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Lather, Rinse, Repeat


One of the things I love about Commander is the variety of gameplay. When people build a format that demands decks be 100 cards and you can only have one copy of each card, they were clearly going for decks that offer a variety of play, game after game. When you draw your next card and you find yourself considering a different line of play based on that card, you have really found one of the core joys of Commander!

I know many players try to build decks that run cards that all do very similar things to try to create consistency in their Commander decks. A winning strategy for deck-building is to build in that level of redundancy. You aren't looking to draw cards that force you to reconsider everything you have been doing up to that point. That is a waste of resources and at its core, Magic is a resource management game. However, that is what Standard and the other competitive formats are for. Run four copies of the best cards and maximize every opportunity.

With Commander, I want the big moments, not the big wins. I want to think back on an evening with friends and remember the insane plays, not the string of wins one friend had while the rest of us drew our cards and could do nothing.

My Grenzo, Dungeon Warden deck has been a great example of a deck that would provide the big moment. Tap out my mana at the end of an opponent's turn and find just what I needed. Flip a handful of cards and completely whiff! Go from a board state with Grenzo and a couple of creatures to an overwhelming horde that blasted in for the win. And it would do all of this by flipping cards from the bottom of the library! Grenzo does something no other commander does and I love it!

Grenzo, Dungeon Control| Commander| Bruce Richard

Lately though, the deck is losing its unpredictable nature. I would find Meteor Golem and play it, then realize the best play would be to sacrifice it, then have a way to remove it from the graveyard and put it on the bottom of my library, ready for Grenzo to flip it out again.

Several games would work around this setup and Meteor Golem would enter the battlefield three times in a turn, tearing apart one opponent's defenses or taking away everyone's best permanent. This was happening with several creatures.

The backbreaker though was the Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Regularly I was finding myself stuck in a board state and playing my deck to simply maximize the chance of getting the Gray Merchant from the bottom of my library into play. I was playing out creatures that would increase the devotion count for Gary. I was saving as much mana as possible to dig deeper to find Gary. Games had become a race for me to find the Gray Merchant before my opponents could win or just stop it from happening.

The deck was becoming predictable.

My initial thought was that Gary needed to come out of the deck. Let the rest of the deck do its thing while Gary sat on the sidelines.

I didn't want that. Having Gary appear was still a cool moment, but I just didn't want it to be the be all and end all of the deck. The deck itself needed a change.

When I was building the deck, I mentioned it on Twitter and Mel Li said she was also building Grenzo. We swapped builds and were both shocked that our choices were so different. My build was very controlling, trying to find the cards then get them to the bottom of the library when needed to be played out. Mel's build relied on chaos. She loved the idea of flipping the bottom card to see what was next, without ever really setting it up. Every flip is supposed to be a surprise and a shock and she built her deck to maximize that.

I think it is time to welcome a little more chaos into this Grenzo build! I started by removing all of the ways to load the bottom of the library from the graveyard. I still didn't want to whiff on the flips too often, so I left all the scrying in the deck, but eliminated the cards that would allow me to replay cards again and again.

For the Eagle-eyed amongst you, you'll see I left The Cauldron of Eternity in the deck. It is a relatively new addition and I'm not ready to give it up just yet. Besides, if it is the only card in the deck that can do it, I can hardly build my whole deck around it!

Adding to the deck proved to be an exercise in remembering what I want the deck to do. If the deck is going to embrace its chaotic nature and blindly flip cards, then I want to flip a lot of cards! I went looking for ways to add a lot of mana to the deck. Arcane Signet and Mox Amber were both considered and set aside. While great mana rocks, they would only add one mana per turn, and were dead if flipped from the bottom of the library with Grenzo. Alloy Myr and Rapacious Dragon were also considered and set aside. While they were creatures, they too only offered a single mana per turn, or less! Ashnod's Altar was also considered but didn't make the cut. This deck has a lot of creatures, but I don't really want to be sacrificing them just for two mana. This led me to these additions:

Illusionist's Bracers. While it doesn't add mana, it effectively reduces the cost of Grenzo's ability by one. Heartstone is an all-star in this deck and has been the key to several wins. Getting the Bracers on Grenzo means that four mana gives me four activations instead of two. That is an impressive savings for a deck that often has eight mana or more waiting for Grenzo to use at just the right time!

Braid of Fire. This is a slow-moving mana source, given the short length of some games. Many of my games go long though, so I want to try it out and this deck just makes sense. I'm happy to flip a card or two during my upkeep! I suspect Ashnod's Altar will probably be coming in for this card in the not too distant future, but for now, I am going to work on my braiding skills.

Black Market. It will take a bit of time to get Black Market out there, but the card just piles on counters. I can see it being the source of all the mana that I use to actually cast spells, while saving the lands that I can tap any time for Grenzo activations.

Pitiless Plunderer. While I'm not going to be encouraging my creatures to die, it certainly does happen. And when it does the Plunderer will be there to cash in. I suspect this is another case of a new shiny toy getting attention, but until its luster wears off, it makes the cut.

Dockside Extortionist. Now this fellow has proven its worth. I run it in plenty of Red decks and it regularly nets me at least three counters and has done as well as six. The big surprise benefit I noticed was another player opting to sacrifice eight Treasure tokens just to avoid me getting eight Treasure tokens. The thought of giving me eight Grenzo activations (due to a Heartstone in play) was more than he was willing to do.

The last three additions probably should have found their way into the controlling Grenzo build, but they ended up here. Fires of Invention was another way for me to save mana for Grenzo activations. I was rarely stringing together more than two spells per turn and if I am pushing to activate Grenzo, that shouldn't change. The deck already wasn't running instants and relied on Grenzo to interact with opponents so there just isn't a downside for this enchantment to join the team.

Desecrated Tomb is a beefy add to the mix! While I am removed all the ways to get cards out of my graveyard and to the bottom of my library, Grenzo's activation doesn't just put the creature cards onto the battlefield. You are actually putting the cards into the graveyard, then putting it on the battlefield if it meets the requirements. This means that every time Grenzo finds a creature, I will be getting a 1/1 Bat with flying. All those extra creatures should mean just a ton of extra damage!

Finally, Gonti, Lord of Luxury makes an appearance. Gonti doesn't add more mana or do anything to maximize Grenzo. They do add even more chaos to the deck. Getting a chance to play with my opponent's cards seems like a great option. If it doesn't look like more and more Grenzo activations are going to cut it, Gonti may be just what the doctor ordered.

So where is the build at this point?

Grenzo, Jail Break | Commander | Bruce Richard

This is nowhere near a final build for this deck, but it should make for some crazy memories in games to come!

Bruce Richard


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