Friday, May 20, 2016

Marath, Will of the Wild


Marath, Will of the Wild

Scion of Vitu-Ghazi
Archangel of Thune
Dragonmaster Outcast
Flametongue Kavu
Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Bloom Tender
Scavenging Ooze
Wood Elves
Wirewood Savage
Eternal Witness
Managorger Hydra
Champion of Lambholt
Forgotten Ancient
Bloodspore Thrinax
Indrik Stomphowler
Garruk’s Packleader
Kalonian Hydra
Nacatl War-Pride
Rampaging Baloths
World-Spine Wurm
Qasali Pridemage
Voice of Resurgence
Knotvine Mystic
Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice
Omnath, Voice of Resurgence


Swords to Plowshares
Path to Exile
Rootborn Defenses
Wrath of God
Cathars’ Crusade
Devout Invocation
Flameshadow Conjuring
Reforge the Soul
Blasphemous Act
Hardened Scales
Elemental Bond
Tempt with Discovery
Parallel Lives
Second Harvest
Greater Good
Doubling Season
Shamanic Revelation
Garruk, Primal Hunter
Ezuri’s Predation
Boros Charm
Aura Mutation
Artifact Mutation
Glare of Subdual
Mirari’s Wake
Basilisk Collar
Sol Ring
Selesnya Signet
Gruul Signet
Boros Signet


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:
Command Tower
Opal Palace
Jungle Shrine
Gaea’s Cradle
Llanowar Reborn
Temple of the False God
Contested Cliffs
Gavony Township
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:

Twilight Drover
Ogre Battledriver
Warstorm Surge
Cryptolith Rites
Eldrazi Monument
Chandra Flamecaller
Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
Inspiring Call
Evolutionary Leap
Purphoros, God of the Forge
Aura Shards (I friggin’ hate this card, so I refuse to run it on principal)
Pathbreaker Ibex
Chord of Calling
Beast Within

Well, folks, that’s all I’ve got for today. Enjoy!


  1. Nice deck!

    Marath precons are still in sale in France for like 18 bucks, I might consider buying one now and build my own version using yours as a template I'll accomodate into a more budget-friendly deck. ^^
    Are Kiki-Jikki and Gaea's Cradle really essential to the deck?

    As for the other cards, most choices are interesting and clever.

    But I still don't get your love for signet in green decks. ^^ I see that they're castable the turn before Marath but they're not accelerating you into him as he's still coming out on turn 3.
    Are they in the deck for fixing purposes as they enable your mana base to cast Marath t3 realiably? Is that really a matter with your dual lands package?

    Have you thought of adding Primal Growth to your ramp spell package?
    It's a bit of a tech card in token decks as the sack kiker is decently easy to pull and it allows you to get two lands untapped in play. Primary con for you: it's castable turn 3, as is Marath. ^^

    As always, great and insightful article. You never fail to get me an urge to build. (which I can't atm but maybe in two months)

    1. Hi, and thanks for your comments!

      So, for starters, I'd say that no, Cradle is definitely not essential. I've run the deck with and without it, and while I definitely like having it, it's a luxury, not a necessity.

      If I didn't have Cradle, the only change I would make would be to replace Tempt with Discovery with a more generic ramp spell - probably Skyshroud Claim. Beyond that one change, losing Cradle wouldn't impact much.

      Kiki-Jiki is a bit different. The interaction between Kiki-Jiki and my Populate spells was one of the foundational elements of this list.

      That's not to say he's essential, per se - it's just that removing him would make me want to reconfigure some other aspects of the deck in response. I'd certainly still run Rootborn Defenses, because Wrath protection is very important here... But if I didn't have Kiki-Jiki, I think I'd probably wind up cutting Trostani, Scion of Vitu Ghazi and Flameshadow Conjuring.

      But, the good news is that there are plenty of other cards you could easily substitute in for those cards and it wouldn't change the deck a lot.

      Simply put, Kiki and Cradle are obviously two of the most powerful cards in the deck and I tend to do really well in games where I draw them - but I have had plenty of fun with this deck in games where I didn't see either of them, so no, I don't consider them essential to the deck's success - they just help a lot!

    2. Oh, forgot to answer your comment about the Signets.

      So... not to sound defensive, but I don't get all the hate for Signets (not from you, specifically, but I see a LOT of people critiquing the signets online).

      I've been playing EDH since right around the time Ravnica block was ending and Time Spiral was coming out. And for the first several years I played this format, I basically refused to run anything but three-color decks. And, since basically the day I built my very first EDH deck, I have run Signets in 99.99999% of all the decks I have every built. And in all that time I have never been given any concrete reason NOT to run them.

      THAT SAID...

      I have pretty much the same attitude you expressed towards people who run Solemn Simulacrum or Burnished Hart in Green decks. Why run Solemn when Green has SOOOOO many options that don't cost FOUR! And burnished hart is downright TERRIBLE compared to some green spells.

      But, here's the thing - I don't think Green has that many options that are better than Signets. They cost TWO, they fix TWO colors, and, yes, they enable casting my three-costing generals on T3 very reliably.

      Green really only has one spell that is equivalent to a signet, that I can think of anyway - Farseek. Farseek costs two, and can get a dual/shock to fix two colors. If there were two other functional reprints of Farseek so I could replace all three signets with three Farseeks, I very well might do that.

      But, ultimately, what it really comes down to is that I've been playing the signets in EDH for very close to a decade now, and I have yet to see any real DOWNSIDE to them. People constantly talk about how much more fragile they are than lands, etc... but that just isn't a real risk factor in my meta. They do get blown up, but my group doesn't aggressively try to mana-screw each other, so it's not that big a deal.

      Now... having said all that, this particular deck is actually one where I have already toyed with the idea of cutting the signets. They're definitely GOOD here, but I'm not as much in love with them as usually.

      In fact I played a couple of games this weekend with Marath, and had the idle thought that the signets felt a little out of place here. I'm certainly always very happy to cast one on T2 and they're not as dead a draw as you might expect past that, but if I were going to cut them from ONE of my three-color decks, it'd be this one.

    3. Well, I was just inquiring about the reasons you run these cards. I can see where your love is coming from. :)

      I tend to be overly cautious about mana rocks in general because I have a very (very) strong tendency to get Austere Command and Akroma's Vengeance as my sweepers of choice in white decks. And of course, signets tend to react badly when played in conjonction with these cards.
      As a result, I may be overrevaluating their tendency to be destroyed as a side effect of some sweeper.

      But still, I prefer to get lands in play in my green decks. Having 15+ lands in front of me in my Maelstorm Wanderer deck invariably makes me giggling, which is what edh is ultimately about, no?

      (as a side-note, it's funny to allude to a deck I built because of one of your old articles here. I remember precisely the phrase which hooked me to build Wanderer "a deck which works with whatever you build".)
      (and spoiler, oh did it deliver, even with my janky list)

  2. Fair point. Most of my sweepers tend to be Wrath of God style - i.e., creatures only. I do see some Austere Commands in my meta, and they do occasionally make me sad, but they don't happen nearly often enough to make that risk higher than the reward.

    Usually by the time something wipes all my signets it's late enough that I'm not totally screwed. It's even more rare for someone to point spot removal at a signet, though if I'm playing Maelstrom Wanderer, going after my mana is suddenly something my group is way more likely to do! ;)

    If I, or my group, ran more universal sweepers like Akroma's Vengence, I'd definitely be more selective and careful about signets, but while those cards do show up on occasion, they just aren't prevalent enough to sway me away.

  3. Ah, Marath, probably my favorite of my decks. I built her to be my first combo deck, with a token subtheme so things don't get too old.

    Out of the cards you're not running that you listed, I'm currently running: Cryptolith Rite/Eldrazi Monument/Purphoros, God of the Forge/Aura Shards/Beast Within

    and they've all worked out great. I tried Vigor in my initial build, but it just didn't do enough most of the time, and when it did do something it felt very win-more.

    I actually found most of the Gruul planeswalkers to be quite useful (even more so given that I run Doubling Season), and I'm running all of them except Domri Rade. Sarkhan Vol's a great haste enabler (as well as one that doesn't go off as easily with infinite combos). Arlinn Kord is just a value machine, in that every single ability she has can be put to good use. And Xenagos? Holy hell, he gets out of hand with Marath quite quickly.

    I'm thinking of adding one of the Signets to replace my BoP, but I dunno. BoP has that whole 1 CMC thing going for it, but mana dorks are quite fragile.

    Here's my list. So far, it's done pretty well for itself. I kind of like having interchangeable parts for my combos, and without tutors for said combo pieces it makes games more unpredictable.

    1. Those are all pretty great suggestions, and I could see running almost any of them. Cryptolith Rite is probably the one I'm most likely to actually try out, because it's new. I think I have one or two copies, but I have been waffling on which deck or decks want it most. I have a few that all seem like good homes, but I think you might have convinced me that Marath should definitely be one of them.

      Eldrazi Monument and Purphoros, I think are great in a default token deck, and would still be good in mine, but I felt that since my focus is more on quality over quantity, they might be less effective. My Marath list does still go wide, but not as much as you'd think. Doesn't mean either of those cards would be BAD, but I didn't feel they were must-have's either. Plus, Purphoros has a pretty nasty reputaion in my group, and I am already exploiting him in my Feldon deck. I tend to avoid running cards my group finds obnoxious in multiple decks, when I can. I can get away with playing Purphy in one deck, but if I jam him everywhere people will get annoyed.

      Vigor I insist on keeping mainly because it's just a pet card that has served me well, but also because I pull off the ol' Vigor into Blasphemous Act combo from time to time and I enjoy that! Last time I did it, I even had the Yavimaya Hollow to regenerate Vigor.

      Of the 'Walkers, I definitely like Xenagos. I think he was actually in my list previously, but I kinda overlooked him when I rebuilt it last. The others I'm kinda "meh" on, though I don't think they're bad choices. I've actually lived the dream of Doubling Season into Sarkhan Vol enough times that I am actively avoiding running both in the same deck now, kinda like Behemoth + Avenger. Been there, done that, yawn. And I don't own an Arlin Kord yet.

      Aura Shards I avoid playing just because I hate the damn card SO much whenever I see someone else playing it!

      Best Within is also a favorite of mine, I just couldn't find room for.

      So, I defiintely want to try to fit Cryptolith Rite, and Beast Witin into the list, and I will definitely give some consideration to Eldrazi Monument and Xenagos.

    2. I totally know what you mean about pet cards; I've been trying to find room for Nacatl War-Pride for a while now.

      Speaking of additions, I just made some adjustments after Eternal Masters, and made room for Enlightened Tutor (one of only two tutors in the deck), and Sylvan Library (never used it before, but I've heard good things.