Greetings Gladiators! Today’s article, the fourth in the series, will demonstrate why artifacts and creatures are overrated, and why you don’t need more than two in your entire deck. I am playing Boros Tokens, but with the surprise finisher of Craterhoof Behemoth and the not-so-surprise finisher of Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. Those finishers aren’t cast, but are instead tutored straight to the battlefield with polymorph effects, which turn one creature on your board into a random one from your library. I also run a number of anthems to pump the large amount of token creatures I will be creating. Are two creatures enough? Let’s find out!
About The List
I picked this deck because plain old Hoof decks are boring. Tutoring up Craterhoof Behemoth is too easy nowadays thanks to Fauna Shaman, Fiend Artisan, Finale of Devastation to name a few. Ramping to it is trivial because of cards like Circle of Dreams Druid, Elvish Archdruid, and Oracle of Mul Daya. Thus, the only exciting way to use it is by avoiding green altogether.
The first step to victory is to create tokens. It doesn’t particularly matter what kind of tokens I create, since once a few anthems are in play they’ll all do just fine. Our best token generators are therefore the ones that make as many tokens as their mana value. One mana per 1/1 is the best rate we can get in Gladiator. Since there aren’t enough of those to fill out the deck, the next best thing is creating tokens at instant speed so that we can play around wraths. Examples of this include Goblin Wizardry, Omen of the Sun, and Raise the Alarm. Other characteristics I prefer in token generators are repeatability (making tokens more than once) and versatility (having other modes or effects in addition to or instead of creating tokens). The best examples of these are Outlaws’ Merriment and Felidar Retreat, as well as Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis and You See a Pair of Goblins, respectively.
What if the tokens are too small and can’t get past large green creatures? This is where anthem effects prove their worth, as they increase the power and toughness of all my tokens. While some anthems like Shefet Dunes and Glorious Anthem only provide a boost to power and toughness, the more powerful ones grant additional effects such as keywords. Granting haste can be essential to finishing off opponents after a wrath, so Zariel, Archduke of Avernus and Heroic Reinforcements are invaluable. Breaking through a clogged board state can be difficult, so Divine Visitation and level three of Paladin Class are also quite useful.
But those previous anthems are nothing compared to our polymorph targets. These two cards are the most powerful anthems accessible in our format, and I only wish I could run more than one copy of each of them…
Oh wait, of course I can run more than one copy of each of them! I can even run both of them on the same card! Of course, this comes at the high cost of removing every other creature and all artifacts from our deck, as well as destroying one or more of my own creatures, but if I get to run three copies of Craterhoof Behemoth which cost only four or five mana, who am I to complain? And just in case we draw the actual Craterhoof Behemoth, our backup plan of putting it back into our library with Fire Prophecy or Valakut Awakening will hopefully ensure victory despite the setback.
And to round out the deck I run the best removal in my colors. I made room for synergistic inclusions such as Conclave Tribunal and Angelic Ascension, although that last one usually hits my own permanents. Removal is necessary in all Gladiator decks, but I enjoy having fun with it when brewing decks for this article series.
This deck is fantastic against Control decks that rely on single target removal. By the time your opponent realizes that their Fatal Push and Lightning Bolt don’t trade one-for-one with your creatures, you’ll have amassed an army of little 1/1s to take them out. Even Control decks that have many wraths are still at somewhat of a disadvantage if a careful pilot commits only a few tokens to the board at a time. Red based Aggro decks are also a good matchup since all of the opponent’s X/1s only trade with half or less of your cards.
This deck struggles against Midrange or green creature decks because its threats get outclassed by their top end. Unless you pull together multiple anthems it can be very difficult to face their imposing board state. If you draw the right suite of removal spells you can also pull ahead, and a repeatable token generator can help make up for the small size of each creature individually.
The deck went 5-0 in matches, 10-3 in games. Four of the matches were favorable, so this wasn’t as shocking as most 5-0s I expect in this article series. Still, a very exciting finish for sure.
The first match was against Temur Monsters, a Temur Midrange deck that wins with big Dragons and Beasts. I expected to lose this one going in. However, game one I drew Indomitable Creativity and double polymorphed my opponent to -39. Game two the opponent clocked me with the best of their monsters found by Prime Speaker Vannifar. Game three was a close one, which I won off the back of turn four Outlaws’ Merriment and a level three Paladin Class despite the opponent having both Elder Gargaroth and Kogla, the Titan Ape on curve. If I was on the draw I would certainly have lost.
Match two was against Jeskai Aggro, a deck with a low curve and a combination of the best threats and removal available in its colors. Game one was the same as in the last match, with an early Indomitable Creativity winning the game. Game two I was pressured and cast a Divine Visitation on turn five. If I untapped with it I could cast Release the Dogs to stabilize, but alas the opponent had Rip Apart as an answer. Game three I was able to hard-cast (paying the full cost of the card instead of polymorphing it) Elesh Norn only for it to meet a counterspell. However, as the game ground on, the two Angels from my turn five Starnheim Unleashed got past the opponent’s Rekindling Phoenix and Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice with the assistance of Response // Resurgence and Lightning Helix. The highlight of the match was my Tibalt, Rakish Instigator negating a gain of 10 life for the opponent.
Game one of match three against Grixis Midrange was uneventful. My opponent struggled with land drops and lost because of not finding a blue source. Game two they landed both Galazeth Prismari and Glorybringer, but lost the race to two lifelinking Vampires from Queen’s Commision buffed by Paladin Class, Felidar Retreat, and Heroic Reinforcements.
Match four against Mardu Equipment also won in two games. In game one the combination of Huatli, Warrior Poet’s Dinosaurs with Chandra, Acolyte of Flame’s recasting of removal kept me alive long enough to slam an Anointed Procession which provided too much value to overcome. Game two I got off to a quick start while the opponent had only Equipment and nothing to attach it to.
In the final Match against Mardu Control, game one resulted in me curving out and my opponent durdling. Between my Chandra, Acolyte of Flame, my Tibalt, Rakish Instigator, and the opponent’s Phyrexian Arena, the pressure built up quickly. Casting and flashing back Faithless Looting did not find any answers. Game two was the grindiest game of the 13 that I played. We kept trading threats and answers, but because during this time the opponent continuously upticked a Karn, Scion of Urza I was buried in card advantage. The -X of Ugin, the Spirit Dragon was the final nail in the coffin. Game three my opponent struggled once again. They both mulliganed to five and flooded, leading to my curve of Legion’s Landing, Forbidden Friendship, History of Benalia, and Paladin Class at level two being unstoppable.
Overall, I found that the deck executed its gameplan well. I was consistently able to create tokens on turn three, though I wish I could be doing something more to develop my board state on turn two. The loss of Goblin Morningstar, Ancestral Blade, Cogworker’s Puzzleknot, and Mask of Immolation in order to enable Indomitable Creativity is necessary, but I really need something to fill the void they left behind. Sadly I don’t know of any cards in Historic Horizons that will help.
That’s all for today’s article. Time to polymorph it into the topic for article #5, which could have a topic determined by you! If you have any questions about the article, or any suggestions for a future one, let me know by messaging me on Discord at WreckDeck#4901. Also, if you have a card for me to build around or an exciting deck idea to brew, mention me in the #brewers-corner channel on the official Gladiator Discord server and I’ll get to work!
I am an avid Gladiator player who wants to support the community! I’ve been playing Magic since 2007, and Gladiator since Season One of the AM League. My favorite Gladiator deck is Green Aggro.