The War Report: Semi-Competitive Gitrog

While we were on quarantine, we ended up with extra money. We also had a lot of time on our hands so my lady and I did online shopping for most of our needs, but some wants too. I had been pining over missing out on the Mystery Boosters that went on sale at the end of last year, due to the fact that I had to pinch every penny to get us moved into our house. With the little bit of extra money laying around, she gifted me not one, but two boxes of the set, and I was very excited to dig into them. The main reason I wanted a box of the set (but two was even better) was because of the inclusion of Mana Crypt in the box, and at first it seemed like people were pulling at least one from every box. I thought for sure between the two boxes I would have pulled one, but alas it was not meant to be. Still, I got a bunch of foil versions of cards I was using, extra copies of important cards like Demonic Tutor, and some cards that I had considered buying over the years, but didn’t, usually because of higher price tags. All in all I was happy with the packs, but one creature stood out to me as one I should try to build:

The Gitrog Monster isn’t new by any means. Releasing with the return to Innistrad a few years ago, he’s been cEDH viable for a long time. The typical deck revolves around lands, but in the sense that dredge and lands work hand in hand with his abilities. So yes, lands do matter in this deck, but not in the sense that we’re playing a landfall deck. Seeing that the flash/hulk combo piloted by several different commanders became the meta after a time, so Gitrog took a backseat, while the banning of flash a couple of months ago most likely makes him more prominent again. Whatever the case, I’ve never built a lands matter deck, and I also hadn’t to this point put together another high powered deck besides Zur. I have brewed bloodpod, but it still hasn’t been thrown together yet. So when we look at Gitrog, two things stand out: First, we have to sacrifice a land each upkeep to keep him into play, but he draws us a card in return. Then if we can sacrifice or discard or mill lands from the top of our library, we can definitely do some fun things.

The Combo:

The combo Gitrog is famous for involves a few key pieces. First, you’ll need Dakmor Salvage either on the battlefield, in your hand or in the graveyard. Next, you’ll want your commander on the battlefield with a discard outlet. Note that we’ll want this discard outlet to be free and repeatable, so no untapping elements are necessary. Depending on your setup, you’ll either sacrifice the Dakmor Salvage from the field, discard it from your hand prior to the Gitrog trigger, or if it’s already in your graveyard you’ll sacrifice a different land. Because dredge is a replacement effect, at the beginning of your upkeep you’ll sacrifice a land to Gitrog, but then instead of drawing a card off his second trigger, you’ll replace the draw with Dredge 2, per Dakmor Salvage’s ability. This means you put the top two cards of your library into your graveyard and return Dakmor Salvage to your hand. You can then discard it again to get a draw trigger but replace it with dredge and you can then draw your entire deck. However you might not be able win with this ability alone, so for added consistency we have Kozilek included in the deck because once he hits the graveyard while you’re doing your dredge trick, he will then shuffle himself and your graveyard back into your library so you can keep going off. Obviously with a discard outlet like Ayala’s Influence, you’ll be getting an army of 2/2 bears in the process, and can simply find your Finale of Devastation for the win. Otherwise, the typical win con sees this loop finding you a lotus petal or dark ritual and then producing infinite mana by infinitely casting it. You can then use that mana to wipe the board using Assassins’ Trophy or similar removal cards over and over again, and then loop into Finale or Exsanguinate to win. There are a few ways to do it, but the main gist of it is that you’ll want to hold off on casting your commander until you have a way to start dredging, and then find Dakmor Salvage as soon as possible.

There are a lot of moving parts here, and a lot to keep track of. In the couple of games I’ve played with it, I’ve managed to pull off wins, but I don’t know that I had ample enough competition. I tried to hold it back from being a straight copy of the deck in the cEDH primer, but it relies on much of what is on that list. I put some custom tweaks in, and having played it I’ve enjoyed it. I don’t feel the need to go into specifics, you can see my deck list here, and you can read the primer over there. If you’re into cEDH, this one should already be on your radar.

TWR: Torbran, Thane of Red Pings

This column has slowed down a little as of late because of the delay to the release of Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths and Commander 2020. The release of those products was pushed back from April to this Friday, May 15th. As such, I’m still a couple of days away from getting my hands on new cards with which to build decks, and though I’ve already shared a couple of brews that I have intended on making as soon as I get a couple of the new precons, I’m still waiting. I’m super stoked for some of the cards from the main set, but I’m really looking forward to two out of the five new precons, and I think that will get me back to playing a bit more regularly and of course brewing up some new decks. Despite the fact that I’m in a bit of a lull with the game, I did manage to get some time in with two new decks last weekend (along with playing several games with existing ones). One of those I actually brewed on Friday night, put together on Saturday and played a couple of games with — this is the deck we’ll be talking about today. The other is a more competitive one utilizing a strategy I have never tried before — I’m happy to say that it worked pretty well on its first couple of games as well, but I’ll talk more about that one another time. For now, let’s look at another commander from Throne of Eldraine, Torbran, Thane of Red Fell:

When Throne of Eldraine was being teased, I pegged this guy as a must have card for a variety of decks, but didn’t really consider using him as a commander. It turns out that despite not being really into much of Eldraine at that time, that there were more cards I ended up using from the set than anticipated on top of finding a really fun commander in Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig (whom I might add will benefit from cards coming in these new products). Anyway, I came across a guide that suggested using Torbran as the general of a ping deck, which has generally been thought of as a weak option for EDH. However, once I started looking at synergistic red cards from over the years of Magic’s history, I started to see the potential. First of all, Torbran isn’t a pinger himself, but he definitely supports the idea. With him on the battlefield, he’ll increase the effectiveness of pinging units by increasing their damage output by 2. This means a card that reads tap: deal 1 damage to <target> now says tap: deal 3 damage to <target>. But Torbran doesn’t stop at amplifying pinging creatures, rather he counts all red sources of damage — something red has had added to its suite of burn in interesting ways over the years. First up, let’s check out our army of pingers.


Each of these creatures will tap to deal 1 damage to a target. Sometimes the target is a creature, sometimes a player, sometimes all opponents, sometimes all players. Some have haste, others have defender, but they all will eventually be able to lightning bolt at will. Three cards of note here are Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh, Goblin Sharpshooter and Syr Carah, the Bold. The first is one of the original flip walkers, and while being able to ping for only 1 damage herself, with Torbran on the board she will immediately flip int a viable planeswalker that can still do damage. The Sharpshooter is tricky to use, but is part of some combos that I didn’t originally include in this build but might at some point. Still, with him tapping for 3 damage with our commander, we should be able to activate him more than once in a turn. Combos with Kiki-jiki and Splinter Twin (also Zealous Conscripts) might be added as finishers but so far I’ve liked the way the deck has performed without being too combotastic. Lastly, Syr Carah is also from Eldraine and while she is a pinger as well, she also allows us to get some value off the top of our deck, which is certainly welcome in red.

Other Forms of Damage Over Time:

So the meat and potatoes of our strategy is to burn our opponents down faster than they can kill us. Doing it with the pingers we’ve gone over can work, but it’s going to take some time. As such, I’ve added a slew of options that will punish our opponents in their own ways. Casting spells? Electrostatic Field and Firebrand Archer will do damage just for casting them. Playing creatures? Purphoros will do 4 damage to each opponent with Torbran on the field. Playing lands? Tunneling Geopede will shoot lighting bolts for doing so. You get the picture. We’re trying to make sure that no matter what we’re doing and no matter what the board state is, you’ll still be slowly whittling away your opponent’s life totals, and at some point should be able to threaten wins. In my first game with the deck I managed to get out Purphoros and a Sulfuric Vortex, so I was dealing 4 damage a turn to each of them while only taking two of my own, then dealing more damage by playing creatures, and I didn’t even get the fun stuff like Ancient Runes or Burning Earth. Zo-Zu the Punisher also looks like a ton of fun.

Notable Inclusions:

Since it’s red, we have a few ways of making a large chunk of mana. As such I included cards like Electrodominance, Jaya’s Immolating Inferno, and Comet Storm as potential finishers off of a big swing of a turn. Dockside Extortionist can give you a bunch of treasures at once, Neheb the Eternal is a mana engine, and mid to late game Mana Geysers can net a ton. We also have Past in Flames to get back some of these spells if we need to later on, while Outpost Siege is extra card advantage. The version of Chandra I included is also pretty busted, simply because she can’t be countered and immediately gives our opponents an emblem that deals them damage each turn, which is perfect for this deck. Since we aren’t running board wipes due to having lots of ways to remove problematic creatures with our pingers, I’ve included some in the form of creatures that when paired with Torbran essentially end up being partial board wipes on top of doing damage to our opponents at the same time. Lastly, Ghirapur Orrery can help us ramp but that effect is symmetrical. However, if you find yourself with no cards in hand (as many red/burn decks do) we get to draw 3 cards which is likely going to help us more than our opponents. Plus it’s about the only nice thing this deck does.

In testing it has worked well, but I can suggest adding Kiki-Jiki, Splinter Twin and Zealous Conscripts if you’re looking for a way to end stalled out games. I may do so myself.

The War Report: Life is but a Cycle

With Commander 2020 still a few weeks out, I’m stuck only brewing up ideas for the new decks rather than actually playing with the cards, which I should have been doing by now, but you know, “all this shit going on.” I already talked about one of the sub generals that I’m excited to build with Xyris, but today I’m going to take a look at one of the face commanders. Specifically, we’re talking about Gavi, Nest Warden who is the leader of the Timeless Wisdom deck. This is otherwise known as “the cycling deck.” Let’s take a look at our general:

Gavi is a solid 2/5 for 5 CMC requiring Jeskai colors. This should be playable by turn three as long as you get your colors early, so it’s not a bad rate. Gavi allows you to play 0 for the cycling cost of your first cycle per turn. She also rewards you for cycling, as your cycle draw will create a 2/2 boros “dinosaur cat” (yes they are starting to reach with these weird combinations but that’s Magic I guess). So there are some obvious directions we can go with this, as cycling is a recurring mechanic that’s been around for a long time so there are a ton of cards to support the strategy. We also know that there are some cycling cards with additional effects that come off of cycling the card, but the activation cost is usually high. With Gavi, you can cheat some powerful effects by cycling, or if nothing else you can literally replace a card in your hand for free each turn while also making a 2/2 token. That means we can lean into cycling effects pretty heavily, but have some support for the token strategy as well. I’m sure these will be the two main strategies for the deck, but some people will lean more heavily in one direction or the other. I’m looking for a synergistic balanced approach. So first, let’s look at the cycling cards in the deck.


I’ve split up this section into multiple parts because when the galleries get too big they don’t display all that well. Plus, each are in different card categories and will likely be used under different circumstances.


I’ve included most of the available cycling lands in these colors. All of these cost either one or two to cast, but in the case of Ash Barrens, it’s just color fixing instead of card draw. Still, each of these can be utilized as land drops as needed, but they do mostly come into play tapped, so they are a little slow. To compensate I’ve added a considerable amount of better lands for the rest of the base, so these should be powering your token engine and card draw engine.


Enchantments in the deck tend to focus on a variety of utility while still being able to be cycled away. Most of these will provide some sort of reusable benefit if they hit the battlefield, but can also be cycled away themselves if the circumstances aren’t right. As a bonus, both Decree of Silence and Shark Typhoon have extra abilities if you cycle them, which is free if done at the right time. Remember, you get a free cycle PER TURN so even on your opponent’s turns you can cycle DoS for a free counterspell, or get an additional bounce effect off of Astral Drift.


Most of the spells with cycling on them have a similar design to other cards that are lesser CMC. This means spells of this nature are sort of modular in that they will do what you want them to do, but they cost more so you end up down on mana. However, cycling them is always an option, and sometimes that will give you a bonus effect or will simply draw you a card and give you a token. When every card reads “cycle this for free, draw a card and create a 2/2” they all end up being pretty good. As such, some of these are included because they are meant to cycle, and others are just decent effects that you might need at any given point in a game.


There are less creatures with cycling on them included in this list mainly because many of them aren’t very good. We also want to cast most of these for their effects rather than cycling them away, but in some cases it’s okay to cycle them away especially with some of the big plays we can make with our support cards.

Cycling Support:

So these cards don’t have cycling on them, but each is either affected by cards with cycling on them or benefit from the act of cycling. For example, Herald of the Forgotten returns all cards with cycling on them from the graveyard to the battlefield, so if you happened to cycle away powerful cards during the early part of the game, this could pull some good stuff out of the bin. Astral Slide is Astral Drift’s older brother. New Perpectives and Fluctuator both allow additional cycling for free. Drake Haven and Spirit Cairn will make more tokens if you have the extra mana to spend. Abandoned Sarcophagus allows you to play cards with cycling from the graveyard. You get the idea.

Other Synergies:

Our last section covers some of the other cards in the deck. They were mindful inclusions but might not be obvious as to why I included them right away. So remember how we get a 2/2 each time we draw our second card per turn? Well that happens on opponent’s turns as well, so if you have out Consecrated Sphinx you’ll get a 2/2 on everyone else’s turn, beyond drawing two cards. Ditto Alhammaret’s Archive, where your cycle effects on their turn will draw you two cards instead of one, so you’ll still get the token. These tokens entering the battlefield on each opponent’s turn will also draw you more cards off of Ephara, as you’ll have tokens entering each turn. Cloudblazer and the artifact mages were included as bounce targets for Drift/Slide, as you’ll get more value from them that way. Also, since we are making tokens all of the time, why should we limit their capabilities? Why not turn those 2/2’s into 4/4 angels with flying? Divine Visitation will do that. Anointed Procession will double those tokens you’re making, whether they are 2/2 dinos, 4/4 angels or 1/1 spirits. You can also pump up your tokens with Aven Wind Guide who gives all tokens flying and vigilance. Lastly, if you want to end a game quick, use Brallin and Curiosity to create an endless loop during your discard step. His flying shark friend Shabraz will also get huge with all of the cards you should be drawing.

All in all I think cycling is a powerful tool and is only more powerful with this commander at the helm. I’m definitely looking forward to playtesting this one come next month.

TWR: The Extortionist’s Hound

I’m not sure why, but the Orzhov color pairing has always spoken to me. Something about the “death and taxes” aspect of it perhaps, maybe it’s the gothic/religious flavoring that isn’t normally my style. Whatever the case, these colors are great at adding taxing effects to the board, and that’s something I enjoy doing to my table (call me a dick if you like). One of the cards that came out with Theros: Beyond Death caught my attention early on, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it. First, let’s look at the card and then I’ll extrapolate:

Kunoros, Hound of Athreos (another great Orzhov card himself) is a 3/3 for 3 CMC that comes stacked with vigilance, menace and lifelink. That alone is pretty good, but then he also is basically Grafdigger’s Cage on a stick, in that he doesn’t allow cards to enter from graveyards, nor can you cast spells from graveyards. So this hoses flashback, most recursion, and even the new escape mechanic. All for only 3 mana, are you kidding me? Since this commander is the goodest of boys, I started to think about other Orzhov fun stuff I could do, and remembered the extort mechanic, which is absolutely perfect for this deck. Don’t forget to pay your taxes!


So the main thing I want to do with this deck is to extort my opponents to death. Extort is a unique mechanic in that every instance of it on the board can be triggered, and each instance can be paid with hybrid WB, so all of our mana is always available to be spent for extort triggers, so we shouldn’t have much if any left over on our turns. Cast a two drop, then use your last mana to extort. Or extort twice now that you have two instances of it on the board. Each time you do, each opponent will lose a life, and you’ll gain 3 (or an amount equal to the amount of opponents you have). This probably isn’t going to make you friends, but with some of the other gameplans I’ve included, I think it’s going to be fun anyway! So most of these cards are straightforward creatures with extort stapled on them, but there are a couple highlights. Crypt Ghast will also double up the mana your swamps make, and Pontiff of Blight just outright gives all of your creatures extort, so he’s probably the MVP of the deck, but a little expensive. Lastly, we have a single enchantment with the keyword, but it also causes some light stax by forcing your opponent’s creatures and artifacts to come into play tapped. Speaking of stax… yeah, let’s go there.

Staxes and Taxes

So here we have all manner of hate pieces. Some are creature based, others are enchantments or artifacts. This smorgasbord of goodness will have creatures and artifacts coming into play tapped, will tax people for drawing cards by allowing you to draw as well or instead (or damaging them), will stop ETB triggers, will keep graveyards empty or unable to be used as a resource, will prevent more than one spell being cast per turn (good thing we can just extort) and will generally piss off someone at the table. Now that we have your attention, drain away that life and stay safe!


Since our commander has lifelink and comes down early, and we have plenty of ways to extort our opponents means we’re going to be pretty healthy. So we should probably find ways to use that life right? So first, when we have lifegain triggers, we can further damage our opponents with cards like Cliffhaven Vampire and Sanguine Bond, or we have Dawn of Hope to help us draw cards off of the lifegain. I’ve also packed in Phyrexian Arena that will draw us an additional card each turn for a life, but we should be gaining more than that anyway. Finally, if we manage to get Bolas’s Citadel out onto the field we’ll be able to cast the top card of our library for life instead of mana, so as long as we’re always topping off this is just great value. The last card of note is the new Athreos which is particularly important for this deck. Since we have piled on quite a bit of graveyard hate, its not really possible to build in a recursion engine. I did include old Athreos, but he’ll be a dead drop sometimes depending on what other stuff we have on the battlefield. As such, the inclusion of the new one gives us some recursion but it takes time to build up. Once he’s out, each end step you can put counters onto creatures. Then it doesn’t matter if they die OR go to exile, as he will return them to the battlefield regardless. This is great since we have cards like Rest in Peace exiling our graveyards as well.

This deck was created to be resilient in the sense of being able to still do things even while playing heavy stax/tax effects. Most of them are one sided in that they affect our opponents only, but some spill over and that’s okay. Don’t be afraid to play cards that hinder you, challenge yourself to find ways to work around them. The payoff is worth it. I’ve also seen in the wobbly meta on the Discord that the majority of people’s decks do a lot of nothing until they suddenly combo off. This is designed to slow that down and hopefully prevent those combos. I have an answer for every major combo I’ve come across, so this should be a safe (and fairly budget) bet towards slowing games down so you can grind it out. Plus, if all else fails you only need to hit someone in the face 7 times with your commander to eliminate them, but you shouldn’t need to given the amount of drain we’re packing in.

TWR: COVID-19 Commander Challenge

While trolling around the interwebs today, I came upon this deckbuilding challenge that was issued in one of the Facebook MTG groups I frequent. I suppose this challenge being named what it is, there’s likely someone out there who will be offended, but nonetheless I think the spirit of deckbuilding because we’re stuck at home with nothing better to do is still valid/pure. Here’s the instructions QFT:

Ok so its time to do the Covid Commander challenge.

your commander is CMC = to the number of letters in your first name.

Colors are determined by Birthdate: Feb-March: Blue

April-June: Green

July-August: Red – If born on leap day then you are Colorless

Sept-Nov.: Black

Dec-Jan: White

1-6: Blue

7-12: Green

13-18: Red

19-24: Black

25-30: White

31: your a 5 color commander or up to if you have enough letters

50’s- White

60’s- Green

70’s- Red

80’s- Blue

90’s- Black

2000’s- Roll a D6 and 6 is colorless

And now the tough part: all cards in the deck must have one of your initials in the name of the card (Initials ECR could not have Wall of Light since E, C, or R are not in the card name.

Basic Lands are the only Exceptions.

Post your Commander and the Reply with a deck list when your done making it!

So following the rules outlined, here are my starting stats:

My commander’s CMC must equal 6
It will be Black, Red and Blue
All cards included in the deck must have the letters G, P or W in the card name (this part might not be possible, but I’ll see what I can do).

Grixis is a color combination I’m familiar with, and it is powerful. Unfortunately I can’t play something like Nekusar because he’s only 5 cmc. At this point my options are:

Sedris, the Traitor King
Crosis, the Purger or
Ludevic, Necro-Alchemist partnered with Vial Smasher the Fierce

Now looking at this traditionally, I’d say the obvious choice are the partners, but since that wasn’t actually described in the rules, I’m kind of bending them at this point. Still, they are two 3 CMC commanders that are both in the command zone so I think this should work. They’re also the best for what I’d want to do, despite the fact that I have no idea what I can actually play with the name limitation. So let’s try to build a deck with this in mind. You wait here. I’ll come back with a deck list or lack thereof with some reasoning.

So it’s not the greatest, but I did manage to put together a list, solely with cards with G, P and W in the names. Most of them are cards I would play with normally, but I’d probably be a bit more mindful of the curve were this a less restricted build. Here’s the full list you can take a look at, but I’ll also post it here:

1 Ancient Tomb
1 Arcane Signet
1 Blasphemous Act
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Chaos Wand
1 Chaos Warp
1 City of Brass
1 Combustible Gearhulk
1 Command Tower
1 Commander’s Sphere
1 Consecrated Sphinx
1 Counterspell
1 Crumbling Necropolis
1 Curse of Opulence
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Decree of Pain
1 Dig Through Time
1 Diluvian Primordial
1 Dimir Signet
1 Disrupt Decorum
1 Etali, Primal Storm
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Exotic Orchard
1 Exsanguinate
1 Forbidden Orchard
1 Gilded Lotus
1 Gitaxian Probe
1 Go for the Throat
1 Goblin Electromancer
1 God-Eternal Kefnet
1 God-Pharaoh’s Statue
1 Grixis Panorama
1 Guttersnipe
1 Halimar Depths
1 Imprisoned in the Moon
1 In Garruk’s Wake
9 Island
1 Izzet Signet
1 Keranos, God of Storms
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Ludevic, Necro-Alchemist
1 Mana Geyser
1 Mindswipe
1 Mogis, God of Slaughter
7 Mountain
1 Narset, Parter of Veils
1 Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God
1 Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh
1 Night’s Whisper
1 Nightscape Familiar
1 Obelisk of Grixis
1 Perplex
1 Phyrexian Arena
1 Ponder
1 Possibility Storm
1 Preordain
1 Primal Amulet
1 Propaganda
1 Pull from Tomorrow
1 Rakdos Signet
1 Reforge the Soul
1 Refuse/Cooperate
1 Reliquary Tower
1 Spark Double
1 Spelltwine
1 Spiteful Visions
7 Swamp
1 Swiftfoot Boots
1 Temple of the False God
1 Temporal Mastery
1 Temporal Trespass
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Thought Vessel
1 Torrential Gearhulk
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Vial Smasher the Fierce
1 Wayfarer’s Bauble
1 Wild Evocation
1 Worn Powerstone
1 Young Pyromancer

The general play pattern would be to get out your commanders and play spells. There’s removal and interaction plus ways to cheat and steal. It’s definitely not a focused deck, but what do you want for something I threw together in 20 minutes? The challenge was enticing and now that it’s completed we can move onto legitmate builds. However, I am sort of interested in building this commander pairing properly, so perhaps I’ll update this in the future.