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Korvold, Gleeful Glutton in Commander

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If there was ever a time for gluttony, that time might be Halloween. At least in the States, this odd little holiday marked by ghosts and goblins is a time when kids eagerly anticipate gathering free candy and then pigging out on chocolates and sweets. Many families limit their kids' access to the bags of candy they gather when trick-or-treating, but nearly every American child has gluttony on their mind.

Today's commander is a legendary Dragon Noble with gluttony on his mind. Korvold, Gleeful Glutton was released in Wilds of Eldraine with the WOC set code, though he was not part of either of the WOE Commander decks. Korvold's infamous predecessor, Korvold, Fae-Cursed King, became well known as a viable cEDH Food Chain combo commander. The prospect of a new Korvold card was exciting, though at first glance it seems clear that Korvold, Gleeful Glutton isn't nearly as easy to break wide open.

Korvold, Gleeful Glutton

A 4/4 Dragon Noble with flying, trample and haste is good but when you look at Korvold's casting cost, I'd forgive you for immediately moving on. The good news is that Korvold casts 1 less to cast for each card type among permanents you've sacrificed this turn. That means I'll have to build this deck around ways to drop that casting cost so I can actually play my commander before the game is nearly over. My payoff for doing combat damage to a player with Korvold is pretty good. I'll put X +1/+1 counters on Korvold and draw X cards where X is the number of permanent types among cards in my graveyard.

Card draw is great. Making Korvold a bigger combat threat is great. Hoops to jump through to reduce the casting cost of my commander means I've got a puzzle to solve as a deckbuilder. I don't expect this is going to end up being anything but a fun casual deck with a theme of sacrificing permanents but let's dig in and see what kind of nonsense we can get up to with Korvold, Gleeful Glutton.

The Sacrifices We Make

There are a lot of cards in Magic that can be sacrificed for some benefit. For this deck my goal is to be able to cast Korvold, Gleeful Glutton as early as possible because my easiest source of card draw is right there in the command zone. If I can get Korvold out and start swinging and doing combat damage, I can start drawing towards whatever I've got in my deck that might help me threaten a win.

The problem with this strategy is that I'm uniquely positioned to not fully benefit from cards that require mana to let me sacrifice them. Take Burnished Hart as an example.

Amulet of Vigor
Burnished Hart
Sakura-Tribe Elder

Even with an Amulet of Vigor on the field, which will untap permanents when they enter the battlefield under my control, Burnished Hart isn't necessarily an auto-include in this deck. Burnished Hart is an artifact creature that costs 3 mana to sacrifice to put 2 lands onto the battlefield tapped.

Without an Amulet of Vigor I'd be down 3 mana, but I would save 2 mana on Korvold for having sacrificed an artifact creature that turn. If I had Amulet of Vigor, I'd be down 3 mana, but the 2 lands would enter and untap so with my savings of 2 mana on casting Korvold I would be up 1 mana. That's not bad but it requires Amulet of Vigor, which I often won't have on the battlefield.

Instead of playing cards that require mana, I decided to focus on cards that can be sacrificed for free. A creature like Sakura-Tribe Elder is obviously good, but I was able to dig up a few cards that are even better fits for this list.

Satyr Hedonist
Verdant Eidolon
Glittering Stockpile

Satyr Hedonist is a 2 mana green Satyr who can be sacrificed for a red mana to generate three Red mana. Sacrificing a creature and adding two mana will account for three of the 8 mana needed to cast Korvold. Verdant Eidolon is a four-mana Green Spirit who can be sacrificed for a green mana to add three mana of any color, again accounting for three of the 8 mana I'll need. The former is a one-shot mana producer but Eidolon can be brought back to my hand from my graveyard whenever I cast a multicolored spell. Korvold is multicolored, so I may be able to do that on the very same turn that it was sacrificed.

I've got a few artifacts that fit in nicely with this build. Glittering Stockpile can tap for a Red mana and to put a stash counter on it. I can also tap and sacrifice it to add X mana of any one color where X is the number of stash counters on it. Also in the list are Mimic and Dire Mimic, both of which can be sacrificed to add one mana of any color. They can each be turned into creatures until end of turn, but that costs mana so I won't be doing that unless I have a good reason and I've got extra mana to play with.

Reckless Barbarian
Generator Servant
Diamond Lion

My list of sacrifice ramp cards isn't terribly long, but includes Reckless Barbarian, a two mana 2/2 Dragon Barbarian who can be sacrificed to add 2 mana to my mana pool. Generator Servant can be sacrificed to add 2 mana to my mana pool. If that mana is used to cast a creature spell, that creature will gain haste until end of turn.

My most questionable pick for this list is Diamond Lion. This shout-out to Lion's Eye Diamond is a terrible, no good, horrible card but I opened a full-art foil years ago and have always wanted to slot it into the right deck. This 2-mana Artifact Creature is a cat who can tap to discard my hand, sacrifice itself, and add 3 mana of any one color to my mana pool. If I've been able to play out most of my hand, I might not mind having an empty hand if I'm about to play and swing with Korvold to draw a few cards. Diamond Lion is an Artifact Creature so he'll represent 2 card types in my graveyard and if I can add a land, enchantment, instant, sorcery, or planeswalker, I'll be drawing even more when Korvold hits someone.

Diamond Lion might be setting me up for a bad time. A single Pongify or Swords to Plowshares and I could find myself without my commander, without a hand, and probably facing a real uphill climb to get back into the game. I'm still going to run Diamond Lion, but if it backfires on me too many times I might drop it out for something better.

Odds and Ends

There are a few support cards that are worth mentioning. I've got a load of ways to reduce the cost of casting my commander, but I also want to have a variety of card types in my graveyard and I want to be able to make Korvold a bigger combat threat.

Khalni Heart Expedition
Song of Freyalise
Lord Windgrace

Khalni Heart Expedition gets quest counters with landfall triggers and I can remove three quest counters and sacrifice it to tutor up two basic lands and put them onto the battlefield tapped. I'm also running Seal of Primordium as an enchantment I can sacrifice to destroy target artifact or enchantment, but I decided I would run a few Sagas as the older ones sacrifice themselves after they hit their last chapter.

Song of Freyalise is a two mana green enchantment that can can turn my creatures into mana dorks for a few turns. Its final chapter will put a +1/+1 counter on each creature I control and give them vigilance, trample and indestructible until end of turn. The Binding of the Titans and Braids's Frightful Return are also in the list. With a little planning I can set up the turn to cast Korvold well in advance. If I hold back a fetch land or sequence things right, I can get an extra sacrifice or two, making his casting cost a little easier to afford.

I'm running a few planeswalkers in this list. I can't guarantee they'll get sent to the graveyard, but players do love to kill planeswalkers and if they leave them alone I'll be happy to get an emblem or two if I can manage it. Lord Windgrace is particularly good at helping me load up my graveyard with just the right cards. If I can get him up to 11 loyalty, I'll be able to blow up a half dozen nonland permanents and put 12 power worth of green Cat Warriors with forestwalk.

I'm also running Domri Rade, Garruk, Caller of Beasts and Vivien Reid. I was working from the planeswalkers I had available in my collection. I don't often run planeswalkers in my decks so I had dozens to choose from, but there may well be better picks for this commander than what I have in today's list.

Two-Handed Axe
Zopandrel, Hunger Dominus
Vigor

It's not unlikely that I'll be able to get Korvold up to 5 or 6 power. He starts at four power and gets +1/+1 counters when he deals combat damage to a player. If I've got seven mana available I can cast Sweeping Cleave as an Instant to give him double-strike and then play and equip it to double his power until end of turn when he attacks. That ought to kill someone pretty nicely in a single attack, as he'll get counters and I will draw cards from both first strike and regular combat damage.

Zopandrel, Hunger Dominus will also double the power and toughness of each creature I control until end of turn. That quadruples if Two-Handed Axe is equipped but if Korvold has managed to get enough +1/+1 counters I'll only need one of them. Vigor is also in the list as a way to protect my commander and all of my creatures from combat damage. If Vigor is out, damage dealt to other creatures I control is prevented and they get +1/+1 counters equal to the damage prevented this way.

How We Win

All of this sacrifice-themed deckbuilding is fine, but I haven't yet figured out how this deck will win games. There aren't any combos that naturally fit this iteration of Korvold. Food Chain and Nim Deathmantle are great combo cards, but neither one plays into today's commander in any meaningful way.

I thought about loading this deck up with Fleshbag Marauder type creatures and playing an oppressive forced-sacrifice strategy, but that's not my style. When I play casual EDH I'd rather lose a few more games than play oppressive decks that aren't fun to play against.

This commander doesn't seem to naturally want to go wide, but I was able to find a theme.

Dragonlord's Servant
Draconic Muralists
Atarka, World Render

I want to save mana on casting Korvold, Gleeful Glutton, so Dragonlord's Servant and Dragonspeaker Shaman fit right in. If I want to save mana on my commander I might as well play a few extra Dragons to benefit from having them around. Draconic Muralists will let me tutor a Dragon to my hand when it dies. A great target for that tutor might be Atarka, World Render. Atarka gives my Dragons double-strike when they attack. Double strike is a great fit for Korvold, whose card draw ability is triggered by combat damage to a player.

Ognis, the Dragon's Lash
Savage Ventmaw
Hellkite Charger

Ognis, the Dragon's Lash is a four-mana Viashino Warrior who will have me create a tapped Treasure token whenever a creature I control with haste attacks. If you remember that Amulet of Vigor I mentioned earlier, it would make my Treasure token untap even though it would enter tapped. If I've also got Hellkite Charger attacking alongside, I'll be able to pay seven mana (from the Ventmaw, hopefully), two of which must be Red, to get another combat phase!

My dream scenario of getting infinite combat steps is highly unlikely to occur, but I enjoy having things for the deck to achieve that aren't easy and aren't simple. Winning with this "combo" would take a lot of games, a lot of luck, and should be all the more fulfilling because of it.

Gleeful Gluttony

I suspect this card might at one point in the design process have had Food tokens on it, as there isn't really a clear link between Korvold's mechanics and his moniker. I think if you wanted to build this deck around Food tokens, Treasure tokens or some other token, you might be able to reduce your casting cost, but you might not do as good a job of filling up your graveyard. That's why I didn't lean towards tokens, but I can see that as a reasonable build path for this card.

I think a focus on Dragons works well with Korvold, and there are dozens of other dragons in Jund colors that you could go with. In a way it's nice that Korvold doesn't lead you down a single path, but this commander does feel a little weak in terms of synergy. Once you have Korvold on the field, sacrificing things doesn't do much other than load up your graveyard.

Korvold, Gleeful Glutton | Commander | Stephen Johnson

Card Display


You might notice the incredible lack of instants and sorceries in this list. As I wrote this column up I did pause to consider whether this was a mistake. More card types in the graveyard does mean more card draw... but instants and sorceries won't actually help reduce my commander's casting cost. There is a solid argument for playing more instants and sorceries, if they were the right ones for the deck you were trying to cobble together. If this list struggles I could see myself slotting in a handful of ramp spells.

Early Results

I was able to play this list in paper and online in my Thursday night Tabletop Simulator playgroup. It was a scramble to get my fetch lands in time, but I got the deck sleeved up for the first game on a recent Tuesday night at the LGS.

I managed to get out an early Glittering Stockpile and a Satyr Hedonist but before committing my commander to the field I played Atarka, World Render. On the following turn I was able to swing with Atarka and Korvold for what would have been 20 damage in the air on a tablemate playing Cadira, Caller of the Small. They had a sizable army of tokens with no reach or flying blockers, and she was able to use an Arachnogenesis to stop my combat damage.

Two of us, including myself, died on the Cadira player's next turn thanks to a Mirror Entity. If I had gotten another turn I would have been able to play Zopandrel, Hunger Dominus to swing for 40 damage in the air. I may not have won the game, but I was able to get my commander out and I got to see a glimpse of what the deck might be able to do.

The second game was online using Tabletop Simulator. It was a 6-player pod, which always feels like a bad idea, and this one took over three hours to get through. I managed to win with Korvold, eliminating four out of my five tablemates with combat damage from Dragons. I got lucky in a lot of ways and the game could easily have gone to a few other players so it was far a cakewalk. It was, however, a reminder that decks built around flying attackers will occasionally stumble into situations where nobody happens to have reach or flying blockers.

Two-Handed Axe and Hellkite Charger were key cards in my late game attacks, but Korvold really put in work. For most of the game I had four card types in my graveyard so I was adding four +1/+1 counters and drawing four cards quite regularly, to the point that I was wishing I had a Reliquary Tower on the field. I probably could have eliminated a few tablemates much earlier in the game but I didn't want to knock anyone out early so I was playing a more friendly game.

I still don't think this Korvold is a high-powered commander, but it did better than I thought it would. The highlight of the night in that second game might have been the uproar of laughter when I shared the fact that I was playing the hilariously bad Diamond Lion in the list. I started to refer to it as "my wincon" and if it keeps getting that kind of reaction I may have to keep it in the deck even though it's not a great card.

Final Thoughts

I've got a sneaking suspicion this deck may not survive to the end of the year, but I have never been one to keep a deck sleeved up for long if it doesn't really perform. This Korvold is a pretty straightforward commander with a casting cost that challenges you to find a way to get him out earlier than very late in the game.

If you face a ton of removal and boardwipes in your games, this might not be the deck for you. Jumping through a bunch of hoops to play Korvold on turn four or five, only to have him back in the command zone costing two mana more isn't going to feel good. The fact that you're sacrificing permanents as part of the process of getting up to Korvold's casting cost means you might be facing three or four turns before you're able to try again.

I'm still going to trot my Korvold deck out a few more times but with Lost Caverns of Ixalan rapidly approaching, I have a feeling I may want to free up those sleeves for a new deck sooner rather than later.

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

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