The longer I’ve played Commander, the more I’ve grown to value the restraint of not assuming every set will provide some new piece for a deck. Late last year, I was doing some searches through the last eighteen months worth of sets, for any possible additions to my Shattergang Eldrazi deck. These searches resulted in a rabbit hole of considerations for Halana, Kessig Ranger as a potential removal outlet, before deciding that the shell that I had was not going to meaningfully take advantage of the triggers generated by her. But once I had started the line of thinking required for possible interactions, I found myself considering a deck built around her and her work/life partner, Alena, Kessig Trapper.

Together these two work to benefit off creatures entering the battle to generate mana and damage in a covert package that I found to be pretty wholesome as I first began theory-crafting. Until of course the synergies started to pile up and I realized that this deck was more than meets the eye. Today, we’re going to be using methods of mana reduction to get creatures out that are worth more than the mana investment needed to play them. We’ll be ramping up in mana, picking off utility creatures, before ultimately winning through a huge spell or crashing wave of creatures.

Commanders: Alena, Kessig Trapper, Halana, Kessig Ranger

Creatures: Alloy Myr, Ancient Ooze, Arboretum Elemental, Cloudthresher, Faultgrinder, Fierce Empath, Foundation Breaker, Frogmite, Garruk’s Packleader, Ghalta, Primal Hunger, Gilanra, Caller of Wirewood, Glarewielder, Goblin Anarchomancer, Ingot Chewer, Jaspera Sentinel, Kavu Primarch, Krosan Drover, Malignus, Oxidda Golem, Rubblehulk, Saruli Caretaker, Siege Wurm, Sojourner’s Companion, Spitebellows, Tangle Golem, Temur Sabertooth, Walker of the Grove, Whiptongue Hydra, Will-Forged Golem

Artifacts: Commander’s Sphere, Cultivator’s Caravan, Fellwar Stone, Firewild Borderpost, Gemstone Array, Gruul Signet, Gruul War Plow, Hazoret’s Monument, Rhonas’s Monument, Springleaf Drum, Talisman of Impulse, Tangleroot, Thornbite Staff

Enchantments: Dragon Breath, Dragon Fangs, Garruk’s Uprising, Instill Energy, Warstorm Surge

Instants: Deglamer, Desperate Ritual, Fall of the Titans, Unexpected Windfall, Unravel the Aether

Sorceries: Crackle with Power, Cultivate, Deconstruct, Explore, Kodama’s Reach, Nature’s Lore, Nissa’s Expedition, Three Visits, Tranquility

Lands: 15 Forest, 7 Mountain, Bonders’ Enclave, Cinder Glade, Darksteel Citadel, Flamekin Village, Great Furnace, Highland Forest, Kessig Wolf Run, Mosswort Bridge, Rockfall Vale, Rogue’s Passage, Rootbound Crag, Rugged Highlands, Slagwoods Bridge, Temple of Abandon, Tree of Tales

Making an Entrance

It has been a long time since I have built a deck that had some much in flux during the early drafts of the deck. Looking at the two partners as straightforwardly as possible, I wanted to find ways to maximize creatures entering the battlefield to generate mana and administer some pinpoint creature removal, which meant looking for creatures with sizable bodies that could be played for cheap. All of this resulted in about a dozen spells that made the cut initially being moved out in favor of more synergies.

The key inspiration for the deck came in the form of evoke creatures, like Ingot Chewer, Spitebellows, and Walker of the Grove: entering the battlefield, triggering either of our generals, and leaving play having made mana efficient impacts on the game. It has been a long time since I have been able to add Cloudthresher to a deck with a straight face, but here it acts as a form of mass removal for fliers, while also representing a possible seven red mana and/or damage to a problem blocker. This method of creature selection provides redundancy for the deck, giving me useful spells like Disenchant, Squall, and Panic Attack attached to our creatures.

My next wave of inclusions for the deck came in the form of creatures that could have their casting costs reduced, mainly in the form of affinity and convoke. Arboretum Elemental, Tangle Golem, and Will-Forged Golem are not exactly Commander staples, but they serve very exact purposes in the functionality of what Alena and Halana are trying to do. My hope is that the collective chunks of damage are going to keep utility creatures off the battlefield, before we turn our attention to serious threats with creatures like Ancient Ooze, Ghalta, Primal Hunger, and Malignus. And unlike the evoke creatures, these bodies will remain on the battlefield and start dishing out damage against unprepared opponents.


I took my chances to dig into as much Scourge nostalgia as I could while constructing this deck. With all of these larger mana value creatures looking to be cast, we of course want to try to apply cost reduction wherever we can. Krosan Drover is an old favorite of mine that fell out of style in Commander as the format has sped up. Here I think it can do a lot of good. Because a fourteen of our convoke, evoke and affinity creatures have a mana value higher than six, Drover will tack on extra reductions. This means that creatures such as Cloudthresher cost only two green mana to evoke into play and Sojourner’s Companion starts at five generic mana before counting for affinity.

We are also employing passive spell reduction in the form of Goblin Anarchomancer, Hazoret’s Monument, and Rhonas’s Monument. The Monuments are chiefly in the deck to apply cost reductions to our creature spells, while giving bonuses as the cherry on top. Being able to “rummage” with Hazoret’s Monument is obviously nice, but the bonus granted by Rhonas’s Monument not only improves our creatures for Alena and Halana, but means that in the late game, we can buff our would-be attackers and ensure they have trample.

Dragon Breath and Dragon Fangs are two auras that I foresee getting a lot of use in this deck, not only because they boost the power of creatures coming into play, but they grant keywords that we will be able to get use out of in the later parts of the game. Fierce Empath is in the deck to help search out whichever large creature we need at the moment, then combine with Temur Sabertooth for additional tutor shenanigans. Lastly, Gilanra, Caller of Wirewood will interact well with these same spells, while also feeding into the end of game spells I will be wrapping my outline with.

Raining Down Fire

With the right set-up, I have a lot of faith in the end game of this deck. While Alena can create a lot of red mana, we have Gemstone Array to store and filter for whatever green mana we need. Add in that Jaspera Sentinel, Saruli Caretaker, and Springleaf Drum can use the creatures that have just entered play to pay for their activations, and with Tangleroot providing free mana with every creature spell cast, we should be able to balance our mana cost pretty well to help close out games.

The most reliable way I foresee games ending is through attacks with giant creatures like Malignus, Rubblehulk, and Whiptongue Hydra. With Gruul War Plow or Kessig Wolf Run granting these creatures trample, we should be able to make a lot of meaningful alpha strikes. But in the event that we need to win outside of combat, we have a few spells specifically designed to dovetail off Alena, Kessig Trapper’s mana generation and take out one or more opponents at a moment’s notice. Crackle with Power and Fall of the Titans were my top X spells, because they allow us to hit more than one player if we need to, while also leaving the option open to take out several creatures as well.

At first, I didn’t know if this was going to pan out well enough, since we normally only get one activation a turn out of Alena. After some thought, I included Instill Energy, so that we can double up on her ability. But it is the synergy Thornbite Staff has with evoke triggers and our opponent’s creatures dying from Halana, Kessig Ranger that really pushed this deck’s strategy over the edge for me. When all of these pieces come together, we should be able to generate obscene amounts of mana to cast the aforementioned X spells or even more of our other creatures.

Closing Thoughts

All and all, this pair was always meant to work well together and I feel Wizards really nailed that. But the gimmick that read as very quaint may have left me underestimating them. Having generals that supply mana ramp and creature removal allows for the rest of the deck to diversify as it needs and that extra freedom really allowed for this deck to blossom.

While this list is by no means a cEDH-caliber deck, I think that with the right sequence of cards, it would be a deck that wins out of nowhere with minimal set-up. These are the kinds of decks I really love to see out in the wild, taking disparate keywords like affinity, convoke and evoke to give a unique personality to a deck. Next time, I will be taking cues from Neon Dynasty, but I haven’t decided which route I will be going with yet. The set has me very excited, so I can’t wait to bring something from it to the table. Thanks for reading.

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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