This entry is part 5 of 17 in the series Accumulated Knowledge

By SEAN aka SWORDTOPLOW
The smell of beer and pizza has always appealed to me.  Alone in a new city, nothing quite makes friends like free food and booze.  Most of my recent Saturday nights I spent at home with a group of quickly made friends; drinking, eating and playing my favorite collectible card game.  I generally hosted these little get-togethers.  I think it was the combination of having a place all to myself and owning a pool table that made the decision a simple one.  Once we finally wore out our welcome at whatever establishment kept us busy during the daylight, we congregated at my humble little dungeon, which was ironically very well lit and spacious due to living on the top floor and having vaulted ceilings.

It was while I was playing in my house, in between slices, that I learned most of what I know about Magic the Gathering.  This Saturday, while me and the other Wichita insomniacs were trying to enjoy the extra hours we gained from sacrificing sleep, I was fortunate enough to get a taste of what we were all chasing, a new experience. While playing out one of the many Commander games we played that evening, I saw Tooth and Nail played for the first time.  The first time you see Tooth and Nail played is very similar to most people’s first sexual experience; it seems exciting but it ends up being a little painful, it is over much to quickly and no one feels good about themselves what everything is said and done.

Tooth and Nail is one of the defining cards of Commander.  At nine mana, Tooth and Nail will usually end the game when it resolves.  Since green is one of the most popular colors in any given Commander metagame, you can be reasonably assured that you are going to have to deal with this card.  Tooth and Nail sets the pace for Commander.  When any player has nine or more mana, the game  will likely be over soon.  When you build a deck, you should keep this in mind and your strategy should either slow down other players or be able to win before other players can reach that 9 mana point.

In an earlier Accumulated Knowledge article, I went over card advantage in Good Stuff style deck.  Good Stuff decks are easily the worst archetype in Commander, as they do not have a specific path to victory and will rarely be able to win the game before a Tooth and Nail or similarly game ending play ends everything.  Today, I will once again be evaluating individual cards from an already solid commander deck.  Similar to the last article, I will be keeping card advantage in mind when evaluating the cards.  This time, however, I will also be taking into account the pace of Commander and how well each card plays into that pace.  For this to be possible, I will be evaluating a deck that has a more focused game plan and path to victory.

One of my beloved readers (I love you all, whether you want me too or not), Josh, was nice enough to throw me his rather impressive deck list to see how a more complete evaluation might work to improve a deck that actively tries to win the game.  Josh is playing an already aggressive Animar, Soul of Elements deck.  Here is his current list, organized in the same fashion he sent it too me.

[mtg_deck]
Commander
1 Animar, Soul of Elements
Creatures
1 Acidic Slime
1 Artisan Of Kozilek
1 Brutalizer Exarch
1 Consecrated Sphinx
1 Draining Whelk
1 Duplicant
1 Eternal Witness
1 Flametongue Kavu
1 Forgotten Ancient
1 Garruk’s Horde
1 Garruk’s Packleader
1 Keiga, the Tide Star
1 Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
1 Lotus Cobra
1 Mulldrifter
1 Palinchron
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
1 Primeval Titan
1 Primordial Sage
1 Sakura Tribe Elder
1 Shivan Hellkite
1 Simic Sky Swallower
1 Snapcaster Mage
1 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Tidespout Tyrant
1 Tradewind Rider
1 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
1 Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger
1 Wall Of Blossoms
1 Wall Of Roots
1 Wood Elves
1 Woodfall Primus
Mana Rocks
1 Sol Ring
1 Gilded Lotus
1 Mana Vault
Bounce
1 Cloudstone Curio
1 Crystal Shard
Protect
1 Whispersilk Cloak
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
Sorceries
1 Temporal Spring
1 Cultivate
1 Kodama’s Reach
1 Regrowth
1 Tooth And Nail
1 Time Warp
Enchantments
1 Greater Good
1 Rhystic Study
1 Survival of the Fittest
1 Sylvan Library
1 Warstorm Surge
Instants
1 Beast Within
1 Capsize
1 Fact Or Fiction
1 Krosan Grip
1 Mystical Tutor
Denial
1 Arcane Denial
1 Cryptic Command
1 Counterspell
1 Force Of Will
1 Hinder
1 Mana Drain
1 Misdirection
Lands
1 Tropical Island
1 Taiga
1 Volcanic Island
1 Wooded Foothills
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Breeding Pool
1 Steam Vents
1 Stomping Ground
1 City Of Brass
1 Command Tower
1 Forbidden Orchard
1 Reflecting Pool
1 Vivid Creek
1 Izzet Boilerworks
1 Simic Growth Chamber
1 Sulfur Falls
1 Yavimaya Hollows
1 Gaea’s Cradle
1 Temple Of The False God
1 Winding Canyons
1 Kessig Wolf Run
1 Llanowar Reborn
1 Dryad Arbor
5 Forest
5 Island
2 Mountain
[/mtg_deck]

Before I can start evaluating the individual cards in the deck, we need to review how this deck wants to win.  This deck has three basic paths to victory;

This deck wants to get Animar nice and big, then swing in for lethal Commander damage.  It is going to achieve this by casting a bunch of creatures, then we are going to try and make Animar unblockable and punch through for lethal.
Animar naturally plays a lot of creatures for the primary path to victory.  Their main point is to build up the size of Animar, but they can also be used to kill people off.  As a secondary game plan, fast aggro will be perfect.
As a worst case scenario, this deck plays several 2-3 card combos that will end the game even if damaging an opponent in combat doesn’t work.

Basically, this is an aggro deck with combo as a fallback plan.  That means we want to deal as much damage as quickly as possible.  To that end we want cards that create mana, deal damage, answer threats, combo off, or (if all else fails) add card advantage.

Auto-Include: I will never take this card out of the deck
Keep: I will keep this in the deck, unless a much better card comes along.
Questionable: I will likely keep this in the deck, but I would prefer a replacement.
Consider Removing: I will remove this card as soon as I get my hands on something I like better.

This time there will be an additional statistic, Pacing.  Pacing refers to the advancement of mana compared to turn.  Since you want to be at the 9 mana point before your opponents positive pacing would either mean having access to an amount of mana earlier or denying your opponent mana.  Pacing could also mean gaining extra turns or taking turn away from an opponent.  The easiest example of pacing is a  Sol RingSol Ring produces 2 mana a turn and therefore gives you a pacing  advantage of 2 in the long  term, since you are effectively 2 turns worth of mana ahead of an opponent just making land drops.  Even on the turn you play  Sol Ring you net +1 pacing.

Create Mana
First things first.  There is no point in being strong if you aren’t fast in a fight.  We need to take a look at our mana accelerators and how they can help push us into the lead.

Cultivate & Kodama’s Reach – Both of these are good accelerators and do a good job at both creating card advantage and helping with pacing.  They have a few problems that make them slightly worse than the alternatives.  They  have converted mana cost of 3.  In a deck where the main plan is dependent on your commander, you would prefer cards that either cost less and give you similar pacing or cost slightly more and accelerate you faster.
Card Advantage: +1
Pacing: +1
Verdict: Questionable
Possible Replacements: Explosive Vegetation & Skyshroud Claim are both viable replacements for these two cards.  They each cost only one additional mana but also put 2 lands directly into play.  Skyshroud Claim is particularly good because it not only grabs dual lands, it puts the lands into play which possibly allows you to play additional spells that turn.  Keeping Animar in mind it may be even better to replace these with slightly less efficient but creature based spells, like farhaven elves or yavimaya dryad.

Gilded Lotus – I like this card in artifact based decks, but I don’t like it as much in a deck that wants to run a bunch of creatures.  You can get a lot more advantage from some other cards.
Card Advantage: +0
Pacing: +3
Verdict: Questionable
Possible Replacement: Earthcraft seems almost like an auto include in this deck.  It accelerates to ridiculous degrees and gives you a way to generate infinite mana with certain bounce effects and Animar. Earthcraft also only costs two mana compared to Gilded Lotus’s five.

Lotus Cobra – This card is conditional acceleration that is only really good on the turn it comes into play.  The card won’t be killing anyone anytime soon.  It was a much better accelerant in standard.
Card Advantage: +0
Pacing: +0-1
Verdict: Questionable
Possible Replacement: Aluren is not strictly something to help with mana, but it helps you storm at instant speed and lets you play your Commander at instant speed and reduced costs, saving mana and evading sorcery speed removal.  This is a combo with Animar + any bounce creature CMC 3 or less.  If you are looking for something that just generates mana Bloom Tender will almost always net you 3 mana a turn with this deck, which is more than the cobra can do.

Mana Vault – The pacing on this card is nuts.  It is one of the best cards in 1v1 commander and there are few replacements.
Card Advantage: +0
Pacing: +3
Verdict: Keep
Possible Replacement: Mana Crypt is strictly better if you can afford the hefty cost of replacing it.  Mana Crypt can fit into basically every Commander deck , if you happen to own one.

Primeval Titan – This is quite possibly the most powerful green creature in Commander.  The quicker this comes out, the better.
Card Advantage: +2 a turn
Pacing: +2 a turn
Verdict: Auto-Include

Sakura Tribe-Elder – This is one of the best 2 mana accelerants in commander.  Rampant Growth is a playable card in Commander, so this Tribe-Elder is an easy decision.
Card Advantage: +0
Pacing: +1
Verdict: Keep

Sol Ring – This nets a pacing advantage the turn it is played.  This isn’t just a free spell, it nets you continuous mana with zero downside.
Card Advantage: +0
Pacing: +2
Verdict: Auto-Include

Solemn Simulacrum – Solemn is good enough to be in any deck that plays basic lands.  It is possible with Animar that he will be a free spell that nets card advantage and pacing advantage.
Card Advantage: +1
Pacing: +1
Verdict: Auto-Include

Wall of Roots – This is a bit of an odd duck.  It doesn’t net card advantage and it only nets pacing advantage for a few turns.  However, I can’t help but notice that Wall of Roots+Wood Elves+Cloudstone Curio+Animar will let you put all your forests into play and make Animar huge.
Card Advantage: +0
Pacing: +1
Verdict: Questionable
Possible Replacement: Shrieking Drake goes infinite with Animar with both Earthcraft and Aluren.  Even without going infinite, it turns each blue mana into +1 mana while Animar is in play.  Man-o-War is another possible replacement for the same reason and one which I actually like more than Shrieking Drake in most situations.

Wood Elves – I cannot think of a single negative thing to say about this card.  If you are playing forests it should be in your deck.
Card Advantage: +1
Pacing: +1
Verdict: Auto-include

Deal Damage
If there are cards that deal a gross amount of damage this is where they would go.  Animar is the main beater, but any card with the soul purpose of hitting someone in the dome goes here.

Animar, Soul of Elements – Animar is going to be the main beater for the deck.  He will get bigger as we play and help us make him even bigger.
Card Advantage: +0
Pacing: +1 per creature played
Verdict: Auto-Include

Flametongue Kavu – Removing a weak general from play and having a body isn’t terrible, but it definitely does not wow me.  This Kavu  just doesn’t scale well for the higher lift totals and additional players in Commander.
Card Advantage: +0
Pacing: +0
Verdict: Consider Removing
Possible Replacement: Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker is one of the reasons to play red.  He generates card advantage every turn and has more combos than almost any other legend.

Shivan Hellkite – This is supposed to be the mana sink for when someone has infinite mana.  As a whole, I don’t like mana sinks that don’t do much on their own.  Even with the nostalgia factor, I couldn’t bring myself to keep this guy in my deck.
Card Advantage: +0
Pacing: +0
Verdict: Consider Removing
Possible Replacement: Blue Sun’s Zenith is just better in this situation since it can kill someone with infinite life and is useful even without infinite mana.

Answer Threats
Another important aspect of the game is having the ability to slow your opponents down.  It is unlikely you are going to be the fastest in every game, so you need to take the wind out of their sails.

Acidic Slime – I am glad this card was on the list because it is the perfect example of removal that helps you with pacing.  By destroying a land, combo piece or mana rock you gain pacing advantage by slowing down your opponent.  When selecting what to destroy keep a few things in mind.

1. If you can keep someone off of having access to two of a particular color of mana, do it.  Many of the most powerful commander cards require double colored mana to be used.  If you can keep someone off of that {g}{g} they can’t cast their Tooth and Nail.
2. 6 and 9 are the magic numbers you want to keep people away from.  6 is where Titan level creatures start having a major impact on the board and 9 is where the game ends.
3. They can only play a limited number of lands a turn.  If you can destroy multiple lands it is harder for them to recover than if you destroy multiple mana rocks.  Go for lands when you have the option of destroying more than one permanent.
Card Advantage: +1
Pacing: +1
Verdict: Auto-Include

Arcane Denial – In a good stuff deck counter spells are worse than in a deck with a more defined strategy.  Countering a ramp spell or a game ending spell are equally valid plays.  I see too many people who let the enablers slide by to wait to try and counter the big stuff.  Think about it this way, countering  Sol Ring is like destroying  two lands.  Even keeping that in mind, this is not the best counterspell for Commander.  It generates card advantage for your opponents.
Card Advantage: -1
Pacing: +1
Verdict: Consider Removing
Possible Replacement: Spell Crumple is great as Hinder number two.  It only costs one more mana than AD and shuts down Voltron Commanders.

Beast Within – Maybe I am crazy, but this will almost always be used on creatures and it gives them a replacement.  There are plenty of other non-creature permanent killing spells in this deck and so the preferred target for this will likely be a creature.  I would prefer to not give them something that can block Animar and slow down our deck.  We don’t want to give the opponent tools that help them beat us.
Card Advantage: +0
Pacing: +0
Verdict: Consider Removing
Possible Replacement: Sower of Temptation stealing a blocker is better than destroying one blocker just to give them another.  If we did not have an abundance of other cards that take care of non-creatures this card would be more important.

Brutalizer Exarch – This is one of my favorite new creatures, especially in a deck that could possible cast him for only one mana.  He either tutors up an answer or is an answer himself.
Card Advantage: +1
Pacing: +0-1
Verdict: Keep

Capsize – This is a mana sink, a combo piece, and an answer to creatures.  There really is not much more you could ask for.  It also gives you the option of bouncing peoples lands to slow them down, if need be.
Card Advantage: +0
Pacing: +1 per use
Verdict: Auto-Include

Counterspell – This vanilla counterspell is almost good enough based on the mana cost, almost.  I am really picky about the counters I put into my decks and this is nothing to write home about.
Card Advantage: +0
Pacing: +1
Verdict: Consider Removing
Possible Replacement: Muddle the Mixture counters most of the spells you want to be countered, like Tooth and Nail.  It also  acts as a tutor for when you don’t need a counter spell.

Cryptic Command – As I mentioned in the article on card advantage, this card is good.  If you plan it right, you can set an opponent back 2 turns by countering one spell and bouncing a large permanent.
Card Advantage: +1
Pacing: +0-2
Verdict: Keep

Draining Welk – This card is hilarious in Animar.  Late game, it is just a giant body attached to counterspell for the same exact price.  This is a perfect counterspell for Animar and one I would suggest for many blue decks.
Card Advantage: +1
Pacing: +1
Verdict: Keep

Duplicant – I love this card in decks that can’t run black or white.  I like it even more in a deck that can bounce and replay the card.
Card Advantage: +1
Pacing: +0
Verdict: Keep

Force of Will – In the last article I wrote how this is not good in a good stuff deck.  Well, this is not a good stuff deck.  If you have a specific gameplan, people knowing you have free counterspells in your deck can make them slow down their play even when you tap out.
Card Advantage: -1
Pacing: +1
Verdict: Keep

Hinder – As I mentioned in the last article on card advantage, I believe this is one of the 2 required counters if you are playing blue in Commander.  Like I mentioned in The Good Stuff this can actually generate card advanatge by denying someone access to their Commander.  Even if they can regain their Commander through a tutor they are losing  the tutor and consequently a win condition later in the game.
Card Advantage: +Variable
Pacing: +1
Verdict: Auto-Include

Ulamog, The Infinite Gyre – Normally Ulamog would not pass the Tooth and Nail test.  He costs more than Tooth and Nail and does not win immediately.  However, with Animar, he gets cheaper as you play guys and you will never be paying the full price for this monster.  If he hits the board before people get up and rolling he will be ending the game in short order.
Card Advantage: +1+4 per turn
Pacing: +1
Verdict: Keep

Krosan Grip – C-C-C-C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER!!  Put this in your green decks.  This is one of the few ways to really shut down a combo while avoiding counterspells and other protections.
Card Advantage: +0
Pacing: +0
Verdict: Auto-Include

Mana Drain – This is a counterspell I can get behind.  Countering even a smallish spell can give you that small boost to put a big play out way earlier than should be acceptable.  This card is amazing for pacing.
Card Advantage: +0-1
Pacing: +1+cmc of card countered.
Verdict: Auto-Include (if you own it)

Misdirection – Free counterspells are good for pacing and even better for blowouts.  Imagine someone casting a giant Blue Sun’s Zenith or Banefire and this turns their own spell against them.  I have seen Misdirection win games that should otherwise have been lost.  In addition, by taking over and opponents spell you gain control of the card and Misdirection doesn’t net negative card advantage even after pitching a card.
Card Advantage: +0
Pacing: +0-1
Verdict: Keep

Temporal Spring – Temporal Spring is a decent bounce spell.  Since it puts the card on top of the owner’s library, it doesn’t give up card advantage to bounce a permanent.  Still, it is a sorcery speed spell that doesn’t work towards one of our paths to victory.  There is already plenty of bounce in the deck, this one additional spell could easily be traded out.
Card Advantage: +0
Pacing: +1
Verdict: Possibly Remove
Possible Replacement: Drift of the Phantasm is another perfect transmute card for this deck.  It can grab at least one card from each category and is the correct CMC for many important combo pieces.

Woodfall Primus – I wish I owned enough of these to put one in each of my green decks.   I love that it punishes people for using removal.  This is one of the best things to sacrifice to Greater Good.  It is a little high on the mana curve, but it should buy you the turn you need to reach the 9 mana target.
Card Advantage: +1-2
Pacing: +0-2
Verdict: Keep

Combos
There are a few small combos for the fallback plan.

Time Warp+ Eternal Witness+bounce spell or Kiki-Jiki, Mirrorbreaker
Tooth and Nail into either Kiki-Jiki+Deceiver Exarch or Palinchron + either Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger or Phyrexian Metamorph
Making Animar, Soul of the Elements really big then protecting him with a piece of equipment to force the issue.

Time Warp – As a way to win the game this is obviously very effective.  So the question becomes, is it better than the possible alternative cards?   It is a fine extra turn spell. Like many extra turn spells, any sort of Swerve effect will turn the tables you in an instant.  For pacing, extra turn spells are always positive.  For card advantage it nets 0 since you get to draw an additional card on your extra turn.
Card Advantage: +0
Pacing: +1
Verdict: Questionable/Keep
Possible Replacement: Capture of Jingzhou is good if you have a couple hundred dollars to burn.  Temporal Manipulation is a little cheaper but still a bit heavy on the wallet.  Both are strictly better than Time Warp  and their financial cost shows it.  These are possible replacements, but keeping Time Warp is also fine.

Eternal Witness – Eternal witness is great on it’s own.  The fact that it combos is just icing on the cake. The Witness really sets the standard for efficient recursion in Commander.
Card Advantage: +1
Pacing: +0
Verdict:   Auto-Include

Tidespout Tyrant, Cloudstone Curio, Crystal Shard – These bounce spells net no card advantage and rarely give any sort of pacing advantage.  They are, however, crucial to the combos in this deck and help net even more card advantage from the numerous enters the battlefield triggers in the deck.
Card Advantage: +variable
Pacing: +variable
Verdict: Keep

Warstorm Surge – This card gives us a much needed win condition when going infinite with Palinchron or  bouncing and replaying creatures.  Like many people, I prefer this card to the cheaper Pandemonium.  There is less of a chance someone will blow you out by playing Blightsteel Colossus.
Card Advantage: +1 per creature killed
Pacing: +0
Verdict: Keep

Mystical Tutor – When you are worried only about  card advantage, these tutors don’t help you along as much as you would like.  In a deck with Tooth and Nail this is like playing a second copy of the spell.  This tutor, and the ones like it, are crucial in decks that hinge on drawing specific combo pieces, and have little place in the decks that do not.
Card Advantage: -1
Pacing: +0
Verdict: Keep
Possible Replacement: Intuition is a viable replacement for Mystical Tutor and is usually my preference.  You can usually set up a win pretty easily with this card and a good recursion package, which this deck should be running anyway.

Tooth and Nail – This is the card that defines the format.  It  might as well say “you win the game”.   There is no reason to describe the card advantage and pacing for this card.
Verdict:  Auto-Include

PalinchronPainchron goes infinite with the correct land base and Animar.  Any card that is part of a 2 card combo with your Commander should be included in that deck.  Palinchron gives limited pacing advantage since it is basically a free spell.  At the very least, it is a continuous blocker.
Card Advantage: +0
Pacing: +1
Verdict: Auto-Include

Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger – All the praetors are amazing in Commander.  Vorinclex does a great job of putting the pace of the game in your favor.  By doubling your mana you can cast twice as many spells each turn.  By locking down opponents lands, it forces them to lose every other turn’s mana.
Card Advantage: +0
Pacing: 4x – Variable
Verdict: Keep

Phyrexian Metamorph – It kills Commanders, goes infinite copying Palinchron, and normally is free to cast.  Phyrexian Metamorph is easily the best clone creature in Commander.  By getting a super cheap version of another creature on the board, you gain pacing advantage equal to the difference in casting cost.  It also lets you go infinite with Palincron far more easily.
Card Advantage: +0
Pacing: +Variable
Verdict: Keep

Tradewind Rider –  Even though bounce is an important way that the deck can go off, Tradewind Rider is very clunky and inefficient.  Having to tap three permanents to bounce one doesn’t work out perfectly.
Card Advantage: +0
Pacing: +0
Verdict: Questionable
Possible Replacement: Deceiver Exarch isn’t a bounce spell, but it does go perfectly with Kiki-Jiki, which I suggested earlier.

Whispersilk Cloak, Lightning Greaves, and Sword of Fire and Ice – These were all made to protect Animar and help him squeeze in some additional damage.  SOFI generates a ton of card advantage and the other cards will help you win with your Commander.
Card Advantage: +0-1per turn
Pacing: +0
Verdict: Keep

Card Advantage
In primarily aggro strategies bum rushing your enemies with vanilla creatures will rarely work.  You want to be able to net some card advantage as things go on.  Any card that isn’t directly involved in winning you the game should be netting you some sort of advantage.

Artisan Of Kozilek – This card is a good example of a card that generally fails the Tooth and Nail test.  At 9 mana Tooth and Nail ends the game, while these is just an upgraded body on an Reanimate.   However, with Animar in play, this will never cost as much as Tooth and Nail.  If you are using this for the infinite turn combo, it will end up be free later on.  If Animar gets big enough, you can storm this with any other colorless creature to return all the cards from your graveyard to play.
Card Advantage: +1+2 per turn
Pacing: +0
Verdict: Keep

Consecrated Sphinx – This may be the best blue creature in Commander.  This goes in every blue deck unless you are simply tired of seeing it.  My Arcum deck plays it and it’s the only non-artifact creature that doesn’t tutor up artifacts.
Card Advantage: +2 per card opponent draws.
Pacing: +0
Verdict: Auto-Include

Garruk’s Horde – This card is amazing in mono green decks.  However this a blue deck and blue has better cards that effectively achieve the same goal.  I am not sure why this in here when you have solidly better alternatives.
Card Advantage: +1 per creature played from top of Library
Pacing: +0
Verdict: Consider Removing
Magus of the Future and Future Sight both cost 2 mana less and let you play any card off the top of your library.  They are better for the pace of the game and power level.

Garruk’s Packleader – I can really get on board with this card.  The deck plays a lot of creatures and drawing off them is a good thing.  The tutoring in the deck isn’t the best so this kind of card draw is perfect.
Card Advantage: +1 per creature
Pacing: +0
Verdict: Keep

Keiga, the Tide Star – I waver on this card a little bit, but I can not doubt its effectiveness. Keiga makes other players think twice before attacking or blocking.  It is a really easy splash for color, and with Animar it shouldn’t be a problem to get out onto the field.
Card Advantage: +2
Pacing: +0
Verdict: Keep

Mulldrifter –I really like Muldrifter.  Being either a Divination early or a creature later on makes it a solid utility creature.  Until something utterly shocking and amazing comes on, I won’t be recommending anything to take the spot of Muldrifter.
Card Advantage: +1-2
Pacing: +0
Verdict: Keep

Primordial Sage – See Garruk’s Packleader
Card Advantage: +1 per creature
Pacing: +0
Verdict: Keep

Snapcaster Mage –  This card is still highly playable in competitive formats, but it’s not the greatest thing since sliced bread.  It does not belong in any creature heavy deck.  It doesn’t belong in basically any Commander deck.  You would rather have another piece of a combo, a card that returns something to play or your hand or something like Past in Flames that lets you replay every instant and sorcery in your graveyard.  Most importantly, once you have used flashback the card can no longer be recurred with something like Eternal Witness.  Since one of the paths to victory is an Eternal Witness combo, we don’t want to use anything that might ruin our combo.
Card Advantage: +1
Pacing: +0
Verdict: Consider Removing
Possible Replacement: Mnemonic Wall may cost a little more, but it also serves as a backup to Eternal Witness for the infinite turn combo.

Wall Of Blossoms – It is a cheap cantrip that adds a counter to Animar.  I suppose that is fine.  It is a little weird to have so many walls in a deck that has an aggro plan though.
Card Advantage: +1
Pacing: +0
Verdict: Questionable
Possible Replacement: Slithermuse can draw you way more than one card.  It can also deal damage and works in some amazing ways with any bounce spell since it triggers of leaving the battlefield and not going to the graveyard.

Greater Good – You know when this is perfect?  Whenever your opponents play removal.  To be fair, you need to play creatures or make creature tokens for this to be good.  When will that ever happen?
Card Advantage: +Creatures Power- 4
Pacing: +0
Verdict: Keep

Rhystic Study – This will either produce a ton of card advantage or slow down your opponents.  Either way, you are winning.  It helps that it has a very low casting cost and you can buy it for a dime.
Card Advantage: +1 per spell opponent doesn’t pay for
Pacing: +1 per spell opponent pays for
Verdict: Keep

Survival of the Fittest – This has been banned in legacy for a reason.  I would not be surprised to see this banned in Commander in the future.  This card wins games almost as often as Tooth and Nail .  It doesn’t technically net any gain or loss of card advantage, but it effectively stacks your deck and graveyard.
Card Advantage: 0
Pacing: 0
Verdict: Auto-Include

Sylvan Library – If there is one reason not to play Sensei’s Divining Top, this is it.  When you are trying to win as quickly as possible, life is something you have to be willing to give up.  I see a lot of people using this wrong.  They will draw 3 cards if they like all three and only draw one if they don’t like any.  If all three are bad, draw them all and get them out of the way.
Card Advantage: +0-2 per turn
Pacing: +0
Verdict: Keep

Fact Or Fiction – Here is a card that I can not say anything bad about.  FoF is very strong and worth the slot in the deck.  I am sure anyone who has played with it would agree.  My only complaint is that it isn’t a creature.  Animar runs best with as many creatures as possible, if only there was a creature that did the same thing . . .
Card Advantage: +0-4
Pacing: +0
Verdict: Keep
Possible Replacement: Sphinx of Uthuun or FoF sphinx as it is better known shows how powerful Animar is.  In any other deck, this would not be a consideration for a replacement.  However, if there is even a chance that I can cast FoF for {u}{u}, I am going to take it.  You only need to cast 3 creatures before this to make it the easiest swap out imaginable.

Kozilek, Butcher of TruthAncestral Visions, Brilliant Plan, Concentrate, Harmonize and Jace’s Ingentuity all do this for cheaper.  However, they are not game ending monsters and there is little chance you will be casting them for free later on.  The key is to get this out before they get 9 mana.
Card Advantage: +3(turn played) +4per attack
Pacing: +4 per turn
Verdict: Keep

Outliers
Forgotten Ancient – I have heard the reasoning on this a few times.  Basically you play this after you play Animar and transfer all the tokens to Animar each turn to help Animar to become big in no time at all.  The other card that works well with this is Woodfall Primus.  Moving a counter over would keep it alive for awhile.
Card Advantage: +0
Pacing: +1 per counter moved.
Verdict: Questionable
Possible Replacement: Nim Deathmantle is one of the best pieces of equipment to pair with Animar.  It turns Animar into a monoblack creature then gives him intimidate.  In case you forgot, because Animar, Soul of Elements has a lot of abilities, Animar is pro black.  Deathmantle makes it so that Animar can only be blocked by artifacts.

Simic Sky Swallower – Flying, Trample and Shroud are fine abilities, but we are spoiled in Commander.  We demand our creatures do more for us than be big and scary.  When was the last time anyone saw a Quilled Slagwurm even touch the table?
Card Advantage: +0
Pacing: +0
Verdict: Consider Removing (Seriously get it out of here)
Possible Replacement: Ashnod’s Altar is not a creature (obviously).  However, when you combine it with Woodfall Primus and Nim Deathmantle you win the game, and who doesn’t want to win the game?  In all seriousness, the Altar lets you turn your small creatures into resources for casting spells that really matter.  It also lets you kill your own creatures to prevent them from being stolen.

Regrowth – This spell is just Eternal Witness without a body, which does not provide the same utility or combo potential.  Recursion is good, but repeated recursion is better.
Card Advantage: +0
Pacing: +0
Verdict: Questionable
Possible Replacement: Genesis allows you to turn your two main sac outlets into another way to combo with Eternal Witness and Time Warp.  It also allows you to get a ton of advantage off of  Survival of the Fittest.

Conclusion
The lesson of the story is simply this: even in commander you can not simply ignore the mana cost and curve of your deck.  If you have been losing a lot lately or just feel like you aren’t doing anything relevant, even though you are playing good cards, you should take a look at the pace of your deck and see how it compares to decks like this that run Tooth and Nail.  Card Advantage and Pacing still do not make up every attribute you should look into when building you deck.  However, looking at both should let you make some major improvements to decks you already have constructed.  Keeping both in mind you should have much less dead draws in the future and have many more relevant plays.

I would like to thank Josh for subjecting his deck to inspection.  If anyone else would like to get deck advice or have your deck featured in an article, please email me at swordstoplow@gmail.com.  When you get a chance, check out the Gifts Given charity drive on the homepage.  It is a really good cause and I know I will be looking through my collection to see if there is anything else I can donate to the cause.

-STP
swordstoplow@gmail.com

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