It’s Basically Christmas™ for Commander players! With Commander 2019’s release right around the corner, we’re going to be getting our hands on a bunch of new cards designed specifically for our favorite format. For the next several articles we’re going to be looking at new cards from the set, and this time we’re looking at Grismold, the Dreadsower.
So what does a deck helmed by the troll look like? Well, when determining how to build Grismold, we need to look at what his colors are good at doing alongside his ability. A 3/3 with trample is fine, but because he can grow so fast he’s going to be a prime target for removal. The new enchantment Gift of Doom is a great choice for protecting him; with indestructible he’ll stick around for a long time, and deathtouch means that he only needs to assign one damage to each blocker in order to trample over them! His group-hug-like ability to give each player a 1/1 Plant at the end of your turn may help your opponents some, but the good news is that if those tokens die (and we have 3 opponents) we can grow Grismold by a minimum of +4/+4 each turn!
Death to Tokens
The first thing to address is those creature tokens we’re giving our opponent. Allowing our opponents to keep their 1/1 creatures is not ideal. Sure, we have trample, but it’s better to make sure they can’t get any use from them. Luckily for us, that’s one of black’s specialties! We have access to a ton of “anti-anthems”: Cards like Illness in the Ranks and Virulent Plague will specifically kill tokens, while Night of Souls’ Betrayal shrinks all creatures. Giving all creatures -1/-1 permanently isn’t too bad for Grismold – he grows with every token death so he shakes off a measly -1/-1 like it is nothing. However, we will need to be careful if we want utility creatures like Blood Artist to live.
Less efficient cards exist in the anti-anthem realm like Curse of Death’s Hold and Ascendant Evincar. The curse lets us target someone specifically, so if a player is playing a creature token strategy themselves, like running the new Ghired, Conclave Exile deck for instance, then giving them a 1/1 token might be more dangerous than your other opponents. Cursing this player can counteract their own anthem effects. Ascendant Evincar buffs all black creatures and shrinks nonblack creatures, meaning those tokens will die and most of our own creatures (if we’ve built the deck properly) will grow in size.
With Plague Engineer we can name “Plant” when it enters the battlefield and give all plants our opponents control -1/-1. This will accomplish our goal of killing those pesky plants with the additional benefit of getting to keep ours around. With so many ways to ensure 1/1 tokens die, why not give out even more tokens for our opponents to instantly lose?
The Gifts We Give
Since we can cause 1/1 creatures to die the moment they enter the battlefield, Genesis Chamber is an easy addition to this deck. This makes it so that every nontoken creature comes with a bonus 1/1 Myr. Suddenly, Grismold is growing every time anyone plays creatures! Similarly, we can play Hunted Troll and gift someone four Faeries that will (hopefully) immediately die. Akroan Horse works in a similar fashion, where we give someone a 0/4 defender and everyone else starts making 1/1 tokens during that player’s upkeep. Forbidden Orchard fixes mana for us, and also hands out 1/1 tokens for our opponents to lose.
Moldervine Reclamation is a no-brainer to include in this deck. If we have Grismold and any of the previously mentioned anti-anthem cards, at the end of the turn we’ll end up drawing a card and gaining a life due to our token dying. Liliana, Dreadhorde General and Dark Prophecy are extremely similar, letting us draw cards when creatures die. Deathreap Ritual might seem like an auto-include in this list, but since it is a triggered ability at the beginning of the end step, it actually won’t trigger from Grismold’s tokens because they don’t get made (and instantly die) until the end step. We can still run it since creatures are bound to die during our turn anyway, but be aware that Grismold doesn’t automatically trigger it.
I love finding commons or uncommons that have awesome synergy with a Commander or strategy I’m building. Eternal Thirst gives Grismold lifelink and basically doubles his death trigger ability. Blade of the Bloodchief also grants this “growth upon death” trigger, and it works double on vampires! Speaking of vampires, Wizards has printed several vampires with abilities like Grismold’s. Yahenni, Undying Partisan, Malakir Cullblade, and Cordial Vampire all grow when other creatures die, and Cordial Vampire grows every vampire you control.
If we are playing a green-black deck that wants creatures to die so badly that we’re giving them away, Revel in Riches is a hilariously strong card to include. In a given game of Magic, especially Commander, it’s basically a guarantee that some creatures will die. In our deck however, we’re pumping out tokens that die at an alarming rate, and Revel in Riches lets us turn those timely deaths into treasures. These treasures can help us as mana to power out big-mana spells, or we can hang onto them to simply win the game!
Let’s Sow Some Dread
Primal Vigor is always a card I hesitate to play. It’s basically Doubling Season for every player, and that can be extremely dangerous for us to deal with. However, if we have Grismold and an anti-anthem out, Primal Vigor makes Grismold get big fast. Grismold creates a 1/1 token for each player, and Primal Vigor doubles them. Then they all die due to something like Illness in the Ranks, which triggers Grismold to put eight +1/+1 counters on himself (again assuming a 4-player game), but Primal Vigor makes that sixteen counters instead!
Hardened Scales, Corpsejack Menace, and Pir, Imaginative Rascal are great inclusions in this deck, as they help to make Grismold an even bigger threat. What’s great about Grismold is that his ability to put a counter on himself triggers upon each token’s death. That means if we’re killing four tokens per turn, Hardened Scales will add an extra counter for each token because they are separate triggers!
Reyhan, Last of the Abzan makes another great addition to the deck, especially when we have something like Corpsejack Menace on the battlefield. Reyhan‘s ability “moves” counters by actually placing “that many” new counters onto a creature. For example, if Grismold dies with ten +1/+1 counters on him and we control Reyhan and Corpsejack Menace, some creature is going to gain twenty +1/+1 counters! If we get Grimsold back and kill off that creature, he’d get forty +1/+1 counters! Sounds like we need to sacrifice these guys to Greater Good, eh?
Since Grismold has trample we most likely don’t need to worry about him being blocked. But on the off-chance that an opponent has enough blocking power to negate enough of the damage to survive, cards like Rogue’s Passage, Suspicious Bookcase, and Manifold Key exist to make a creature of our choice unable to be blocked. These types of cards excel in Voltron strategies, and since we’re doing a Voltron-lite build, they are perfect additions to help us close out the game.
The Other Stuff
Massacre Wurm and Massacre Girl are pretty awesome additions to this list. The Wurm causes life loss that shouldn’t be ignored, and Massacre Girl can annihilate a decent size board. You have to be careful with her as she could potentially trigger enough times to kill a sizable Grismold. Other than that, it’s up to you what removal you run.
Since we’re in green, we get a ton of ramp options as well. Your classics like Rampant Growth, Cultivate, and Kodama’s Reach are fine additions. Deathsprout is both removal and ramp and has that beautiful Seb Mckinnon art that a deck is made even better by having. Mana ramp and removal are extremely versatile parts of any Commander deck, so I encourage you to see what your options are and give the deck your own personal flavor.
Reap What You Sow
Grismold is an odd card on the surface. A 3/3 with trample that gives creatures to our opponents might sound bad, but when those creatures die and Grismold grows in size, his power becomes obvious. With the colors to kill off those creatures with ease, Grismold will get large, fast, and we’ll trample over what is left of our opponents’ battlefields after we’ve destroyed as much of it as possible.
I’m excited to get my hands on Commander 2019. The new cards we’re getting seem amazing, and I’m ready to see how well the precons are on their own before I take a crowbar to them and make them my own. Tune in next time when I build a Livonya Silone Voltron deck.