Personalizing Commander 2019: Primal Genesis

Posted in How to Build on August 23, 2019

By Chas Andres

Chas Andres is a freelance writer and MFA student living in Wilmington, North Carolina. When he's not at his keyboard dreaming up stories, you can find him playing with his cats, listening to records, or building yet another Magic deck.

As a fan of Magic's story and flavor, there are few products I look forward to more than the yearly Commander decks. Unlike normal sets, which highlight a single Plane and time, the Commander decks can pull from anywhere and any-when in the multiverse. Seeing old friends like Gerrard and Volrath in the same set as a Jeskai Monk, a Kor Soldier, and a Falkenrath Vampire makes me incredibly happy.

Because these decks are more varied than the cuisine at a food truck festival, there are countless ways to tweak and update them. That's why I've decided to focus primarily on each deck's brand-new tri-colored legendary creatures. By using these exciting commanders as jumping-off points, my goal is to provide you with deck modification ideas that are designed to highlight interesting story beats, flavorful mechanics, and opportunities for emergent narrative to blossom.

Today, I'm going to be talking about "Primal Genesis," the Naya-colored deck from Commander (2019 Edition). In case you haven't seen it yet, here's the full decklist:

Primal Genesis

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Ghired, Conclave Exile
Planeswalker (1)
1 Garruk, Primal Hunter
100 Cards

Atla Palani, Nest Tender was the first card that jumped out at me when I began flipping through the deck. Her feather-festooned outfit clearly marks her as part of Ixalan's Sun Empire, as do the size and shape of her headdress and epaulettes. Why might a member of the Sun Empire be interested in tending to a nest of giant Eggs? In order to hatch some giant Dinosaurs, of course! The Sun Empire uses Dinosaurs for everything from mounts to clothing, so it makes sense that they'd ensure their unborn baby Dinosaurs are properly tended to.

If you want to build around Atla Palani, the best place to start is by stuffing "Primal Genesis" full of powerful Dinosaurs that can hatch from Alta's Eggs. Regisaur Alpha plays quite nicely with the deck's token theme, and Raptor Hatchling is easily the most flavorful card to flip when one of your Eggs hatches. Just don't forget that even the largest Dinosaurs come from humble beginnings. Imagine the look on your opponents' faces when one of Atla Palani's Eggs begins to crack . . . and out comes Zacama, Primal Calamity!

If you want to move beyond Dinosaurs, I'd take a look at their flying cousins: Dragons. After all, tending to an unborn Dragon can't be all that different from a Dinosaur, right? The card Dragon Egg seems like a slam-dunk inclusion, as does Nesting Dragon if you picked one of those up in last year's Commander decks. That card lays a Dragon Egg on each new land you play—a lot of work for Alta Palani, admittedly, but the rewards seem well worth it.

Of course, if you'd rather hit up Ravnica instead of Ixalan, you might want to consider building around Ghired, Conclave Exile. That card is a masterclass in using both flavor and mechanics to tell a story—in this case, the story of a Shaman who left the Selesnya Conclave to join up with the Gruul.

If the phrase "Conclave Exile" wasn't clear enough, you can actually see that Ghired is still wearing some of his Selesnya-issued armor, including his old shin guards and a piece of Selesnyan plate mail strapped to his stomach. His axe also appears to have been modified from a Selesnyan staff, complete with his former guild's sigil. Ghired's shoulder pads are very Gruul, though, as are his bright red pants. Together, his outfit does a great job showcasing his torn allegiances.

Ghired's ability is also a Gruul-ish twist on Selesnya's populate mechanic. Not only does Ghired's populate trigger happen when he attacks, but the new token is already tapped and attacking when it enters the battlefield. That's the sort of aggressive behavior that likely got Ghired kicked out of the Conclave and welcomed by the Gruul Clans.

I can think of a few fun ways to modify this deck, especially if your goal is to explore the narrative of a Selesnyan exile being welcomed by the Gruul. If you really want to make Ghired feel like an exile, you can remove the other Selesnya cards from the deck—goodbye Trostani and Emmara Tandris—and replace them with Gruul cards instead. I recommend Gruul Ragebeast, whose ability plays really well with Ghired. I can also imagine that Gruul Ragebeast's favor text, courtesy of the mighty Ruric Thar, explains part of the Gruul ethos that likely appealed to Ghired in the first place. As he says on the flavor text for Ghired's Belligerence, "Harmony is no longer an option."

I'd also add Ilharg, the Raze-Boar to this deck if you're lucky enough to own a copy. Ilharg's ability plays really well with Ghired's, and the Legendary Boar God even makes an appearance on Ghired's Belligerence, which tells me that they've already been in contact narratively. I really like the idea that a former member of the Selesnya Conclave would form a kinship with the creatures of the Gruul Clans, and that they might begin to work together as an unstoppable fighting force.

Or, if you'd prefer a different tack, have Ghired stick around in the Conclave in order to teach the Selesnya a thing or two about aggression. Whenever I'm playing a deck with lots of green and white creature tokens, I tend to play things safe and Selesnya-like, hanging back behind a massive wall of creatures while waiting to be provoked. But Ghired doesn't want to do that, and you don't have to, either.

Consider adding a card like Fervor or Ogre Battledriver to your deck—something purely red that's designed to create a sense of urgency around the combat step. Your green and white creatures might not like being conscripted into such an aggressive battle plan, but Ghired will be happy to see them at his side. After all, his color identity isn't just red-green now; he's red, green, and white. He hasn't abandoned the Conclave—he's just modified their goals to suit his own ends. Perhaps his former comrades will answer his call?

Speaking of aggression, the third card I'd like to talk about today is Marisi, Breaker of the Coil. Marisi is a legend among the Nacatl of Alara, and he might well be their most influential historical figure. Before Marisi, the Nacatl had a sprawling, technologically advanced society called the Empire of the Clouds. It was the most dominant culture on Naya, and its governing document was a giant stone disk called the Coil, upon which the 121 laws of the Nacatl were written. But Marisi believed that the Cats of Alara had become too tame, too bound up by laws, too removed from nature. He and his followers shattered the Coil, and the Empire of the Clouds crumbled. While a few holdouts remained (Qasali Pridemages are from Qasal, the last settlement of Cloud Nacatl left on Naya), a majority of Nacatl followed Marisi into the wilds.

Mechanically, Marisi, Breaker of the Coil plays the part of a rebel leader quite well. Not only does he prevent your opponents from using any of their tricky spells during combat, but his goad ability ensures that conflict is inevitable. You can't just ignore Marisi and go about your day—if he hits you, a war is going to break out.

Wild Nacatl and Marisi's Twinclaws are two fun and easy additions to the deck if you're going to build around Marisi. Both of these Cat Warriors represent the culmination of Marisi's ideals, of returning to nature and embracing their rage. The Wild Nacatl even call themselves the Claws of Marisi, and they work hard to ensure that those claws remain sharp.

I'd also consider adding Ajani and Jazal Goldmane to the deck, though it's worth remembering from the Shards of Alara block storyline that Marisi was responsible for Jazal's death. The two Goldmane brothers were supportive of Marisi in their youth, though, and I definitely want to play out that betrayal during a game of Commander. Perhaps Marisi will sacrifice Jazal in order to further his cause, just like he did in the story. Or, without Nicol Bolas around, perhaps the Cat Warrior will make the more ethical decision this time. Regardless, I can't wait to see what plays out then next time they both end up on my side of the battlefield.

If you've got another cool idea for modifying the "Primal Genesis" deck, hit me up on Twitter @ChasAndres. I'll be retweeting the best ones all week, and I'm eager to figure out even more exciting ways to explore the flavor of Commander (2019 Edition).

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