It’s that time of year again, folks: Time for Pumpkin Spiced Foodstuffs™, jack o’ lanterns, people saying the word “spooky” a little too often… What I’m trying to say is that it’s almost Halloween, and in the spirit of the season today we’re going to look at a pretty spooky new card from Throne of Eldraine: Syr Konrad, the Grim .
This Grim Rider has a big chunk of text on him to explain his triggered ability, but all it does each time is deal 1 damage to each opponent. Here’s a list-form breakdown of the things that trigger his ability:
- Whenever any other creature dies
- Whenever a creature card is put into any graveyard from anywhere other than the battlefield (triggers from dying)
- Whenever a creature card leaves our graveyard. It can go anywhere else, as long as it leaves your graveyard.
If we’re playing a deck that has any sort of graveyard mechanic in it, Konrad is going to have plenty of opportunities to trigger. Just playing a game of Magic means at least a few creatures are going to die, which in turn means Konrad will get at least some work done on our opponents. But if he is our commander, and we build the deck around him, we can turn our trigger opportunities up to eleven!
Dredging Up Old Cards
There are only a few cards with the Dredge mechanic in mono-black, but the three creatures that do exist are absolute all-stars in this deck. Golgari Thug, Stinkweed Imp, and Necroplasm all have decent usefulness on the battlefield, but their real utility comes from the ability to put cards into our graveyard and remove themselves from it! At a minimum, Syr Konrad will trigger once every time we use Dredge to put a creature into our hand from the graveyard instead of drawing a card. Plus, each card that goes into the graveyard from Dredge has a chance to be a creature, which will trigger Konrad as well.
Tortured Existence is an incredible card with Konrad on the battlefield: As long as there is a creature in our graveyard and a creature in our hand, we can pay a single black mana and have Syr Konrad deal two damage to each opponent (one for the creature we discard, and one for the creature that leaves our graveyard to go to our hand). We can repeat that process as many times as we have the mana for. Assuming just five mana (enough to cast Konrad), that’s ten damage to each opponent every turn!
In a similar vein, creatures like Stitcher’s Supplier and Returned Reveler will load our graveyard with cards, as well as providing a soft creature-body for us to throw into the graveyard as soon as we can.
Spell it Out for Them
There are only a few self-milling cards in mono-black that are worth playing. Cards like Bitter Revelation and Corpse Churn are alright if you have Syr Konrad on the battlefield, but without his added benefit it’s hard to argue for their inclusion. Grave Strength requires setup to be worth much, but it can be a huge buff in the late game. Liliana’s Indignation takes a bit of mana to be very useful, but it can close out a game if Konrad has already brought an opponent pretty close to death.
So far we’ve only been focused on our own graveyard, but Syr Konrad triggers whenever a creature goes to any player’s graveyard. That makes it especially beneficial for us to mill everyone at once, since the more players there are, the more chances there are for Konrad to trigger. Shared Trauma achieves this goal incredibly well; even if no one else pays mana, assuming we had enough mana to cast Konrad we can mill each player for four cards. In an average Commander game that’s sixteen potential triggers for Konrad! Remember that no matter whose graveyard the creature goes to, Konrad always deals damage to each opponent. Even if only one player mills a creature, all our opponents get hit.
Dread Summons costs one more mana, and nobody else can help us pay for it, but has a pretty huge upside. We can mill our opponents using all the mana we have, and for every creature we mill we’ll trigger Konrad and create a tapped 2/2 Zombie. The zombies provide fuel for Konrad as well, as soon as they quit messing around in undeath and die again.
Wait! He isn’t Dead!
So we’ve loaded up our graveyard (and our opponents’ graveyards) with creatures. Now what do we do? Well, if those creatures were cards like Bloodghast, Bloodsoaked Champion, Reassembling Skeleton, or Gutterbones, we just bring them back! Every creature we reanimate triggers Syr Konrad, plus we get a creature to use as fuel for something else. Something like Blood for Bones, which triggers Konrad three times on its own!
Now, we don’t want to waste our time casting Blood for Bones to reanimate a Gutterbones. With any luck, our graveyard will be stocked with cards like Abhorrent Overlord, who creates a ton of creatures in a mono-black deck. Not only will its recurring sacrifice trigger not be an issue – it’s actually quite useful! With other cards that reanimate creatures, like Dread Return or Cauldron’s Gift, we may want to sacrifice the Overlord during our upkeep just to reanimate it again for a fresh set of Harpies. We should also play cards like Myr Battlesphere, Grave Titan, and Chittering Witch for their ability to create lots of bodies with just one card.
Back in Black, I Hit the Sac
That’s short for sacrifice, I’m not trying to imply anything untoward. Anyhow, with all these creatures on the battlefield waiting to die, it only makes sense that we play a full suite of sacrifice outlets to make sure we can get them into the graveyard when we need to. Cards like Ashnod’s Altar, Altar of Dementia, Viscera Seer, and Carrion Feeder are extremely useful to us because they allow us to trigger Konrad at instant speed without paying any mana to do so. Altar of Dementia even has the chance to trigger him again!
Undercity Informer costs mana to activate, but he has the potential to dump a ton of cards into our graveyard (or someone else’s, although I think targeting ourselves is generally best).
If we have a Grave Pact, Dictate of Erebos, or Butcher of Malakir, each creature we sacrifice forces our opponents to sacrifice creatures as well. If everyone has a few creatures, we could have Konrad deal four damage to each opponent for each creature we sacrifice! That’s especially harsh, since we’re also killing off our opponents’ creatures.
Extractor Demon triggers whenever a creature leaves battlefield, and it mills anyone we want for two cards per creature. That can lead to a huge number of extra Konrad triggers when we clear the battlefield. Mindcrank, on the other hand, triggers every time an opponent loses life (like when Konrad damages them, for instance). This can lead to a chain reaction where each opponent mills one card and one of them mills a creature, so Konrad hits each opponent for one more damage, causing them each to mill one card, and so on.
A deck can’t depend completely on its commander to be effective, so we need to play other effects that can close out a game in the same shell. Bloodchief Ascension takes a little work to get going, but once it comes on it will dominate the game by draining opponents for tons of life. The Haunt of Hightower doesn’t deal damage directly, but it will get very big very quickly and it can rescue us from death with its lifelink. Bonehoard is absolutely massive, and it can be equipped to another creature to protect it as well.
Odds and Ends
The rest of my card recommendations aren’t part of a theme, so much as a collection of “other stuff that would be cool.” Whip of Erebos is a pet card of mine; its activated ability can get back a big creature and trigger Syr Konrad in the process, but its main job is to give Konrad lifelink. With lifelink, every time Konrad triggers we gain three life (assuming we have three opponents)!
Embalmer’s Tools makes our creatures that return themselves to the battlefield (ie Reassembling Skeleton) cost less mana. It also gives us the ability to mill ourselves using the many Zombie creatures that happen to be in our deck because of their abilities.
Cranial Archive, Elixir of Immortality, and Perpetual Timepiece may look like they’re only there to prevent us from milling ourselves to death, but that’s actually not the case: If we have, say, fifteen creatures in our graveyard when we shuffle it into our library, Konrad will trigger fifteen times!
Anyhow, that’s it for this article. For an uncommon card, Syr Konrad, the Grim has a ton of combo potential, and he makes a really interesting build-around commander. I hope my ideas have inspired you to have some ideas of your own! Tune in next time, when I imprint a Sky Swallower onto Clone Shell, then donate the Clone Shell to an opponent, then kill it.