Pet Project - Wild Pair

Wild Pair | Art by Lars Grant-West

Wild Thing, You Make My Heart Sing

Aggro has a relatively bad reputation in EDH (at least among Commander hipsters) as a strategy that not only lacks power, but also tends to be linear or even boring - players instead to favor grindy, value-driven strategies, EDHREC highlighting how themes like lifegain and Aristocrats are among the most popular in the format. Today, I want to try and change that reputation, by building around yet another six mana enchantment:

Time Spiral is easily one of my favorite blocks, and it's cards like Wild Pair that are the reason why - the block is full to the brim with whacky, out there designs that make for perfect build-arounds in EDH. And with so "tailor-made for Commander" this card seemed, I was absolutely certain it had been released in Conspiracy: Take the Crown until I came across its original Planar Chaos printing, embarrassingly late into the drafting of this article. Similar to Volo, Guide to Monsters, Wild Pair is a brewer's dream because it rewards intelligent deck building - but if our deck is built well enough, rather than rewarding us by doubling all our creatures like Volo does, Wild Pair allows us to play not just with the creatures in our hand, but with most of the creatures in our deck too.

The Smash, Smash Song

The gameplan of our deck is going to be fairly simple: play creatures, cheat other creatures into play from our deck, and stomp our opponents into oblivion. To get the most out of Wild Pair however, we want to not only be running lots of creatures, but lots of creatures with the same total power and toughness. That means there are a few otherwise staple cards that we won't even think about putting in our deck because of their lack of synergy - Birds of Paradise may be among the biggest staples in the format, seeing play in a quarter of green decks, but with so few other powerful threats having 1 total P/T it becomes a lot less impressive. Contrast that to the bevy of threats with combined P/T of 10, for instance.

But while having a Gisela bring along a Nyxbloom Ancient might be powerful, what's potentially even better are cards with outsized P/T for their mana costs.

EDHREC was an enormous help here. To find creatures with power and toughness far in excess of their mana cost, I looked through the pages of commanders that synergise with these cards, like Varolz, the Scar-Striped and Ghalta, Primal Hunger. Imagine playing a Phyrexian Dreadnought, then getting a Kozilek, Butcher of Truth out from your deck for only a single mana. Ideally, each combined P/T found on a creature will play will bring with it a wide range of creatures to fetch - not only big threats, but 'toolbox' creatures too, creatures with specific, niche functions, perfect to answer whatever problem needs solving at any given time in the game.

Crash Through

When thinking about which commander would synergize best with the deck I was building, one option stood out above all the rest. The only thing better than getting two creatures for the price of one is getting two creatures for the price of one and attacking with them immediately - so I chose as our general one of the best generic aggro commanders even printed:

Samut also comes along with perhaps the three colors whose identities are most rooted in the time-tested strategy of smashing face. When you're building around Wild Pair, you also want to be sure to take note of the combined P/T of every creature you play - and Samut just happens to have the exact same stats as some of the most powerful aggro creatures in EDH, such as the leader of Ravnica's greatest guild, Aurelia, the Warleader.

Perhaps the other best commander to play alongside Wild Pair is Saskia the Unyielding - indeed, Saskia commands 118 decks that feature Wild Pair, while Samut leads only a paltry 21. But while Saskia may grant access to another color, and have a more powerful effect in isolation, I really do value the haste granted by Samut, as by making our creatures speedy it leaves us much less vulnerable to board wipes.

Curious Pair

A lot of decks built around Wild Pair focus on one specific number for combined P/T, and only include creatures that fit that description. I instead decided to go for an approach which leads to more interesting, nonrepetitive gameplay; rather than one specific total P/T, I went for a few different ones. Including creatures with total P/T two, for instance, allows us to play some of the best creatures in the commander format, while opening our gameplan up to all sorts of crazy interactions.

Let's also talk about Solemn Simulacrum. With Wild Pair on the board, if we want to get rid of our opponent's Smothering Tithe we can grab our Skyclave Apparition; or if we'd rather put a threat out on the board, we can tutor up Tendershoot Dryad; or, if surviving a few more turns is all that matters, we can get Knight-Captain of Eos, and so on. Tutor out a Fauna Shaman and things enter a whole new level of versatility - our creatures already all act like tutors, but the Shaman suddenly means we can tutor for our tutors; we not only have to determine what the best creature to get is, but what creatures that creature can get.

Some of the best powerful cards in the deck, meanwhile, our those creatures that come into play but then bounce back into our hand.

Aside from energy and Elephant players - two themes with very little support in Commander - Greenbelt Rampager doesn't get a whole lot of love. But in this deck, it's ridiculous; for only three mana and a single card, we can get three powerful threats into play - say, for instance, an Aurelia, the Warleader, a Nobilis of War, and a Sunscorch Regent - along with the Elephant's admittedly unimpressive vanilla 3/4 body.

Contingency Plan

It's pretty easy, then, to put together some pretty sweet synergies once the Wild Pair is in play. But how can we guarantee we get the Pair in play? The inevitable problem with playing a hidden-commander style strategy is that your gameplan largely relies on drawing one card out of a hundred.

For a start, we'll be running just about every enchantment tutor we can find to get the enchantment into our hand, along with as much ramp as possible to guarantee we can get it into play as soon as possible once we've found it.

But equally as important as getting our hidden commander in play is making sure it sticks around. Perhaps the most important card in achieving this aim is Dowsing Shaman. While the Shaman might be slow, clunky and inefficient - so much so it barely cracks a thousand decks - it's a creature that we can fetch out of our deck once the Wild Pair is in play using our commander. Indeed, the fact Samut has flash means we can respond to an opponent's Disenchant by fetching the Dowsing Shaman from our deck, then grabbing our deck's lynchpin from our graveyard on our next turn.

But the good thing about this list is that for the most part it can still function even without our build-around on the battlefield. Playing Scourge of the Throne from our hand for six mana isn't quite as flashy as cheating it into play for half the cost by playing a Lovestruck Beast, but it can still win you games pretty easily.

Altogether, the deck comes together like this:

Commander (1)
Total PT 2 (12)
Total PT 3 (5)
Total PT 4 (15)
Total PT 5 (3)
Total PT 7 (7)
Total PT 10 (7)
Total PT 14 (4)
Total PT 24 (4)
Spells (3)
Enchantments (2)
Lands (36)

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Admittedly, we're a bit short of options when it comes to the 5 and 3 P/T slots - the reason I didn't cut these numbers all together is because the shortage of good tutors in these colors means we want to be playing everyone we can get, meaning Academy Rector and Moon-Blessed Cleric are essential includes, along with a few creatures they can fetch out if we play them once Wild Pair is already on the field.

Wrapping Up

Overall, this is a fantastic deck for anyone who just wants to try out a fun twist on the classic archetype of beating down with big monsters. That said, I would advise anyone playing a list like this one to get good at shuffling as this deck does a lot of tutoring.

Going all out Stompy, however, is by no means the only way of building around Wild Pair. A whole other route I've barely mentioned is to zoom in on combo. Searching through Commander Spellbook highlighted how, if we've got Wild Pair in play, plenty of creatures become one card combos - Aurelia fetching Rionya, Fire Dancer, for instance, enabling us to go infinite in multiple ways at once. Wild Pair is even part of several infinite combos itself - although they're all so ridiculously convoluted, not one of them sees play in a single deck on EDHREC.

That's all for this week's episode of Pet Project. Until next time.

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Since around M14, Magic has been taking up far too much of Martin's time, to the detriment of his wallet and his social life. When he isn't arguing mono-white is superior to all other color combinations in EDH, or claiming MTG peaked during original Kamigawa, he lives a (relatively) normal life as a student.

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