This article comes from Logan Vanover:
Animar, Soul of Elements is a deck that scores extremely high on a raw power scale. It is designed to abuse Animar’s discount ability and plays lots of creatures that have non-creature-spell like abilities. While it is certainly possible to build a beat-down “battlecruiser” style of Animar deck, this particular version is a committed combo deck that routinely wins by going infinite. During gameplay your opponents are perpetually forced to respect your potential to combo off and keep your board presence in check if they want to survive. A hidden weakness to the deck is that it can sometimes function as a glass cannon and fold to players who recognize Animar’s power and take care to answer your threats as soon as they are presented. This can be mitigated by Animar’s natural protection ability. This makes it difficult for many decks to interact and the deck draws cards so quickly that you are often able to dig to your few protection spells in time.
The game plan is simple and very linear:
Step 1: Play Animar (sometimes preceded by a one-drop ramp spell).
Step 2: Play lots of cheap creatures to put counters on Animar early.
Step 3: Play card advantage / tutor spells. The goal is to see as much of your deck as possible to dig for combo pieces.
Step 4: Play removal and/or protection spells that either help you survive long enough to assemble the combo pieces, or help protect your combo on the turn you try to go off.
Step 5: Play the combo.
Note that in this version of the deck you generally do not need to apply pressure with your fatties; you are usually content sitting back on them to block. In Modern, Burn/Zoo decks try to beat down and race from twenty to zero, whereas the purpose of Storm is just to set up for one big turn. Animar can be thought of as a Storm deck that uses creatures instead of instants and sorceries, and the chaining of value from the discount can be thought of as the rituals. An exception to this is when Animar himself races a single player with general damage. (This is usually a black/white player who likely won’t be able to interact via their creatures or their removal.)
Also note that this deck depends on the synergies with its general more than almost any other. If Animar is not in play, the deck simply can not function at capacity because the deck is stock full of expensive spells that, without the discount in generic mana that Animar provides, are over-costed for what they do. Without the general, you are typically relegated to casting one spell per turn.
Colorless mana production is a nombo with Animar’s discount ability, and you have to be able to get Animar out on turn three at the latest. Both of these factors mean that the deck’s mana is extremely color hungry, and it can’t afford to play very many colorless-mana-producing sources. (Not even Sol Ring!) The fact that Reliquary Tower and Yavimaya Hollow are included, despite not producing colored mana, is a testament to their power.
Also, it is extremely important for almost all of your lands to enter the battlefield untapped. You certainly don’t want to be casting Animar on turn four for no other reason than that your opening hand had three tap lands. This is also why the Scars of Mirrodin and Kaladesh fast lands are included, despite entering the battlefield tapped later in the game. As long as you get Animar out on turn three, that’s all you care about.
It may seem relatively innocuous, but Llanowar Reborn’s ability is exactly what the doctor ordered. It’s a land that lets you play just that much faster ahead of curve.
Getting those +1/+1 counters
To abuse the discount ability and rack up counters on your general as quickly as possible, the deck runs creatures with as few colored symbols in their mana cost as possible. Dominus of Fealty, for example, is a fine Magic card, but it just doesn’t synergize with this deck’s game plan. If a creature with few or no generic mana in its casting cost gets a slot in the deck like Prime Speaker Zegana, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, and Nin, the Pain Artist it has to earn it. This is also why the deck prioritizes colorless creatures, totaling eight if you count the morphs. Forgotten Ancient, Llanowar Reborn, Shaman of the Great Hunt and Shrieking Drake are included for the sole purpose of racking up counters very efficiently.
Shaman of the Great Hunt is a powerhouse in this build, only having one colored pip, and serving two grow our creatures and draw us cards via his activated ability.
This deck runs more card advantage spells than almost any other creature-committed deck you could imagine – a full twenty-two in total. You’re digging for combo pieces, plain and simple.
Imagine a sorcery that cost a single blue mana and read, “Draw two cards, then create a 2/2 blue elemental creature token with flying. All spells that you cast for the rest of the game cost 1 less to cast.” That’s Mulldrifter. Surprisingly, Mulldrifter is also one of the best jumps from four to five with Birthing Pod, and far and away the best five-drop to sacrifice for one of the powerhouse six-drops.
Unlike most green creature-based decks, this one is actually not very committed to mana acceleration at all, having only nine cheap acceleration spells in the whole list. Instead the deck relies on generating “virtual mana” through the Animar discount. Notably, this is why Gaea’s Cradle is excluded despite typically being a green staple.
If your only mana acceleration in your opening hand is at the two-drop slot or higher, wait to cast it until turn four after you have played Animar. You will actually net more virtual mana over the course of the game that way.
Rattleclaw Mystic can be played face up for a single green, or as a morph creature for free, and that versatility is what pushes its power level over the top. A common play will be to cast it as a morph for free, then turn it face-up in the same turn to net two mana (one actual mana, one discount mana).
There are only eleven or removal-like spells but since there’s so much card advantage, it’s like there’s more. The four wraths in the deck are either one-sided (Balefire Dragon and Cyclonic Rift) or virtually one-sided (Bane of Progress and Crater Hellion), since you obviously don’t want real creature wraths. Cards like Duplicant can generally be cast for free once you’ve racked up enough +1/+1 counters.
Any blue combo deck needs counterspells to function, but there is obviously tension between the need to run both counterspell effects and lots of creatures. To overcome this, the deck runs a small handful of efficient “counterspells-on-a-stick” that exist in magic, totaling four in the list.
In addition to counterspells, Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger can lock opponents out of mana, Wurmcoil Engine can mitigate life loss and stave off attackers and Deadeye Navigator, while primarily functioning as a combo piece, can also protect against spot removal.
Glen Elendra Archmage is by far the most efficient way to protect the combo, plain and simple. If you have blue mana, you use one to cast her leave up two more for protection, and the rest is yours to go off.
These are what really do the heavy lifting. The Temur color pie has a fist full of tutor effects that are exceptionally powerful. Half the time you will only need one more combo piece and be able to tutor for it, and the other half of the time you will be missing several pieces and opt to tutor for the most impactful card advantage spell you can afford (namely Consecrated Sphinx or Prime Speak Zegana).
A resolved Fierce Empath with enough mana remaining is usually game over, because it’s a combo in a can. A frequent line of play will be to cast Fierce Empath, get Deadeye Navigator, then blink Fierce Empath to get the other combo pieces.
Thassa, God of the Sea wouldn’t be included if she only scried 1 every turn. The fact that you can make a giant Animar unblockable and push through for general damage when you don’t have the combo, however, earns her a slot.
Urabrask, the Hidden is included because there are fifteen creatures in the deck that either have an activated ability that requires them to tap, or an ability that triggers off of attacking or dealing combat damage, and turning those creatures on a turn earlier is very powerful. Also, the primary combo relies on giving all your creatures haste, and while Temur Ascendancy does that also, you don’t want to combo off and then get blown out by a Krosan Grip.
Casting Palinchron over and over via Animar’s cost reduction generates infinite mana and puts infinite counters on Animar in conjunction with Deadeye Navigator, Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger, Zendikar Resurgent, and sometimes Animar alone (if you have enough counters on him already and at least four blue sources in your land base). Be careful with Zendikar Resurgent, though, because the draw-a-card trigger is not optional.
Once you have infinite mana there are three cards that draw your library through spending mana on an ability, and seven cards that draw your library via ETB triggers, which you’ll get from Palinchron. Once you have infinite mana and your entire library in your hand, you play all your creatures and your haste enablers and swing for game.
The monetary price of Animar, Soul of Elements doubled when Ancestral Statue was spoiled in Dragons of Tarkir, and for good reason. Simply put, it’s a zero-mana “turn my general into an unstoppable monster”.
A commander deck with Animar, Soul of Elements at the helm is not quite as customizable as many other decks, simply because the general does tend to lead the deck builder down a certain path. Animar is the perfect general for players who prefer proactive, all-in strategies, who love playing big creatures and drawing cards, and who are enticed by the idea of always being the threat at the table. No matter which style of deck you choose Animar is a sweet general to play, and whether you’re just getting started building, or tuning a long-standing list, I sincerely hope this deck tech was able to give you some fresh ideas! Thanks for reading.