When the Command Zone reviewed the Nature’s Vengeance Commander 2018 deck, they asked what Thantis, the Warweaver was good for. Egotistically interpreting this as a deckbuilding challenge, I think Thantis is sweet and will make for intriguing gameplay – she’s way more than the sum of her parts.
The tricky bit with figuring out Thantis is that we’ve seen portions of her text box on other cards, and individually they’re meh. Put it together, however, and you’ve got a build-around:
5/5 with vigilance and reach for six mana. By these criteria alone, Skysnare Spider is better. Not a great start.
Whenever a creature attacks you or a planeswalker you control, put a +1/+1 counter on Thantis, the Warweaver. We’ve seen deterrent/swing-over-there commanders before; they’re a recurring feature of multiplayer products, since they tend to make little sense in a world of duels. Edric, Spymaster of Trest has over 1000 decks in EDHREC, and Gahiji, Honored One has over 700. Thantis sits between them; your opponents don’t get an overt reward for not attacking you, but the play pattern is similar. Also, this play pattern is new to Jund, which lets us unlock synergies that weren’t possible with Edric and Gahiji.
All creatures attack each combat if able. Whoa, hey! The closest we’ve seen to this on a commander is Fumiko the Lowblood, who forces opponents’ creatures to attack while having bushido for as many creatures as attack. Cards that are good in a Fumiko deck are likely to be good with Thantis.
That said, their differences are a big deal. For all Fumiko‘s prodding, she most often will hit for three commander damage at a time and tap to do so. There won’t be many blockers since she forced everybody else to swing, but it’s only three damage at a time, and then she’s not available to block. Thantis forces your creatures to attack, but she also has vigilance and gets bigger permanently instead of getting blocking-based bonuses. Thantis won’t be as big as Fumiko on average for blocking, but she’ll likely be bigger when dealing commander damage, and with vigilance, you don’t have to choose between them.
More deterrents to attacking you
I used to have a Gahiji deck, and while I didn’t play up the deterrent theme too much, there were a few cards like Crescendo of War, Ghostly Prison, Crawlspace, and Crown of Doom that sent unsubtle messages. Black has its own line of pseudo-prison effects, most often seen in Queen Marchesa decks: Blood Reckoning, Hissing Miasma, and Marchesa’s Decree. Slumbering Dragon fits the same mold; it shows up most in Queen Marchesa and Dragon tribal decks. (If you want to add to that theme, Garruk, Apex Predator‘s emblem, Curse of Predation, and little-used Briar Patch are available.)
Rite of the Raging Storm and new Varchild, Betrayer of Kjeldor (from the new Exquisite Inventions deck) add to the creatures that attack elsewhere; Sandwurm Convergence stops flyers and adds to the ground; and Dread, No Mercy, and Farsight Mask reward you for being attacked. (You could even add the two prison cards available in Elephant Grass and Koskun Falls, if you wanted.)
Goad is super-good here, even though the creatures have to attack, anyway, because it sends them away from you. Given how few blockers there will be, the goad creatures in-color – Goblin Racketeer and Grenzo, Havoc Raiser – will carry more weight than in most decks. The same goes for juicy combat-damage triggers, like Hydra Omnivore‘s and Charnelhoard Wurm‘s.
My Jund deck for most of this decade has been a Xira Arien kind of Turbo Fog deck that uses Xira to keep a steady flow of Fog effects in hand and kill everyone with lands (whether Worm Harvest-style or Borborygmos Enraged-style). If you want a lands combo with Thantis, the rest of her preconstruct can provide that for you; what I’m interested in are the premier Fogs of the world. And there are quite a few:
You’ll actually have to swing with Spore Frog in this deck, but there won’t be many blockers around, and you can still sacrifice it as needed.
They keep attackers locked down for another turn, which is debilitating in a forced damage race.
Did you know it only prevents non-Spider combat damage? Thantis is 100% organic Spider.
Did you know it only prevents opposing combat damage if you control a 4-power creature? Thantis is 125% a creature with power 4.
Depending on what you’re facing, this buys roughly two turns.
You can use them multiple times; good enough!
Untapping your creatures and tapping their creatures
The only things able to block in Thantis‘s world are vigilant creatures, defenders, and summoning sick creatures. If there’s a huge blocker, life gets a lot tougher. Jund isn’t known for ways to deal with this, but there are a few good options:
It’s rare to see this without Elf synergies, but since the board rarely will have blockers to kill even your 1/1s, it’s perfect synergy with our Spider queen.
It’s presently a unique combination of effects, but it’s exactly what this deck wants when trying to put the pedal to the metal. If you want a backup effect to this, Uphill Battle does good work (though note that it only affects creatures “played by your opponents,” meaning cast creatures and noncreature spells that enter the battlefield as creatures).
Royal Assassin will also have infinite targets, so it’s an easy inclusion. Xantcha, Sleeper Agent is in the same preconstruct as Thantis and fuels the same mayhem. And while vigilance is rare in Jund, Akroma’s Memorial will give it with no trouble at all.
Keeping the pressure up: Anti-sweepers
The typical deckbuilding template – including the Mario Kart-influenced one I discussed in my last article – has a spot for sweepers/board wipes. While these are generally good to have, you can do surprising things by reserving some of those slots for anti-board wipes. In this deck, you don’t ever want to rebuild, and you kinda want your opponents to have stuff so that they swing it at each other. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include cards like Lavalanche (especially since Charnelhoard Wurm recurring Lavalanche is one of the greatest things ever), but it does mean you can think about that sweeper slot in a different way if you rarely want the board swept.
Jund has several options for this. I’ve included Heroic Intervention for indestructibility, as well as Golgari Charm and Wrap in Vigor to regenerate the team for cheap. (Wail of the Nim is available for extra team regeneration if you like.) Between the Fog effects and these anti-sweepers, you can keep the board full of creatures while teaching them to swing elsewhere. These kinds of cards show up in decks here and there, but rarely as part of a plan like they are here. If you put them in the spots where sweepers and other removal go and use them in the same sorts of situations, you can be surprisingly effective.
Here are the nonlands that would go in my initial build of this deck. You’ve got your own lands budget, and there’s no particular nonbasic land that makes or breaks the deck.
Mostly, I wanted to show that Thantis can encourage an unusual style of Commander gameplay that’s no less potent than anything else. I love commanders that cause the value of cards in opponents’ decks to change drastically, and Thantis is the best among new commanders for doing just that. I’m excited to see how viable this is.