I’m honestly not sure how to start here.

I’m James – Some of you may recognize me from EastCoastCommander.com, which is no longer active. I was invited to write for that site by the founders, and enjoyed my time there. I would like to extend my thanks to Christian and Scott for the opportunity they provided, and I wish them and the other writers all the best – I’m sure they will all land on their feet, and find spots elsewhere with their writing.

I would also like to thank the team here at GeneralDamageControl.com for their support of ECC, and for giving me the opportunity to join here. It’s a big change for me, and I’m not sure how to approach it properly.

I thought a good place to start would be to look at one of my decks to show you all a little bit about who I am as an EDH player.

As this is a new start for me, I want to talk about a new deck – one that I have been trying for years to get together. To go with this switch, I’ve also been changing the shop I play at, so my EDH world is changing in almost every respect. My usual Commander game was on Tuesday nights, and through a series of events (combined with a winter that can only be described as ‘biblical’), I haven’t really gotten much playtime in lately. However, I did manage to get a few games in last week, and finally got a chance to put this new deck through its paces.

[cardThelon of Havenwood[/card] has long been on my radar as a general that I wanted to build, but I never really could get it to work. There was always either a shortage of support cards, or I would just try to do too many things at once with him. With my new method of building, however (using Google Drive spreadsheets), I think I may have finally nailed this deck down. After trimming and getting things mostly complete, I sat down to game last week with this list:

[cardlist]
[Commander]
Thelon of Havenwood
[/Commander]
[Creatures]
Acidic Slime
Adaptive Automaton
Bane of Progress
Champion of Stray Souls
Craterhoof Behemoth
Deathspore Thallid
Eater of Hope
Elvish Farmer
Eternal Witness
Gleancrawler
Golgari Rotwurm
Jade Mage
Mycoloth
Nekrataal
Nemata, Grove Guardian
Oracle of Mul Daya
Pendelhaven Elder
Quagmire Druid
Rune-Scarred Demon
Savage Thallid
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Silklash Spider
Sporesower Thallid
Sporoloth Ancient
Thallid Germinator
Thallid Shell-Dweller
Thelonite Hermit
Utopia Mycon
Verdant Force
Verdeloth the Ancient
Vhati il-Dal
Viscera Seer
Vitaspore Thallid
Woodfall Primus
Wurmcoil Engine
Yavimaya Elder
[/Creatures]
[Enchantments]
Deathreap Ritual
Grave Pact
Perilous Forays
Pernicious Deed
[/Enchantments]
[Artifacts]
Ashnod’s Altar
Contagion Clasp
Contagion Engine
Druidic Satchel
Skullclamp
Sol Ring
Whip of Erebos
[/Artifacts]
[Planeswalkers]
Garruk Relentless
Liliana of the Dark Realms
Liliana Vess
[/Planeswalkers]
[Spells]
Beast Within
Cultivate
Demonic Tutor
Krosan Grip
Morbid Bloom
Peregrination
Putrefy
Rise from the Grave
Tooth and Nail
[/Spells]
[Non-Basic Lands]
Barren Moor
Bojuka Bog
Command Tower
Golgari Rot Farm
Grim Backwoods
Jungle Hollow
Khalni Garden
Mosswort Bridge
Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
Overgrown Tomb
Piranha Marsh
Polluted Mire
Slippery Karst
Temple of the False God
Tranquil Thicket
Turntimber Grove
Woodland Cemetery
[/Non-Basic Lands]
[Basic Lands]
14 Forest
9 Swamp
[/Basic Lands]
[/cardlist]

To be honest, while I was quite happy with how this deck played, I can see weak points in it. More on that later.

Let’s break this down into sections:

The most obvious (and most important) part of this deck is Saprolings and spore counters. This is what drives the whole thing; it is the main army, supports extracurricular activities, and generally makes it a pain for my opponents to do anything.

[cardlist]
[Fungi and Saprolings]
Deathspore Thallid
Druidic Satchel
Elvish Farmer
Jade Mage
Morbid Bloom
Mycoloth
Nemata, Grove Guardian
Savage Thallid
Sporesower Thallid
Sporoloth Ancient
Thallid Germinator
Thallid Shell-Dweller
Thelonite Hermit
Utopia Mycon
Verdant Force
Verdeloth the Ancient
Vitaspore Thallid
[/Fungi and Saprolings]
[/cardlist]

This is the heart of the deck. These are the cards most obviously supported by Thelon himself, and are the reason I wanted to build this deck to begin with. Note that there are only 17 cards here – in the past, I have overloaded on the the Saproling theme, which caused the deck to fall apart under the weight of thematic overload. Keeping these numbers relatively low and only using Thallids that actually do useful things allowed me to make this a decent, aggressive build that actually works.

All of these are pretty self-explanatory; they make Saprolings, get spore counters, or both. As much fun as a token swarm is, though, I like to have things to do with my Saprolings:

[cardlist]
[Did someone say ‘Sacrificial token creatures’?]
Ashnod’s Altar
Champion of Stray Souls
Deathspore Thallid
Eater of Hope
Elvish Farmer
Golgari Rotwurm
Grim Backwoods
Mycoloth
Nemata, Grove Guardian
Quagmire Druid
Perilous Forays
Savage Thallid
Skullclamp
Thallid Germinator
Utopia Mycon
Viscera Seer
Vitaspore Thallid
[/Did someone say ‘Sacrificial token creatures’?]
[Valuetown]
Deathreap Ritual
Grave Pact
[/Valuetown]
[/cardlist]

There is some overlap here, obviously. Most Thallids will sacrifice the saprolings they make for shenanigans, but there are other options as well. Already have a pile of Saprolings? Make Mycoloth huge and get them back turn after turn. Or sac them to Ashnod’s Altar to really abuse the multikicker on Verdeloth the Ancient.

Or just use that mana to power out an entwined Tooth and Nail. Stay tuned on that.

Basically, the lines of play are endless, but these are not the only uses for Saproling tokens:

[cardlist]
[Fly, my pretties!]
Adaptive Automaton
Craterhoof Behemoth
Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
Pendelhaven Elder
Verdeloth the Ancient
Whip of Erebos
[/Fly, my pretties!]
[/cardlist]

These are the tools to support a token-swarm approach. These can be used to buff my Saprolings (or my Fungus creatures in some cases) to overwhelm my opponents in the red sone, or just to get better with large numbers of creatures (the ‘hoof). Sometimes, they just get me back into a game (Whip of Erebos).

Overall, this deck uses Saprolings as its main focus, yes…but it uses them in different ways, allowing me to approach a game in different ways as it evolves. I like the flexible approach.

There are some notable exclusions from this list too. I am sure some of you are wondering where Doubling Season, Corpsejack Menace, and Parallel Lives are. I honestly had a hard time cutting these, but they all seemed like they pushed things a little too far into the tokens/counters area, and I’m invested heavily enough in there as it is. Adding these would take up slots for essential support pieces – like the following:

[cardlist]
[Enforcement and Logistics Division]
Acidic Slime
Beast Within
Contagion Clasp
Contagion Engine
Cultivate
Demonic Tutor
Eternal Witness
Garruk Relentless
Krosan Grip
Liliana of the Dark Realms
Liliana Vess
Nekrataal
Peregrination
Putrefy
Rise from the Grave
Rune-Scarred Demon
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Silklash Spider
Vhati il-Dal
Woodfall Primus
Yavimaya Elder
[/Enforcement and Logistics Division]
[/cardlist]

These are what keep me in games. These push my agenda forward, stop my opponents from getting too out of hand, and support my main theme. This list is the grease that allows the wheels to spin. Spot removal, land ramp, some recursion, tutoring, and so on.

This is what every deck needs – the tools to handle the crises that arise.

Finally, I want to highlight three cards.

Bane of Progress seems an odd choice here, considering I have quite a few artifacts and enchantments myself. But these two permanent types can quite easily take over a game, and while I like having mine around, I can get by just fine without them. (Basically, I’m willing to sacrifice my Altar to take out yours.)

Pernicious Deed seems even stranger. The vast majority of my deck creates and/or uses zero-CMC creatures; any activation of Deed will wipe them out. The thing is, I can always make new ones. Pernicious Deed for three, followed by a Bojuka Bog, can absolutely cripple more than one opponent. I will likely recover before you do with the ease in which this deck bounces back.

Tooth and Nail. Yes – this card is a bogeyman. Yes – I run this. Yes – I Entwine it. And yes, I CAN use this to find Craterhoof Behemoth and win. I have actually done this.

But that is not the reason for this card. Nine times out of ten, I am choosing to find and put into play Sporesower Thallid and Sporoloth Ancient. These two cards will not win me the game outright, but these are my preferred targets for Tooth and Nail; they speed up my game plan so much without being oppressive or overwhelming that I have a hard time thinking of better targets most of the time. Even with these two in play – giving me a HUGE advantage – I’m not guaranteed a win. I still need to play my deck well and to get to the pieces I need assembled. This pair just gives me some breathing room to do that.

Earlier, I mentioned weak points, and I want to discuss them as well.

[cardlist]
[Meh]
Contagion Clasp
Contagion Engine
Cultivate
Peregrination
[/Meh]
[/cardlist]

The proliferate effects here are nice, but not really needed. It doesn’t take long to tick a Fungus up to three spore counters, and after that it’s all gravy. I may keep them in, as the -1/-1 counters they give are helpful, but these are probably the first to go.

Cultivate and Peregrination are pretty basic land ramp spells. The scry from Peregrination is nice, but not really necessary. The deck is not that hungry for mana, and when I need a lot I can get it from Ashnod’s Altar.

These four cards will probably be cut before too many more games are played. I want to find a slot for Siege Behemoth and possibly Tornado Elemental. Thunderfoot Baloth is catching my attention as well for that Lieutenant ability. I am not sure what would fill the fourth slot, but am open to suggestions.

This is not a top-tier deck, by any means. It is also not a 75% deck. I want this build to be as good as it can be, while still remaining true to the commander and the overall theme. This will be a deck that I can break out at any table, and be fairly certain that nobody will have a problem with it. It’s also not a deck that I have ever seen before, which makes it massively appealing to me.

It’s fun, different, and very capable of winning games.

-James
@JamesDavey