PokeDecks: Zacama, the Tyrantrum

Unsummoned Skull • March 31, 2023

A Primordial Power

Four players sit down at a table for a game of Commander. We shuffle our decks as a low rumble begins. We've already eaten, so it's not likely someone's stomach. My elbows do bump against the table, but not that loudly. A shallow ripple forms across the surface of my beverage. There's something powerful at the table, something ancient, something that announces its regal presence as soon as it hits the table: a preternatural Poke Deck.

What is a PokeDeck? A PokeDeck is a collaboration between brewer and alterist that results in a uniquely flavored Commander deck. The commander of the deck is altered with the visage of a Pokemon, and the deck, in turn, represents the moves of that Pokemon. The fusion of these elements takes commanders in distinctly new directions and creates a cohesive experience that both brewer and alterist can be proud of every time the commander hits the table.

Zacama, Primal Calamity!

Zacama was an interesting commander to describe artistically to Foxnoctom. The deck was created as a replacement for an earlier deck, Klothys Enchantress (more on that deck another week), as one of my Kerosene and Matches decks. The Kerosene and Matches experiment, which resulted in many of my favorite decks, featured focused group hug decks that shared one resource and then used it better than other players. In particular, Klothys multiplied damage and mana, both of which are typically multiplied with enchantments, hence the enchantress subtheme. In order to get a critical mass of ten mana-doublers, the deck needed to add white. This also solidified the enchantress subtheme. The commander I chose for this was Zacama, who could untap the lands to go mana-positive as well as give an outlet for the extra mana. It wasn't until I went to make an artist description for Fox that I realized Zacama is, in fact, a Dinosaur.

When I was in first grade, I loved dinosaurs. I read books on them, put puzzles together, subscribed to magazines, went to a musical about them, went to zoo exhibits, watched TV shows and movies, anything and everything I could get my hands on or go to. And then my parents went to the local Blockbuster (ow...my back hurts) and rented what they were told was a fun dinosaur movie. For a little over 45 minutes, it was a fun romp. The scene where the paleontologists see the brachiosaurus is absolutely exhilarating. And then the guy gets eaten on the toilet by the T-Rex. My sister ran out of the room because an adult left children alone with a T Rex on the loose. I had to get re-potty-trained because I realized just how vulnerable a person is in such a situation. Suffice it to say... Jurassic Park left its mark.

While my initial thought had been to use Hydreigon, a three-headed dragon-type Pokemon (to match Zacama's three heads and three activated abilities), it just didn't feel right. Hydreigon is a pseudo-legendary Pokemon, a dragon obtainable near the end of the game, usually with three evolutions and powerful stats, but it just didn't fit the bill of an Elder Dinosaur. That was when my mind shifted to Tyrantrum. As a fossil Pokemon, Tyrantrum fits the "Elder" subtype perfectly, and, as a T-Rex, the body matches perfectly.

NowI needed to think of an image for Fox. That's where Jurassic Park comes in. The head bursting out of the frame was inspired by promotional posters for Jurassic Park. Originally, Fox had the mouth closed a bit, but the opening of the mouth added to the intimidation factor and the potential for a beam blast. The last part to figure out was the background. Fox had a sort of stained glass/lighting bolt motif, but I asked for it to be green, as the Tyrantrum already had red scales and white plumage, so all three of its colors would be present. With some action accents, the image truly popped... but could my deck live up to the amazing alter?

Zacama's Abilities

Zacama is a big bruiser of a commander, a beastly green monster who commands respect the moment it hits the battlefield. As a 9/9, its combat powers are formidable, and it has vigilance to act as an offensive and defensive threat, trample to beat down, and reach to deal with fliers. When it enters the battlefield, it untaps all lands its owner controls. And then it has three activated abilities, one for each of its colors, which give it a variety of ways to use excess mana. Now how can those abilities be exploited?

Zacama's enter-the-battlefield ability feeds its activated abilities beautifully and creates an interesting synergy to abuse. Once its owner gets beyond nine mana, the ability becomes mana-positive, meaning that more mana is created by casting Zacama and floating mana than by simply untapping. The more the lands untap, the more mana can be floated to feed its abilities. Sword of Feast and Famine is perhaps the most deadly of these, as it ups Zacama to an 11/11, so it can commander damage a player in two swings. Nature's Will is another way to capitalize off of dealing combat damage to untap the lands. How can combat damage be guaranteed? The red ability deals 3 damage per activation to a creature, and Zacama does have trample, and if there isn't an opponent to hit? Bounce Zacama with Erratic Portal! I am Unsummoned Skull, after all! Still... none of this feels that much like Tyrantrum, so how do we integrate the dino?

Tyrantrum's Moves

The next challenge is to figure out how to cross the IP from Pokemon to Magic. Zacama has a somewhat limited moveset, and, while Tri Attack would have been perfect (hence the consideration of Hydreigon), Zacama doesn't learn it. Like most fossil Pokemon, however, Tyrantrum does learn Ancient Power, which increases all stats exponentially and it stacks with each successful layer! How does this translate into Magic?

The mana-multipliers in the deck represent the layers of boosts added by successful iterations of Ancient Power, and I suppose the odds of drawing them represent the fact that Ancient Power isn't guaranteed to result in the boost. Mana Flare is a universal effect, which works with the Kerosene and Matches philosophy of getting the table make a memorable and explosive game. Nyxbloom Ancient is a bit more selfish, but much more explosive. Now, each land can trigger an ability of Zacama! Finally, Winter's Night was the missing piece to the deck, both making the deck feel old, as the card is from Ice Age, as are the snow-covered basics, and being the missing mana-multiplier to make the deck work! It does have the nasty downside of keeping snow lands tapped, but that's where the untappers come in! How do we being the pieces together and make sure we get the mana-doublers?

The Perfect Fusion

Arguably, the most difficult job is to fuse together the commander and the Pokemon. Tyrantrum's primordial Ancient Power is represented by mana-doublers. Zacama's activated abilities are fueled by the extra mana and pushed to a new level with the layers of boosts. Where do those abilities overlap? Land-untappers, like Nature's Will and Wilderness Reclamation, and mana-multipliers, like Mana Flare and Nyxbloom Ancient, have a key element in common: their card type!

The answer is that the key pieces of the deck are enchantments! While the density of enchantments isn't quite what I would usually expect from a deck with this many enchantress effects, which could change if they aren't doing enough, there are plenty of deck-thinners that remove lands from the deck and increase the density of enchantments. Eidolon of Blossoms and Enchantress's Presence are both enchantress effects that are enchantments themselves. Sythis, Harvest's Hand is also an enchantment, and it has the added bonus of padding the life total for the Hurricane effects, which can serve the purpose of not just wiping flying creatures but also lowering life totals and winning games!

The Ancient Power of Draconic Dinos!

Here's the most recent iteration of the deck, which is one of my favorites. I'm interested in experimenting with the density of enchantments, but I haven't made major changes in a while.

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Teacher, judge, DM, & Twitch Affiliate. Lover of all things Unsummon. Streams EDH, Oathbreaker, D & D, & Pokemon. Even made it to a Pro Tour!