So last week was the Dark Ascension Prerelease, which was awesome! I managed to pick up all of the cards from the new set that I needed, won some packs, and had a great time. But because I’m degenerate, I decided to go to the release event this week as well, half hoping to go 0-2 drop and go play some Commander.
In my pool I had the fortune of opening Grimgrin, Corpse-Born and Gravecrawler. I won more than a few games by “going off” with those two. Sometimes Falkenrath Noble joined the party. Other times I got to loop Ghoulraisers to keep Grimgrin going.
Needless to say, I was hooked after that and immediately set about building a Grimgrin deck out of whatever pieces I had around that weren’t already in decks. I really wanted the deck to be more on the low-powered and budget end of the spectrum, since most of the decks that I have right now are pretty well tuned and heavily invested in.
As mentioned in the recent Slobad article, you can get a lot of value from sacrificing creatures to Grimgrin. You can protect your guys from removal like Swords to Plowshares. What I really want the deck to do is to loop Gravedigger effects as a slow but powerful recursion engine and a way to power up Grimgrin.
- Phyrexian Reclamation
- Dawn of the Dead
- Cackling Counterpart
- Mimic Vat
- Nezumi Graverobber
- Morgue Theft
- Tortured Existence
The plan for this deck is for it to be mostly commons and uncommons, built around generating incremental value with creatures that like hitting the graveyard over and over. The gravediggers are a huge part of this, since they let you keep rebuying other value guys or other gravediggers, keep a presence on the board at all times, and have a constant source of food for Grimgrin.
The two worst cards here are Tortured Existence and Grave Scrabbler, but the interaction between the two is pretty sweet. These probably aren’t good enough to stay in the deck very long, but I wanted to start with ALL of the gravediggers!
One of the sweet things about Innistrad Block is that it gave Zombie decks and graveyard decks all kinds of cards that enable them to do awesome things. Morbid as a mechanic plays particularly well with Grimgrin, since you can sacrifice creatures at will. Grimgrin also loves creatures that have abilities that trigger when they die, since you can activate those whenever you want as well. Even if you’re on a pretty strict budget, or just building with what you have around, you can build a pretty sweet deck almost exclusively out of Innistrad cards!
- Black Cat
- Floating-Dream Zubera
- Ashen-Skin Zubera
- Solemn Simulacrum
- Reassembling Skeleton
- Vengeful Pharaoh
- Evil Twin
Unfortunately there’s not too many of these, since you mostly want to be sacrificing Gravediggers, but the ones you do have are pretty awesome. First, you can’t imagine that I’d play a deck like this without the on-color Zuberas in it, right? This is a perfect home for them and it’s an excuse to play with my favorite tribe. Who would’ve known that the Zombie deck was actually a Zubera deck in disguise?
Shapesharer is actually there pretty much exclusively to copy Zuberas, though there are some other awesome things it can do, mostly by copying cards from the next set we’ll talk about. Black Cat is a flavorful inclusion that’s sort of like a second Ashen-Skin Zubera. Reassembling Skeleton lets you untap Grimgrin at will and is certainly very good, but I don’t know if I want such an easy mechanism since it does seem a little over done. Last, Vengeful Pharaoh is a great way to discourage people from attacking you, since it’s going to end up in your graveyard pretty much whenever you want it to. I’m sure there are plenty more cards that like to die so be sure to let me know which ones I missed in the comments!
Sacrifice other Stuff!
- Falkenrath Noble
- Diregraf Captain
- Nim Deathmantle
- Grave Pact
- Murder of Crows
- Reaper from the Abyss
- Mimic Vat
- Trinket Mage
As usual, the two sides of this are the cards that like to die and the cards that like to see other cards dying. The best cards here are Skullclamp (and the Trinket Mage that fetches it!), [card]Reaper from the Abyss, and Nim Deathmantle, since they generate so many extra cards just by being in play for a turn or two. There are so many opportunities to break these cards and really run away with a game using them.
Mimic Vat is pretty good in most decks, but especially good in this one where you can imprint whatever creature you want, whenever you want. Murder of Crows is a card that I was excited about for Commander from Innistrad and I haven’t really seen anyone playing it. That said, this is the perfect deck for it, since you want to filter through your deck for your best cards, stock up your graveyard with Pit Keeper, and Murder of Crows enables you to do all of those things.
The last card that’s kind of interesting is Falkenrath Noble. It’s sort of surprising how many decks have trouble beating a Falkenrath Noble, even without Grimgrin enabling it. Incremental value cards, like Falkenrath Noble, Reaper from the Abyss, and Murder of Crows are all so much more powerful than people give them credit for and are definitely things that I look to include in all of my decks.
Stock Your Graveyard!
- Moonlight Bargain
- Fact or Fiction
- Forbidden Alchemy
- Diabolic Tutor
- Buried Alive
- Beseech the Queen
- Mirror-Mad Phantasm
The graveyard is a very important resource for most Commander decks and this one is certainly no different. Cards like Fact or Fiction and Buried Alive have been used to stock graveyard for just about forever, but there are some new tools that are pretty exciting. Forbidden Alchemy and Mirror-Mad Phantasm from Innistrad are great for filling up your graveyard with fun stuff to take advantage of.
Then there’s also Moonlight Bargain, a card that doesn’t get nearly as much play as it should. If you can take advantage of your graveyard, you get to draw most of the five cards, regardless of how many actually end up in your hand.
The tutors are in this section because, frequently, you use them to go get one of these enablers because your graveyard is so vital to the way this deck wants to play the game. You have a full seven Gravedigger effects that you don’t really want to play until you have creatures in your graveyard plus tons of other ways to buy back and otherwise take advantage of having guys in the graveyard. Because of that, these kinds of effects are very important for getting your engines going either in the early game or after having your graveyard exiled.
Sometimes you just need to kill them and Grimgrin isn’t always good enough. Commanders do occasionally get tucked, and some decks are more capable of dealing with single creatures, making it harder to deal 21 points with Grimgrin, so you need to have a plan to kill other players.
The first thing this deck wants to do is just suit up Grimgrin with Swiftfoot Boots or Helm of the Ghastlord and beat in. Lightning Greaves and Bonehoard would also be awesome choices for these slots but I just don’t have any additional copies of those cards lying around.
Additionally, you have a bunch of cards that can win the game on their own. Token generators like Grave Titan and Myr Battlesphere can run away with the game pretty easily, especially when you have cards like Nim Deathmantle in your deck. In addition to that, you’ve also got Massacre Wurm, which can single-handedly kill someone playing a tokens deck, which there are a ton of in my local metagame.
For anyone who’s unfamiliar, if you get Grimgrin, Corpse Born and Bloodline Keeper in your graveyard, you can make Necrotic Ooze infinitely large by making a vampire, then sacrificing it to untap Necrotic Ooze. It’s possible that it’s worth adding Thornbite Staff to this deck so that you can go infinite with Grimgrin and Bloodline Keeper equipped with Thornbite Staff.
Card Advantage and Utility
- Azure Mage
- Phyrexian Arena
- Withered Wretch
- Makeshift Mannequin
- Syphon Flesh
- Faerie Macabre
- Think Twice
- Tragic Slip
There are a ton of sweet cards here that I’m excited about! It’s exciting to see what you come up with when you have to build with restrictions of any kind, since it makes you think a little outside the box and find more corner case cards.
There are a few cards that are just generically good, like Phyrexian Arena, Damnation, and Makeshift Mannequin. But then there are some cards that are only really good in a deck like this one, like Faerie Macabre and Tragic Slip. In this deck, Faerie Macabre is uncounterable graveyard hate that’s easily recurred and Tragic Slip is just Swords to Plowshares with no drawback!
Another exciting card is Azure Mage. This is a card I’ve been championing in a few formats recently, and I believe that it’s criminally underplayed in Commander. This is a format where people go big and where you run out of cards. There will be turns where you’ve got nothing to do and just want to draw two cards. Granted, Azure Mage is much better in a deck that actively wants to and is able to recycle it, but the card is just much more powerful than it’s given credit for.
The worst card in this set is easily Think Twice. This should probably be almost anything else, and it’s probably because I’ve been playing too much Standard, but I really like the idea of milling away Think Twice and then getting a free card. Mulldrifter is likely much better, but somehow I don’t have any additional Mulldrifters.
The Mana Base
Manabases are especially difficult when you’re working with whatever you have, since that usually doesn’t involve an abundance of dual lads. Two color decks tend to be pretty easy though, and fortunately I picked up a Devour for Power preconstructed deck awhile ago and was able to scavenge a bunch of fixing from that!
Every deck needs some kind of acceleration. My personal inclination is to stay away from cards that draw attention, like Sol Ring, in preference of things that can either turn into cards later, provide color fixing, or scale-up as the game goes on.
Mistvein Borderpost can be used as a land drop, but more frequenty you just want to play it as a Darksteel Ingot that lets you cast a turn four Grimgrin. This is probably a deck that wants more artifact mana, especially doubling effects, but I just don’t have the collection to support that right now, so instead I’m going with a slightly higher land count than usual, starting at 39 lands instead of the typical 37 or 38 or so.
- Nephalia Drownyard
- Shimmering Grotto
- Evolving Wilds
- Terramorphic Expanse
- Miren, the Moaning Well
- Jwar Isle Refuge
- Sunken Ruins
- Dimir Aqueduct
- High Market
- Tectonic Edge
- Barren Moor
- Dreadship Reef
- Drowned Catacomb
- Haunted Fengraf
- 15 Swamp
- 10 Island
With the mana taken care of, let’s look at what the finished deck looks like:
[deckbox did=”a146″ size=”small” width=”560″]
It’s exciting when a deck turns out exactly how you wanted it to. And that’s what happened here.
I wanted a slow, grindy, theme deck that interacted along the same axes that my group was comfortable with and was much closer to their power level. Playing with a bunch of slow, creature-based recursion engines means that you’re never going to be out of gas but that your most powerful plays are much worse than they could be.
You could certainly build the deck to be more capable of comboing off, since there are a number of ways to generate infinite [card Tendrils of Agony]storm[/card] with Rooftop Storm, of all cards. The deck could also be a lot more casual, focusing a lot more on Zombie tribal than on using Grimgrin as a value-engine to dominate the longer games.
Regardless, I’m pretty happy with how it’s turned out, and if you’ve got any suggestions to improve the deck (but not too much!), I’d be glad to hear them in the comments.
As always, if you’ve got a deck you want looked at, or an idea you want to talk about, I’m always glad to talk about the format, so get in touch with me via Twitter or email! Next week I’m planning on finishing up my Yomiji, Who Bars the Way deck that I was challenged to make, so be sure to check it out!
@cag5383 on Twitter