Trials and Tribal-ations: Elementals

Elementals are a strange tribe.  Some elementals are more like spirits, creatures that appear with a form and will of their own, while others seem to flare up mindlessly like a forest fire.  This is partly because ‘elemental’ is something of a catch-all tribe. They range from typical hasty beaters that get in for fast damage, only to implode at the end of your turn, to unstoppable lumbering beasts that seem to transcend the natural order.  As if they weren’t strange enough, the world of elementals got a little stranger in the Lorwyn/Shadowmoor block.  Elementals appeared in every color, often taking the place of popular spells in their native colors.  Shriekmaw had the Terror ability attached, Mulldrifter came with a Deep Analysis effect, Ingot Chewer had Smash, and so on.  The makeup of these creatures makes them appear more on the spirit or demon side (see: Japanese mythology) than the embodiment of one elemental force or another.  With this block, elementals became a collection of great tools, each with a specific use.  They also came with a toolbox- Horde of Notions.  A 5/5, haste, trample toolbox.  I want to outline a traditional red fiery elemental list, and then we’ll look at just what Horde of Notions can do.



4 Hellspark Elemental

4 Kiln Fiend

4 Spark Elemental

4 Immolating Souleater

4 Inner-Flame Acolyte



4 Lightning Bolt

4 Reckless Charge

4 Rite of Flame

4 Assault Strobe



4 Lotus Petal


Basic Land:

16 Mountain


Non-Basic Land:

4 Teetering Peaks


If you know these cards, or took the time to look them up, then it’s pretty obvious what this deck does.  It gets in there.  Fast.  Every part of the deck is designed to hit as hard as possible as early as possible.  This deck wants to deal lethal within the first few turns of the game, before the opponent has had a chance to set up.  It’s a flash fire.  The combination of Immolating Souleater + Assault Strobe is almost like Channel + Fireball.  Hit the Souleater with Assualt Strobe, and you can pay life 2:1 for power with the Phyrexian Mana firebreathing ability until the attack becomes lethal.  If you’re at 20 life, with no other effects besides the Assault Strobe, you would have to pay 18 life (leaving you at 2 life, don’t do this if your opponent has a Mountain untapped!) to give the Souleater +9, making him 10 power with double-strike.  With a Reckless Charge and an Assault Strobe, you’d only have to pay the safe price of 12 life.  Remember, this is being done within the first few turns.  It’s important to view this deck as a combo deck, rather than an aggro deck.  Rather than bring out lots of creatures and overwhelm your opponent early, you’re looking to play one or two creatures, and kill your opponent in one or two attacks.  This is the explosive side of elementals.  The other side we discussed, the “answer-for-everything” toolbox side heralded by Horde of Notions happens to break into the territory of our Commander theme this week.

Horde of Notions as a Commander can be extremely powerful, and a lot of fun.  Rather than try to explain it myself, I’ll let my good friend Sean Browne tell you about it.



I like this deck because it is many things. It is a Tribal Elemental deck, a WUBRG deck, and a Graveyard deck. And it is very much each of these things. It has a ton of recursive effects and as such, never runs out of gas, only mana. In spite of all the ramping, (Mirari’s Wake, Mana Reflection, and so on) you really never run out of things you could be dumping mana into. I’ll make the list in order of ascending converted mana cost (CMC). I’ll add a few comments on the not-so-obvious things because no one needs to be told why Animar, Soul of the Elements or Command Tower are good.


Creatures (32):

1)    At the helm we have Horde of Notions who I have cast for 17 CMC and won.

2)    Flamekin Harbinger

3)    Ashling the Pilgrim

4)    Brighthearth Banneret

5)    Sunflare Shaman

6)    Smokebraider

7)    Incandescent Soulstoke   (Often you want to throw a pricey elemental in grave anyway or turn evoke to instant speed)

8)    Animar, Soul of Elements

9)    Fertilid

10) Splinterfright  (Elemental who fills grave w targets for the Horde)

11) Mirror Entity

12) Wispmare

13) Taurean Mauler

14) Forgotten Ancient

15) Solemn Simulacrum

16) Yore-Tiller Nephilim

17) Meadowboon

18) Stingmoggie

19) Cinder Elemental

20) Reveillark

21) Lord of Extinction

22) Mulldrifter

23) Shriekmaw

24) Fusion Elemental

25) Maelstrom Archangel

26) Child of Alara

27) Vigor

28) Dread

29) Multani, Maro-Sorcerer    (Errata’ed to Elemental creature type)

30) Avenger of Zendikar

31) Hateflayer (Is there any other way to flay?)

32) Magmatic Force



33) Swords to Plowshares

34) Path to Exile

35) Condemn

36) Nameless Inversion (With the “Changeling” ability, Nameless Inversion is an Elemental and can be tutored by Flamekin Harbinger, and played from graveyard by Horde of Notions. It’s very important to note the “loses all creature types” effect against other tribal based decks. As in: “Actually your Sliver Queen is no longer a Sliver so it does die.”)

37) Animate Dead

38) Crib Swap (Changeling.  See: Nameless Inversion)

39) Victimize

40) Frantic Search (Three scoops of goodness in this deck: 1) Looting. 2) Tossing elementals in grave is fun. 3) This deck has 5 Ravinica bounce lands so this card usually ends up netting you mana.)

41) Forbidden Alchemy (Again three scoops: 1) Looting. 2) Tossing elementals 3) Flashback.)

42) Oblivion Stone (If I’m losing, everyone is losing!)

43) Kodama’s Reach

44) Darksteel Ingot

45) Coalition Relic

46) Oblivion Ring

47) Shield of the Oversoul (Hmm Horde is GW and doesn’t like dying…)

48) Crystal Shard (You’ll mostly target your own creatures to save them or to recur your “enters the battlefield” abilities especially when evoking.)

49) Door of Destinies (If you are on a budget skimp elsewhere)

50) Explosive Vegetation

51) Marshal’s Anthem

52) Torrent of Souls

53) Maelstrom Nexus (Play ASAP)

54) Genju of the Realm (Admittedly a “Commander is fun, go WUBRG!!!” inclusion.)

55) Mirari’s Wake

56) Mana Reflection (If you play green and have not tried this card, know that you will never look back to the days you went without.)

57) Obelisk of Alara (Go WUBRG!!!)

58) Debtors’ Knell

59) Legacy Weapon

60) Conflux (Demonic Tutor? Pass. Go WUBRG!!!)


40 Lands (We are going for “Mana Soup” here):


61) Command Tower

62) Primal Beyond [Editor’s Note: Primal Beyond has never had and will never have a better home than this deck.]

63) Vesuva

64) Terramorphic Expanse

65) Exotic Orchard

66) Rupture Spire

67) City of Brass

68) Grand Coliseum

69) Crystal Quarry

70) Meteor Crater

71) Seaside Citadel

72) Arcane Sanctum

73) Crumbling Necropolis

74) Savage Lands

75) Jungle Shrine

76) Bant Panorama

77) Esper Panorama

78) Grixis Panorama

79) Jund Panorama

80) Naya Panorama

81) Simic Growth Chamber

82) Orzhov Basilica

83) Izzet Boilerworks

84) Golgari Rot Farm

85) Boros Garrison

86) Skycloud Expanse

87) Darkwater Catacombs

88) Shadowblood Ridge

89) Mossfire Valley

90) Sungrass Prairie

91) Plains

92) Plains

93) Island

94) Island

95) Swamp

96) Swamp

97) Mountain

98) Mountain

99) Forest




This deck is everything an Elemental tribal Commander deck should be.  It highlights the diverse abilities of elementals, combined with the recursive power of Horde of Notions, and the greedy fun “all-in” spirit of a 5-color deck.  The deck doesn’t run any crazy expensive cards, no duals, no fetches, no Ravnica block “shock lands”.  Sean picked the color fixing lands he thought were the best (Alara tri-lands, Alara Panoramas, Rav block “Karoo”/”Bounce” lands and Odyssey split lands) and included them in complete cycles, peppering in some of the better unique fixing lands.  With such disciplined attention to fixing, the deck very rarely fails to attain “WUBRG” availability by turn 5.  From there it’s just “cast the best spells” and “bring back good elementals”.  If the Maelstrom Nexus hits the table at any point, the game is basically over.  If you want to try your hand at a 60 card elemental deck, or your own 5-color Commander monstrosity, here’s a list of Elementals to get the gears working:

Card Name Set Name Function 1 Function 2 Color
Aethersnipe LRW Bounce Evoke U
Animar, Soul of Elements CMD Legendary Value RUG
Aquamoeba TO Defense Beats U
Arc Runner M11 Haste R
Ashenmoor Gouger SHM Beats B/R Hybrid
Ashling the Pilgrim LRW Removlal Counters R
Ashling, the Extinguisher EVE Removal Legendary B
Avenger of Zendikar WWK Beats Tokens G
Ball Lightning Core Beats Haste R
Blistering Firecat ON Haste Morph R
Brighthearth Banneret LRW Value Counters R
Brine Elemental TSP Control Morph U
Celestial Ancient DIS Enchantments Counters W
Chandra’s Spitfire M11 Beats R
Cinder Pyromancer EVE Burn R
Cloudthresher LRW Beats Removal G
Faultgrinder LRW Land Dest. Evoke R
Fire Servant M11 Burn R
Flamekin Bladewhirl LRW Value Beats R
Flamekin Harbinger LRW Tutor R
Flame-Kin Zealot RAV Beats Haste WR
Flickerwisp EVE Flying W
Forgotten Ancient SC Beats Counters G
Gaea’s Revenge M11 Beats Haste G
Groundbreaker PLC Beats Haste G
Hell’s Thunder ALA Beats Haste R
Hellspark Elemental CFX Beats Haste R
Inner-Flame Acolyte LRW Beats Haste R
Kiln Fiend ZEN Beats R
Kulrath Knight SHM Beats Control B/R Hybrid
Liege of the Tangle SOM Beats G
Lord of Extinction ARB Beats BG
Magmatic Force CMD Damage R
Molimo, Maro-Sorcerer IN Beats G
Mulldrifter LRW Flying Card Draw U
Multani, Maro-Sorcerer UL Beats G
Nyxathid CFX Beats Discard B
Obsidian Fireheart ZEN Damage R
Omnath, Locus of Mana WWK Beats Ramp G
Plumeveil SHM Flash Defender U/W Hrybrid
Pyroclast Consul MOR Kinship Removal R
Rage Forger MOR Counters Damage R
Reveillark MOR Graveyard Flying W
Shriekmaw LRW Fear Removal B
Skullbriar, The Walking Grave CMD Beats Counters GB
Skullmulcher ALA Counters Draw G
Slithermuse MOR Draw Evoke U
Spark Elemental FD Beats Haste R
Squall Drifter CS Tap W
Supreme Exemplar MOR Beats U
Tar Fiend ALA Counters Discard B
Thornling CFX Utility Beats G
Timbermare PLC Haste Beats G
Vengevine ROE Haste Graveyard G
Vigor LRW Counters Beats G



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