One of my first Commander decks, which I fell in love with very quickly, was a Momir Vig, Simic Visionary list that relied on Simic creatures with ETB effects, especially card draw triggers, to continually accrue value and produce answers to threats before going off for large but non-infinite amounts of card draw, tokens and so on via Cloudstone Curio. So, when I saw Volo, Guide to Monsters previewed recently, I was really struck by how exciting the card is.
Volo gives me all the value I want out of a Momir Vig without having to worry about the tutoring aspect. All he asks is that I restrict myself a little bit on creature types, which is totally fine. In fact, I think that’s a little bit of a fun restriction, and to challenge myself, I made sure every single creature in this deck list follows the “no shared types” rule. Volo himself actually complicates things, because most decks like this will want Eternal Witness (or Timeless Witness, even), but his Human type means that’s right out in my structure. Here’s the full list of types I’ve managed to fit into this deck:
That’s 42 different types among 31 total creatures! A lot of the usual suspects, like Human, Elf, Shaman, Druid and so on, are pretty clogged up with powerful creatures, so I’ve had to make some difficult choices. Something like Coiling Oracle knocks out Snake, Elf and Druid in one go, so I had to be pretty choosy, especially regarding creatures with more than one type. This means we’ll see some oddball choices in this deck, and honestly, what could be more fun than that?
Any deck predicated on creature-related interactions is going to need a great curve, so I’ll introduce you to all 31 creatures in the main deck by stepping through from low to high mana value. Here we go!
Yep, that’s it. Just Birds of Paradise. There aren’t too many other Birds we’d want in this list, but snow-related payoffs like Rimefeather Owl and Blizzard Strix might have otherwise been interesting, and second-string birderback Gilded Goose is also locked out.
Here at the two spot, I’m largely looking for creatures that will retain their value in the late game while also being viable early game plays. Fblthp, Ice-Fang Coatl and Wall of Blossoms all draw cards, which is really important in a deck like this, while Prosperous Innkeeper gives us a Treasure and helps push us forward toward Volo. Thieving Skydiver is more of a late-game play, and since the whole kicker situation is copy-able, Volo plays well with it. That said, if you have a window to make X=1 and steal a Sol Ring on your third turn, don’t flinch – just do it.
We’ve got a few types here – Snake, Merfolk, Rogue, Plant and Wall – and all have some relevant overlap, while Halfling, Citizen and Homunculus are basically free. By choosing these cards, we miss out on some heavy hitters – Sakura-Tribe Elder, Tatyova, Benthic Druid, Glasspool Mimic, Sylvan Caryatid and Wall of Stolen Identity are among the many casualties.
These are still in the zone where we’re liable to play these before Volo sometimes, so it’s important to get value out of these by themselves. Wood Elves and Pilgrim’s Eye help with the land situation, while Filigree Familiar and Generous Stray draw cards with different degrees of speed. Loaming Shaman is more of a midgame graveyard hate piece.
Type-wise, we’ve now knocked out some serious stuff. Elf and Shaman are big losses, with Fox, Cat, Centaur, Scout and Thopter quite far behind in relevance. Elf locks us out of many one-drop accelerators along with Reclamation Sage, Farhaven Elf, Beast Whisperer and more, while Shaman mostly appears on high-value Elves anyway. If you’re a Temur Sabertooth fan (I’m a little tired of it myself), you’ll want to stray away from the generous Cat I’ve dropped into this list – if you make that change, it might make sense to swap Pilgrim’s Eye for Skyscanner.
Four is a little bit of a weird spot, as depending on the table and your hand, you may be dropping Volo and trying to yolo your way through a turn cycle, or you may still be throwing creatures down and waiting for a turn where you can cast Volo followed by another creature spell. That means these cards are all over the place, functionally. Abominable Treefolk is a late-game win condition, as we’re going to have 24 snow lands, while Bramble Sovereign and Spark Double give you more of whatever you’re already making. Solemn Simulacrum is here to do its usual good stuff, while Thassa, Deep-Dwelling augments our army of ETB creatures with her blinking ability.
Types lost here are Treefolk, Dryad, Golem, Illusion and God. Deadwood Treefolk and Woodfall Primus would both be solid options here, and I could also see Tendershoot Dryad or Yavimaya Dryad playing a role. The Golem spot is surprisingly contentious, with Meteor Golem being the other big option. Thassa is easily the #1 God option here, while Spark Double costs us Phantasmal Image.
Fives are all about removal, which is mostly a coincidence. Each card has its own specialty – Acidic Slime takes out noncreatures, Icefall Regent taps creatures down and Stingerfling Spider shoots down flyers.
We burn the Ooze, Dragon and Spider types on this one. Ooze could have easily been Biogenic Ooze instead, or Biowaste Blob if you’re feeling like lowering the curve a little. Keiga, the Tide Star would also be an interesting choice for Dragon, as Volo’s copy ability would basically give you a control effect up front, but remember that Keiga also uses the Spirit slot. Spider could also be used for Silklash Spider or even Hatchery Spider, but I like being able to just blow up some relevant threats.
I think Brutalizer Exarch doesn’t really get its due these days. Bottoming a noncreature permanent means it’s not in the graveyard to be easily recurred, and if that’s not what you need, perhaps you’d like a quick Worldly Tutor. Soul of the Harvest is huge value in a deck with a high creature count, and if you’re making a copy with Volo, well, watch out for your hand size. Duplicant takes out a dangerous creature, leaving room for Frost Titan and Ulvenwald Hydra to beat down. What’s more annoying than one Frost Titan locking down your best permanent? Try two of them.
We use the Phyrexian, Cleric, Giant, Shapeshifter, Elemental and Hydra types here, so that means no Phyrexian Metamorph, Vizier of the Menagerie, Beanstalk Giant, Clever Impersonator, Mulldrifter or Voracious Hydra, among many others. Phyrexian has been retroactively applied to a lot more creatures than you might think, so be on the lookout for cards like Wurmcoil Engine, whose new types you might not have thought about.
This is a pretty motley group of creatures, but they’re here with one purpose: end the game. They do so in a variety of ways, with Pelakka Wurm being the most value-oriented of the bunch. Junk Winder is my favorite of this group though, as it synergizes with the tokens from Volo’s copy ability in really incredible ways. Two Junk Winders is even better, of course. Second place goes to the fearsome Icebreaker Kraken, whose ETB effect can really change the course of the endgame.
In our final roundup of creature types, we use Avatar, Boar, Kraken, Serpent, Myr, Construct, Wurm and Elephant. These types are, surprisingly, not very crowded with winners, but if you’d rather have Thorn Mammoth, Primeval Protector or one of the other wacky options here, be my guest.
As far as supporting cast members go, my main focus is ways to bounce or blink our ETB creatures. That means the following:
Powerful blink effects, especially repeatable ones like Conjurer’s Closet, will make the original versions of our creatures even more powerful. Displace and Ghostly Flicker can even save Volo from targeted removal in a pinch.
Cloudstone Curio works amazingly well with Volo – play one creature, then bounce two originals to your hand. Ordering of objects on the stack means that Volo copies will enter before the originals, so you won’t be able to bounce the original using the copy’s Curio trigger, which means it’s a little harder to set up infinite loops. Crystal Shard and Erratic Portal aren’t as efficient as the Curio on mana, but they’re a little easier to control and can be used to rescue creatures at instant speed as well. Plus, you occasionally get to wreck someone who’s tapped out.
Then we get into some of the usual suspects – defensive counterspells, point removal, etc. I’ll highlight some of my favorite cards that you won’t see in a billion Simic lists:
Got some extra land in the late game? No problem! Copy your favorite friends.
It’s no wrath, but it’s what we have, and it’s likely we’ll have the biggest Fractal when the dust settles.
Volo’s going to be a target once people see how powerful he is, so this card is a must.
In a deck focused on ETB triggers, how could we not play this?
Even though this is a bad draw early, it’s so sweet in the late game that I just had to give it a shot. We’ll see how good it actually ends up being.
Well, I’ve reached the end of my guide to my new favorite guide. Here’s the full deck list – enjoy!
Commander: Volo, Guide to Monsters 1 Abominable Treefolk 1 Acidic Slime 1 Alchemist's Refuge 1 Arcane Signet 1 Bala Ged Recovery 1 Barkchannel Pathway 1 Beast Within 1 Birds of Paradise 1 Bramble Sovereign 1 Breeding Pool 1 Brutalizer Exarch 1 Cloudstone Curio 1 Command Beacon 1 Command Tower 1 Conjurer's Closet 1 Crystal Shard 1 Diluvian Primordial 1 Displace 1 Duplicant 1 End-Raze Forerunners 1 Erratic Portal 1 Farhaven Elf 1 Fblthp, the Lost 1 Fierce Guardianship 1 Filigree Familiar 1 Flooded Grove 1 Force of Vigor 1 Frost Titan 1 Generous Stray 1 Ghostly Flicker 1 Heroic Intervention 1 Hinterland Harbor 1 Icebreaker Kraken 1 Icefall Regent 1 Ice-Fang Coatl 1 Into the North 1 Junk Winder 1 Krosan Grip 1 Lifecrafter's Bestiary 1 Lightning Greaves 1 Littjara Mirrorlake 1 Loaming Shaman 1 Mirage Mirror 1 Myr Battlesphere 1 Myriad Landscape 1 Myth Unbound 1 Nature's Lore 1 Negate 1 Oversimplify 1 Panharmonicon 1 Pelakka Wurm 1 Pilgrim's Eye 1 Prosperous Innkeeper 1 Reality Shift 1 Rejuvenating Springs 1 Reliquary Tower 1 Rimewood Falls 1 Scavenger Grounds 1 Simic Signet 15 Snow-Covered Forest 8 Snow-Covered Island 1 Sol Ring 1 Solemn Simulacrum 1 Soul of the Harvest 1 Spark Double 1 Spitting Image 1 Stingerfling Spider 1 Swan Song 1 Terastodon 1 Thassa, Deep-Dwelling 1 The Great Henge 1 Thieving Skydiver 1 Three Visits 1 Ulvenwald Hydra 1 Wall of Blossoms 1 Waterlogged Grove 1 Yavimaya Coast 1 Zendikar Resurgent