Gemstone Mining will normally focus on one obscure card with a bunch of different ways to use it, attempting to highlight how something seemingly mediocre can be potentially great. This week we’re going to focus on three different gems that synergize with some of the new Commanders from the upcoming Commander 2019 set!
Volrath, the Shapestealer had many minds off to the races to figure out what silly things you could potentially do. Looking at his EDHREC listing, it would appear the general consensus is to slap a ton of -1/-1 counters onto your opponents’ creatures and occasionally steal one, turning it into a 7/5. Maybe you just turn Volrath into Master Biomancer and put seven +1/+1 counters on every creature you control when they enter the battlefield. Or maybe you just make him into a creature with infect like Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon. Those seem rather impressive, all things considered.
What I like about Volrath is that all you need to do is pay one mana, and just like that you have a 7/5 creature. It reminds me of Gigantomancer, a card I’ve seriously considered writing about in Gemstone Mining before. The difference here is that Volrath becomes a copy of that creature instead of that creature being amplified on its own. This is an important distinction because you can attack with Volrath and then activate his ability. Want to be able to attack with a 7/5 Wayward Swordtooth but lack ten permanents? Volrath has you covered! Unfortunately, Sultai doesn’t have too many creatures that “cant’ attack” that are worth copying onto a 7/5 body that’s attacking outside of Wayward Swordtooth, and the dinosaur doesn’t even really want to be attacking at the end of the day.
Diviner Spirit is a card begging to be buffed. A 2/4 that has no evasion for five mana? If it deals combat damage we get to draw two cards but so does the player we hit? At least we can slap Blade of Selves on it for a bit more value.
Volrath turning himself into a 7/5 that will draw you and the opponent you hit seven cards is quite impressive. It’s only improved by cards like Narset, Parter of Veils, Consecrated Sphinx, Fate Unraveler, and Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted, depending on the mood you’re in. Of course, Volrath doesn’t come with built-in evasion, but staples like Whispersilk Cloak and Rogue’s Passage are pretty easy to get on the battlefield and activate. You’ll be drawing a ton of cards in no time!
Only in Death is One Truly Magnificent
Gerrard, Weatherlight Hero could be considered Yet Another Boros Attacks Commander™ , and it’s easy to see why: a 3/3 with first strike that returns everything, excluding himself, to the battlefield upon death? Board wipes be damned! As a Commander he can return himself to the Command Zone and come back to repeat said shenanigans later, so aggression is an easy tactic for him to support.
Gerrard does open up your options to run degenerate cards like Jokulhaups, but that would make your playgroup hate you with a fiery passion. Instead, you could attempt to make a deck that recurs artifacts with cards like Faith’s Reward and also abuses enter-the-battlefield effects like Priest of Urabrask. The former would play like an eggs deck, while the latter lends itself to something more interesting.
Controlling Ashnod’s Altar allows you to sacrifice all of your creatures for two mana each. If you make sure Gerrard is the last creature you sacrifice this way, the next thing you know you’ve got a bunch of colorless mana and all of your creatures are back on the battlefield! Impact Tremors aside, what exactly can we do with something like that?
Assuming we’ve sacrificed Taj-Nar Swordsmith and Gerrard, we can pay four mana into the swordsmith’s enter the battlefield ability and tutor up a four mana equipment. Panharmonicon can double this trigger so if we’ve managed to make a bunch of mana, we could tutor up two equipment! Hammer of Nazahn and one other equipment would do just fine in this situation allowing you to automatically attach both when they enter. Or maybe you want to go true Voltron and tutor up two of the three Kaldra equipment like Shield of Kaldra and Sword of Kaldra. If Stoneforge Mystic is one of your creatures that is making a triumphant return thanks to Gerrard, you can tutor up the Helm of Kaldra and smile deviously. Or just use Restoration Angel to blink Taj-Nar Swordsmith for an additional trigger or two. The choice is yours!
You Don’t Kill Me, I Kill Me
The final Commander we’re going to mine a gem for is Greven, Predator Captain. Greven wants you to try and kill yourself so he can become much larger. Slapping Basilisk Collar on him or controlling an effect like Whip of Erebos allows you to gain the life you paid back, and then some when Greven deals damage. Exquisite Blood with Greven gains you your life back as well, and if he has lifelink you get to double that life gain.
Alongside his buff from life loss, Greven enables himself by making you sacrifice a creature for card draw based on power and life loss based on toughness. Vilis, Broker of Blood turns the life loss from the creature’s toughness that you sacrifice into even more card draw to ensure you find what you are looking for.
When it comes to creatures to kill off to Greven’s ability, you’re in prime reanimation and creature stealing colors, so do with that information what you will. If we don’t want to rely on stealing our opponents’ creatures, we do have a very consistent option:
Haakon, Stromgald Scourge is such an odd card. He can only be cast from your graveyard and he’ll drain you for two life if he dies. The good news is that this is the exact type of card we want in a Greven deck. When we sacrifice him to Greven we draw three cards and lose five life, turning Greven into a 10/5. This isn’t the most brutal thing to happen in a game of Commander, but the ability to continually cast Haakon from our graveyard means a continuous loop of a 10/5 attacking. And that’s not even including any other abilities making us lose life during the turn. Talk about value!
Never Fear, the Time is Near!
Commander 2019 is right around the corner, and the potential for awesome new Commander decks feels like it is through the roof. While the combos and synergies above aren’t at all broken, I hope they’ve inspired you to brew up your own decks with the new Commander cards. Tune in next time when I’ll find a way to go infinite with Steamcore Weird.