One of the things I liked the most about Battlebond was the Partner with mechanic. While Partner is an interesting mechanic it is seriously limited, since Wizards needs to be careful not to create a partner that is completely broken with another partner. This makes it difficult to create new partners.
Partner with, though, allowed them to create interesting legendary creatures that are good and just a little better when paired with their partner! The most famous pair has to be Pir and Toothy who offer token increases, big creatures, and card draw. I have built a Pir and Toothy 60 card deck in the past and it is a blast to play! Putting a second Toothy onto the battlefield allows you to sacrifice the first one and draw all those cards, which puts all those counters on the new Toothy! And you thought they were powerful as commanders!
This time around I'd like to look at Gorm the Great and Virtus the Veiled. These fine fellows are very combat focused and are really built to work together. Let's look at each separately, then pair them up.
Gorm is a 2/7 creature for four mana with vigilance. When he attacks in combat, if your opponent has two or fewer creatures, they both have to block Gorm. If the opponent has more than two creatures, two of them must block Gorm, and the rest can block however the opponent chooses. This is nothing particularly special. Gorm handles combat well with 7 toughness, but only 2 power means that he isn't likely going to kill a lot of the creatures he will block. In fact, if the opponent uses a couple of creatures with 3 toughness to block, Gorm will do nothing and he will likely die. Gorm needs a little help. While trample would be nice, deathtouch is probably a better pairing. That would let him kill both of the creatures blocking him.
Virtus is a 1/1 with Deathtouch for three mana. When he deals combat damage to a player, that player loses half their life rounded up. The "rounded up" part is really good. An opponent at 15 isn't really going to care they are going to seven instead of eight, but an opponent at seven isn't going to be thrilled to go to three the next time. The obvious issue with Virtus is that anything kills it. Deathtouch is great, but practically everyone will give up a token, or even a decent creature, to stop their life total from going from forty to twenty in a turn. Virtus needs some way to survive combat, whether that means making him unblockable or just big enough to take a hit from a blocker.
By now, it should be pretty obvious that the two are meant to attack together. If an opponent doesn't want to lose half their life total, they will need at least three creatures so two can block Gorm and the third can be put in front of Virtus. This gets a little more tricky for a lot of decks to manage!
Even paired together, there is room for improvement for these guys, and I love that! Having a pair of cards that just crush without any help is powerful but it just takes away the fun of building a deck around them!
After looking at the Virtus/Gorm partnership, I decided there were three things I wanted to add to a deck. The first was going to be Lure-style effects. Lure is an old-school aura that demands all the creatures an opponent controls must block the enchanted creature. Way back in "the day" this would be used as a way to get your army of creatures past an opponent's army of creatures. Taunting Elf has also played that role effectively for a lot of players.
My reason for Lure-style effects is my playgroup. The friends I normally play with tend to have larger, complicated board states. While I appreciate the work that Gorm can do, forcing two creatures to block him just isn't going to be enough to get Virtus through. Adding in some Lure effects will help that along. After going through my collection, I could have simply added four copies of Lure to the deck, but I wanted to mix it up a bit. While I'd have Shinen of Life's Roar in the deck if I owned one, I instead went with Prized Unicorn, Golgari Decoy, Nemesis Mask, and one copy of Lure. I would have chosen four ways to give Gorm the Lure ability, but my collection just wouldn't allow it. Hopefully the Unicorn and the Decoy will be able to come off the bench and give Gorm a breather every once in a while!
The second thing I wanted was evasion for Virtus. I didn't want to have to rely on Gorm being out there every time Virtus was ready to attack, so having Virtus be able to dodge blockers without Gorm just seemed to make sense. Whispersilk Cloak is the obvious choice for all of us Commander players, but I wanted something a little different. Trailblazer's Boots is a card that is gaining popularity and I love it for this deck. Virtually everyone plays nonbasic lands in their decks now, so this is just unblockable almost all the time. It doesn't hurt that I love the art too. A well-worn pair of boots is just a great image!
Prowler's Helm is another way to make Virtus unblockable. Walls are virtually extinct in games of Magic that I play, so the downside is irrelevant.
A third evasion option I chose is an old favorite of mine: Dauthi Embrace. For 2 mana, I can give any creature shadow! This is great to make Virtus unblockable and really fits with the Virtus the Veiled's name! The other joy with Dauthi Embrace is that you can give it to other creatures as well. This means I can give opponents attacking each other shadow as well! It is also fun to give an opponent's creature shadow so it can't block! Very flexible!
The third thing I wanted was a way to make Gorm more effective. He needs to kill the creatures he blocks! Deathtouch is the obvious choice! I jumped on Quietus Spike as one of my options. Giving Gorm deathtouch means that both creatures blocking will die. Quietus Spike also allows any other creature to be a version of Virtus, so a Deathrite Shaman can step into Virtus' role when needed. Bow of Nylea was the second card I had handy that could provide deathtouch, as well as everything else the Bow can offer.
I also happened to have a spare copy of Grafted Exoskeleton, so I threw it in. Admittedly, giving poison counters to opponents renders Virtus pointless, but giving Gorm infect allows him to give -1/-1 counters to creatures, so I hope that will render the blockers gradually dead. And yes, if I had a Basilisk Collar, I would use that instead.
In the end, this is what I decided upon:
Dodgeball Team | Casual | Bruce Richard
- Creatures (15)
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 1 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Deathrite Shaman
- 1 Golgari Decoy
- 1 Harvester of Souls
- 1 Prized Unicorn
- 1 Reclamation Sage
- 1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
- 1 Thorn of the Black Rose
- 3 Gorm the Great
- 3 Virtus the Veiled
- Instants (6)
- 1 Assassin's Trophy
- 1 Beast Within
- 1 Deathsprout
- 1 Golgari Charm
- 1 Putrefy
- 1 Status // Statue
- Artifacts (13)
- 1 Bow of Nylea
- 1 Dowsing Dagger
- 1 Elbrus, the Binding Blade
- 1 Grafted Exoskeleton
- 1 Helm of the Host
- 1 Infiltration Lens
- 1 Nemesis Mask
- 1 Prowler's Helm
- 1 Quietus Spike
- 1 Skeleton Key
- 1 Trailblazer's Boots
- 2 Fireshrieker
Having run Pir and Toothy before, you don't need four copies of each. Since they search for each other, the deck has virtually six copies of each which should provide you with at least one of them by turn three in every game.
There were a few other cards that I thought were particularly interesting with Gorm and Virtus. Fireshrieker and any other card that gives doublestrike is delightful. With Gorm, you get in two damage before the blockers even have a chance to kill him. However, with Virtus, things get particularly nasty. Virtus deals one damage with first strike, then they lose half their life. Then do it again! This can bring an opponent from 20 life to four in a single swing (20, 19, 9, 8, 4)! An opponent at six life is just dead when a doublestriking Virtus hits!
Helm of the Host is another fun card! With two copies of Gorm, your opponent now needs five creatures to stop Virtus! Two copies of Virtus offer even more misery. A player at 20 life would lose two life to the combat damage, going to 18. Then that player loses half of their life going to 9, then loses half their life, rounded up, again, going to 4. The token also enters the battlefield, so it will allow you to search for the other partner in your library! How could I not include this card!
I also included a copy of Elbrus, the Binding Blade in the deck. Since the deck is designed to allow Virtus to do damage to an opponent, I hope to flip into Withengar Unbound regularly!
I was also excited for a handful of cards that do the usual things you want from a deck, but were particularly useful in this deck. Status // Statue gave me a way to destroy permanents, and would also give Gorm deathtouch when our opponents weren't expecting it. Dowsing Dagger was a form of ramp well suited to the deck. Virtus would be a little bigger and the Dagger would flip into a Lost Vale tapping for three mana.
My card draw was interesting as well. Thorn of the Black Rose would add the Monarch to the game. A 1/3 creature with deathtouch is handy, but the card draw at the end of my turn is free card draw for a deck that should be able to hit an opponent and take the Monarch from anyone who tries to take it from me. Skeleton Key and Infiltration Lens should allow me to draw plenty of cards. Harvester of Souls in a deck that should see plenty of creatures dying in combat will likely draw me enough cards that I'll be discarding them regularly.
The deck is untested and I'll be interested to see how it goes. Will I need more lifegain? I have no way to protect Gorm and Virtus, so will that be an area that will need to be addressed? I look forward to getting in games to determine where improvements need to be made. If you've run Gorm and Virtus, I'd love to hear what you thought and where you think I should make changes.