Building Around Yarok, the Desecrated in Commander

I’m a sucker for a Panharmonicon. So, when Core Set 2020 told me it could be my Commander, albeit in the form of some sort of incomprehensible existential Horror Elemental, I was ready to sign up. To be clear, it’s time to talk about Yarok, the Desecrated.

Yarok, the Desecrated

There’s sort of an implication that Yarok might be an enabler for the new Elementals that have enters-the-battlefield abilities, but I think we can take a bit of a wider stance here. We can even look at some cards from Core Set 2020 for inspiration!

Agent of Treachery

I talked about this in the Commander Newsletter (sign up here for a free piece of Commander content in your inbox every Friday!) but it merits repetition: this card is crazy. Doubling the ETB trigger makes it even more ridiculous than it already was.

Temple of MysteryTemple of MaladyTemple of Deceit

Only two of these show up in the new set, but doubling up on the scry trigger can really put these over the top. Sometimes you leave the card on top and just look at it a second time like “Sure, okay, you’re still there,” but sometimes you get to push two irrelevant cards to the bottom of the library and that’s huge. A second scry also lets you be a bit choosier.

What do these cards suggest? Well, Agent of Treachery and other tiny 7-mana creatures aren’t heading screaming into the red zone, so that means we’ll have to get lots of value out of them. Blinking and reanimating them to get even more life out of their triggers is a must, which means we’ll want more creatures like these that provide this type of value. We need to make sure our value cards balance between giving us more resources and taking resources from our opponents, of course. We will also need some big creatures to rumble with–hopefully they’ll come with triggers as well.

Let’s start with one of the most important parts of a deck like this: ways to get our mana right by both fixing it and ramping it.

Coiling OracleElvish RejuvenatorFarhaven ElfRisen ReefSolemn SimulacrumUlvenwald HydraWood Elves

These are some of the best mana ramp creatures this color combination has to offer. Obviously, black isn’t really represented here itself–that’s why this looks a lot like the ramp package from my old Momir Vig, Simic Visionary deck. I like these seven cards because they are well-costed, they mostly come down early, and they put land right into play for us. If you find your version of this deck needs more mana ramp, you might try cards like Cavalier of Thorns, Lotus Cobra, Springbloom Druid, and Ondu Giant.

Next up, let’s talk about destroying our opponents’ creatures. There’s no reason to let our opponents have things if we can help it, so let’s find a way to take care of their boards quickly and definitively.

Massacre WurmNoxious GearhulkRavenous ChupacabraShriekmawDuplicant

These five creatures do a great job of raining death and destruction down on opposing armies, mostly in terms of targeted creature removal. Massacre Wurm, especially when its trigger is doubled up, can clear opposing boards decently well, but mostly we’re focusing on individual creatures. Duplicant is obviously the big winner since it exiles the opposing creature, but sometimes you only have enough mana to evoke a Shriekmaw. I know you probably don’t cast Terror a lot, but you can’t double Terror with Yarok!

If you’re concerned about your opponents building an even bigger board, consider cards like Bone Shredder, Fleshbag Marauder, Merciless Executioner, Nekrataal, Patron of the Vein, and Skinrender.

Up next: creatures that steal!

Agent of TreacherySower of Temptation

These two are fairly different. Sower borrows something (or two things, if you can make it happen) for as long as it’s around, whereas the Agent hangs onto whatever you take regardless of its status on the battlefield. You probably won’t be hitting the Agent’s second trigger’s condition too often, but occasionally you’ll get some cards.

If your opponents consistently have cards that are better than yours, try out Dragonlord Silumgar and Hostage Taker. Sometimes we can’t destroy something and we’re not working against a creature, which is why we need other cards that blow stuff up.

Acidic SlimeMeteor GolemReclamation SageWoodfall Primus

Destroy noncreatures? No problem. Meteor Golem can hit any nonland, Woodfall Primus destroys noncreatures, and Acidic Slime and Reclamation Sage are a bit more limited. Nonetheless, most of these are strong enough to play without the benefit of Yarok, which makes them powerhouses if you’re on Yarok’s home plane of Valuetown.

If you want more options, Bane of Progress, Qasali Slingers, and Terastodon are all worth considering. Terastodon was a pretty late cut from this list and I’m still not sure how I feel about that.

I’ve talked many times about the graveyard being a second hand, so how are we dealing with that?

Bojuka BogLoaming Shaman

We don’t want to get rid of our own graveyard, so we stick to cards like these that target other players. Loaming Shaman benefits from all the ways we’ll be able to recur creatures, whereas Bojuka Bog just gets some extra value if you have Yarok.

If you find this isn’t enough, or if you prefer more graveyard hate in general, try Agent of Erebos. It’s a card that almost makes it into most of my lists that involve black but often gets cut late.

Now let’s talk about one of my favorite things to do in lists like this: drawing cards.

Baleful StrixElvish VisionaryGuardian ProjectIce-Fang CoatlInspired SphinxMulldrifterSire of StagnationSoul of the HarvestTatyova, Benthic DruidTishana, Voice of ThunderWall of Blossoms

Obviously there are about a million ways to draw cards in this color combination, so selecting just 11 was a real challenge. After some serious value-related introspection, I narrowed it down to the 2-cost cantrip creatures as well as a few standouts that I want to touch on. Guardian Project is a clear winner in most creature-heavy Commander decks, but has an extra edge with Yarok involved. Inspired Sphinx is a rarely seen Game Night exclusive which scales very well with a table. Mulldrifter is an easily recognized staple that can act as a Divination in a pinch. Sire of Stagnation gives us tons of cards if it’s alive, but usually it lasts only a turn or so. Soul of the Harvest and Tatyova both trigger off things we’re already doing, and Tishana probably performs better than Prime Speaker Zegana here (though switch them if you’re feeling contrary.)

Other ways to draw cards that I considered: Carven Caryatid, Cloudkin Seer, Disciple of Bolas, Generous Patron, Jungle Barrier, Masked Admirers, Merchant of Secrets, Multani’s Acolyte, New Perspectives, Pondering Mage, Prime Speaker Zegana, Rogue Refiner, Sea Gate Oracle, Skyscanner, Wistful Selkie… and maybe Striped Bears. I went pretty deep.

This deck loves its best cards very much and reusing them is a must. That’s why we have cards like these:

Baloth NullDeadwood TreefolkEternal Witness

Usually we want creatures back, and Baloth Null and Deadwood Treefolk are both subject matter experts. A doubled Baloth Null trigger does wonders for an empty hand. Eternal Witness is the kind of obvious inclusion you could easily cut for something else if you’re no longer enthralled by it.

If you do want to cut the classics or you’re interested in more effects, try Entomber Exarch, Golgari Findbroker, Greenwarden of Murasa, Pharika’s Mender, and Possessed Skaab.

Let’s talk more about value and other cards we can use to generate it.

Blade of SelvesBramble SovereignFaerie ArtisansGonti, Lord of LuxuryHelm of the HostInfinite ReflectionProgenitor MimicPuppeteer Clique

Blade of Selves scales well with the table and provides more triggers turn after turn. Bramble Sovereign lets you make more copies of your creatures with ETB effects – usually one, but sometimes even more. Faerie Artisans also lets you double up on your ETB effects, albeit in a more confusing way, and its effect with Yarok in play is essentially multiplicative. Gonti gives you access to cards you might not otherwise get to play. Helm of the Host is a more stable, less explosive Blade of Selves. Infinite Reflection turns your future creatures into your most powerful creature – imagine this on something like Agent of Treachery! Progenitor Mimic allows you to rebuy on your favorite creature turn after turn. Finally, Puppeteer Clique pulls creatures – hopefully with ETB effects – out of your opponents’ graveyards for your nefarious uses!

Consider also: Diluvian Primordial, Jace’s Mindseeker, Mercurial Pretender, Path of Discovery, Polluted Bonds, Retreat to Coralhelm, Sepulchral Primordial, Torrential Gearhulk, Verdant Sun’s Avatar, and Woodland Bellower. All of these can give you more value if you’re interested.

Speaking of value, blinking, bouncing, and reanimating your creatures can provide more of that!

Displacement WaveGhostly FlickerConjurer's Closet

These three blink effects are the chosen ones for this deck. They provide the best value for your mana and your card. If you’re interested in a larger number of these effects, try Essence Flux, Illusionist’s Stratagem, Siren’s Ruse, Teferi’s Time Twist, and Voyager Staff. If you’re not tired of Deadeye Navigator, that’s an obvious choice.

EquilibriumCloudstone Curio

Cloudstone Curio lets you flip your creatures back and forth for free, whereas Equilibrium lets you move your creatures back and forth between your hand and the battlefield with many easy payments of one generic mana. Both are very powerful in this deck. If you need more, try Crystal Shard, Erratic Portal, and Portal of Sanctuary. Temur Sabertooth is also a strong choice, especially if you’re taking this deck in more of a Palinchron/Cloud of Faeries/Peregrine Drake direction.

Animate DeadMakeshift MannequinNecromancy

Both enchantments here have weird wording that’s very favorable to us–if we double the triggers with something like Yarok, we get two creatures for the price of one. Makeshift Mannequin’s strength is its instant-speed interaction. Phyrexian Delver might also be a good choice here.

Endless Sands

Is this bounce or blink? Whatever it is, it’s a great way to abuse enters-the-battlefield effects. Just don’t get Stone Rained. If you’re planning to have your lands destroyed and don’t mind them not generating mana, try Safe Haven.

There are a couple other key cards to touch on before we get to those boring old win conditions. That’s right, we’re talking about our Yarok-like trigger doublers.

PanharmoniconStrionic Resonator

Panharmonicon is more limited than Yarok because it only cares about artifacts or creatures entering, though that’s most of what we do here. Strionic Resonator can only be used once every so often, but it doesn’t care what kind of permanent generated the trigger, which means it can handle Animate Dead shenanigans where Panharmonicon cannot.

We also need cards that deal with our opponents’ stuff. I know we have a bit of that already but not everything can be a creature.

Krosan GripChoice of DamnationsCasualties of WarWindgrace's JudgmentAssassin's Trophy

Some spells are just too good to ignore, and these are five of the best we can hope for.

Okay, let’s get into our win conditions.

Avenger of ZendikarCraterhoof BehemothEnd-Raze ForerunnersGrave TitanHornet QueenRampaging Baloths

Don’t worry, I stayed on theme–these all have triggered abilities. End-Raze Forerunners is the Craterhoof Behemoth for people who are tired of Craterhoof Behemoth. The rest are just big threats that come with their own armies.

If this isn’t enough for your taste, possibly because you like winning more than you like value for some reason, try Biogenic Ooze, Deep-Forest Hermit, Deranged Hermit, Frost Titan, Izoni, Thousand-Eyed, Myr Battlesphere, and Ob Nixilis, the Fallen.

Yarok, the Desecrated in Commander

6 Island (335)
5 Swamp (339)
6 Forest (347)
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Breeding Pool
1 Command Tower
1 Drowned Catacomb
1 Endless Sands
1 Exotic Orchard
1 Field of the Dead
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Hinterland Harbor
1 Morphic Pool
1 Mortuary Mire
1 Opulent Palace
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Reliquary Tower
1 Strip Mine
1 Temple of Deceit
1 Temple of Malady
1 Temple of Mystery
1 Watery Grave
1 Woodland Cemetery
1 Acidic Slime
1 Agent of Treachery
1 Avenger of Zendikar
1 Baleful Strix
1 Baloth Null
1 Bramble Sovereign
1 Coiling Oracle
1 Craterhoof Behemoth
1 Deadwood Treefolk
1 Duplicant
1 Elvish Rejuvenator
1 Elvish Visionary
1 End-Raze Forerunners
1 Eternal Witness
1 Faerie Artisans
1 Farhaven Elf
1 Gonti, Lord of Luxury
1 Grave Titan
1 Hornet Queen
1 Ice-Fang Coatl
1 Inspired Sphinx
1 Loaming Shaman
1 Massacre Wurm
1 Meteor Golem
1 Mulldrifter
1 Noxious Gearhulk
1 Progenitor Mimic
1 Puppeteer Clique
1 Rampaging Baloths
1 Ravenous Chupacabra
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Risen Reef
1 Shriekmaw
1 Sire of Stagnation
1 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Soul of the Harvest
1 Sower of Temptation
1 Tatyova, Benthic Druid
1 Tishana, Voice of Thunder
1 Ulvenwald Hydra
1 Wall of Blossoms
1 Wood Elves
1 Woodfall Primus
1 Animate Dead
1 Assassin's Trophy
1 Blade of Selves
1 Casualties of War
1 Cloudstone Curio
1 Conjurer's Closet
1 Damnation
1 Displacement Wave
1 Equilibrium
1 Ghostly Flicker
1 Guardian Project
1 Helm of the Host
1 Infinite Reflection
1 Krosan Grip
1 Makeshift Mannequin
1 Necromancy
1 Panharmonicon
1 Strionic Resonator
1 Windgrace's Judgment
1 Yarok, the Desecrated

I left counterspells out of this list because I just wanted to do stuff, but if you’re determined, including Draining Whelk, Frilled Mystic, and Mystic Snake could be fine, but doubling their triggers isn’t important. It’s probably better just to play cards like Negate and Swan Song that get the job done on the cheap.

Here’s my version of Yarok that I’m hoping to try out as soon as I get it together. Let me know your thoughts and what your Yarok lists look like–I’m @RagingLevine on Twitter. See you next time as we take a break from Infinite Spoiler Season to talk about some deckbuilding concepts!

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