Atla Palani, Nest Tender | Illustration by Ekaterina Burmak
You can do a lot of really cool things in Magic. Cheating creatures into play from the graveyard, locking your opponents out of the game with a convoluted combination of prison cards, or going infinite with a few key pieces are just some examples. But there’s something deeply satisfying about simply playing massive creatures and smashing them into your opponents until their life totals are at 0. Or -25.
Of course, the problem with big creatures tends to be that big creatures cost a ton of mana. It’s fun to unleash titanic monstrosities, but it can be challenging when those monsters cost eight or nine mana or more. Luckily there’s a commander that excels at cheating these monsters into play: Atla Palani, Nest Tender.
Zacama, Primal Calamity | Illustration by Jaime Jones
Gut, True Soul Zealot
Thalia, Heretic Cathar
Zirda, the Dawnwaker
Samut, Voice of Dissent
Xenagos, God of Revels
Aurelia, the Warleader
Etali, Primal Storm
Old One Eye
Zacama, Primal Calamity
March of Otherworldly Light
Path to Exile
Swords to Plowshares
Altar of Bone
Escape to the Wilds
Trace of Abundance
Fable of the Mirror-Breaker
Rhythm of the Wild
Vance's Blasting Cannons
Altar of Dementia
Talisman of Conviction
Talisman of Impulse
Talisman of Unity
Temple of Abandon
Temple of Plenty
Temple of Triumph
This deck is Timmy Magic at its finest. It thinks about big creatures, breathes big creatures, and dreams about big creatures, even if there’s only 19 in the list. This deck focuses on maximizing Atla Palani, Nest Tender’s ability to cheat your big creatures into play.
The gameplan is simple: ramp your commander out early, start making Eggs, and cheat some fatties into play to end the game quickly. You don’t have any fancy combos or even much in the way of subtle tricks. This deck knows combat damage and combat damage alone as a wincon.
This is a deck that’s very much built around its commander. You’re looking to ramp early so you can cast Atla Palani, Nest Tender as quickly as possible and start producing Egg tokens. You’ve also got a bunch of ways to crack the Eggs.
Atla is a fantastic commander for this deck because it’s basically a ramp option. All the ways you have to crack the Eggs cost two mana or less. Including the two mana it takes to produce the Egg, you rarely spend more than four mana to get massive monsters into play. These often cost more than four mana, generating a powerful mana advantage over your opponents.
This is important because one of the biggest weaknesses of big_creatures.dec is that you deploy threats slowly and they consume your entire turn. Every Timmy out there knows the pain of playing an awesome 7-mana card only for it to be countered or removed before it does the thing. Atla lets you get these huge powerful creatures into play while giving you spare mana to perform other game actions. It also puts the creature right into play to evade counterspells altogether.
To make a good Magic deck, you need to break a few eggs. This list has several ways to sacrifice Palani’s Eggs, and do so with profit!
Skullclamp hardly needs introduction. It’s one of the best equipment ever printed and does a wonderful job breaking Eggs and drawing cards. When you equip Skullclamp and the Egg dies, you get to decide whether the Atla or Skullclamp triggers go on the stack first. I prefer resolving Alta first to get my creature, especially early in the game.
Gut, True Soul Zealot is one of the few creatures in the deck that’s not a monster. It is, however, a great enabler for Palani. You can turn the Eggs into two creatures far more relevant than a 0/1.
Infernal Plunge is a powerful sac outlet that doubles as a ramp piece to help get multiple big threats out in a single turn.
Altar of Bone is a cool little tutor that bends the color pie a little bit, giving you a Selesnya () sacrifice outlet that tutors a card and deploys a threat. Just make sure to have a backup target in mind in case you put your original tutor target in play!
Makeshift Munitions is a strong sacrifice outlet that converts your Eggs into damage. It’s great at controlling a board of small creatures or forcing through a few final points of damage.
Goblin Bombardment does everything Munitions does, but it’s a free sacrifice outlet. This is much stronger and useful if you’re trying to crack Eggs and play monsters in a single turn.
Greater Gargadon is a big beater to flip with Atla and another free sacrifice outlet to pitch Eggs to. You’ll almost always want to suspend this card if you draw it.
Ashnod's Altar is probably the best sacrifice outlet in the deck except maybe for Skullclamp. Producing mana is insanely strong. This also produces multiple creatures. If you have Alta and an Egg already in play, you can sac the Egg, make two mana, make an Egg, then sacrifice the new Egg, all at instant speed.
While this deck’s creatures are primarily heavy-hitting bombs, there are a couple creatures that are more utility spells than game-ending threats.
Harmonic Prodigy is an unassuming creature with a big payoff. Palani is a shaman, so you get double Egg value every time one dies and this card is in play.
Kinjalli's Sunwing and Thalia, Heretic Cathar are both in here to make your opponents’ creatures enter tapped. They help close games by making blocking awkward and work well with your haste givers.
Zirda, the Dawnwaker is a nifty little card. Its ability reduces Palani’s activated ability to 0 and makes some of your sacrifice outlets free. Zirda can also force through a few points of damage to finish an opponent or problematic planeswalker.
Acidic Slime makes for a versatile hit that comes down and blows up something troublesome like a Cabal Coffers, or this deck’s greatest natural predator, Grafdigger's Cage.
Cataclysmic Gearhulk provides you with a little more board control on a reasonable body and works well with your commander.
This is what you’re all here for: the creatures that come down and wreck face.
Nesting Dragon is a super useful card that produces Egg tokens that trigger Palani and make an extra 2/2 when they die.
Elder Gargaroth is an obscenely statted creature that does everything. It stabilizes you by providing a massive blocker and tons of lifegain, it spews out an army of 3/3s, or it provides a source of card advantage.
Samut, Voice of Dissent is super powerful because it gives your team haste, enabling some nasty plays when you’re cheating big creatures into play. Its untap ability also helps make some extra Eggs.
Xenagos, God of Revels is another haste enabler. It won’t spread it across the team but makes up for it by making one of your creatures huge. You’ve already got so many big hitters that this ability makes it impossible to do anything but chump.
Etali, Primal Storm is one of the sweetest creature spells you can play. Just a single attack can provide immense value, and you’re doing incredibly well if you can get Etali in twice.
Kogla, the Titan Ape provides a bit of creature interaction and enchantment hate. It can also help protect Palani by bouncing it back to your hand.
Old One Eye comes in with a friend and a recursive ability that makes it tricky to remove. But the best part of this card is the trample ability. Giving all your creatures trample is super useful in this deck to prevent you from getting stalled out by decks running lots of tokens and other small creatures.
Aurelia, the Warleader is a classic Commander card that helps close the gap by giving you two combats each turn. It’ll also help you make some extra Eggs by untapping Palani.
Woodfall Primus gives you a great way to interact with noncreature permanents and provides a large, sticky threat to keep the pressure on your opponents.
Apex Altisaur is another card that helps interact with your opponents’ board states, except this one can fight a bundle of creatures. This can come down and trade away for several large creatures or clear away a few smaller ones and live to fight another day.
Blast-Furnace Hellkite is one of the deck’s best finishers, giving all your massive monsters double strike to close the gap. It also incentivizes your opponents to attack each other, helping relieve some pressure.
Zacama, Primal Calamity might be the best creature in the whole deck. It does a little bit of everything: it provides a massive burst of mana, kills creatures, planeswalkers, or players, destroys artifacts and enchantments, and it gains some life to stabilize. This combination of versatility and raw power makes Zacama the best of your top-end cards.
The Mana Base
One challenge to building this mana base came from leaving out the mana dorks you’d usually play in a green deck. Cards like Birds of Paradise and Avacyn's Pilgrim get way worse since you can flip them off an Egg, which is basically a whiff.
This list runs Wild Growth and Utopia Sprawl so you still have a few ways to ramp from turn 1.
You’ve also got a suite of good ramp sorceries: Farseek, Nature's Lore, and Three Visits. They’ll help you play your commander ahead of schedule.
You’ve also got a solid assortment of artifact ramp with Sol Ring, Arcane Signet, and all your on-color Talismans. Beyond that, your land base focuses on fixing.
You’re playing Timmy Magic here, so the strategy mostly boils down to playing big monsters and smashing face but there are a few things to keep your eye on, like the hands you’re keeping and the commanders you’re playing against.
Focus on cheating out big monsters ahead of schedule, but this is still a slower deck. It struggles against super fast decks, especially those looking to end the game through a cheap combo like Thassa's Oracle and Demonic Consultation. Try to play this against slower decks and other creature-oriented strategies. You’re better suited to playing against those decks, and those strategies lead to everybody attacking everybody else, which can make it easier to win.
For your opening hand, look for ramp and a way to crack Eggs. You don’t need to worry about finding threats because Palani does that for you. Ramp lets you get your commander out quickly and make use of its abilities. It also helps with your secondary game plan if Palani gets locked out, which is just casting your creatures.
You’ve got a pretty decent amount of removal in the deck. One thing to keep an eye out for is the various cards that shut down your strategy. Grafdigger's Cage is something to worry about, as is Containment Priest. Cards like these that prevent creatures from entering the battlefield from the library are something to keep removal up for.
Combos and Interactions
This deck plays some honest hardworking Magic and doesn’t have much in the way of combos. But it does have a few strong synergies.
Maskwood Nexus works fantastically with Palani by making all your creatures Eggs on top of their other types. This means that any of your creatures dying triggers Palani’s ability, even itself, which makes it hard for your opponents to remove any of your threats. It also works with Harmonic Prodigy by making your creatures wizards.
Cataclysmic Gearhulk also has a neat little synergy with your commander. Once you’ve got a few Eggs in play, you can play the Gearhulk. Keep Palani as your creature and choose the Gearhulk as your artifact, and sacrifice everything else. So do your opponents, but all your Eggs flip into new threats. Austere Command works similarly.
Rule 0 Violations Check
This deck is pretty friendly in terms of Rule 0 conversations. There’s not really anything here that breaks most social norms of Commander. There aren’t any infinites or mass land destruction spells or stax pieces. You’re not going to wrath the board a million times to draw the game out or perform some combo to end it instantly.
This should be a good deck for anybody who enjoys some creature-based nonsense.
Elder Gargaroth is a pricy creature that’s hard to replace since it’s so versatile. Some good options are Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves or Huntmaster of the Fells, both of which are versatile creatures that help add to your board state.
Seedborn Muse provides a lot of value, but it costs a decent amount of money. Wilderness Reclamation can provide a similar effect, though it doesn’t untap Palani.
Three Visits is fairly expensive as far as ramp spells go and could easily be replaced by something like Rampant Growth to help keep you on curve at a lower price.
Fable of the Mirror-Breaker provides you with a way to get onto the board early without adding dud creatures to the deck. That said, it costs a pretty penny since it sees play in virtually every format. A good substitute is Jugan Defends the Temple, providing a similar board presence and mana advantage.
You could do some other things with Atla Palani, Nest Tender. One option is to broaden the number of creatures and look to play a more midrange-based game that’s less focused on hitting big creatures and more on using Palani to help churn out smaller creatures. A build like that would likely want to lean into some stax-adjacent strategies.
You could also build a more flavorful deck. Palani is from Ixalan, proudly defending the nest. You could go hard into dinosaur tribal with it, deploying a monstrous array of reptile overlords like Ghalta, Primal Hunger and Zetalpa, Primal Dawn alongside Zacama to crush your opponents underfoot.
Xenagos, God of Revels | Illustration by Jason Chan
Cheating big creatures into play is one of the funniest things you can do in Magic. There’s a primal delight that comes from unleashing a titanic menagerie on an EDH table that’s hard to beat with other strategies.
Atla Palani, Nest Tender is a perfect champion to lead this deck. It lets you get big creatures into play ahead of schedule and without even drawing them. It also helps create some interesting deckbuilding choices, forcing your Naya () deck to kill its own creatures for a playstyle that’s fun and interesting.
What do you think of the deck? What beaters would you put into a strategy like this? Which other builds would you explore? Let me know in the comments below or over on Draftsim’s official Twitter.
Thanks for reading, and don’t be afraid to take a crack at this deck!
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