Recross the Paths - Lord Windgrace

(Lord Windgrace| Art by Bram Sels)

Welcome to ElementaLand!

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Recross the Paths, a series that helps commanders to be seen under a new light.

Today I'll be talking about Lord Windgrace. Everyone's favorite planeswalking cat has been using lands for many different purposes over the years, but I still think there's room for some innovation.

Stage One: The Deck

Clearly, lands are everywhere when playing a Lord Windgrace deck. It doesn't matter if they're in your hand, if you threw them in the graveyard, or if you're just using them for mana. One way or another, they're propelling you towards the finish line. Today, however, we'll use them to actually win the game after turning them into Elemental creatures.

Step One: "Elementals"

There are mainly three ways for us to turn our lands into creatures.

First, at instant speed through cards such as Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi, Elemental Uprising, and Kamahl's Will, with each one of them shining for a different reason. The first one creates a huge body that sticks around, as the land will remain animated even with turns passing. The other two are basically sorceries due to the "until end of turn" clause, but they still have upsides to balance this out. On one hand, Elemental Uprising is extremely cheap, meaning it can be used to gain a surprise blocker as well, but on the other hand, Kamahl's Will contains another useful mode that could also be an added bonus to our main strategy if we cast it with our commander out.

Then, we can transform our lands into Elementals through a variety of creatures. In particular, Embodiment of Insight (just like Embodiment of Fury) shines for its easily repeatable ability to grant us creatures as well as to buff them. Next, Kamahl, Heart of Krosa provides us with a cheap way to populate our board as well as giving us access to a potentially game-ending triggered ability, which is an issue that will come up in a moment. Last but not least, while a bit difficult to get going, Liege of the Tangle can turn out being backbreaking for our opponents, as 8/8 creatures are pretty good at finishing games fast.

Finally, we can rely on a number of planeswalkers to turn our mana into damage. Obviously, Nissa is an all-around MVP in this regard, with cards such as Nissa, Vital Force, Nissa, Who Shakes the World, and Nissa, Worldwaker being the most impactful ones.

Step Two: Lands From the Graveyard

As any other creature, our lands will end up in the graveyard sooner or later. Therefore, we need a certain number of ways to get them back in action. Alongside the evergreens, like Crucible of Worlds, Ramunap Excavator, and Splendid Reclamation, we can count on some newer tools to play with. Conduit of Worlds is the latest addition, and it comes with the upside of allowing us to cast permanent spells from our graveyard as well. Erinis, Gloom Stalker combines a powerful attack trigger with deathtouch, which allows it to swing more freely. Lastly, Perennial Behemoth can rely on a high toughness to stay around and grant us access to our destroyed lands.

Still, nothing can take away the crown from Life from the Loam; it's easy to cast, it empowers itself, and it grants our deck resilience. I mean, what else can you ask a card to do for you?

Step Three: Land Tutors

While playing this list, lands will be much more than mana sources, so we need to gain access to the ones we need whenever we want to. For this reason, alongside the usual ramp pieces, such as Nature's Lore and Three Visits, we run land tutors that allow us to search for any land in our deck. Crop Rotation, Elvish Reclaimer, and Realms Uncharted are very powerful cards that serve the double function of providing us with the cards we need and filling our graveyard, which is a zone we can and want to interact with easily. In this regard, Scapeshift can skyrocket us miles ahead of our opponents. Not only will we get to fix our mana and tutor the lands we need, but the ones we sacrificed are far from being gone forever.

Step Four: Ending the Game

As foreshadowed, our creatures need some help to close out games, as the longer the game goes, the higher are the chances of our lands disappearing. To this end, we run some ways to make it easier for our Elementals to connect. Caterwauling Boggart will grant them menace, Sylvan Advocate will provide them with a good buff to their stats, and Thicket Crasher will allow them to trample over our opponents' blockers. Remaining in the field of tribal synergies, Omnath, Locus of Rage does a lot of work. On one hand, it creates additional attackers whenever we play a land, just in case we don't want to use the animated ones as attackers. On the other hand, and most importantly, it will deal damage whenever one of our Elementals dies, granting us a sort of repayment in case of board wipes.

Yet, we still need some further help to reduce others' life points to zero. For this reason, we include in our list some more known threats, such as Craterhoof Behemoth, End-Raze Forerunners, and Triumph of the Hordes.

Step Five: The Lands

This time around, the lands are a pivotal part of our strategy. In particular, creature lands that have an activated ability that turn themselves into Elementals are automatically included for obvious reasons. In fact, Hissing Quagmire, Lavaclaw Reaches, and Raging Ravine fit perfectly in this list, as they don't require any other card to start chipping away points from our opponents' life totals. Moreover, we can count on other lands with similar effects. Among them, Crawling Barrens is the best one, as it will keep on growing throughout the game

Step Six: Complete Decklist

Lord Windgrace "Elementals"

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Commander (1)
"Elementals" (23)
Lands from the Graveyard (13)
Land Tutors (9)
Finishing the Game (11)
Lands (40)
Artifact Ramp (3)

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Stage Two: The Data Room

We’re now on to the last part of this deck tech: the data room. Was this deck idea actually unique? Let's compare the list against both the average Lord Windgrace deck and against the average Elemental deck to see what we gained (and lost) in the process.

Step One: The Average Lord Windgrace Deck

Although it's a pretty old commander, Lord Windgrace still holds a place as an extremely popular general. It's the second most played Jund commander and is 59th overall, with 6552 registered decks according to EDHREC.

The first thing we can notice is that Elementals are not usually associated with our commander. In fact, the only tribal card we play that is actually used in other people's lists is Omnath, Locus of Rage, which is included in 67.64% of decks. Of course, this is not due to its synergy with Elementals, but rather for the payoff it grants upon playing lands.

Moving on to lands-animating spells, I was surprised to see that those don't see play here either. I tried to be more specific, analyzing the how much the Nissa planeswalkers are utilized.

While Nissa, Vital Force is the most popular, as expected, Nissa, Who Shakes the World is surprisingly not played that frequently, standing at an inclusion rate lower than 15%. On the other hand, Nissa of Shadowed Boughs is another rightfully popular planeswalker, as it rewards you for playing multiple lands and it can also serve to cheat big threats into play.

The cards that allow you to get lands back from the graveyard form another group that is very interesting to analyze

In this case, there's a peculiar phenomenon that can be recorded. In fact, older cards, like Ramunap Excavator and Splendid Reclamation, are basically always present, as they sit at 83% and 73% of inclusion rate, respectively. On the other hand, newer cards don't seem to be of interest for Lord Windgrace players; not even those like Conduit of Worlds or Perennial Behemoth, which accomplish core actions of our strategy, see play, telling us about how high the bar is set for this kind of effects.

Step Two: The Average Elemental Deck

The most popular Elemental commander is Horde of Notions, with 1799 registered decks on EDHREC, so let's see how popular our Elementals-related cards are in this kind of environment.

The graph doesn't tell us anything groundbreaking. Omnath, Locus of Rage and Incandescent Soulstoke are extremely popular options, Creeping Trailblazer and Thicket Crasher see some play, and Chandra, Novice Pyromancer is more of a niche choice. What really surprised me here is that only 11 decks out of 1799 played Caterwauling Boggart. While this card is not a game-changer, it grants evasion to all of our Elementals, which 630 more decks entrust Thicket Crasher to do. Perhaps people prefer running in-tribe options for better synergies, so I decided to look a bit more into the Elementals played in the average Horde of Notions list.

I highlighted the creatures that have at least some sort of synergy with other Elementals. Unexpectedly, just 10 out of 33 (30,3%) played fall in this category. Also, we have to consider that this number includes cards like Omnath, Locus of the Roil and Titania, Nature's Force, which are interested in fellow Elementals only to a certain extent, so I decided to look at how many Horde of Notions decks actually care about creature's type.

The numbers are quite clear: in a list that usually runs 35 creatures, only 2% of the players include 10 that have tribal synergies. Perhaps this is due to the lack of real payoffs for Elementals-only strategies, which transforms commanders such as Horde of Notions in piles of cards that happen to be of a certain creature type.

Takeaways from Today's Article

  • There is room for innovation in Lord Windgrace decks, but it comes at the price of a much more risky gameplan. In fact, using our lands as beaters also exposes them to removal. Still, our commander forgives our hazardous moves, as it can easily get us back the lands we lose.
  • There is an abysmal lack of interactions between Elemental creatures. The only ones that actually care about this creature type are either connected to other archetypes, such as Risen Reef, or simply not that impactful, such as Smokebraider. This somehow forces Elemental decks to spiral down into being piles of cards rather than synergistic lists.
  • There are some goodies arriving in the near future; in fact, as soon as Wrenn and Realmbreaker is released, it will be included in this list, as every single one of its abilities are relevant and powerful in this shell.
  • All in all, I tried very hard to make this a functional Elementals deck, but I can't help but feel as if we're still some cards away from it being an actual archetype in commander.
  • Lastly, I also considered doing a similar Atraxa, Praetors' Voice deck centered around the Awaken ability. If you want me to develop it into an actual list, let me know in the comments below!

That’s all from me for the moment. I hope you enjoyed this deck tech, but now it’s on to you: what do you think of it? Would you have changed anything? Or there’s something you particularly liked? Most importantly, do you believe this was a true innovation? Let me know in the comments below!

Jonathan is an Italy-based Magic enjoyer that has been playing, although with some pauses, ever since Mirrodin released. His passion for EDH bloomed in 2018 and, with it, the love for exotic and underrepresented builds. When he is not complaining about an “unfair” removal, you can find him fiercely defending his Delver of Secrets at a pauper table.

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