Last updated on January 13, 2023
Ivy, Gleeful Spellthief | Illustration by Evyn Fong
Dominaria United has brought players quite a bit in terms of Commander: not only two acceptable precons, but also quite a few new legendary creatures. Some have been hits (see: Jodah, the Unifier) and some have been misses (see: any commander with domain because you’ll always be limited by its colors). Either way, lots of decks got some nice upgrades.
One that caught my eye, as well as that of many others, was Ivy, Gleeful Spellthief. Its ability to give additional value to any targeted spell is amazing and opens up a lot of possibilities. My mind immediately went to one of my favorite mechanics from a couple Standards ago: mutate. Since I can, I’m also going to make it a token deck!
Aqueous Form | Illustration by Slawomir Maniak
Errant, Street Artist
Wilson, Refined Grizzly
Flood of Tears
Irenicus's Vile Duplication
Rite of Replication
Slip Through Space
Triumph of the Hordes
Helm of the Host
Talisman of Curiosity
Boseiju, Who Endures
Otawara, Soaring City
Simic Growth Chamber
Ivy’s ability has some interesting connotations. It reads “Whenever a player casts a spell that targets only a creature other than [it.]” This means you aren’t just worried about the spells that you cast, but also the ones that your opponents cast. If someone starts giving their commander targeted indestructible, for instance, you can get for Ivy too. You also need to protect Ivy in more ways than one. Giving your commander hexproof is a must along with indestructible. You should also make a point to not leave it on the battlefield alone for very long or someone may make you sacrifice it.
The lion’s share of your creature count is going to be taken up by ones that have mutate and other creatures that benefit from being mutated upon (like those with a very beneficial ETB ability, with an ability that stacks for each time it has been mutated, or that comes with built in protection).
Archipelagore has a stacking freeze effect for each time it mutates.
Auspicious Starrix stacks a pseudo-cascade effect each time it mutates.
Dreamtail Heron draws a card when it mutates.
Gemrazer lets you destroy an opponent’s target artifact or enchantment.
Glowstone Recluse gains two +1/+1 counters when it mutates.
Migratory Greathorn tutors a basic land onto the battlefield tapped.
Parcelbeast grants a tap ability that allows you to each play the top card of your library if it’s a land or draw it if it’s not.
Sawtusk Demolisher allows you to destroy a target noncreature permanent. Its controller creates a 3/3 green Beast token.
Sea-Dasher Octopus draws you a card when that creature deals combat damage to a player.
Souvenir Snatcher lets you gain control of target noncreature artifact.
Trumpeting Gnarr creates a 3/3 green Beast token.
Gladecover Scout is a mutation target built in hexproof for a single green mana.
Scute Swarm makes 1/1 green Insect tokens when a land enters the battlefield. It makes a token copy of itself if a land enters the battlefield after you control six or more lands.
Slippery Bogle also has built in hexproof for a single green or blue mana.
Stormchaser Drake draws you a card whenever it becomes the target of a spell you control.
Temur Sabertooth lets you pay mana to bounce a creature back into your hand to give itself indestructible until the end of the turn.
Topiary Stomper has an ETB ability to tutor a basic land onto the battlefield tapped.
Essence Symbiote is the first mutation assistant. Whenever a creature you control mutates, it also gets a +1/+1 counter and you gain 2 life.
Pollywog Symbiote makes all your mutate creatures one mana cheaper to cast. If you cast a creature that has mutate, you draw and then discard a card.
Errant, Street Artist serves as a spellslinging assistant. It allows you to copy the tokens that Ivy creates and choose new targets to get even more value out of them (sadly, these copies are not cast and don’t allow Ivy to trigger again).
A good chunk of your other nonland permanents are targeted spells to give buffs that will benefit any of them and Ivy. There are some others that have very specific purposes
Crystal Shard gives the ability to apply casting pressure on your opponents without needing to have more than one blue open or a card in hand.
Kefnet's Monument makes your blue creature spells 1 cheaper. You’re going to be casting a lot of creature spells since mutate still counts as one, so you might as well squeeze even more blood out of that rock and freeze your opponents’ creatures while doing it.
Lifecrafter's Bestiary gives even more benefit from casting creatures in the form of drawing cards for cheap.
Season of Growth gives you a truly awesome benefit to your mutate casts. It lets you scry 1 for the creature cast and then draw a card for casting the targeted spell.
Mirror Box is one of the pieces that enable you to have multiple instances of Ivy on the battlefield. The +1/+1 to legendary creatures is a nice bonus, but it gets better because your original Ivy gets bigger with each additional instance of it. It’s also great for the copies of the other mutated creatures you’re making.
Has anyone honestly seen an application of Helm of the Host that isn’t horribly broken? Equipping this on Ivy is a great way to get more of it, but if you also want to copy some of your other abominations of nature, this is a nice way to do it.
Vesuvan Duplimancy is another new card from Dominaria United that allows you to create copies of whatever you target with a spell when you cast it. This means that every time you mutate a creature onto another one, you create a token of that new creature. If you target your commander with something, you can create a token of Ivy too since the tokens aren’t legendary.
The copies that Ivy creates become tokens if they’re permanents like auras, so every aura you play ends up netting you two on the battlefield. With six auras in the deck, +2/+2 from Ancestral Mask for each adds up quickly.
Instants and Sorceries
Your package of instants and sorceries includes a lot of the typical Simic ramp staples, so you’d expect to get lots of mana as early as possible. The rest are ways for you to game the typical interaction system to your benefit.
You can hang onto Decisive Denial as a two mana counterspell or use it to cause one creature you control to fight another you don’t. You can then have Ivy do the same.
Hunter's Insight is another way to have two creatures fight two different creatures with the twist of letting you draw some cards. Be careful: in the late game with a beefed-up Ivy, it can become “draw your library” instead.
Slip Out the Back is very nice protection for a heavy hitter mutation target or for Ivy in case a board wipe shows up.
Quasiduplicate allows you to start copying your non-legendary mutations early.
Rite of Replication allows you to get potentially five tokens of a mutation target and five tokens of a heavily mutated Ivy. If you have Mirror Box out on the field, you get to keep the extra Ivys. If not, you at least get all the ETB triggers from them.
If things go sideways, Flood of Tears is a way to clear the field. You’ll most likely bounce more than four permanents back to your hand, so you’ll will at least be able to start with something back out right away. I suggest picking the most powerful engine you have in your hand at the time to put on the battlefield.
Vivien, Champion of the Wilds takes this already out of control deck and adds another painful wrinkle for your opponents: it allows you to cast creature spells as though they had flash. At any point, you can throw down a mutate target and get it online.
Imagine Vivien and a mutated Scute Swarm are on your battlefield. You draw a card, play a land, and pass your turn having spent no mana. You’re playing Simic, so counterspell shenanigans can very easily be on the menu. You watch the board as your opponents’ turns go by and let them think you have every answer in the book. Then, at the end step of the turn before your own, you cast Topiary Stomper, search for a land, and put it on the battlefield tapped, copying that mutated Scute Swarm. You then mutate that Stomper. And again. And again, for as long as you have mutate cards, mana, or basic lands available to tutor out. They’re ready to use at the beginning of your turn.
The Mana Base
The deck contains the typical staples of Sol Ring, Arcane Signet, Command Tower, Commander's Sphere, and Reliquary Tower. There’s also the color branded Simic Signet, Simic Locket, and Talisman of Curiosity.
For lands, there’s a very general suite of the two on-color Neon Dynasty legendary lands. There’s also the Simic variant of the pain land, slow land, shock land, check land, fetch land (including the Vista), filter land, bounce land, reveal land, and Battlebond land.
This deck also has utility landsAlchemist's refuge
Alchemist's refuge lets you cheaply play nonland cards as though they had flash.
Castle Garenbrig is here because you’ll be casting a lot of creatures. Why wouldn’t you want six mana for the price of four mana.
Command Beacon helps to get Ivy back on the battlefield after it’s been bounced back to the Command Zone.
Littjara Mirrorlake is another way to get the token train started.
Otawara, Soaring City is another bounce source if you really need to get something out of your way.
Rogue's Passage lets you get everything out of your way.
At its heart, this is a Voltron/mutate deck that heavily relies on Ivy, Gleeful Spellthief being on the battlefield and soaking up the benefits of your mutations and other spells. Where mutate has generally failed in Commander by concentrating everything into a single creature to get their benefits, you’ll be able to spread the love around and still get one massive mutation out of it.
Thankfully, Ivy has a mana value of two, so it’s reasonable to bring back online even when it’s been bounced to the command zone several times. This deck is a bit different from other Voltron decks because you do your best to make as many mutated Ivys as possible. Only one can do commander damage (which will have all the auras attached to it), but when you suddenly have upwards of ten of them swinging in, it starts to become a bit much.
Combos and Interactions
One of the biggest combos in the deck isn’t a wincon or a repeatable combo. It’s convoluted, but I still find it very clever:
Have at least Ivy, Gleeful Spellthief, Twinning Staff, and Errant, Street Artist on the battlefield. You have Flood of Tears and Slip Out the Back in hand. You have four generic and three blue mana available, or five generic and four blue mana available for an additional variant.
- Cast Flood of Tears to send the whole board back to their owner’s hands.
- Holding priority once you can, you then cast Slip Out the Back on Errant.
- Have Ivy trigger off of Slip and target your mutate assistant, then have a copy of Slip target Ivy.
- Twinning Staff sees the copied spell and copies it again, and you have it target another creature (if one doesn’t exist, choose Errant so that it fizzles)
- If you have another creature you wish to save beyond the ones already targeted, activate Errant’s ability to copy the copy of Slip an additional time, this time targeting any the other creature.
- Allow the stack to resolve:
- The additional creatures (if you targeted any), Errant, and Ivy phase out, and then all other nonland permanents are returned to their owner’s hands.
- Your next turn, the additional creatures, Errant, and Ivy all phase back in onto your side of the battlefield.
It’s a tad expensive and requires that no interaction takes place, but so do a lot of other multi-card combos. Man, what an asymmetrical way to clear the board.
Your primary wincon is either commander damage with a supped-up Ivy or general damage from multiple iterations of severely mutated creatures and Ivy sprinting into your opponents’ faces. This is why Shadow Rift, Slip Through Space, Aqueous Form, and Rogue's Passage are in the deck.
As a secondary measure, I’ve also included Triumph of the Hordes so that all you will need to do is sneak through a 10/10 with infect or throw the big buys over the wall to hit your opponents with enough to end it. With Ivy and several mutations/mutate targets having built in evasion in the form of flying, this can be managed.
Mutate is an underplayed mechanic, so this deck isn’t that harsh on the wallet compared to other decks I’ve built and seen. In its current form, its total settles somewhere between $275-$325 (at the time of publishing). Here’s the breakdown:
- Commander – $0.50 – you can’t not have it and that’s as low as low can be
- Creatures – ~$12 – again, mutate is cheap
- Instants/Sorceries – ~$45 – the most expensive cards here are Triumph of the Hordes at ~$17 and Three Visits at ~$5.
- Artifacts – ~$25 – the most expensive card here is Helm of the Host at ~$15
- Enchantments – ~$25 – the most expensive cards here are Vesuvan Duplimancy at ~$10, Bear Umbra at ~$7 and Ancestral Mask at ~$5
- Planeswalker – ~$1 – Vivien is an uncommon and her uses are niche
- Lands – $150-$200 – All this land is great and helps with mana consistency. Here’s also where you can make cuts. With the amount of ramp and repeatable land tutoring, you could switch out the fetch lands. There’s repeatable artifact and enchantment destruction with Gemrazer, so Boseiju could be replaced. There are repeatable bounce effects with Pouncing Shoreshark, so Otawara can be cut. If you need to, the shock land could be switched out as well. Switching all of those to basic lands would give more fodder for the Scute Swarm and bring the land down to somewhere between $50-$100.
Breeding Pool | Illustration by Mike Bierek
I really enjoyed building and testing this deck. When I sat down and looked at the options available for Ivy’s ability, I was shocked at its versatility of it and amazed that such a thing would be printed like this so close to other copying effects in Strixhaven. The lovely thing about this commander is that you have the possibility of building a very viable deck on a shoestring budget by throwing a bunch of auras you have lying around with enchantment-loving creatures. I also debated just slotting this in as the head for my beloved Adrix and Nev deck, but I was already dealing with thousands of tokens with that. It would have gotten messy, but I may toss that decklist out someday if anyone is interested.
At the end of it all, I am very pleased to finally see mutate get a bit of limelight again and hope that this will hold me over until we go back to Ikoria. What changes would you make with the deck? Do you have another theme that you think suits Ivy better? Let us know on Discord, Twitter, or in the comments below.
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