Hello friends and fellow lifegainers, 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.
In previous articles we focused on present day Commander favorites Atraxa and Breya, so I felt that it was time to visit the former king of EDHREC, Oloro, Ageless Ascetic. As 2016 came to an end, so did the reign of old man Oloro as EDHREC’s number one commander. While many outsiders fueled the rumors that Oloro’s fall from the top of the EDH mountain was due to booze and peripheral vascular disease, it was in fact the overwhelming popularity of the four color legendary creatures in Commander 2016 that finally toppled the big man.
I paused for reflection and couldn’t help but wonder, how long was Oloro the number one commander? Lucky for us, I was able to ask EDHREC founder and statistician, Don Miner, that exact question. His answer? Oloro was the top commander on EDHREC for the “length of human recorded history”. Well, at least since version 2 of EDHREC.com was launched on June 27th, 2015.
Regardless of his dip in popularity, Oloro, Ageless Ascetic continues to inspire deck tacticians who want him to chair their control, combo, life gain or good stuff Esper decks. In fact, arguably it’s Oloro’s ability to generate two life every turn, along with the sanctuary he finds in the command zone, that Commander players find enticing or absolutely absurd.
Sit back, relax, recline, and get comfy, let’s take a look at Oloro, Ageless Ascetic, non-basically speaking.
The incremental life gain from a functioning Oloro EDH deck has a nice counterbalance with a solid mana infrastructure built around shock lands and fetch lands. Using a Polluted Delta to seek out a Watery Grave and have it enter the battlefield untapped usually results in a three point downward swing of our life total. With Oloro decks however, the loss of life we suffer in mana fixing is quickly replenished with Oloro’s upkeep trigger or via signature cards like Kambal, Consul of Allocation (45% of 530 decks). A commonality of Oloro decks is to use life gain as a resource to counteract abilities that require payment in the form of damage or loss of life. This strategy extends itself to non-basic lands.
Furthering the efficiency of an Oloro mana base are pain lands. Pain lands, like Caves of Koilos, can tap for a colorless mana at no cost of life, but tapping for a mana of one color or another will bring about a point of “pain” to the life total. Here again, the damage dealt to us by the pain lands is eventually recouped by the ample avenues of life gain in an Oloro deck.
Let’s take a look at some other interesting options. On average, 40% of Oloro decks on EDHREC run the life-gain tapped lands. Lands such as Tranquil Cove offer budget mana fixing in addition to a minuscule dose of life gain. However, if we want to keep the amount of lands that enter the battlefield tapped to a minimum, then we may want to consider running scry lands instead. While only advertised in 34% of Oloro decks, the temple cycle (Temple of Enlightenment) provides a one-time trigger that allows us to look at the top card of our library and keep it on top or shift it to the bottom. Quite the handy little effect that could edge us closer to finding answers, options or key components of our deck.
EDHREC’s non-basic land recommendations present a nice gallery of Commander staples that most Oloro deck builds include. While most auto-includes are self-explanatory, I feel it is worthwhile to take an in-depth look at a couple of them and discuss their heightened value when sleeved up for our commander.
Reliquary Tower (60% of 1622 Decks) is one of the games most useful utility lands that taps for a colorless mana in addition to giving the controller no maximum hand size. With EDH decks that plan on drawing oodles of cards or don’t want to discard down to seven after an opponent’s Cyclonic Rift, it is easy to see why Reliquary Tower is an auto-include in a fat array of deck builds.
In Oloro, however, Reliquary Tower goes from recommendation to necessity. Our humble giant enjoys a cold beer, sushi and drawing cards. Signature cards like Alhammarret’s Archive (55% of 1231 decks), Well of Lost Dreams (55% of 1622 decks) and Rhystic Study (40% of 1622 decks) confirm that the big guy is infatuated with card draw and securing his resources.
Bojuka Bog (31% of 1622 decks) is a dependable answer for opponents who thrive on graveyard strategies and recursion. A well-timed Bojuka Bog could exile a few problematic cards or hose an opponent’s entire strategy. The fact that Bojuka Bog enters the battlefield tapped is inconsequential compared to the game shifting utility it provides us.
Oloro decks are notorious for using mass removal in efforts to reset the board, control the game, or save their hide from an aggressive onslaught. Five of EDHREC’s top card recommendations for the big knucklehead will destroy, exile or bounce all creatures. Since the battlefield is frequently vacant of threats, why not use Shambling Vent (17% of 1131 decks) to get into the red zone for some life gain and whittle away at our opponents life total? Shambling Vent can be activated into a 2/3 Elemental with lifelink that can break up a late game draw-go scenario post board wipe. With an enchantment like Angelic Accord (12% of 1622 decks) in play, the Vent, coupled with Oloro’s upkeep trigger, can help us meet the requirements necessary to reward us with a 4/4 angel token.
Our non-basic lands are looking really good to this point, but there is a glaring omission from EDHREC that can play a substantial part in putting a win condition on the board, High Market. We have previously discussed the importance of having sacrifice outlets available to us throughout the game and this non-basic land definitely accomplishes the task. Plus, it’s on-theme with life gaining shenanigans! However, the true power of High Market can be found by deploying one of the oldest tricks in the book, pairing it with Academy Rector.
Statistics on EDHREC will show that Oloro decks have a tendency to lean on powerful enchantments for control, card draw or to win the game. When we sacrifice Academy Rector with High Market we can search our library for any enchantment card and put it into play. It’s this warm, cuddly goodness that produces a Grandma-Grandson type relationship between Academy Rector and Oloro; or, if you prefer a creepier comparison, a Deadpool and Blind Al type romance.
Wait, hold on! Academy Rector is a woman? Short answer, yes, I believe so. Amazingly enough there are forum topics that discuss Academy Rector and whether the artwork depicts a wise old woman or man. Not that gender matters when discussing a card, but for purposes of this article, I am referring to her as “grandma” so I feel some need to justify the reasoning. For quick resolution of this subject, here is a link to updated artwork by the original artist herself. Take a look, this should put to rest any doubts but be sure to come back and finish this article. We still have more to discuss! Academy Rector Image – Heather Hudson Twitter
Where were we? Oh right, winning the game. With Oloro’s “memaw” and High Market on the battlefield we have instant speed access to complete combos or put win conditions directly onto the battlefield. Sacrificing Academy Rector at the end of an opponent’s turn could satisfy our desire to win with Test of Endurance (21% of 1622 decks) with little chance of disruption. We could also use the High Market/Academy Rector pairing for instant speed completion of Oloro’s most infamous two card combo: Sanguine Bond (69% of 1622 decks) and Exquisite Blood (53% of 1622 decks). Of course, an early game Academy Rector may not be used to search out a win condition at all. We could use this rattlesnake to set up control or establish a card draw engine with Necropotence (26% of 1622 decks).
In all honesty I was flabbergasted at the no-show of High Market on Oloro’s EDHREC page. In fact, I had to utilize the advanced search feature to see if anyone was using High Market in their deck builds. Astonishingly, only 55 out of 1622 decks run High Market.
How about one more before we wrap things up? Halimar Depths is a nifty little trick that allows us to look at the top three cards of our library and put them back in any order. If we don’t like what we see, we can change our future by using a shuffle effect courtesy of Demonic Tutor (36% of 1622 decks) or one of our Fetch Lands like Polluted Delta.
That’s all I have for you today my EDHREC friends! What do you think? As an Oloro player, what other non-basic lands do you find useful in deploying your strategy? Did you find any helpful hints for non-Oloro builds? Do you despise the Esper giant? Do you think Oloro likes IPAs brews or is he more of a Stout kind of a guy? Have you followed me on Twitter yet? Let’s discuss in the comments below!
On to the next!