Something you’ll learn about me as a player is that I’m quite a Selesnyan mage. I love tokens and token strategies, and while I don’t only own green and white decks, my strategies often look the same. My favorite mechanic is populate, and I’ve longed to build a Naya tokens deck but haven’t had the right Commander to do so. Now that Commander 2019 is here, I finally have a Naya Commander who populates!
When I was trying to build a Naya tokens deck, I never based it on a Commander. I only tried due to a sheer will to create such a deck. More than likely it would’ve been helmed by Marath, Will of the Wild or the partners Tana, the Bloodsower and Sidar Kondo of Jamuraa. Both options present strengths that allow a token based strategy, but Ghired, Conclave Exile acts as a powerful enabler and is a worthy build-around Commander.
Since Ghired brings along a 4/4 Rhino, it’s tempting to start populating that Rhino on each attack, and that is a solid strategy! If you throw in a few token doubling effects like Anointed Procession or Parallel Lives, you’re suddenly throwing two or even four 4/4 Rhinos at opponents every combat. That should close out a game quickly. The precon deck also includes Desolation Twin which is enough to cause opponents to quiver in their boots, especially when stacked with those previously mentioned token doubling effects.
The question that needs to be asked, however, is what are we gaining by playing Naya colors that we weren’t able to accomplish in Selesnya? After all, the cards I just listed are in those colors. Being in red hasn’t allowed for us to do anything new. So what are we gaining?
The Red Tokens That Matter
Looking at the precon deck, we can see that Dragonmaster Outcast, Feldon of the Third Path, Heart-Piercer Manticore, Flamerush Rider, and Hate Mirage are all red token creators. We were also introduced to Ghired’s Belligerence, the only red card with the populate mechanic. If that list of cards made you think red isn’t worth playing, I wouldn’t be surprised; the manticore takes quite an effort to make it into a creature token, and Hate Mirage only lasts for a single turn. Surely red token generation exists that isn’t just goblin tokens, right?
Dragon Broodmother just wants to see her babies grow. Lucky for her, we also want that to happen, and can easily enable it. Dragon Broodmother makes a 1/1 dragon with devour 2 EVERY upkeep. You’re reading that correctly: every single upkeep. In a standard game of Commander you’re making four 1/1 dragons with devour 2 every round. If you control any token doubling effects that obviously gets out of hand extremely fast, especially considering you can make any one of those dragons eat the rest of their siblings. If your token doubling effect just so happens to be Doubling Season then your opponents are in a world of trouble, since those +1/+1 counters from devour are doubled as well.
The precon deck had the idea of making dragons with Dragonmaster Outcast and I do think he’s worth playing in this deck as well. Dragon tribal also has Utvara Hellkite to make this deck go absolutely bonkers at an alarming rate.
Goblin Assault can consistently create us a 1/1 goblin every single turn. This is underwhelming on its own, but this card can truly start to shine in a few different ways. First, and you know I had to mention this at some point, Impact Tremors and Purphoros, God of the Forge love this card. They’re a pairing that already existed and you can easily slot into this deck. Pandemonium and Warstorm Surge also exist for you to start pinging things to death at an increasingly alarming speed. Mixing those enchantments with the previously mentioned dragon tribal strategy makes for one devastating combo.
Dragonlair Spider should’ve been printed in this precon and I’m midly upset that Wizards left it out. Token decks should overrun their opponents, and the precon does that. But Dragonlair Spider does that even more effectively than some 4/4 Rhinos. This is a direct counter to Sevinne or Elsha who are trying to cast a bunch of spells in a single turn. Overwhelming Stampede all of your 1/1s by targeting that 4/4 Rhino or Desolation Twin after they try to storm off and relish in that “GG”.
Turning those 1/1 goblins and insects into 4/4 angels sounds like a solid plan, don’t you think? Selesnya excels at making the most of the tokens we create. Red often makes tiny tokens that don’t have much significance past the first few turns. That’s where Divine Visitation comes in, pushing red token generator cards into absurdity. Dragonlair Spider making a 4/4 angel anytime someone casts a spell is bonkers. Goblin Assault starts making you a 4/4 on each of your turns. Dragon Broodmother ups that to every single turn! You lose the devour 2, but that’s made up for by the fact that you’re literally making four Serra Angels every single round!
Creatures We Shouldn’t Be Allowed to Populate
If we instead want to take advantage of similar effects to Hate Mirage, we turn to Flameshadow Conjuring, Minion Reflector, Feldon of the Third Path, Mimic Vat, and Kiki-Jiki. These cards do something we can abuse: make a token copy of some nontoken creature. They try to mitigate the potential for abuse by adding some sort of clause to remove those creatures by the end of the turn. Luckily for us, populate puts a new instance of these tokens into play. This means we get to keep the populated tokens! Want to make multiple Inferno Titans every turn? Need more Wurmcoil Engines in your life? Maybe you wanted to make a ton of wurms with Armada Wurm? The possibilities are seemingly endless.
By Popular Demand
Helm of the Host is one of those cards that a ton of people wanted to break badly. Slap it onto Narset, Enlightened Master and you’re unstoppable. Quick kills with Etrata, the Silencer? Very likely. Infinite combats with Godo, Bandit Warlord? Just don’t attack with the token during the combat where it was first created and you’re good to go!
Helm with Ghired is extremely interesting. You start combat and make yet another Ghired. He brings along another 4/4 Rhino, but it lacks haste. You can then attack with two Ghireds and populate the newly created Ghired token with both of their triggers, creating two more Ghireds and 4/4 Rhinos, of which the new Ghireds are attacking. They don’t trigger to populate again since they weren’t declared as attacking. You now have four Ghireds and four 4/4 Rhinos. That’s not even counting token doubling effects or multiple combat phases. That’s wild!
Outside of Ghired, this enables us to start populating Legendary creatures. This isn’t new, obviously, but in Naya this opens the doors to multiple copies of Omnath, Locus of Rage, Aurelia, the Warleader, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, Etali, Primal Storm, and countless other Legendary creatures. Bonus points if you can put Helm of the Host on a Marit Lage token. If you get a token copy of Etali, he synergizes hilariously with the new enchantment Song of the Worldsoul; every spell you cast from Etali’s trigger makes another one!
This isn’t as wild, but making an 8/8 beast token with Godsire is quite fun. It’s similar to Desolation Twin where we’re populating a large token that basically came alongside the creature. If we’re able to make Godsire into a token himself, then the amount of 8/8s we’ll be making starts getting near exponential in quantity.
Naya See Me, Naya Don’t
Finally having a Naya Commander who enables a token strategy instead of just providing the colors for it is extremely exciting. I’ve waited quite some time for this opportunity, and I’m glad I’m able to share the different ideas I’ve had swimming in my head for you to take with you to new decks. Join me next time when I break down Ramirez DePietro eye-patch tribal!