Commander 2016 will go down in history as one of the most unique Commander sets to ever be printed; the four-color legends and the partner mechanic were amazing firsts for the format. At one point we planned to write an article for each of the 105 possible pairings of the partners, but that endeavor proved to be unsustainable. However, that doesn’t mean we still can’t talk about the more interesting combinations.
Reyhan, last of the Abzan and Tana, the Bloodsower make an interesting duo. On the surface they may not seem like a pair that has much in common: Reyhan is all about “keeping” counters on creatures so they’re not wasted, while Tana, the Bloodsower wants to damage opponents and make 1/1 tokens. Reyhan costs one less mana than Tana, the Bloodsower, which is a benefit that shouldn’t be understated; if you play partners, you never want them to be competing for a spot on your mana curve. So what can we put into a deck that will start to connect the dots between these two (besides Doubling Season, of course)?
Counters… Counters Everywhere
The first thing that needs addressed is Reyhan‘s ability. We can keep the counters of creatures we’ve invested in after they die, assuming at least one creature sticks around. For example, if we cast Hangarback Walker for six mana (giving it three +1/+1 counters), Reyhan lets us put those three counters onto any other creature when it dies. If we can set up a few different creatures or +1/+1 counter producers, then kill them in some way (probably Carrion Feeder or Ashnod’s Altar) to make Tana, the Bloodsower much bigger.
Reyhan‘s ability also allows for some shenanigans on its own. Moving counters in Magic: the Gathering isn’t really as simple as “just move them.” To “move counters” from one creature to another, the rules say we actually remove counters from one creature and place that many new counters onto the other creature. Doubling Season and the more budget-friendly Corpsejack Menace exist in our colors, but they’re far from the only cards that can capitalize on this mechanic. Hardened Scales, Winding Consrictor, and Pir, Imaginative Rascal each allow us to add an additional counter when Reyhan “moves” them. That means when a Hangarback Walker with three +1/+1 counters on it dies, we would place four +1/+1 counters on the creature we move the counters to! While that alone is not exactly game-breaking, it can quickly get out of hand if we’re able to move counters to and from multiple creatures in a row/at once. More on this in a moment.
There are a plethora of creatures that put +1/+1 counters on themselves, and they do it in a variety of ways. Our goal here is to make sure ours come out before Tana, the Bloodsower, that way Reyhan can move those counters to Tana when they inevitably die.
Scute Mob is a no-brainer to include in this deck. This little 1/1 does more and more work the longer the game goes on. A 1/1 for one will probably be ignored early on, and once we’ve accumulated five or more lands (which is very easy with access to green), it starts growing at a rate of four counters per turn. Assuming our opponents didn’t have the forethought to kill it before the counters start amassing, Reyhan can move those counters when it inevitably dies due to becoming a large threat.
Scute Mob is unique, as it grows naturally with the only “cost” being the accumulation of five lands. To find other creatures that make their own +1/+1 counters, we have to branch out. The Graft mechanic gives us Aquastrand Spider, Simic Initiate, and Sporeback Troll: three little Simic friends who can put their counters on Tana, the Bloodsower when she enters the battlefield or when they die thanks to Reyhan. Scavenging Ooze is graveyard hate and built-in +1/+1 counter growth, so it’s another no-brainer. Vinelasher Kudzu gets a +1/+1 counter for every land that enters the battlefield under our control so it should provide us a steady stream of counters as well.
I Guarantee It
We’ll want some efficient ways of putting counters on Tana, the Bloodsower outside of killing off our creatures and moving their counters, so she can grow regardless of the presence of Reyhan or ways to kill those creatures. Predatory Hunger is a perfect card for our strategy, as it turns opponents’ creature spells into +1/+1 counters for us! Implement of Ferocity is a simple but effective card that will give Tana, the Bloodsower a +1/+1 counter and draw us a card. Hunger of the Howlpack can give us three counters if we’re able to kill off at least one of our creatures the turn we cast it. Strength of the Tajuru is a simple but effective mana-sink spell that will let us grow Tana, the Bloodsower. Simply put, Tana, the Bloodsower won’t be a 2/2 for long.
Another powerhouse in this deck is Forgotten Ancient. This elemental gets out of hand fast. While it does fight for the four converted mana cost slot with Tana, the Bloodsower, it is absolutely worth it. Any player casting any spell gives it a counter and those counters can be moved each upkeep. That’s wild! This guy will most likely get anywhere from two to five counters per round and we’ll have the added benefit of moving them onto Tana, the Bloodsower at the start of our turn without having to sacrifice anything. Even in death, Forgotten Ancient won’t be forgotten thanks to Reyhan. This card is a must in this deck.
Move to Combat?
Tana, the Bloodsower has some built-in evasion thanks to trample. If she’s large enough, the amount of blockers that need to be thrown in front of her to negate the damage should make our opponents wonder if its even worth blocking. Bow of Nylea makes it even more ridiculous a task, simply due to the combination of deathtouch and trample. Let’s look at how deathtouch is defined in the rules:
702.2b Any nonzero amount of combat damage assigned to a creature by a source with deathtouch is considered to be lethal damage, regardless of that creature’s toughness.
Any amount of damage is lethal. This means 1 point of damage kills a blocking creature. Compounded with trample:
702.19b The controller of an attacking creature with trample first assigns damage to the creature(s) blocking it. Once all those blocking creatures are assigned lethal damage, any remaining damage is assigned as its controller chooses among those blocking creatures and the player or planeswalker the creature is attacking. When checking for assigned lethal damage, take into account damage already marked on the creature and damage from other creatures that’s being assigned during the same combat damage step, but not any abilities or effects that might change the amount of damage that’s actually dealt. The attacking creature’s controller need not assign lethal damage to all those blocking creatures but in that case can’t assign any damage to the player or planeswalker it’s attacking.
Simply put: deathtouch and trample means we assign 1 damage to each blocking creature and the rest of the damage rolls over. If we have a 10/10 Tana, the Bloodsower and control Bow of Nylea, our opponent needs to block with ten different creatures to not take damage from trample. Isn’t that wild? And let’s not forget that Bow of Nylea also has an activated ability that can put a counter on Tana, the Bloodsower should we need it.
At this point, you might ask yourself why we would make a trampling creature unblockable, and to that I offer one simple answer: “why not?” Jokes aside, we actually want to protect Tana, the Bloodsower from dying in combat at all costs, considering our strategy is leaning on her very heavily. Plus, making her unblockable means every point of power she has translates directly to another Saproling after combat damage.
Champion of Lambholt is a beautiful card for this deck. We’re going to be making a plethora of 1/1 tokens thanks to Tana, the Bloodsower dealing combat damage to a player. Those creatures grow Champion of Lambholt to a ridiculous size, and as the champion grows, our opponents’ creatures cower in fear, unable to block our growing army.
We’ve got counters being put onto Tana, the Bloodsower. We’ve got ways to make her consistently deal combat damage. Now we just need to capitalize on those tokens she’s making… I think we all know where I’m going with this.
This is absolutely a no-brainer inclusion*. Impact Tremors deals damage for each of our creatures that enters the battlefield, including the tokens Tana, the Bloodsower creates. This means that if Tana hits someone for ten damage, we’ll create ten tokens and deal ten damage to each opponent! This also means the opponent who took the hit from Tana, the Bloodsower is basically taking double damage!
*Editor’s note: You say that basically every time it comes up, but you’re not wrong.
We’re wanting to kill off our creatures to buff Tana, the Bloodsower, so our best bet for using all these tokens is to just… eat them. Mycoloth is a wonderful creature to feed them to, because it’ll make twice as many tokens every turn afterward (assuming we can untap with it, which is no simple feat). Thromok the Insatiable and Sporeback Troll are also great devouring monstrosities** that will turn our tokens into more +1/+1 counters. We just have to make sure Poison-Tip Archer is out so killing our tokens isn’t an “eggs in one basket” situation. We could also keep them all alive and simply windmill-slam Overwhelming Stampede!
**Very Hungry Boys™
Jund ’em Out?
As far as the ramp and removal packages go, those are pretty flexible. Gleeful Sabotage and Fertilid are the only two that I chose specifically for this deck. The rest is yours to play around with. I hope you enjoyed seeing some wild stuff that can be done with these two partners! Join me next time when I run through my Akiri, Line-Slinger and Ikra Shidiqi, the Usurper “There’s definitely a theme here I swear” deck.