Since the release of Sagas in Magic the Gathering with the Dominaria set, these “storytelling” enchantments have generally been playable. Players who love land destruction are particularly excited by Waking the Trolls which appears to have a potential win condition stapled to the final Chapter. But, is this Saga as good as some deck brewers believe? Why is it that this Magic player is underwhelmed by what could prove to be what ramp decks want to get on board as soon as possible?
Waking the Trolls clearly is a build-around card oozing with flavor. While it costs six mana to cast (four generic, one Red, and one Green) the argument could be made that this card could be played as early as turn four. As a tempo play, the first chapter which destroys a target land may be enough to spell doom for mana-hungry or color-hungry decks.
The second Chapter, which puts a land card from a graveyard back to the battlefield, is going to at least hit something. It’s especially perfect if you have a Fabled Passage, Field of Ruin, cycled Triome, or another land that you sacrificed available to get on time. At worst, you’re just getting the land that you destroyed on the previous turn, unless it somehow found its way out of the graveyard by a card effect.
Finally, the third and last chapter of this Saga is what gets people most excited. If you control more lands than your opponent, you get a number of 4/4 Troll Warrior creature tokens with trample equal to the difference. Much of this card’s effectiveness depends on just how many lands your opponent finds themselves behind when this resolves. Getting only one or even two Trolls doesn’t feel all that powerful, although for an initial investment of six mana, it’s probably still worth it.
The true power of Waking the Trolls comes in the timing, especially if you can resolve multiple copies over the course of several turns. You also need some way to keep your opponent off of whatever colors they need for their key cards. Against four or five color decks, this Saga is probably what wins you the game, especially if you hit a dual land or Triome with its first Chapter.
In Modern, where there are much greedier mana bases when it comes to colors, and more fetchlands for you to retrieve with the second Chapter of this Saga, Waking the Trolls becomes much more potent. There are plenty of land destruction cards on theme in the larger card pool of the format. It’s not the only land destruction Saga card in the format, either joined by Fall of the Thran from Dominaria. Fall of the Thran destroys all lands, but then returns two lands for each player to the battlefield from the graveyard. So, I have a hard time seeing the Awakening and the Fall seeing play together.
But in the Standard environment this card entered, Cleansing Wildfire was the only real land destruction spell in the format; that spell simply replaces that land with another basic land card. Then, you have the aforementioned Field of Ruin. For me, this isn’t even a Saga you want in game one outside of Modern. It could be a fantastic game two card, which punishes decks for playing a lot of tapped lands, such as the popular Temples and Triomes, and of course, the tapped snow dual lands from Kaldheim. It’s also good against decks with a low mana curve who don’t care about hitting more than three or four lands in a game.
In Modern, and perhaps to some extent in Historic on Magic Arena, though, Waking the Trolls seems like a card to build up to even in game one. However, the Red Green Land Destruction decks in Modern don’t seem to want a six-drop Saga when it has access to Pillage, a three mana land destruction spell. It’s also perfectly content with Magus of the Moon and Blood Moon turning all nonbasic lands into Mountains.
Will Waking the Trolls see play in any Commander decks? Land destruction isn’t really a popular theme at all in the format. Lord Windgrace occasionally finds himself at the helm of a land destruction deck, but the most popular land destruction Commander is Zo-Zu the Punisher, who’s mono-Red.
I’m sure that someone will find a way to make Waking the Trolls a fun way to take over a game. It’s a flavorful Saga that under the right circumstances can become pretty overwhelming. But, it has a potential floor of destroying a land, not getting a land card for the second chapter if graveyards either get exiled or can’t be targeted, and getting zero tokens.
Most of the time, you’re at least fulfilling the first two Chapters and getting one Troll Warrior, which is probably worth six mana. Of course, there are many more game-altering cards that you could play for six mana. Still, there would be some interesting brewer decks that play this card. The great Against the Odds brewer himself built a Waking the Trolls deck for Standard at the time, and managed to go 4-1 at the same time that Alrund’s Epiphany was taking extra turns left and right.
My gut feeling, though, was that Waking the Trolls could be at best a sideboard card to punish decks that rely on tapped lands or more than three colors. Also, against decks that play few creatures, if you can push this Saga through, Waking the Trolls will also feel pretty good if you can keep them one land behind you. It’s also kind of bad when you’re not on the play, which is why I feel it will be in the sideboard more often than not.
What do you think of Waking the Trolls?
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