MTG – A Guide to Zacama, Primal Calamity EDH / Commander for Magic: The Gathering

[TCC intro music] Kinjalli sculpted humans from clay, but the dinosaurs were carved from unyielding stone. Nature cannot be tamed, but the Sun Empire believes that humans are made stronger, when they test themselves against the wild strength of the dinosaurs. The drive to hunt and feed is raw instinct for a dinosaur, the trick is simply to channel it in the right direction. But beware trying to channel Zacama in your direction and to your will, lest you face a primal calamity. ‘Zacama, Primal Calamity’ is an awesome and terrifying Commander that lets you unleash your inner, massive three-headed dinosaur. For nine mana total including white, red, and green, you get a 9/9 Elder Dinosaur with a slew of powerful abilities. Zacama’s three heads each get their own activated ability. One Lightning Bolts a creature for two and a red, another head destoys any pesky artifacts or enchantments for two and a green, and the last head can gain you three life for two and a white. And to make sure you have mana to use those abilities, even after spending nine mana to cast her, she has a unique ability: when she enters the battlefield, if she was cast, you untap all your lands. Because of that clause about needing to cast her, Cheating her into play with ‘Reanimation’ or blinking her doesn’t get you the land untap, which honestly is probably just as well. Nonetheless, Zacama is a massive threat that doubles as a toolbox of answers to any problems you may have on-board. Well, what more are we waiting for? Let us see what we can build around this triple roar dinosaur. Now, the deck build that I’m going to go over actually has its origins in a different Commander: The mono-green ‘Selvala, Heart of the Wilds’ from ‘Conspiracy 2’. There’s actually a hypercompetitive fast combo deck built around Selvala, that I’ll link in the video description. That deck tries to win on turn two or three by playing goofy oversized creatures like ‘Phyrexian Dreadnought’, with irrelevant downsides. Tapping Selvala for tons of mana, drawing cards based on power with ‘Momentus Fall’ and the like, untapping Selvala with random effects like ‘Benefactor’s Draught’, and continuing until you draw into a combo piece like ‘Paradox Engine’. Basically it’s like a Storm Commander deck, only without any cards that actually say “storm”. Also, it wins. When Zacama was released I thought I had similar potential to do fun broken things. But first thing to note is that when you cast Zacama, if your lands produce more than 9 mana total, you’re actually generating mana. So the first step to breaking this Commander is to have as much mana production as possible. I’m going to talk about the standard green land ramp options in a bit, but Zacama in particular makes good use out of enchantments that double the mana produced by lands. The cheapest mana doubling enchantments, ‘Heartbreak(sic) of Spring’ and ‘Mana Flair’, both affect all players. This makes them only really suited for all-in combo builds, since letting your opponents get double mana is a good way to lose quickly. You only want to drop one of those enchantments if you can win the same turn. ‘Dictate of Karametra’ gets around this drawback by having Flash, letting you play it right before your turn and get the benefits first. You can even blow it up with Zacama after it’s served its purpose. ‘Keeper of Progenitus’ doubles mana only for Naya colored lands, so if your play group runs a lot of Dimir, for example, you might get away with it. It’s worth paying more for mana doublers that only affect you. ‘Mirari’s Wake’ and ‘Mana Reflection’ both do this quite nicely, and ‘Zendikar Resurgent’ gives you, the very useful draw when you cast a creature. ‘Regal Behemoth’ is another doubler that’s more fun than it is good, though it is a lot of fun. You introduce the monarchy to the game and you’ll almost certainly lose it before your next turn. But hopefully this sets your opponents attacking each other. You’ll need to reclaim the monarchy on your next turn to get your double mana, but it’s a fun little mini-game. ‘Vorniclex, Voice of Hunger’ is another option, but it’s more of a hate card than a combo piece since it’s so expensive, and your opponents are going to do everything possible to get it off the field so they don’t get their lands sticky-tapped. With a bunch of lands and a mana doubler or two, we can now float a bunch of mana and cast Zacama, leaving us with a ton of mana to work with. The next step is to draw a whole bunch of cards, and we’ve got a special trick for that: ‘Soul’s Majesty’, ‘Rishkar’s Expertise’, and ‘Garruk, Primal Hunter’, let us draw cards equal to the power of a creature we control, which with Zacama is an insane nine cards, and ‘Rishkar’s Expertise’ let’s us cast something for free as well. We also have ‘Life’s Legacy’ and ‘Momentus Fall’ which require us to sac Zacama to get the card draw, but that’s actually a benefit since we can just cast her again. ‘Greater Good’, which recently got a much needed reprint in Battlebond, is a repeatable effect, and it’s absolutely insane with Zacama. It’s not infinite, since Commander tax will eat into the mana we’re generating, but you’ll be able to sift through most of your deck this way. With our mana production and card draw, we now have the makings of a crazy Storm turn, and we have two paths to turn that into a victory. If we pack our deck full of mana doublers and card draw, it’s possible to generate huge amounts of mana and win with something like a giant ‘Comet Storm’ or ‘Genesis Wave’. Cast Zacama, play a card draw spell, play a mana doubler, sac Zacama and recast her to generate even more mana, repeat as necessary. You can also aim to go infinite: ‘Temur Sabretooth’ lets you pay one and a green to let you return a creature you control to its owner’s hand for, well, let’s be honest, some mostly irrelevant benefit. The key here is really that Wizards forgot to print, quote-unquote, “Activate this ability only once per turn,” like they usually do with this sort of effect. Oops! So now you can just keep doing it! If you lands produce at least 12 mana you can cast Zacama, bounce her back to your hand, recast her and repeat to generate infinite mana. The artifact ‘Cloudstone Curio’ plus any other creature also lets you do this. With infinite mana, and all your draw spells, you should be able to find an outlet like ‘Dustwatch Recruiter’ to draw your deck, and then you can win any number of ways. I like playing all my creatures, including ‘Samut, Voice of Dissent’ to give everything haste, then bouncing and replaying ‘Craterhoof Behemoth’ to generate a sufficiently large attacking force. And of course, if you fizzle, or you’re not trying to combo at all, casting Zacama, drawing nine cards and blowing up a few key permanents is a great turn. The final piece of the puzzle are the various green creature tutors that we have at our disposal, to find the pieces we need, whether it’s to ramp, dig for answers or combo off. ‘Chord of Calling’, ‘Eladamri’s Call’ and ‘Green Sun’s Zenith’ get the creature we want right into our hand, while ‘Worldly Tutor’ leaves it on top of our deck. ‘Summoner’s Pact’ does it for free, but unless we’re winning that turn, we have to pay a hefty price for the next upkeep. ‘Tooth and Nail’ usually gets Avenger and Craterhoof onto the battlefield, but it can be a regular old tutor in a pinch. ‘Survival of the Fittest’ is a powerful repeatable tutor, but unless you have one lying around I suggest you stick with its creature cousin, ‘Fauna Shaman’. So what are we using to ramp? For one mana, get enchantments that let you put more lands into play. ‘Exploration’ and ‘Burgeoning’. While ‘Burgeoning’ can be more explosive turn one, ‘Exploration’ is more consistent, more useful with value creatures like ‘Courser of Kruphix’, and does more during a combo turn. You can also enchant a land using ‘Utopia Sprawl’ or ‘Wild Growth’, but since they don’t work with most mana doublers, I’m skipping them. In the two mana slot, ‘Rampant Growth’ is the staple, along with its variants ‘Farseek’, ‘Nature’s Lore’ and this expensive ‘Three Visits’. Good old Steve, the ‘Sakura-Tribe Elder’, is the same effect on a creature, and this deck does have some synergies around creatures, so he’s well worth playing. For three mana, ‘Cultivate’ and ‘Kodama’s Reach’ are the rock-solid staples for good reasons. A land on the battlefield and a land in the hand set you up so well for the next few turns. Then at four mana, ‘Explosive Vegetation’ just straight-up gets you two lands. ‘Skyshroud Claim’ is mostly strictly better, since you can get duals untapped, and it’s now a reasonable pickup thanks to another Battlebond reprint. Yay, Commander Masters!… I mean Battlebond. ‘Tempt with Discovery’ is fun exactly once, until your play group learns to not give into temptation and let you have a ton of lands. I’ve recently replaced it with ‘Pir’s Whim’, since getting a land and making all of your foes sac a mana rock is a huge swing. Hey, that’s from Battlebond too! Beyond that, there are some expensive ramp spells that are more fun than competitive. ‘Traverse the Outlands’ plays into our large creature theme, while ‘Boundless Realms’ will usually run you out of basics. You’re mostly better sticking to the cheaper ramp, since getting stuck on just a few lands is the best way to totally sink a game with this deck. Now let’s talk about that four-letter Magic: the Gathering word: draw. Zacama does a lot of things, but one thing she doesn’t do is draw cards. This is doubtless because of her dinosaur arms being too short. We’ve got our creature power-based card draw options, but those are very conditional and useless when our board is empty. We need some more traditional card advantage engines to power us to our big turns. ‘Lifecrafter’s Bestiary’ is an all-star here, letting us scry every turn, and pay an extra green to draw off of every creature. It even serves as a way to draw our whole deck when we’re going infinite and recasting Zacama over and over. ‘Courser of Kruphix’ and ‘Oracle of Mul Daya’ let us play lands off the top of our deck, which is a roundabout form of card advantage. ‘Tireless Tracker’ gives us a Clue with every land drop and it’s amazing with our land ramp. ‘Sylvan Library’ effectively lets us rearrange the top three cards of our library and pay four life to draw a card once or twice a turn. ‘Abundance’ lets us hit our land drops early and never draw a land again later. I’ve mentioned before, the two enchantments are a wombo-combo; you get to do the ‘Abundance’ thing three times each turn and you don’t have to put any cards back because you never technically drew any of them. ‘Cream of the Crop’ is a favorite enchantment of mine to go along with our ‘Power Matter’ theme. I think it’s very underrated and it gives a sort of pseudo-scry effect, while ‘Sunbird’s Invocation’ similarly rewards our big plays by letting us cast another spell off our library. Note that it doesn’t work when we cast Zacama from the Command Zone, sadly. I played around with the new ‘Colossal Majesty’ from M19 for a bit, but I found that it’s so bad after a board wipe, when we need the cards most. You might want to experiment further with it, though. Oh, and speaking of board wipes, after our stuff inevitably gets destroyed, we want ways to get it back. ‘Eternal Witness’ is a good staple for getting a card back, but ‘Greenwarden of Murasa’ is a beefier version that supports our big creature theme, and gets us back another card when it dies. ‘Seasons Past’ and ‘Wildest Dreams’ are great for getting back creatures en masse later in the game. And what are these creatures that we’re getting back? Well, to round out the deck, we need some friends for Zacama. ‘Terastadon’ is a giant elephant that could go toe-to-toe with our dinosaur, and it turns three non-creature permanents into smaller elephants for… some reason. ‘Woodfall Primus’ just straight-up destroys something, and if it dies we get to do it again! ‘Omnath, Locus of Rage’ works great with all our ramp spells, giving us 5/5 elementals that we’re happy to sac for value. Is earlier, happier incarnation ‘Omnath, Locus of Mana’, a former favorite Commander of mine, by the way, lets you store up your green mana and can become a massive threat before too long. ‘Forgotten Ancient’ is similarly a cheap creature that can get big quick in a game of Commander. ‘Avenger of Zendikar’ is an army in a can and goes great with all of our land ramp. We can also benefit from some divine intervention. ‘Xenagos, God of Revels’ is amazing with Zacama or our other huge beaters. Attacking with an 18/18 Zacama the turn she comes down is always great. ‘Rhonas the Indomitable’ is less flashy but he’s mostly here as a big creature that doesn’t die to board wipes, and can pump up our other big guys. While Zacama herself can handle most troublesome permanents, we also want some utility creatures as a backup. ‘Bane of Progress’ is at its best in this sort of deck, since we’re not relying on our own artifact ramp. ‘Acidic Slime’ is a very flexible answer that can hit lands. I also like the new ‘Thrashing Brontodon’ because ‘Torpor Orb’ exists, and yeah, that’s a card that’s gonna totally wreck this deck, so thrash away, Brontodon. As usual, my three-color mana base guide is a good start to our lands and this deck doesn’t run that many customizations from the guide. ‘Slayer’s Stronghold’ and ‘Henweir Garrison(sic)’ grant haste, I like to include them, as it’s doubly good when we get to untap them after casting Zacama. Also make sure to add ‘Kessig Wolf Run’ no matter what, as it’s an excellent mana sink to push through more damage. And if you’re using ‘Keeper of Progenitus’, remember that it only works on lands, with actual Forest, Mountain and Plains land types. So in addition to shocks and duals, if you have them prioritize the cycle lands from Amonkhet and the tango lands from Battle for Zendikar to fix your mana. So, whether you’re planning to Storm off or just go crazy with a big dino, ‘Zacama, Primal Range(sic)’ gives you so many options. Dial the power up or dial it down. Play for an out-of-control Commander or lead the stampede of creatures to victory. Either way I found Zacama to be incredibly fun, powerful Commander, that has one of the best qualities of all: the ability for you to customize it, and its contents to your playstyle and personality. But now I want to hear from you. What deck do you want to see a tech on next? Let me know in the comments below. And this video is brought to you by my and many other peoples’ local game store: Card Kingdom. A brick-and-mortar pillar of this community. As well as the Patreon support of viewers such as you. These are the people that keep Tolarian Community College going and growing strong. So, thank you!

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100 thoughts on “MTG – A Guide to Zacama, Primal Calamity EDH / Commander for Magic: The Gathering

  1. Don’t forget to come check me out on INSTAGRAM! Https://

  2. Thanks for the tech Prof, will probably proxy this one up, since it looks a bit out of my budget, but damn it looks awesome

  3. Why not Bone Gnawer(Rat tribal)? Or a five color super friends?(haven't seen this very much, have made one before though people always rage quit…)

  4. Does anyone know what the music is in the latter few minutes of the video? It's so catchy, but I have no idea what it's called.

  5. Really like the video. For me it's a great guide as I'm not good at deckbuilding. Personally, I would love to see your take on Kaho, Minamo Historian.

    P.S. Have a nice day, Prof. 🙂

  6. Xantcha deck tech. The Command Zone guys did it wrong because of the rules interaction when a player dies and she goes under your control instead of the command zone wasn't stated back then.

  7. Prof, there's one Commander out who might be a challenge to win with, even for you… Phelddagrif, the one and only. 😉 Love your content by the way.

  8. I'd love to see a deck tech on a dragon themed deck besides Ur and Scion of the Ur Dragon. Or maybe ways to make the precon dragon commander even better?

  9. Prof, I just want you to teach a class at my university in magic. I know it will never happen, but a boy can dream

  10. I'd love to see your take on Breya. I've been trying to brew this incorporating some new stuff from the Saheeli precon. The problem I'm having is Breya likes so much good stuff, I don't know which direction to take the deck. I have a chaff pile of 1000 cards that didn't make the cut. Also artificer is a little outside of my wheelhouse. Does Bruticlad make the 99? Tawnos can copy Breya's abilities nicely. I also like new Saheeli for the deck and Saheeli's Directive. Is it worth ramping a ton of colorless mana for a huge Exsanguinate?

  11. I'll be honest here; it's actually really impossible to build around Zacama, Primal Calamity for Commander. When I received this card as a foil stamped promo in my prerelease pack, one of the first things I wanted to do after prerelease WAS build a Commander deck around it. So I did, and it sucked. Something you REALLY have to consider when you build a Commander deck in general is that if the other players don't like your Commander or don't want it to hit the battlefield, they're going to do whatever it takes to stop it. In fact, the only thing it really takes to stop it is a single untapped Island and a bounce spell (my favourite being Vapor Snag) and POOF! Zacama now costs 11. And then 13. And then 15. And then, well you get the point. I pretty much abandoned the idea of using Zacama as my Commander ever again after losing at least a couple of Commander Nights.

  12. This deck's also missing some critical pieces to get Zacama, Primal Fatty out quicker; Kinjali's Caller and Otepec Huntmaster. Explore and Broken Bond are also good inclusions.

  13. I've had a Zacama deck for a couple of months now and have recently been looking to beef it up a lot, this video is just what I was looking for!

  14. I used to play storm/combo Melek so I'm making this type of deck instead of Gishath… but hopefully keeping some dinos in for the fun. Thanks!

  15. sigh
    how does a man look upon a giant, three headed elder dinosaur and say "I'm going to make a broken combo deck with this"

  16. if they wanted to stay close to the Aztec tradition, they should have sayed that Conjuli sculpted humans from corn dough.

  17. I’d love to see your deck list idea for a Skythiryx, the Blight Dragon. Skittles has always been one of my favorites.

  18. Hey professor so I figured out another way to go infinite with zacama I was just playing out my Naya Dino tribal deck I flipped over zacama and I kind of Sword a didn't notice until I thought about it for about 5 minutes what happens when I put bear umbra on Hellkite charger.😎

  19. i also use zacama as my comaander but my deck but i base on the feline ferrocity and my playgroup hatee zacamaa

  20. Made Gishath EDH just because I bought a box of RIX and needed something to do with the cards. It is so boring, I'm going to pull Zacama out and make something more like this. Zacama in that 99 just feels like a waste. Thanks prof for the inspiration!!!

  21. Pretty sure it's ZA-CA-MAAAA!!! 😉 Awesome tech, Prof. I would love to hear your theories regarding Brudiclad, please. Or perhaps an older Legendary that maybe didn't quite have all the right pieces at the time, but could be much more powerful now–no particular one on my mind at the moment. Thx!

  22. "Like a storm deck that has no storm, but actually wins."

    I invite you to play against my Melek list sometime, it'll be a great time 😉

  23. Nice to see my Commander getting some love in the YouTube community. Ixalan is fantastic block for Commander, I won't have any arguments to the contrary.

  24. That card is so busted as commander… as many mana as you have you can recast his skills over and over in one turn and destroy entire fields BEFORE attacking.

  25. Shes a bit of an old card but I've been trying to build a Control deck but don't exactly know what i'm doing (i'm a bit new to the game) so what I would like to see a future EDH Deck tech on is, Merieke Ri Berit as commander for a type of creature control/Field control deck. Looking forward to the next Deck tech

  26. I dont often comment on videos but I'm always happy to give you one. Love the topics, love the quality, and love the personality, Prof. I've spent so many hours watching you rant on about this deck or that one. You help keep magic exciting for me

  27. "You get to do the Abundance thing three times each turn and you don't have to put any cards back you never technically drew any of them."

    Me: WHAT?!?!?!?!

  28. Polyraptor would go well with this deck right? you can use polyraptor, forerunner of the Empire and "Avacyn, Angel of Hope" or "Assure" to gio infinite and get infinite raptors on the board and kill everyone

  29. I don't get how you can get infinite mana with zacama, everytime it leaves the field it gets back to the commander zone and cost 2 more. maybe I miss something ?

  30. Tried building a dino tribe deck with Zacama……worked well in a 4 person game, but not one on one….might switch Zacama with Gishath to lead the dino tribe :-/

  31. Professor can you please do a Deck Tech on Gishath Suns Avatar? Gishath and Zacama both serve different purposes as Commanders and Im curious to see how you would build a deck around Gishath. You would be playing with more Dinosaur cards in the deck then you would Zacama

  32. Given that I'd gotten all six elder dinosaurs when I bought a Rivals of Ixalan booster box, I'll have to make a list of all the cards you mentioned in this video to toss into it.

  33. Eesh. While Zack-u-muh I suppose could be up for creative interpretation, there are so many cards pronounced wrong in this video. Drought (draught)? Vorniclex (Vorinclex)? Resurgence (resurgent)? If the professor is dyslexic I'll forgive those, but otherwise is it really that hard to read the cards correctly? I know it's nitpicking but it irks me.

  34. I have a better build for this deck . Throw all the mana dorks ya can find that give ya one or more mana then throw creatures that allow ya to play a extra land each turn with a guided Lotus with soul ring , mind stone , worn powerstone and any good mana rocks . Then with a bunch of burn spells ya pay x and dose 8 damage to target player . Ramp quick play big commander use to fix board state get rid of threats ramp dump mana into burn spells game over

  35. I personally have been replacing Rampant Growth with Attune with AEther as its the same speed and effect but only a green mana instead of a green and a colorless so what if you get a usless energy with it, not using the energy doesn't harm you in anyway

  36. I'm liking Guardian Project as a green draw engine as EDH/Commander is a singeton format, we're never going to have a second copy of a card anywhere so we play any creature, we draw a card.

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