Conditions Allow - Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist
(Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist | Art by Steven Belledin)
An Amphibious Assault
Hello, and welcome back to Conditions Allow, the article series where I take a commander with a drawback and turn it into a strength. This week I'm continuing with another new legend from Commander Legends: Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist. You may not believe that Eldritch amphibian-person hybrids are planning an invasion of the surface world, but Gor won't be dissuaded so easily.
Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist is an interesting commander. There are only 12 Salamanders in all of Magic, and five of those aren't green or blue. Unsurprisingly, then, the most popular cards in Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist decks on EDHREC let you change a creature's type. This can be used defensively, preventing opposing creatures from targeting or dealing damage to you and permanents you control, but it could also be used offensively, by stopping a player's creatures from being able to block your attackers. If you've ever played with, or against, Eight-and-a-Half Tails you'll know just how flexible granting protection is.
Unsurprisingly, then, Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist's EDHREC page is full of cards that pull him in different directions. The overall trend seems to be towards a political strategy, leaning on the Salamander tokens and other group hug effects to encourage other players to attack each other. No use in attacking you if you won't take damage, after all. Other cards suggest a Theft theme, using Legerdemain and Daring Thief to trade away your own Salamander tokens for your opponents' creatures. Finally, if we filter the results to show more expensive decks, we can see a much higher concentration of planeswalkers, as well as The Chain Veil.
I'm going to combine elements of all these strategies for this list, but focus mostly on supporting planeswalkers. This will allow us to get the most value out of the protection offered by Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist while still taking advantage of the flexibility of his effects.
Turned Into a Newt!
Preventing all damage sounds good, but it only works if our opponents are playing Salamander Tribal. Luckily, we can hire an Imagecrafter or engage in a little Unnatural Selection to tweak the local fauna in our favor.
Blue actually has a fair few effects that change a creature's type temporarily. The most useful of these is Unnatural Selection. For a single mana of any color, Unnatural Selection lets us turn any creature into a Salamander until end of turn. It's cheap, coming down as early as turn two, and only requires a single generic mana to activate. With all the ramp available in Simic, we should easily be able to play out planeswalkers and have mana left over to activate Unnatural Selection. Mistform Mutant is a more expensive alternative, although both will struggle to cover a wide board of tokens.
For shapeshifting a lot of tokens, there's no better card than Standardize. This two-mana instant affects every single creature in play, so you can deal with that pesky token deck your friend keeps playing. It also means you can put it under an Isochron Scepter to repeat that trick every turn. Scepter was just reprinted, too, so now is a great time to pick one up. While you do, consider Narset's Reversal as well. Not only is it a flavor win for a Superfriends deck, it's really good with Isochron Scepter too. Cast any instant or sorcery in your deck, say, Standardize, and you can respond with Isochron Scepter to target your own spell with Narset's Reversal to copy it, while putting the original back in your hand.
As great as that interaction is, we can still only do it once per turn cycle. Unless, of course, we can always have our creatures, artifacts, and lands untapped. Seedborn Muse is the card that will allow us to Standardize every turn, and use Imagecrafter, and ensure that we never run out of mana for Unnatural Selection. Another vital card for this deck is going to be Wilderness Reclamation. While not as powerful as Seedborn Muse, Reclamation lets us cast spells on our turn while holding up answers for what our opponents are doing.
This is a control deck at heart, with planeswalkers serving as both advantage engines and powerful finishers. Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist also creates 4/3 Salamander tokens, so any planeswalkers that synergize with tokens are worth considering as well.
First, though: card advantage. Blue planeswalkers provide this in a very straightforward way, either by simply drawing cards, like Jace, Memory Adept, or by taking advantage of Salamander tokens, like Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner. Jace, Cunning Castaway also fits here, letting you loot whenever a creature you control deals combat damage. Remember, if we make our opponents' creatures into Salamanders with Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist in play, all our creatures are effectively unblockable.
Some of our 'walkers also help to generate mana, as well, which is especially valuable if we don't have Seedborn Muse or Wilderness Reclamation in play. It also plays nicely with land Auras, such as Utopia Sprawl and Fertile Ground. A few of these untap effects, such as Nissa, Vital Force, also animate our lands into fairly sizeable creatures. This could give us enough damage to finish the game, but is also a risky tactic if your playgroup favors instant-speed board wipes.
A much safer path is to rely on tokens. The tokens provided by Ugin, the Ineffable in particular are useful, since they effectively draw us a card when they die. With enough tokens in play, Nissa, Voice of Zendikar can provide a ton of extra power, and the anthem from Vivien Reid's ultimate should win the game. It also makes animating our lands with Nissa, Who Shakes the World and Nissa, Worldwaker much safer. I'm also going to include Legerdemain in case the opportunity arises to trade a 0/1 Plant for something more powerful.
If you'd rather not rely purely on combat damage to win, we can generate infinite planeswalker activations with The Chain Veil. By repeatedly untapping both The Chain Veil and Chromatic Orrery with Tezzeret the Seeker's plus one ability, you can activate each other planeswalker's ability as many times as you want. That could be using Ugin, the Spirit Dragon to Lightning Bolt everything to smithereens, Jace, Memory Adept to mill everyone out, or Garruk, Unleashed to pump your team up and lead a lethal attack.
For Your Consideration
The final piece of this amphibian puzzle are a few cards to make sure Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist is doing more for us than our opponents. The 4/3 Salamander tokens he creates only go out to each player with the least creatures, so the extra tokens created by our planeswalkers could get in the way. Unless, of course, they slip behind Teferi's Veil. By attacking with our tokens, we can make them phase out after combat so we have as few creatures as possible to keep digging up more and more Salamanders. This effect usually comes with the risk of being vulnerable to retaliatory attacks, but Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist will protect us even with our creatures temporarily gone.
The final two cards I want to highlight are Arcane Lighthouse and Detection Tower. Our most important effects, Unnatural Selection and Amoeboid Changeling, need to target a creature. These two lands ensure a Swiftfoot Boots doesn't ruin our plans. Rounding out the list with some Counterspells and some ramp gives us this finished list.
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer
Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist is an interesting commander that I don't think we've fully figured out yet. He always has the potential to pick up any future Salamanders that get printed, but I think he has great potential in the Superfriends archetype. Having two extra opponents who will be attacking your planeswalkers makes them much more fragile in Commander than they are in other formats. Gor Muldrak answers that problem perfectly, in his own unique way.
But I want to know what you think! What cards have stood out for you with Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist? What cards didn't work as well as you expected? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading.