First things first, you should read this thread by Orion Black. And this other thread by them. You’ve already seen them? Good! Great! I don’t want anyone who is interested in or playing Magic: The Gathering to do so without at least some awareness of this problem, this persistent problem. I guess my main thinking here is that the least I can do is make sure Wizards has the reputation not as ‘one of the good ones’ but as ‘that one has fucked up a lot and needs to fucking address it.’
I haven’t been playing a lot of Magic: The Gathering. Just other things going on, plus any time a banning happens or a new set releases, prices on MODO get a little weird, in a way I don’t appreciate. Typically if I wait a month, all the things I want to play around with get a bit cheaper, and this few months in Magic’s history have been
The last time I was playing, I was playing, I kid you not, a budget standard Walls deck, using High Alert and Teyo, the Shieldmage. This means that I haven’t really been paying attention for two whole additions to standard, and I also missed the return of Commander – not 1v1 Commander, but Commander – to the MODO interface.
Let’s then talk about a card I’m kinda intrigued to play with in Commander, but can’t see the ways I’m going to make them work:
Otrimi is an interesting commander. There’s a lot about Otrimi that’s a little ho-hum: it’s a big creature, it’s a Nightmare and a Beast, and there are some synergies with those, though not a lot of particularly remarkable stuff. It’s got a triggered on-hit ability that lets you reuse mutate cards. It’s big. The place all the interest concentrates is on the mutate ability. That commando ability is basically trinket text.
Some quick run-down on the details of Mutate:
- Mutate lets you put the text boxes of cards together. You can put a creature ‘over’ or ‘under’ its mutations, and it will largely just be ‘the top card, with the stuff from the bottom cards on it.’
- This means that if I mutate Otrimi under another creature they get Otrimi’s text, but they’re still that creature, and their damage doesn’t become commander damage.
- If I mutate Otrimi onto another creature, and put Otrimi on top, that creature is Otrimi, and that stack’s damage counts as commander damage.
- Otrimi can’t mutate onto any human
- Otrimi’s mutate cost is a mana cost, so it will be increased by commander tax
- If Otrimi’s jammed onto another card, and they get hit by a card like leadership vacuum or unsummon, they all go into my hand, together.
- If Otrimi’s jammed onto another card, and the big creature stack does a Ghostly Flicker style exile-and-return, they all come back as separate creatures.
- When Otrimi’s mutated onto another creature, that other creature was already in play – if it could attack, it can attack now. If it had counters on it, it has counters on it now.
This doesn’t give us much latitude for things Otrimi can do as far as milking value per se, but it does sort of outline some ways we can’t use Otrimi out of the box. In the end, Otrimi is a card that is primarily good for taking something we already had that’s good, or survivable, and simply making it bigger.
If you know my particular type of commander deck building, I like redundancy. I like it when I can reliably jam an effect, which results in the use of what I’ve learned as the 8×8 model: Take 8 effects you want, then find 8 cards that fit each effect. Then you have 64 cards and you can shuffle them up and add lands. This means there’s a lot less worrying about whether any given card is better than another in the 99 – I just can look at it in its category of eight cards, and see if it’s better than any of those.
The problem is, what eight categories are we doing for Otrimi?
Here are some thoughts:
Otrimi Wants Bodies
Otrimi isn’t very exciting on its own. Oh, sure, it’s a 6/6 trampler, that’s not nothing, but raw-dogging a Otrimi out there seems underwhelming. I mean, I don’t imagine I’ll avoid it, because you do what you have to do, but I feel that whatever situation I can be in, I’ll probably want it to be a situation where I can cast Otrimi onto an existing creature and give it haste so I can attack and get something out of it.
This means most of what utility I want will want to be creature based. I think I want that to be reasonably cheap (so, 2-3 mana), and ideally, creatures with a keyword or a counter. For comparison, consider the use of Rampant Growth (cheap) versus Wood Elves (gives me a creature) versus Yavimaya Dryad (gives me a creature and a keyword, even if it’s kinda a bad one) versus Fertilid (gives me a creature and two +1/+1 counters).
If I can get an effect on a creature, I want to.
Otrimi Wants To Recover Mutate Cards
This seems like such a hard thing to make work, for me. Mutate cards don’t naturally get into the graveyard unless people are killing things, and the main thing people are going to try and kill is Otrimi, because it’s really big. On the other hand, if I do have some Mutate cards in the bin, Otrimi represents a way to recover thoes cards.
It’s hard to know in a vacuum how well a rebuild strategy works unless you can make it definitive – recovering everything for example. What if, though, I had creatures that could be sacrificed or were willing to die, so the mutate triggers could be reused?
Sacrifice triggers aren’t out of the question, and neither are other mutate cards.
Otrimi’s Base Power Is 6
This means that Otrimi is only +1 away from having a key number for commander damage. There are three thresholds for commanders: 7 damage, 11 damage, and 21 damage. If they can do 21 combat damage, they kill a player in one shot; if they do 11, they can kill in two hits; if 7, they can kill in three hits.
This means that there’s room for a sort-of-voltron strategy with Otrimi. If you give Otrimi +5/+5 and double strike, it can kill in one shot (but that’s preposterous). If you give Otrimi +1/+1, though, it can kill in three normal combat steps, and there are a lot of creatures that have a single +1/+1 counter, for example.
Otrimi can easily get to 7 power, but getting double strike, 11 power, or more, is difficult by comparison.
Sultai is Stacked
There are so many good cards in Sultai colours it’s very hard to say for sure what the best utility package looks like. This means that no matter what I pick, there’s always going to be some feeling of ‘oh, I can’t believe I’m not running X.’ This includes Planeswalker packages – I already own some of those, so it’s not hard to play with them.
There are going to be hard cuts to hit the theme.
Let’s put together an example list not of the actual piles, but of the kinds of piles I might want:
- Protected mutate targets; that’s things like Witchstalker and Troll Ascetic. Cards that protect Otrimi as a Mutate target.
- Rewarding mutate targets; cards like Cold-Eyed Selkie that make Otrimi’s size really powerful.
- Sacrificial mutate targets; cards that can die or reward dying that we can mutate onto.
- Mutators; cards that have mutate and can improve any of the previous categories.
- Swarm rewards; if we’re going wide and having lots of creatures, maybe creatures that are evasive on their own, cards that benefit large wide groups would be good
Ramp/draw/removal is a good, solid set of three sets to include in every commander deck. Having it so any given sample of ten cards will probably have a ramp and a draw spell in it is a good place to start. In this case, those cards can also be made to work with the existing idea of trying to use creatures; Sakura-Tribe Elder and Fertilid are solid replacements for Rampant Growth and Kodama’s Reach.
While compiling this list of possible options, I made a few observations of specific cards that get a little weird in an Otrimi deck.
Ochran Assassin. This text isn’t widely available on cheap cards. Otrimi having trample and deathtouch means that as you can serve with Otrimi and kill six of the defending player’s creatures. The problem there is the card itself isn’t very good to start with.
Bristling Hydra. If you build an energy theme into your deck, there are a few cards that synergise pretty nicely with Otrimi. They all add pressure, though, rather than adding survival, except this one that can get hexproof.
Hungering Hydra. Perfectly good for late-game mana sinking, but you can also just cast it on turn 3 for 2, you can then mutate Otrimi onto it and that seems pretty hard to handle.
Untamed Kavu. If you’re rushing out Otrimi, this 2-drop gives you vigilance; if you get it later, it’s a 5/5 that turns into a 9/9 under Otrimi.
Wildborn Preserver. Can be flashed in, gives Otrimi a keyword it doesn’t have, and can make cheaper creatures you cast after Otrimi into a big power boost for Otrimi. This is one way that hitting the tipping point of 11 power is pretty doable.
Drana, Liberator of Malakir is pretty good, too, because she gives Otrimi two keywords it doesn’t have by default, and makes it bigger. 6+7+8 is the 21 you need.
Leyline Prowler. Deathtouch, lifelink and trample are all very good keywords to have in the same spot, and putting it on a 6/6 means it’s easier to race a large quantity of enemy offensive.
Scale Up. If your build is a go-wide, lots-of-evasive, hard-to-kill creatures deck, Scale Up lets you hit very hard with an early creature, or, can make a later-game creature extremely scary.
Cold-Eyed Selkie. This deserves special mention because this is the card that got me started on making this deck in the first place. A 6/6 attacking, trampling Selkie on turn 3 seems like it could make me a nice mess of cards.
That’s some of my thoughts on the card. In the end, I don’t know if I can make a deck that works for Otrimi.