like perhaps your opponent's Akroma or Spectral Force.

Deadwood Treefolk and Sneak Attack

If Deadwood Treefolk's mana cost has you down, why not cheat? Sneak Attack lets you put a creature into play for one red mana, and while a hasty 3/6 doesn't exactly have your opponent quaking in their boots, the large fat creatures your Treefolk retrieves from the graveyard can more than pick up the slack. Like, say, Dragon Tyrant or Nicol Bolas. There are other cards that are similar where Deadwood Treefolk can play a supporting role, such as Elvish Piper, Through the Breach, Surprise Deployment, and Cauldron Dance.

Deadwood Treefolk and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker

Oh, do I love me some Kiki-Jiki and had an absolute ball with the Kiki Opposition deck in Extended until Aether Vial got banned. The problem with Kiki-Jiki decks was that the little bugger was only a 2/2 and often found himself on the pointy end of some removal spell. Deadwood Treefolk provides the legendary goblin with the resuscitation services needed for when things go wrong… and if Kiki doesn't need saving, there are bound to be plenty of other creatures in the graveyard you'd like to replay and copy.

Saffi Eriksdotter

Deadwood Treefolk and Saffi Eriksdotter

This is the combination that really got me hot and bothered when I started thinking about Deadwood Treefolk. Sure, you still have to pay that initial six mana to get the Treefolk down, but once you do Saffi's got your back. Deadwood Treefolk about to Vanish away? Sacrifice Saffi targeting the big guy so he dies and comes back into play… while retrieving Saffi and one other lucky dead guy. I'd much rather pay two mana to keep my dead creatures coming back over and over… wouldn't you?

Deadwood Treefolk and Eternal Witness

While fetching back creatures is good and all, sometimes you want to get other cards back too. That's where Eternal Witness steps in to open access to full graveyard recursion. You could even discount Deadwood Treefolk with reanimation spells like Zombify, get back Witness, play her and get back your Zombify.

Deadwood Treefolk and Doomed Necromancer

This cleric mercenary is kind of like Saffi's evil twin… fraternal, of course. The beauty of this combo is if you can get the Treefolk into the graveyard you can cheat it into play with Necromancer, and then get your Necromancer back for more reanimating fun! Okay, I have to admit the possibilities of playing Saffi, Necromancer, and Eternal Witness in a Deadwood Treefolk deck has got me all hot and bothered. Why did Wizards reprint Tormod's Crypt again? WHY?!?

Wild Pair

Deadwood Treefolk and Wild Pair

Maybe it's a sign of my warped mind, but for some reason when I see the card name "Wild Pair" my mind summons Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket chewing into his recruits with a vengeance. This scene in particular--

Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: Are you through grinning?
Private Gomer Pyle: Sir, yes, sir.
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: Bull[hockey], I can't hear you.
Private Gomer Pyle: (Louder) Sir, yes, sir.
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: Bull[hockey], I still can't hear you. Sound off like you've got a pair!!

So here we have Private Deadwood sounding off like he's got a Wild Pair! Okay, perhaps I've gone off the deep end, but I've got two young'uns here today that were hopped up on cake, ice cream, and piñata candy as I was trying to write this and I'm feeling a bit cracked. At any rate, Wild Pair is a fun enchantment that suffers from the unfortunate reality of being rather expensive, and by the time you can play it you've either had to play out your creatures to survive or you've been run over. So, drop your Deadwood Treefolk into the Wild Pair, go search out another copy and suddenly you've got two previously dead creatures to play next turn and two more after that when the first Pair vanishes. Deadwood Treefolk can play similar roles in decks built around Dual Nature and Verdant Succession.

Deadwood Treefolk and Allosaurus Rider

Allosaurus Rider can be a huge beating stick, but it's drawback is pretty steep-removing two green cards from the game to cast it, and then have it die to a single removal spell hurts (which is another reason you should play Saffi Eriksdotter). Deadwood Treefolk not only can be pitched in a pinch, but it can also provide you with pitch fodder later down the road when you play it to get back previously dead creatures, or to restock your diminished hand.

Momentary Blink

Deadwood Treefolk and Momentary Blink

Like a one-shot Saffi Eriksdotter, Momentary Blink has the advantage of being a surprise, resetting Deadwood's Vanishing counters and triggering its leaves-play and comes-into-play abilities, trading Blink for two previously deceased critters. Let's see, I'll get back Mystic Snake and Loxodon Hierarch, thank you very much!

Deadwood Treefolk and Grafted Wargear

Okay, so your opponent thought a 3/6 wasn't a threat? I bet a 6/8 geared-up Ent isn't quite so hilarious now is it? If your creature is short for this world anyway, and provides a benefit when he dies, the Wargear doesn't have much of a drawback then, does it? You can even use it to purposefully sacrifice the Treefolk if there's another creature in your graveyard you want back.

Deadwood Treefolk and Groundbreaker

Planar Chaos brings us a whole slew of hasty green creatures that hit hard but can easily end up in the graveyard, either ones that go automatically like Groundbreaker, or ones whose echo cost might not be convenient at the time (Uktabi Drake, Timbermare). Even though Giant Solifuge doesn't have either of those drawbacks, its one toughness often means it's headed for the graveyard if it runs into a blocker. Once you've spent the early rounds pounding your opponent with these hasty beatdown creatures, assuming he has survived, Deadwood Treefolk comes down to restock your hand and send the beats all over again.

Wormfang Drake

Deadwood Treefolk and Wormfang Drake

While Deadwood Treefolk's creature-fetching abilities are most often going to be triggered by being played and then going to the graveyard, you don't have to walk the white bread route. Using the Drake's ability to remove Treefolk from the game triggers its leaves-play ability just fine, thank you very much! You can do the same thing with Faceless Butcher too.

Deadwood Treefolk and Phasing

Got a Vodalian Illusionist in play with your Deadwood Treefolk? Phase him in and out and… oh wait. They changed the rules for phasing so that the leaves-play ability doesn't trigger when a permanent phases out either. Wow, definitely not a combo! Never mind… curse you Rule 502.15d!!

Deadwood Treefolk and Transmute

While Transmute is the property of the Dimir guild, Ravnica gave us enough mana fixing that you splash green into a blue-black deck and transmute to your heart's content. Drift of Phantasms and Dimir House Guard can fetch a whole host of good cards when you transmute them, and later on you can get them back with Treefolk for more tutoring or just play them if you need to. Don't forget about Netherborn Phalanx, which can tutor up Mr. Treefolk himself!

Life from the Loam

Deadwood Treefolk and Dredge

You all know I'd get around to dredge eventually, right? The tricky thing in a dredge deck is how to access all the non-dredge cards that you mill into your graveyard when you're dredging. Golgari Thug is used for that purpose, giving you access to a creature in the graveyard, but you have to figure out a way to kill the little guy first, and then you have to wait until your next draw step to get the card. If you've been using Life from the Loam you should have no problem getting enough land into play to drop your Treefolk and grab a big gun from the graveyard… such as Avatar of Woe, perhaps?

Deadwood Treefolk and Graft

When you have a deck full of graft creatures, a lot of times you can get to a situation where you have to make a tough decision - do I remove that last Graft counter and shift it to a new creature, or do I want to keep the first creature in play? If you add Deadwood Treefolk to your deck, the decision becomes a little easier, since you know you will eventually get the early grafter back later.

Okay, below I've tossed together a few decks built around Deadwood Treefolk to get the creative juices flowing.

Budget Green/Black Casual

This deck is built to provide a never-ending supply of creatures, and while most of them aren't exactly threats on their own, Grafted Wargear makes them a little more fierce. Darkheart Sliver and Gristleback (hopefully with Wargear on!) keep your life totals healthy enough to let your Deadwood Treefolk card advantage eventually take over. Gravedigger gives you some redundancy.

Monogreen Graft, Casual

With Deadwood Treefolk eventually making an appearance, you can trade up your graft counters from early creatures with no worries. Spike Feeder and Mindless Automaton make great +1/+1 recipients. Fungal Behemoth can distribute a few counters while suspended, and should end up coming into play huge!

This deck is a riff on the Blinking Snake decks running around Standard. I decided to try out Elvish Piper to get around the mana cost of Deadwood Treefolk, but Piper is incredibly fragile - which is why I've included Saffi Eriksdotter to back him up. Using Piper to put out a Mystic Snake or Draining Welk for one green mana has got to be fun!

So, what are your ideas for Deadwood Treefolk? Let's prove Ben Bleiweiss wrong and sound off in the forums!


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