Uncommanders: The Gitrog Monster's Little Brother

How About a Game of Common-der?

Say goodbye to getting devoured by monstrous toads in Competitive Kingdom. We're packing up our Supply Caravan and heading down to Pauperville, where things are a bit calmer. Or are they? Being restricted to only commons may seem like it'll keep the power level down quite a bit, but that only makes me want to play harder. Let's bring the heat down to ol' Pauperton and show them just how much we can do with those commons. 

The first commander we'll be looking to transform in this series is  The Gitrog Monster. This Frog is brutally efficient, seeing loads of play in casual Commander as well as cEDH. The Swamp-dwelling allows you to put two lands into play every turn, provided you have them (You will). Additionally, the thing draws you a card every time you sacrifice a land. Say hello to Zuran Orb, Squandered Resources, and Sylvan Safekeeper. But oh... it has a downside: you have to sacrifice a land every turn or your commander will remove itself from the board! However will we cope? Pfffft. As if. The fact that The Gitrog Monster provides its own sacrifice outlet pushes it over the top.

So how are we going to imitate this power with only commons, plus an uncommon commander?

To start, there's a few sections we can divide the average Gitrog Deck into.

  • Putting more lands onto the battlefield: land tutors or cards that add extra land drops; this is for the extra mana, but also just as sacrifice fodder.
  • Mill: the more cards in your graveyard, the more cards you have access to. In a recursion deck, your graveyard is like a second hand. 
  • Recursion: bringing thirty sacrificed lands back to the board at once will probably win you the game with any Landfall card. 
  • Payoffs: flood the board with a token for every land you have, or simply cast some really big creatures with all that mana you have. 

Alright, we can do that. Let's go!

How We're Going to Win

For starters, we need a commander. By pauper rules, we can use any uncommon creature (Golgari to match the OG), but it's my preference to use a legendary one, as it makes the deck legal in any Commander game. My first try was with the combination of Erinis, Gloom Stalker and Scion of Halaster. While these two provided tremendous card advantage and regularly pushed the deck far ahead in terms of ramp and cards, there was one thing I was missing, and that was a win condition. Try as I might, I couldn't find ample means of winning the game with common cards. Sporemound was good, but I couldn't rely on getting it every game, and even then, it was only one card. I tried filling the deck with some beaters, like Ulamog's Crusher, but the strategy was weak and it felt like I wasn't using the land synergies like I should be, so after several games of doing a whole lot of nothing, I came to the conclusion that I needed my wincon in the command zone. 

Enter Uurg, Spawn of Turg. As it turns out, demonic Frogs are the ideal graveyard land commanders. From the start, Uurg filters your draws similarly to Scion of Halaster. Want Uurg's power a bit higher? Put that land into your graveyard and draw something else. The beast also eats your lands for B/G, giving you a means of boosting his power if you have nothing else on hand, but once we've got his power high, we can start swinging in and dealing some real damage. We've got our payoffs right here. 

Ramping Upwards

While often we'll have to make the choice between putting lands into our hand or into our graveyard, we'll want to ramp in the early game no matter what. The more lands we put out, the more opportunities to buff Uurg we'll have in the late game. Staples like Rampant Growth and Cultivate are great, of course, but even better are Harrow and Springbloom Druid. Any chance to get lands to the graveyard, we'll take. 

I'd like to take a minute to highlight some underrated cards. Wishing you had an Azusa, Lost but Seeking? Or an Exploration? Don't fret, because there's a budget copy of those cards that's been functionally reprinted almost ten times. What does Exploration allow you to do? Put down an extra land every turn. What does Walking Atlas allow you to do? Put down an extra land every turn. Give your wallet a break and play the just-as-good, cheaper version of Azusa. 

Filling the Graveyard

We can sacrifice lands a bit to get a few points of toughness on our commander, but it's almost always going to be more efficient to put them there straight from our library. Luckily, there's another very good card that's been remade a hundred times, and it's perfect for us: Grisly Salvage. It allows us to select which card type we want in our hand and which type we want in our graveyard. As well as boosting our Frog, it provides us with card advantage. Eight more replicas of this card in the deck, and we're set. 


Or rather, means of fetching those basics. Every land that sacrifices itself is an auto-include. Evolving Wilds, Jund Panorama, Riveteers Overlook, and Myriad Landscape may be taplands, but the slight loss in tempo will make up for itself when we play Uurg as a lethal threat. One more great land is Hickory Woodlot. With any means of returning lands to the battlefield, it'll constantly be bringing you up in mana. 

As for removal, you'd be surprised at how many of the cards you run are just commons. Feed the Swarm, Lignify, Bone Shards, and Broken Bond are all Pauper-legal. You'll have no problem with the essentials in this format. 

Alright, we've got a deck, but it's far from perfect, so let's see how it plays!



Okay, we've got a few problems. First and foremost, Uurg is having a tough time getting through. Let's throw in a Whispersilk Cloak and a Haunted one, too. Some of these evasion effects protect Uurg from removal, but we want a bit more of that, so let's add Gaea's Gift, Tamiyo's Safekeeping, and Blessing of Leeches

In terms of our play speed, we rarely have a play on turn one, so we're going to add in the one-drop Elves, which I initially avoided due to our land theme. However, there was already an excess of ramp in the deck. While I was running Erinis as the commander, the goal was just to get as many lands out as possible, but now, we'd rather have those lands in the graveyard, so we're gonna drop a lot of the ramp in exchange for more self-mill. I think I'm running out of Grisly Salvage variants, however, so how 'bout some draw and discard?

Finally, while Uurg does take players out after a few turns, it would be nice if we could do it a bit faster. Apologies in advance: I'm adding in Tainted Strike and Phyresis



Yup, the deck runs quite a bit smoother now, and it competes well with casual decks despite its commons-only restriction. Does it hold up against a Gitrog Monster Deck? Maybe a lower power level one. I'll have to save the challenge of making a Pauper cEDH deck for another day. Overall, I'm pleased with what I've got. What do you think? Would you like to see me brew with a nonlegendary commander next time? Let me know in that comment section!

Alejandro Fuentes's a nerd from Austin Texas who likes building the most unreasonable decks possible, then optimizing them till they're actually good. In his free time, he's either trying to fit complex time signatures into death metal epics, or writing fantasy novels.