Making Greatwurms Great Again
08 Jun 2020 - 15 min read
These days, it’s hard to be a Magic card. Back in the first few years of Magic’s lifespan, there were only a few releases a year. Wizards, as well as the player base were still falling into their stride. Now, any given year, there are three story sets, a core set, a commander product (or several), a masters set, and some other specialty product or innovation set, totaling thousands of new cards. If you’re looking to stand out and carve a niche, especially in older formats, you have to overcome a backlog of over 20,000 cards from a long and storied history of the game.
Wizards has only gotten better at making more powerful and interesting cards, so on average, a card released now will fall by the wayside quickly. It can be even more rough if you’re a rare or mythic rare. With the rarity premium comes pressure to push boundaries either on rate or in design space. And oftentimes these don’t capture the hearts and minds of the players, or they were simply printed at the wrong time, crowded out by cards printed shortly before or after hand.
Not Even a Bigger Boat Will Help
Today, we’re talking about one such mythic rare: Impervious Greatwurm , the buy-a-box promo for Guilds of Ravnica. Nearly two years later, this absolute unit of an oversized frog snack has seen zero play. Let’s look a bit further, surely there’s some drastic downside that is keeping this Greatwurm from greatness.
Based on the vanilla test alone, we’re already winning big. Looking back on those 20,000+ cards and 27 years of Magic, Impervious Greatwurm has the highest power and toughness of any creature, just beating out RtR’s
Worldspine Wurm , and absolutely demolishing the original Ravnica’s Autochthon Wurm (what is it with the Selesnya Conclave and stupidly big wurms?). This thing is even bigger than Emrakul, the Aeons Torn , the original gold standard for “holy crap that thing is massive”.
Stats aside, let’s read on. Impervious Greatwurm also has Convoke, a flagship mechanic of the Conclave that’s made appearances in many Ravnican sets, as well as some supplemental sets. Makes sense thematically, and at a CMC of 10, it’s nice that there’s a way to cheat a bit on the cost. But when it’s already so big, that reduction still seems unfair, especially if I’m using my mindset from when I first started playing and Siege Rhino was a god card.
But that’s not all, there’s one more line of text on the Greatwurm. Hmm let me see here, “Indestructi-..”, HOLD ON WAIT, WHAT? You mean, not only is it the beefiest of boys, but I can cheat on its mana cost and it’s nearly impossible to get rid of?
Someone tell me why, in the name of whatever god(s) you pray to, be it those of Theros, those of Amonkhet, or the Dragon God Nicol Bolas himself, this majestic beast has suffered such injustice?!?! With rotation coming in only a few months, we will make Impervious Greatwurm great again (okay, technically not ‘again’, but ‘for the first time’).
I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends
Luckily, when it comes to haymakers like the Greatwurm, we have built-in directions, as well as precedence, on how to call it into the fray. For the Selesnyans, strength comes in numbers and you’ll need a lot of poor suckers to wrangle the Greatwurm in. Convoking has been a solid strategy in the past for things such as Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis , Chord of Calling , and March of the Multitudes . That’s a good enough pedigree for us to try it.
Standard is flush with token makers to help convoke. My personal favorites would be Raise the Alarm and Omen of the Sun for their rate and instant-speed versatility. Others like Rally for the Throne and March of the Multitudes, fueled by convoke and helping to fuel further convokes, could round out a token package. If you wanted to dip into red, Forbidden Friendship is the best upfront rate you’ll get, and Legion Warboss and Krenko, Tinstreet Kingpin provide recurring token generation. Whichever way you lean, don’t forget to sneak in a couple Emmara, Soul of the Accord ’s and Divine Visitation ’s for maximum value.
So, convoking allows us to get a reduction on mana cost, but we’re still casting our Greatwurm. That’s way too slow and honest for me, so let’s just cheat him into play! Starting with the strategy’s namesake card, people have been Reanimating the most powerful of creatures since the early days of Magic. Reanimation isn’t as easy to come by as token generation, but there are enough powerful effects to fill out a necromantic package for our guest of honor. Pretty much all necromantic interaction stems from black’s portion of the color pie (with some splashes here or there) and it’s usually going to run you a cool five mana. My choice for best option however, is Back For More . Instant speed is an absolute killer as we can ambush and block, we’ll have pseudo haste, and the fight clause on top means we’re getting a three-for-one nearly every time.
Next down the list would be Bond of Revival for the haste. The one thing better than suddenly returning the biggest thing imaginable to play, is your opponent having essentially zero time to deal with it. Blood for Bones is a whole turn or two earlier than other options, but it requires a tribute, as well as not granting extra triggers or keywords. Though, if we’re combining a token/convoke idea with reanimation, this would be a no-brainer. Unbreakable Bond is serviceable as that’s a lot of life we’ll be gaining. Once you’ve hit Cauldron’s Gift you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel, and, though interesting, the density of quality auras needed to make Rise to Glory a consistent two-for-one would stretch our deck thin. (quick shout-out to Elspeth Conquers Death which does have reanimation as its third chapter and is a powerhouse of removal and disruption on its front half)
Of course, to fuel our reanimation strategy we’ll need ways to fill our graveyard. The two best options are discard effects or self-mill. Self-mill will put us at least in Golgari, maybe Sultai, depending on how deep we go. If you want a better look at what options there are, check out my Titan’s Nest article. The Binding of the Titans is strong in green, Tymaret Calls the Dead in black, and Merfolk Secretkeeper in blue, amongst others. Gyruda, Doom of Depths does the milling and the reanimating for us all in one, though it is on the higher end in terms of cost and commitment to an all-in strategy. Discard would likely employ red, making us Jund. Cathartic Reunion and Thirst for Meaning both turbo charge our graveyard. For a more in-depth discussion, check out my Offspring’s Revenge article.
Money for Nuthin’ and Greatwurms for Free
But reanimation is not the only way to cheat Impervious Greatwurm into play. Some cards allow us to forgo casting costs and utilizing other zones: move card directly from hand to field, pass GO, collect $200 and a 16/16 indestructible wurm. In older formats, Show and Tell , Sneak Attack , and Through the Breach have been putting Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Griselbrand directly into play for years, why can’t we have the same fun in Standard?
Here is where the pickings start to get, not necessarily slim, but extremely conditional. If you like to roll the dice, activating a Dreamshaper Shaman or down-ticking a Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast is a viable path. Even spicier would be mutating an Auspicious Starrix or Illuna, Apex of Wishes . In all these cases, the deck-building would have to be precise, but you could make it so you hit an Impervious Greatwurm consistently.
Most similar to the powerhouses of old are Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded and Ilharg, the Raze-Boar . Purphoros is basically a Sneak Attack on a stick, though having to sacrifice our monstrosity end of turn has always been problematic if we aren’t winning on the spot. Ilharg could be even better as it is a recur-able way to get the wurm into combat, and instead of sacrificing it, returns it to our hand, which sort of protects it. Still, both aren’t the most fool-proof ways to execute our gameplan.
Lastly, if you want to play a more controlling game,
Flood of Tears
could be a lot of fun. Not only is it a great defensive card, but sometimes we’ll get to set down our Greatwurm and set up an offensive. Imagine all this with
Teferi, Time Raveler
’s up-tick so you can Flood on the end of our opponent’s turn? Absolutely despicable and I love it.
Now that I’ve gone on entirely too long about how to actually get Impervious Greatwurm into play, we need to discuss how to win. You might have noticed that one important word was missing from its textbox: trample. Not being able to bypass defenses means people can chump for days and potentially crack back or find an exile or bounce spell. That’s no bueno for us.
We could give our Greatwurm a trample counter with Hornbash Mentor or Fully Grown though I doubt those would synergize with the rest of our deck no matter which way we took it. Cycling a Titanoth Rex could actually be beneficial if we were going for a reanimation strategy. T Rex isn’t as big as Greatwurm, but he’ll get the job done if we need him.
Planeswalkers are always powerful inclusions to any deck and The Royal Scions or Vivien, Arkbow Ranger can give our wurm trample for the turn. Both seem to provide enough all-around utility to justify inclusion.
There are also creatures who grant trample upon ETB, End-Raze Forerunners being the biggest and baddest. Since we’re already trying to cheapen our Greatwurm, I doubt we want to have to wait an extra turn and pay full price for these bigger tramplers, and if you’re invoking the End-Raze, you’re probably winning anyway.
Now, all of these options are plausible, though some more efficient and less far-fetched than others. However, I’m saving what I feel to be the most fool-proof win condition for last. Why bother with trample (we didn’t even discuss unblockability, but trust me that’s an even more convoluted road) when we can go straight to the opponent’s dome? Allow me to introduce a humble two mana red sorcery:
Yes, that’s what this has come to. After all that grandstanding about Impervious Greatwurm getting more love and recognition, we’re sacrificing him for the greater good, martyred for the sake of us climbing the ladder. And that, my friends, is a metaphor, or maybe an actual example of how life isn’t fair.
Here’s a build that I put together utilizing the discussion in this article while pushing the envelope even further.
Making Greatwurms Great Again
4x Impervious Greatwurm Enchantments4x Elspeth Conquers Death
4x Omen of the Sea Instants 1x Back for More
4x Raise the Alarm
3x Thirst for Meaning </p> Planeswalkers
More Entries in Homebrewed:
- 14 Sep 2020: Get back to the Past (Commander)
- 30 Jul 2020: The Tough, The Mean, and the Deadly (Standard)
- 16 Jun 2020: Subira, Goblin Caravanner (Commander)
- 05 Jun 2020: Defenders of the Realm (Standard)
- 28 May 2020: Hello Dawn, My Old Friend (Standard)