This entry is part 8 of 23 in the series Savor That Commander Flavor

By William aka BlueRam

Okay….I’m back. I know I bugged out last week, but my screen seems to have stabilized AND I just bought a new external hard drive to back everything up. I’ve taken to leaving my laptop on with a fan on it at all times. I figure the less I jostle the screen, the less chance it has to start acting up. Here’s hoping. Wait…Griselbrand got banned?

FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU-

Okay, before I go into this, let me just say that my playgroup never really had any problems with Griselbrand. More often than not, I wouldn’t get a chance to play him before Bribery took it away from my deck.

I haven’t had that much exposure to Griselbrand period. In my group, I’m the only one who plays with multiple decks, and even then only the Zur voltron player was using him. It’s probably why I undervalue him so much. I really couldn’t comprehend how powerful he was until just recently when I had to take a good, hard look for this article.
When I first saw Griselbrand, I knew he was going to be good, but I never thought he was going to be ridiculous. The draw seven ability was a quick hand-filling option that my Kaalia deck severely needed, but I was more interested in his status as a legendary demon that could replace Seizan, Perverter of Truth.

Even after he came out, I never thought he was going to be banned. This is why I don’t bet money on college bowl games anymore.

If I have one regret, it’s that I never really got to have fun with him as much as I would’ve liked to. I don’t get to go out a lot, nor do I get to play a lot of EDH in my spare time (not from a lack of trying, mind you). While I have nothing against the rules committee, except for the banning of Kokusho, I really wish they would’ve given Griselbrand more time before sending him back to the Helvault.

Part of what I could’ve done to see more of him would’ve been to find ways to cram him into every deck I had that ran black: Karrthus, Sharuum, and Olivia. But this is Power Down week, and if there’s anything I AM good at, it’s taking out awesome cards for fun ‘theme’ cards.

But I don’t cut out ‘staples’ in theme decks a whole lot either. I never thought about putting Griselbrand in other decks because I was too busy looking at other cards that did similar things in a way that made sense for the idea I had.

 

Shall we take a look?

 

Karrthus is a dragon. A big dragon. A really, REALLY big dragon that runs around with a bunch of OTHER really huge-ass dragons. I never once thought about putting Griselbrand in there because he was a demon. It was as simple as that.


So what was I using instead? I had decent draw power in Rites of Flourishing, but I was looking at ‘staples’ that gave me good land ramping ability. I ran Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Cabal Coffers because it gave me a way to: 1) color fix, 2) provide a great deal of mana to play large dragon spells, and 3) helped power out Genesis Wave which would lead to lots of large dragons hitting the board at once. Ergo, I did have cards that are very powerful and can usually be considered ‘staples’, but I was using ones that helped the focus of the deck, which was ‘play an ass-load of huge dragons’.


If you want the full description of my deck (as well as the chance to watch me flip out), you can check out the article here.


Most people build their Sharuum decks as an unstoppable combo machines. In this type of deck, Griselbrand pulls together all of your win conditions and really accelerates the deck. in addition to providing you with counter magic, providing life gain, and just being a large beat stick on his own. For decks like that, he does just about everything and then some.

In MY Sharrum deck, however, I just wanted to play with all of the fun artifact cards I had (I have more than a thing for Master Transmuter). I also wanted to build around a flicker/value theme, without a certain combo being the goal. Artifacts naturally link together to do crazy things, and I wanted to see what would click into place without trying to force anything.

 

Had he been included, I’m pretty sure I actually would have CUT [/card]Griselbrand[/card] for Filigree Angel, not because I think the angel is better, but because the angel has been so much more fun to play with.


This angel has helped me hang in close games by providing me with another artifact that Sharuum can recur, and gives me life as soon as it enters the battlefield, rather than waiting for Griselbrand to deal damage. But more importantly, Filigree Angel continues to be on theme by being a great flicker/blink target with Deadeye Navigator and Conjurer’s Closet.

The sum of these moving parts is of greater value to me and the deck’s theme than what Griselbrand has to offer by himself, so he doesn’t make the cut.

I will admit that he would have made a great addition to my Olivia deck.


 

I’m not sure what most people do with their Olivia decks, but mine developed into a vampire themed control/meta-hate deck, which meant a lot of graveyard hate and Threaten/sacrifice combos, most using Olivia as the focal point. Naturally, when you’re playing any sort of control build, you need to have a full hand, which Griselbrand lets me do. Given that he’s a big Innistrad villain, there’s little conflict with the theme too.


Unfortunately, I didn’t realise this until after Griselbrand had been banned. But you know what? I’m okay with that. We’ve still got Bloodgift demon. And with the Attrition effects in here, Harvester of Souls is almost as effective.


BUT, I had a tough time finding cards to cut for even those two. Whenever something new comes out, there’s a steep competition against cards that serve a thematic purpose. The deck started like Karrthus did as a tribal themed deck, and gradually morphed into the control deck it is now, hence why I refer to it as “Vampire Control”.


I include vampire thematic cards like Stromkirk Captain, Captivating Vampire, and Blood Tribute with the justification that my vampire clan grows with every victim Olivia glamours over to my side.


Of course, I use other vampire cards are great by themselves, but follow the pattern of synergizing with the deck. Bloodghast is a constant value engine with effects like Phyrexian Tower, Attrition and Skullclamp (which I have yet to find room for but would love to include otherwise).  Lilianna 3.0 is sure to help him come back every turn, so the value train keeps rolling, something the deck would have an easier time doing if it had access to Griselbrand.


Not having card draw is seldom a problem when everyone else is playing black though, thanks to Fiend of Shadows, who’s fairly good at disrupting everyone’s strategy with her ability to pick-pocket cards away. The ‘human’ clause doesn’t bother me personally, particularly since Olivia might be able to serve some up with the creatures she’s taken captive.


Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief and Dark Imposter act as reusable spot removal with an upside. While normally pretty good on their own, the vampire support I have makes them so much better than they would be otherwise.


Having played Yugioh for a number of years, I understand the necessity of a collectively agreed upon ban list. It’s not a bad thing in and of itself. It’s just a shame that I didn’t get to spend as much time with Griselbrand as I would’ve liked.


Personally, I would’ve preferred waiting a year to ban this card. In a casual format, there isn’t a need to bring out the emergency ban hammer like there is for standard and possibly legacy, and even those take a while to process.


In Commander, there aren’t any Top 8 decklists to watch, and if it was about him showing up in too many decklists, then there’s a hundred and one OTHER cards that are just as bad about it as he was. The free card draw is absurdly powerful, but it feels wrong to place the ban on a card so new, unless there happens to be a LARGE request for it. Even then, it’s hard to gauge what a “casual” community wants when most of the casuales aren’t aware of a ban list or forums to makes these complaints on.


But, because he’s IS so powerful, we need to send him back to where he belongs. The Helvault.

 

Err…I mean, ban him from the play. Everyone knows the Helvault was destroyed. Of course, now we know WHY Griselbrand was in there to begin with.


Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from breaking the seal and playing with your own set of house rules. But make sure you can justify it, even if your reason is just “He’s fun”. Are you prepared for the hell that can break loose?


As always, you can leave feedback by dropping by the comment section, sending me an email at wiehernandez(at)gmail(dot)com, for following me on twitter @BlueRam1409.


Join me next week as I share the evolution of the theme deck.


Until then, I’ve got some “staples” I’ve got to proxy up. I just realized how woefully underpowered some of my decks are.

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