Too-Specific Top 10 - Ramp-On-A-Stick

(Thalia and The Gitrog Monster | Art by Howard Lyon)

Put That Land In My Hand

Welcome to Too-Specific Top 10, where if there isn’t a category to rank our pet card at the top of, we’ll just make one up! (Did you know that Circle of the Land Druid is the only two-mana green creature with both an enters-the-battlefield and death trigger?)

Just when it feels like lands decks have been done just about every way possible, here comes a land commander in Abzan!

Only, Thalia and The Gitrog Monster isn't just a lands commander. With a sacrifice ability that can also throw creatures in the bin every attack step, what you've got here is an Aristocrats commander that also lets you play more lands: a Landristocrats commander!

Top 10 Abzan Land-Ramp Creatures

Seems simple enough, let's look at the list:

Top 10 Abzan Land-Ramp Creatures

  1. Solemn Simulacrum
  2. Sakura-Tribe Elder
  3. Burnished Hart
  4. Wood Elves
  5. Dryad of the Ilysian Grove
  6. Ramunap Excavator
  7. Azusa, Lost but Seeking
  8. [REDACTED] (On the real list)
  9. Springbloom Druid
  10. Oracle of Mul Daya

Well, this isn't what I wanted at all! Aristocrats wants a bunch of cheap creatures to sacrifice, not three- and four-mana monstrosities like Solemn Simulacrum and Wood Elves. Combine that with cards like Dryad of the Ilysian Grove and Azusa, Lost but Seeking that'll be redundant when our commander is in play, and this is just not the list we're looking for.

What about if we put in a mana restriction?

Top 10 Abzan Land-Ramp Creatures That Cost Two or Less

  1. Sakura-Tribe Elder
  2. [REDACTED] (On the real list)
  3. Weathered Wayfarer
  4. [REDACTED] (On the real list)
  5. [REDACTED] (On the real list)
  6. Deep Gnome Terramancer
  7. Elvish Reclaimer
  8. Walking Atlas
  9. Sakura-Tribe Scout
  10. Hermit Druid

This is closer, but still has all sorts of stuff that's never gonna get to use its ability. Weathered Wayfarer is an absolute powerhouse of a card allowing you to tutor up specific lands, but given how Thalia and The Gitrog Monster comes with extra land ramp attached, I don't know that we'd ever meet the "opponent controls more lands than you" condition. Elvish Reclaimer would let us do the same thing while sacrificing a land, but I'm a bit dubious as to what specific land we'd be searching for. Finally, Walking Atlas and Sakura-Tribe Scout have much the same ability as our commander, allowing you to put lands from your hand into play. This seems a bit redundant, to put it mildly, but it does help me in figuring out what exactly this deck wants: to put lands onto the battlefield or into your hand.

Not only that, it wants creatures that will get lands out of your deck that are also available to sacrifice. Don't get me wrong, we'll absolutely end up playing Sakura-Tribe Elder, because that's just how good Steve is, but what we really want is other two-mana creatures that come out just to get sacrificed and find a land somewhere along the way. Which leads us to this week's criteria!

Criteria: Creatures that cost less than three mana with either an enters-the-battlefield, dies, or leaves-the-battlefield trigger that can put a land onto the battlefield, into your hand, or on top of your library. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.

10. Ambitious Farmhand

(3,659 Inclusions, 0% of 867,048 Decks)

Ambitious Farmhand was met with a resounding "meh" when it was originally spoiled, and I've never quite understood why. Sure, getting a Plains to your hand isn't as good as getting one on the battlefield, but what we're looking at here is still essentially a two-mana creature with card draw stapled to it. With upside! No matter your personal feelings on "getting a land in your hand isn't card draw", Ambitious Farmhand is perfect for what we're trying to do with Thalia and The Gitrog Monster. Play it down, get a Plains to hand to play down with T&G's ability, and then we can immediately sacrifice it to draw a card. Even better, if we do have tokens to sacrifice or an excess amount of lands, then we can pay the three mana to transform him into a 3/3 lifelinker, aiding with that game-finishing aggro or keeping us alive.

9. Sylvan Ranger

(5,321 Inclusions, 1% of 997,973 Decks)

Sylvan Ranger might not flip into a bigger lifelinker, but it makes up for it by being able to find any basic, as opposed to just the Plains that Ambitious Farmhand will fetch up to your hand. This might not be that big a deal if you're only playing one or two colors, but in three or more colors, that kind of flexibility can be what games hinge on.

8. Viridian Emissary

(5,894 Inclusions, 1% of 997,973 Decks)

Death triggers are a little more clumsy than enter-the-battlefield triggers, but in general folks are willing to jump through that hoop to get the land into play as opposed to into their hand. Overall, I'm not actually sure that in Thalia and The Gitrog Monster we're really that much more excited about the actual ramp, but I'm also not too worried about it, considering our commander comes with a sacrifice effect stapled to them.

7. Glowspore Shaman

(6,476 Inclusions, 1% of 472,165 Decks)

Being a huge Aristocrats player in Golgari specifically, I have really tried to like Glowspore Shaman. It's a two-mana 3/1 that mills and finds a land, which just sounds like a slam dunk. In practice, however, what I've found is that anytime I'm looking to mill I'd rather have a Stitcher's Supplier, Nyx Weaver, Undead Butler, or Circle of the Land Druid. Speaking of Circle of the Land Druid, I'd also much rather have the land in my hand than on top of my library, no matter what commander I'm playing.

With all that in mind, I would like to personally recommend to any and all of the 6,500 Golgari players playing this card to switch to Circle of the Land Druid. It mills harder and gets the land directly to your hand. Let's not muss about.

6. Veteran Explorer

(9,167 Inclusions, 1% of 997,973 Decks)

If Veteran Explorer weren't a death trigger specifically, I think it would probably be one of the best ramp spells in cEDH. That's a bombastic claim, I realize, but stick with me: it's a one-mana creature that gets two basic lands and puts them on the battlefield. Yes, it will also get those lands for your opponents, but given the number of high-powered decks that aren't playing basics, this effect would end up being one-sided more often than not. The real problem, though, is that most high-powered decks aren't playing sacrifice outlets that they can just have at will, with the ones they are playing usually being part of a dedicated combo that, if they're grabbing, they're trying to win the game, not grab two more lands.

In any case, staying in my lane: Veteran Explorer is absolutely perfect for Thalia and The Gitrog Monster. It comes down cheap, then sacrifices to T&G's ability to get three cards in hand. What's not to like?

5. Gatecreeper Vine

(11,156 Inclusions, 1% of 997,973 Decks)

Let's be honest, all but probably a thousand of these 11,000 inclusions are from Gates decks, but for our purposes, feel free to tack on another thousand that can find some use in Thalia and The Gitrog Monster!

4. Oreskos Explorer

(12,850 Inclusions, 1% of 968,722 Decks)

Oreskos Explorer, on the other hand, is gonna have a hard time finding any lands to grab to hand at all with a commander that says "you may play an additional land each turn" on it. While a combination of sacrificing a land every turn (or more with the likes of Squandered Resources or Aura Fracture), playing all of your bounce lands (which you probably want anyhow for Landfall reasons), and going last in turn order could help you out, I can tell you that as a fan of catch-up effects, I poked my nose in this direction and there's just nothing consistent there when it comes to Thalia and The Gitrog Monster.

3. Satyr Wayfinder

(26,426 Inclusions, 3% of 997,973 Decks)

While at first glance most folks dismiss Satyr Wayfinder as a bad Sylvan Ranger, those folks have completely missed the reason for Satyr Wayfinder's popularity: it mills. While you are more likely to miss with only four cards to look at than you are with my personal favorite, Circle of the Land Druid, there's a lot to be said for getting it all in one trigger, as opposed to having to wait for a chance to kill of your friendly neighborhood Gnome Druid.

When it comes to Thalia and The Gitrog Monster, we once again have an easy "why not both?"

2. Loyal Warhound

(26,872 Inclusions, 3% of 906,951 Decks)

For the purposes of Thalia and The Gitrog Monster, we've already covered Loyal Warhound. While I routinely dismiss the typical concerns of "you can't get ahead by playing catch-up" detractors, the fact remains that if you're looking for ultra-efficient creature ramp, you're going to white, not to green. A 3/1 vigilant creature for two mana that can fetch a land into play fits that bill to a T, and people dismissing it out of hand are, in my personal opinion, crazy.

So, if you'll indulge me in a quick tangent, the following are the most played white cards that can easily get you ahead while you're "catching up" (all of which are great for Landfall as well).

Top 10 White "Get Behind" Cards

  1. Strip Mine
  2. Ghost Quarter
  3. Field of Ruin
  4. Wasteland
  5. Lotus Field
  6. Guildless Commons
  7. Tectonic Edge
  8. Ghost Town
  9. Karoo
  10. Petrified Field

Packing every Wasteland not mean enough for you? Well, then maybe try what would've been number 11 on this list, Storm Cauldron!

1. Knight of the White Orchid

(73,771 Inclusions, 8% of 968,722 Decks)

All that I said about Loyal Warhound of course applies to Knight of the White Orchid as well, only there's an improvement: this little Knight can search for any Plains, and since we just did the top 10 Mountains last week, I'd be a little remiss to not do the same for Plains as well, wouldn't I?

Top 10 Non-"Plains"-Plains

  1. Shock Lands (Godless Shrine, Hallowed Fountain, Temple Garden, Sacred Foundry)
  2. Battle Lands (Prairie Stream, Canopy Vista)
  3. Triomes (Savai Triome, Indatha Triome, Raugrin Triome, Raffine's Tower, Jetmir's Garden, Spara's Headquarters)
  4. Snow-Covered Plains
  5. True Duals (Tundra, Scrubland, Savannah, Plateau)
  6. Cycling Duals (Irrigated Farmland, Scattered Groves)
  7. Snow Duals (Arctic Treeline, Glacial Floodplain, Snowfield Sinkhole, Alpine Meadow)
  8. Mistveil Plains
  9. Proxy Duals (Radiant Grove, Sunlit Marsh, Sacred Peaks, Idyllic Beachfront)
  10. Idyllic Grange

Obviously, if you're in green, you're not gonna have much call for all this, but in Boros and Azorius specifically, I think a ramping, mana-fixing 2/2 first-striker for two is just what the doctor ordered!

Honorable Mentions

Our list this week cut off just before it got into a lot of what I actually ended up playing in the deck, as for some reason folks are just very anti-"draw" creatures that put a land in your hand as opposed to the battlefield... or maybe folks just aren't using the "Full Oracle" search when looking for these effects to find all of the Explore creatures?

Top 10 Abzan Enters, Leaves, or Dies Explore Creatures

  1. Jadelight Ranger
  2. Merfolk Branchwalker
  3. Tishana's Wayfinder
  4. Seekers' Squire
  5. Ixalli's Diviner
  6. Dire Fleet Interloper
  7. Emissary of Sunrise
  8. Queen's Agent
  9. Sunrise Seeker

Alright, there're also not very many of them, and the ones that are there are generally terrible draft commons. Hopefully we'll see this mechanic re-Explored a bit in The Lost Caverns of Ixalan!

Finally, here's the decklist for my brew of Thalia and The Gitrog Monster!


Commander (1)
Creatures (41)
Instants (5)
Sorceries (10)
Enchantments (6)
Artifacts (2)
Lands (35)

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Landristocrats doesn't quite roll off the tongue, but as for the strategy itself, I found it extremely sound while building this deck. It routinely gets T&G down on turn three to then play a fifth land immediately, often into a Landfall effect that will then let you play a creature to ramp/draw even more. If you get to untap with Thalia and The Gitrog Monster, it often feels like you just are able to win on the spot, with Landfall-enabling and card draw all stapled together with an ability that also slows down your opponents hopelessly trying to keep up with the onslaught of creatures and lands.

Nuts and Bolts

There always seems to be a bit of interest in how these lists are made (this seems like a good time to stress once again that they are based on EDHREC score, NOT my personal opinion), and people are often surprised that I’m not using any special data or .json from EDHREC, but rather just muddling my way through with some Scryfall knowledge! For your enjoyment/research, here is this week’s Scryfall search.

What Do You Think?

We've spent a lot of time talking about the land ramp and Aristocrats-adjacent portions of Thalia and The Gitrog Monster, but have only once even mentioned the Staxy part of this commander. For me, maybe that's because I don't consider Kismet effects to be Stax? It's not exactly foreign to the average EDH table already, with lots of "your opponents' stuff enters tapped" effects seeing regular play:

Top 10 Kismet Effects

  1. Blind Obedience
  2. Authority of the Consuls
  3. Archon of Emeria
  4. Thalia, Heretic Cathar
  5. Urabrask the Hidden
  6. Manglehorn
  7. Kinjalli's Sunwing
  8. Reidane, God of the Worthy
  9. Frozen Aether
  10. Kismet

With Blind Obedience seeing play in 65,065 decks (7% of all white decks), it seems like this question might already be answered, but...

Finally, what is your favorite cheap creature that ramps you? How do you feel about drawing cards versus putting lands in your hand? Are you brewing Thalia and The Gitrog Monster?

Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the table that just seems to keep getting bigger every turn!

Doug has been an avid Magic player since Fallen Empires, when his older brother traded him some epic blue Homarids for all of his Islands. As for Commander, he's been playing since 2010, when he started off by making a two-player oriented G/R Land Destruction deck. Nailed it. In his spare time when he's not playing Magic, writing about Magic or doing his day job, he runs a YouTube channel or two, keeps up a College Football Computer Poll, and is attempting to gif every scene of the Star Wars prequels.