Commander Showdown - Mogis vs Klothys
(Mogis, God of Slaughter by Peter Mohrbacher | Klothys, God of Destiny by Magali Villeneuve)
The plane of Theros has delivered some of the most enrapturing and resonant designs in all of Magic: the Gathering. The Pantheon of Gods showcases brilliant and deeply evocative characters and concepts. From Erebos, God of the Dead's bleak, muted resignation to Purphoros, God of the Forge's wild, destructive creativity, it was not difficult to imagine a world populated by these deities, and it was great fun to determine which God most deserved your devotion.
However, there are two Gods whose abilities seem a little mismatched with their titles: Mogis, God of Slaughter and Klothys, God of Destiny.
Mogis and Klothys have pretty grandiose titles, but possess some relatively minor abilities. Maybe I'm crazy, but a Gruul Deathrite Shaman doesn't really evoke the concept of 'destiny' all that well to me. Even Mogis, ruler of wartime atrocities, is more like the ruler of papercuts and knee scrapes, dishing out tiny bits of damage at a time.
However, that subtlety is exactly what makes these commanders so potent. Mogis is famous for being a 'punisher' or 'Group Slug' commander, whittling the table away by dealing damage to other players for every action they take. Klothys seems primed to take up exactly that mantle, eliminating her opponents with death by a thousand cuts.
If you're looking for a Punisher deck, which God best suits your needs? How does the Group Slug archetype change when black is replaced with green? Let's find out on this week's Commander Showdown!
Can't Spell 'Slaughter' Without 'Laughter'
Let's start with Mogis, God of Slaughter. Rakdos is full to the brim with punishing enchantments, all of which make Mogis extremely happy.
From Painful Quandary and Fate Unraveler to Havoc Festival and Zo-Zu the Punisher, there is no shortage of terrific cards to drain your enemies dry. Several new cards from 2019 have indeed only made Mogis even more deadly. Captive Audience is hilarious, for example, and Torbran, Thane of Red Fell is so good when paired with Pyrohemia and Manabarbs that it frankly hurts my soul to write about them!
There's a pretty big downside to this strategy, however, one that Nekusar, the Mindrazer players have been grappling with for years, too: hurting the whole table makes everyone... kinda hate you.
A player with tons of creatures in play will look threatening, but if they're attacking Player A, Players B and C might not bother wiping their board, because the aggression is directed elsewhere. This isn't the case for Mogis. Mogis hurts everyone indiscriminately, which means he doesn't make any specific enemies - he makes all of them. Perpetual damage annoys the table and makes Mogis an easy mark, and since his enchantments are pretty high-cost and a little clunky, it often means he has trouble defending himself against this sort of aggression. So what's Mogis to do?
The way I see it, there are three main avenues. The first is one that I feel obliged to discuss, but which I wouldn't personally employ: mass land destruction. Jokulhaups, Impending Disaster, that whole deal. Mogis, along with so many of his enchantments, represents a ticking clock on the game. Given enough time, they'll eventually deal lethal damage. If everyone's resources are destroyed and no one can play spells, Mogis will slowly dish out damage while everyone hopes to topdeck some lands. You can use Winter Orb and Smoke effects to make things even more prickly.
The problem with this, of course, is that it's... yucky. It works, and land destruction is indeed one of the best foils to green's ramp strategies in Commander. But bleeding out to a tiny damage trickle over the course of fourteen turns where no one can do anything is, to put it charitably, not what most of us find fun.
That leaves two other solutions for Mogis: removal, and damage bursts. Removal, like Toxic Deluge and Deadly Tempest, will keep the board free of aggressors. This helps Mogis stay safe from big attacks and also ensures no one has any creatures to sacrifice if they wish to avoid his daily Shocks. Damage bursts, on the other hand, are necessary for Mogis to close the door before enemies get too annoyed. His enchantments are very gradual, so a Price of Progress to deal ten damage out of nowhere will rapidly speed up the clock in ways that opponents won't be prepared for, and will make it much harder to deal with Mogis properly.
Let's take a look at a Mogis decklist and see if these abilities are balanced out enough to keep Mogis alive and kicking:
The PunisherView on Archidekt
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I think one of my favorite facets of Mogis's deck is the restriction on lifegain that so many of his cards can put in place. Sulfuric Vortex and Rampaging Ferocidon are just two examples, and they help ensure no opponent will ever gain too much life to rise out of Mogis's lethal reach.
Rampaging Ferocidon also demonstrates another fascinating aspect to the punisher archetype - it tends to shut down unsuspecting strategies. Someone who likes making tokens isn't going to like Ferocidon very much, for example. Ankh of Mishra and other such cards really hose Landfall decks. Spellshock can really make an Izzet player shake in their boots. A clever Mogis player can lean even further into these silver bullet cards to keep everyone from escalating too quickly, keeping them in constant check for Mogis to deal them constant damage.
There are a few other special cards I'd like to mention for Mogis, but we'll have to get to those later. For now, we have another God who's just returned to her disciples, so let's see what she's up to.
The Emperor's New Klothys
Klothys, God of Destiny is a tough nut to crack. For one thing, the necromancer player in me is mad at her for exiling my precious cards and gaining benefit from it. On a more serious note, though, trading black for green deprives Klothys of some of the best Group Slug cards in the game. No more Painful Quandary or Polluted Bonds, for example.
Additionally, we're actually not even comparing Klothys to just Mogis, God of Slaughter. We also have to consider other 'punisher' commanders already available to red and green, such as Ruric Thar, the Unbowed (a commander we discussed in a prior Showdown), a card that here would work directly against the enchantments we want to cast.
The other important detail to note here is that many of the punishing red enchantments Klothys could use may actually end up backfiring on her. We're in green, which means we'll have a lot of mana. Manabarbs or Zo-Zu, the Punisher are likely to hurt us just as much as others, maybe even a little more!
This puts us in a tricky conundrum. How do we load the deck full of punishing cards without hurting ourselves too much in the process, and all without the help of several classic Group Slug cards?
Well, I think I found a neat potential answer.
First, green loves enchantments. Verduran Enchantress, Argothian Enchantress, the new Setessan Champion, each of these will trigger whenever we play one of our painful enchantments, an ability that hopefully makes Mogis a little jealous. This will help us find more fuel to add to the fire, and also makes some enchantment-based removal (like Lignify and Song of the Dryads) even better than they already are.
Second, green loves tokens! Hornet Queen and Tendershoot Dryad can make a ton of excellent blockers to help stymie any aggression that comes our way. Not only that, but cards like Impact Tremors, Purphoros, God of the Forge, and Vicious Shadows will make them even more painful on the way in and the way out!
Finally, green likes mana. Rather than fear the Manabarbs, we're leaning all the way into the big-mana cards, from Zendikar Resurgent to the new Nyxbloom Ancient. With all our mana, a single Earthquake or Squall Line could be more than lethal.
Let's see what it looks like in a full list.
God of Destiny (Not the Video Game)View on Archidekt
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It looks at first like the deck components don't mesh very well; Pyrohemia takes out our tokens, after all, and Earthquake and Squall Line do totally opposite things. There's actually a pretty great utility to these 'opposite' effects, though; it means we can either dominate the board with bodies, or, when ours go away, we can strip the field of everyone else's. Oh, and one more thing I'd be remiss not to mention: Vigor works really, really well with tons of tokens and tons of red damage effects.
I also want to shout out one of the best Gruul cards from 2019: Cindervines. I know Rhythm of the Wild took all our attention, but Cindervines is just darn good in any deck that can play it. It's punishment, a rattlesnake, and removal all in one.
God vs God
Mogis, God of Slaughter is a tried-and-true classic of the genre. As soon as he's announced as a commander, the game immediately gets a timer. The trick for him is to calculate precisely how quickly that timer will tick down - too fast, and he'll draw the ire of every other player. Too slow, and he'll sputter out before he can make an impact. Like the card Pestilence, Mogis has to carefully meter the damage output to keep ahead of his enemies and defend himself from deadly creatures, without ultimately becoming his own demise. Sometimes, though, a quick burst of pain will be more than enough to close things out.
Meanwhile, Klothys, God of Destiny's brand of punishment is forced to be more committal. Where Mogis defines himself by a distinct lack of creatures, Klothys must arrange her mechanics around them. Where Mogis is free to use punisher cards that attack specific behaviors or that deal damage in broader strokes, Klothys must instead select hers carefully, designing her damage output based on a more specific acknowledgement of what she herself will bring to the table. Primal Order will punish all players, after all, but if a Klothys deck has designed their mana base to contain more basic lands than other players, this 'symmetrical' effect won't be that symmetrical at all.
Cards to Consider
I like to leave off with a few special gems each of these commanders may enjoy, and which I hope you'll enjoy too!
- Delirium: And its friend Backlash. These kill people, y'all. I've never once been unimpressed by this card. It's protection and damage all in one.
- Bloodthirsty Blade: What's the biggest creature your opponent refuses to sacrifice to Mogis? Well, it's not a problem anymore.
- Price of Progress: I mentioned this up above, but I'll reiterate it here. 11% popularity in Mogis decks is far too little. This card ends games.
- Spreading Plague: Go ahead, play creatures!
- Incite Rebellion: Tokens got you down? Well, this is one way to turn your opponent's best path to victory into their own downfall.
- Vicious Shadows: My take on Klothys may end up being more niche, but I still think this is one of the better enchantments that deserves her attention. Green likes creatures, and red likes killing them.
- Ghost Quarter: And its buddy Tectonic Edge. The Quarter is in only 19% of Klothys decks so far, and Tectonic Edge isn't on her page at all. This is criminal! Offing people's Cabal Coffers is extremely important in Commander, and Klothys can even refund you the mana by exiling the land you destroy. Don't let other people have good lands!
- Ezuri's Predation: Massively underrated board wipe, this. Takes you from zero to sixty in no time flat.
- Hornet Queen: A card I don't see played nearly enough in green decks. People just cannot attack you after you play this thing. Oh, and if you have a Warstorm Surge in play? That's value.
- Ash Barrens: I usually advise folks to avoid Terramorphic Expanse and Evolving Wilds in two-color decks; if you don't care much about Landfall, you could just play a Gruul Guildgate and you'd still have a tapped land, but one that gets both of your colors. Klothys is different, though. Klothys likes the ability to get an extra mana if she needs it. Ash Barrens is one of the best versions of this effect, so it definitely deserves her attention.
Their Destiny is to be Slaughtered!
When I first laid eyes on Mogis, God of Slaughter, I thought it would be a pretty bad commander. The damage is so slow, the play pattern so predictable, I just didn't give it the time of day. Then I played against it, and it immediately proved me wrong. Mogis is a fiend, and while the 'slaughter' isn't some bombastic, extravagant ability like I had expected, it's still extremely deadly, and players who take it for granted - like I did - are sure to die a slow, miserable death at his hands.
I fully expect Klothys, God of Destiny to turn out the same way. As much as I gripe about whether her ability evokes the concept of destiny or not, she's the fifth most popular commander out of the 27 legends from Theros Beyond Death. She seems to have a good idea what her fate is supposed to be, and a pretty good idea about the fate of those who dare oppose her, too.
So, which of these punishing commanders is right for you? How best do you like to administer death by a thousand cuts?
Oh, and which matchup would you like to see on the next Commander Showdown?
Til next time!