Underdog’s Corner – Borborygmos, Enraged

Forgotten (Semi) Ancient

Hello, everyone! Welcome back to another installment of my series: the Underdog’s Corner! If this your first time visiting my portion of EDHREC’s articles, I’m glad you’re here! Each week I cover a commander whom I believe falls into one of several categories: the commander is underplayed in relation to it’s color combination, is underplayed in context of the legends released around it, or the commander has an underplayed strategy. The first two are the primary determinants of which commander I choose each week, but we occasionally see the third category too, like in my article for Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis. Regardless, my goal is to highlight a commander that needs a little more love. For the past several weeks, I’ve covered legends that are native to the plane of Ravnica. This mini-series has mostly been centered on the original Ravnica: City of Guilds block, but today we are moving closer to the future by covering a legend from the Return to Ravnica block! Say hello to today’s underdog: Borborygmos Enraged!

The Rumbling of Ravnica

Borborygmos is the the third least played commander among the mythic guildmasters from Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash, with a total of 478 decks at the time of writing. This is good for the seventh most played green-red commander, trailing powerhouses such as Omnath, Locus of Rage, Xenagos, God of Revels, Wort, the Raidmother, and Ulrich of the Krallenhorde. Wait, what? No offense to Werewolves as a tribe, but I think it’s a shame that Borborygmos is less played than Ulrich.

Borborygmos is a big boy in basically every sense of the word. He is an 8-drop commander who happens to also be a 7/6 trampler. Not only that, but even his in-game stature towers over the rest of the Gruul guild. While all of that is good, those stats aren’t enough to put Borborygmos in the running as a commander by themselves. According to EDHREC, the only commanders in the top 21 of all time with a converted mana cost greater than six are Omnath, Locus of Rage and Karador, Ghost Chieftain, and one of those has a cost reduction mechanic.

So what does Borborygmos Enraged bring to the table beyond his stats? Let’s look at his abilities in reverse.

Discard a land card: Borborygmos Enraged deals 3 damage to any target.

Each land in our hand with Borborygmos in play is a Lightning Bolt. At face value, that doesn’t seem “great” for a commander that costs eight mana. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still really good, but the barrier to entry of that ability is steep. It also has the added downside that we can’t play those lands if we’re discarding them (in a vacuum.) However, let’s take a more positive spin. First, there are diminishing returns once we get to a certain threshold of lands in any deck. If we can spend that mana over and over again, that’s great, but oftentimes you’re not able (unless you’re building around that.) This means we can chuck lands freely into the graveyard for damage.

Next, despite the fact that Lightning Bolt itself is viewed by many as a fairly subpar card in EDH, being able to generate them repeatedly is very powerful. Just under 50% of all legal commanders in EDH have a toughness less than 4, and over half of the top 100 most played creatures in EDH die to Bolt. If we’re able to discard two lands, six damage will kill nearly any creature in the game. Once we look beyond that, we can also target players and planeswalkers for when we want to end a game.

Whenever Borborygmos Enraged deals combat damage to a player, reveal the top three cards of your library. Put all land cards revealed this way into your hand and the rest into your graveyard.

Digging into our library for one to three lands has potential, but I think this ability is not as powerful as it reads. Having been able to swing with Borborygmos a few times in my Windgrace deck, I think this ability is intended to encourage you to attack with your trampling 7/6 Cyclops rather than enabling our Zeus-wannabe. I wouldn’t build around this ability, but your deck construction should enable it just as well.

Big Tracts of Land

If we’re going to want to play our commander, we’re going to have to take a page out of Omnath, Locus of Rage’s book and ramp, ramp, and ramp some more. Being able to consistently ramp to eight mana and still have cards in hand is going to be important. However, ramping with cards like Rampant Growth aren’t going to be as effective as the heavier options like Skyshroud Claim, Hunting Wilds, or the new Circuitous Route. While this shouldn’t be news to anyone who has played green, it’s still important to at least say it. Beyond these tried and true methods of ramp, we should look into additional options that have a little extra synergy with our commander.

While Cultivate is a ubiquitous card among green decks (for good reason), I think it might be slightly over-played. I want to emphasize the word slightly, as it is almost never wrong to run Cultivate (and its nearly identical cousin Kodama’s Reach). Green decks need to ramp, and it’s one of the best options available. However, with the number of variations that have been released over the years, I think slamming these two thoughtlessly into decks is becoming more and more incorrect. Let’s look at the numbers for a second. Kodama’s Reach and Cultivate currently appear in 65% and 71% of Borborygmos decks respectively. Nissa’s Pilgrimage is slightly worse without Spell Mastery, as it can only grab basic Forests, rather than Forests and Mountains, but it has the added upside of being able to grab an additional land when Spell Mastery is active. However, compared to the big two, it’s only included in 38% of Borborygmos decks. If we could only include one or two options, I think I would cut one of the wonder twins of ramp in favor of Nissa’s Pilgrimage. Run them all, but don’t shirk the Pilgrimage just because Cultivate is more famous.

Beyond spells that put lands onto the field, we have a few options that put lands straight to our hand. While this doesn’t accelerate us by putting lands directly into play, in the early and mid-game they will allow us to consistently hit our land drops, and in the late game, they allow us to grab plenty of lands to throw at our opponents. We can also include Exploration effects if we want to go all-in on the acceleration plan.

Tending the Farmland

While the ability to put lands into our hand and onto the battlefield is important, returning lands to our hand from the field or the graveyard is just as important. Graveyard-centric cards such as Crucible of Worlds and Ramunap Excavator are the usual suspects for these matters, we have several other options as well that you won’t see in other decks.

Groundskeeper is a simple card, but it commands the fourth-highest synergy rating for our underdog, with a score of 60%. With Borborygmos out, all of our Bolt-lands have a “Buyback” cost of {1}{G}. For a deck that is already planning to ramp out an eight-drop commander, this is game-ending. If there isn’t removal, Groundskeeper and our commander represent at least 12 damage each turn cycle. Even if our commander is removed, if Groundskeeper survives we can get back the lands we discarded for damage. If we’re looking for a less vulnerable (and more explosive) way to recur our lands, we have access to the well-respected and widely played Life from the Loam. Despite being played in a wide number of archetypes and color combinations, Loam actually has the second-highest synergy score in Borborygmos, at 68%. For the same cost as Groundskeeper’s ability we can get up to (any) three lands from our graveyard to our hand once per turn cycle, barring card draw. I’ll take nine damage for two mana any day.

To keep the trend of increasing synergy, we move to the #1 spot for Borborygmos Enraged with Creeping Renaissance at 82%. With Flashback effectively making it two cards in one, this gives us a massive shot of recursion for our lands with Borborygmos. We don’t have to get just lands back. We can get back key enchantments or creatures instead if needed. It’s a versatile form of card advantage, and I’m looking to include it in more of my own decks. If you want a variation on this effect, we have access to Praetor’s Counsel as well.

A Seismic Assault

While we’ve talked a bit about some of the cards that grease the wheels of the decks, let’s look at some of the engines and win conditions that give us reason to play this commander.

Let’s start with my favorite term in Commander: redundancy.

1. Redundancy

Seismic Assault is Borborygmos on an enchantment. Yes, it does one less damage (and that is relevant), but it is a second copy of our commander. This is a card that I would expect to be heavily featured in Borborygmos deck, but suprisingly, it only has an inclusion of 14% and a synergy score of 13%. Frankly, I think that’s way to low, but those are just my thoughts.

Next is a much worse version of Seismic Assault, Molten Vortex. It requires mana to use, so each of lands are literally Shock in terms of cards used, mana spent, and damage dealt.

2. Combo Potential

Did you know Borborygmos had combo potential? I didn’t until I checked the Rec page for him. Scrolling through the signature and top cards I noticed that Abundance, Snake Umbra, and Keen Sense were all very highly rated. I know what Abundance does, as it fits into my Tuvasa the Sunlit list, and I know of Snake Umbra and Keen Sense from when Slimefoot, the Stowaway was released.

Then it hit me.

Combined, these cards create a pseudo-infinite loop in which:

  1. We discard a land with Borborygmos
  2. We deal three damage to an opponent
  3. Using Abundance’s replacement effect, we draw a land
  4. Repeat

This loops continues as long as we have lands in our deck. Let’s consider that according to EDHREC the average Borborygmos deck contains 47 lands. Now, let’s assume we’re able to cast Borborygmos and cast Snake Umbra on the same turn, a play that requires eleven lands. That would leave 36 lands in our deck. That’s 108 damage that we are able to throw around if there are no responses: enough to almost kill three opponent’s from starting life totals. Unless we’re facing lifegain giants like Oloro, Ageless Ascetic or Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice, we will almost always end the game immediately from this board state.

If that combo wasn’t as all-in as you wanted, I’ve got what you want right here. Barrel Down Sokenzan is about as all-in as you can get. This card currently only appears in 12% of Borborygmos decks, and I only know of this card thanks to the EDHRECast’s episode featuring fellow writer Patrick Sippola. At face value, it’s one of the craziest burn spells that I’ve ever seen. In context of Standard, I guess it makes sense, as mono-red is typically a very low-to-the-ground deck. However, in EDH, why would we ever play it? With Borborygmos out, we can cast this, return five mountains to our hand to deal ten damage to a creature, then we can discard those five mountains for an additional fifteen damage. Let’s go deeper on this and add in Blood Moon. Now we can return EVERY land we control that isn’t a basic Forest to our hand for massive damage, while also crippling opposing mana bases.

One thing that I love about this particular card is that we don’t choose the number of lands nor we do return those lands to our hand until the spell resolves. This lets us be resilient against counter spells at least.

I won’t go into detail, but one last card I want to leave you with is Storm Cauldron. Enjoy!

Titanic Moments

One thing to keep in mind is that Borborygmos is very much the focal point of the deck; there are plenty of interactions that are very much reliant on our commander being on the board. However, that shouldn’t be a requirement for this deck to work. At its core, this is a ramp deck, and we can include all of the powerful options that are available to us. Below is a rough draft of a Borborygmos deck!

”Borborygmos aka Gruul Zeus”

Thank you for reading, and thanks for once against joining me in the Underdog’s Corner!

Mason is an EDH player from Georgia, who is a self-proclaimed Johnny and Vorthos. His MTG career started with a casual lifegain deck with only a single win-condition. When not consuming MTG, he spends his time being a full-time student, an avid sports fan, and a dabbling musician. Mason can be found on twitter @K_Mason64