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Harmful Offering


I am sort of in a rut. I brewed with Kadena last week but my heart wasn't really in it and I think a great deal of that stems from Commander 2019 just not... feeling that great to me. The cards are out but per EDHREC, people are still brewing with Yarok, the Desecrated Kykar, Wind's Fury, Golos, Tireless Pilgrim, and Lord Windgrace. Anje Falkenrath and Atla Palani, Nest Tender are making a bit of a splash, but Anje could not interest me less and Atla Palani seems like it would be about 10 cards off of my Mayael the Anima deck. This may be me being jaded but I am beginning to feel like the Commander decks are steering farther and farther away from enfranchised players. The more feedback the team seems to ignore and the more the price goes up, it's becoming harder and harder to justify shelling out for the decks, and them moving to the middle of the year means I can't even have my in-laws buy them for me as Christmas presents like I used to. I've always bought singles and I'll continue to do that, but the whole decks themselves feel like they're harder and harder to justify. I'm fine with not being the target audience for one of Magic's myriad products and cards like Kykar and Kethis show they still know how to make good Legendary creatures that are fun and interesting even if they made the dubious decision to build entirely around mechanics this year and then didn't even bother to pick decent mechanics.

With 16 new commanders, none of which I was particularly jazzed about, I felt like I wouldn't have anything to write about this week. It made me sort of wistful for last year where I was firing on all cylinders and making all sorts of fun innovations like making all of my creatures a copy of Marton Stromgald or giving my opponents cards like Zuran Orb and then Mindslavering them. I didn't feel like anything sparked my creativity this year - certainly not paint-by-numbers commanders that basically lend themselves to a keyword search on Scryfall to find a few cards with Madness to pitch to Anje that aren't in the precon and calling it a day. My desire to recreate my Mindslaver Xantcha deck experience from last year caused me to re-evaluate a commander from Commander 2019 in a brand new light and suddenly I was firing on all cylinders again. We have the tools to punish our opponents by giving them gifts once again. We won't have to Mindslaver them to make them hurt themselves with our gifts because our board will do it for them. Then I came across this beauty.

Grismold, the Dreadsower

Giving them something they potentially can't use or which could harm them is what that Xantcha deck was all about and now I'm started to get excited about brewing with Commander 2019. Standard builds of the deck use Engineered Plague and Plague Engineer to ensure the creatures are dead on arrival and Grismold gets the counters right away and that could factor into my plans. However, you don't need me to give you a standard build of the deck.

As a brief aside, I'm sure basically any configuration of Grismold that is built with the intention of winning game is going to be 75% and there's basically nothing you can do to mess this up. If you're not running token hosers, Teysa might be a bad matchup but I'm not worried about that. If you want to add Demonic Tutor and cards like that, feel free. This article won't be concerned with how to take a deck like Grismold and make it 75% but rather how to put my own unique spin on it and still have it be serviceable and that's exactly why I'm excited. If you take a stock Grismold list and make it tighter and more competitive, I think the unique nature of building around Grismold will make the deck 75% no matter what and exploring as much as you can within the design space that the commander's needs constrains you to will be a great exercise in 75% deck-building.

What I like about the fact that Grismold gets huge is that he is great with cards like Greater Good, Miren, the Moaning Well and Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord. You can always build the way I see a lot of people building and use cards like Whispersilk Cloak, Rogue's Passage, and Eternal Thirst to make him a Voltron killing machine. If your meta is on the casual end of the spectrum, I might try something like that. Bellowing Tanglewurm and Maze Behemoth might help out, too. I think I may use Eternal Thirst but only because I want Hardened Scales and Doubling Season to get really nutty with one of their creatures dying. If Doubling Season gives them more tokens, good, more triggers for us. Our goal is to build the biggest Grismold we can and ideally dome them with Jarad or draw enough cards to find the cards we need to win. Engineered Plague is cool, but I want to control when the creatures die. If we can gum up the board a bit, Massacre Wurm can deal quite a bit of damage. I would rather use a card like Pestilence to keep them in check than Engineered Plague. Besides, keeping the creatures alive to force them to sac them to Mazirek is a dimension to the deck I don't see a ton of players taking but that could be a ton of fun. If you want them to sac real gas instead, use Pestilence and make them sac something bigger with an Edict effect.

The way I want to differentiate my build from what others are playing is that I want to really benefit from a huge Grismold. I could attack and kill people, true, but I like the idea of gaining a ton of life, drawing a ton of cards with Greater Good or killing the table with Jarad. Jarad is an interesting combo piece because I can bring him back easily with his own built-in ability which means dredging him, dumping him after a big Greater Good activation or having him get killed repeatedly are all fine. Having a very stable combo piece in the deck is useful. He's even hard to exile because the deck will likely have a ton of sac outlets which means I can stash him in the yard. Jarad is just one card but he's so important and so easy to grab and keep around that building with ending the game with an activation isn't out of the question.

We will be able to kill people with tokens, of course. I am going to use tutors in this deck but they will be a little tougher to use than normal. Pattern of Rebirth is something I use sometimes and the number of sac outlets in the deck seem like they'll synergize well. I also don't get to use Journey to Eternity often enough, so I plan to make good use of it here. I'm trying not to have this feel like a Meren, Mazirek, Jarad or Slimefoot deck, but rather be centered around Grismold with some of the elements that make those decks powerful incorporated. I think I've come up with something pretty potent.

Breaking the 'Mold | Commander | Jason Alt

This is quite a departure from the typical list, but that was the point. I wanted to optimize the deck to kill with Jarad and I think I may be close.

The deck will draw quite a few cards. With ways to draw a card a turn like Phyrexian Arena, ways to draw when things die like Moldervine Reclamation and ways to draw for big creatures like Greater Good and Rishkar's Expertise, you should draw quite a few cards. That's good because we want to draw Jarad and ways to double counters on Grismold.

If we can't draw Jarad, we have ways to dredge. Dakmor Salvage is fine in the mana base, Grave-Troll dredges with reckless abandon and Life from the Loam gets back the land you pitch to Jarad plus helps you dredge to him. If you're throwing too many utility cards in the bin, consider more Witness effects like Den Protector or consider fewer Dredge cards. You will need to test this a bit.

Instead of running plague effects to kill the tokens we give them, I elected to use targeted board wipes. Pernicious Deed, Forced March, Powder Keg, Engineered Explosives and a few other spells can kill tokens at X=0 and leave Blood Artist and other fragile utility creatures that Pestilence would wipe out. I feel like this is a pretty significant way to surgically wipe the creatures you gave them without threatening to harm your own creatures. If you NEED to wipe the board, cards like Gaze in Granite can do that, and saccing tokens that were going to die anyway to Ashnod's Altar to power the spell can help a lot. You have options with cards like this and being able to precision strike tokens was something I wanted.

With a Doubling Season and an Eternal Thirst, every token that dies powers up Grismold a lot. He's going to get a lot of heat so consider more Umbras (I cut a few) and maybe Asceticism or Whispersilk Cloak. Cloak does double duty if you have to swing with Grismold, which you can do with this deck.

Izoni, Thousand-Eyed is actually perfect in this deck since your creatures may get wiped out by your or by them and you can fill the board with tokens then Pattern of Rebirth for Craterhoof. Alternatively, you can use Varolz, The Scar-Striped to make your dead creatures into counters for Grismold. Scavenge is very good with Hardened Scales and Primal Vigor out, after all, so Varloz does a lot of work in the deck. It's even another sac outlet!

Speaking of sac outlets, I got to include Perilous Forays, a card I think is severely underplayed. The deck is mana-hungry so make sure you churn through your creatures to fill your yard and power cards like Izoni if they're about to die to Pestilence or something and keep those lands out.

What do we think? Would we have been better off sticking with a stock Grismold list or do we have a few win conditions more exciting than "attack for 21" and "Revel in Riches"? Both of those are options, but I really love the idea of slapping Jarad down, killing like 20 tokens and doming the table for 40 before they know what hit them. That won't always work, but we have the same capabilities as a stock Grismold list for when it won't. This deck has me excited to Akroan Horse them into a bad situation and I've wanted Hunted Troll to be good since it was spoiled. This is the kind of Magic I want to be playing. Leave me something in the comments section and, as always, thanks for reading. Until next time!

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