No Lotus? No Problem, Play with Garth One Eye!

A Magictation by Mikeal Basile

“Magictating” is defined as getting into the zone with your Magic the Gathering collection–thinking, planning, organizing, reminiscing about past games, and imagining future games. It is a combination of hard thinking about the game and calm meditation, reveling in the joy it brings you.

If you just want to look at the list before reading…here it is.

Let me begin by saying that Garth One Eye is the protagonist for the first Magic the Gathering novel entitled: Arena. You could, back in the day, buy the book and then clip out the coupon in the back and mail away for your very own copy of the card Arena or other potential cards. It was basically the very first Secret Lair, but let’s stay focused here and get back to the story. The book reads like an homage to classic Magic, and if you’ve been playing for longer than 15 years or have any nostalgic feelings for cards from fourth edition on back, then you should really read this book. It’s a quick fun read, and it’s such a cool thing to see a character like this come to cardboard life. Garth One Eye is a real tough son-of-gun and he has an ax to grind as well. So, building a deck focused on him feels more like a task that should be inspired by flavor rather than archetype or mechanics. I initially thought I would build an Eye deck and use changlings, Evil Eye of Orms by Gore and Evil Eye of Urborg and Eyetwitch, and go with a stacked eye theme. However, it just didn’t feel like I was doing justice to Garth One Eye. He represents the quintessential everyman-planeswalker. So, I figured I should build a deck that is both an homage to classic Magic, and something that ties into the modern design mechanics of Garth as well.

Elements of Consideration

Garth One Eye loves being blinked, having haste, and untapping as often as possible. So, some cards that allow us to do things like this are all over the place, because he’s a FIVE COLOR COMMANDER! Woohoo! The hardest part is balancing blink and untap effects while generating enough mana to actually cast the spells Garth can make copies  of and sling around. The beauty of it all is that once we enable haste (often via Anger) we are capable of casting Black Lotus for free, untapping our Garth with one of our untap effects like Djeru’s Resolve and netting two extra mana for free. Ornamental Courage also works to help untap Garth and potentially buff him up for blocks and possibly casting a useful removal spell as well! Tidal Bore is a fun one that most people don’t expect either. Free untapping feels pretty sneaky. Also, it’s a nice way to get yourself ready to crank out free spells while keeping your hand full of action. Granted, we are basically trading the untap spell for one of Garth’s signature spells, but let’s take a look at how the deck breaks down into its component parts.

Blink and You’ll Miss Him!

Now, as for the spell selection Garth grants us, it’s a tool box approach overall. One representative spell from each color and the most famous artifact in the game combine nicely to give us easy access to cast just about anything we need to win a game of Magic. Now, using his regrowth spell to get back any of the cool untap spells is nice, but I also like the idea of resetting Garth to allow us another spin on each of the spells…including regrowth to keep the loop going all over again. The spells that help us loop and blink Garth into reuse include all-stars like Ephemerate and Momentary Blink. Why not also include Cloudshift, Justicar’s Portal, Essence Flux, and even Acrobatic Manuever? These all help you blink Garth and start off with a Lotus all over again. This helps you crank out the extra Disenchant you might need for someone’s unsavory enchantment plan, or kill an annoying creature, or even let you sink a ton of mana into a Braingeyser to refill your hand. Of course, the real sweat spot is making more Shivan Dragons whenever you want to! That is a wonderful way to win. Take it from anyone who played from 93-96…Shivan Dragon and Mahamoti Djinn were the kings! When you run out of cards to cast just recast Regrowth targeting one of your blink spells, blink Garth and then repeat his cycle of spells all over again. Don’t forget that you can hold up a blink effect in order to help keep Garth safe from other’s people’s removal spells as well. Try not to be too hasty with using these blink effects until you can get maximum value.

On second thought…yes, be hasty!

This plan for Garth and utilizing his spells and maximizing the number of Black Lotus spells you cast per game is super fun, but it would be more fun if we did it faster. Like hastily. And maybe with some Anger? Using Anger, Fires of Yavimaya, Fervor, Cyclops of Eternal Fury, Garna, the Blood Flame, Madrush Cyclops, Samut, Voice of Dissent, Temur Ascendancy, Hammer of Purphoros, and even Hellraiser Goblin enable a very hasty Garth One Eye. Once you combine haste and blink and untap effects we really are able to cast two or three of his spells each turn. Considering that Garth with an untap effect allows us to cast Black Lotus each time he blinks back in and taps, then we always have three free mana available to help enable other spells—say even a 5/5 flying dragon with firebreathing. That’s not a bad rate at all. The only rub here is how much mana we have for casting spells.

Ramping into more Magic

Ramping up to and beyond Garth One Eye’s mana cost is pretty important. You can win the game fairly handily if you have a flight of Shivan Dragons at your disposal. However, you’re not making it that far unless you first ramp up enough mana to support casting those dragons. For the ramp package I’d like to suggest a budget conscious version using mostly green, but if you’ve got the duals, fetches, and shocks you know you’ll be using those in place of my suggestions. You can start with a set of Triomes as they are fairly inexpensive and help to fix the mana requirements rather nicely. The ones that are forests also help with cards like Ranger’s Path or Skyshroud Claim which are very powerful ramp cards when combined with non-basic lands with basic land types (duals, shocks, and triomes). If you aren’t running the duals, shocks, and triomes then you’ll be going for a more Circuitous Route on your way to some Explosive Vegetation. If you want to explode all over an opponent there’s always Exploding Borders as well. All-star green ramp cards Kodama’s Reach and Cultivate should find their way into this deck as well. Rampant Growth is a classic, and I’d suggest snagging a Tempest one as well for some real classic ramp feelings. If you end up leaning more heavily on basic lands, then Harrow is a solid include as well. Harrow into a Garth One Eye activation, into a Disenchant targeting that annoying Sword of Feast and Famine is definitely satisfying. Don’t forget to run some solid artifact fixing as well. Cards like Chromatic Lantern, Coalition Relic, Arcane Signet, Mana Geode, and Commander’s Sphere are great fixers as they give us not just what we need for one turn, but any turn.

Answer me this

Now that we’ve covered untapping, blinking, and ramping, it’s time to round the deck out with card draw and answer spells. Now, Garth One Eye is cool in that he’s got an answer for almost everything. The problem permanents are those pesky planeswalkers. Oh, and those Terror dodging black and artifact creatures (though disenchant does deal with those golems rather well). So, perhaps we will need answers that are both flexible and hit black creatures. Maelstrom Pulse seems like an easy include, and any of the following seem like decent answers to cards that might pose problems: Vindicate, Utter End, Swords to Plowshares, Dire Tactics, Urza’s Ruinous Blast and Crib Swap. Now, as we’re also playing blue I’d suggest tossing in a couple counterspells. I understand it can make others salty, but keeping someone from winning and being a spiteful jerk are two different things (well, most of the time). I would suggest running two or three counterspells that are light on the blue requirements, so that you can actually cast them when the need arises. A few solid choices include Arcane Denial (hey, there’s a nice consolation prize for the countered), Delay (three turn cycles is a long time in Commander), Disdainful Stroke (most problematic spells fit the restrictions for this and make it essentially an easier to cast Counterspell), Saw it Coming (foretelling this is just one more way to keep extra spells handy, but not in the hand), and Unwind (free is free, and most creatures can be dealt with in other ways). Between all of these answer spells we should have ways to deal with every board state that comes our way.

Draw up a plan

We have answers, ramp, Garth One Eye synergies, Garth One Eye himself, and mana. We don’t have much for card draw. So, since this is five color we can literally just toss in whatever you have for your best card draw spells. Garth doesn’t benefit from any particular style of card draw, and looting effects don’t gain us all that much (maybe try abusing his access to Regrowth). So, I’d suggest tossing in whatever you feel you enjoy most! I’m choosing cards like Rhystic Study, Dig Through Time, Treasure Cruise, Fact or Fiction, and Ponder to smooth out our draws and avoid top-decking. Having enough draw spells is about as critical as having enough lands. Without lands you can’t cast your spells, and without cards in hand you can’t do anything. That is unless you have an active Garth and mana to sink into your Braingeyser.

Wrap Up:

When you go to play a Garth One Eye deck you’re not here for primarily new stuff, but to celebrate the old. So, in order to maximize my nostalgic feelings I decided to cram a few other spells that Garth actually casts in the novel. These help bring about the simple joys of what it means to be a rogue planeswalker like Garth. I did also include a little secret synergy with Panharmonicon and Isocron Scepter…which seems really solid. Just saying.

 The Deck List:

If you’ve had enough of my pontificating, or you just scrolled to the list, I want you to consider this a starting point for your own Garth One Eye deck, and I hope you have as much fun with it as I know I will. Black Lotus may be banned in Commander, but I’m going to be playing plenty of them in the future via Garth One Eye.

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