July 12, 2016

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Musings of the Madman: The Case for Protean Hulk

Welcome back all! As Commander players are aware, Sheldeon Menery, member of the Commander Rules Committee, recently opined on unbanning Protean Hulk. Protean Hulk serves as a more limited toolbox enabler, getting six power worth of creatures onto the battlefield when it dies.

In Sheldon’s group, it often got great value but didn’t otherwise warp their games. It brought in Karmic Guide, which brought back either the Hulk or other value applications. Per Sheldon:

In Game 1 last week, Todd cast Bribery targeting Keith, getting Protean Hulk. I had Gigantoplasm on the battlefield, which was copying Solemn Simulacrum. I also had Restoration Angel in my hand. At the end of Todd’s turn, I flashed in Restoration Angel to blink Gigantoplasm, copying Protean Hulk when it came back, knowing that I had Planar Cleansing in my hand and the battlefield is otherwise uncomfortable for me. That’s when the nonsense started, since I had Karmic Guide and Clones already in my graveyard.

After casting Planar Cleansing, I pulled Reveillark out of my library (and nothing else, since I don’t have a one-drop). I blinked Reveillark, returned my graveyard to the battlefield via bringing back Karmic Guide and a clone for Reveillark (you can’t bring back Karmic Guide and a clone to copy it off of a Reveillark trigger because they enter the battlefield at the same time), and then just started resurrecting Clones. It wasn’t all that dangerous because I didn’t have the Protean Hulk itself and a sacrifice outlet (plus, half my creatures at that point are just copies of Karmic Guide), but I definitely had all the other cards to go nuts with on subsequent turns.

While this isn’t the craziest thing that could happen off a Protean Hulk death, it does show it can add a good bit of value to your gameplay once it gets going. Note that in the previous example, there were no sacrifice outlets like Ashnod’s Altar around to instantly get Hulk to accelerate their gameplan. Also important to note? Sheldon hasn’t stated there’s a strong push to unban Protean Hulk, simply that it’s on the docket for their quarterly discussions. That said, let’s look at the ups and downs of the potential unbanning.

For the Hulk:

Tooth and Nail is omnipresent in the format and can end games on the spot. While Sheldon didn’t necessarily want that comparison, it’s almost inevitable at this point. For one more mana you can end the game. Hulk is more limited, but can create a semi-loop and potentially set up a combo later on. It could, for example, get Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and then require you to get something else down the road. This limiting factor can offer a little breathing room to our decks.

Against the Hulk:

There are already a metric ton of tutors in the format, and Commander doesn’t necessarily need another one, especially one that can be reanimated, sacrificed and used over and over and over. Protean Hulk being a creature makes its owner susceptible to Bribery, Clone effects and so on. It could become centralizing in the way that Sylvan Primordial or Primeval Titan were, and those weren’t fun times for anyone but their controllers.

Final verdict? I’ve gone back and forth on this a ton. I’m in favour of less tutors to increase variance, but it has to be up to the individual. Unban the Hulk, let it roam free for three months, then throw it back in the dungeon for good. I’m sure degenerate things will happen, but isn’t that one of the format’s allures?

Until then, may you have a flash of insight on using your engines.