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The Knowledge Pool – Karametra, God of Harvests
An Eternal Harvest
Hi everyone! Welcome back to The Knowledge Pool, where we take a deep dive on deep commanders!
Last time I showcased a deck that included one of my new favorite cards from War of the Spark: Saheeli, Sublime Artificer. Because War of the Spark has so much to offer, this time let’s look at another new card that has piqued my brewing interest. Many of you know that I’m the kind of player that likes cards with a high floor and a high ceiling, and God-Eternal Oketra offers these qualities in spades.
Oketra is a perfect card to build around, and while we could make a deck with her as the commander, I think she works best in the 99. White is a very narrow color in Commander, and having access to a second or third color will really help us make the most of the cat-faced goddess.
What kinds of decks are excited about Oketra? For starters, we want Oketra in a deck that casts lots of creatures. For each creature we cast, Oketra will generate a 4/4 Zombie Warrior, which means we can put together an army quickly. What’s even better is that Oketra will be a tremendous pain for our opponents to deal with, as most traditional removal will simply place her back into the top of our deck. Once we find Oketra, we can be confident she’ll be nearby for the rest of the game.
The first decks I considered for Oketra were Ephara, God of the Polis and Arcades, the Strategist. Both Ephara and Arcades like to play a high density of creatures to make the most of their respective draw abilities, and including Oketra in the mix would offer us a little extra value as we go about our game plan. After brewing both of these decks, I found myself underwhelmed by the final product, and I went back to the drawing board. Some soul searching lead me to the perfect deck for Oketra: Karametra, God of Harvests.
A Godly Ensemble
Let’s talk about the factors that make Karametra and Oketra best friends. First, Karametra has a triggered ability that activates when we cast creatures. This means that if we build a creature-centric deck to make the most of Karametra, Oketra will also benefit. Second, Karametra will net us a land each time we cast a creature, so we won’t have trouble casting Oketra, and then casting multiple creatures to get us triggers from both Gods. Unfortunately, searching our library and therefore shuffling our deck doesn’t interact favorably if Oketra is put on top of our library, but I think the synergies are too potent to ignore.
The more I’ve brewed this deck, the more certain I am that I’ve selected the right commander for this strategy. As a primarily green player with a penchant for ramp and creature decks, Karametra was an enticing choice. While a lot of Karametra decks I’ve encountered brew her to lead an Enchantress theme, I think her creature synergy is an underrated asset. Karametra ensures that each creature we cast presents us with immediate value, while allowing us to accrue additional resources through Landfall triggers. Beyond Landfall, the Selesnya colors offer us some of the best creature support in the format, meaning each creature we cast has the potential to trigger multiple abilities.
So if we’re casting lots of creatures and we’re stockpiling tons of lands with Karametra, what are we going to do with all of our mana? Obviously more mana means we can cast more creatures, but I want to go bigger. Let’s talk about one of the stars of this deck: Primal Surge. Primal Surge is frankly absurd in the right build. For 10 mana we get to exile cards from the top of our deck, and put any permanents revealed this way onto the battlefield. If our deck happens to be nothing but permanents, we get to flip our entire deck onto the table. Spoiler alert: our deck is all permanents.
Karametra, God of the Surge
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This deck has several distinguishing characteristics, owing to the fact that it aims to make the most of both Karametra and Primal Surge. We have 43 creatures with a spectrum of casting costs. The cheaper creatures will fill in utility roles, and help us to maximize our Karametra triggers, while the expensive creatures will offer us value and reach as the game drags on. Given that we will likely end up with more mana than we can hope to use, I’ve tried to select a handful of creatures and permanents with activated abilities so that we have sinks for any extra mana.
Returning readers know that I like to strike a balance between synergistic abilities and utility abilities (ie ramp, draw, and removal). The fact that this deck opts against instants and sorceries means that we will need to get creative to satisfy our utility requirements. Luckily, the increasing power of creatures through the years means that we can fill a lot of these holes with abilities our creatures provide. Ultimately, we end up with 11 pieces of draw power, 11 pieces of ramp (not counting Karametra), 8 pieces each of artifact and enchantment removal, and 5 pieces of creature removal.
Our focus on creatures, permanents, and cast triggers opens us up to a neat sub theme: bouncers. I’ve included five ways for us to return, or “bounce”, our creatures back to our hand so that we can recast them and reap the rewards of Karametra over and over again. Creatures like Whitemane Lion and Stonecloaker can be used to hide our creatures from removal or bounce themselves for value.
As always, I like to make a note about our casting costs. This deck has an average converted mana cost of 3.58, and I think we’re on the lower end of what this deck can afford. Given how many lands Karametra will harvest, I could see adding more meat to our top end in exchange for some of our cheaper spells. Kozilek, Butcher of Truth and other Eldrazi could be excellent in a deck like this, but I aimed to a higher density of cheap creatures to more consistently trigger Karametra.
As a final note, I would like to point out that while we skew our deck to be as effective as possible with, we have no way to tutor for Surge. In this deck, Surge is a gigantic, game-ending play that we will only see once in awhile. It turns out, however, that building this deck to work well with Primal Surge means building around creatures as a primary win condition, an approach that synergizes well with Karametra anyway.
Creatures of the Lower End
To begin our exploration into this deck, let’s break up our reatures by cost, and highlight the abilities we have available at each point in the curve.
Creatures CMC 0-3
Our lower-costed creatures offer all kinds of utility. Cards like Birds of Paradise, Beastcaller Savant, and Wood Elves will be our primary ramping force, helping us to cast Karametra as quickly as possible. Given Karametra’s natural resiliency, I think we’ll be fairly safe playing her out early, and the sooner we get her on the board the sooner our other creatures start offering extra value.
We can also use our small creatures to draw cards. Elvish Visionary and Wall of Blossoms benefit from our bouncer subtheme, but two cards are particularly exciting to me: Duskwatch Recruiter and Tireless Tracker. Tireless Tracker is a star in several of my land-focused decks, and it will be a star in this deck too. With Karametra and Tracker on board, each creature we cast will get us a land and a Clue token, and then we can funnel any leftover mana into our Clues to draw cards. Duskwatch Recruiter is also an excellent mana sink in this deck. With just under 50% of our deck composed of creatures, we should have a very good chance of drawing cards with Recruiter, and the more mana we have, the more cards we can draw.
The utility package wouldn’t be complete without removal. Ulvenwald Tracker will be reusable creature removal, while Knight of Autumn offers modality and a way to remove artifacts and enchantments. While not a creature, it’s worth noting that Aura Shards is one more card that will let us accrue extra value from each creature we play, and it will make artifacts and enchantments a non-factor until our opponents deal with it.
Utility abilities are a necessary aspect of Commander deckbuilding, but they aren’t the most exciting. Luckily we have a few spicier creatures to make our lower end more threatening. Knight of the Reliquary will become quite huge in this deck, and it offers us the ability to trade the lands we find with Karametra for lands with abilities. Do we need grave hate? Knight can find us Scavenger Grounds. Are we hurting for card draw? We can turn a Plains into a Arch of Orazca. What other cool things can we do with less than four mana? Champion of Lambholt will make each creature we cast harder to block, while Scavenging Ooze will put enemy graves on notice, and is an excellent mana sink to boot.
Next step after cheap dudes: creatures costed four and above.
Once we hit four mana, we can really start extracting value out of each creature we cast, making our heavy investment in cheap creatures worth our time. Beast Whisperer and Soul of the Harvest cause each creature we cast to replace itself. Once we get one of these dudes in play with Karametra, we can really start churning through our deck, building up multiple extra cards and lands each turn.
Landfall triggers are another way for us to get value out of each creature we cast, thanks to Karametra. Emeria Angel and Rampaging Baloths will make us extra tokens with each land we play, and alongside Oketra and Primeval Bounty we’ll be able to amass a token army by casting our creatures. Another source of tokens and Landfall triggers is Avenger of Zendikar. The longer we wait to cast Avenger, the more Plants we’ll end up with, and once Avenger is on board, each creature we cast will nurture our Plants.
As good as all of these cards are, our most devastating Landfall creature will usually be Emeria Shepherd. Given that Karametra lets us find Plains, Shepherd will almost always return our permanents to play. Shepherd also has combo potential if the stars align. If we can get Sakura-Tribe Elder on board at the same time as Shepherd, we can sacrifice Elder to find a Plains, and then use Shepherd’s triggered ability to bring back Elder. We can continue looping Elder until we run out of Plains in our deck.
Beyond these creatures, we have a hodgepodge of dudes with neat abilities. One of the more unique ways to get more value out of creatures is to copy them with Bramble Sovereign, while Temur Sabertooth is a perfect mana sink, as way to bounce our creatures for extra ETB or on-cast effects. Shalai, Voice of Plenty is a way to protect our creatures, while letting us turn our mana into counters on them.
The last highlight I want to make in this section is Thunderfoot Baloth. Karametra’s indestructibility will help ensure that Baloth is always buffing our army, making our little creatures and tokens more threatening.
When Creatures Aren’t Enough
We’ve looked at the creatures in this deck, and now we have some other permanents and combos to dive into. Most of our noncreature, nonland permanents are aimed at utility roles, like Cast Out, Oblivion Stone, and Lifecrafter’s Bestiary. However, a few of these permanents stand out as synergistic.
Amulet of Vigor is a cheap mana investment, and will help us to get the most out of Karametra by letting us put our lands into play untapped. Cryptolith Rite will turn all of our dudes into Birds of Paradise, giving us another opportunity to get value from our creatures.
One of our secret weapons is Akroma’s Memorial. If we can resolve a Primal Surge, we want to end the game that turn. Memorial, in concert with all the other abilities in our deck, will help make sure our creatures are evasive. However, the most important aspect of Memorial is granting all of our creatures haste, allowing us to smash immediately.
The last card I want to acknowledge is another newcomer from War of the Spark: Vivien, Champion of the Wilds. Vivien’s +1 ability is lackluster, although reach and vigilance is an interesting combo to play both offensive and defensive. What excites me about Vivien is her static ability, granting our creatures flash. With such a heavy focus on creatures, Vivien will let us play at instant speed. Better still, Vivien’s -2 ability is another draw-style effect to help us make up for our lack of instants and sorceries.
Bouncing Towards Victory
When creatures fail to get the job done, we need a backup plan, and as usual, I have a combo in store for you all. What if I told you we hadn’t even talked about the best two cards in the deck? Crazy, right? Well check out these two: Aluren and Cloudstone Curio. I love old, stupidly broken cards, and these two fit the bill.
At first glance, these two cards have clear roles in the deck. Aluren lets us cast all of our cheap creatures for free at instant speed, while Curio lets us bounce a creature every time we cast a creature. What may not be so obvious is how easily these two go infinite. Aluren in combination with Kor Skyfisher, Whitemane Lion, or Stonecloaker will offer us infinite cast triggers, as each of these can bounce itself only to be cast again for free. If we don’t have any of these three, Aluren + Curio + any two creatures with CMC three or less will amount to the same end, letting us create an infinite loop of bounces and casts.
What will infinite cast triggers get us? With Karametra we get to find all the Forests and Plains in our deck, and with Oketra on board, we can make infinite 4/4 zombies. With Beast Whisperer or Soul of the Harvest we can draw our entire deck, and if we’re using the Curio combo, we can get infinite life with Knight of Autumn. The sky is the limit!
It’s worth noting that we can assemble this combo following a Primal Surge. Even with all our dudes on the board and Thunderfoot Baloth and Akroma’s Memorial in play, what if we can’t deal enough damage to take down the table? Begin a bouncing loop to make enough damage with Oketra and Primeval Bounty. Just be careful one of your draw engines doesn’t deck you in the process!
The Cut List
As with all creature-centric decks like this one, there are limitless possible additions to this deck. I’ve already mentioned that you can skew your top end to include Eldrazi, but here are a handful of other creatures worth considering:
Dragonlord Dromoka and/or Grand Abolisher are two ways to protect our combo plans. I’m not a fan of either of these here because they lack utility outside of combo situations. Instead, I’ve opted for cards like Selfless Spirit and Shalai, Voice of Plenty, both of which let us be more proactive with our protection.
Sigarda, Host of Herons should be in your deck if your meta has a lot of Stax, Aristocrats, or Sacrifice style decks. Otherwise, she’s just a beater.
We could always include the classic combination of Avacyn, Angel of Hope and Archetype of Endurance to make our Primal Surge play all the more unbeatable, but outside of Primal Surge scenarios these are both mana-intensive versions of cards we already have.
One particularly intriguing card for this deck is Thalia’s Lancers. This was one of my final cuts from the deck, and it has a surprising number of targets in this deck. If you opt to include the Eldrazi Titans, Avacyn, or Sigarda, the Lancers would be an excellent inclusion to help you find the right creature at the right time.
Thank you all for taking the time to read my article! I hope I’ve managed to excite you about Karametra, and one of my new favorite cards Oketra!
Until next time, I wish you all the best, and happy brewing!