Greetings, Souls and soulettes, and welcome to another segment of Points of Synergy. This week is a super special edition of my alphabetical series, in that my Commander this time around is a solid tier 2/1.5 competitive commander: Animar, Soul of Elements!
First off, let’s have a look at that… face?
Animar is a guy with a lot of things going on, but first let’s get his stats out of the way. A 1/1 for 3 (in three separate colours, no less) is far, far below the curve – as seen a few months ago with Anafenza the Foremost; while this doesn’t scream aggressive commander, this is quickly changed by his abilities. Animar is a Commander that hinges around his text:
1) Protection from White and from Black
First off, we have an incredibly potent defensive ability: immunity from most spot removal in the format. While this seems niche at first, it makes him impervious to popular spells such as Abrupt Decay, Swords to Plowshares, Path to Exile, Fatal Push, Dismember, Oblivion Ring… pretty much every hard targeted removal in the format. If you want to deal with him cheaply, you’re looking almost exclusively to Beast Within, Pyroblast, or a board wipe like Wrath of God (or burn, but only very early on into his time on the board, which will be covered shortly). Protection from the two colours you’re not in grants you ultimate flexibility if you’re looking to load him up with auras, and force only the most inefficient answers to kill him (offset by his converted mana cost of three, to boot). This double protection also makes him VERY difficult to block – the first time I encountered Animar I was playing Green/Black/White, when blocking it was either let him eat my tiny elves or let him eat me.
2) Whenever you cast a creature spell, put a +1/+1 counter on Animar.
This ability, combined with his incredibly evasive body, make Animar a potent choice for death by Commander Damage. A lot of Animar decks run a ton of cheap creatures that draw cards, to enable a deck drawing engine to grow your commander to dangerous levels, quickly. There are ways to make this go infinite (details below), and the use and abuse of this ability make Animar very resilient to the few pieces of removal that can hit him (he regularly has the capacity to survive Blasphemous Act and friends). This ability is only truly terrifying, however, in combination with his third ability..
3) Creature Spells you cast cost 1 less for each +1/+1 counter on Animar.
From Karador, Ghost Chieftain to Tasigur, the Golden Fang to Derevi, Empyrial Tactician, we see time and time again that cost reduction above 1-2 is absolutely busted on a Commander. Animar, being a generous patron, donates this ability to every creature in his deck (barring his very cheap self). While this doesn’t often mean broken (The Ur-Dragon does this from the Command Zone, and doesn’t feel overbearing), in this particular case I feel it’s insane – casting titans and colossi for nothing following a successful combo turn is absolutely gross.
So, we’ve got a volatile cocktail of a Commander with powerful abilities that lend themselves well to creature strategies. How do we get the most out of them?
Ancestral Statue – Right off the bat, let’s deal with the 2 card combo. Ancestral statue – the namesake of the competitive deck, Ancestral Animar – goes from meh to infinite in moments in the presence of Animar. Being colourless, it can eventually be cast for free/ very cheap with his third ability. Being a creature, it puts a counter on Animar when you cast it. With its ability being worded as it is, it can return itself to your hand on entry. These 3 things combined allow you to cast it any large number of times, and swing directly for the throat with Animar, as early as turn 3. This card isn’t the only reason Animar is known as competitive, but it’s existence gave him a heavy push.
Aluren – another great choice for Animars looking to live large, Aluren removes the mana cost on your cheap creatures altogether, allowing you to (both literally and figuratively) cascade through your deck in order to grow your commander to spit out bigger threats for next to nothing – A similar, if more commander focused version of the fringe Legacy deck that makes Aluren its namesake. Notably this also goes infinite with Animar and combo mainstay Cloudstone Curio, making an infinitely large Animar or infinite enter-the-battlefield triggers for Purphoros, God of the Forge and associated effects.
Kozilek, Butcher of Truth – finally, let’s look at payoffs. When Animar isn’t swinging in for obscene amounts, he’s casting huge things for free. The popular choice for this is the eldrazi Titans; large, colourless threats with splashy abilities that end the game. The choices for titans vary depending on what you want to achieve; the two Ulamogs present solutions to problems that a Temur deck can’t deal with and giving an indestructible body, while the Kozileks present powerful reload effects to keep your engines turning. I typically lean on the side of draw in a combo deck such as this; Kozilek, the Great Distortion is probably the best cast effect for the deck, but ultimately his lack of shuffle clause and his lack of true inevitability (he isn’t annihilating boards or devouring libraries) make him the weakest once he hits the board. Because of this, I like Kozilek, Butcher of truth if I could only have one. A shot of adrenalin in the mid game, he offers a won game as soon as he attacks, and even shuffles in on death to repeat the cycle should he need to; if I had more than one spot, either Ulamog would fill those slots just as capably, however.
That’s just about it for Animar! What do you guys reckon? Think he’s busted? Overrated? Be sure to let me know what you think! If you’re hungry for more be sure to check us out every few days, or drop us a like on Facebook to have the hottest in Commander tricks and shenanigans delivered right to your door! For now though guys, Unmistakable out!