What’s going down everybody?
Welcome back to another very special deck tech. One that, like last month’s, is very personal to me. Why, you ask? A couple of reasons. For one, today’s deck is a true highlander deck. There’s literally one copy of any single card in the whole deck, including basic lands! It’s been a special feature of the Commander Cookout Podcast and – finally, this deck is special to me because it reminds me that if I ever got into trouble, real trouble, like with The Mob or something like that, I could sell it and be OK. If I ever needed a down payment on a house, I’m good. Car troubles, bam! Paid.
That’s right today’s list is the polar opposite of last month’s. Today, we’re looking at my five-colour, Child of Alara lands decks. Join me and learn about why I think this Conflux mythic rare is the primo lands Commander. None of that Golos, Tireless Pilgram stuff the kids are doing these days. None of that Gitrog Monster trash the cEDH players think is fun.
No, today, Big Baby.
It’s true. This deck was featured on Commander Cookout Podcast and is a long time Commander favourite. To be exact, episode two. The deck is only marginally similar to what it once was, though. So, this week’s journey in deckbuilding was only natural. It was a lands deck then, yes. But, if memory serves me correctly, it had less lands as a means to make room for an Atog tribal sub-theme because AtogAtog was the Commander.
I loved the deck. Atogs, in general, are an extremely rare tribe to bump into in the wild. I played it a ton but found it was always torn between wanting to sacrifice things to Atogs to try and go for a kill or continue to play the long game and go after a Maze’s End win with ten guildgates. Oh yeah, that was in there too. Eventually, I realized that I needed a little more. More longevity. More consistency. Atogs weren’t going to be the way to do that and neither were guildgates once Golos, Tireless Pilgrim saw the light of day. It felt too mainstream. Even if it wasn’t. Even if all the stars aligned and I could sacrifice my whole board, Second Sunrise it all back and make a huge atog for the win, I knew I needed the deck to be able to do more.
I cut the Atog tribal theme. That freed up about ten cards worth of cap space, not to mention a slot at the helm of the deck. Enter Big Baby. As a fail safe, Child of Alara can enter the battlefield and threaten to die by way of blocking. That would keep creatures away from me, mid-game. If someone else was playing a token strategy, or better, wanted to kill everything, all they had to do was point a removal spell at Child, and the rest would fall into place. For me! If any of that wasn’t enough, Child of Alara can crash in for six until you want everything on the board to die and just kill or sacrifice it yourself. The decision could always be mine to make.
I also added things like Crop Rotation, Life from the Loam and Summer Bloom. Lands-matters deck staples. Enchantments that let me play more lands were a must, as well. Now, all that was left was a couple really stout ways to win the game. Before we discuss those, however, let’s take a look at the list and some of the other card choices. Primarily, lands.
Child of Alara – Ryan Peneff
Lands! Lands everywhere! Sixty-five lands to be exact! Turns out, when I cut Maze’s End, it opened up slots for more lands. But not just any lands, no. The lands in this list, in some form or another, take on the roll of spells, or creatures in a traditional deck. If you think about it, the ratio of lands to spells in this deck is reversed. Typically, one might see thirty-five to forty lands. Or, one might be just north of forty lands in a dedicated strategy that employs them. The likes of Omnath, Locust of Rage, Muldrotha the Gravetide or The Gitrog Monster. But not here. As we say on Commander Cookout Podcast: In CCONation, we go all in!
- Dual lands, Shock lands: The first thing I do have to mention when we look at individual cards, is that this deck employs seven original dual lands. A feat not many decks can lay claim to. Having been a Magic player for quite some time, I have been lucky to be able to find these and obtain them when the price was right for me to do so. I understand that not everyone is able to do the same. For that reason, I would suggest that one look to the recently-reprinted shock lands from our most recent visit to Ravnica in 2018 and 2019. I run several of those, and if a different deck of mine requires a traditional old school dual, they are easily replaceable with a shock in this deck. That is to say, if a five-colour deck can do it, your less-than-five-colour deck can do it too. Don’t worry about the most minute of percentage point you’re giving up not being completely optimized. In the long run, it’s not going to matter.
- Fetch lands: I’ll admit, these are a little tougher to do without that original dual lands. That being said, Fabled Passage and Prismatic Vista do a pretty comparable job at a fraction of the price, in some cases. It’s no secret that Passage and Vista both command a decent penny, but they are less than traditional fetches and they do make good pickups for future decks or other formats. As this deck isn’t breaking any land speed records, Terramorphic Expanse and Evolving Wilds could be used here alongside a bolstered number of basics to fetch up. If this is the case for you, make sure you re-tool the basics in the deck as you do lose a lot of power and consistency when you’re not able to fetch for lands with two basic land types. The point with the fetches is that we want lands in our graveyards. This allows us to get them back with things like Crucible of Worlds, Splendid Reclamation and Sun Titan. Additionally, they give us two landfall triggers for the price of one. They draw us a card with The Gitrog Monster. I could go on and on. I think it’s appropriate to lump Flagstones of Trokair in with the fetches as well. The difference being it fetches after it’s destroyed or sacrificed as a triggered ability, instead of an activated one. It does the same thing for us, either way.
- Temples, Tri-lands, Halimar Depths: These are all included as a means to fix our mana and our draws. Temples are slow, but this is a slow deck. I’m ok running them out early-game and discarding them late game if given the opportunity. Temples are great fixing and can actually help us dig pretty deep. More on that later. Halimar Depths can also give us what we need a turn or two sooner and slots in nicely alongside the Temples for that reason.
- Barren Moor, Lonely Sandbar, Forgotten Cave, Tranquil Thicket: Of course, these are there to help us dig through our deck all while putting lands into our graveyards. The same can be said here as was said of the fetchlands. I’d like to mention that it’s okay to run these out on turn one of the game if they are the only source of a colour you have in your opening seven. There are ways to get them into the ‘yard. We’ll get there.
- Blast Zone, Cabal Pit, Kor Haven, Maze of Ith, Glacial Chasm: These are all lands that act as removal spells. I cannot begin to describe how valuable these lands are. The craziest part about them is that Blast Zone and Cabal Pit can be used to kill Child of Alara to nuke the entire board. As long as we can play lands from our graveyard, and we can, and have access to three black mana, and we will, we can play and activate Pit three times to kill Big Baby. Additionally, we can tick Blast Zone up to five and then destroy all the five drops. Then, everything else when Child dies. Seems far fetched, I’ll admit. Trust me though, it isn’t. I put Glacial Chasm in this category as it blanks attackers. A plan that will give us more longevity. It is routine to be able to sacrifice it instead of paying its upkeep cost and then just play it from our graveyard again. Along with the land that we had to sacrifice. Usually for more benefit. More on Glacial Chasm later.
- Bojuka Bog, Dust Bowl, Strip Mine, Shivan Gorge: These give you additional spell-like utility. While some of these effects seem small, they do start to pack a punch when they are able to be used over and over.
- Memorial to Genius, Horizon Canopy, Tolaria West: Card draw on your lands is excellent, I don’t care who you are, or what format you play. Tolaria West, while not actual card draw, does find us whatever land we need. And, when we’re feeling particularly frisky, we can search up Zuran Orb to sacrifice all of our lands. This will become an important line of play in some games, I promise.
- Creature lands: These serve as a backup win condition for the deck. When you have between fifteen and twenty lands on the battlefield, late game, and several of them can beat ass, they’re going to get you there some portion of the time. Additionally, these lands dissuade attacks from an opponent who remembers that they are on the battlefield. For opponents who don’t remember, they eat a small attacker to serve as some virtual life gain.
Nuts and Bolts Discussion
The next thing I’d like to highlight about the deck is that there’s virtually no mana production coming from artifacts. With sixty-five lands, we simply don’t need it. The closest things we have to mana rocks are a Crucible of Worlds that let’s us double up on land abilities from the graveyards and Druidic Satchel. The D-Sack only acts as a mana producer about two thirds of the time. If you can even count it as a mana producer.
- Ghirapur Orrery, Horn of Greed, Zuran Orb: All fairly typical lands-matters cards. They provide some amount of extra benefit to our high land count. They draw cards or gain us life. Both fine in a deck that is fairly light on creatures to block with. It should be noted that both Orrery and Orb double as high synergy combo enablers as well. More on this when I get to the payoffs.
We’ve covered some ways to draw cards. We’ve covered some ways to stay alive. Both of course, with our lands. Our creatures and enchantments follow suit.
- Azusa, Kynaios and Tiro, Oracle of Mul Daya, Sun Titan, The Gitrog Monster: All let us play more lands per turn. Some have additional benefits. Sun Titan, hits and blocks, for example.
- Burgeoning, Exploration, Rites of Flourishing: These are our extra land-drops at a lower converted mana cost (CMC). They can’t attack or block, but early in the game, they can get you out ahead of the rest of the table.
I think by this point, you understand how the deck wants to operate. Play as many lands as possible. Both as a means to be able to cast powerful cards and to keep ourselves alive. Now, onto my favorite part of the deck!
It’s definitely no surprises to anyone in my local meta that I love to do broken stuff. It’s even better when I get to hide behind something as janky as half a dozen creature lands or a couple landfall creatures. Let’s now observe some of the most broken things in all of Magic the Gathering.
Ad Nauseam: Here it is folks. The pinnacle of scumbaggery, incarnate. Remember when I mentioned sacrificing all of our lands to gain life? Well, that was pretty much just to enable a whole-deck Ad Nauseam. Granted, if you wait until late game to cast Ad Nauseam, you might just be able to pick your whole deck up if your life total is healthy enough considering that there are 65 lands in the list. For every land we flip, we draw and lose no life! Insert maniacal laughter.
Manabond: This little enchantment lets us put every land in our hand onto the battlefield. A pretty hefty feat, post Ad Nauseam. Alongside our landfall creatures, this will win us the game almost every time we do it.
Scapeshift, Splendid Reclamation, Restock: Yeah, let’s just keep the train rolling. Sacrifice everything, get it all back. Rinse, repeat. Don’t be scared to cast any of these relatively early. Remember, if we can have several Temple lands and Halimar Depths enter the battlefield all at the same time, that will allow us to see pretty deep into our deck. Sometimes seven cards deep.
Tunnelling Geopede, Ob Nixilis, the Fallen, Retreat to Hagra, Field of the Dead, Seismic Assault: All great ways to take advantage of putting the rest of our lands onto the battlefield. Either from Manabond, Scapeshift or Splendid Reclamation. Bonus points if you cast Seismic Assault, discard all the lands in your hand, then splendid Reclamation them all back!
Sickening Dreams: My personal favorite way to win in the deck. If we’ve already used up all of our other payoffs, we could always just dig with Ad Nauseam until we hit Glacial Chasm and Sickening Dreams. As Chasm will prevent all damage dealt to us, we can just discard everything we just drew and Sickening Dreams everything out of existence.
This deck shows up to ball, but only at its own speed. Because of it’s slow and grindy nature, you might take some early game beats. It’s actually okay to take some licks, early game against opposing aggro decks. Despite wanting as much life as possible for Ad Nauseam late-game, we’ll manage. Remember, we’ll draw more cards with Ad Nauseam, in ten seconds, than the aggro deck will see in their next four games. Additionally, we can usually get away with an Ad Naus for twelve to fifteen cards and be set up for the win. The deck runs several sweepers, life gain cards, tutors and graveyard recursion, too. If you need that one thing in particular, chances are, you’ll be able to find it.
Never panic and do something earlier than you should. That being said, don’t be afraid to throw a creature land in front of a big attacker either. And you could always cash in that Constant Mists for not buyback, as well. Things like that aren’t the end of the world. It’s the few really big spells that you want to preserve for most value. Ad Nauseam, Scapeshift and Splendid Reclamation.
If you know you’re up against a deck that has the ability to combo, try to beat them to it. Get greedy with your tutors. Go all in with Ad Nauseam for an extra couple cards. Most likely, it’ll be worth it. Remember, there’s sixty-five lands in the deck. Early game enchantments that let you drop extra lands should be prioritized. Burgeoning is key here as it allows for as many as five lands on turn two. I have personally cast Ad Nauseam from my opening hand just prior to my turn three to draw almost seventy cards and kill the table when I untapped for turn three. It was glorious!
Politics in Commander are an interesting thing. Typically, you want to give as little information as possible. With Child of Alara and lands, I’ve found it’s always useful to remind people of things. First and foremost, when you assess the battlefield, make sure to point out what your opponents are doing that is potentially threatening to your own strategy. This will let them know that you are thinking of casting Child and killing all their stuff. It might also alert other opponents to potential dangers. Doing so might cause a removal spell or attack to go in another’s direction, instead of ours. After that, remind people of your creature lands and things like Maze of Ith or Kor Haven. If your opponents are going to attack, it might as well be at your opponents, so it would behoove you to make sure they aren’t wasting an attack on you.
After that, just don’t let them know you have Ad Nauseam. The more life you have the better. In fact, you can poke fun, a little, at yourself for playing a life gain lands deck. That is, if you’re on the life gain plan to maximize Ad Nauseam.
Finally, Big Baby. She can be used as a threat or as an answer. It’s sometimes a good idea to drop her when you know someone has a commanding board state. If they attack you, everything dies when you block and she dies. People don’t usually want that blood on their hands. You can also form an alliance with another player who is able to kill Child to mess with the other players’ plans. That may actually end up keeping everyone off your back. The player that you allied with, as well as the other two who had their boards cleared.
With the addition of Theros Beyond Death, we were gifted Dryad of the Ilysian Grove. Because he makes all of our lands into every land type, he would make any of our mass land drop cards devastating alongside Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and Dread Presence. Both of which previously only worked with Mountains or Swamps respectively. That’s definitely worth looking at. An additional extra-land card as well as the opportunity to play too more cards that care about land drops. Density is king in Commander. If you can fit Dryad into your build, do it.
If I was going that route, I’d also look to add an Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth for the Dread Presence synergies and mana fixing. Perhaps in place of the decks only Swamp. If I did that, I might need to take a look at the Swamp fetching package and tweak slightly as I would prioritize Swamps less. Five color mana bases are no joke people. You almost need a PhD to figure them out sometimes.
Five color decks are all the rage right now. We have received a plethora of Commanders over the past couple years that open up the archetype. The great thing is that the build possibilities are nearly endless. But, even in a world full of Morphons and Sisay, Weathlight Captains, I truly do feel that this deck stands out. It’s challenging to play. It’s rewarding. It’s swingy. It’s everything a Commander deck should be. Unfortunately, it is also extremely pricey and I know that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I promise that decks with this kind of price tag will not be the norm. Because of it’s unique and extreme build, I wanted to feature it.
I will be bringing Child of Alara along to events I plan on attending throughout the year. Make sure to hit me up on Twitter, @CCOPodcast to find out which MagicFests I’ll be attending in 2020. They’re always have a blast!
If you’d like to take a look at this list, it’s available here. If you’re into Magic: the Gathering podcasts and would like to hear about other decks like this, make sure to tune into Commander Cookout Podcast. We’re available wherever better podcasts are found, or right here on Face to Face Games.