Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
What Are Group Hug Decks in Magic?
"Group hug" decks run spells that benefit all players, providing extra mana, draws, and other advantages. These are mostly seen in casual four-player commander games, as the deck creates exciting matches where everyone prospers; some players enjoy assisting others more than shooting for the win themselves.
Group hugs generally run multiple colors, and their amiable demeanor often earns them allies in their matches—which tools do you need for the deck? Here are ten excellent group hug commander cards in Magic: The Gathering!
10. Abyssal Persecutor
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 4
Abyssal Persecutor certainly offers his controller a benefit, providing a fearsome 6/6 with flying and trample. But he's really helpful towards other players, as he prevents you from winning and them from losing.
This is almost a guaranteed alliance with stragglers; as long as Persecutor survives, they still have a fighting chance. If you actually approach a victory yourself, sacrifice Persecutor using another effect to enable your win.
9. Scheming Symmetry
Scheming Symmetry benefits you and one opponent, perfect when you're aiming to cooperate. You and another player each tutor a card to the top of your deck, ensuring you'll get it with your next draw (unless your deck is shuffled before then).
This offers an incredibly cheap tutor for you and (hopefully) a friend, one that works especially well for gimmicking the reduced prices of miracle cards.
CMC: 3 (to suspend, actual cost is technically 0)
You can't normally cast Hypergenesis; instead, you suspend it, triggering on your third turn afterwards. Once resolved, it lets you place any permanent other than a planeswalker from your hand into play. Then, your opponents (usually in clockwise order) have the opportunity to do so as well; the cycle ends when someone declines (or can't).
This is a great way to help mana-screwed players access their biggest spells, but you can also gimmick Hypergenesis by cascading into it, which avoids its suspension delay.
7. Braids, Conjurerer Adept
As a legendary, you can use Braids as your commander or simply as a support. Either way, she lets all players play an artifact, creature, or land from their hand for free at the start of their upkeep.
This will make you pretty popular with most players, just maybe not ones focusing on enchantments or planeswalkers. Braids's wizard subtype also provides some tribal options.
6. Dictate of Kruphix/Temple Bell
Here are two spells that do almost the same thing. Dictate lets players draw an extra card at their upkeep, while Bell taps to have all players draw. Dictate also has flash, so cast it right before your turn to reap its first harvest.
If you don't mind your opponents getting the initial benefit, you might instead consider two-cost cards "Howling Mine" and "Kami of the Crescent Moon."
5. Collective Voyage
Here's a group hug, but one that only works for players who have basic lands, which many four and five-color decks forgo. Voyage lets all players (starting with you) pay any amount of mana, letting everyone play an equal number of basic lands from their deck tapped.
Most players who run basic lands are more than happy to contribute, giving both them and you a massive mana advantage.
4. Pir's Whim
Whim represents my favorite kind of group hug, punishing players of your choice while rewarding others, letting you harass and boost as needed. Everyone you designate as foe must sacrifice an artifact or enchantment, while all friends (likely including yourself) can play any land from their deck tapped.
Notably, this can be any land, not just basics, letting players search for whatever terrain they need.
3. Heartbeat of Spring/Mana Flare
Except for color, these enchantments are identical, letting all lands tap for an additional mana of any color they could produce. This gives everyone insane amounts of resources, creating climatic games, and it's especially potent with cards like "Genesis Wave" that provide outlets for surplus mana.
Another alternative is "Dictate of Karametra," which costs five but has flash, meaning you can cast it right before your turn to ensure you reap its rewards first.
2. Rites of Flourishing/Ghirapur Orrery
Orrery costs one more mana than Flourishing but is colorless. Both are similar, offering all players an extra land play each turn. Flourishing also gives an extra draw at the draw step while Orrery gives three at upkeep if someone's hand is empty.
It's as simple as that; bonus lands and draws will make you a cherished ally in any EDH match. Plus, Orrery is one of today's cheapest cards, costing well under two dollars!
1. Kenrith, the Returned King
Kenrith is more like targeted hugs than group hugs, another great way to ensure balance. While he only needs white for his cost, his activated abilities provide a five-color identity. By spending various amounts and colors of mana, Kenrith can instantly give trample/haste, +1/+1 counters, life, draws, or revived creatures.
You can use these abilities to help yourself (possibly to knock someone out via commander damage), and they're excellent outlets for excess mana. But you can also use them to assist opponents, giving straggling players a boost and likely earning yourself some allies.
Great as both a competitive commander and for cooperation, Kenrith's always my go-to option for group hug builds.
Winning With Group Hug Decks in Magic
Many hug players don't necessarily plan to win, they more just enjoy helping others to create the best, most memorable game possible. That said, wins are certainly possible, especially since most players ignore huggers to focus on other threats.
You can also go for the hug/mill route with cards like "Forced Fruition," giving another potential win condition, but for now, vote for your favorite benevolent spell and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2020 Jeremy Gill