Turn the Tables: EDH is Playing Animar All Wrong! - By Shawn Wasserman

A quick look on EDHREC has taught me one thing. You're probably playing Animar, Soul of Elements sub-optimally.

A Commander deck is an expression of your play style, so you can never truly play it wrong; but you can strive to play it optimally, and for Animar, the suggestions on EDHREC aren't cutting it.

With access to the card draw, ramp, and aggressive creatures in the blue, green and red slices of the color pie, it's easy to get distracted while building this deck.

However, Animar synergizes best with colorless creatures. Let me explain. 

How to Play Animar in EDH?

To discover the true power of Animar's final two abilities – and unlock his true potential – I only need to present to you one card: Ancestral Statue

This common from Dragons of Tarkir may be unassuming in most decks, but it will be the star of your 99.

As soon as you have four mana, or a few +1/+1 counters on Animar, the Statue can come into play. This will trigger the commander's second ability and add a +1/+1 counter on it.

At this point, Ancestral Statue's ability can trigger. Bounce that Golem back into your hand. Now, if Animar has at least 4 counters on it, play the statue again. You can rinse and repeat to trigger an infinite loop that can get your commander swinging for lethal.

But, you still have two more competitors to go. If you're tapped out, or you fell for the blue, green and red herrings of the color pie, your turn likely ends there – with a huge “remove me” sign on Animar’s back.

However, if you lean into colorless creatures, the commander's ability enables you to drop all your creatures onto the board. This will keep your mana pool open to counter the dreaded Cyclonic Rift or Mob Rule, or you can grant your creatures haste with Fervor, or Anger in the graveyard, to let slip the dogs of war and a big bad Eldrazi to boot!

How to Build Animar Decks for EDH?

If it isn't obvious by now, you're going to want to run a deck that heavily relies on colorless creatures. My dream deck runs about 65 creatures. This is almost twice the recommendation you see on EDHREC – which is also filled with creature recommendations that are trapped in the color pie! So how can we make this work?

Be sure to add in some zero mana creatures and creatures with affinity for artifacts. They will enable you to start your combo even when you are tapped out. You will need some cool creatures with ETBs, triggered and static abilities to fill slots otherwise used for the artifacts, enchantments, instants, sorceries and colors that will tempt you. 

You may find yourself distracted by famous commander staples like Sol Ring. The only non-creature and non-land cards in my ideal build are The Ozolith and Hardened Scales as they have an affordable CMC and contribute to the deck's win-strategy.

Despite my nagging, you will want to run a handful of creatures with a color identity. But stick to those that have abilities that can replace non-creature cards and can't be recreated with colorless options.

My suggestion is to look at cards that enable you to play the top of your library and extra lands each turn. These creatures will enable you to keep the combo going. In other words, look out for Azusa, Lost But Seeking.

As for your mana base, look for a few Myrs that can tap for mana and lands that can tap for multiple colors. Since you are running mostly colorless creatures, your goal is to get Animar out as fast as possible. Your mana sources should be relatively even between your three color options. Don't forget to add some utility lands and artifact lands if they will serve to boost any protections or synergies you might add into the deck – like affinity.

Is Morph a Viable Strategy for Animar?

At first glance, creatures with morph look quite tempting in an Animar deck. 

Using the commander's abilities, players can cast the creatures for their colorless cost, face down, for free. They can then pay the morph cost to flip the card up when its abilities are needed.

Though this is certainly a viable strategy, it comes at a cost of tempo. Morph costs get pricey and force players to worry about mana fixing – which can be ignored with a colorless build.

I advise deckbuilders only include morph creatures that bring needed utility you can't find elsewhere and do so at a low cost. 

Can Animar Pay for X?

Animar can run X mana creatures, like Walking Ballista, which will be the most versatile in your deck. 

The casting player defines the value of X, so if you have 5 counters on Animar and 3 basic lands available, you can cast Stonecoil Serpent as an early game giant at 8/8. 

The versatility doesn't end there. Earlier in the game, you might choose to declare the value of X to be zero! 

Why would you do this when your serpent will automatically go to the graveyard? Simply casting a creature gives your commander an additional +1/+1 counter – the rules never said it had to stay on the field! 

This means if you're tapped out and have the serpent in hand, you can choose to cast it for zero to get your combo going. 

It might be painful to toss such a useful card into a graveyard, but if that gets you 6 creatures on the battlefield, it's a good price to pay.

How Does Animar Win?

Animar offers players a vast number of ways to win the game. As previously mentioned, you can go wide, cast your whole hand, and start bashing the competition away. 

Don't forget that as each creature is cast, your commander continues to grow. This means you also have access to Voltron tactics that can defeat players through commander damage.

Assuming you swing your Animar at one opponent and your board to another, there is still one player left to deal with. You don't want to give them time to stabilize or wipe the board.

This means that you're going to want to have some bombs available that take advantage of your commander's abilities. 

The obvious options are Terror of the Peaks, Blightsteel Colossus and a few Eldrazi. But those on a budget should look into cards like Pandemonium, or Darksteel Juggernaut which pairs well with your artifact creatures and artifact lands.

How to Beat Animar

Animar is quite weak against board sweepers and control style decks – especially ones with the ability to steal creatures. 

With this in mind, you might want to look into adding a few answers in your deck for these situations. Some good options are: 

Some of these options sit quite high on the mana curve. So, they are not always the most efficient options in most decks. But, as they fit into Animar's strategy, you will cast them at a discount.

Is Animar a Good Commander?

The answer to this question really depends on the player and their play group. 

Colorless Animar decks can get aggressive very quickly (thanks to mana shortcuts). They can also be exceptionally powerful on a strict budget. So, keep the spirit of Commander in mind — ask more casual playgroups if this deck breaks the social contract.

Players will quickly become the “Animarchenemy” and will need answers to respond to the inevitable removal spells being flung their way. So, be careful how you pilot the deck, manage your resources, and politics are your friend.

Animar also enables CEDH players to play some scary, high-costed creatures in the early game. How would you flourish out this deck for a more competitive group? Comment below and let us know.

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