Commander Showdown – Pir & Toothy vs Vorel

(Toothy, Imaginary Friend by Zoltan Boros | Vorel of the Hull Clade by Mike Bierek)

Counting Counters

There are 132 different types of counters in Magic: the Gathering. From +1/+1 and -1/-1 counters to age, divinity, and vanishing counters, the world’s best card game is rife with abilities that require quite a lot of dice to keep track of all your value. Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice flourishes in this diversity, but she’s not the only one. There are others, particularly in Simic, that also love to buff up your counters, whether they be of the charge, loyalty, or quest variety. Let’s look today at two adaptive powerhouses: Pir, Imaginative Rascal + Toothy, Imaginary Friend vs Vorel of the Hull Clade.

Before I begin, I have to acknowledge what a close race this was! I like to run a poll at the end of each of my articles for which Showdown folks want to see next, and this time around, it was decided by just two votes!

Not to sound too much like a politician, but wow, your vote sure does matter. I’m excited to see if the poll at the end of this article will be just as close!

Alright, to business. If you’re a Simic player who loves counters, both Pir & Toothy and Vorel are excellent options, multiplying counters of all kinds across your ever-growing board. How do you choose which one is right for you? Let’s find out!


Voracious Vorel

Vorel of the Hull Clade has been with us since our first return trip to Ravnica, back in Dragon’s Maze. At a pleasant 1/4 for three mana, he’s not a particularly combative commander himself, but he can certainly facilitate that strategy, since he wields the always-awesome ability to straight up double the number of counters on one of your permanents, boosting it to astronomical sizes.

Vorel does have some important restrictions. He’s no Doubling Season. He can only target one permanent at a time, and while his low cost is nice, that tap ability does force him to wait a little while before he can start spreading the love.

Crucially, he also can only target artifacts, creatures, and lands. No enchantments, and especially no planeswalkers. As much as we’d love to boost up that Teferi, Temporal Archmage to ultimate right away, that cuts no dice for Vorel. Luckily, though, we still have many fun options for Vorel to abuse.

Naturally, doubling a bunch of +1/+1 counters on cards like Fathom Mage is nothing short of amazing. Vorel can also turn respectable creatures like Managorger Hydra into terrifying must-answer-or-else threats for our enemies.

However, it’s Vorel’s flex into artifacts that most impresses me. Darksteel Reactor is a classic alternative win condition, and Vorel speeds that clock up to a degree that should definitely frighten the opposition. Moreover, Lux Cannon and other charge-counter-wielding artifacts can become even more potent.

These are all fantastic options, and I’d love to double the counters on all of them. The problem is, there’s only one Vorel, and he can only target one permanent per round. Or can he?

Untapping Vorel for multiple activations is clutch, and many EDHREC users seem to agree, since many of these options appear in Vorel’s Top and Signature Cards. With one Murkfiend Liege or Seedborn Muse, you can turn that single counter on Astral Cornucopia into two, then four, then eight counters before it reaches your next turn. Throw in Illusionist’s Bracers and things get even crazier.

That example, however, forces us to take stock of what makes Vorel unique among his peers; unlike Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice or, as we’ll soon discuss, Pir, Imaginative Rascal, Vorel is a doubling engine. He’s much less effective when he’s only doubling one or two counters. We’re not here to turn two counters into four, we’re here to turn ten counters into twenty!

To that end, I think it’s also strategically vital that Vorel focus his efforts on just one object at a time. Loyal Guardian, for example, is less useful than Increasing Savagery. Running out Managorger Hydra and Champion of Lambholt divides our attention too much. Pouring our energy into one threat at a time allows that particular threat to grow to its deadliest capacity. It does feel dangerous to put all our eggs into one basket, but it feels worse to put all our eggs onto the battlefield without actually cultivating them into the game-ending powerhouses they have the potential to become. I’d rather our Primordial Hydra get hit with a Path to Exile than our Primordial Hydra, Lux Cannon, and Simic Manipulator get wiped with an Austere Command.

Let’s take these lessons to heart and put them into practice with a decklist!

Voracious Vorel

Commander (1)
Creatures (27)
Artifacts (11)
Planeswalkers (1)
Sorceries (6)
Instants (10)
Enchantments (8)
Lands (36)

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This deck may not look like most of the Vorel lists you’ll see represented on EDHREC. There are a few special cards for Vorel that I’ll highlight later, but for now, I think the list above does a decent job of leaning into Vorel’s uniqueness, and therefore his strength. A bevy of these spells assist Vorel with the accumulation of multiple activations, allowing him to exponentially grow any individual card into our opponents’ worst nightmare. Since the deck is built around this ‘one threat at a time’ mentality, I’ve also included extra protection in the deck, from hexproof enablers to counterspells.

All in all, this deck looks monstrously fun. It embodies the same spirit as the card Hadana’s Climb, nominating a key fighter or component and subsequently using it to blow opponents out of the water with sudden, explosive, and deadly growth.

Now, let’s see what buffoonery our pal Pir is up to.


Pir Through Depths

Pir, Imaginative Rascal and Toothy, Imaginary Friend made their debut in the ever-popular Battlebond set. They pair up quite cleverly; Pir will increase the number of counters placed onto your permanents, which makes Toothy grow larger and larger, becoming a genuine monster your opponents must answer before it’s too late. Luckily, even if they do stifle your imagination, Toothy will draw you bunches of cards when it leaves the battlefield, allowing you to gear up for a new game plan.

Right off the bat, Pir & Toothy appear to make a great pseudo-Voltron team. Just drawing a handful of cards will pump Toothy into ultra-tall territory in quick fashion, especially with amazing counter doublers like Solidarity of Heroes. Give it unblockable and you could commander damage your enemies in no time! I’m personally a little averse to this plan, however; Toothy will grow enormously large, but bear in mind that its leaves-the-battlefield trigger is not optional. I am not joking when I say that I’ve seen players die multiple times to their own Toothy, who drew them so many cards that they ran out.

Some savvy players are fully aware of Toothy’s ‘drawback,’ and organize their decks to take advantage of it. Even better, there’s a trigger loophole that they can abuse. If, for example, you Essence Flux your Toothy, it will leave and enter the battlefield in one go. Therefore, when its leaves-the-battlefield ability is allowed to resolve, Toothy is actually on the battlefield to observe it, which instantly replaces all the +1/+1 counters! This trick also works with Clones, who would copy Toothy, legend rule the original away, then grow to astronomical sizes as you draw a bajillion cards. This hectic, nonstop drawing engine sets up Laboratory Maniac almost too perfectly.

I don’t want to try that plan either, however. In fact, I don’t think Toothy is the most interesting of these two commanders.

Pir, Imaginative Rascal is worded in a very interesting way, one that is mechanically distinct from Doubling Season. The latter will double the number of counters put onto your permanents when an effect puts counters onto them. Pir, on the other hand, doesn’t have this restriction; he will add one additional counter whenever they’re placed for any reason. Usually this is as a result of an effect… but sometimes it’s as the result of a cost. 

Simic Superfriends? Now that’s what’s up. An early-drop Pir sets you up beautifully for some exceptionally deadly planeswalkers. Kiora, the Crashing Wave, for example, will enter with 3 loyalty instead of 2. Then, when you activate her +1 ability, you’ll give her 2 more loyalty counters. She’s ready to use her ultimate ability on the very next turn, inexorably pushing you toward victory with an endless supply of Krakens.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, too! Nissa, Vital Force is ready to ultimate the same turn she drops into play. Imagine using famously powerful walkers like Teferi, Temporal Archmage or Tamiyo, the Moon Sage. When all your planeswalkers are able to activate their ultimates up to three turns in advance, your opponents will have a very difficult time dealing with your nonstop value train.

Let’s take a look at a Pir & Toothy best friends deck!

Simic Superfriends

I don’t know about you, but I like this. This isn’t the type of deck people expect to be supporting the Superfriends archetype, but Pir has the potential to put more counters on your planeswalkers than even Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice, and that’s pretty darn awesome.

Naturally, we had to include some classic +1/+1 counter creatures like Forgotten Ancient and Chasm Skulker. There are limited blue and green planeswalkers to use, so it’s nice to let Pir buff up some other creatures too, that way Toothy has a few other monsters to play with.

Pir & Toothy are exceptionally diverse and exceptionally dangerous, sometimes even to their own controller. Whether you choose to blink Toothy so much you draw your entire deck, or you’d prefer to bash people with huge monsters, or you enjoy ramping up the loyalty of your army of planeswalkers, you’re in for a very dynamic game.


Cards to Consider

Let’s wrap up with a few special cards that you should take a second look at when building either of these awesome Simic commanders.

Vorel

  • Lighthouse Chronologist: Vorel can double the number of any kind of counter on your creatures. That includes Level Up!
  • Triskelion: This and Walking Ballista will seem innocuous at first, but Vorel is all about exponential growth. Three counters will become six, which will become twelve. If all goes well and you get to activate Vorel over and over, this is one of the only things you’ll need to close out the game.
  • Draining Whelk: At first I thought this card was just cute, but insubstantial. Turns out it packs a very hefty punch. Even getting four counters on this bad boy can open the door to an enormous flying beatstick that punches your enemies right out of the sky.
  • Seedborn Muse: Remember, this build is all about activating Vorel multiple times on a single target. Seedborn Muse, in concert with other untap effects, could allow Vorel to activate many, many times per round, setting up your win conditions in short order.
  • Magistrates’ Scepter: Vorel requires patience, and nowhere is that clearer than with this selection. It takes investment, but if you pull it off, it’s also a win condition. Don’t remove counters from this too quickly. If you can activate it and it still has three or more counters left, Vorel can double them to take another turn, and double them on that turn, and continue on into oblivion. So again, be patient. Add one counter. Make that two. Then make it four. Once it hits eight counters, you’ve won the game.
  • Bonus pick! Liquimetal CoatingIf you want to try Vorel Superfriends, it is possible! Just turn them into artifacts first!

Pir & Toothy

  • Jace, the Living Guildpact: Yes, even this version of Jace, one of the least effective blue planeswalkers we’ve seen, is capable of some brokenness here. He’ll enter with 6 loyalty instead of 5, and can tick up to 8 on his first turn, ready to ultimate almost immediately. Don’t hold back from ‘bad’ planeswalkers with Pir, especially since he can put them into ultimate range so quickly.
  • Mage-Ring Network: A nice, simple way to save up lots of mana over time.
  • Fog Bank: Blue decks can often rely on Propaganda effects to save themselves from attackers, but they won’t protect your walkers here. Instead, you can eternally protect them with a wall of fog, or perhaps a Guard Gomazoa, which abate tons and tons of aggression.
  • Spike Weaver: This is one of the best green creatures, full stop. No matter which type of Pir & Toothy deck you’re using, this is a slam-dunk.
  • Lighthouse Chronologist: Yup. It works here too!

Every Counter Counts

Vorel of the Hull Clade and Pir & Toothy do appear fairly similar, but only at first glance. They both have a diversity of options to mass-produce their counters, but supremely different styles therein. Vorel doesn’t need a wealth of targets for his ability, just one big threat. His is an exponential math equation. Pir, on the other hand, can overgrow his Toothy, or can spread the love to many other friends. The pair is true to their word, and limit you only as far as your own imagination.

So, which Simic counter-manipulator would you prefer to build, and what are your favorite types of counters to double? Oh, and which commanders would you like to see on the next Commander Showdown? 

Cast your votes, or leave a comment below! Write-in candidates are always welcome.

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!