Take Ten: Primal Genesis

Take Ten is an article series that looks at the commander preconstructed decks. It breaks them down and then provides ten cards that will improve the deck from it’s preconstructed status. Since we are adjusting a preconstructed deck and not totally rebuilding around the commander, Take Ten looks to keep the cost of the cards to around a $100 budget for the ten card upgrades. . 

The next deck we will upgrade is the Primal Genesis precon. Primal Genesis is a deck that focuses around tokens and aggression. The deck looks to find as many ways as possible to place larger tokens on the battlefield and then copy them. A battlefield full of tokens is difficult to defend against. Many players consider a token less value than other actual cards. They hesitate to trade one for one with a token. To spend a card to remove a token feels like the player removing the token is losing the exchange. Also with larger tokens they often are vanilla creatures with little or no evasion. The high power and toughness will often force the opponent to block. More often than not the opponent will lose out on this exchange. This is a  great deck for players who like to turn their cards sideways and attack. 

What Primal Genesis Does

While most precon decks look to build around their commander, Primal Genesis looks to use its commander as a supplement to make lots of tokens and then swing out.  Ghired, Conclave Exile showcases the strategy of the deck. As commanders go he is fast he costs five mana to play which is about on par for most commanders. If you can put out a piece of mana ramp you can play him on turn four and help set the tempo for the game. Second, when he enters the battlefield he creates a 4/4 Rhino token with trample. This adds to your token strategy. Most tokens are weak . Bringing out a 4/4 Rhino is a large side of meat for a token. Ghired is a 2/5 himself. This means you gain six power and seven toughness for five mana which is a solid rate of return. 

Ghired has a second ability that when he attacks he populates. The populated token enters the battlefield tapped and attacking. Because Ghired creates a token this means your populate trigger will be at least a 4/4 creature with trample. This means if you choose to tap out and attack you are sending ten power eight with trample on turns five or six.

The deck is full of plenty of ways to create tokens. While they are late game Desolation Twin and Giant Adephage can create some very large beaters. Second Harvest and Naya Charm can be finishers in this deck to help you win the game. Keep in mind Second Harvest is an instant. You can cast it on the end step before your turn and then attack. It is a simple play maneuver, but can oftentimes be overlooked. Why put your tokens on the battlefield and alert your opponents to a large swing. Instead let them think they have another turn and then blindside them with your token horde. As always token strategies are vulnerable to board wipes.  

Deck Breakdown

All decks have different packages of cards for what it wants to accomplish. The Primal Genesis preconstructed deck has the following card packages and totals. 

  • 9 Card Draw/Card Quality
  • 6 Mana Ramp/Fixing
  • 10 Removal
  • 25 Token Makers
  • 2 Token Synergy Payoffs
  • 9 Miscellaneous
  • 39 Land

As with all commander decks there are some cards that accomplish two things at once. In addition to these card packages we have two additional cards that draw cards and  eight extra cards that make tokens

Upgrade Strategy

The deck seems very solid. There are enough cards to keep putting tokens on the battlefield to keep the pressure up. It has enough card draw and removal spells that we do not need to upgrade them unless we have a strong reason to do so. This is good as the deck is very short on ramp cards with only six. As a significant portion of our card slots will need to shore up this weakness. We can ignore card draw and removal and invest the rest of our card slots on fun interactions with tokens. We do not want to expend four card slots to upgrade ramp. Instead we will instead use three of them to do so. This means while Scaretiller and Explore are cards we often want to replace, we will not be able to do so in this Take Ten.

Token payoff and synergy cards are low. This is unless you consider populate a payoff. I do not consider them as such as populate really just produces another token. A deck wants more token makers than payoffs but this deck could use one or two more. The deck also has ways to turn creature cards into tokens. We will also look to add in some ETB triggers to abuse this facet of the deck. This is ambitious for just ten cards so we will look to maximize it the best we can. 

Finally the deck also makes some tokens that go away at the end of our turn. If we can prematurely end the turn or populate them we can keep these tokens permanently. They go away because the effect is either under costed or overpowered. By finding ways to keep them permanently we will be breaking the game.  That is always an advantage. As we build our card packages our targets will be as follows. 

  • 10 Card Draw/Quality
  • 9 Mana Ramp/Fixing
  • 10 Removal
  • 25 Token Makers
  • 4 Token Synergy Payoffs
  • 5 Miscellaneous
  • 38 Land

The Take Ten

Removed Tahngarth First Mate added Treasure Nabber

We are entering the Take Ten with the idea we will add a card or two that will end the turn. For this reason we will include Treasure Nabber in our ramp package. When our opponents tap artifacts for mana we will borrow it until the end of our next turn. However if we prematurely end that turn we will get to keep their ramp artifacts for good. There is a chance that our opponents will not tap their mana artifacts. If they do not then they are not maximizing their mana and that can be good too. 

Tahngarth, First Mate is a new card. It wasn’t designed to synergize with Primal Genesis. Deck designers wanted to add a card into the commander pool that people would like to play with. This card is easily cut. It preserves the creature count of the deck while adding another ramp card that we need.

Removed Doomed Artisan added Farhaven Elf

The deck wants more ramp cards it also wants cards that have ETB effects. Farhaven Elf accomplishes both of these objectives. Wood Elves is a temptation as it puts a forest into play untapped. It was passed over because we are in three colors. The ability to fetch any basic land fixes our mana while ramping. It also gives us more targets in our deck if we can make a token of Farhaven Elf. These upsides overcome our land entering the battlefield tapped. 

Again we will remove a creature for a creature. It hurts to remove Doomed Artisan from the deck. The ability to continually create tokens is a good ability to have. These tokens grow in power too slowly. Only one sculpture is made at your end step. We could populate them but in many cases there will be better tokens to populate. We will also need to remove the Artisan in order to have the tokens attack and block. I like this card much better in a Jeski tokens build where it can include Saheeli the Gifted and Brudiclad Telcor Engineer as opposed to this one.

Removed Soul of Zendikar added Explosive Vegetation

The final ramp card we will include is Explosive Vegetation. Simply put it is one of the best ramp cards in Green. Skyshroud Claim is slightly better if we are playing with shock land forests. In this Take Ten we will not be upgrading the mana base. Explosive Vegetation is the better upgrade here. It will be able to fetch  any color of land we need as opposed to just green or Cinder Glade which comes into play tapped too. 

Soul of Zendikar is a mana sink. But, it is an expensive creature and five mana for a 3/3 token is a little expensive. This makes Soul of Zendikar slow. Primal Genesis is a large tokens strategy looking to out tempo it’s opponents. This makes the card expandable. Cutting it to add ramp to speed up the deck makes sense. 

Removed Commander’s Insignia added Akroma’s Memorial

Commander’s Insignia is not token synergy but it was effective to pump up tokens in the preconstructed deck. Each time you cast your commander your tokens grow in power. That is pretty sweet. Realistically, you are only going to cast your commander once or twice a game as it is critical for  your commander to stay on the battlefield. Unfortunately, the tokens want keyword soup more than a buff in power. They want abilities that will allow them to evade blockers and help keep them alive. We will pull Commander’s Insignia for this sort of card. 

Akroma’s Memorial is a keyword soup that tokens want and it is on one card. Short of double strike,the Memorial has the keywords tokens want. This is the synergy card that populate wants not just a power boost. If you want another synergy to build upon The Memorial  think about deathtouch. First strike and deathtouch work well together in removing blockers.

Removed Exotic Orchard added Purphoros, God of the Forge

If there is a card that gets better in a tokens strategy versus other strategies, then it has to be Purphoros, God of the Forge. Every time you create a token through an ability or populate Purphoros will deal two damage to each opponent. Commander Clinic loves the word “each” in commander. This word means the card scales in power with the number of players that are in the game. Purphoros is also indestructible and quite difficult to remove. He is not only a token synergy card it will win games. Purphoros, made the list of top ten red cards. You may read about them here. 

We can afford to drop the land count to 38. There are plenty of spells that cost two green to cast. There is a triple white spell in Hour of Reckoning. Because of this we don’t want to remove any white or green sources. This leaves the decision to cut either a basic mountain or Exotic Orchard. We choose to keep the mountain as a guaranteed red source. It being a basic that we can fetch with our ramp. Most games Exotic Orchard should generate two of the colors we will use in this deck. Still, it is dependent on what our opponents do. It’s far better to rely on yourself for a mana base than your opponents. For these reasons we will cut the Exotic Orchard. 

Removed Cliffside Rescuer added Loyal Unicorn

Loyal Unicorn is underrated for aggressive strategies. The ability to grant your creatures vigilance allows you to swing out and not worry about the consequences. Preventing combat damage to your creatures is a bonus as it will allow your tokens and your commander stick around a little longer. The ability is tied to your commander, but your goal should be to cast him because of his populate ability. Loyal Unicorn fits into what your deck wants to do.

Players can see the attack coming, which means they will hold up removal for it if they have it. The best way to play this card is to hold it in your hand until you are ready for an attack where you need either the vigilance or the damage protection. Then cast it the turn of attack. Loyal Unicorn does not need to attack to get the triggers is just has to be on the battlefield. Think of this card as a one of effect and if you are able to get multiple triggers off of the effect, then it is a bonus. 

To make room for the Loyal Unicorn we will remove Cliffside Rescuer. The Unicorn can be seen as a straight upgrade to this card. First the rescuer grants vigilance only to itself. Second you can sacrifice it to protect one creature from all your opponents instead of your entire board. You also have to sacrifice the rescuer to give the ability compared to the static ability that is on the Loyal Unicorn. The Rescuer is stronger versus instant speed removal but Loyal Unicorn does more for your aggressive strategy.     

Removed Flamerush Rider added Blade of Selves

The deck wants tokens and a lot of them. Blade of Selves does exactly that.It makes copies of attached creature attacking each opponent. Because of the legendary rule it’s not wise to copy a legendary creature because they will be sacrificed right away. There are plenty of solid targets for this card. Multiple Farhaven Elves grants extra land or multiple Angel of Sanctions tokens helps clear the way for your real angel to get through. This is a couple of possibilities with this card. Also if you attack with Ghired you can make the token and then populate it to keep one around. 

Flamerush Rider is similar to Blade of Selves. It creates a token when you attack with it. Both cards will exile the token at the end of combat. Blade of Selves will create more tokens and it also can create some tokens with additional abilities as opposed to a vanilla 3/3. The Flamerush Rider does have the advantage of being a creature. However, its ability is significantly weaker than Blade of Selves to justify the switch. 

Removed Thragtusk added Sundial of the Infinite

Thragtusk is another token maker. It creates a 3/3 beast when it leaves the battlefield and is solid protection versus board wipes. It will leave something after the board is cleared. Unfortunately we do not have any ways to abuse this card to make a plethora of tokens after the board wipe that does not require three or more cards. At five mana Thragtusk is a value as there is incidental life gain and eight power from this card. It is tough to pull this card but we will remove it for a stronger effect. 

There are several ways for this deck to make tokens that go away at the end of turn or combat. Often when this happens that value for creating the token is high so they limit it by having it be on the battlefield for a limited time only Sundial of the Infinite breaks those rules. Before the token gets exiled, activate the Sundial of the Infinite and end the turn. This will allow you to keep the tokens at a value. This card also works with Treasure Nabber end the turn and keep your opponents ramp. The Sundial abuses end of turn triggers by preventing them. It provides more value than Thragtusk . It is worth the include. 

Removed Voice of Many added Enlightened Tutor

Voice of Many is conditional card draw. Often you will have a lot of creatures on the board and in many cases you will be able to draw a couple of cards off of it. In an average game of commander the most you can draw is three or four cards. Commander games rarely go over four or five players a pod. In the best case scenario it is a harmonize but many times it will draw you less cards. Luckily it is stapled to a 3/3. Otherwise, the card would not be worth the mana. I like Voice of Many in this deck. 

If I like the card, then the question becomes then why is it being removed? The answer is the card draw the deck includes. I like the other cards better. In many cases the cards included provide better upside. Ohran Frostfang will draw less cards but adding deathtouch to attacking creatures is an effect this deck wants. I would rather have the opportunity to use deathtouch to my advantage. Idol of Oblivion has the potential to outperform Voice of Many throughout the game. Unfortunately Voice of Many is the odd man out.

Enlightened Tutor fills the card draw and quality slot . While it will not provide extra cards it will allow us to search for an artifact or enchantment. With the artifacts and enchantments in this deck there are few of them that we would not mind searching up and playing. However, this deck has three specific targets. 

The Key Three to Tutor For

The first is Sundial of the Infinite if we have a card in our hand that will benefit from it. This choice is perfect when we are in the middle of a contested game that can change the balance of power. 

The second is Akroma’s Memorial. This is a solid choice towards the late game when we have a strong board and the battlefield has been wiped once or twice already. This card helps us close out the game with less chance of another board wipe.

The final choice is Purpheros, God of the Forge. This is the selection when your opponents are getting low on life where you need to power through the last bit of damage to win the game. It is also a great choice when you need to rebuild your board with creatures. 

Removed Desolation Twin added Eternal Witness

Eternal Witness is an ETB effect. The ability to recur a card from your graveyard is a solid effect. If we are only doing it once it can be middling as an effect depending on what is in your graveyard. However we have cards such as Blade of Selves and Mimic Vat that can allow us to make tokens of this card. Once we start to make multiple copies of the card  it becomes a little value engine that could as opponents have to find answers for strong cards they already dealt with again and again. 

Desolation Twin is  a big vanilla beater. It creates a token but neither it nor the token has evasion. The token is created on cast. If we populate the Desolation Twin, then we will not get an additional 10/10 token. This will minimize the effect of the card and its ability to end games. Opponents can chump block these creatures all day. In order to maximize Desolation Twin we need more cards like Akroma’s Memorial or Odric, Master Tactician.

Desolation Twin’s best ability it to draw out answers from your opponents and protect your other threats. Yes we can populate some very big creatures. Unfortunately at ten mana we want cards that will win the game outright not draw out an answer or pair some additional cards to make it game winning. I would rather spend the mana to play out the eternal witness and another card if it is late game. The Witness also opens up more early game play lines where the twin is stuck in your hand. 


There are many ways to adjust a preconstructed commander deck. I give a lot of credit to Wizards of the Coast for creating The Primal Genesis precon. It creates a rich environment to adjust the deck and make it stronger while being solid out of the box. The Johnny deckbuilder in me was happily going through many different card choices for what would make the deck stronger. There are many different choices players can choose to upgrade this deck and it would not be wrong. There is a completely different build that focuses on Doubling Season, Parallel Lives and Anointed Procession. They double up all the proliferate triggers.That build is just as viable as this one.  

These adjustments come in around $100 which can be expensive. However, the big three Purpheros, Akroma’s Memorial and Enlightened Tutor are staples worth owning. They greatly increase the strength of this deck and can be used in many others. If these cards are too expensive there are plenty of substitutions you can make that are more affordable. Like the other decks in this series. Commander Clinic will have a budget upgrade list for you shortly. 

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact me at commanderclinicmtg@gmail.com