Conditions Allow – Tuktuk the Explorer

(Tuktuk the Explorer | Art by Volkan Baga)

Exploring the Possibilities

Most discussion about new possibilities in EDH comes with the release of new cards or the unbanning of old ones. Recently, though, the rules of the format changed, allowing commanders to die before being redirected to the command zone. Elenda, the Dusk Rose was the first card on everyone’s mind, but many people also dug through old cards to see if any other legendary creatures had suddenly gotten stronger thanks to this long-requested change in the rules. Throughout all this, I saw several jokes about Tuktuk the Explorer finally being good. Well, this is Conditions Allow, where I talk about legendary creatures with a downside and try to turn it into a strength, and I’m going to try and actually get this Goblin explorer off the ground.

Tuktuk the Explorer is a 1/1 Goblin for three mana. When he dies, you get to create Tuktuk the Returned, a 5/5 legendary Goblin Golem. You can think about Tuktuk as if he were a three-mana 5/5, which is a better rate than Hazoret the Fervent, and nearly as good as Rhonas the Indomitable, if you’re very generous. Sacrifice outlets are plentiful in Commander, so it shouldn’t be difficult to have Tuktuk the Returned on the field by turn four. Unfortunately, you can’t then recast Tuktuk and sacrifice him again for another token, because the tokens are legendary. The token also isn’t your commander, so it won’t contribute to commander damage, either.

My first thought is to try for an Aristocrats-style strategy, using Tuktuk the Explorer with Pandemonium and Warstorm Surge. Before committing to a strategy, though, let’s take a look at Tuktuk’s EDHREC page for any hidden gems or secret synergies that may help guide our brew.


Emerging Into the Unknown

Unfortunately, it looks like Tuktuk the Explorer isn’t popular enough to have much useful data. With only 10 decks to his name, most of the cards on his page are generic aggro or burn spells, from Monastery Swiftspear to Searing Spear. Interestingly, Squee, the Immortal, another apparently do-nothing three-mana Goblin, appears on this page. Squee has a much more useful page that could lead us towards a Goblin Tribal deck focusing on Equipment.

I also compared Tuktuk the Returned to Hazoret the Fervent earlier, so let’s also take a look at her page. She’s also a popular aggressive commander, but one card in particular on her page catches my eye.

Shifting Shadow is one of several Polymorph effects available in mono-red. Put this enchantment onto Tuktuk the Explorer, and on your upkeep you’ll get the top creature out of your library to pair with a 5/5 Tuktuk the Returned token. That could be a Goblin Chieftain or another lord to make Tuktuk more impactful, or Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre to end the game immediately.

From a flavor perspective, I like both of these options. Tuktuk the Explorer is transformed into a Golem by messing with a hedron buried deep underground, corrupted by Eldrazi magic. Changed into a powerful Golem, he becomes chieftain of his tribe. Morphing into an army of Goblins or into an Eldrazi monstrosity can both represent the life of Tuktuk after he’s transformed.

I’ll talk more about possible Polymorph payoffs in a moment. First, let’s go over the rest of the cards that can get us there in mono-red. Most, like Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast, don’t actually destroy the creature you control. It is exiled instead, so Tuktuk the Explorer won’t trigger and create Tuktuk the Returned. Indomitable Creativity is the only other card that destroys, and it can flip into a creature or an artifact, so you might get a Sol Ring, or you could find the Blightsteel Colossus you need to close out the game.


Playing Spelunky

The most consistent (and probably most powerful) way to build this deck is to ignore Indomitable Creativity and play a few powerful creatures. Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, Kozilek, Butcher of Truth, and Blightsteel Colossus are probably the best three creatures to play. They are all easy to get back into your library, and each can quickly end the game after hitting the field on turn four. But I do like the idea of building this deck as a little chaotic, more in line with Tuktuk the Explorer‘s story and character, more than aiming for power. There are better commanders for that. Plus, I want to make sure this deck gets some use out of Tuktuk the Returned.

First up, the various members of the Tuktuk Goblin tribe. I still want to keep this list of creatures as slim as I can, so the rank-and-file Goblins are made up of Hordeling Outburst and Krenko’s Command. To make these tokens more threatening, I’m including three lords that each grant +1/+1 to all Goblin creatures you control. Finally, Beetleback Chief brings in even more Goblin tokens for the potential to get some big damage in during the early game.

Next are the various trinkets and baubles to be found in the caverns of Zendikar. It’s only because he finds a powerful artifact that Tuktuk the Explorer becomes chieftain of his tribe, after all. Sword of Feast and Famine is notoriously powerful, ramping you while ensuring your opponents don’t have the resources to recover. And while the Tuktuk the Returned token doesn’t deal commander damage, five power is halfway to lethal with Infect. Grafted Exoskeleton is a great way to turn that token into a real threat, and can easily enable a one-hit kill with the other power buffs in the deck.

Finally, the real heavy hitters. Tampering with hedrons can have dire consequences, most usually unleashing eldritch horrors beyond mortal understanding. These are obviously powerful, but also have a couple of synergies of particular note here. Most importantly, they are easily shuffled back to the deck by being discarded with Thrill of Possibility or Wild Guess, and the same applies with Shifting Shadow. Every upkeep, Shifting Shadow pulls a new creature out of your deck, until you don’t have any left. But Kozilek, Butcher of Truth will refill your library, letting you re-start the loop from the beginning. Blightsteel Colossus won’t shuffle your whole graveyard back in, but it does ensure you always have a final creature to hit.


An Adventurer’s Pack

This deck may not seem like much of a threat during the first couple of turns, but your opponents won’t underestimate it in game two. You’re going to want a couple methods to survive until your gameplan comes together. Blood Moon and Ruination are great ways to punish players for greedy mana bases, although you may want to check that everyone is okay playing against mass land destruction. Stranglehold can dramatically slow down decks reliant on tutors, with the upside of punishing Green decks that rely on Rampant Growth and Cultivate to ramp.

It can be difficult to get anywhere if Divergent Transformations gets countered, so Pyroblast is a must. Reverberate and Fork can also either counter counterspells or copy an early ramp or draw spell to make sure you’re keeping up. Warping Wail can be a bit tricky to cast, but it’s a sneaky way to protect against most board wipes and other sorcery-speed removal. I’m also including a high number of board wipes to help slow down more aggressive token decks.

Of course, you won’t have to worry about board wipes and other aggressive decks if you can attack with your creatures immediately. Haste is vital for this style of deck, and it isn’t coming from Divergent Transformations or Reality Scramble. I chose to avoid Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots to keep the pool of artifacts in the deck small. This helps to keep Indomitable Creativity as consistent and impactful as possible, while still hitting all the notes we need to achieve victory.

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I don’t usually build around character or flavor for this series, so this deck was a fun creative exercise. It can pack a real punch, too, which shouldn’t be that surprising. Anything with the potential to put an Eldrazi Titan in play before turn five should be respected. I just wish that more of the Polymorph effects actually destroyed Tuktuk the Explorer to create Tuktuk the Returned more reliably.

How would you build Tuktuk the Explorer? And what commander, other than Elenda, the Dusk Rose, are you excited to play after the rule change? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

Ben was introduced to Magic during Seventh Edition and has played on and off ever since. A Simic mage at heart, he loves being given a problem to solve. When not shuffling cards, Ben can be found lost in a book or skiing in the mountains of Vermont.