Is Sultai Mutate a deck worth building? Kristen explores some directions worth considering for Otrimi, the Ever-Playful.

I had the chance to look over one of the Commander 2020 precon decks this weekend, and the deck I picked up first was Enhanced Evolution. Mutate is a mechanic that, at least to me, feels pretty satisfying to play with. It’s fun to play Voltron, and all in all, Mutate is just another flavor of that eggs-in-one-basket strategy. It’s less resilient in some ways, and thanks to the complex rules, allows for some interesting, if obtuse, interactions.

The Sultai deck this year had a different flavor than value, which I am thankful for. Like the Morphs deck last year, it seeks to limit the cardpool for Sultai in order to offer some variety to deckbuilding. I can see myself deconstructing the Otrimi deck down the line—if only to get access to Ukkima, Stalking Shadow for a Dimir Voltron build. But first, let’s see how far we can push Mutate.

Otrimi, the Ever Playful

Otrimi is first and foremost a Commander with Trample, and that’s something not to be underestimated. The other ability, which returns a creature with mutate from your graveyard to hand, will come up fairly infrequently if things are going well. The fact Otrimi can come down on turn four, effectively with Haste, if there is a body to Mutate onto, is fairly potent. With the right base, we can start to deal huge chunks of Commander damage quickly.

I don’t think Commander damage is able to allow us to kill multiple opponents, though. Between the fact that blinking our Commander resets any mutated creatures into their separate parts, and the fact we’ll often end up with piles of creatures in the bin—whether through destroy effects, or just them ending up there when we move Otrimi to the Command Zone as a replacement effect for an exile spell—I think our overall wincon should be a big mass reanimation, and suitable ways to pump up the smaller bodies that acted as the vanguard to our mutated beasts.

+1/+1 Counters

The mutated creature always takes the power and toughness of the creature placed on top of the stack. So, if there’s anything beneath it that’s bigger? Too bad. One thing to note here is that any abilities which dictate power and toughness, like Devotion, will override the base power and toughness. This makes the Demigods fairly poor to mutate onto if we plan on attacking. Though Renata, Called to the Hunt can get bigger power, the toughness always being three is too little.

+1/+1 counters, on the other hand, ensure that the creature on top can enjoy the extra boost! There are a number of Hydras included in the precon, like the new Capricopian, that indicate this is a road to travel. All-star The Great Henge is an obvious include—which Green deck doesn’t want it?—but there are other cards that are good here.

Hadana’s Climb can dole out counters until we are satisfied, and then flips into Winged Temple of Orazca, a perfect way to have a pumped Otrimi fly over for the Commander damage kill. Forgotten Ancient is likewise an excellent creature to mutate onto, given it’ll get a counter every time an opponent casts a spell—see Managorger Hydra as well. Even Endless One is useful: you can pump mana into it the turn before mutating Otrimi onto it, ensuring the maximum number of counters for your mana.

Chasm Skulker grows our mutated creature every time we draw cards, and can give us back some tokens when it dies. Given we’ll want to protect our investment anyway, even Hydra’s Growth could be pretty fun! Speaking of protection, Plaxcaster Frogling is a great option to fulfill this role, and can be mutated onto early. With all of the power of +1/+1 counters buffing our mutate creatures, Kaseto, Orochi Archmage is a slam dunk. If we mutate Otrimi under Kaseto, he can enjoy the power boost, the unblockable, and the Commander damage.

Blackblade Reforged is a shoe in, and I’d also consider Helm of the Host.


If we’re locked into trample, we may as well look at Infect too. Plague Stinger offers both Flying and Infect, while Glistener Elf is a one drop for the early game. Viral Drake and Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon have potential too, with the ability to both proliferate counters or even regenerate the creature-stack they are a part of.

Tainted Strike is always fun, and here it can turn trampling Commander damage into lethal damage a turn or two quicker than your opponents will expect. Of course, Triumph of the Hordes is also the kind of finisher we’re looking for. Late game, we’re likely to be able to recur a number of our individual parts of Mutated creatures; and it’ll be more efficient to mass-reanimate them, or more strategic, to play them as multiple bodies. By that point, we should be able to close things out.

One of my hot picks for Otrimi is Livewire Lash. The key part of this equipment is that it triggers when the creature becomes a target of a spell; this means Mutate will trigger it! If our creature pile has infect or deathtouch, we can do some real damage, but even outside of that, free Shocks are always useful.

Defensive Maneuvers

Putting everything into one creature, and our Commander, no less, is going to leave us ripe to removal. We’ll need to plan ahead. Early drops like Gladecover Scout, Slippery Bogle, and Paradise Druid will help us get Hexproof onto the board. I could even see us playing Slippery Bogbonder, given it’ll be able to grant a Hexproof Counter, even if you can’t mutate onto the human. When we have a little more mana, we could play Elusive Tormentor. Once we get it flipped, we won’t want to flip it back; it becomes Insidious Mist, which is Hexproof, Indestructible, and can’t be blocked. It’s a 0/1, but won’t be for long, given we can mutate something scarier onto it.

We can take advantage of cards like Heroic Intervention, Golgari Charm, and Lazoptep Plating to keep our Otrimi stack protected. Lazotep Plating also gives us a non-human token with a +1/+1 counter, which is neat. Higher on the curve, Bear Umbra gives us token armor and the better half of Sword of Feast and Famine, while Asceticism offers both hexproof and regenerate. Thrun, the Last Troll and Troll Ascetic are equally good options. Edicts will happen, so Assault Suit and Tamiyo, Collector of Tales can offer some protection there.

One of my other spicy picks is Release to the Wind. Because of the way Mutate works, when we exile our mutated stack of creatures, they will come back separately. What’s neat about this is that each of them will be able to be cast for free, whenever we like. It’s a great way to blink our creature back for later—and given we can cast the separate parts at different times, we have a lot of flexibility on how to approach things. Just one note: we can’t cast them for the Mutate cost for free, as not paying the mana cost is already an alternate cost.

Creature Bases

Aside from Hexproof and Infect, there are other good creatures we can mutate on to. Fierce Empath can come down and then go and fetch a Mutate card for the next turn. Leyline Prowler and Tomebound Lich offer both Deathtouch and Lifelink with other effects, while adding Sea-Dasher Octopus is a no-brainer thanks to its card draw ability. Card draw is something we should prioritize, especially given we can’t often take advantage of EtB effects due to the way Mutate works. I see card filtering being good for us, as we’re in Sultai, so Frantic Search, Forbidden Alchemy, and the like are good includes. Shapers’ Sanctuary is another good option, given our creatures will likely be targeted by opponents often.

Loyal Drake will be ideal to have in play, because even when merged with our Commander, we’ll still guarantee a card every combat. Birds of Paradise and Gilded Goose are both great early plays that can grant Otrimi flying as well as ramp us; but honestly, any non-human mana dorks are good in this deck. Thryx, the Sudden Storm can reduce our Mutate costs and make those cards un-counterable, while Survival of the Fittest and Fauna Shaman help filter into what we need.

Speaking of Flash, Tidal Barracuda is another signpost to us; add Vedalken Orrery and Leyline of Anticipation, and perhaps Yeva, Nature’s Herald.

The Rest

Given we’ll likely hit a lot of removal and board wipes, recursion is key. We’re in Sultai, so it shouldn’t be an issue. Muldrotha, the Gravetide is a great include. Aside from the more obvious picks, I quite like Creeping Renaissance, as it’ll give us back a whole stack of Mutate creatures. Sword of Light and Shadow is great protection from removal, which gives us some recursion and lifegain; but be careful about trying to mutate a black creature into the stack.

Road of Return seems good, as it’ll often get us two pieces of a puzzle we need to keep going: Otrimi and some evasion. Traverse the Ulvenwald is a cheap way to fix mana, and later in the game functions as a way to grab the right creature we need. Buried Alive can help us tutor out Mutate creatures too, especially given Otrimi can often grab them back for us. Hey, Narcomoeba might be playable in that case, as a free flyer seems cute when you’re grabbing Brawn and Auspicious Starrix.

Clones are great to start mutate stacks, and can copy them card for card too. Spark Double and Altered Ego are probably the better options for us, with Vizier of Many Faces and Phyrexian Metamorph not far behind.

Finishing the Game

Even with all of the set up, Mutate isn’t a deep mechanic. Outside of what’s already in the deck, what survives the cut will need bolstering with Brokkos, Apex of Forever, Dirge Bat, and Gemrazer. Because some of the Mutate cards are below-par, we will need alternate win conditions too. Thankfully, Otrimi is already letting us play Voltron, and simply mutating him onto Darksteel Myr will sometimes be enough to get us going.

Late game, however, we’ll probably resort to Rise of the Dark Realms, Triumph of the Hordes, or something like Siege Behemoth to slam in with our team. Mass reanimate is a good plan B; if it looks like we’ll need to go wide instead of tall, we can use bounce effects like Erratic Portal to replay the mutated stack from our hand piece by piece. We can then back them up with Return of the Wildspeaker, or multiple unblockable effects from Kaseto or Thassa, God of the Sea.

In Closing

Mutate isn’t as deep as it needs to be to give us a truly deep Commander deck, but I think it’s deep enough to offer a new kind of Sultai Voltron. As long as we have the right foundation, and take advantage of Sultai’s naturally rich card pool, I think we can win some games. Be sure to pack plenty of protection, and ways to use it—either free spells like Fierce Guardianship, or untap effects like Seedborn Muse or Wilderness Reclamation. We’ll likely Mutate pre-combat. Given we’re aiming to play creatures and attack, we’ll want to consider Sword of the Animist, as we’ll not be as big on the usual Sultai ramp strategy. It doesn’t mean we can’t get there though, and a splashy finisher is how we’ll likely end a lot of games.

What do you think of Otrimi? Do you think Sultai Mutate has potential as a casual, fun voltron build? Have a spicy tech? Let me know on Twitter to continue the discussion.

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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