Challenge the Stats – Mina and Denn, Wild-Lands
(Mina and Denn, Wildborn | Art by Izzy | Radha, Heart of Keld | Art by Chris Rahn)
Hello, and welcome to Challenge the Stats, the series based off of the segment on the EDHRECast, where we challenge the rates of 10 cards on a commander’s page on EDHREC. We’ll highlight cards that we think are overplayed, underplayed, or sleeper picks (according to our data).
These suggestions are meant to accompany EDHREC’s data. However, inclusions made on account of flavor, budget, art, or anything important to you, as the deckbrewer, are always valid and are what keep our format unique.
The curse of writing an article series called Challenge the Stats is that I can never write about new commanders! We need existing stats to challenge!
However, we have a commander that was just released in Core 2021 that could be an instant-swap as the head of an existing commander deck.
So I'm going to challenge Mina and Denn, Wildborn, but also consider these challenges for the new Core 2021 commander: Radha, Heart of Keld. If you're itching to hear more about Radha, check out this video by Jumbo Commander.
Mina and Denn are just barely pushing 300 decks at the time of writing, but Lands decks are very popular, as we can see from Lord Windgrace, who claims almost 2,600 Lands decks by himself.
So, why would we play Mina and Denn over Lord Windgrace?
As anyone who has played Windgrace or played against Windgrace knows, he is a removal magnet. He gives the player so much land and card advantage that he spirals out of control. Mina and Denn are less threatening, so we have the potential of getting more out of them. They aren't worth our opponents removing, but they still have a powerful effect. We'll get more value out of a weaker commander than a dead commander.
Let's compare Mina and Denn to Radha. The two commanders split the abilities on Oracle of Mul Daya, each offering different advantages. Mina and Denn allow us an additional land drop each turn. This will enable us to dump all the lands out of our hand quickly, or save up to drop two at once with a Landfall payoff on the table. This isn't card advantage, but it's land advantage – if we have the lands in our hand. Radha, on the other hand, lets us play lands off the top of our library. This is card advantage, since playing a land off the top essentially draws us that card. What do you think? Will Radha offer a better option for our Gruul Lands deck than Mina and Denn?
A brief nitpicky aside: let's talk about the difference on EDHREC between Lands and Landfall themes. The site classifies a deck as a Lands theme if it has a critical mass of cards that care about lands. It classifies a deck as Landfall theme if it has a critical mass of cards with the keyword Landfall. There is a lot of overlap between these two themes, so let's just challenge all of the 326 Mina and Denn decks at the time of writing.
1. Sol Ring (55%)
Wait what? Did I just read that right?
Yep, you heard it here folks. I'm challenging Sol Ring. Hear me out.
I play Sol Ring in every single other deck besides a Landfall deck. What we're looking for here is synergy. Sol Ring doesn't trigger any Landfall effects or increase our land count. We won't be hurting for mana, but what we do want is another land on the battlefield.
A ramp spell gets us more value than just a land. A land can also give us a 4/4 Beast with Rampaging Baloths or a 5/5 Elemental with Omnath, Locus of Rage. It's a Clue token with Tireless Tracker. It Increases the power of Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar and Rubblehulk. There's so much more potential for extra value out of a land than a Sol Ring. This is even more true for Gruul Signet (25%) and Arcane Signet (6%). Get them out of our deck, like, yesterday.
2. Splendid Reclamation - 41%
The first thing we need to figure out is how much our deck cares about the graveyar? We will naturally be tossing fetchlands away, so those will be great to recycle and use again. It's important to remember that we're not playing Lord Windgrace, where he helps us churn lands between our hand, our graveyard, and the battlefield. Our lands in the yard will be more incidental unless we intentionally lean towards that strategy. This may also depend on our budget, as a deck with more fetchlands will naturally do better with more graveyard synergy.
We might want to include one or two recursion pieces if we aren't going full graveyard sub-theme, but too many could detract from our main plan. For general recursion, Skullwinder(2%) and Eternal Witness (34%) are great to get us anything back, and Creeping Renaissance (9%) could be a nice flexible recursion spell (budget-friendly to boot!).
I know, the dream is to Splendid Reclamation after a Scapeshift (25%) for 20 Landfall triggers, but we can't count on seeing those two cards in the same game. In the same vein, I'd be hesitant to include Realms Uncharted (10%), The Mending of Dominaria (24%), and World Shaper (26%) without going heavy on the graveyard theme. One of them might do, but not all three.
On the other hand, I do think that Ramunap Excavator (61%) and Crucible of Worlds (35%) can pull their weight if we have enough fetchlands in our deck. They will help with the problem of running out of lands in our hand that Mina and Denn often struggle with.
3. Lotus Cobra (31%)
We can be picky about our Landfall cards because we have so many great options to choose from. Lotus Cobra is good, but it's currently expensive ($), and the impact that it has on the game is not worth that price tag. I like that it helps us play our commander on turn three, but there are plenty of other cards that do that for less than a dollar and get us a land in play. Lotus Cobra does have the potential to have a huge burst of ramp later in the game if we hit a Boundless Realms (19%), but aren't we already winning if we pull that off?
I see a few other Landfall cards on Mina and Denn's page that aren't the crunchiest chips in the bag, including Seer's Sundial (43%), Baloth Woodcrasher (24%), Grazing Gladehart (24%), Grove Rumbler (19%), and others. Let's be critical of our cards–just because they say Landfall doesn't mean that they automatically deserve a slot.
4. Solemn Simulacrum (13%)
Okay folks, let's not be so addicted to value that we feel like we should put Sad Robot into our green deck. We are running ramp out the wazoo, and we should have much more powerful card draw. For example, even a generic Harmonize (40%) at four mana, with Mina and Denn out, means we'll probably ramp an extra land into play in addition to drawing 3 cards. If we want a body with it, let's go with Courser of Kruphix (57%), which can effectively draw us a card and ramp up if we hit our second land off the top. Tireless Tracker (44%) is currently the same price ($) as Solemn Simulacrum and can draw us tons of cards while getting monstrous.
To be honest, we want our ramp at two mana so we can get out Mina and Denn a turn early. Granted, we probably also want our Cultivates (63%) because it's effectively an Explosive Vegetation (28%) for three mana, but we can afford to have both our cheap ramp and expensive ramp in this deck. You'll have to play around with it and see how you like your ramp to fit into your mana curve, but I'd recommend having enough cheap mana ramp to get Mina and Denn out consistently on turn three. The same goes for Radha. Although we can't get her out a turn early with two-mana ramp, our deck doesn't have a lot to do on turn two besides ramp and we don't want to sit around and do nothing.
5. Colossal Majesty (13%)
This is a great source of repeatable card draw, especially since our commander fits the power requirements. Even if we don't have them out, we have plenty of other big creatures to make sure that we're always drawing with Colossal Majesty. The new Garruk's Uprising is another great card that draws when powerful creatures enter our battlefield, and it has the important effect of giving all of our creatures trample. I wouldn't use those cards for Radha, however. Instead, lean toward cards that let us choose when we draw so that we can try to hit more lands off of the top of our library, like Vivien Reid (2%), Chandra, Fire Artisan (0%), or Sylvan Library (20%).
What we really like in Mina and Denn is using their power (or other creatures' power) to draw us a new handful of lands to play out. The dream sequence is to play Rampant Growth into Mina and Denn into a Return of the Wildspeaker or Rishkar's Expertise. That strong start will get our train rolling out of the station like a mag-lev while our opponents are still in the steam age.
I'd like to add to this repertoire Garruk, Primal Hunter (10%). This recently reprinted version of Garruk is another card that draws cards equal to our greatest power creature. Think of it as a sorcery that has this effect with an alternate mode that, if we don't need the card draw right away, gives us a planeswalker that sticks around and is even a potential win-condition with his ultimate. Hang on, I just talked about Garruk more than Colossal Majesty... well, I guess this is a two-for-one, and what Magic player doesn't love one of those?
6. Snow-Covered Lands - 10%
Snow-Covered Forests and Mountainss are only being played in 9% and 10% of decks, respectively. They fulfill a couple of important functions for us. The first is helping to turn our Field of the Dead online. If we replace half of our Forests and Mountains with Snow-Covered ones, we'll be more likely to fulfill the requirement of seven lands with different names. Secondly, snow lands also give us access to another cheap ramp spell: Into the North (2%).
Field of the Dead is a powerful land that basically has Landfall that can build us a substantial board state and even be a win-condition. It's in less than 30% of decks on Mina and Denn's page, so if you're looking to upgrade your Lands deck, Field of the Dead is a great inclusion.
With the recent reprinting in Modern Horizons, we can replace a handful of our lands with snow versions for just a couple of bucks.
7. Cindervines (10%)
I'm a proponent of on-board removal. Often, it gives us more value than we put into it. It's going to do one of two things: either our opponents will delay playing their powerful artifacts and enchantments because we'll blow it up, effectively "removing" those threats, or they'll be forced to use their removal on it, which isn't a bad deal since it only cost us two mana! On top of that, we can respond to removal by activating Cindervines so we'll still get to blow something up. I also really like the incidental damage that it provides since we're an aggressive deck looking to win by combat damage.
8. Runic Armasaur (8%)
This deck is hungry for card draw! We can usually dump our lands out faster than we can draw them. Runic Armasaur is a wholly underrated card that has the potential to draw us bundles. It's in only about 6,700 decks on EDHREC.
Let's compare that to other popular three-mana cards that give us repeatable card draw: Rhystic Study is in almost 54,000 decks, and Phyrexian Arena is in nearly 39,000 decks total. Blue and black have access to better overall card draw options than green, and I'd expect Runic Armasaur to see as many slots in green decks as these.
Runic Armasaur is dependent on what our opponents are doing, but we'll often draw oodles of cards off of this cute dino. The Armasaur will draw us a card every time our opponents crack a fetchland, use common utility cards like Weathered Wayfarer or Endbringer, and whenever they activate a popular commander like Kenrith, the Returned King, Golos, Tireless Pilgrim, or Thrasios, Triton Hero.
9. Broken Fall (0%)
Just like I'm a fan of on-board removal, I also like on-board protection. Our opponents will be disincentivized to target our creatures because they know that we can regenerate any one we want. This could sway our opponents to direct their removal elsewhere. Broken Fall also returns to our hand, allowing us to use it over and over again. It also protects itself if an opponent tries to remove the Broken Fall directly or plays a board wipe that hits enchantments.
10. Realm Seekers (4%)
This underplayed card out of Conspiracy finds a perfect home in our Mina and Denn deck. Close your eyes and picture how many cards everyone typically has in their hands. Let's conservatively say that each player has four cards in hand. Realm Seekers comes in as a 16/16! That's not too scary because it doesn't have trample. If only we had an easy way to give this big Elf trample... oh, wait, our commander gives any creature trample! Realm Seekers will certainly be smashing in for tons of damage.
The thing that seals the deal for me on Realm Seekers is the activated ability to fetch any land from our library and put it into our hand. We are always going to be hungry for more lands to put into play. We might even have a Wayward Swordtooth or Oracle of Mul Daya on the battlefield and be able to drop three or four lands per turn! Realm Seekers is a great mana sink to put all of that extra mana for more land drops and Landfall triggers.
11. BONUS CHALLENGE - Diligent Farmhand (0%)
I got carried away, so y'all get an extra challenge this week! There are several cards like the Farmhand, including Font of Fertility (0%) and Wayfarer's Bauble (2%). These aren't the most efficient ramp that we have access to in green, but they do two things for us. First of all, we like the ramp on turn two. Second of all, they give us utility later in the game by allowing us to trigger Landfall at instant speed. This allows us to engage in some trickery, such as playing combat tricks by putting out an unexpected blocker or holding up mana for a removal spell. With the exception of Wayfarer's Bauble (thanks, Mitch), these cards are very cheap ($) at the moment and a great inclusion for us.
Let's go to a decklist!
Mina, Myself, and I-Radha
Thanks for reading y'all! I hope you enjoyed this challenge of Mina and Denn, Wildborn and a pseudo-challenge of Radha, Heart of Keld. Let me know what you think of these challenges and these commanders in the comments! You can find me on twitter @jevin_mtg, or you can see me rant about non-Magic things on Medium.