Hello, one and all! Welcome to the Underdog’s Corner. If you are a first-time reader, this is a series that covers a legendary creature that I think is either underplayed or underrated. Usually the commanders you see are janky commanders that require a bit a work, and other times I cover commanders where I say to myself, “Why aren’t more people playing X?” For this article, the latter is the case. Stonebrow, Krosan Hero is not what I would call “complicated”. In fact, he is probably the simplest commander ever featured in this series. Among red/green legendary creatures he is currently the 13th most-played commander, coming in with a paltry 153 decks. Since I’m writing about him, you may be able to guess I think this is low, and you would be right. He sits at 73 decks below the next closest commander, Ulasht, the Hate Seed, who has also been featured in this article. So why do I think he’s too low?
So what does Stonebrow, Krosan Hero bring to the table? He’s a 5-mana 4/4 with trample which is a little low, but what does he offer that makes him a good build-around?
“Whenever a creature you control with trample attacks, it gets +2/+2 until end of turn.”
Yup. That’s it. I think one of the arguments used against Stonebrow is that he is very straightforward and simple. You want to do two things in this deck: 1) Attack 2) Have trample. While he doesn’t enable a weird or unique strategy for Gruul commanders, there is still an efficiency that I can’t help but appreciate. Gruul is good at smashing people, and Stonebrow just makes that easier. While that statement might make you think of Xenagos, God of Revels, I think Stonebrow’s approach has just enough of a wrinkle to warrant a spot in the format.
If you are a consistent reader of this series, you may have picked up that I am a fan of weird strategies. I really enjoy commanders that attack the game in different ways, and I enjoy the brewing challenge they present. Stonebrow, however, is far from that. He is very much a stereotypical Gruul-colored card; we want to smash face with trampling creatures, and he makes those trampling creatures bigger. There aren’t many hoops to jump through other than giving our creatures trample if they don’t already have it.
For example, Khenra Charioteer appears in 69% of decks created since its release in April. This card checks off a few boxes for Stonebrow since not only does it have trample, but also grants trample to your other creatures. While this is great to have, the charioteer may almost be too linear. We want trampling beaters, but we also don’t want to unnecessarily sacrifice utility.
Nylea, God of the Hunt is a great example of utility in this case. Not only does she give all of our creatures trample, but she can also pump them while being very resilient to removal. Brawn is another option as well. While the army-wide trample effect is only relevant while it’s in the graveyard, we can likely get it there easily by swinging freely and often.
Beyond those, we have even more options. Who would have thought that red and green would have a lot of support for smashing? Thunderfoot Baloth effectively doubles up Stonebrow’s ability, and quickly turns even a board state full of 2/2s into a massive threat. Finding a home for Arlinn has always been a goal of mine, and I really think this is a great place for her. Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon is also a consistent source of trample once we’ve transformed her. While the buff that comes with the plus isn’t much, it should be enough to push our creatures over the edge at times.
… and then there are sometimes we need to bulldoze people off a cliff. Both Decimator of the Provinces and Craterhoof Behemoth are massive finishers that will end the game if things have stalled. Decimator and Craterhoof appear roughly in the same amount of decks: Decimator in 18 and Craterhoof in 19… which is ludicrous. Craterhoof Behemoth doesn’t even appear on the main page for Stonebrow which is something I’m still trying to figure out as I write this. I think both of these should appear more closely to 50% of decks if not more as these are both finishers in their own right as well as being explosive win conditions with Stonebrow out. Also, how on earth does Pelakka Wurm appear in nearly double as many decks as Craterhoof and Decimator combined? What?
If we’re planning to, at face value, swing blindly at our opponent’s, we’re going to want some incentives to make sure it’s worth it. This can range from card advantage, combat damage triggers, or mana advantage.
For our mana advantage, we have access to cards such as Neheb, the Eternal and Savage Ventmaw. Savage Ventmaw allows us to “buyback” it’s cost every combat step when it attacks. This isn’t the most ideal situation, but getting an extra six mana every turn is still worthwhile even at its worse. It’s still enough to cast a Rishkar’s Expertise which is good enough in my book. While the Ventmaw is great and adds a flat amount of mana, Neheb, the Eternal can allow for a literal explosion of mana after combat. Not only will the depth of trampling creatures allow us to be able to hit our opponents for damage, but Stonebrow’s ability will also be able to push extra damage through. If we’re planning to include these two, we’d be remiss to exclude Aggravated Assault as we can generate infinite combat steps and infinite Stonebrow triggers. However, I think hitting someone in the face a million times will remove players even without our commanders bonuses.
Red has never been gifted much in the form of card draw, but ever since Journey into Nyx we’ve started to see more and more exile-based draw from the color. I remember the absolute hype for Prophetic Flamespeaker when it first arrived in Standard. While it never found a home then, I think I’ve finally found a home for it in Commander. Both the Flamespeaker and the newer Stromkirk Occultist offer exile-draw (having the ever important “play” vs. “cast” on the card) as well as having trample stapled onto them. Both are relatively cheap at three mana, and with Stonebrow’s buff can reliably hit our opponents. While the Flamespeaker is likely a reach, this deck has just enough synergy that I’m definitely slamming it in for a few games.
Keeping on the trend of hitting our opponents, there are a few effects that really help swing the game. Giant Adephage is one such card. A 7/7 trampler is already a threat on its own, but creating tokens of itself? That can only spiral out of control quickly. If we’re looking for a similar effect for cheap… or rather an identical effect for cheap we have access to Spawnwrithe as well. I’ve never really connected the two together before, but redundancy even at vastly different costs is still welcome.
While she doesn’t create copies of herself, which would be useless without Mirror Gallery, Tana, the Bloodsower helps to create multiple bodies. With the multitude of pump effects including Stonebrow, Tana will likely be generating more than just two Saprolings a turn. Who needs partners anyways?
Sometimes there are a few pet cards that never find homes in decks. Maybe it’s because the power level is low, or that it just doesn’t quite make the cut. Well, today we find a home for three such cards, because this is Commander, and we can do that.
While Rhonas’s Monument isn’t quite as misfit as our later entries, it still only makes it into 17% of Stonebrow decks since its release. Our deck is already looking to ramp our fatties, and this artifact does just that. Not only that, whenever we cast a creature we give +2/+2 and trample to one of our creatures? Sign me up. It’s low impact in most decks, but an effective +4/+4 swing with Stonebrow is a hefty chunk of extra damage.
Next up is Majestic Myriarch. Appearing in zero Stonebrow decks, the Myriarch offers a versatile beater that is just fun. A cute thing to note is with just Stonebrow out, it matches him stat for stat and keyword for keyword. It’s not much, but I think it can be fun. Add in the aforementioned Tana, the Bloodsower, and we could see the Myriarch get out of control.
Since we’ve already spent this whole article talking about how often we’re going to swing at our opponents, let’s add another incentive for us. While slower than it could be in a token deck, Fire-Alarm Fire gives us a bit of reach if swinging for damage is turning out to be too slow. However, at only three mana I think it could come down early enough to help generate damage enough damage for the investment.
That’s it, and I hope you’ve enjoyed out look at Stonebrow! He may not be the flashiest, but who needs flashy when you can bludgeon people to death. Sometimes you don’t need all the bells and whistles to get things done. Thanks for joining me in the Underdog’s Corner