Strixhaven Standard Set Review with Ali Aintrazi
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Commanding Harald: You Got Your Midrange in my Elves!


Hello folks! I hope that you are having a rock-tastic day today! Are you keeping yourself well? I hope so!

Over the last few weeks, I've taken my Tuesday column and dedicated it to making a new Commander deck around a new leader from Kaldheim! Today is my fifth week doing so!

Here are my previous four choices!

  1. A few weeks ago, I built a tokens style Boros equipment deck around Koll, the Forgemaster, which is very different than your normal build. Wanna check it out? It's here!
  2. Next, I built a deck around the snow-loving Svella, Ice Shaper who makes Icy Manaliths and grabs stuff from your library for free. I built a Snowy Gruul Ramp deck which you can check out here!
  3. Then I built a cool Orzhov deck around Firja, Judge of Valor, which had some fun cards, some reanimation, and some serious card flow in order to get two casts a turn. You can see this fun deck here!
  4. After that, I moved to Birgi, God of Storytelling and her combo-licious self! I built a fast spell engine with cards from storm and triggers for effects like Guttersnipe to win the game. Want to check her out? She's here!

What's my fifth option?

Harald, King of Skemfar

It's Harald, King of Skemfar! This bad boy cares about Elves, Warriors and Tyvars. He's a cheap on-curve 3/2 menace for just 3 mana and he's Golgari for the win. When he arrives to the party, you can dig down five cards and grab the best Warrior, Elf, and Tyvar that you find and put it into your hand as card advantage. Then you'll put the rest on the bottom of your library rather than someplace fun like the graveyard. King Harald does a few things here for more, as he plays into a new space for Golgari Elves. He's not pumping the team with effects or boosts, he's not a graveyard-fueled monstrosity and he's not a discard machine like Nath of the Gilt-Leaf. What he is, is something very different! He's a solid leader for midrange Elves not going wide Elves. The King is different than the normal Elf take and I want to reward that!

Here's how I want to build around our good leader.

  • Triggers Matter. I want to dig into his enters-the-battlefield self with his own ability giving you dorks which lead to more triggers and more card advantage over time. Awesome!
  • Elves Matter. Most of these cards are going to be Elves as they have the abilities I seek and have been printed in enough mass that I should be able to find my midrange goodness. Elves are the first place I'll look.
  • Don't Forget Warriors. If I come across some Warriors that have cool abilities and feel midrange in my colors then I'll toss them in as well, although that would be running against the tribe's flavor.
  • Blink. I want to include effects that let me replay and recast and flicker my ETB Elves and Warriors. There's aren't many in Golgari as that's more of a White and Blue thing, but they are there!
  • Midrange Value. Find space for midrange-ish stuff outside of the creature base as well to wrap things up!

Harald is a nice challenge. Over at EDHREC.com here, are the numbers of decks registered for some leaders from the same set:

I'm not sure why Harald is so rejected by the community as he's actually something new and welcome in our stuff. Ready? Let's go!

What were the first two cards that popped into my mind when I saw Harald?

Reclamation Sage
Gilt-Leaf Winnower

It was this duo! Each of these Elves are strong with the enters-the-battlefield triggers. They enable you to destroy things on arrival and play nicely into a creature-dense build that The King Harald needs. Either of them will work nicely with the key aspects of the deck's need for answers and both provide grinding card advantage over time that you are looking for in order to win the game with you in the card zone! Good duo!

Tyvar Kell

Well...we might as well run Tyvar in this build, right? We can dig for him for free with The King. He'll give your Elves the ability to tap for Black mana, which is useful for ramping. His +1 will let you trade up with a swinger and pump up an Elf permanently, which is most of the dorks in this brew. His 0 makes an Elf Warrior each turn, which plays into the theme of the deck quite nicely! If you get to emblem him, you can turn casting Elves into drawing two cards and that's a card advantage machine I can get behind! That includes The King.

Skemfar Shadowsage
Llanowar Visionary

Look at this Standard-legal duet as well. Skemfar Shadowsage is from Kaldheim and is a nasty game-winner in tribal decks, which is...exactly what this is! Go go gadget Elves! Note that they are going to force your foes to lose a lot of life, but you won't gain the life unless you chose that second trigger, which is unlikely to me. The second Elf draws you a card on arrival and nets you a mana ramper. Inspired by it, I am playing every Elf in the game that draws a card on arrival as well as this. Enjoy!

Golgari Findbroker
Sylvan Messenger

Look at this duo at well! The former can return any permanent from your sweet graveyard to your hand on arrival. It's a Gravedigger on steroids, as it's bigger as well. Good stuff! The latter can do a King Harald impression when it heads to the sweet battlefield and digs four cards deep for Elves.

Have you seen Boreal Outrider from Kaldheim? It's pretty saucy! It shares creature types with Harald and when you cast a critter spell you get a +1/+1 counter on it if you used Snow mana. Know what? Let's use some snow mana! I have more than 40 dorks in my deck, so this makes sense. I'll run Snow-Covered Basics and the snow dual in the set as well to help with that, since I only need one Snow mana to trigger the Outrider.

Tajuru Paragon
Thornmantle Striker

I love these Elves! Tajuru Paragon will count as a Warrior as well as an Elf, and if you kicked it (you should have) then you dig SIX cards down and can net a Warrior or Elf. Its great for the deck as it's very much a King Harald impersonator at Casual Nights at the local Café. The Striker has two cool abilities that care about your Elves, which is most of your stuff. You can kill a planeswalker with the first ability and it can play havoc in counters-matter brews. I also enjoy the killing of the second ability as you'll typically use it on arrival to kill something.

Do you remember Shaman of the Pack? It's been around for a while and was recently reprinted in Commander Legends so you can pick up some helpers. I really like it here as it can be a nice game winner with a few Elves under your control. Welcome to the deck my friend!

Wirewood Lodge
Skemfar Elderhall

I have fewer non-basics in this deck than most as I need to keep in my Snow-Covered lands, but this pair is needed. The Lodge of Wirewood can let you untap an Elf, which is pretty keen to winning the game as you can swing and untap for blocking and we have a few tap abilities here and there. It's pretty good. I also like the Hall of the Elders at Skemfar as it can tap for Green mana, and then you can sacrifice it for a -2/-2 to kill something and then you get two tokens from said death. It's saucy!

Erratic Portal
Conjurer's Closet

This duo was what I had in mind when I mentioned colorless blinking support. Erratic Portal will self-bounce one of your dorks and then you can recast it for normal mana and net another trigger. Its pretty good. Also, don't forget to use it on a foe's key dork if they tapped out. If they left one mana, then at the end of their turn use this, and then untap and use this again and it gets bounced. It's valuable here. The Closet is a free powerhouse and doesn't take up any resources beyond the five mana that you used to drop it. It triggers during your end step, so you can swing with your intended target and then it'll come back untapped and ready to block. You won't open yourself up to a back swing.

Fleshbag Marauder
Gruesome Scourger

I added in around five or six Warriors that are not Elves. This duo is among them. Fleshbag Marauder is a heavily played piece of removal as it forces everyone to sacrifice a dork, yourself included. You can sacrifice it to itself if you prefer. With more than 40 dorks in the deck plus tokens from places like Tyvar or Elvish Promenade, we have a bunch of ways to feed the Zombie. On the other hand, the Orc Warrior smashes a dork or their planeswalker for damage equal to your creature count, which should kill most 'walkers and can finish off a foe if you prefer, although the planeswalker is the reason for the highlights here.

Narnam Renegade
Izoni, Thousand-Eyed

Take a look at the Renegade. It's a great 1-drop as it'll hold off foes from swinging while you are developing your battlefield. Most 1-drops of the deathtouch persuasion are not Elves or Warriors, sadly, although this one is both! You can also get a better version for your consideration if something left the battlefield this turn. Look at Izoni, Thousand-Eyed next! When Izoni gets to the party our Elf Shaman will bring a number of 1/1 Insects with it equal to the creature count in your graveyard. You can sacrifice dorks for cards and life gain, which is pretty nifty in this brew. Sorry the tokens aren't on theme, but that's okay! We aren't running a bunch of Elf pumping for it anyway, this isn't that brew.

Elderfang Disciple is my friend! I love the recent invention of two-mana Relentless Rats that force all foes to discard and they are heavily played at my kitchen table and I run one copy of Burglar Rat in my Commander Cube. This is a new one from Kaldheim and I could not be more excited to see it! It's my friend and yours all together. It's an Elf with a nasty trigger that you are going to love all day long and into the night!

Lithoform Engine
Strionic Resonator

Since we are running a big fat number of triggers, I tossed in a duet to sing copies thereof. Lithoform Engine can tap to copy another of your triggered arrivals for a single mana. It can also copy an activated ability of something like a land or a planeswalker, or copy a key sorcery/instant you cast (unlikely here) or if you have the mana you can copy an entire creature while it's on the stack and you get the trigger and the body as well! It's nasty here! Strionic Resonator plays into the same space quite ably.

Harald Unites the Elves

How about one more card and we'll call it! I tossed in this Saga as flavor addition, not because it was the best option for the build. When your King Unites the Elves, he mills three cards and then reloads a key Elf or Tyvar onto the battlefield instead of in your hand, with the appropriate trigger firing off. This is not a very graveyard-literate deck, so the milling doesn't play well with the deck, but it won't suck. Counters for all the Elves is pretty good so you can use that nicely here. And its final ability to -1/-1 dorks when you swing is pretty good as well. Combine the triggers for the killing of bigger stuff. Unite those Elves!

Ready for my deck? Sure thing!

Harald Unites the Elves | Commander | Stephen Johnson

100 cards in all! There you go! What did you think of my brew? I hope that you enjoyed it! Anything in here that I missed or that resonated with you? Let me know!

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