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Drivnod, Carnage Dominus in Commander


When looking through the Phyrexia: All Will Be One legendary creatures, I was struggling to pick one to write about that hadn't already been claimed by one of my fellow CoolStuffInc.com commander writers... until I came across Drivnod, Carnage Dominus.

If nothing else, I think we now know who was last in line when they were handing out cool names for creatures in this set. Drivnod. What kind of name is Drivnod? This Phyrexian Horror may have been a skinny little weirdo who got picked on in grade school, but he grew up to be a big, nasty brute with a whopping 8 power and an interest in seeing other creatures die. If Drivnod isn't the stuff of nightmares, he'd at least be a fine villain in a slasher flick. At least, he'd be scary until the audience found out his name...

Drivnod, Carnage Dominus

Our poorly named villain gives us two pretty obvious directions to build in. With 8 power it doesn't take much to turn this commander into a one-shot killer. Equip anything that gives him +3 power and give him double-strike and you're ready to clear a table, swinging for 22 commander damage each turn if he's unblocked.

Voltron isn't a bad build path, but Drivnod is also interested in death triggers. I won't go so far as to say he'd be pulling the legs off of spiders, but if a creature dying causes a triggered ability of a permanent I control to trigger, that ability will trigger a second time. I can also pay 2 Phyrexian Black mana (so either a Black mana or 2 life for each one), exile 3 creature cards from my graveyard and put an indestructible counter on him. That last ability will come in handy if there's a boardwipe, but it won't be the focus of today's deck.

Murder By Death

Death triggers, that is - but bonus points for any of you who recognized that old 1976 spoof of murder mysteries. Today we're going to be building around death triggers. A good place to start might be a look through Teysa Karlov decks. Teysa Karlov is an Orzhov commander who gives you additional death triggers and also gives your creature tokens vigilance and lifelink. Sometimes it's helpful to look through the lists of similar commanders even if they aren't in the exact same colors.

The key for Nimrod... er... Drivnod, beyond just forgetting about his terribly unfortunate name, is to remember to look for permanents that have triggered abilities. A triggered ability can be identified by the words "when", "whenever", or "at", which is generally found at the start of the ability. Only triggered abilities of permanents I control will be affected. I might run a sacrifice outlet like Viscera Seer to sacrifice a creature, but I won't get to Scry 1 twice because that is an activated ability. Ashnod's Altar can be used to sacrifice a creature to make 2 mana, but it won't give me 4 mana because that card doesn't have a triggered ability.

Fortunately, it's not hard to find cards with death-oriented triggered abilities in Black.

Ogre Slumlord
Pawn of Ulamog
Zulaport Cutthroat

Ogre Slumlord will give me a 1/1 Black Rat creature token whenever another nontoken creature dies. Bodies on the floor, or at least on the battlefield, will be very important for this deck - so much so that I was seriously considering including Bitterblossom and other token generators. Pawn of Ulamog will give me 0/1 colorless Eldrazi Spawn creature tokens which in turn can be sacrificed to make a colorless mana. Sifter of Souls is also in the list and is an Eldrazi that can give me 1/1 colorless Eldrazi Scion creature tokens that can also be sacrificed to make mana. I'm also running Open the Graves, which is an enchantment that will give me a 2/2 Black Zombie creature token whenever a nontoken creature I control dies.

I'm running a bunch of creatures that can turn death triggers into life loss for my opponents, life gain for me, or both. Zulaport Cutthroat might be the best of the bunch, hitting each of my opponents for 1 life and gaining me 1 life whenever another creature I control dies. Bastion of Remembrance is an enchantment that mirrors Zulaport Cutthroat's ability and will give me a 1/1 white Human Soldier creature token when it enters the battlefield. Blood Artist cares about any creature dying, but only lets me target one player for that 1 life loss. I'll still gain 1 life, and don't forget that all of these triggers get doubled with Drivnod on the field.

Harvester of Souls
Grave Pact
Massacre Wurm

Doubling death trigger payoffs is good, but when it comes in the form of card draw, it's great! Harvester of Souls will give me a card (or two) whenever another nontoken creature dies. I'm also running Grim Haruspex, which will give me card draw for nontoken creatures I control dying. Liliana, Dreadhorde General is a planeswalker with the static ability that whenever a creature I control dies I'll draw a card. She's got other abilities, but she's in this list for that card draw ability. Dark Prophecy is an enchantment in this deck that will have me draw a card and lose a life whenever a creature I control dies. Smothering Abomination is also in the mix. It will have me sacrifice a creature at the beginning of my upkeep, which makes me a little nervous, but whenever I sacrifice a creature I'll draw a card, or two if Drivnod is on the battlefield.

Grave Pact, Dictate of Erebos and Butcher of Malakir are all in this deck. They will each force my opponents to sacrifice creatures when my own creatures die, and they are genuinely miserable to play against. This deck isn't an attempt to rehabilitate Drivnod, Carnage Dominus and reintegrate him into polite society. I'm embracing his bad side so I'm OK with cards that my tablemates won't enjoy playing against. Nobody likes being forced to sacrifice creatures, and my opponents should consider themselves lucky I'm not running Tergrid, God of Fright as a hidden commander.

If forced sacrifice effects are annoying, at least they don't hurt your life total. Massacre Wurm, however, is going to be a real problem for anyone going wide with small creatures. When it enters the battlefield creatures my opponents control will get -2/-2 until end of turn. Whenever a creature an opponent dies, that player loses 2 life. With Drivnod on the field that will become 4 life. You'd think that having 10 creatures on the battlefield would be a good thing, but if they're goblins, elves or anything else with 1 or 2 power, Massacre Wurm and Drivnod, Carnage Dominus might just knock them out of the game!

I'm running a few other cards that care about death triggers like Black Market, an enchantment that can turn those deaths into Black mana on my upkeep. Revel in Riches can do the same, but by giving me treasures, and if I have 10 or more treasures on my upkeep I'll win the game.

Carnage In Progress

This list is a first draft, and as such it would definitely benefit from some gameplay and an eye on what could be tweaked and improved. Nearly all decks are works in progress, and I find myself wondering if I should throw a bone to my natural inclination to build around a commander damage strategy. Trailblazer's Boots and Whispersilk Cloak could give me a way to put someone on a three-turn clock and that's nothing to sneeze at.

I've also got a heaping helping of big mana producers in this list, but I decided not to run Exsanguinate or Torment of Hailfire. For me, those wincons are starting to feel a bit stale, as I've got a Mahadi, Emporium Master deck and a Maralen of the Mornsong deck that both lean on those cards as potential game enders.

This list could easily be pivoted over to have a few big mana payoffs or to have a voltron strategy and that might be a way for you to put your own spin on it. One thing I love about EDH is that there's no "right" way to build most decks. If one strategy appeals to you more than another, there's no reason not to move it in that direction and see how it plays.

If you wanted to tune this list up, you could add fast mana and some more pointed wincons. This current list is largely hoping to be a headache and to create an oppressive game where you grind out a victory over time, but it's always more efficient to tutor up a combo and just go for it. Exquisite Blood and Sanguine Bond might make sense, but the more you tune this list up, they more you'll find yourself wondering why you don't just rebuild it as a tuned K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth deck. Optimization can be a slippery slope and eventually you might find yourself just running whatever the best mono-Black cEDH deck is in the current meta. If that's your style, go for it, but you probably won't be playing a Drivnod deck once you're done with your optimization.

If a more casual or more budget-friendly deck is what you're looking for, you could cut out some of the big mana producers like Cabal Coffers, Crypt Ghast and Nirkana Revenant, and remove some of the more oppressive cards like Grave Pact and Dictate of Erebos. If you're playing in Black I think it makes a lot of sense to lean into the nastier cards and strategies but not everyone likes that style of play.

Final Thoughts

I may get a chance to play this list in my weekly Tabletop Simulator group, but it's more likely that I will not. We're going to try to do our monthly theme tonight and this month's theme is "custom Magic commanders". I'm not really into custom Magic, but was able to find an Elric of Melnibone custom card and built a deck around it.

Elric is one of many characters dreamed up by the great pulp fantasy writer Michael Moorcock in the 1970's he penned a long list of stories around characters who were all incarnations of the "Eternal Champion". Elric of Melnibone was the best known, but there were also stories about Dorian Hawkmoon, Erekose, and a character named Corum. After reading J.R.R. Tolkien in grade school, I read a lot of Moorcock's fantasy novels along with Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser sword-and-sorcery tales in Junior High School and even in High School.

That love of high fantasy is probably a big part of why I was so easily drawn into Magic. It probably also explains my dislike of the Warhammer 40k, Stranger Things, Walking Dead, Street Fighter, and Fortnite Magic cards. Fortunately, I've got a Lord of the Rings set to look forward to, so hopefully my feelings about UB (Universes Beyond) will soften a bit in the coming year.

I'm expecting to move on from Phyrexia: All Will Be One in the coming weeks. I'm very eager to start on March of Machines and have my eyes on Goro-Goro and Satoru for an upcoming column. I'll do my best to resist just building a deck with cards that have "oro" or "oru" in the card name. I may do a few scryfall searches to see how much nonsense I could get up to, but I've got other more serious ideas for that build that are too fun to pass up.

That's all I've got for today. Thanks for reading and I'll see you next week!

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