Technically Playable - Fangorn, Tree Shepherd

(Fangorn, Tree Shepherd | David Rapoza)

Technically Playable - Fangorn, Tree Shepherd

Welcome to Technically Playable, where our mission statement is "Every commander is Technically playable" (the best kind of playable). The way this works is every article will have a commander generated using EDHREC's random button, I'll talk through the card and then write about how we can build around it!

This week's random commander is from one of my all-time favorite limited formats to play, The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle Earth: Universes Beyond.

'Look, the trees! They're moving!'
- Pippin, The Two Towers

I'm going to get this one out of the way real quick. Roaming Throne is really good, arguably too good. I'm just going to say you should run it. There might not be too many ways to get extra triggers with Treefolk but just being able to double the extra mana from Fangorn is enough of a reason to run it.

In terms of actual Treefolk to run, you don't get the best options since a lot of those are in white and black, and of course, you don't get Doran, the Siege Tower because he's Abzan. But that doesn't mean there aren't any good options. Timber Protector is undoubtedly the best option for the deck. The buff is small but giving indestructible to every Treefolk is huge for Fangorn's mana ability as it lets them attack indiscriminately with minimal threat of dying in combat.

But a bunch of 2/7s with indestructible is only the beginning. Thanks to the fact that Treefolk were one of the main creature types in Lorwyn there is quite a lot of support. Kinship is a fantastic mechanic, but because of the lack of sets it does lack support, but if you can get a critical mass of creatures that share a type it can be really powerful. Leaf-Crowned Elder is a great example of this, giving you a ton of potential draw in your upkeep, especially useful if you include some utility Shamans in your deck too.

Lorwyn also gives the deck other powerful cards like Bosk Banneret to reduce the cost of our Treefolk and Shamans, Treefolk Harbinger to tutor up a Treefolk or Forest to the top of the deck, effectively acting as a sorcery speed Worldly Tutor since so many of the deck's creatures are Treefolk and even removal in the form of Wickerbough Elder. As you can see, there is a ton of utility in various forms in unsuspecting Treefolk cards giving us a great way to both utilize the mana we get from Fangorn and also giving us ways to generate more by replacing some of the non-creature spells we might have with a Treefolk equivalent.

And of course, it wouldn't be Commander without talking about how we can utilize our Treefolk to draw cards and ramp into even more walking, talking trees. In terms of ramp we of course have Bosk Banneret to reduce the cost of our cards but they wouldn't be Treefolk without some kind of connection to the forests of Magic: the Gathering. Seedguide Ash is on my list of most underrated cards in Commander. It has a hefty cost at five mana but with the amount of one and two mana ramp in the format that's easily achievable on turns three or four. If you have a sacrifice outlet it becomes even better but even just using it as a blocker and then increasing your potential mana next turn by three is incredibly powerful.

Going from five to eight or four to seven is the difference between a Serra Angel and Avacyn, Angel of Hope or between Thragtusk and Nyxbloom Ancient. The power level jump between those mana costs is huge. In terms of drawing cards green has recently gotten a lot of powerful options. Unfortunately, a lot of Treefolk are old cards, with Heartwood Storyteller probably being the best actual Treefolk option. Luckily, the set Fangorn came in also gave us one of my favourite "Timmy" spells to have been printed in a very long time and it's on theme for this deck. Last March of the Ents is like Rishkar's Expertise if I had designed it. Drawing cards equal to the greatest toughness among creatures you control is great since a lot of Treefolk have low power and toughness (ever punched a tree?) which means we're already drawing a ton, but then also being able to put any creatures in your hand into play makes this an awesome finisher.

'Nobody cares for the woods anymore.'
- Treebeard, The Two Towers

Luckily for Treebeard, this deck has more than just Treefolk, but also those who can care for them. I mentioned earlier how the secondary creature type for green in Lorwyn was Shaman, which is why Bosk Banneret reduces their cost and why Leaf-Crowned Elder is a Treefolk Shaman that can hit other Shaman with Kinship. This is incredibly useful for us, not just because green Shamans are great utility cards, but because they're some of the best utility cards we could have access to.

Now, I may be biased because of my affinity for graveyards, but I do feel like Eternal Witness and Timeless Witness are perfect for most green decks. Having some of the most impactful and powerful cards in the format, then having access to them multiple times can give you such an incredible advantage that your opponents often won't be able to overcome it. The Commander community must agree, because Eternal Witness is the 40th most used card in all of Commander (in 381,241 decks) and is the 11th most used green card. When you factor in that six of those cards are land ramp and two of them are mana dorks, it then becomes the third most used non-mana green card behind Beast Within and Heroic Intervention, two of the most versatile and powerful spells in the format. A very respectable place to sit for Eternal Witness. Timeless Witness sits much further down, a surprise to me since it swaps the ability to be used from the graveyard for a tiny increase in mana cost, but I'm sure it'll rise as time goes on.

But the Witnesses are not the only Green Shamans that go well in this deck. Abzan Beastmaster synergizes well with the naturally high toughness of Treefolk to draw us a card each turn and Allosaurus Shepherd protects the Treefolk from the counterspells that Timber Protector can't, making them difficult to interact with outside of exile-based removal. Shamans also give the deck access to a lot of tools that Treefolk don't provide with Fauna Shaman giving the ability to tutor up useful non-Treefolk creatures that Treefolk Harbinger can't find, Elvish Piper giving access to an effect similar to Sneak Attack that puts big Treefolk into play before their time to generate more mana for Fangorn and even giving the deck a way to protect its graveyard or interact with opponent's through Loaming Shaman's ability.

'Come, my friends. The Ents are going to war. It is likely that we go to our doom. The last march of the Ents.'
- Treebeard, The Two Towers

As always, there has been a lot of talk about different elements of this deck, how we make use of Fangorn's abilities, the Treefolk we use to generate the mana, and of course, the utility to get us there. But how does this deck get over the finish line and win games? Well, this will come as no surprise to you but like most typal decks that don't have tons of dedicated support this can sometimes be tricky, and they sometimes need to rely on more general win conditions. Of course, Craterhoof Behemoth will get you there most of the time, and Triumph of the Hordes is always great when you have a board of big creatures. But I find these particularly boring, I want to talk about some options that are a little different. We've already covered some of the most abstract win conditions like dumping a ton of mana in a huge Hurricane and turning the deck into a mono-green burn deck but we have some other options too.

One thing that Treefolk has no shortage of is huge beat sticks: Creatures with very little text but a big power and toughness. Cards like Kalonian Twingrove, Dungrove Elder, and Dauntless Dourbark are some examples of this kind of card. Ramping is one of the key elements of playing green and these cards give you a way to leverage your higher number of lands in a way that can win the game while also making it slightly less annoying to top-deck ramp spells later into the game (only slightly though). With one or two of these in play, we can then use a card like Quickbeam, Upstart Ent or Garruk's Uprising to overcome their only weakness, their lack of evasion, while also making them even bigger or drawing cards.

I was going to avoid talking about Changelings as much as possible since saying "lots of mana and Chameleon Colossus" isn't new, or clever. But then I saw a card that I've never seen before, Yew Spirit. This card is pretty much a second copy of Chameleon Colossus so I thought I'd talk about both of them together. Just like the cards that care about the number of forests you have, these two care about your mana and how much you can sink into them. This makes cards like Nyxbloom Ancient and Zendikar Resurgent amazingly good and allow you to force awkward blocks for your opponent while threatening lethal purely by holding up some mana. Again, just like the Kalonian Twingrove and Dungrove Elder their biggest weakness is their lack of evasion (with Chameleon Colossus struggling slightly less because of its protection from black) so you'll still want something like Garruk's Uprising or Brawn in your graveyard to get around that.

But going tall isn't the only way to win here. While it is arguably the simplest you also have options like Verdeloth the Ancient and Nemata, Grove Guardian which are Treefolk that give you an option to build a wide board that can be buffed to go around your opponent's defenses while still staying on theme and allowing you to run something like Return of the Wildspeaker to either draw cards from your big Treefolk or to act as a pseudo-Overrun.

Due to the virtue of being a green deck, it does lean into combat-focused win conditions but you can also use anything that requires a big mana investment thanks to Fangorn's triggered ability. Hurricane is, of course, the obvious one but cards like Helix Pinnacle or creatures with powerful abilities like Shaman of Forgotten Ways also work well in this deck, one that has a non-combat win condition as an ability but also relies on using creatures and generating a lot of mana, plus it's a Shaman for all of those Lorwyn cards.

As with all Technically Playable articles, this was a very quick look at Fangorn as a commander and a few of the cards that can make a deck with Fangorn as the commander tick.

Let me know in the comments below if you play Fangorn, if you want to build a deck around them, or even if you just enjoyed this article!

Read more:

Technically Playable - Tor Wauki the Younger

Recross The Paths - Building a Slivers deck with Riku Of Two Reflections

Hey there, I'm Paul. I've been writing about magic for a really long time. I love to write about obscure commanders (one of my really early articles back in 2015 was about Skeleton Ship) and how you can make decks around them work, no matter how unplayable they are. I love Gruul, I love Mountains and I love casting Lightning Bolt.

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