The Definitive Varolz Protean Hulk Primer

Speedy boi

"Literally worse Grenzo" -Kyle

"Varolz might miss all the key parts of good commanders" -Clay Puppington

"Varolz doesn't do so well in cedh" -Scruffy

"I honestly just don't see how Varolz is good tho" -Wafflecopter

"I don't think you can make Varolz competitive" -Ner0

Since Protean Hulk 's unbanning, there have been numerous decks popping up trying to take advantage of the compact and powerful combos that it allows. The build that most people gravitated towards was the classic cephalid breakfast combo, which basically uses Protean Hulk to mill your deck with protection, then win after you've done that. These decks are very powerful, because their colour identities allow you to play Flash + Protean Hulk and allow you to fit Grand Abolisher into your Protean Hulk line, among other cards.

Does not have any of these things; What we do have however, is a sacrifice outlet in the command zone.

Due to the nature of Protean Hulk , you need to do two things, first, get hulk, and second, get it to the graveyard. Varolz eliminates half of this problem by always having a way to get hulk into the graveyard once it's on the board, due to his second ability. This means that the entire deck can be dedicated to just getting Protean Hulk onto the battlefield.

What Varolz Is

  • Creature-Based
  • Blisteringly Fast
  • Resilient
  • Linear, with a medium-high skill cap
  • Totally sick

What Varolz Isn't

  • A storm deck
  • A midrange deck
  • A stax deck
  • Consistently explosive (Your combo doesn't involve making excess mana or drawing cards, you're stuck with what you've got)
  • A deck for spellslingers
  • Flexible (You're looking to resolve a single combo, and that's the only goal of the deck)
Protean Hulk Is our win condition, yes, but what do we do once we've gotten it to die? The answer to that question is easy:

At this point, you may be asking "Well that might good and all, but to get to that combo you have to have a 7-mana creature AND Varolz out at the same time? That seems pretty difficult." And normally, you would be correct, but you may be forgetting that we are in Green and Black, the two colours that do unfair things involving creatures the best.

Green has a few options for cheating a green creature out of the deck, or at least getting to a creature in general. The premier cards for this in this deck though are Natural Order and Pattern of Rebirth , which, when paired with a mana dork and Varolz , are both direct lines to get to Protean Hulk . These are both very on-plan for us, as with the mentioned mana dork, we can power these out on turn 3 with Varolz already on the board, and threaten a win right there.

There are also a multitude of ways to get Protean Hulk into our hand, including Survival of the Fittest , Fauna Shaman , and Worldly Tutor .

Black has a lot more options to cheat creatures out of the deck, or, more accurately, cheat creatures out of the graveyard, but Entomb or Buried Alive turn that into a cheat out of the deck.

We play a multitude of these reanimate effects, including classics such as Reanimate , Animate Dead , and Necromancy .

Since the recent update to the deck, there are even more ways to get Protean Hulk into the grave, and they're a bit convoluted sometimes. Now that cards like Worldly Tutor , Sylvan Tutor , and Summoner's Pact are in the deck, we need ways to dump Protean Hulk into grave from either our hand, or the top of our library, which is where we can use cards like Thoughtseize , Cabal Therapy , and Collective Brutality to pitch hulk out of our hand. To get Protean Hulk off of the top of our deck, we run some cards that may look bad but actually serve valuable roles in the deck. Because we have 4 topdeck tutors in the deck, we're running Grim Flayer (He's like a Dark Confidant that also entombs!) and Sinister Concoction (Which can also get Protean Hulk out of our hand!).
There are many, MANY lines to the win in this deck, but I'll try to write as many of them out as possible. As a recent addition to the deck, a lot of discard cards have been added, so remember that using a creature tutor and then using a discard spell or ability targeting yourself (Such as Thoughtseize or Sinister Concoction ) to discard Protean Hulk is a way to get him into the grave for reanimation. Grim Flayer can also be used with top-of-deck tutors ( Worldly Tutor , Vampiric Tutor ,etc) to put Protean Hulk into the grave.

These lines will all assume that you have Varolz or Viscera Seer in play.

+ Green creature on battlefield

+ Creature on battlefield

Tutor Protean Hulk , then discard it for each of these lines, if you already have hulk in hand, these lines will cost less

Tutor Protean Hulk , then discard it for each of these lines, if you already have hulk in hand, these lines will cost less

Tutor Protean Hulk , then discard it to tutor Body Snatcher for each of these lines, if you already have hulk in hand, these lines will cost less

Sometimes, things are not perfect, or one of these lines will not get you there on its own, in that case, you may need to use an alternate line. This is a list of possible hulk piles that you may need to use. In order to use these piles, you will need to use Body Snatcher in order to get back your Protean Hulk and get to your win. Keep in mind, Body Snatcher 's first ability is NOT a replacement effect, it is a triggered ability, this means that while that ability is on the stack, you can sacrifice it and use its second ability to reanimate Protean Hulk , thereby bypassing the need to discard a creature.

Case: Normal pile

Case: Opponent has removal

Case: Opponent has Null Rod / Stony Silence / Another troublesome artifact or enchantment

Needs to be used

Case: Varolz not on board

Case: Combo piece in exile

Case: Combo piece in hand, or fear of opponent having grave hate such as Faerie Macabre

  • Body Snatcher + Golgari Thug , Using body snatcher's first ability to discard the card stuck in hand, then sacrificing thug to put it back into the deck

Case: Grave hate that is an activated ability ( Faerie Macabre , Deathrite Shaman , etc.) is available to an opponent

Many people will tell you that Phyrexian Delver is the better card out of these two, and normally, that is true, it allows you to get a full 3rd hulk after getting Mikaeus out, due to the undying trigger, but this leaves two things that I find unsatisfactory, A. the fact that you can only get 1 CMC worth of creatures off of the first hulk if you are running Delver , which means you cannot combo if you have a combo piece in your hand or exile, and B. We don't want to run Mikaeus lines because they lose to Null Rod . Body Snatcher on the other hand does not have either of these downsides, at the cost of having to be sacrificed before the first trigger resolves, and it cannot make a 3rd hulk, because it needs to be sacrificed to reanimate. Well, we don't really need the 3rd hulk if we can fit the extra 1 CMC of creatures into a hulk with it, and we have a sacrifice outlet in the command zone.

It's not very often you see an Ad Nauseam in hulk decks, or any reanimator decks at all for that matter, but it really does work, there are only 6 cards in the entire deck with >3 CMC, with one of those being Ad Nauseam itself. The average non-land CMC of the deck is at 1.64 at the time of writing, which means that doing the math of (68 nonlands * 1.64 avg nonland cmc)/99 = 1.126 per card, which means you are getting around 30 cards per Ad Nauseam , and since there are ways of winning off of hulk, even with a combo piece in your hand, it means that Ad Nauseam is very much worth it in the deck. This card is also the reason why taking damage and average CMC is such a big deal in the deck, because every point of damage taken is a card not drawn.

This is my removal suite of choice, chosen primarily for their low CMC and effectiveness. Both Vendetta and Slaughter Pact are efficient answers to Linvala, Keeper of Silence , and pull double-duty as ways to kill your own Protean Hulk in a pinch. Abrupt Decay is a catch-all that is a superstar against blue decks. Nature's Claim Is a staple, but can also kill off Animate Dead and Dance of the Dead to indirectly get your Protean Hulk to the grave.

Crop Rotation

Some people do not like filter lands. I am not one of those people. In a deck where your dorks produce and you need for reanimation plays, this card is an all star.

In B/G, you do not have a tonne of ways to interact with the stack, so these cards are here to interact before anything even hits the stack. Use these cards to strip countermagic and hate before you combo. Targeted discard also pulls double-duty in reanimator decks, as they allow us to point them at ourselves to get reanimation targets out of our hands and into the grave, where we can get them to the board from much more efficiently.

A new addition that is currently in testing, hits our Ad Naus a bit and is a tad expensive, but makes up for it in flexibility and raw power. In the best case scenario, this discards a hulk stuck in hand, kills a hatebear, and strips hate out of an opponent's hand. Fail case, this is a 2 mana hatebear killer, or a 2 mana duress, not horrible at all.

New addition, I still hate the card with a passion, but it is required to have the tutor density needed for consistent wins

Just wasn't doing what I wanted it to in the deck, with the inclusion of Summoner's Pact , it may make its way back in, but I'm doing without it right now.

This deck very much wants a dork on turn 1, and they just aren't there, these get in the way of your Varolz turn, and don't provide enough mana to compensate you for the tempo lost on casting them.

These have been cut as a side-effect of not running Phyrexian Delver , as there is no way to fit them into a hulk line, and they simply cost too much to reasonably be casting when you are winning the game, they also raise the aCMC for Ad Nauseam . Look for their replacements in Caustic Caterpillar and Golgari Thug

Beast Within is a great card, we all know it, but unfortunately, we are not stax, and we are not Selvala . It just costs too much for us to be happily casting, and the fact that it is 3cmc also hurts our Ad Nauseam , so as painful as it may be, we have to say goodbye for now to our good friend.

Stax effects really just aren't where you want to be with this deck, it never feels good to spend 2 mana on a card like this, when you could be furthering your own win condition. For this reason, I am also not playing stax effects, even if they don't affect the deck at all.

These have been considered, and some pilots may like to have the extra protection, however, in my experience, these are too much mana to be worth playing. Varolz consistently runs tight on mana requirements to win early, and he doesn't produce any more mana than what you have at the start of your combo. Even without these protection pieces, if you play correctly and time your win and interaction properly, you should still be coming out on top.

These look good at first glance, but there are some major downsides; first, for high market, it doesn't produce coloured mana, which you really want in this deck, and it's not actually that great of a sac outlet, only being a once-per-turn and giving nothing in return, I'd much rather be playing a coloured source in it's place. Second, for tower, I would totally run the card, if only it produced coloured mana without having to sacrifice a creature. Again, you really want coloured mana, and typically, you're only going to have 1 non-Varolz creature at a time, which you need to bank for Pattern of Rebirth and Natural Order , otherwise they become dead cards.

I don't really need this in a 2 colour deck, I'd rather play a basic, and have more resilience against Blood Moon .

Actually a bit slow for the deck, if you're going turn 1 dork -> turn 2 varolz, it doesn't afford you much time or mana to actually use it efficiently, it does smooth out every turn after those, but those are going to be the key turns when you're looking to have action in your mulligans

I actually highly suggest both of these for potential budget builds or more midrange builds, but because this is a budgetless balls-to-the-wall build, I'd much rather be playing higher-powered draw like Ad Nauseam or Necropotence , or just be playing tutors instead. You are also looking to win before running out of gas becomes an issue generally, so they're not as good here as they are in a Doomsday deck, because they can't serve the dual-purpose of cracking a pile.

Still an ok card to include in grave-heavy metas, but it doesn't provide anything to the combo, and was cut to make way for more relevant pieces

This cut hurt a lot, but I realized that I was never using it to clear more than 1 creature at a time, with a life cost, and a cost of killing my own board, so I've cut it to lower the curve for Ad Nauseam , and more streamlined removal. Still playable in a creature-heavy meta.

Varolz is a very fast combo deck that is new and has seen very little play, the first time people see the deck, they will usually have no idea what's going on until way too late if you play it correctly.

One of the main things that this deck has going for it, is that many of the lines to hulk don't put the hulk itself in a vulnerable position, which means that you can find another way later in the game and attempt to win again, there are times when you will have a Natural Order countered, and will be able to try again the next turn with a reanimate plan, because nobody ever had access to your hulk except for you.

The deck is also very resilient to many stax effects that are typically played against fast combo; because you only really need to cast 3/4 cards at maximum to win the game, sphere effects are significantly worse against you versus the rest of the fast combo field. This also applies to Rule of Law effects, as you can just cast a Pattern of Rebirth and win in one shot, or end-of-turn Entomb into a reanimate on your turn to win.

Your main weakness as a fast combo deck, is, as always, running out of gas. There will be games where you will have an attempt at a win foiled, and will never come back from it. There will be games where someone drops a turn 1 Rest in Peace , and you never find the answer to it. There will be games that somebody casts Linvala, Keeper of Silence and locks you out of the game. There are games where Sidisi or Grenzo go first, and they win before you can do anything. These are all things that will happen, and they are things that you need to be aware of if you are playing the deck. Learn what you can and cannot deal with, politic with the table, and know what you are getting into. I would not suggest playing this deck if your meta is fully prepared for hulk, or is infested with stax and control players. That being said, some of the most satisfying games to win are those that you have been locked out of since turn 1, and made a comeback nobody expected.

Check out the new budget build of this deck over here!


Updates Add



First off, with the uptick in Flash decks in cEDH overall, I'm much more happy playing Praetor's Grasp over Grim Tutor right now, as just being able to grab a Flash out of a blue hulk player's deck is both hilarious and great for our gameplan. We have more than a couple of ways of making colors of mana outside of our identity, and having the ability to actually Flash a hulk out of our hand is great.

Currently testing Plunge into Darkness over Green Sun's Zenith, as GSZ has always been fairly underpowered, and Plunge into Darkness can offer us either card selection, or a one time sacrifice if needed, which is just something that we're in the market for. (I know it's gonna suck sometimes if you hit two pieces, but honestly, I'm just way too desperate for card selection at this point, and you don't need to drop 30 life into Plunge for it to be good, 10 is usually enough to get us to what we want).

Cutting Mindblade Render is going to be contentious, but I really do think that Oakhame Adversary is just going to be better than it a lot of the time, as being able to swing through commanders that normally would block Render or Varolz is a huge upside.

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Revision 4 See all

6 months ago)

-1 Green Sun's Zenith main
-1 Grim Tutor main
-1 Mindblade Render main
+1 Oakhame Adversary main
+1 Plunge into Darkness main
+1 Praetor's Grasp main