Nearly Identical - Tatyova or Aesi?

(Greensleeves, Maro-Sorcerer | Art by Tuan Duong Chu)

Ramp, Draw, and Repeat

Hello! I'm Josh, and this is Nearly Identical, a series where I take a look at two commanders with similar designs and archetypes, find out what sets them apart, and help you find your next commander! Today, I'll be diving into two notorious Simic Landfall commanders: Tatyova, Benthic Druid and Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait.

Today's topic is one of those where I've had the idea on the back burner since making this series, but it's one that I've been hesitant to make. You see, when people think of "good stuff" commanders, they might list Tatyova and Aesi at the top of their list, and that's because they both reward you with card draw just by playing lands. Tatyova felt like the quintessential Simic commander, as she cares about getting lands into play and drawing cards, but then Wizards printed Aesi, which does the same thing except it's an Exploration as well, allowing you to draw twice as many cards in a turn for just one more mana.

Based on data provided by MtGDS, Tatyova and Aesi have a similarity coefficient of 90%. This might not be so surprising given that they probably use the exact same ramp package plus all the notable Landfall payoffs in Simic.

We want to play as many lands as possible so that we can not only play big and terrifying spells but also trigger our Landfall permanents. Azusa, Lost but Seeking is perfect in any deck looking to get a lot of lands out. In combination with our commanders, we'll draw into even more lands and allow us to take full advantage of her ability each turn. Lotus Cobra acts as one of our early ramp pieces, getting us additional mana that we can use to cast our ramp spells. However, with all this value, what are we trying to achieve?

When not built carefully, Simic decks can occasionally fall into the play pattern of focusing more on generating a ton of value rather than on payoffs that will win the game. Avenger of Zendikar is one of the better payoffs in this gameplan as it both makes us tokens based on how many lands we have and it turns all our late-game land ramp spells into a proactive finisher for the deck. However, this is not how all Simic players want to win. For instance, some want to draw themselves out and win with a Laboratory Maniac effect. This is fine, but outside of cEDH metas, this could be durdly, and tough for opponents who have to sit across from it.

Despite seeming to be down on Simic, I actually love the color identity and find myself gravitating towards it in three-color decks with green and blue in it. That being said, I think it's odd that Simic players are against combat strategies when the color pairing is the perfect blend of big creatures and large spells, so, for how I plan to define our commanders, I'll be making Tatyova into a tokens deck, putting in every "whenever a land enters, make a creature" permanent I could find, and for Aesi, I'll be putting it at the helm of a Sea Creature deck.

Roaring Stampede

Let's start with Tatyova and see how we'll be making those creature tokens.

In this category, we want to play permanents that'll make us creature tokens just by playing lands. If we have multiple out on the field, one land could give us 3+ creatures every drop, which makes every land-ramp spell even better. Rampaging Baloths and Greensleeves, Maro-Sorcerer give us decent-sized bodies that will allow us to easily overwhelm our opponents, and they can even take on any small chump blockers that get in our way.

Scute Swarm is infamous for getting out of hand quickly. Once we have more than one Scute Swarm, we'll quickly amass an exponential number of Scutes that will require a board wipe to properly exterminate.

Outside of creature tokens, what other ways do we have to overwhelm the board?

After a board wipe or two, it might be hard for our deck to rebuild enough to grab victory, so we need a way to win out of nowhere. Kamahl's Will and Sylvan Awakening will turn all the lands we've put out into small, indestructible creatures that'll swing out and finish off our opponents.

The new Tatyova, Steward of Tides has a Landfall trigger that only turns one land into a 3/3, but since her anthem gives land creatures flying, we'll still be able to get in for damage, so long as one person doesn't have a flier. Plus, she synergizes with Awaken the Woods, as all the tokens are land creatures.

Since we're making so many tokens, what tools do we have that can propel us far ahead of our opponents?

While I have included Parallel Lives in the list simply to have redundancy, there are multiple ways to double the number of tokens every time we play a land. Adrix and Nev, Twincasters by themselves is a powerful commander, but in this deck, they'll make us more creatures than our opponents can handle. Ancient Greenwarden effectively doubles our creature count by copying the Landfall triggers. Plus, it's an additional Ramunap Excavator that helps us get back any lands in our graveyard.

Finally, I wanted to highlight Nissa, Ascended Animist. With our token doubles, we can get two or more of these large Phyrexian Horrors if we've cast her for the full seven. Late-game, we can use her -7 to give all our creatures +1/+1 for each Forest we control, and if we have Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth out, this will certainly end the game for opponents.

Here's the list!

Tatyova's Home-Grown Creatures

View on Archidekt

Commander (1)
Creatures (20)
Enchantments (8)
Planeswalkers (1)
Artifacts (2)
Instants (15)
Sorceries (14)
Lands (39)

Lurking Below the Waves

Now let's move on and see what sea creatures we want in Aesi!

When Breaching Leviathan comes down, it'll tap down any nonblue creatures that can chump block our large sea creatures. We also have Scourge of Fleets, which is just one of many sea creatures that can bounce back our opponents' creatures. Once we have a board full of monsters, any one of these will ensure that we can get through for damage, and if we can't, then Serpent of Yawning Depths definitely lets us get through as the likelihood that we're facing any other sea creatures is pretty low.

Outside of having large creatures with high mana values, we have Nadir Kraken, which helps us make smaller tentacle tokens whenever we draw cards. This synergizes with our commander since all we want to do is draw cards.

This all seems quite mana-intensive, even with having ramp in the command zone, so how else can we get sea creatures into play?

While Kenessos, Priest of Thassa is pretty neat at the helm of his own sea creature deck, he's quite valuable here. With all the sea creatures in our deck, simply paying four mana to cheat one out into play is huge, and if we don't see a sea creature on top, we can play a land, draw with Aesi, and get to look again, provided we have the mana for that.

Since most of our sea creatures are 6+ mana, Imoti, Celebrant of Bounty will let us Cascade into potentially more sea creatures with lesser mana value or powerful draw spells, like Return of the Wildspeaker. Even hitting a Rampant Growth isn't the worse since that'll draw us a card off Aesi.

If we can get Lurking Predators to stick around, we could fill the board with sea creatures before it even gets back to our turn, and it makes our opponents hesitate to cast too many spells for fear of giving us too much value.

Let's take a look at the deck!

Aesi's Wrathful Leviathans

View on Archidekt

Commander (1)
Creatures (27)
Sorceries (11)
Instants (16)
Enchantments (6)
Lands (39)

Overwhelming Value

Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait currently rules as the most built Simic commander, with 7,000 decks, which is a thousand more decks than the second-most popular commander, Volo, Guide to Monsters, and is twice the number of decks that Tatyova, Benthic Druid has, with 3,500 decks. Even though Tatyova had a two years' headstart, it's no surprise that having a commander that can ramp you in the command zone is better than gaining one life.

Does this mean that Tatyova is irrelevant now that we have Aesi? Aesi may cost one more mana, but being able to play an additional land for a turn and draw two cards is a whole world of a difference. I just don't like the idea that any commander is somehow the 'wrong' choice, or that some commander is objectively better to play than the one you want to build. It's probably just a matter of preference at that point, and maybe for the deck you want to build, you might not want the power that Aesi provides.

Which Landfall commander do you prefer? Would you rather create an army of creatures or unleash wrathful leviathans on your foes? Let me know in the comments below!

Josh is a creative writer that started playing Magic when Throne of Eldraine was released. He loves entering combat and pressuring life totals, and to him, commander damage is always relevant. Outside of brewing many commander decks, he can be found prepping his D&D campaigns with a cat purring in his lap.

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