Forgotten Harvest - Zedruu Land Grant
(Zedruu the Greathearted | Art by Mark Zug)
The Gift That Keeps on Giving!
Welcome back, friends, to another Forgotten Harvest, where we build decks around cards that see play in less than 300 decks here on EDHREC! As with all of my past articles, I'll be digging into some hyper-underplayed cards to find new and interesting additions to the 99. This time, I'll be having a look at a Group Hug deck captained by the queen of the archetype, Zedruu the Greathearted.
Unlike in your typical Zedruu deck, this version will be focused almost entirely on giving your opponents your lands. This is going to sound a little resource-intensive at first, but please bear with me. Given the cards that appear in the deck, keeping your land count to a minimum is going to play to your advantage, big time! I've bolstered the deck with a larger-than-normal number of mana rocks, specifically ones that make colored mana, to help offset this crazy strategy. Plus I've tried to keep the curve from scaling too high to further that cause. So why all this fuss so we can give our opponents our lands? Two words:
This deck is going to make having lands in play hurt! Case in point, the classic Karma, seeing play in only 156 decks. While this is going to hose black decks, we're going to have to jump through more hoops to make it viable against other colors. The easiest of those hoops is Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth - a card which does not contain any black mana symbol in its rules text and can therefore be played in our Jeskai deck - which turns all lands into Swamps. As you start shedding your lands, giving them to your opponents, they're taking more and more damage from Karma. Meanwhile, Zedruu helps to keep you alive, giving you back life (and bonus cards) with each land donated.
Scald (23 decks) is basically a second Karma, except it cares about Islands, and deals damage when they're tapped. Again, we have a great Island-maker in the form of Quicksilver Fountain to transform opponents' lands when donation alone isn't enough. You'll inevitably wind up taking some damage from Scald, but Zedruu's lifegain is there to help.
Another option for lifegain is Sanctimony. Gaining life off of tapped Mountains can help keep you in the game, and along with Zedruu's lifegain, could lead to a Test of Endurance victory. Currently, Sanctimony only sees play in 17 decks on EDHREC. And, just as above, we can rely on a card to help turn lands into Mountains: the classic Blood Moon.
Sometimes only being able to hose one specific land type at a time could hold the deck back. But a card like Magical Hack, in only 17 decklists, adds versatility to the cards discussed above. Imagine being able to permanently alter Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth to make the table a sea of Islands, or flipping Karma over to damage based on the numbers of Forests. There are several iterations of this ability, and I encourage the deckbuilder to balance the number of Hacks for their version of the deck.
While its ability seems insignificant, Reef Shaman is a real hero in this deck. It's capable of quick-changing a land to get that extra point of damage from Karma, allow a landwalker to get past any blockers, or providing color fixing for you when resources are limited. It's only played in 147 decks, but it's one of my favorite underplayed one-drops right now.
Finally, I should mention the card Realmwright. While it's not technically hyper underplayed, coming in 29 decks above my super-scientific threshold, this card is an excellent second copy of Urborg, Blood Moon, or Quicksilver Fountain. It's one of the first cards I threw into the deck, and I think it's worth highlighting.
Landwalk This Way
Since we're busy giving our opponents all our lands, it makes sense to throw some landwalkers into our deck as well. I'll be fairly brief on these cards, as they're nothing more than the best creatures that I could find for a reasonable mana cost. I will say that Vug Lizard has the honor of being the first card I've talked about on Forgotten Harvest that only sees play in 1 whole deck on EDHREC. Mountain Yeti isn't much better at 5 decks, and Volcanic Strength sees play in 100.
Similarly, I also looked for landwalkers that had abilities which helped feed into what Zedruu Land Grant is trying to do. Graceful Antelope (18 decks) transforms opposing lands upon connection, while Merfolk Seastalkers and Sand Squid (32 and 68 decks, respectively) help to keep opposing creatures from swinging in. Should you feel disappointed in my landwalker decisions here, feel free to play that Zodiac Goat that you've been dying to sleeve up! These slots are fairly flexible, so long as they can landwalk.
Must-Have Gifts This Season
Finally, I included some nonland gifts available for donation that are worth noting. First on the list is the inspiration for this deck: Alpine Guide. While this card is still a new release, it's only registering in 13 decks on EDHREC (and I don't know if that number will go much higher, to be honest). I like the idea of getting the initial land fetch as it enters the battlefield, making a few safe attacks with it, then donating it to an opponent so they can deal with sacrificing a Mountain. This card pairs really well with Reef Shaman, by the way.
Previously seeing play in my controversial God-Eternal Kefnet deck Splicey Meatballs, Shifting Borders provides some great redundancy for our commander's ability, plus its trade allows you access to an opponent's land at instant speed. It only sees play in 294 decks right now, but I prefer it over Vedalken Plotter (828 decks), which does the same thing, only slower.
One of the pieces of tech I went looking for was some way to restrict my opponents' access to their own lands. How could I force them to use the lands I'm giving them? Aggressive Mining looked like a great option, except it already sees too much love in 624 decks. Instead, I went for the underplayed option of Countryside Crusher (199 decks). Yes, I'm giving my opponent a potentially gigantic creature, but I also have the option of using the Crusher myself. Zedruu's extra draw would still allow me access to lands if I needed them.
One of my many unpopular opinions is that Phasing is a wonderful mechanic and should be brought back in Standard in the near future. While I'm dreaming of that, though, I'll have to settle for using Taniwha in this deck. This big ol' sea monster from Mirage sees play in only 116 decks, and is a great option on either side of the board. We can use it to pop lands out of play to avoid Karma while gaining a big 7/7 trampler, or we can give it to an opponent to further confuse their mana base. Zedruu should keep our life total high enough to survive Taniwha's wrath.
A staple of mine for control decks that run Crucible of Worlds, Halls of Mist helps to add to the shell typical of a Zedruu build. Included in only 93 decks on EDHREC, the Halls can be a political card in our Zedruu deck. When it becomes more valuable to other players, it's easily given away. Meanwhile Scald continues to do its thing as that player pays the Cumulative Upkeep on the card.
Lastly, Despotic Scepter has become an auto-include for me any time I build Zedruu. It's a great "whoopsie" button I can press when I've accidentally given a gift that desperately needs to be returned. It only sees play in 58 decks, but I highly recommend it for this kind of Group Hug/Group Slug deck.
Let's take a look at the whole deck:
Zedruu Land Grant
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That about does it for this edition of Forgotten Harvest. I hope you enjoyed this interesting take on Zedruu the Greathearted. Let me have your questions, comments, and snide remarks in the section below. I'll be there to defend the beautiful keyword that is Phasing, as well as answer for my strategy where I dare mess with someone's lands during a game of EDH. What are your unique ways of playing Group Hug/Slug? Are there any other hyper underplayed cards (300 decks or less) that work well with Zedruu? And the question from last week still stands: what are some commanders that haven't yet found their home in an archetype? See you all next time!