At its heart, Commander is a format about doing big things, slamming out those big plays that just can’t happen in other formats. Sometimes, though, things start getting a little out of hand. Sometimes you just need everyone else to slow down a bit, take a break, maybe remember to pack a bit of removal in amongst all the haymakers. That’s where the new big pig on the block comes in, and this week My Commander is Zendikar Rising’s own Yasharn, Implacable Earth!
The Hog Himself
Yasharn, Implacable Earth is a solid option to helm a more taxing style of Green-White deck. Shutting down life payments and non-land sacrifices shuts down swaths of cards on its own, especially messing up the average Black deck, and picking up two basics to your hand to boot helps thin your deck and ensure you just keep drawing gas. Conveniently, those two lands help you get to your next cast each time it’s removed from the board, so killing the pig to get their engines online just means that you’ll be finding even more mana to keep the train rolling.
The Nuts and Bolts:
Commander Yasharn Deck List - Lee Livingston
Pumping the Brakes
One of the first stops for slowing down a table is keeping them nice and tapped down as you work to advance your own gameplan. Thalia only hits non-basics, but keeping all creatures and most, or all, lands that your opponents play coming into play tapped can range from annoying to back-breaking. Anyone relying on Kiki-Jiki/Splinter Twin style loops to win will find themselves ramming their heads into the wall, or elephant, as it were. Even just leaving them unable to deploy blockers in a timely fashion can be devastating.
Choking them Out
The next step is to further restrict what they can play, locking them into a single spell per turn. Again, some decks simply can’t win through such an effect. Others are merely forced to deal with the lock piece before any of the rest. The Archon of Emeria from Zendikar Rising even overlaps with the tappers, a two-for-one special of stumbling blocks.
The Open Road
If we’re going to make everyone play a fair, one spell per turn game of Magic, then breaking that symmetry by getting extra mileage out of our manabase will go a long way. Plus, it wouldn’t be a visit to Zendikar if we didn’t care a bit more about our manabase. To that end, there’s a whole swathe of cards dedicated to finding and utilizing lands in the deck. Crop Rotation and Knight of the Reliquary are the key cards in that regard, binning lands to hunt up the different pieces you might want, whether that’s a Field of the Dead or a Strip Mine, while the Dryad of the Ilysian Grove both fixes any color issues you might have and lets you play an extra every turn. A fun little interaction is that because it gives all your lands all basic land types, so you don’t have to worry about running out of fuel for the Knight.
Paths Once Travelled
Lands manage to find their way into the graveyard near constantly with this deck, so naturally playing them again and again would be only fitting. Ancient Greenward joins Crucible of Worlds and Crucible-Snake… err… Ramunap Excavator in allowing you to play lands from the graveyard. I will never advocate just Strip-locking a player, but having the option to take out nasty lands repeatedly throughout a game is an effective way to keep some opponents on the back foot and open for a haymaker. The deck also has a good few cycling lands, and it’s always a nice bit of gas when you can cycle the land you drew for another card and still play it for turn. Even better, the new modal spells from Zendikar Rising can be played as a land from anywhere you normally could, so if one ends up in your bin by, say, resolving, you can still get the other half!
The Road Buddies
With all these lands being played, taking advantage by going wide seems only natural. Field of the Dead may be banned all over the place, but it’s still legal in Commander, and is a natural fit in this deck, being both resilient and capable of accruing incremental advantage over the course of the game as you choke the life out of your opponents. Emeria Angel is more fragile, but offers flying bodies instead. Felidar Retreat is a bit more resilient than the angel, and is also more flexible, giving the choice to either keep adding to the board, or to make the team you already have even bigger and able to swing in while still blocking.
Of course, you aren’t always going to have all the cards you need, but digging a bit deeper for them isn’t too difficult. Tireless Tracker has great synergy with all the lands you’re playing, though clues are a bit of a non-bo with your Commander. Thankfully, you can let them sit and stack up until they knock out your porcine leader, crack a few to stock back up, then play him out again. Alms Collector definitely fits in with the more taxing side of the deck, helping snag a few extra cards and keep your opponents from digging too deep themselves. Mangara is a new one, and can easily net you plenty of cards to find the lock pieces you need, even if a few then shut off his ability to draw. Still, in those situations, you’re likely favored anyway, so losing out on a couple cards won’t hurt. Arch of Orazca makes an appearance as a great way to keep yourself in cards tucked away in your landbase, safe from most removal opponents are packing.
Keeping your lock creatures in play is imperative to your gameplan, and as such, a lot of removal is going to be thrown your way. To that end, there’s a higher than usual number of ways to keep your creatures on the battlefield and frustrating your opponents. Wrap in Vigor, Heroic Intervention, and Flawless Maneuver deal with the bane of your deck’s existence: board wipes. Mother of Runes, Giver of Runes, and Sejiri Shelter all give protection from a color of your choice, helping you to dodge spot removal and keep thorny creatures safe and sound while helping you punch through the last few points of damage if necessary. Sigarda, Host of Herons fills a role both as a powerful beater and as protection against Edict effects, just one more way to make pesky Black decks sit back and pay attention.
While the deck is resilient and offers plenty of overlap, sometimes the creature you need has been dealt with. Rather than try and find the other piece, the deck has a solid recursion suite, pulling cards back to the hand with Eternal Witness and Bala Ged Recovery (another modal land!) or even back to the field with Sun Titan, Reveillark or the Emeria Shepherd. The Shepherd in particular can become an absolute knockout in the late game, setting up powerful recovery turns if you do end up reset with a board wipe. Often enough, the opponent could deal with the problematic card the first time, but the second or third is just too much for them.
Different problems require different solutions, and thankfully the deck includes Green so hunting up those creature-based solutions isn’t too much of a hassle. Chord of Calling can even set up for some blowouts when used to respond to an opponent beginning to go off with a combo, leaving them with their pants down and vulnerable to a counterattack. The Finale doesn’t have the surprise potential in that regard, but thanks to the deck pretty much never missing a land drop once Yasharn starts showing up, hitting the X=10 on the Finale can leave your opponents vulnerable in a very different, damage based way.
While the deck eschews board wipes (we had to make cuts somewhere, I normally wouldn’t advocate for this), it offers a solid suite of single-target removal. Winds of Abandon can be a one-sided board wipe, though it’s the only one, but also makes for a decent Path impression otherwise, alongside, well, Path to Exile and Swords to Plowshares. Valorous Stance isn’t the most flexible removal spell, but its overlap as a protection spell can’t be overlooked. Beast Within and Generous Gift, though, are simple all-purpose answers that leave behind bodies that are trivial for the creatures on our side to deal with.
So, if you’re looking to take a trip around Zendikar, why don’t you hop on this hog and see the sights? While you’re at it, you can throw your weight around a bit, make all those battlecruisers and sleek combo machines take notice of the mean machine you’re tooling around with. This isn’t something I would show up with at the most casual of tables, but if your meta is on the more competitive end of the casual spectrum, this could be the machine you’re looking for, with plenty of options to tweak and adjust it, make a custom build all your own. Either way, if you’re looking to pick the cards up for it, Zendikar Rising cards are up now for preorder, and if you’re wanting to flip all your extra cards into new loot, it’s never been easier with You Box, We Buy. Just toss all the old cards you aren’t using into a box, ship it in, and get an offer that you can use to pick up all the new cards you could want. Now, if you have any thoughts on the deck, leave a comment or tweet me at @TheLeoRiser and let me know what you think of the hateful hog.