Marath, Will of the Wild
Scion of Vitu-Ghazi
Archangel of Thune
Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Champion of Lambholt
Voice of Resurgence
Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice
Omnath, Voice of Resurgence
Swords to Plowshares
Path to Exile
Wrath of God
Reforge the Soul
Tempt with Discovery
Garruk, Primal Hunter
Glare of Subdual
Mana base is mostly the usual suspects – duals, shocks, fetchs, etc… I’m only missing an Arid Mesa, so running 20x of the best duals I can find. Beyond that, the actual interesting lands are:
Temple of the False God
Grove of the Guardian
And finally, rounding out the lands with 3x of each basic.
Umm, right, so… where do I begin with this deck? There’s so much going on here, but the one thing that ties it all together (or most of it, at least) is the commander himself, Marath, so I guess we should start with him.
Marath is a Beast, so I have a little bit of a Beast tribal theme. I’ve got Wirewood Savage and just enough creatures with the Beast subtype to make him a worthwhile investment. The real payoff, though is when we get to cast an Ezuri’s Predation or Rampaging Baloths with the Savage in play.
Marath is an Elemental, so I also have the faintest hints of an Elemental theme, though this particular theme has taken some cuts recently. Omnath, Locus of Rage is really the main payoff card here. But it’s worth remembering that the tokens Marath makes are Elementals, as are those made my Voice of Resurgence and we have a few incidentally-good Elementals like Spitebellows.
Marath makes and cares about +1/+1 counters, so I have cards like Hardened Scales and Kalonian Hydra to support that as a theme. The +1/+1 counter theme is actually one of the headliners, whereas most of the other themes are supporting roles.
Marath makes and cares about creatures tokens, so the other headlining theme is, of course, tokens. However, at the time I started fiddling with Marath, I was sick of the typical token deck strategy of just barfing out as many 1/1 Saprolings and 0/1 plants as possible. Most token decks focus on quantity, but I wanted to focus on quality instead. There are still a handful of things that make 1/1’s but by default my token producers start at 3/3 and go up from there.
Which brings me to the first theme that isn’t directly tied to Marath – Populate. This is another theme that has, over time, been largely reduced in focus, but is still relevant due to a few of the best cards remaining in the deck. The C13 decks wherein Marath made his debut were printed just about a year after Return to Ravnica came out, but at that point I still had yet to use the Populate mechanic outside of jamming the occasional Rootborn Defenses as a hedge against sweepers. So when I was first experimenting with the Marath precon, one of the first things I did was build a Populate subtheme into it. I think I’m down to only three populate cards now, but they’re the best of the bunch – Trostani, Rootborn Defenses and, oddly, Scion of Vitu-Ghazi. The first two are obviously fantastic, while the Scion is… better than you’d think, but not exactly an all-star. Still, it’s been good enough to survive several rounds of changes.
So, there are a whole lot of themes at play here, but the surprising thing is how well the all come together. Most decks would just fall apart with so many different thing shoe-horned into them, but with this deck, I find all the various pieces overlap well enough that the synergies come through more often than not. Occasionally I have cause to be sad that the tokens made by Kazuul are Ogres and not Beasts or Elementals, but usually that doesn’t actually matter.
There are a lot of cards that bridge two or more themes by having cross-synergy. Doubling Season would be the prime example – it works with both our +1/+1 counters theme and our tokens theme (obvious, I know, everyone knows what Doubling Season does by now). Of course the deck works best when it gets to exploit multiple lines of synergy at once, but it works surprisingly well when it’s just doing one thing at a time. Sometimes it plays the token angle well enough that the counters theme barely matters, or vice versa.
But when it’s firing on all cylinders and your disparate themes start to cross-synergize, holy crap is this deck fun. It’s a very Timmy-ish deck, and boy does it hate to see a dedicated control deck at the table. You really need to have a fast, aggressive start and enough gas to stay one step ahead of their answers. Which is definitely doable but is not always going to happen. It is also possible to play a long, grindy game and out-attrition an opponent but again that isn’t the ideal scenario for this deck. It’s doable, but isn’t what the deck primarily was built to do. Clearly, the primary function of the deck is to just pound peoples’ faces with Angels, Beasts, Ogres and Elementals. And when not faced with overwhelming amounts of disruption, it’s pretty effective at carrying out that mission.
There are a few cards that are recent additions and still unproven: Managorger Hydra, Bloodspore Thrinax, Arachnogenesis, Ezuri’s Predation, Flameshadow Conjuring and Second Harvest. Managorger is kind of a generic card, but replaced the seemingly-great Ivy Lane Denizen. Denizen somehow managed to always cost one mana more than it needed to, to be good. I’m pretty sure I’d have loved the card at 3, but at 4 mana it was just uncastable garbage 99% of the time. I don’t know why, but it just worked out that way. I don’t remember what all the other cards replaced. I know Academy Rector was in the deck because Wake, Doubling Season and Cathars’ Crusade are fantastic targets, but I needed her more for other decks. And I probably had slightly more ramp at one point. I’m also missing a Wheel of Fortune, again due to having more decks that need it than I have copies of it.
The one card I’m basically certain will turn out to be a lasting addition is Ezuri’s Predation. I’ve only cast it once so far in this deck, but it won the game on the spot that time, and it’s been solid in other decks that aren’t even as well-equipped to abuse it as this one. The two I’m least confident about are the Thrinax and Second Harvest. Harvest is so new I have only played one or two games since adding it and I have yet to even draw it. The Thrinax I’ve drawn a couple of times and not wanted to cast it. Either I didn’t have anything to sac because I was behind, or I was so far ahead that it was unnecessary and win-more. I can see an argument that Second Harvest will play much the same – either it’s do-nothing or win-more, but I think there’s a reasonable chance it could work out. Finally, I know Fires of Yavimaya was in the deck and it’s absence here is actually an accidental oversight – I wouldn’t have cut it on purpose, I just missed it when I was rebuilding the deck (I had deconstructed it for a while before recently rebuilding it from scratch).
Flameshadow Conjuring mainly got added because of one of my favorite interactions in the deck: Kiki-Jiki + Trostani. With those two legends in play, I can use Kiki-Jiki to make a token copy of whatever my best non-legendary creature is. That token copy is going to die at end of turn, of course, but with Trostani, I can Populate and get a second token copy of that creature – and this one won’t die EOT! The Magical Christmasland scenario is, and I have actually gotten to pull this off once, is to have that creature be Godsire. Back when I pulled this off, I even had Fires in play. So, cast Godsire, who is hasted up thanks to Fires. Gain 8. Target Godsire with Kiki, gain another 8, two Godsires in play. Activate Trostani to populate the Godsire token copy, gain another 8, now have three Godsires. Move to attack, declare all three Godsires attacking, allow my opponent to declare blocks, then tap the three Godsires to make three 8/8 beasts, gain another 24. That’s 48 life gained, and EOT I sac one of the Godsires, so I still have five 8/8’s in play. This actually happened in a real game. Anyway, Flameshadow is basically a worse, second copy of Kiki-Jiki.
Trostani is also really good at gaining tons of life, which isn’t something the deck has a lot of, but mostly she just helps me not die, and occasionally triggers the hell out of Archangel of Thune (more of that cross-theme synergy!). I actually have considered adding an Essence Warden/Soul Warden package, but I don’t know if that’s really worth doing. I don’t know if the life gain thing is that relevant most games.
Hardened Scales is probably my favorite card in the deck. With Scales in play, you can basically pay 1 mana to put a +1/+1 counter on Marath. Pay X, Marath gets X counters. It’s pretty ridiculous, frankly. With the help of Gaea’s Cradle (also ridiculous), I’ve had Marath go from a 3/3 to a 17/17 in two turns, and that’s because I was doing other things with my mana as well.
Cathars Crusade, while being an infamously-nutso card in its own right, has some sweet applications here. Marath can now generate a number of 1/1 elemental tokens limited only by the mana you have available, without ever depleting his own counters. Oh and each counter you make grows all the ones that came before it, too. So that’s nice.
If you ever get Crusade and Scales out at the same time, beg your opponent to concede so you don’t have to do the bookkeeping. That’s actually one of the biggest downsides to this deck – putting tokens on counters is a nightmare when you usually use dice to represent both. It’s definitely worth having actual paper tokens for tokens and just stick to using dice for counters. Even then, though, doing all the math can be cumbersome. SO MANY TRIGGERS!
Getting back on track, another thing I particularly enjoy is being able to run Aura Mutation and Artifact Mutation together. Adding in Glare of Subdual is just gravy. Even though this deck largely eschews 1/1 tokens, the two Mutation spells are just fantastic utility. I love Return to Dust and Krosan Grip, but these are just more thematic and synergistic. Speaking of Glare of Subdual, I’m actually not sure I’ll keep it in the deck too much longer – not because it’s bad, but because it’s almost too good. Occasionally it’s a bit of a dud, but more often than not it is downright oppressive. Sort of like Opposition, it’s more-busted cousin. I figured since Glare couldn’t mana-lock someone the way Opposition does it’d be a lot more palatable, but so far in games I’ve played it’s either been oppressive or irrelevant with little to no middle ground.
Tempt with Discovery is basically there for Cradle. If I weren’t running Gaea’s Cradle, I’d almost certainly give this slot to Skyshroud Claim or Kodama’s Reach. I’d actually like to have one of those two in the deck already, but alas, no room until I figure out what isn’t working, and even then I’m pretty sure I’d add something like Fires of Yavimaya or Wheel of Fortune first.
Other notable utility spells include Bloom Tender in the ramp package, and Shamanic Revelation in our suite of draw spells. I’ve talked up Revelation a good deal before, but honestly, the card is just SO good. I mean, yeah, it sucks to topdeck one right after an opponent Wraths your board, but that has proven to be such a corner case that I barely consider it a downside. I did outright lose one game because I waited one turn too long to pull the trigger, but that was me being greedy. It’s seriously one of the best draw spells in green there is. Meanwhile Bloom Tender is just a must-run for me in any deck where I have a three-color commander that costs three mana. Going T2 Bloom Tender into T3 Marath + any three-mana spell is sweet. Untapping on T4 with six or seven mana is also very sweet.
Basilisk Collar is just to give Marath deathtouch so he can just ping creatures to death. It’s not strictly necessary – I’ve found it to be fairly easy to just naturally get Marath up to enough counters to kill most things that need killing, but occasionally you see a 57/57 Kresh or something absurd, and deathtouch just makes Marath vastly more efficient at removing threats. At one point I also had Bow of Nyela in the list, as it puts counters on Marath as well as giving him Deathtouch (when attacking) but it somehow didn’t do enough and wound up getting cut.
Beyond that, I think just about everything else in the list should be pretty self-explanatory. I just want to shout out Devout Invocation and Nacatl War-Pride, a couple of janky-ass cards that basically no one plays. However both have literally won me games in this deck.
As far as cards I might include, I’ve already mentioned a few that were cut or overlooked, with the big three being Fires, Rector and Wheel. But the draw package in Green has gotten better the last couple of years, so I’m not particularly missing Wheel. If I had a spare one, I’d run it, but I think the deck gets by fine without it. Other cards I would at least consider for inclusion:
Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
Purphoros, God of the Forge
Aura Shards (I friggin’ hate this card, so I refuse to run it on principal)
Chord of Calling
Well, folks, that’s all I’ve got for today. Enjoy!