This entry is part 9 of 15 in the series Journey to Nowhere

by Judson AKA GUDoug

GUDougEDH is much more graveyard heavy than most other formats.  It doesn’t seem to matter if you are a super casual n00b or an overachieving tournament washout try-hard, you’re probably going to lean on your graveyard at least a little, if not a lot or even “all in.”  Everyone seems to at least try to dip their dirty little fingers into that sweet zone of necro goodness.  It all starts off very unassuming with just a single harmless little card like Eternal Witness or Regrowth, and the next thing you know you find yourself labeled as a necromancer or even worse, a Hermit Druid combo player.   The graveyard is said to be just like a second hand by almost anyone who has ever played EDH, and many times represents a zone that is much easier to interact with cards in than your library or hand.  With the prevalence of such a large amount of graveyard interaction in EDH I thought I would take a look at graveyard hate from the very beginning of the game, to when I started playing and building EDH decks, and what it looks like currently.

The value of the graveyard as a resource was instilled all the way back at the beginning of this great game of ours in Alpha cards like Animate Dead, Nether Shadow, Raise Dead, Regrowth, and Resurrection.  The process seems like a no brainer, and really who doesn’t just want to cast their favorite cards and then reuse them over and over.  Now juxtaposed graveyard recursion to the fact that the first instances that I could find of specific graveyard removal were not until The Dark, and we all know that every devout listener is required by CommanderCast to pledge an oath declaring The Dark’s dominance and bestness of all sets.  If you haven’t thus far pledged your Commandercast oath to The Dark please do so now as it helps us for the purposes of bookkeeping and our own internal audit (kind of like Santa’s “Naughty or Nice” list…and we do check it twice).  The Dark had three cards, Eater of the Dead (Summon Eater!), Grave Robbers (righteous sideburns), and Tormod’s Crypt (classic benchmark), that were the first of their kind to target individual card types or entire graveyards for removal.  Tormod’s Crypt to this day is still one of the best graveyard removal instruments the game has produced. That can either be looked at as an interesting fact or maybe just indicative and similar to many other cards that were the first of their kind and very effective, efficient, and undercosted.  I still think that Tormod’s Crypt is powerful, even with respect to newer cards of its ilk.  That being said, in EDH it seems to have lost a step and is overshadowed with respect to amount that it is played versus newer graveyard hate cards by the game’s foremost authority on the format…forum posters.

When I started way back when in the EDH game, my collection of cards was not up to snuff.  My first few decks were full of less than spectacular cards, leaving my 100 card deck a mess of scrapped together pieces that I had been laying around or salvaged from my mostly junk rare Type 4 stack.  Not having a huge back stock of older cards to pull from, a lot of my initial graveyard hate cards were pretty horrible.  As much as it pains me to admit it, I ran Moratorium Stone in a deck (It is right up there with Steamclaw but worse maybe…hard to say).  At the time that was the best that I had available.  Sometimes you have to make do with what you have until you can get something else more efficient or useful.

My metamorphosis from Standard FNMer to “Respected EDH Personality” started around the middle of 2008 during Lorwyn/Shadowmoor block, and graveyard hate cards had plenty of solid choices to go with.  Even from my small EDH world view of the 20 or less man-children I played EDH against, there were several heavily played options.  Aside from the ever popular Tormod’s Crypt, Scrabbling Claws was all the rage.  Everyone seemed to be running it, and those claws where durdling up a storm.  Some even ran the slightly similar Phyrexian Furnace as well for the extra 2x durdle action.  Crypt, Claws, and Furnace seemed to encompass a vast majority of the colorless graveyard hate I witnessed.

When you moved into colored graveyard hate, the options opened up quite a bit.  Black seemed to dominate this (what a love hate/self loathing relationship it has with the graveyard), with some of its better graveyard related choices being Leyline of the Void, Planar Void, Withered Wretch, Nezumi Graverobber, and the incidentally effective Shred Memory that usually was a tutor but was actually sometimes used for its “real” function when the opportunity presented itself.  I even remember seeing instances of people playing Rag Dealer (but not Carrion Beetles…no love for Saga evidently), Extirpate (gotta get that insider info and split second),  Yixlid Jailer (only once), Cremate (hey it draws a card), and one of my favorites at the time Faerie Macabre.

In addition to the black cards there was a small smattering of white and green cards that I remember seeing play as well.  White cards like Honor the Fallen, Samurai of the Pale Curtain, and Jotun Grunt weren’t uncommon to see along with one of my favorite creatures of all time Stonecloaker.  Seriously Stonecloaker, flash, gating, graveyard hate, flying, what more could you want?  They all seemed to do their part to keep graveyards inline.  Then in green there was the ever popular Night Soil (really did they have to name a card after nocturnal human excrement)  and to a lesser extent Ground Seal, at least in my playgroup.  It should also be noted, there were plenty of cards that shuffled graveyards back into decks like Time Spiral, Timetwister, Temporal Cascade, and Primal Command but graveyard hate was not usually their optimal intended purpose.

As an interesting aside for what seemed like forever and a day, there were multiple decks in my playgroup that were heavy into the extra turn, tons of Regrowths, twister/spiral, constantly shuffling graveyards back into your decks over and over and over again decks.  They eventually tried to string a bunch of turns together, or troll you with multiple Shahrazads, but the secondary effect it had on my deck building was being forced to play less graveyard dependent decks.  Suddenly my go to graveyard cards like Eternal Witness, Regrowth, Restock, Recollect, All Suns’ Dawn, Salvage,  Hymn of Rebirth, Miraculous Recovery, Karmic Guide, Reveillark, Genesis, and any number of black reanimates  were almost always dead draws.  I went down to as little as zero graveyard interaction cards in some decks because they didn’t do anything.   Slowly I have added more graveyard cards back into my deck, but on a whole  the amount I play now is a drop in the bucket compared to amount I used to play.  Now I usually just play one or two in decks that aren’t geared around graveyard interactions (of which I would say ¼ of my decks are graveyard decks in one way or another).

Now the reason why I was interested in this topic.  Like many Magic players I was keeping a diligent eye on all the spoilers for Return to Ravnica (although I seemed to miss Death’s Presence the first go around…not sure how that happened…say hello to Asmira, Holy Avenger).  Lots of neat cards, multicolor who ha, blah blah blah blah.  Let’s skip that crap and just get to it.  DID YOU SEE REST IN PEACE?  It’s crazy!  Really just crazy!  For 1W you get an enchantment that says:

“When Rest in Peace enters the battlefield, exile all cards from all graveyards.  If a card or token would be put into a graveyard from anywhere, exile it instead.”

This card it just nuts.  Whether or not it is even played in EDH (I’m sure it will be), it is still a very powerful card for what it costs.  It is pretty much Morningtide attached to a Leyline of the Void that effects everyone.  That is an awful lot for just two mana and can instantly set up a doomed situation for any mono black or red or black-red reanimator/recursion deck strategy.  That is not to say that other cards couldn’t.  Not only does it just remove all graveyards for two mana but then sits there and just keeps eating cards that fall by the wayside and sends them to the land of nowhere, exile, most likely to never be seen again.  It just wipes out past, present, and future until someone finds a way of making it go away.

So Rest In Peace got me thinking about all the graveyard hate that has popped out of the MTG machine since Lorwyn/Shadowmoor block.  In many instances I think the cards being played as graveyard hate are representative of most cards being played in EDH.  That being a majority of the played cards are from Shards of Alara block forward, aggressively costed, and have multiple functions.  When you look at Joeri’s Real Top 50 list on MTGSalvation (as discussed on ComanderCast S7E6: Here) the only graveyard hate cards that make the top 200 list (on 9/25/2012) are Relic of Progenitus and Nihil Spellbomb. Primal Command also makes the top 200 list as well, but again I would guess (maybe wrongly) that the shuffle a graveyard into a library function as graveyard hate is probably not its specific intended purpose, but still it should be noted.  A breakdown by top 50 cards per color only shows Relic of Progenitus and Primal Command in their respective color lists.  Then in top 50 lands Bojuka “B.” Bog is 10th on the list, and 5th if you remove the basic land types.  Bojuka Bog also shows enough numbers to be included on the top 200 list if it included lands.  So of the specific graveyard hating cards that made the list all three are from Shards of Alara forward.

 


Whenever I hear Bojuka Bog I just want to insert it into the song Mah Nà Mah Nà. I can’t help myself.  Try it.

 

Going through the blocks and sets from Shards of Alara to present there are several graveyard hate cards that I have seen played, often times replacing older cards.  Shards block itself had an abundant amount of cards that did this.  It had the already mentioned Relic of Progenitus, AKA King Durdle, which was an updated version of the popular lesser durdles Scrabbling Claws/Phyrexian Furnace.  From what I have seen, and according to the Real Top 50 statistics, it is one of the most heavily played graveyard removal cards.  In addition to that you have another updated card in Necrogenesis (ah no excrement reference on this one)  which is fairly similar to old timey favorite Night Soil.  Identity Crisis is a card that is primarily used to strip hands (or be a dick) but also can inflict a huge setback to any graveyard plan or friendship.  Then the last few cards are ones that I have seen played sparingly and those are Necromancer’s Covenant and Jund Charm, although I do think that the Covenant is a sleeper card that not enough people have given a shot.

Zendikar block in my opinion brought the biggest deck slot saver ever in Bojuka Bog.  It is pretty much an auto include in every black deck, easily retrieved with a tutor or Knight of the Reliquary, and can be reused over and over with Ravnica bounce lands and Vesuva.  Bog wasn’t the only card that Zendikar had though as I have seen both Ravenous Trap and Suffer the Past used effectively in game.  I have even seen Suffer the Past kill people too, so it has that going for it.

In more recent sets, Scars block had the above mentioned Top 200 all star Nihil Spellbomb, but Geth, Lord of the Vault can also be graveyard hate as well even if it is not his most primary purpose by sniping targets.  Then in Innistrad block there was the new standard for dual purpose hate in the graveyard and library to the battlefield nerfing Grafdigger’s Cage.  Another card from Innistrad block I personally have developed a small crush on is Vessel of Endless Rest.  It produces any color of mana and randomly hates a card when it enters the battlefield.  I’ve hit fetchlands, LD lands, flashback cards, and juicy reanimate targets just by playing it.  That being said I haven’t seen anyone else play it (come on it is better than Manalith).

Lastly in non-block sets there are a few cards worth noting.  Cemetery Reaper from M10 and M12 has seen a little play (mostly by me in my playgroup), but probably most often in zombie tribal decks.  It is a good card just for making tokens and he is a lord on top of it.  Then you have Commander product Legacy standout Scavenging Ooze.  He eats so many cards and can make quick work of someones graveyard, all while presenting a potential threat in the process.

So there you have an almost complete remodel of graveyard hate from the time that I started playing EDH to present.  Even looking at the data from the Real Top 50 on MTGSalvation I am surprised to not at least see Tormod’s Crypt on the list.  Sure I still see some of the old cards in decks inefficiently grinding away (mostly in foil form).   I still play Tormod’s Crypt, Nezumi Graverobber, Withered Wretch, and a few others in various decks, but a lot of the newer cards are more effective, more powerful, do more, have more applications, and are more mana efficient as well.

Graveyard hate is recommended for any deck not using Jung Park’s INN/AVR Swamps

I know that Bojuka Bog has single handedly replaced a lot of graveyard hate in decks I have that can run it, freeing up slots for other cards.  The first game I played with Bojuka Bog I bogged my opponent at least three times, and in return I was bogged just as many if not more times.  At the end of the game my opponent and I commented on how ridiculous the card was going to be from here on out.  It really was a shocker to see how one ability tacked onto a land could change the game so much.

With the release of every set there is always the opportunity for more powerful and useful cards for any number of applications and uses in EDH.  It is just the nature of the game and the product of Magic as a whole to change, adapt, and evolve.  Sometimes though it is nice to stop and look back to see how far the game has come and how much things have changed.   Whether it be from when you started playing or even all the way back to the beginning with The Dark and Eater of the Dead, Grave Robbers, and Tormod’s Crypt.

 

Email me at: judsonjg(at)yahoo(dot)com
Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/GUDoug

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