Commander Showdown – Muldrotha vs Yarok

(Muldrotha, the Gravetide by Jason Rainville | Yarok, the Desecrated by Daarken)

Salty About Sultai

If you’ve been watching EDHREC closely, you’ll notice that we’re undergoing more regular data purges to keep the data fresh and current. Rather than provide data from all time, which might recommend cards from years ago that no longer maintain current relevance, EDHREC is limiting its dataset to decks uploaded or updated within the past two years. Within the past couple of weeks, we ran another round of scraping to stay within that two-year limit, and to the shock of all, we witnessed a dethroning.

Muldrotha, the Gravetide has eclipsed Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice as the most-built commander within the past 2 years. It’s a close race, but it’s still a pretty big event.

Muldrotha is known to all as the Sultai commander who just won’t quit. Destroying any of Muldrotha’s belongings only results in her replaying those belongings to repeat their amazing abilities.

And of course, at the mention of ‘repeating amazing abilities’, another Sultai commander perks up its ears and rears its ugly head: Yarok, the Desecrated.

Before I begin, I have a tiny soapbox moment – these commanders are not Sultai. Within the actual game, yes, they are blue, black, and green, but in terms of Magic: the Gathering‘s actual color pie, both Muldrotha and Yarok are in entirely incorrect colors.

Muldrotha, the Gravetide should be Abzan, not Sultai. Aside from the word “tide” in her name, nothing about her abilities has anything to do with the color blue. White has historically returned permanents to the battlefield, but blue has not. It gets back spells, but not permanents. The closest blue has ever gotten is Argivian Restoration, an ability that no longer belongs to blue.

Similarly, you could change Yarok, the Desecrated into an Esper commander without changing a single word on the card.

This isn’t the first time a Sultai commander has lifted abilities from white’s already extremely limited slice of the color pie and made them better than white could, but if I’m going to write about two astronomically popular Sultai powerhouses, I feel it prudent to note that one of the reasons they’re so good is because they’re doing things Sultai shouldn’t be able to do.

Then again, that’s Sultai for you.

Alright, enough self-indulgent rambling. We’re not here for color pie philosophy, we’re here to figure out which of these commanders is best suited to help you destroy your enemies. Muldrotha, the Gravetide and Yarok, the Desecrated are both insane engines that reward you for repeatedly playing and replaying your cards. They each produce so much additional advantage, almost by accident, that they’ll bury your enemies in sweet, sweet value.

If you want Sultai to make your opponents salty, which of these commanders is right for you? Do you want Muldrotha, the Gravetide to revive things from your graveyard to re-trigger their enter-the-battlefield effects, or do you want Yarok, the Desecrated to re-trigger those effects right away? Let’s find out more in this week’s Commander Showdown!


Muldrotha the Mulldrifter

Let’s begin with Muldrotha, the Gravetide. Muldrotha’s ability to play up to one card of each permanent type from your graveyard each turn has catapulted her into the new #1 status. So what are folks doing with this commander?

Drowning in value, that’s what. Muldrotha basically turns the graveyard into a second hand of cards, which is a degree of card advantage few other commanders can hope to match. Though she cannot recast instants or sorceries, creatures that sacrifice themselves provide her all the abilities she requires. A Sakura-Tribe Elder is basically Rampant Growth with free Buyback. A Mulldrifter is effectively a Divination that won’t go away.

Enchantments and artifacts that sacrifice themselves are also good ways for Muldrotha to eke out additional advantages. Mystic Remora, for instance, has a downside that Muldrotha is able to skirt around whenever she likes by simply replaying the enchantment later on. Sagas like The Eldest Reborn have a built-in timer that sends them to the graveyard, perfect for Muldrotha to begin the process anew. Recasting all manner of permanents, especially in combination with engines like Secrets of the Dead, Muldrotha is stuffed so full of value that it’s not hard to see why she’s become such an appealing option.

That isn’t Muldrotha’s real strength, though. The real value she provides isn’t from how many cards she can accrue, but rather in her resilience.

Frankly, Muldrotha, the Gravetide is a bit like Avacyn, Angel of Hope. Any hope your opponents have of destroying your permanents is rendered moot. Assassin’s Trophy? Krosan Grip? These are laughable in the face of the Gravetide. This allows Muldrotha to win the grindiest of battles. She’s the mistress of attrition.

A Plaguecrafter every turn is very difficult for your enemies to get around. The threat of eternal Seal of Primordiums makes every artifact and enchantment your opponents cast very risky investments. Your opponents can’t even attempt to defeat you in combat if you keep resummoning Spore Frog every turn. She can even prevent others from attempting the same graveyard shenanigans she’s abusing by constantly threatening a Nihil Spellbomb or other such business.

All these effects make her exceptionally difficult to defeat. Your opponents frankly must deal with Muldrotha herself, or else exile your graveyard, a thing you and your Glen Elendra Archmage/Siren Stormtamer are reluctant to allow them to do.

Just exiling her graveyard doesn’t completely demolish Muldrotha, though. Spending so much mana to play cards in her graveyard means that she’ll almost always have a stacked hand even after her graveyard vanishes. Plus, while all these cards are enhanced by Muldrotha, they are still excellent on their own. Even without filling her graveyard on purpose with cards like Satyr Wayfinder or Vessel of Nascency, she can simply rebuild when her cards are sent to the graveyard during the normal course of gameplay, such as dying in combat.

There is a trick Muldrotha players have to be careful about, however. Let’s illustrate it with a decklist:

Mulling it Over

Commander (1)
Creatures (33)
Enchantments (11)
Instants (3)
Sorceries (2)
Planeswalkers (2)
Artifacts (11)
Lands (37)

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If, at a minimum, Muldrotha is returning one land and one creature from the graveyard each turn, that’s fine… but it’s also just fine. Muldrotha players seek to take advantage of her abilities by getting back multiple card types per turn, to accumulate the most value.

While Meren of Clan Nel Toth players can devote all their energy into creature-specific synergies, Muldrotha players must thread the needle by providing compelling effects across multiple permanent types. Many of the best effects appear on creatures, though, which often means Muldrotha decks are built to find other ways to get back multiple creatures in one turn.

Enchantments like Animate Dead can get back a creature without taking up Muldrotha’s ‘creature-for-the-turn’ ability. Phyrexian Metamorph or Sylvok Replica can be cast as your artifact for the turn, allowing you to cast a creature from the graveyard too. Planeswalkers from War of the Spark have also proven popular for Muldrotha since they can use powerful abilities that reduce their loyalty, sending them back to graveyard to come back again and again and again. Mastering the art of finding multiple card types per turn is what makes a Muldrotha player go from good to great.

We haven’t finished with this Elemental Avatar just yet, but we do have an Elemental Horror that we have to get to.


Yarokslide

Yarok, the Desecrated is… nuts. To call this a Panharmonicon commander is accurate, but misses a few fine details. Panharmonicon only triggers for your own artifacts and creatures. Yarok doubles triggers from any permanent entering the battlefield – even under an opponent’s control.

So yes, Eternal Witness and Mulldrifter and Guardian Project will, as Yarok claims, totally desecrate your opponents, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Sire of Stagnation and Polluted Bonds can really twist your opponents’ expectations.

I’m not interested in just making a Yarok blink deck, though. We’ve seen that in Esper and Azorius. I’m interested in squeezing every last drop out of Yarok, which means finding ways to make more enter-the-battlefield triggers than our opponents can even count. One of the best ways to do this is to take advantage of Yarok’s doubled triggers for any type of permanent.

Any permanent… especially lands. Double Landfall triggers? Our opponents won’t know what hit them.

Folks who read my Prossh vs Korvold article will note that I took a similar route with Korvold, Fae-Cursed King. That’s just how good lands are. When a commander offers this level of unlimited potential, one of the best ways to abuse it is with sheer numbers, and in these colors, lands are extremely numerous. Yarok turns one Evolving Wilds into a four-life-point drain from each opponent with Retreat to Hagra, and steals four creatures with Roil Elemental. That’s so filthy good that I barely feel comfortable writing about it!

Oh, and those Wood Elves and Farhaven Elf we were planning on running anyway? Now they each fetch two lands, triggering four abilities from our bevy of Lotus Cobras and Avenger of Zendikars to make a net gain on mana, or pump up our Plants by a ridiculous +4/+4 (which, by the way, Yarok will have doubled the number of). Play a Scapeshift or a Splendid Reclamation into a Field of the Dead, and this quickly becomes math I cannot do.

Best of all, imagine playing a Risen Reef and then a Titania, Protector of Argoth. Yeah.

Yarok My Socks Off

Commander (1)
Creatures (32)
Enchantments (9)
Artifacts (5)
Instants (6)
Planeswalkers (1)
Sorceries (8)
Lands (38)

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We can’t forget about the Yarok cadre of staples, like Rite of Replication or Conjurer’s Closet. At their core, Yarok decks can abuse enters-the-battlefield triggers arguably better than Roon of the Hidden Realm.

The thing is, Yarok can also probably abuse Landfall effects better than Omnath, Locus of the Roil, too.

In short, Yarok doesn’t just have to look for the cards that will have big splashy effects if we get to double their triggers. Yarok is absolutely about that quality, but sometimes quantity is quality.


Gravetide, the Desecrated

So how do these commanders differ? Muldrotha is indefatigable, a true study in longevity and attrition. Why even bother attacking a Muldrotha player when the creature they block with can just come right back? Why take out their planeswalker when they can just recast it? Put simply, what is dead may never die.

Yarok, on the other hand, is a Sultai explosion. Where Muldrotha is the tortoise, moving slow and steady and inexorable toward victory, Yarok is the hare, leaping to toward the finish line in crazy bursts of value that your opponents will not be able to see coming and which they will struggle to overtake. Where Muldrotha teaches us persistence, Yarok teaches us to explore every single facet of a legendary creature to squeeze every last drop out of our cards.


Cards to Consider

Before we go, here are a few gems I think players should take an extra look at when building these commanders.


Muldrotha

  • Glacial Chasm: You cannot be attacked or dealt damage with rogue Comet Storms. Then, when the Cumulative Upkeep becomes too costly, you can just replay this from the graveyard. This needs to show up in more than 16% of Muldrotha decks.
  • Eldrazi Monument: Muldrotha decks could use a little more punch, I think. This not only makes her already-difficult-to-remove army even more difficult to remove, but also gives her 7 power and evasion to clock enemies with commander damage, and gives her a sacrifice outlet for creatures she wants to replay anyway.
  • Night Incarnate: Four mana to Evoke this creature will wipe the board of tiny tokens whenever you need. Not a bad blocker for big creatures, either. Any tiny creatures you lose you can just replay.
  • Birthing Pod: I’m pretty surprised to see this in only 24% of Muldrotha decks. This is a very toolbox-y card that can get you whatever you want, and Muldrotha can recast whatever you sacrifice. Win-win.
  • Yavimaya Granger: Muldrotha likes Sakura-Tribe Elder because it sacrifices itself so that she may replay it very easily. Miss Granger has similar applicability.

Yarok

  • Necromancy: It’s not intuitive, but this enchantment has an enters-the-battlefield triggered ability that turns it into an Aura. The trigger will be doubled by Yarok, so you can grab two creatures from graveyards. As it turns out, Necromancy will be able to enchant both of those creatures, so you can keep them until the enchantment leaves the field. It’s gross. Play it.
  • Kenrith’s Transformation: Removal that draws you two cards? Amazing.
  • Stone-Seeder Hierophant: Untap this twice whenever you play a land. Even if you aren’t doing dedicated Landfall, that’s pretty bonkers value, especially whenever you play a fetch land.
  • Treachery: An expensive card, to be sure, but if you’re planning on keeping Yarok for a while, this is a sickening upgrade.
  • Diluvian Primordial: Why yes, I would like to play six spells for free.

It’s a Sul-Tie

That ends this week’s Commander Showdown! Which of these Sultai-manders has most captured your attention? Are you all about that Panharmonimander, or is playing permanents from the graveyard too good to resist?

Oh, and let me know which pair you want to see on next week’s showdown!

 

Til next time!

Joseph Schultz works in a library by day and shuffles libraries by night. He hosts the EDHRECast with Matt Morgan and Dana Roach over at http://edhrecast.libsyn.com/ and has recently taken over as Editor for the articles here on EDHREC! He was also born exactly one year before Magic: the Gathering, which he thinks is probably some kind of sign. Follow @JosephMSchultz on Twitter!