Today on Legion’s Landing, Kristen takes us through the benefits of having a reliable guard retinue under retainer. In honor of #IWD20, let’s look at Meren of Clan Nel Toth, the Golgari recursion Queen. 

International Women’s Day 2020 was celebrated this Sunday, March 8th, and Wizards put out a Secret Lair to mark the occasion. The lair contained five powerful women Commanders from Magic’s history, and Meren of Clan Nel Toth is one of the five included in the lair. Meren is a super popular Commander thanks to her crazy good ability which basically gives free value—if you don’t have enough experience to reanimate the card end of turn, you just get it back to hand.

If you’re at all familiar with the deck, you’ll have cast countless Shriekmaws in your time, and if not? Well, Golgari decks rarely tend to do anything truly revolutionary. As I sat down to research a good angle to write this article from, I happened upon some truly mindblowing data. One of my favorite cards in the deck—a card that I thought would be a windmill slam of a pick for most decks—was only in thirty decks on EDHRec. That’s 0.01% of Meren decks.

The Deck


Meren can be played in a couple of different ways, and for my build, I’ve decided to focus on a light Aristocrats control theme that wants to progress to a game-winning Exsanguinate or Torment of Hailfire to close the game. The multitude of creatures—thirty-three, in fact—allows us to also get in for some damage along the way, or preserve our life total by blocking. Both Zulaport Cutthroat and Falkenrath Noble will drain our opponents, while Kokusho, the Evening Star and Gray Merchant of Asphodel provide additional sources of drain we can rely on. Avenger of Zendikar can be a big life point swing in this deck with all the ways we can stand to drain & gain!

We have sacrifice outlets scattered through artifacts, enchantments, creatures and lands, ensuring we’ll never miss an opportunity to rack up those all important experience counters when Meren is in play. Cards like Yavimaya Hollow, Veil of Summer, Golgari Charm, and Living Death ensure we can make important plays, preserve our board, or shift the very earth of the battlefield to turn the tides. Cabal Coffers and Nyxbloom Ancient, meanwhile, ensure we can pump as much mana as physically possible into our game winning spells.

Meren, Queen of Consistency

Our early game ramp consists of the usual package of Cultivate, Kodama’s Reach, Wood Elves, Farhaven Elf, and Sakura-Tribe Elder; while late game we’ll also enjoy Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, Thespian Stage (which can copy Cabal Coffers or Nykthos), and Black Market, which can net serious amounts of mana.

We’ll be drawing when creatures die with Skullclamp, Moldervine Reclamation, and Grim Haruspex, and restocking from our yard with some of the best recursion in the game. Outside of what’s been mentioned thus far, we’re running Journey to Eternity, Animate Dead, Sheoldred, Whispering One, and the always amazing Seasons Past. Seasons Past can get us back an entire game-plan to play over multiple turns, and really lends itself to enabling huge bounce-backs. A lot of cards in the deck have been carefully chosen to respect the curve that enables Seasons Past to function most effectively—another recursive creature that seeks to do just that is the six-mana Baloth Null.

We’re never short sacrifice outlets to help gain precious Experience (or trigger Gravepact) given we have cards like Viscera Seer, Carrion Feeder, Yahenni, Undying Partisan, Phyrexian Tower, High Market, Westvale Abbey, and Altar of Dementia. Our tutors, too, lean into this synergy, with Sidisi, Undead Vizier and Diabolic Intent both requiring us to sacrifice a creature to get what we want. I realise the irony of saying Demonic Tutor is overplayed in the context of Meren, but it is. Entomb gets us something to grab with Meren straight off the bat, and Green Sun’s Zenith is a really interesting one given it can ramp us by grabbing Dryad Arbor. This notorious creature-land is amazing in this deck for many reasons, and I always enjoy having it around.

We never want to be running a card like Scavenger Grounds in this deck, but we do want to be keeping opponent’s graveyards in check without getting rid of all of their resources—sometimes we’ll want to grab one ourselves, or set up Living Death to profit us. For this reason, we run Scavenging Ooze and Loaming Shaman. The Shaman in particular can put key cards from our bin back into our own deck, something that can really save us in a pinch.

Spore Frog is an incredibly cost-effective Fog, and doubles as a sacrifice trigger for our aristocrats engines. It’ll annoy the heck out of the Boros player at the table, which I’m reluctant to advocate, but I’ve played against it enough times to know just how good it can be. In a similar vein, we’ve built this deck to run at pretty strong tables, so I don’t feel bad about including Collector Ouphe, which shuts off artifacts completely. We can function without our Altars and Skullclamp, so it doesn’t bother us too much—if it starts to, we have plenty of ways to dispose of it.

Finally, we get to play some very efficient removal. Alongside what’s to come in the next section, we can enjoy cost effective all-stars Assassin’s Trophy and Toxic Deluge, plus the fountain of cards we can restock with when firing off Decree of Pain. Krosan Grip, Beast Within, Acidic Slime, Plaguecrafter, and Reclamation Sage shore things up.

The Secret Sauce: Dimir House Guard

Just like the rest of our deck, Dimir House Guard aims to bolster our already respectable consistency. Before we get into this too far, I’ll admit it: Dimir House Guard is a four drop, and stacking a deck full of four drops in Commander isn’t always the best move. By and large, three and six drops are better and more impactful. Sure, I’ll give you that. But when our transmutable card is also a free sacrifice outlet in an aristocrats style deck? You’d have to be mad to pass up on this kind of toolbox—and what a toolbox it is.

Transmute means we can ditch the House Guard to go and dig for something with the same converted mana cost for the Transmute cost. Golgari has access to some of the most useful four drops of most colors, it has to be said, and in a deck like Meren, recurring and using these over and over can provide an incredible amount of value. So, what are we running?

  • Card Draw: We’re running Guardian Project and Erebos, God of the Dead, both great sources of repeatable card draw. Guardian Project works when things enter the battlefield for any reason which is perfect for a reanimator deck, and Erebos stops opponents gaining life—one of the ways they can escape our win conditions. Gonti, Lord of Luxury provides repeatable “draw,” except this time from our opponent’s libraries. Gonti is a very fun card, and one that can sometimes give you incredible value as a blocker and a repeatable source of card advantage. Greater Good, meanwhile, lets us dig deeper into our deck whilst filling our graveyard with prime targets for recursion, while also being a free sacrifice outlet for triggering Dictate of Erebos.
  • Removal: Speaking of removal, we’re running the companion piece to Butcher of Malakir and Dictate of Erebos, Gravepact. Our creatures will die often, and forcing our opponents to sacrifice keeps dangerous creatures off the board. We can also grab Ravenous Chupacabra to deal with singular targets, or the all-star Damnation to rid the board for good.
  • Aristocrats: In a deck with Dimir House Guard, it makes sense to play Falkenrath Noble over Blood Artist. This four mana version can also attack and block in the air, which can be pretty useful at times. We could also grab Sifter of Skulls, an Eldrazi that replaces out felled creatures with Eldrazi Scions that can self-sacrifice to provide colorless mana. In conjunction with our Ashnod’s Altar, this can provide incredible boosts in mana that can help to pay for one of our big X spells—outside of that, we can bank them until we untap to have a big turn.
  • Card Advantage: We’re running the new Acolyte of Affliction over Golgari Findbroker. We already have Eternal Witness, and the self-mill and easier casting cost is a boon to our deck. Temur Sabertooth, meanwhile, lets us re-use ETB effects, save Meren, and sometimes save our board from a wipe.

These are just the cards I’m running, and they’ve been picked especially to fit with my build. Depending on how you’ve built the deck, you might also get mileage out of:

The opportunities to use this package for your strategy are near limitless, and whilst I think the card is a slamdunk in Meren, it’s also great in Orzhov aristocrats decks, and probably in other builds like Grixis Spellslinger too.

In Closing

Meren of Clan Nel Toth is a very strong Commander, and one that can lead to some fun and rewarding play experiences. While there are some builds out there that seek to power Meren out as soon as possible with cards like Sol Ring and Golgari Signet, I think there’s a lot of merit to running Collector Ouphe and winding back a little on sheer speed. Most of all, though, I really can’t believe there are only thirty decks on the whole of EDHRec playing Dimir House Guard! I hope I’ve sold it to you today. Let’s get that number up.

Based in the UK, Kristen is a lover of both Limited and Commander, and can most often be found championing the Boros Legion when called upon to sit down and shuffle up.

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