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Last updated on April 26, 2022

Meren of Clan Nel Toth - Illustration by Mark Winters

Meren of Clan Nel Toth | Illustration by Mark Winters

Meren of Clan Nel Toth quickly became one of the most prominent Golgari () commanders in the format after it was printed as a commander in the Commander 2015 precons. It’s the 11th most popular commander with over 5,500 lists online, and for good reason. Supporting an aristocrat/sacrifice playstyle with an incredible upside, it should be a crime not to build Meren around Birthing Pod.

Today I bring you a mid-power Golgari Pod deck with Meren of Clan Nel Toth in the command zone. I’ll go over everything important you may need to know including Pod chains, what to sacrifice and when, how to close out games, and more.

Let’s get into it!

The Deck

Birthing Pod - Illustration by Daarken

Birthing Pod | Illustration by Daarken

This deck is meant to be a mid-power list, meaning it isn’t cEDH or conventionally “high-power.” That said, it still holds its own at any casual table pretty well.

This midrange power level carries a midrange price with it, which makes it an exceptionally accessible deck even if you buy each individual card on its own. The price currently sits at around $300, which can still be a lot for many players, so I’ll be going over some budget options and replacements you may be interested in a little later.

The Commander

Meren of Clan Nel Toth

Meren of Clan Nel Toth is enabled entirely by the experience counter mechanic that was introduced with Commander 2015. The mechanic allows for the creature’s triggered ability to become stronger the more it’s used. In Meren’s case you can reanimate creatures of larger and larger mana value as the game progresses.

Since your commander gains experience counters each time a creature dies, you’re focused on the sacrifice/aristocrats theme that’s so heavily supported in the Golgari colors. You have plenty of sacrifice outlets and powerful creatures to sacrifice (and then reanimate), and you even take advantage of Birthing Pod a little bit.

Sacrifice Outlets

Part of sacrificing creatures and having as many die as possible with Meren of Clan Nel Toth in play is having engines to sacrifice them to. These engines allow you to trigger the creature death ability on your commander and take advantage of many creatures with on-death triggered abilities. Most sacrifice outlets also give some kind of extra benefit for sacrificing creatures, like gaining life or scrying.

Altar of Dementia

Altar of Dementia is a harder-to-kill outlet that also mills your opponents.

Ashnod's Altar

Ashnod’s Altar is a similar artifact that adds to your mana pool so that you can chain creatures together.

Birthing Pod

Birthing Pod is a sacrifice outlet that tutors creatures from the deck. The idea with this card is that you can go through your deck and get various enter- and leave-the-battlefield effects each turn.

Eldrazi Monument

Eldrazi Monument gives you a static upkeep-sacrifice outlet that makes your creatures much more threatening with flying and indestructible.

Blood Artist

Blood Artist is the cheapest and most accessible sacrifice outlet in the deck. It drains players to keep your life total padded while dealing significant damage over the course of the game. It also curves well into your commander since it lets you play it and some other kind of creature on turn 3 to set up a sacrifice.

Fleshbag Marauder

Fleshbag Marauder lets you sacrifice one creature while also acting as decent removal for opponents with only one creature in play (which is usually their commander!).

Plaguecrafter

Plaguecrafter is similar to Fleshbag Marauder except that it forces players that can’t sacrifice to discard a card.

Sidisi, Undead Vizier

Sidisi, Undead Vizier can exploit a creature on ETB which also gives you the ability tutor any card from your deck. Sidisi is especially strong in this list since it curves perfectly with Meren of Clan Nel Toth, coming into play the turn immediately after.

Viscera Seer

Viscera Seer is a 1-drop sacrifice outlet that lets you scry 1 each time you feed it. It’s one of the strongest sacrifice outlets in the game. Scrying gives you critical card advantage through selective draws and being able to turn infinite-sacrifice combos on for just is incredibly potent.

Yahenni, Undying Partisan

Yahenni, Undying Partisan is a slightly worse sacrifice outlet since it only gives it indestructible. But it’s still a sacrifice outlet that can take as many creatures as you can give it which adds some consistency to your list.

Yawgmoth, Thran Physician

Yawgmoth, Thran Physician is the last sacrifice outlet you run. It does require you to pay one life to do it but you still get to draw a card and put a -1/-1 counter on another creature. This is undoubtedly one of the best sacrifice outlets in the deck.

Sacrifice Fodder

I went over the things you’re sacrificing creatures to, but you still need actual creatures to sacrifice. Luckily there are plenty of creatures (and things that make them) to get you started.

Caustic Caterpillar and Spore Frog are both self-sacrificing creatures that give you decent benefits. They can also just as easily be thrown into the meat grinder if there aren’t any opportunities to use them on their own.

Golgari Thug

Golgari Thug brings back other creatures and allows you to fill your graveyard for other recursions later with the dredge keyword.

Solemn Simulacrum

Solemn Simulacrum is basically asking to be killed with that death trigger to draw a card.

Cavalier of Night

Cavalier of Night returns 3-mana value creatures to the battlefield when it dies which can hit one of your mana dorks or another sacrifice outlet.

Mitotic Slime

Mitotic Slime is a must-kill creature that continues to provide more and more fodder to be used.

Avenger of Zendikar

Avenger of Zendikar gives you more than enough sacrifice targets for one turn and can also help you win through combat damage if you end up going that direction later on.

Aristocrat Enablers

Sacrifice strategies are so potent in the EDH meta thanks to their ability to combine sacrifice-empowering permanents to amplify the value from each sacrifice. Sacrificing some 1/1 token to scry 1 and put an experience counter on Meren of Clan Nel Toth is lovely, but why stop there?

Butcher of Malakir

Butcher of Malakir causes each opponentto sacrifice a creature whenever one of yours dies. This is really strong and, quite frankly, is so good it makes you feel like you’re playing a banned card.

Grim Haruspex

Grim Haruspex is an absolute monster when it comes to card advantage. You’ll be sacrificing creatures like it’s your job with this deck, and the fact that those creatures become card-neutral through Haruspex is too good to pass.

Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest

Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest buffs your entire board whenever you or another player at the table sacrifices a creature. This gets out of hand very quickly and can easily turn your somewhat threatening board into a one-shot attacking army that needs to be dealt with right away.

Midnight Reaper

Midnight Reaper is like Grim Haruspex except it only hits nontoken creatures and deals one damage to you. This may seem much worse, but remember that you start with 40 life. Losing one life for one card is always a great trade.

Syr Konrad, the Grim

Syr Konrad, the Grim blows your opponents up for one damage each whenever you sacrifice a creature. It’s very strong and starts to add up quickly.

Pod Chains

One of the most satisfying things in this deck is using Birthing Pod to chain through your deck and go from Caustic Caterpillar all the way to Terastodon over the course of the game. Pod presents a very valuable sacrifice outlet to the deck. Despite being a once-per-turn use, it provides consistent sacrifice triggers and a way to grab the right creatures for the right situation.

Here’s a list of what creatures you should go for:

The Mana Base

The mana base for this decklist is fairly straightforward and cheap. There are no fetch lands or original dual lands, which means you won’t need to head to the bank for a personal loan any time soon. The costliest land in this mana base is Cabal Coffers at around $15.

Mana Acceleration

The deck includes a few mana rocks including the staple Sol Ring and Arcane Signet, but it focuses most of its acceleration in creature-based mana. Especially the kind that die.

Sakura-Tribe Elder and Wood Elves both give you more lands, but the trick here is that they can be sacrificed and come in clutch with Birthing Pod chains. They’re better than mediocre rocks like Golgari Signet which is why you prefer them in this list.

The Lands

As far as utility lands go, this version of Meren of Clan Nel Toth includes five.

Cabal Coffers MH2

Cabal Coffers is the costliest but also the most powerful utility land in the list. It generates dozens of mana for you over the course of the game and is crucial to pulling ahead.

Command Beacon

Command Beacon is very important since your entire strategy revolves around your commander and losing it is life-threatening.

Bojuka Bog

Bojuka Bog is a great inclusion thanks to the prevalence of graveyard-based decks.

High Market

High Market is a backup sacrifice outlet that also gains you life.

Oran-Rief, the Vastwood

Oran-Rief, the Vastwood buffs all your green creatures and pairs very well with Hornet Queen.

The Strategy

Midnight Reaper - Illustration by Sidharth Chaturvedi

Midnight Reaper | Illustration by Sidharth Chaturvedi

This deck’s strategy is pretty simple and easy to understand. Your primary goal early on is to keep a hand with some kind of cheap sacrifice outlet and something to throw into it. Once you have a hand with this your goal shifts to playing Meren of Clan Nel Toth and gaining experience counters. This is a sacrifice deck through and through, but it’s also a graveyard-recursion deck that only really comes online once those counters start adding up on your commander.

You need to start gaining experience counters once your commander is resolved and safe on the battlefield. Hopefully you kept a hand with something like Viscera Seer and a few early creatures. This lets you get the engine started.

You can then start to recur any of the creatures you sacrifice by adding a few experience counters to Meren. And if you can manage to get something like Midnight Reaper out you’ll start to get out of control in terms of card advantage. That’s the general idea and what allows you to get into the endgame quicker and start winning.

This list wins through value and persistency. It’s hard to shut this Meren deck down. It takes multiple kill spells for your commander, graveyard hate, and board wipes to completely negate us. These are difficult to come by all together and your opponents won’t be able to match the value of having a Terastodon enter the battlefield each turn most of the time.

Combos and Interactions

Profane Tutor - Illustration by Richard Kane Ferguson

Profane Tutor | Illustration by Richard Kane Ferguson

There are no infinite combos in this deck so you don’t need to worry about disclosing anything in advance for casual tables.

Possible Rule 0 Violations

Some playgroups and game stores institute a “Rule 0” to their Commander pods that essentially excludes competitive decks and specific cards. This usually applies to things like fast mana or free and efficient counterspells, but sometimes they also hit infinite combos. Lucky for you this build is meant to be a casual dec, so there’s nothing to worry about here.

If you want to explain the deck’s power level in a sentence, you could say something like:

My deck is casual, has no infinite combos and no fast mana, but it does play one Profane Tutor.

Budget Options

Blood Artist - Illustration by Johannes Voss

Blood Artist | Illustration by Johannes Voss

This Meren deck is already relatively cheap to play. It doesn’t have any cards worth more than your first car and can be reasonably assembled on the cheap. But if you’re looking to cut the budget down even more and lower the blow to your wallet, I’ve got some suggestions.

Yawgmoth, Thran Physician should be your first cut. It isn’t totally necessary to the game plan and can easily be replaced by another sacrifice outlet of your choice. It carries a big price tag that’s nearly 11% of the deck’s price so it makes a sizeable dent.

Cabal Coffers can also be cut even if it’s a very powerful card. It’s the second-most expensive card so it unfortunately falls in your sights.

Finally, many of the $3 to $5 duals can be replaced with basic Swamps and Forests. You don’t have too much room to cut in the main list since this deck is already fairly budget, so lands start to lose their value.

Other Builds

Elvish Mystic - Illustration by Wesley Burt

Elvish Mystic | Illustration by Wesley Burt

While sacrifice and Pod builds make up nearly all Meren of Clan Nel Toth builds, there are still some out-of-the-box brews you should consider looking at.

Elves is one of the more prominent ones that succeeds by taking advantage of the naturally cheap mana value of elves. This leads to the deck coming online the instant Meren of Clan Nel Toth is played and has one experience counter.

Elf decks are pretty straightforward. You play a lot of cheap dorks like Elvish Mystic and Llanowar Elves and use your copious amounts of mana to snowball your way into the most powerful creatures green has to offer. A common way to win with elves in Commander is to cheat out Craterhoof Behemoth with something like Chord of Calling, which you’re perfectly capable of doing with Meren of Clan Nel Toth.

Commanding Conclusion

Finale of Devastation - Illustration by Bayard Wu

Finale of Devastation | Illustration by Bayard Wu

That wraps up my guide for Meren of Clan Nel Toth! I really enjoy playing with Meren and enjoyed writing about it just as much. It’s a very powerful commander that can be great for players of all skill levels. Meren supports decks of varying power levels at the same time which made it an excellent choice for today’s deck guide.

What do you think of the list? Did you think it was too weak, or maybe it wasn’t powerful enough for you? Let me know down in the comments down below.

Until next time, stay safe and stay healthy!

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