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Enhanced Evolution (Sultai Mutate) Commander 2020 Precon Upgrade | $20, $200 | Budget Commander

Commander 2020 preconstructed decks have arrived, and that means it's time for another round of my $20 precon upgrade series! This time I'm taking it a step further by not only offering the usual $20 upgrade but also a $200 upgrade list as well! I'll first go over how each preconstructed deck plays, why you should buy it, and the various directions that you can upgrade the deck and make it your own.

We've cycled through Timeless Wisdom, forked all the spells in Arcane Maelstrom, sacrificed our Humans to Ruthless Regiment, and now we're covering Enhanced Evolution, the Sultai Mutate deck full of monsters that grow into bigger and bigger threats! This creature-heavy deck drops early aggressive threats (Predator Ooze), then mutates them to become deadlier and generate more value (Sawtusk Demolisher). The deck wins primarily off the back of our giant mutating beaters or by dumping all our mana into a giant X spell finisher (Villainous Wealth). If you're looking for big, battlecruiser Magic, then this is the precon for you!

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You might like the deck if ...

  • You want a Mutate deck
  • You want a X Tribal or Hydra Tribal deck (can be done with a few swaps)
  • You want a Battlecruiser deck full of giant creatures and giant spells

You might NOT like the deck if ...

  • You don't want a Creature-heavy deck
  • You'd rather Go Wide with creatures rather than Go Tall
  • You want a deck with lots of instant-speed answers/tricks

If you like where this deck is going, then great! Let's check out the preconstructed list:

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Out of the box, Enhanced Evolution is a solid Battlecruiser deck that supports both Mutate Tribal and X Tribal. There are 15 mutate cards in the deck and 10 "X" spells. While these two themes don't overlap terribly well, the precon comes with a perfect commander to lead each archetype: Otrimi, the Ever-Playful leading Mutate and Zaxara, the Exemplary leading "X" Tribal. 

Like all the precons, Enhanced Evolution comes with multiple potential commanders, each focusing on a different archetype to build around. For this article, however, I'll be tuning the deck around Otrimi, the Ever-Playful. I'll show you how to tune Enhanced Evolution into a more focused Mutate deck, removing cards that don't fit our theme and adding more cards that do. If you're interested in seeing me build around the other new commanders in the precon -- Zaxara, the Ezemplary or the partners Cazur, Ruthless Stalker & Ukkima, Stalking Shadow -- please let me know in the comments section and I may cover them in the future.


Otrimi Mutate Tribal

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Otrimi, the Ever-Playful is the face of Enhanced Evolution. It supports the precon's main theme, Mutate. Mutate is a ... complicated mechanic, so I'll go over it. Link to a more comprehensive explanation here.


What The Heck Is Mutate?

If you cast a spell for its mutate cost, put it over or under target non-Human creature you own. They mutate into the creature on top plus all abilities from under it.

For example: when you mutate Otrimi, the Ever-Playful targeting Cold-Eyed Selkie, you can choose to put Otrimi over or under the Selkie. If you put it over the Selkie, then the resulting merged creature is Otrimi, the Ever-Playful a 6/6 creature with trample and Otrimi's triggered ability, but it also has the Selkie's islandwalk and triggered ability. If you put Otrimi under the Selkie, then the resulting merged creature is Cold-Eyed Selkie, a 1/1 creature with islandwalk and the Selkie's triggered ability, but also has Otrimi's trample and triggered ability.

When you mutate, you almost always want the creature with the higher power/toughness to go on top. But there's a bit more to cover as well:

  • As a mutating creature spell begins resolving, if its target is illegal, it ceases to be a mutating creature spell and continues resolving as a creature spell and will be put onto the battlefield under the control of the spell’s controller. This adds a bit of safety to mutating since even if an opponent destroys the mutate target in response to you mutating, you still keep the mutator as a creature.
  • As a mutating creature spell resolves, if its target is legal, it doesn’t enter the battlefield. Rather, it merges with the target creature and becomes one object represented by more than one card or token. So a successful mutate doesn't count as a creature entering the battlefield to trigger Guardian Project.
  • The merged creature is the same creature it was before the merge, so any Auras or counters that were on it remain on it, it remains tapped if it was tapped, it's still attacking if it was attacking, and so on. If it's been under its controller's control since their most recent turn began, it can attack and tap.
  • The characteristics of the combined merged creature are copyable. So if you cast Clone copying a merged creature, the Clone copies all the characteristics of the merged creature.
  • If the merged creature has any abilities referring to it by name, such as Cold-Eyed Selkie, it means "this creature," even if mutating causes it to have a new name. So if the merged creature is named Otrimi and you deal six combat damage to a player, you'll draw six cards.
  • If a merged creature leaves the battlefield, one object leaves the battlefield and each card is put into the appropriate zone. For example, if a merged creature containing three cards dies, one creature died and three cards were put into a player's graveyard. This makes merging creatures inherently risky because if a merged creature is removed then you're losing multiple cards.
  • If an effect exiles a merged creature then returns it to the battlefield, the individual cards each return. They're no longer merged. So if you Ghostly Flicker a merged creature, it will be exiled and then return to the battlefield as individual, non-merged cards.

That covers the most common interactions with mutate. That's a lot to remember about a single keyword, but there's even more, so if you want a full breakdown on mutate then check out this guide.

Now that we have a basic idea of how mutate works, let's talk about how we're going to take advantage of this new convoluted mechanic.


More Mutate

The first aspect is very simple: we're going to add all the remaining good mutate cards to the deck. The more we're mutating our creatures, the more mutate triggers we're getting, the more value we get out of our strategy. If we mutate a creature with Trumpeting Gnarr then we get a 3/3 beast token. But then if we mutate Boneyard Lurker on the previously merged creature we get back a permanent card from our graveyard and make another 3/3 beast token. More mutating means more value!

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Scaling Size

Some creatures have powerful abilities that scale based on their power/toughness that can benefit greatly from having their p/t increased from mutation. Cold-Eyed Selkie is in the precon to highlight this strategy. Whenever Selkie deals combat damage to a player, you may draw that many cards. Since it's a 1/1, by itself it only draws a single card. But mutate Otrimi, the Ever-Playful on top of it and suddenly its hitting for 6 and draws 6 cards!

There's a handful of other creatures that have similar abilities that scale off power/toughness, most notably Cephalid Constable and Needle Specter, which are great in a Mutate deck.

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More Protection

Mutating is a risky strategy. Stacking a bunch of creatures on top of each other runs the risk of us losing all of them to a single removal spell like Murder, a devastating X-for-1. We want to mitigate that risk as much as possible. We can do this by running non-Human creatures with abilities that make them hard to remove and then mutate on to them so the merged creature gains those abilities. Creatures with hexproof (Slippery Bogle), regenerate (Will-o'-the-Wisp), and indestructible (Darksteel Myr) are excellent mutate targets for this reason.

There's also some less common abilities that can protect our merged creature, like persist (Glen Elendra Archmage), undying (Young Wolf), or blinking itself (Aetherling). Keep in mind that if a merged creature leaves the battlefield and then returns, they come back as individual creatures that aren't merged.

A combination of these protective mutate targets will make sure our strategy doesn't easily get blown out by removal.

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Copy Options

Since copying a merged creature copies all attributes of the merged creature, not just the top card, copy spells can be incredibly potent in this deck. We've spent multiple cards and lots of mana merging together Troll Ascetic, Dirge Bat, and Sawtusk Demolisher, but afterwards we can use Phantasmal Image to make another 6/6 flying trample hexproof regenerate creature with two mutate triggers for just two mana. We can also mutate on to creatures that can copy themselves, like Pack Rat and Progenitor Mimic.

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Check Out Volrath!

Oddly enough, this weird and unique Mutate deck shares a ton of similarities with another Sultai deck that I recently covered: Volrath, the Shapestealer! All the sweet cards and strategies that I mentioned work similarly in that deck too. But where Mutate under Otrimi is a pretty straightforward and self-contained value beatdown deck, Volrath has boundless possibilities, mixing in counter themes and hilarious combos.

So if you like the concepts explored in Enhanced Evolution but want something with a larger card pool to work with and is generally more powerful, check out my Budget Volrath Primer! It's one of my favorite decks I've ever written about.

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Analyzing the Precon

As I often explain in my Budget Commander articles, every time I build a rough draft of a deck, I make sure I have a certain ratio of mana, interaction, card advantage, etc. This gives me a reference point to compare to the deck and see which areas may need improvement. My general ratio is:

  • 50 mana; lands and ramp, usually a 37–13 split
  • 10 card draw; cards that net you 2+ cards in hand
  • 8 targeted removal; split between creature / artifact / enchantment removal and countermagic
  • 3 board wipes; creature-light decks might want one more, creature-heavy decks might want one less
  • 2 graveyard recursion
  • 2 flexible tutors; higher budgets I recommend more tutors
  • 1 graveyard hate; since you need to keep Graveyard decks honest 
  • 1 surprise "I Win" card; something that can win games the turn you cast it without too much setup

That's always my starting point, which is then tweaked to suit the individual deck's strategy and further tweaked with playtesting. I always find it immensely useful to figure out some quick ways to improve the deck in question.

Let's see what the rough ratios are for Enhanced Evolution and how it compares:

Enhanced Evolution is a bit lacking in ramp, card draw, tutors, and graveyard hate, but does have some strong inevitability with plenty of lategame finishers.

Now that we've checked out the general ratios, let's take a closer look at the cards we're working with:

37 Lands. The lands here are overall pretty weak. For mana-fixing we've got Command Tower as the best of the best, Exotic Orchard is less consistent but usually gives us all three colors as well, and Opulent Palace also gives us all three colors but enters tapped. Notable utility lands include Blighted Woodland and Myriad Landscape for ramp, and Endless Sands as a way to protect our creatures. Overall the lands here are a weak point of the deck compared to other precons.

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10 Ramp. It's puzzling and disappointing that a Green deck doesn't come with basic ramp staples like Rampant Growth. We do have a couple good options like the new Zaxara, the Exemplary, Kodama's Reach, and Arcane Signet, but there's also stinkers like Bonder's Ornament. This part of the deck definitely needs work.

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9 Card Draw. The card draw options are pretty unique to the deck: Cold-Eyed Selkie is a fantastic mutate target that can draw tons of cards if you merge it into a creature with high power and evasion, Beast Whisperer can draw plenty of cards in this creature-heavy deck, and Mind Spring is an excellent way to refill your hand late in the game. Some good options here overall.

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13 Targeted Removal. One of the precon's greatest strengths is its removal: we have a good mix of thematic removal, like mutate cards Sawtusk Demolisher and mutate targets Trygon Predator, along with excellent generic removal like Beast Within. Overall quite pleased with what we've got here.

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3 Board Wipes. The board wipes aren't too exciting but get the job done. Gaze of Granite is my favorite here, getting rid of all nonland permanents if you sink enough mana into it, and it's often more devastating for your opponents since you won't have many permanents on the battlefield at any given time. Deadly Tempest is a bit expensive but can be especially punishing to opposing Go Wide decks, and Find // Finality has some welcome flexibility to it.

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4 Graveyard Recursion. The recursion in here is good and thematic, with the highlights being Otrimi, the Ever-Playful and Boneyard Lurker as working perfectly in our Mutate deck. I'm also a fan of Find // Finality in this creature-heavy deck. Notably the precon has no way of returning instants or sorceries back to our hand, but that's not a huge deal.

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0 Flexible Tutors. None of the precons come with any nonland tutors, which makes sense since this is an introductory product and new players who are unfamiliar with the deck wouldn't know what cards they should be searching for with tutors. That said, adding tutors helps make the deck more consistent and flexible, so we should add some if able.

0 Graveyard Hate. Not having any graveyard hate, however, is very disappointing. Pretty much all Commander decks run some amount of graveyard recursion with many popular decks being built around abusing their graveyard. In my opinion, graveyard removal is just as important as artifact or enchantment removal in this format. Would it really have hurt to put in a Bojuka Bog at least?

2 Surprise "I Win" Cards. If the game goes long enough, even if you have no board state you can sometimes get there by draining out an opponent with Profane Command, or casting a huge Villainous Wealth. That's an important nuke to have in case our primary strategy of beating face with creatures doesn't pan out.

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Mutate Upgrade Options

Here are my favorite card options to tune Enhanced Evolution into a more focused, more powerful Mutate deck.

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$20 Enhanced Evolution Upgrade

To tune Enhanced Evolution into a more powerful, focused Mutate deck we're going to make the following swaps:

  • Better ramp
  • More mutate cards
  • More mutate targets
  • Graveyard hate
  • Maybe a tutor or two
  • Lower average cmc

That's what we want to add to the deck. We can safely cut cards that don't match any of the above criteria.

Here are the first cards I'd add on a $20 budget. We've overhauled our ramp (Sakura-Tribe Elder), added most of the remaining good mutate cards (Dirge Bat), added a bunch of excellent mutate targets (Cephalid Constable), some tutors (Jarad's Orders), etc.:

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Here are the cards I'd remove for our upgrades. I took out the weak cards (Bonder's Ornament), political combat cards (Parasitic Impetus), and most of the "X Tribal" cards (Hungering Hydra).

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And finally here is Enhanced Evolution with the $20 upgrade installed:

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$200 Enhanced Evolution Upgrade

The $200 upgrade follows the same thought process as the $20 upgrade, except now we can cram in all the remaining good mutate cards (Sea-Dasher Octopus), mutate targets (Needle Specter), add more cards that reward us for being so creature-heavy (Vivien, Monsters' Advocate) and also begin to overhaul our lands (Polluted Delta).

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Our removals follow the same philosophy. "X Tribal" is entirely gone at this point, though I've left in Villainous Wealth as a free "I Win" card lategame.

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And here's Enhanced Evolution with the $200 upgrade installed:

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Four Down, One To Go!

We've only got Symbiotic Swarm left, so I'm off to cover it! Thanks for reading and I'll be back soon!

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