June 13, 2019
Commander [EDH]: 4.38
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Squirrels were the Odyssey block’s equivalent of Saprolings, as in a tribe that existed mainly in tokens. There were a few non-token Squirrels like Squirrel Mob and Krosan Beast, but most of those still wanted to have lots of other Squirrels in play. This experiment didn’t last much beyond that block and there weren’t even any representatives of the tribe in Modern until now. Of course, Unstable kind of hinted at this development, and they have always had a lot of fans in casual play. I actually kind of hope their future tournament-legal appearances are mainly or entirely in sets like Modern Horizons, because they will remain novel and seem special and unusual, and it will still feel like you’ve achieved something when you make a tribal deck.
When you think of infinite combos, you don’t usually think of green. You particularly don’t think of mono-green combos like Squirrel Nest and Earthcraft, which caused Earthcraft to be banned in Legacy. This has always been kind of amusing to me because it’s not an instant-win combo unless you add something like Pandemonium, but there you have it. Earthcraft actually remains banned until this day, but even without it, there are plenty of interesting things you can do. There are (less efficient) ways to go infinite with it in Modern, and there is so much token-related design now that didn’t yet exist when we first visited Otaria. Intangible Virtue is always on the lookout for new interactions, Parallel Lives makes them quickly get out of control, and I’m pretty sure there’s some way to jam the Nest into the same Commander deck as Brudiclad.
Squirrel Nest is back. More broadly, it makes its Modern debut (along with proper Squirrels as a tribe, who were left out of Modern entirely until the release of Modern Horizons). Of course, while squirrels as a tribe are more adorably amusing than properly threatening, Squirrel Nest is a deceptively powerful card that led to a banning in Legacy many years ago.
Let’s start with the simple: it gives a land the ability to make a 1/1 Squirrel token instead of producing mana. This is not too bad, even early; it enables you to produce a steady stream of creatures each turn that you don’t have something “better” to do, and a reliable source of creatures that mostly resists removal is always welcome! Having a guaranteed attacker or blocker each turn is pretty legit, and so Squirrel Nest is a pretty good “fair” card.
Unfair is more fun, though, and Squirrel Nest is part of an infinite squirrel-producing engine in conjunction with Earthcraft; you attach Squirrel Nest to a basic land, use the squirrels to untap the land, and make an arbitrarily large number of rodents. There are still ways to make infinite squirrels even without Earthcraft (which got banned in Legacy); Arbor Elf and Intruder Alarm allow you to do the same general sequence (infinite squirrels), and I’m sure there are other ways to make this go infinite.
Squirrel Nest shines brightest as part of a degenerate combo, but chittering abominations are always a solid way to go. And while I think the possible squirrel combos might be too slow for Modern, I have been wrong before.
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