Last week, I started looking at the exciting Commander 2020 preconstructed decks, which were designed this year to pair well with the new Standard set, Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths. This was nothing new, as every year I take a look at the new generals Wizards has created for the product and outline quickly what I would do if I were to build around each of them.

Today, I’ll be looking at the decks built around mutate and human tribal to analyze what can be done with the eight generals inside them:

  • Enhanced Evolution is a Sultai deck that focuses on big creatures with unique abilities. The marquee general promotes the mutate mechanic, bringing it to Commander as it debuts in Standard. The deck itself play in midrange space and can literally assemble Voltron with the monsters laying in wait.
  • Ruthless Regiment is the Mardu deck featuring a human theme, as seen in its marquee general. Possibly the most aggressive deck of the year, it has the capacity to also play an attrition game while building up your board.

Enhanced Evolution

Going into this week’s article I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about the mechanic of mutate. After playing around with it and really getting the scope for what it can do, I’m very pleased that something like Otrimi, the Ever-Playful exists. While Wizards gave us a few generals with mutate, Otrimi should allow you to focus on the mechanic in a much more bombastic way. I think all of the cards currently using mutate are viable, but I would value the Commander 2020 cards most—Sawtusk Demolisher and Souvenir Snatcher—since they were built for this format.

From there, we can focus our intent on building a non-human creature-focused deck. Grafting mutations onto Impervious Greatwurm or Thornling creates these monstrosities that warm my Commander heart. There are of course mana curves and abilities meant to hamper creatures that need to be considered, but over all the results allow every creature we place in the deck to add something to the experience. Furthermore, this build-your-own-monster angle causes the deck to align with one of my personal favorite decks: Mairsil, the Pretender. I love the idea of sifting through your card database of choice and finding a way to express yourself; mutate legendaries may be a great starting point for doing just that.

Another stroke of genius, in terms of building a more diverse ecosystem for tribal decks, is Zaxara, the Exemplary. It’s easy to look at Gargos, Vicious Watcher, Animar, Soul of Elements, or Kruphix, God of Horizons with each of their different ways of supporting the hydra tribe and wish that there could be one unifying general tying them together. But I subscribe to the thought that a defacto best general for any tribe becomes rather boring over time.

Instead Zaxara allows you to build a hydra tribal deck with more reach by using non-creature spells like Biomass Mutation, Dominate, and Torment of Hailfire to progress our game while creating even more hydra. With so many X spells, we’re going to want to use mana-doubling permanents such as Dictate of Karametra or Mana Reflection. And we’ll want hydra like Mistcutter Hydra and Voracious Hydra, making the +1/+1 counter theme plentiful and easy to manipulate with proliferate spells. All this teamed up with the unique way that Zaxara interacts with these spells and we have a deck that can reasonably rebuild in the face of our opponents removal or overcome stalemates.

In trying to concoct a deck for Cazur, Ruthless Stalker and Ukkima, Stalking Shadow, I quickly found myself going back to old-school Commander decks. Ukkima has me thinking of the kinds of decks that did really innate things with little purpose or direction, merely stumbling upon a victory. I found myself looking at graft creatures like Cytoplast Root-Kin or Vigean Hydropon and teaming them up with Forgotten Ancient, The Ozolith, and flicker spells.

Combat damage triggers offer plenty of possibilities as well, starting with Guildpact Informant and Thrummingbird to help grow our creatures. While we’re attacking, we should fit Ongoing Investigation, Akroma’s Memorial, and Sun Quan, Lord of Wu into the deck and see how things go. This isn’t the first deck I want to build with Enhanced Evolution’s new cards, but it certainly one that speaks to me from an old-school perspective.

Ruthless Regiment

Human tribal is a delicate archetype for Wizards to support in my opinion. Because the tribe is constant across nearly every plane in Magic’s history, that in turn means that just about any desired build of a human tribal deck can be easily assembled. This weighs heavily on Modern as an example; and I think if we had a linear five-color human general, it would equally weigh on Commander as well. New generals Jirina Kudro, Winota, Joiner of Forces, and General Kudro of Drannith do tribal right, by being restricted in their color identity.

I have some history with a deck like this, as my Queen Marchesa was built primarily to be a Samurai deck, using humans as the secondary theme. While it is entirely possible that my personal use for Jirina will be to port over that now-defunct deck now with cards of the last few years, I understand that most people will want to work outside of that niche. So let’s talk about the aggressive possibilities of human tribal.

As an anthem effect, one of the things that keeps Jirina different from other human tribal options is that she is looking to keep your people alive and fighting. This means that we can expect other anthem-like creatures such as Archetype of Courage and Riders of Gavony to thrive. It’s important to also look beyond creatures that are humans and to those that will support the tribe from outside of it too—Dearly Departed and Cavalry Pegasus both being excellent hidden gems. If nothing else, Jirina helps to unify the human themes coming out of Standard; I once again appreciate Wizards giving Commander players that.

What I like about Kelsien, the Plague is that they don’t force much direction outside of being one of your better options for a pinger deck. Thornbite Staff is a good place to start, and Dictate of the Twin Gods will always be helpful here. Gauntlets of Light and Magewright’s Stone will probably be essential. And for slower builds, Soul-Scar Mage could shine here. Overall, this feels like what a Sengir Vampire enthusiast would want for a general. If that is the full extent of Kelsien’s legacy, that’s not such a bad place to be.

Trynn, Champion of Freedom and Silvar, Devourer of the Free offer a viable alternative option for your humans, and they may prove more popular and dynamic thanks to the partner mechanic. My first inclination is Aristocrats-style decks. I want to take cues from Teysa Karlov: turn the sacrificed humans into other resources with Pitiless Plunderer, Requiem Angel, or Xathrid Necromancer. Trynn’s ability offers a slow but reliable draw engine with Skullclamp. Together, this partner pair offers an interesting budget alternative to Queen Marchesa.

This year’s product had a lot more high points than I was expecting going in. The general excite me more after considering what I can do with them than I expected they would when I first saw them. I look forward to picking up most if not all of these decks.

Ryan Sainio is a Graphic Designer who writes about EDH and the EDH community. He has been playing Magic: The Gathering since 7th Edition in 2002 and values flavorful and fun gameplay over competitively optimized decks.

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