Another week, another new Planeswalker Duel Deck! The journey continues, but first, are you up-to-date on how we got here? If not, give my introduction article a quick read.

Planeswalkers were still a relatively new phenomenon when Sarkhan Vol was spoiled, and when we got that first glimpse, all eyes were on his ultimate ability. 5 dragons. 20 power. It set the stage for a 1-hit KO, and it only took a couple turns to put the pieces in place. All of this was extremely exciting.

Sarkhan Vol also reinforced a big lesson: Planeswalkers that lack defensive capabilities or don't remove opposing creatures often don't succeed. And Sarkhan suffered, especially when its competition was the workmanlike Elspeth, Knight-Errant. (As an aside, Elspeths seem to be the RG Planeswalker's kryptonite. In 4 sets where a Mono White and a Red Green Planeswalker appear, Elspeths Knight-Errant and Sun's Champion outshined their competition in Sarkhan Vol and Xenagos respectively. But when Elspeth isn't the competition, the Red/Green Walker tends to reign supreme, as evidenced by Domri Rade over Gideon, Champion of Justice and Wrenn and Six over Serra the Benevolent.)

Anyway, Sarkhan's + ability reminds me of one of my favorite enchantments of all time: Fires of Yavimaya. In its day, Fires was the backbone of the best deck in Standard, hurling the fat creatures of the era with reckless abandon at opponents whose defenses were unprepared. I also wanted to make use of Kird Ape-style creatures that gave boosts for the appropriate basic lands, because those are sweet and I'm already playing a bunch of basics.

Let's see what this combination of influences turns out:

Magic: The Gathering TCG Deck - Sarkhan Vol by Andy Hurst

'Sarkhan Vol' - constructed deck list and prices for the Magic: The Gathering Trading Card Game from TCGplayer Infinite!

Created By: Andy Hurst

Event:

Rank:

Freeform (Casual)

Market Price: $35.29

Cards

Albino Troll

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.10

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/93695_200w.jpg

Echo {1}{G} (At the beginning of your upkeep, if this came under your control since the beginning of your last upkeep, sacrifice it unless you pay its echo cost.)
{1}{G}: Regenerate Albino Troll.

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Ghitu Slinger

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.05

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/118706_200w.jpg

Echo {2}{R} (At the beginning of your upkeep, if this came under your control since the beginning of your last upkeep, sacrifice it unless you pay its echo cost.)
When Ghitu Slinger enters the battlefield, it deals 2 damage to any target.

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Grumgully, the Generous

Color Identity:G,R

Market Price: $0.18

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199090_200w.jpg

Each other non-Human creature you control enters the battlefield with an additional +1/+1 counter on it.

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Ember Weaver

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.03

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/161865_200w.jpg

Reach (This creature can block creatures with flying.)
As long as you control a red permanent, Ember Weaver gets +1/+0 and has first strike.

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Bloodbraid Elf

Color Identity:G,R

Market Price: $1.70

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/125393_200w.jpg

Haste
Cascade (When you cast this spell, exile cards from the top of your library until you exile a nonland card that costs less. You may cast it without paying its mana cost. Put the exiled cards on the bottom of your library in a random order.)

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Burn Away

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.08

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/121789_200w.jpg

Burn Away deals 6 damage to target creature. When that creature dies this turn, exile all cards from its controller's graveyard.

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Avalanche Riders

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.68

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/14561_200w.jpg

Haste
Echo {3}{R} (At the beginning of your upkeep, if this came under your control since the beginning of your last upkeep, sacrifice it unless you pay its echo cost.)
When Avalanche Riders enters the battlefield, destroy target land.

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Evolutionary Leap

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.90

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/100335_200w.jpg

{G}, Sacrifice a creature: Reveal cards from the top of your library until you reveal a creature card. Put that card into your hand and the rest on the bottom of your library in a random order.

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Fires of Yavimaya

Color Identity:G,R

Market Price: $0.43

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/125420_200w.jpg

Creatures you control have haste.
Sacrifice Fires of Yavimaya: Target creature gets +2/+2 until end of turn.

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Thick-Skinned Goblin

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.12

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/14398_200w.jpg

You may pay {0} rather than pay the echo cost for permanents you control.
{R}: Thick-Skinned Goblin gains protection from red until end of turn.

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Hickory Woodlot

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.31

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/6553_200w.jpg

Hickory Woodlot enters the battlefield tapped with two depletion counters on it.
{T}, Remove a depletion counter from Hickory Woodlot: Add {G}{G}. If there are no depletion counters on Hickory Woodlot, sacrifice it.

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Blastoderm

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.14

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/93699_200w.jpg

Shroud (This creature can't be the target of spells or abilities.)
Fading 3 (This creature enters the battlefield with three fade counters on it. At the beginning of your upkeep, remove a fade counter from it. If you can't, sacrifice it.)

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Pit Fight

Color Identity:G,R

Market Price: $0.14

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/67413_200w.jpg

Target creature you control fights another target creature. (Each deals damage equal to its power to the other.)

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Sandstone Needle

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.37

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/6680_200w.jpg

Sandstone Needle enters the battlefield tapped with two depletion counters on it.
{T}, Remove a depletion counter from Sandstone Needle: Add {R}{R}. If there are no depletion counters on Sandstone Needle, sacrifice it.

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Kird Chieftain

Color Identity:G,R

Market Price: $0.13

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/91072_200w.jpg

Kird Chieftain gets +1/+1 as long as you control a Forest.
{4}{G}: Target creature gets +2/+2 and gains trample until end of turn. (It can deal excess combat damage to the player or planeswalker it's attacking.)

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Cradle Guard

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.14

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/6829_200w.jpg

Trample
Echo {1}{G}{G} (At the beginning of your upkeep, if this came under your control since the beginning of your last upkeep, sacrifice it unless you pay its echo cost.)

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Iwamori of the Open Fist

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.08

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/161868_200w.jpg

Trample
When Iwamori of the Open Fist enters the battlefield, each opponent may put a legendary creature card from their hand onto the battlefield.

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Barbed Lightning

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.08

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/11704_200w.jpg

Choose one —
• Barbed Lightning deals 3 damage to target creature.
• Barbed Lightning deals 3 damage to target player or planeswalker.
Entwine {2} (Choose both if you pay the entwine cost.)

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Sarkhan Vol

Color Identity:G,R

Market Price: $6.50

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/68430_200w.jpg

+1: Creatures you control get +1/+1 and gain haste until end of turn.
−2: Gain control of target creature until end of turn. Untap that creature. It gains haste until end of turn.
−6: Create five 4/4 red Dragon creature tokens with flying.

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Flinthoof Boar

Color Identity:G,R

Market Price: $0.11

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/118684_200w.jpg

Flinthoof Boar gets +1/+1 as long as you control a Mountain.
{R}: Flinthoof Boar gains haste until end of turn. (It can attack and {T} this turn.)

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Goblin Motivator

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.10

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/168473_200w.jpg

{T}: Target creature gains haste until end of turn. (It can attack and {T} this turn.)

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Draconic Disciple

Color Identity:G,R

Market Price: $0.16

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/169072_200w.jpg

{T}: Add one mana of any color.
{7}, {T}, Sacrifice Draconic Disciple: Create a 5/5 red Dragon creature token with flying.

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Erhnam Djinn

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.29

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/10273_200w.jpg

At the beginning of your upkeep, target non-Wall creature an opponent controls gains forestwalk until your next upkeep. (It can't be blocked as long as defending player controls a Forest.)

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Rugged Highlands

Color Identity:G,R

Market Price: $0.08

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215903_200w.jpg

Rugged Highlands enters the battlefield tapped.
When Rugged Highlands enters the battlefield, you gain 1 life.
{T}: Add {R} or {G}.

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Appetite for the Unnatural

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.05

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/123095_200w.jpg

Destroy target artifact or enchantment. You gain 2 life.

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Forest

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.99

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/230468_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {G}.)

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Shivan Oasis

Color Identity:G,R

Market Price: $0.29

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/36897_200w.jpg

Shivan Oasis enters the battlefield tapped.
{T}: Add {R} or {G}.

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Grand Warlord Radha

Color Identity:G,R

Market Price: $0.47

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/162134_200w.jpg

Haste
Whenever one or more creatures you control attack, add that much mana in any combination of {R} and/or {G}. Until end of turn, you don't lose this mana as steps and phases end.

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Keldon Megaliths

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.16

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/93797_200w.jpg

Keldon Megaliths enters the battlefield tapped.
{T}: Add {R}.
Hellbent — {1}{R}, {T}: Keldon Megaliths deals 1 damage to any target. Activate this ability only if you have no cards in hand.

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Burning-Tree Shaman

Color Identity:G,R

Market Price: $0.52

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/13663_200w.jpg

Whenever a player activates an ability that isn't a mana ability, Burning-Tree Shaman deals 1 damage to that player.

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Firemaw Kavu

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.10

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/14225_200w.jpg

Echo {5}{R} (At the beginning of your upkeep, if this came under your control since the beginning of your last upkeep, sacrifice it unless you pay its echo cost.)
When Firemaw Kavu enters the battlefield, it deals 2 damage to target creature.
When Firemaw Kavu leaves the battlefield, it deals 4 damage to target creature.

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Thunder Brute

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.05

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/79168_200w.jpg

Trample
Tribute 3 (As this creature enters the battlefield, an opponent of your choice may put three +1/+1 counters on it.)
When Thunder Brute enters the battlefield, if tribute wasn't paid, it gains haste until end of turn.

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Declare Dominance

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.05

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/168598_200w.jpg

Target creature gets +3/+3 until end of turn. All creatures able to block it this turn do so.

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Mountain

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.99

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/230467_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {R}.)

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Kird Ape

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.14

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/118702_200w.jpg

Kird Ape gets +1/+2 as long as you control a Forest.

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Deadwood Treefolk

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.19

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/72085_200w.jpg

Vanishing 3 (This creature enters the battlefield with three time counters on it. At the beginning of your upkeep, remove a time counter from it. When the last is removed, sacrifice it.)
When Deadwood Treefolk enters the battlefield or leaves the battlefield, return another target creature card from your graveyard to your hand.

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Arrow Storm

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.05

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/93194_200w.jpg

Arrow Storm deals 4 damage to any target.
Raid — If you attacked this turn, instead Arrow Storm deals 5 damage to that permanent or player and the damage can't be prevented.

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Gruul Turf

Color Identity:G,R

Market Price: $0.21

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/222708_200w.jpg

Gruul Turf enters the battlefield tapped.
When Gruul Turf enters the battlefield, return a land you control to its owner's hand.
{T}: Add {R}{G}.

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Elvish Herder

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.28

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/6857_200w.jpg

{G}: Target creature gains trample until end of turn.

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Mountain Valley

Market Price: $2.26

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/171237_200w.jpg

Mountain Valley enters the battlefield tapped.
{T}, Sacrifice Mountain Valley: Search your library for a Mountain or Forest card, put it onto the battlefield, then shuffle your library.

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Strangleroot Geist

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.30

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/57606_200w.jpg

Haste
Undying (When this creature dies, if it had no +1/+1 counters on it, return it to the battlefield under its owner's control with a +1/+1 counter on it.)

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Ambuscade

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.03

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/136668_200w.jpg

Target creature you control gets +1/+0 until end of turn. It deals damage equal to its power to target creature an opponent controls.

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The Game Plan

Hulk Smash! We're looking to play monsters that are just a little bit bigger than opposing slots on the curve, and use haste to attack with them early. Our duplicates here are the land animals, Kird Apes and Chieftains that benefit from having Forests, and Flinthoof Boars that benefit from Mountains. Sarkhan's + ability, Fires, and Goblin Motivator all grant haste to our monster brigade, which is especially helpful with our suite of Echo creatures to get a hit in before the bill comes due. Iwamori of the Open Fist (Downshift Alert! Thank you Masters 25!) adds a whole lotta board presence for not much mana—but keep in mind that in the wrong matchup, one of our opponent's big rares hits the table, so it's not completely without risk. Because most of the creatures here are non-Human, Grumgully, the Generous will helpfully add some size across the board. Take the counters and be grateful!

Our removal is effective, although sometimes a bit slow or clunky. We'd vastly prefer if we just let our big creatures act as removal by forcing bad blocks, but sometimes you gotta roll the sleeves up. Firemaw Kavu is an absolute house, who can trade for as many as 3 creatures throughout its lifespan (enters the battlefield trigger, combat, leaves play trigger) and we should aim to get as much mileage out of it as possible. Ghitu Slinger offers a smaller version of the same effect. Pit Fight and Ambuscade let us use the size of our troops to wipe out the competition, and Burn Away or Arrow Storm can go big if your other spells can't cut it. Arrow Storm and Barbed Lightning can go to the dome to provide some reach if the board gets too gummed up for your creatures to punch through.

The Rares

We do have activated abilities here, so this could come back to bite us, but our creatures can also battle very effectively. Our goal is to use our aggressive pressure to put opponents on the back foot, and ol' BTS here can add quite a bit of incidental damage in an otherwise cost effective body. Good stats and a dangerous ability? Consider me signed up.

I'll be honest, I am very eagerly awaiting the day this gets downshifted in a Masters set (why did you have to only be online, Vintage Masters!?). But until that day comes, Ernie here has a storied past as an effective beater. And even all these years later, a 4/5 for 4 is a fine rate that outclasses most other creatures at the cost. Unlike most of the other decks that might try to abuse it, we don't have any ways to remove our own Forests. But that's okay. Apply enough pressure and push through enough damage and the opponent won't be able to get the benefit from their free attacker. They'll need to block!

Since we're attacking so much, it's nice to have a creature that rewards swinging for the fences. Following Radha up with a Blastoderm is a nice safety blanket, and sometimes we'll be able to cast something as devastating as Deadwood Treefolk or Firemaw. A big burst of extra mana rarely goes unwanted.

This deck will be attacking frequently. Almost always in fact; that's the whole point! Sometimes, this means our creatures can find themselves in a bit of a pickle. Leap can turn those potential losses into a stream of replacements. Also, we'll sometimes have a haste effect to pair with Echo creatures. In that case, we may want to try and skip the next payment, since we already got our damage in. Who wants to pay for Avalanche Riders twice? Under ordinary circumstances we might be priced into paying for our creatures, but there may be opportunities to Leap to the next one instead of facing a costly Echo turn.

Unsung Hero

Piggybacking off of the above discussion, Echo is neat. The idea is that you're allowed a creature a little bit better than what its mana cost might indicate, but you have to pay a second cost the following upkeep—often just its casting cost again. Always make sure you read the fine print, dear reader. As above, we've got haste effects and sacrifice outlets as ways to make use of those creatures before that second payment, but there will be plenty of games and scenarios where they don't show up and you have to pay the piper.

Or do you? Thick-Skinned Goblin—aka Mr. Dine-and-Dash—lets you skip out on the check and get the 5-finger discount on that Echo. All of a sudden, those creatures do come at a great rate! Turns out fine print is so much more fun and whimsical when you can just ignore it. Mr. D&D also randomly gains Pro Red because Time Spiral cards are very weird, but it might come up big against Red opposition.

It's cards like Mr. D&D here that make this project so satisfying. I remember looking at this jabroni back in 2006 and asking "What needs to happen to make this card great?" Oftentimes, that answer is only readily apparent for the top rares in each release. That's why they're the Chase Rares! For the others, we need to stew on that question for a while. It took me 14 years to find what I consider the perfect home for this card, and that's okay! Magic is such a deep game that revisiting these under-the-radar cards adds a ton of fun.