Commander Focus: Chatterfang, a Chatter of Squirrels

I think most people know that a group of crows is called a murder, fewer are aware of the standard naming convention for a group of squirrels. And while traditionally a group of squirrels is called a drey (hence Dreykeeper), I think this is entirely incorrect; in every way a group of squirrels ought to be called a chatter.

Terms of venery notwithstanding, Chatterfang, Squirrel General first appeared in Modern Horizons 2 and is what I’d called “commander bait”.  A low mana value legendary creature with an interesting activated ability and a powerful triggered ability that has 2 colors in his color identity, but only one pip in his casting cost. He ticks a lot of boxes.  Chatterfang’s triggered ability is actually fairly unique and powerful.  For the most part, abilities with triggers like “whenever you create” and “whenever a creature dies” or “whenever a creature enters” tend to have a specific limiter – specifically, they typically specify “non-token” creatures.  And that’s an incredibly important limitation, because non-token doing of things is much more difficult to create an infinite loop with than tokens. In addition, even historically, when WotC has allowed you to create tokens on top of tokens, it’s often only one. But not Chatterfang.

Chatterfang creates a squirrel for every token that would’ve been created in addition, but as a replacement effect.  So if you would get 2 treasures, you get two treasures and two squirrels. If you can find a way to continually create treasures, you’ll continually create squirrels.

There’s a fairly blatantly obvious combo for us to build around, with Pitiless Plunderer

Chatterfang, Squirrel General
Copy Wizards of the Coast

Pitiless Plunderer
Copyright Wizards of the Coast

It’s straightforward too: Sacrifice a squirrel to give a creature +1/-1. You then get a treasure, and a squirrel, you can use the treasure for mana to pay to sac the squirrel. It’s by no means game-winning on its own, but it will let you wipe many of your opponents’ creatures off the table while generating lots and lots of triggers. You’ll have creatures entering play, and dying, and treasures entering play and going to your graveyard. This may seem pedantic, but each of these events can potentially be used, to gain life, draw cards, cause opponents to lose life, or do other things. Get yourself a second squirrel out there and you can really start cooking, sacrificing one to kill the other and getting

The obvious triggers to take advantage of here are the death ones, since you’ll churning through a ton of creatures – one when your creature dies and one when theirs does, so old stand-ins Zulaport Cutthroat and Blood Artists are here.  There are some more creatures in a similar vein, but this deck is intended to lie in the middle ground of a venn diagram between “fun” and “competitive” and “tribal”.  In addition to this combo there’s Dina to trigger off lifegains, and able to sacrifice herself in a pinch if Chatterfang finds himself actually a moon, or a bug, or a frog, or something of that ilk, and there are a number of other sacrifice effects, and Marionette Master and Disciple of the Vault to cause lifeloss when your treasure, clues, and food are destroyed.

In addition to all that there’s the usual suspects of reanimation: Animate Dead, Necromancy, Reanimate, Unearth, Life//Death, Victimize, and Dread Return, most of which should be targeted at the bevy of squirrel creators: the original Deranged Hermit, as well as Deep Forest Hermit, Drey Keeper, Underworld Hermit and Nested Shambler.  Nested Shambler is a great target for Chatterfang, in a weird twist of fate, if you need a reason to sac a bunch of squirrels since you can pump the power and take toughness simultaneously so you can actually generate quite a few squirrels off nested Shambler.  But if that doesn’t appeal, throwing him away as a sac outlet or blocker just nets you a squirrel, and with Chatterfang a second squirrel.

There’s also a number of creatures that simply get big off squirrels, so that you can keep attacking. If someone is losing life rapidly or just has a big creature you need to deal with a swarm of squirrels ought to be able to take care of it, even if its an unspeakable horror from beyond time that warps the nature of reality is corrupting existence by its mere presence.

Emrakul, Cardboard-crack

With the sheer number of sacrifice to draw or draw on creature enter, combined with every good two mana green land tutor, you should be able to pop out a chatterfang consistently on turn 3 and start generating value by combining him with one of your treasure creators or card draw engines, and leverage that into a decently threatening board state in a couple of turns, generally holding up some mana for interaction with the decks many kill spells.  That being said, as a “fun” deck there isn’t a specific, linear path to winning the game, and it will either come about by generating a ton of beefy squirrels, or generating a ton of death triggers, or generating a ton of artifact death triggers, or an interesting combination of the three.  It’s worth noting that Chatterfang himself has forestwalk and you should be stacking commander damage on someone virtually every round, which combined with a pump ability and some squirrel pumpers should become dangerous fast.

I’ve played this deck quite a few times now, and it plays pretty smoothly.  The land ramp and turboing out Chatterfang consistently means you’ll be able to start generating tokens and then eating those tokens for value.  Chatterfang can kill off utility creatures or commanders when necessary, and your pile of squirrels should rapidly grow and overwhelm your opponent’s, especially because killing them while blocking just leads to life loss, or you can sacrifice the ones that do get blocked for extra value.

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