Hello friends and faithful followers of the Toad, welcome back to EDHREC and our continuing biweekly column, Non-Basically Speaking, the series that strives to identify non-basic lands that should be considered valuable staples or hidden gems based on their visibility on EDHREC.
If you have followed us for the past several weeks, no doubt you will remember our amazing journey through the land of Ixalan. While exploring double-faced non-basics and creating fresh ideas with Commander 2017 was an absolute blast, it’s time to revert back into our normal groove. While we still have a good handful of candidates that submitted their resumes to this land focused column, we will be dedicating this week’s virtual canvas to the captivating glance of The Gitrog Monster.
I must admit, I put off writing about the commander commonly referred to as the “Hypnotoad” for quite some time. My procrastination for an article on the Golgari Frog stemmed from a lack of understanding on how a deck built around Gitrog was supposed to work. However, a few of the readers here on EDHREC have persuaded me to take a look at The Gitrog Monster so I cracked open the virtual encyclopedia of forums, articles and YouTube to begin my research.
What I found is truly astonishing. There are legions of Commander players that have sworn their fealty to the Frog Prince of Innistrad and… ALL GLORY TO THE HYPNOTOAD.
Whoa, what happened? Where am I? Oh, check it out. That darn frog has its way of luring me in. Those eyes! Am I in a cult? Where was I… oh yeah, The Gitrog Monster!
Our opponents may not find The Gitrog Monster as alluring as we do. As a five mana 6/6 with Deathtouch, our commander can be a gruesome beast to deal with in the red zone. But it is the seductive value of card advantage and mana ramp that attracts faithful Commander players of all levels. At first glance, the Frog King is less than enticing with its demand that a land is sacrificed during our upkeep. With that being said, the value is redeemed through the ability to play an extra land every turn and whenever a land card goes to our graveyard from anywhere, we get to draw a card.
So how should we build around the Hypnotoad? For starters, cards with Dredge can provide a gushing source of card advantage. With an above average amount of lands in the main deck, chances are a dredge ability will flip lands into the graveyard thereby triggering The Gitrog Monster’s draw a card ability. We can accept the gift of draw from our commander or, if we have another dredge card in the graveyard, trigger dredge again to start chaining together instrumental value. At an 81% inclusion rate for Gitrog decks, Life from the Loam is a perennial all-star.
With card draw in full motion and the ability to drop additional lands into play courtesy of Oracle of Mul Daya (52% of decks), Azusa, Lost but Seeking (40% of decks) and The Gitrog Monster (100% of decks), Landfall abilities are also a beneficial inclusion. Lotus Cobra (36% of decks) and Rampaging Baloths (50% of decks) have the possibility of triggering two or three times a turn with our extra land dropping opportunities. Heck, we could even consider Ob Nixilis, the Fallen (33% of decks) as a finisher in his own right if combined with a massive Splendid Reclamation (81% of decks).
Our hypnotic leader also enjoys the delicacy of cycling a land to the graveyard. With our anti-tooth flossing monster on the board, paying one and a black to discard a Desert of the Glorified will snag us two cards instead of one if our gruesome leader is on the board. Heyyyy… did we just have a non-basic conversation? I think we did! Non-basic lands with cycling are a synergetic way to amp our draw ability (and part of the Gitrog’s balanced breakfast) so let’s keep this path clear and look at some win conditions, non-basically speaking!
If we were to put together a top five list of The Gitrog Monster’s favorite delicious non-basic treats, you can bet that Dakmor Salvage is going to be on the top of that list. As we previously mentioned, dredge plays a large part of our strategy by flipping lands into our graveyard so that we can draw cards with Hypnotoad on the battlefield. An amazing 79% of Gitrog players will sleeve up the Salvage into their 99, not just for the 61% synergy provided to the deck, but also because it is a key ingredient to a 3 piece combo necessary to finish out a game.
With The Gitgud Monster on the battlefield, we can discard Dakmor Salvage to Skirge Familiar netting us one black mana and triggering our commander’s draw a card ability. In lieu of drawing a card, we activate the dredge ability of Dakmor Salvage to rinse, cycle, and repeat. Our endgame, if uninterrupted, has us stockpiling black mana until a game-ending Torment of Hailfire (19% of decks) can be cast. Should we start to run out of cards in our library, we simply need to pitch Kozilek, Butcher of Truth to a discard outlet, shuffling our graveyard into our library and keep pumping out the bubbling crude for our game ender. While I picked Torment of Hailfire for my X-spell finisher, Exsanguinate (36% of decks) and/or Death Cloud (12% of decks) would also be fantastic choices to shuffle up for a new game.
We can continue our winning strategy by taking to the streets of our non-basic real estate. This time we will need to activate our Thespian’s Stage (24% of decks), to copy Dark Depths (18% of decks). In a move that makes the Hypnotoad glow with glee, we can bypass the red tape of removing ice counters and get straight to the thawing out of the indestructible token, Marit Lage. With a 20/20 flying creature at our command, it won’t take long before we smash our opponents in the schnoz enough times to declare victory. Of course, our friends are not going to sit idly by and let us summon the infamous frozen Kraken without interference, so, Crop Rotation will provide a quick easy solution to our Dark Depths combo at instant speed.
If combat is not an option to win the battle, then it’s time to get Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord (46% of decks) involved. By sacrificing our 20/20 flyer to Jarad, we can implode our opponents life totals and relish in the sweet, sweet joy of victory. Of course, we do offer some synergy around these parts by including Ulvenwald Hydra and Realm Seekers that will help seek out part of our Marit Lage combo and/or serve as beefy, sacrificial lambs when Jarad starts siphoning life totals.
Our Gitrog EDH deck does have a decent amount of token producers and who better to grow the team than Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest (26% of decks). With a healthy stable of creatures on board, Mazirek will do plenty of work spitting out +1/+1 counters to our entire strike force every time the Gitrog demands a sacrificial plot of soil. With the armies provided by Worm Harvest (60% of decks), Titania, Protector of Argoth (70% of decks), and Avenger of Zendikar (50% of decks), Mazirek could very well become a win condition that leads the super-juiced troops into battle.
Non-basically speaking, we can intensify Mazirek’s efficiency by running a large portion of fetch lands. While Evolving Wilds, Terramorphic Expanse and Verdant Catacombs is a decent start to the plan, we may want to look at including a few off color fetchlands like Windswept Heath and Bloodstained Mire. With Gitrog on our playmat, fetch lands will help us draw a card and spice up Landfall triggers. Heck, Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest’s +1/+1 counter extravaganza can bloat The Gitrog Monster’s power and toughness within seconds and turn the Hypnotoad loose as a two-turn monster via commander damage.
Of course, you know we can’t end a Non-Basically Speaking article without mentioning a few janky suggestions, right? While I wasn’t able to jam all of these into my decklist, I felt they were worth mentioning. Let’s take a look at a few possible options that are not on the EDHREC menu!
Dunes of the Dead is my first candidate for a trial run in toad alley. While it only produces colorless mana, this desert brings forth a zombie from the sand should it find its way to the graveyard. A 2/2 zombie AND draw a card from Gitrog trigger? Sounds promising!
Ramping into The Gitrog Monster to get the value engine warmed up is an early goal so why not include lands that produce double mana. Hickory Woodlot and Peat Bog enter the battlefield with two charge counters that allow them to be tapped for two colored mana. Unfortunately, they can only be used twice and then have to be sacrificed, but with Gitrog Monster on the battlefield, we will get to draw a card when the Woodlot or Bog dry up and go to the graveyard. Honorary mention to Gemstone Mine for the same reason.
The sweet petals of the Lotus Vale are therapeutic for the Gitrog Monster. Satisfying his hunger and allowing him to belch up a card draw trigger.
Board wipes are always a thing and Yavimaya Hollow provides a bubble for the Monster to feel safe and secure.
Eventually blue mages will begin to fear the frog so Cavern of Souls might be needed to remain competitive when counterspells become an everyday occurrence.
That’s all I have for you today my EDHREC friends! Honestly, I probably could have tripled the length of this article. There are so many angles and avenues to explore with the Gitrog Monster. Even though I haven’t piloted this deck yet, I feel that the Hypnotoad and I now have a decent understanding of each other… or at least that’s what it wants me to believe.
So what did you think? Is my Book Report on Frogs way off base? What advice can you give this old Commander player if he were to run the Gitrog Monster in real life? Let’s discuss in the comments below!
On to the Next!