avenger of zendikar

Cryptic Commander #3: One Giant Leap

Looking through my list of topics to talk about in this little column of mine, I have a mighty need to continue the Green train. There are some really interesting cards in Green that seem to get overlooked for more ‘powerful’ options, and that just doesn’t seem right to me. Sure, Tooth and Nail is an objectively more powerful card than See the Unwritten. So what? I should not play See the Unwritten because I can entwine Tooth and Nail for an Avenger of Zendikar and Craterhoof Behemoth to win the game on the spot? That’s so boring. I like Hoofin’ my opponents out just as much as the next Commander player, but seriously. Gotta move on to greener pastures. Let’s try something new. In a similar vein, I think Survival of the Fittest is an amazing Magic card. Being able to pitch a creature, something Green likes to do in its spare time, to tutor for whatever creature you want is a good ability. I have an idea, though. How about we try something a little less conventional, huh?

There! That’s what I’m talking about! If this is your first time seeing this wonderful 2-drop enchantment, let me introduce you to Evolutionary Leap! Now, it would be a little disingenuous to directly compare Evolutionary Leap to Survival of the Fittest…but I’m going to do it anyway because there are some interesting parallels.

1) Both have a CMC (Converted Mana Cost) of 1 and one G

2) Both have an activated ability that costs one G to activate

3) Both provide you with a replacement for getting rid of a creature

This is where the similarities end, however. Let’s talk differences, shall we? Survival of the Fittest asks that you have a creature card in hand to discard if you want to tutor for another creature. For those who don’t know, this card does some very dirty things. There are many creatures that like being in your graveyard, and trading those for any creature in your deck is beyond valuable for graveyard-based strategies in Commander. I had a Meren of Clan Nel Toth deck that loved to chain Survival of the Fittest activations to fill the graveyard for a powerful Living Death. Discarding a creature with Dredge gets your graveyard engine revving. Getting Genesis in your yard for value as the game goes on is gravy. There are a lot of powerful things you can do with Survival, no doubt. However, that doesn’t mean we should count out the seemingly innocuous Evolutionary Leap.

Where Survival of the Fittest wants you to discard creatures for value, Evolutinary Leap would prefer you play your creatures out. Requiring that you sacrifice a creature to activate it’s ability, the Leap scratches a very different deck-building itch. Commanders like Meren love to sacrifice things for value, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg, friend. Let’s start small and work our way up. Imagine sacrificing a Yavimaya Elder to the Leap. You get to go search for two basic lands to put in your hand, and you get to replace the Elder with a new creature. Sure, you don’t get to control what creature you get (unless you play stuff like Wordly Tutor or Sensei’s Diving Top), but whatever you sacrifice to the Leap will find a replacement. That’s some value right there. Now imagine this scenario. You have an Awakening Zone in play, generating an Eldrazi Spawn Token at the beginning of each of your upkeeps. Imagine paying a single Green mana to turn that free token into a real card. You starting to pick up what I’m putting down? Imagine someone decides to wrath the board because things are just getting out of control and something has to be done about it. You, you smart cookie, left open some Green mana so you could sacrifice your creatures and get new ones to replace them. What would have ordinarily been a bad bad situation for you is now an opportunity for you to regroup and get back on the table before anyone else.

I could go on and on about the applications for this card. Yes, this card is no Survival of the Fittest. It doesn’t let you increase the consistency of your game plan and give you control over what you draw. And you know what? That’s totally fine. It does a lot of things that Survival doesn’t. It gives you a sacrifice outlet, an often underrated thing in Commander. It lets you take advantage of recursive token producers to create real card advantage. It’s a value engine and opens up some new and interesting possibilities for your board state. Those are all things that Survival doesn’t really do. Where Survival of the Fittest most often fits into a very proactive strategy, Evolutionary Leap gives you flexibility and a backup plan. Oh boy. That’s a topic I’m itching to get into in later installments of Cryptic Commander, let me tell you.

But, I think I’ve said enough to get the conversation started about Evolutionary Leap. So, what do you think about the Leap? Over performer or a bit of a dud? Does it give you any sweet ideas about how to build your next deck or how you might slot it in to your current ones? Talk to me about it, and talk to each other!

Until next time!

Robert Burrows

(suggested by @conflictedcontradiction)

Aggravation Rating: 9/10

I won’t lie, I have a personal hatred of this card. Craterhoof Behemoth is, in my opinion, one of the easiest and least interesting ways to win with a green deck in EDH, which is frustrating because so often that’s what he does.

Green likes creatures, and big ones at that. It also likes mana dorks and other small utility creatures like Fauna Shaman and Reclamation Sage. Long story short, Green likes to have a big board full of creatures. Add in cards like Avenger of Zendikar which make a wide board all by themselves, and you have a very likely situation where Craterhoof just outright wins the game. And that’s where the issue in the card lies.

Every card in Magic is working towards one goal: to get their player to win. My issue arises with cards that do this much too quickly and efficiently, leaving no chance for an actual game to be played. What’s fun about slowly establishing a board back and forth, and suddenly your opponent plays Craterhoof and kills you? It’s not a real game and it doesn’t take some absurd effort. It doesn’t have the feeling of a hard fought game, of a well earned victory or a glorious defeat. It’s the kind of game that you shrug off and say “yep, Craterhoof again. maybe next game.” You don’t think fondly on games lost to Craterhoof because the card is so individually powerful without any sort of real setup that it’s not interesting to lose to after the first time.

In addition to the unfun game aspects of Craterhoof, there’s also the deck building aspects that make it aggravating. A deck that runs Craterhoof almost certainly also runs Avenger of Zendikar, a one-two punch that’s sure to win most games. And these decks always, ALWAYS have some way to find Craterhoof. Worldly Tutor, Tooth and Nail, Primal Command. Green has no shortage of creature tutors, and that’s perfectly fine. But Craterhoof is the type of card that makes tutors boring. I see tutors as a way to find a good answer that gets you out of a tight situation; too often you can just find Craterhoof and kill your opponent. So many decks that include the behemoth devolve to have a plan of essentially “play random creatures and then eventually find Craterhoof and win.” It’s boring. You could have an extremely interesting tokens deck, maybe Hazezon Tamar with Epic Struggle and Warrior Tribal. But if you decide to run Craterhoof, you’ll a lot of the time find that you could just cast it and win, which prompts you to make boring games that end the same way.

Finally, Craterhoof is hard to deal with because only a counterspell stops the actual game-ending effect. On a board of five creatures, killing the Craterhoof does practically nothing. You have to be able to deal with most of the creatures or else you die, and if you’re in a position to do that then the creatures should be dead already. And seriously, did it have to have haste? Craterhoof utterly demolishes board stalls, can only be effectively dealt with by counterspells or instant speed board wipes, and in most cases may as well be an eight mana card that just says “if you control five or more creatures, you win the game.” Its only saving grace is that it requires that threshold; when the board is repeatedly wiped and contained, it’s not as big of an issue. But that’s a small comfort.

Craterhoof is a too-often used card that promotes lazy deck building and boring games; it ends games the same way much too often and doesn’t create an enjoyable experience. The most fun way to lose to Craterhoof is spectacularly; see how low your life total can get. All in all this card is a monster that doesn’t promote good gameplay both before and after a game starts, and has become a scourge of EDH.


Ezuri, Claw of Progress (another Blue Green combo deck! (sigh, I’m waiting for  blue black)

First of all, do I need to even mention Conjurer’s Closet?’

Let’s start then with Avenger of Zendikar! Don’t seem to be able to get 30 experience counters at once? See this guy and try again! not only will you get an armada of plants, but those plants will get bigger with time! This is one of the first obvious choices. 

Next in line we have orochi hatchery! Now I know it’s a bit of a knock of if they’ve put it in the deck already, but guess what, I’ve been playing Kamigawa (please give us a RTK) since before anything hatched out of that damned thing. This is a must have for the deck because it fits quite well with our next things

Inexorable Tides is a good. Card. Put it in the deck. That stupid Hatchery will get more and more charge counters. You will get more and more experience counters. It’s a solid card to have no matter what and the deck really exemplifies that. 

Meishin, the Mind Cage is where we continue to do the shenanigans. Because in a blue green deck *cough Zegana* you ought to have plenty of cards in your hand. This means a few things. One: Your opponents will have a difficult time dealing with you by attacking. Two: same, but vice versa (duh) Three: almost all of your creatures will gain you cards I mean experience counters. This is a must have.

Gyre Sage and Ant Queen really go hand in hand. You can put quite a few counters on Gyre Sage with Ezuri’s ability alone, but add the proliferate and you should easily get to a few hundred. Then, you can use that mana produced by Gyre Sage to put a lot of ants on the battlefield. Then when they enter; MORE EXPERIENCE then… you get the idea. 

Fable of Wolf and Owl really just get you free experience counters and Sage of Hours is just a win con (a really stupid win con)

This is really looking to be a powerful deck so only use it on the people you hate playing magic with because they almost certainly won’t ever want to play with you again. 

That’s all for now! Have fun?