This is a new / ongoing series where I detail my thought process when building and modifying EDH decks

EDH | Building Karoo

My first ever EDH commander was Scion of the Ur-Dragon, back when I was working with a limited card pool and a student’s budget. As a result, I ran the full ten Bounce Lands, aka the Ravnica Karoos.

Azorius Chancery Boros Garrison Dimir Aqueduct Golgari Rot Farm Gruul Turf Izzet Boilerworks Orzhov Basilica Rakdos Carnarium Selesnya Sanctuary Simic Growth Chamber

The upsides to these lands are many:

  • They provide card advantage - one land drop, two mana sources
  • They allow you to “blink” your lands, like resetting the counters on a Glacial Chasm
  • They play well with cards that untap lands, producing more mana than usual

At the time, I ran a few cards that played well with the manabase, and it was always a pleasant surprise when the stars aligned.

Amulet of Vigor Garruk Wildspeaker Frantic Search
back when Amulet of Vigor was Standard bulk

So what if that was my central gameplan?

Enter Karoo.dec

The decision to create a deck revolving around Bounce Lands comes from a few recent events:

  1. My Maro/Zegana deck that reliably dumped absurd amounts of lands into play
  2. My playgroup increasingly favoring land-based ramp strategies
  3. The recently printed Fall of the Thran

My current guess is this: if I can resolve land destruction like Fall of the Thran in a deck full of Bounce lands, backed with a general game plan that rebuilds mana bases quickly, I should be able to manufacture enough tempo advantage to win the game.

The Commander

Jodah, Archmage Eternal

I needed a five color commander to run all 10 Bounce Lands. Most of the WUBRG color commanders are just big bodies, and don’t offer much utility. Jodah will help me power out some of my big control spells that you’ll see later.

That said, he’s far from essential, and the deck isn’t built around him at all. I could see swapping in Progenitus for the guaranteed win-con, though just having him as your commander can start you off on the wrong foot politically.

The Manabase

So ten bounce lands. Check.

Given that this is a five color deck and “Landfall Matters”, I decided to stick close to the “perfect manabase”.

That means adding all 10 duals and 10 fetches, putting me at 30 lands. Then, because I need to hit Green early for fixing and ramping, add all the Forest shocks and cycling lands.

Breeding Pool Overgrown Tomb Stomping Ground Temple Garden Scattered Groves Sheltered Thicket

By that same logic, throw in a Krosan Verge, and round it off to 40 with a few ETB utility lands.

Krosan Verge Bojuka Bog Halimar Depths

We can reuse the Bojuka Bog and Halimar Depths thanks to the bounce lands! It may seem slow, but we’ll have land acceleration to spare.

About those Forests

I want to ramp and color fix since I’m five colors. But given the constraints of my mana base, the usual all-stars like Kodama's Reach won’t work. Instead, thanks to our duals and shocks, anything that tutors up a Forests will help us color fix easily.

Ranger's Path Hunting Wilds Skyshroud Claim

We can also grab non-Forests by their type, or grab anything with more generic tutors.

Farseek Tempt with Discovery Realms Uncharted

Given our graveyard recursion and general strategy, the correct play for non-basic tutors is to always grab Bounce Lands.

Graveyard Recursion

Knowing we run fetch lands, and that we like to blow things up, we want to re-use the lands in our graveyard. Thankfully, we’ve got a couple options now.

Life from the Loam Crucible of Worlds Muldrotha, the Gravetide

Land Acceleration

So given the graveyard recursion, and that Bounce Lands require another land drop to replay what was bounced, how do we get all these lands out quickly?

We’ve got two categories of land acceleration. The first ones increase the total land drops possible. These play nicely with Crucible and friends.

Exploration Oracle of Mul Daya Rites of Flourishing

The second category “cheats” them directly into play from our hand. Though less synergistic, we can always use our normal land drops (from hand or graveyard) to play a Bounce land, then use one of these to cheat the bounced land back in.

Burgeoning Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis Sakura-Tribe Scout

Tappers like Sakura-Tribe Scout are of particular note:

  1. There are a number of functional reprints, allowing us a lot of redundancy
  2. They all form a powerful combo with Retreat to Coralhelm
Walking Atlas Retreat to Coralhelm
Brother From Another Mother Zendikar

With Retreat out, you tap a creature, put in a land, then untap that creature. This can accomplish one of two things:

  1. Dump all the lands from your hand into play
  2. Put a Bounce Land into play, then have it bounce itself

The second loop gives you infinite landfall triggers. If you have Amulet of Vigor out, you can also generate infinite mana by tapping the land with the bounce trigger on the stack.

Ob Nixilis, the Fallen Tatyova, Benthic Druid Amulet of Vigor

Let’s not forget the Land Destruction

Part of the original conceit was that:

  1. Our average land is worth more than theirs
  2. We should be able to recover faster

So blowing up lands is good. But we still might need SOME mana to restart our engine. Rather than just running every Armageddon and Jokulhaups available, we want cards to play to our specific strengths.

Strategy #1: My Finite Resources are Better than Yours

Balancing Act Razia's Purification Natural Balance
note: my playgroup is ok with Cataclysm, your mileage may vary

If everyone’s land counts become equal, we should be best positioned to produce more mana. We’re also better prepared to sacrifice lands given our plentiful graveyard recursion.

Strategy #2: I Can Rebuild Faster from a Soft Reset

Fall of the Thran Sunder

These are the times I’m both grateful and sad that Upheaval is banned. If we want to be particularly rude, we can follow up a Sunder with a wheel.

Strategy #3: Ramp Fast then Pause The Game

Ward of Bones Territorial Dispute
it only took me 2 years to find a deck for Territorial Dispute

In both cases, we can make a “fair” card one-sided. Ward of Bones works especially well given the small number of lands we need to reach decent mana. Territorial Dispute can be continually fed and circumvented via “cheats” like Sakura-Tribe Scout.

Rounding it Out

So we’ve got our gameplan. How do we make this a deck?

We’ve got plenty of mana and maybe too much ramp, which means we need lots of draw to compensate. Wheels are particularly good for ramp decks like this where you’re constantly dumping your hand onto the field, and the Wheels that discard can also feed our graveyard interaction.

Wheel of Fortune Whispering Madness Time Spiral

“Free spells” like Time Spiral and Frantic Search also double as rituals thanks to the bounce lands.

We need interaction. This is where my buddy Jodah finally comes in, giving us a discount (as well as color fixing) for some high-end spells.

Decree of Pain Dread Cacodemon In Garruk's Wake
not-pictured: answers to artifacts/enchantments, because they tend be cheaper

The List as of Writing

# name Jodah, the Vigorous # info May 2018 # link TappedOut 1x Jodah, Archmage Eternal *CMDR* Land (40) 1x Arid Mesa 1x Azorius Chancery 1x Badlands 1x Bayou 1x Bloodstained Mire 1x Bojuka Bog 1x Boros Garrison 1x Breeding Pool 1x Dimir Aqueduct 1x Flooded Strand 1x Golgari Rot Farm 1x Gruul Turf 1x Halimar Depths 1x Izzet Boilerworks 1x Krosan Verge 1x Marsh Flats 1x Misty Rainforest 1x Orzhov Basilica 1x Overgrown Tomb 1x Plateau 1x Polluted Delta 1x Rakdos Carnarium 1x Savannah 1x Scalding Tarn 1x Scattered Groves 1x Scrubland 1x Selesnya Sanctuary 1x Sheltered Thicket 1x Simic Growth Chamber 1x Skyline Cascade 1x Stomping Ground 1x Taiga 1x Temple Garden 1x Tropical Island 1x Tundra 1x Underground Sea 1x Verdant Catacombs 1x Volcanic Island 1x Windswept Heath 1x Wooded Foothills Sorcery (25) 1x Balancing Act 1x Bring to Light 1x Broken Bond 1x By Force 1x Decimate 1x Decree of Pain 1x Fabricate 1x Farseek 1x Hunting Wilds 1x In Garruk's Wake 1x Life from the Loam 1x Merciless Eviction 1x Natural Balance 1x Painful Truths 1x Ranger's Path 1x Razia's Purification 1x Skyshroud Claim 1x Spoils of Victory 1x Summer Bloom 1x Tempt with Discovery 1x Time Spiral 1x Wargate 1x Wheel of Fortune 1x Whispering Madness 1x Windfall Instant (6) 1x Constant Mists 1x Cyclonic Rift 1x Fact or Fiction 1x Frantic Search 1x Realms Uncharted 1x Sunder Planeswalker (1) 1x Garruk Wildspeaker Creature (15) 1x Azusa, Lost but Seeking 1x Budoka Gardener 1x Courser of Kruphix 1x Dread Cacodemon 1x Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis 1x Llanowar Scout 1x Mina and Denn, Wildborn 1x Muldrotha, the Gravetide 1x Oracle of Mul Daya 1x Ramunap Excavator 1x Sakura-Tribe Elder 1x Skyshroud Ranger 1x Tatyova, Benthic Druid 1x Trinket Mage 1x Walking Atlas Enchantment (7) 1x Burgeoning 1x Exploration 1x Fall of the Thran 1x Retreat to Coralhelm 1x Rites of Flourishing 1x Territorial Dispute 1x Treachery Artifact (5) 1x Amulet of Vigor 1x Candelabra of Tawnos 1x Crucible of Worlds 1x Ghirapur Orrery 1x Ward of Bones

In Conclusion

We’ll see how powerful (or fragile) this deck is when I test it next week, but it was lot of fun to build and write about!

Until next time, happy brewing!


A week later, I got a chance to playtest the deck, and immediately made 22 swaps!

The core strategy as outlined in this article is the same, but if you want to read about the lessons I learned, check out the changes post.

Written on May 4, 2018