Convertible Commander: Zacama, Primal Calamity

I need to face a problem — no, a reality, not a problem. I love Naya ({G}{R}{W}) decks. I especially love them in Commander. Naya lacks Black, which is my favorite color to play, but slamming big ol’ creatures and smashing face with them is a primal pleasure. We get Green, which gives us access to some of the best ramp (and fine card draw); White gives us answers to just about any problem the game can throw at us (plus some pretty great creatures of its own — I’m looking at you, Sun Titan); and Red gives us the best Air Force in the game (ahem . . .  Dragons!), a whole suite of wild cards, plus ways to use all our mana to suddenly end the game out of nowhere.

Big mana, big creatures, big spells — they may not be subtle, but they make big fun for Commander. Plus, for me, Naya has one of the biggest, baddest, most enjoyable spells of all time. It’s a spell I love to jam into every deck which can play it, and it’s a spell that should win the game no matter how the game has shaken out, if it resolves.

Titanic Ultimatum

I know, I know. Most “good” players will look at this spell and say it’s overkill, or not consistent enough, or whatever else. Infinite tokens are better than a finite number of creatures and a spell like this. Blue is better generally. Craterhoof Behemoth is easier to cast. Lifegain is stupid unless it’s a strategy. There’s a reason Cruel Ultimatum is the only one of those giant spells which saw any competitive play. But for those of us who get excited at the idea of a big, splashy effect or winning in a memorable way, Titanic Ultimatum is the kind of spell which makes us shake with excitement.

Naya was a thing back in Shards of Alara, but it’s gotten a resurgence with Dinosaurs on Ixalan. Yeah, Dinos exist a little in other colors, but they’re mostly focused in Naya. So let’s take a look at what happens when we combine some Terrible Lizards with an Ultimatum.

Zacama, Primal Calamity — Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

Commander (1)
Creatures (28)
Planeswalkers (3)
Instants (7)
Sorceries (16)
Enchantments (5)
Lands (40)
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Gishath, Sun's Avatar
Gishath, Sun’s Avatar is the more likely Dino commander, I suppose. Run enough Dinosaurs, ramp into Gishath, and just lay out a massive board state full of teeth and really short arms. The problem is, though, that requires a really, really strict build to get anywhere. Zacama, on the other hand, doesn’t force us into Dinosaur tribal (though we’ve mostly gone there anyway, because, y’know, that’s fun too). She (he? It? They? Three heads: they.) give us a gigantic threat with relevant abilities and a color identity. This allows us to build a little more flexibly. We could do Dinosaur tribal, or we could do “dinosaur” tribal where we decide what dinosaurs are. There are a lot of behemoths out there which look a lot like dinosaurs, and who’s to say Godsire doesn’t belong in your dino deck? We could also do a wicked Voltron deck, or just a big mana deck where we use Zacama purely for the untap ability. We’re building dinosaurs because we want to play with Dinosaurs, not because it’s the best tribe ever or because we want to destroy our opponents. There’s a reason little kids like to play with dinosaur toys, but why limit them to youngsters?

A problem with decks that run Green can be how it often becomes the primary color, just because of the ramp. Getting extra lands on the battlefield is usually better than artifacts or any other form of mana, so we tend to use Rampant Growth-style effects when we can. That makes sense, but then your Naya deck ends up looking like a little green heavy. I wanted this deck to feel more evenly distributed for no reason other than a challenge. This collection got closer than any deck to now in this series, though it’s still a little weighted to Green.

Zendikar Resurgent
And we’re going to use that ramp. Our 40 lands are mostly there to help with color fixing; Jungle Shrine and Command Tower for all the colors we have, plus a whole bunch of duals, mostly coming into play tapped, so we can get the colors we need. We’re counting on ramp spells to help us race to our 9-mana commander, so CIPT (Comes-Into-Play-Tapped) lands shouldn’t hurt us too much. We don’t mind if our Cultivate appears on turn four. Mirari’s Wake and Zendikar Resurgent are strong, doubling our mana. If we have 10 lands, we can tap out for 20 mana. We use 9 to cast Zacama, leaving us with 11. We tap out again and have 31. We can then do 30 damage in clusters of 3 to creatures on the ‘field, which will often be just a one-sided Wrath. Artifact players will be sad. Or we could just gain 30 life. Traverse the Outlands is great here with all these big lizards, and Boundless Realms can get out of hand really quickly. If we can play Zacama out on turn eight, we’re looking pretty good. Anything better is gravy.

Rishkar’s Expertise, Soul’s Majesty, and Momentous Fall all do the same thing, effectively: they draw cards equal to the power of a creature we control. Because often that power will be 9, that means they refill our hand plus a bit more. Rishkar’s Expertise gives us a free spell, and Momentous Fall can be used in response to a kill spell or Wrath effect. Soul’s Majesty is the purest but probably the least good. That plus all our land fetching should do a reasonable job of keeping us in enough cards to pull something off, though Drumhunter is also lurking around, and that guy is surprisingly good in a deck with big creatures like this.

And the Dinos. We play Dinosaurs to win this game. We’ve got a number of them here, mostly the big ones. We’re going to want to lay a few of these down and crash in with them. Often, they’re big enough we can attack without too much fear, so go for it. Dinosaurs weren’t meant to block. Eventually, we’ll either draw into a Genesis Wave or a Titanic Ultimatum, either of which should do a good job of closing the game fairly quickly. We do also have Warstorm Surge as a kind of secondary win condition, because that plus three or four of our creatures can be the end of a player or two.

Huatli, Warrior Poet
You’ll note none of the obvious support cards to help cast Dinosaurs are here. There are a few on-color creatures which say things like “Dinosaur creatures you cast cost {1} less”. Those are fine, but honestly, we should have enough mana to be able to hard cast them, and those creatures take up slots better used for other spells. They might speed the deck up a touch, but as it’s built now, this deck is built to lumber, not to sprint. The Gods, however, do all help our cause a fair amount. If we turn them on, they’re large threats themselves, and of course Iroas and Xenagos both help us in combat.

We’ve also got all three versions of Huatli: Huatli, Dinosaur Knight, Huatli, Radiant Champion, and Huatli, Warrior Poet. All of them can be win conditions, especially Dinosaur Knight with the Overrun-style ultimate.

It’s nice that Zacama is a walking answer to most of the problems we’ll encounter. They can rear back on defense with Vigilance, block big fliers with Reach, shoot down creatures, artifacts, and enchantments with their ability, and do it all while continuing to attack for 9 every turn. That’s pretty helpful in a Commander, which might partly explain the big casting cost. But we want more answers than that, so cards like Oblivion Ring and Banishing Light do catch-all work while Phyrexian Rebirth and Rout wipe the board when it gets out of hand. Decimate is excellent value though it requires a target for each part of the card. And Savage Stomp was just too cool a Fight card to omit.

Not a lot of complexity to this. Play some ramp, play some Dinosaurs, play Zacama, and eventually pull some giant spell which wins the game. This deck won’t win any major Commander tournaments, but not every deck needs to. Sometimes it’s nice to enjoy the game without worrying too much about how it works, and this deck lets us do just that. Perhaps the Gods add too much expense and consistency, and they might be replaced.

To change it up, though, it seemed to me the clearest path was to use the strength of the deck with the ramp and the giant creatures but recruit a Commander who could play with them differently.

We’re going to replace our Commander with Mayael, then pull 10 of our non-creature, non-ramp spells and replace them with these. We’re going for a more focused deck here, though we’ve turned away from the Tribal aspect in favor of a “here’s a bunch of big creatures and an Overrun” playstyle, without making the deck too oppressive. The goal is to ramp into Mayael’s ability, then start activating it every turn, laying down big dude after big dude. After building up a few creatures, Pathbreaker Ibex, Stonehoof Chieftain, or Gisela, Blade of Goldnight all do reasonable interpretations of Overwhelming Stampede, which is itself a version of Titanic Ultimatum.

What would you do differently? More ramp? More tribal focus? More build-around stuff? Please let us know in the comments!

This is not a deck which makes you evilly grin at your opponents. This is a deck which has you beaming with every card you draw, delighting in the absurdity of massive casting costs and ridiculous abilities. The deck may not win a ton, but it will create a splash every time, and when it does win, the table will talk about it for a long time to come.

Thanks for reading.

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