This entry is part 22 of 23 in the series Savor That Commander Flavor

By William aka BlueRam
“I will trade life for life with the insurgents. Our resources, unlike theirs, are limitless.”
—Davvol, Evincar of Rath (Attrition)

Enter those who are starving and sick. You are welcome among the Swarm when the rest of Ravnica rejects you. (Golgari Guildgate)

“Are you going to remake my deck?”

“Shut up, Ghave.”

“No, really, when are you going to remake my deck?”

“I’m not, so shut up.”

You might know that I have a plethora of decks in my arsenal. You might also know that a certain fungus shaman was decommissioned not only for being way too powerful, but for creating combos that hurt my head.

It didn’t take him long to start demanding his position again, but after the unsatisfying victories he led too, I was reluctant to give in…at least, that was the case until From the Vaults: Realms came out, and I finally had a Murmuring Bosk. I don’t like not using special edition cards like FTV, so I really only had one thing I could do with it…

“Now you HAVE to remake my deck.”

“……God damn it, Ghave.”

I always knew that I would come back to the Teneb wedge someday, but I swore that I would never retread the same path that lead to Ghave’s super combos. I didn’t know how I would do it though until I saw a deck featuring Karador, Ghost Chieftain that was making use of a paltry Greater Mossdog. I only saw a handful of cards dredged into the graveyard, but the implication was obvious: Karador was stupid awesome when he started using one of the most broken mechanics in Magic’s history. This was much more interesting to me than Ghave’s overly-complicated combos.

Ghave could be in the deck, of course, but he wouldn’t be piloting it and I wouldn’t have to hurt my head with stack interactions.

You may have already read my notes on how the Izzet Vs. Golgari duel decks lead to the creation of my Science(!) deck (and a subsequent punch to my schnoz), so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I used the Golgari side as the building blocks for my next project. The deck would be B/G/W, but it would rely primarily on the Golgari’s philosophy of recursion and vertical growth.

However, building an optimized version would have to be put off for later. Karador wasn’t at the top of my priorities, so to build the deck I would have to scavenge for cheaper cards that I wasn’t already using in at least ten other decks that shared at least one color with the ghost chieftain. He would just have to live with getting the scraps of more privileged decks.

Dredge would play a major part in casting Karador, as well as giving him targets to re-cast, but the vertical part needed some work. Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord is the poster zombie for this part of my deck, but I needed a few more beefy cards. I had the luck of getting Golgari Grave-Troll from the duel decks but the only other card I could find was a Bonehoard that would have to be pulled from my Jor Kadeen Megazord deck. I didn’t think he’d miss it though.

The Golgari deck also came with some handy cards I wouldn’t have otherwise known about in Sadistic Hypnotist and Brain Weevil, but it also gave me the perfect place for a pet card of mine, the Saproling Cluster. The cluster’s been a pet card of mine that’s been tried out in all sorts of situations, but with a deck that actively needed to discard dredge cards, it was the round hole I needed for my round peg.

Mortal Combat was another card that I’d been wanting to use. To use it at its best, I would have to slot in more creatures than I was used to, but that would only feed into dredge and help power Karador out sooner.

But, dumping an obscene amount of cards into graveyard would leave the Karador in danger of getting blown out by the smallest Tormod’s Crypt (recently reprinted and made available to the general public, at that). Not only that, but I’d never played a dredge deck before. What if I was in danger of decking myself out?

Fortunately, Morality Shift would be the perfect “In Case of Emergency” glass case I needed, while also enabling a potential win with Mortal Combat.

I had the main components, I just needed to grab some cards. I knew that to make the most of Karador’s “re-casting” ability I would be filling the graveyard with smaller creatures that gave incremental advantages in the form of ramp, draw, etc. With all of my copies of Yavimaya Elder and Sakura-Tribe Elder already being used by the likes of Damia and Mayael, and Solemn Simulacrum in the service of Jenara (and Damia, once again),  Karador would have to make do with the likes of Dawntreader Elk and Viridian Emissary.

I didn’t have any “top-tier” sac outlets for my creatures to use, but I did have the nifty Thoughtpicker Witch to shut down “to top deck” tutors, as well as a Culling Dais that would turn my sacrifices into card draw when I needed it.

All I needed to do was toss in a Birthing Pod (one card I can never seem to get enough of), and I was ready to test it out, even if I wasn’t the one testing it.

In comes column favorite, Gary. My regular playgroup was testing some new decks, and Gary, having only an optimized Hazezon at the time, was game to try Karador for me while I tried to get Ruhan working.

As the game ground on, Gary made it abundantly clear: there weren’t nearly enough discard outlets to ditch the Grave Troll and the various other cards. There weren’t enough sweepers either. Karador is very resilient to sweepers, so it became essential to add some more to his repertoire.

When you’re scrounging up from the bottom of the barrel, you don’t have a ton to work with. Fortunately, I still had a Planar Collapse and a Divine Reckoning to work with. But the deck needed more.

For some reason, I was getting more invested into this deck. Although I use the graveyard as a resource, like most other players learn to do, there was something interesting about making it the focus of my game plan. I was already grinding out incremental advantages with Karador, but what else could I do?

I could make use of the fact that Karador let me cast the creatures in my graveyard with Enlisted Wurm, a card that I wouldn’t have considered for any of my other decks. I could use the graveyard as a measuring stick with Grim Flowering to draw a fresh hand, even with minor amounts of creatures. I could also move the grinding advantages into grinding with Attrition effects.

Braids, Cabal Minion could have been used in a couple of places, but she was best fit for a deck that would bring back whatever she caused me to sacrifice, including the lands (I’m sensing a theme at work, here). Savra, Queen of the Golgari is no stranger to sacrifice effects, and her abilities are another way to turn our gain into everyone else’s loss, particularly with Ravnica’s newest addition to the horror collection in Slum Reaper, a stronger version of Fleshbag Marauder.

I took the deck out to my LGS to try and grind a few games with it. The deck did just that, it grinded for a few games, without the firepower necessary to win out. This needed to be fixed, asap.

While going through the bargain bin at Fog To Dusk I found the Riftsweeper I’d been looking for (for the standard anti-grave hate tech), but kept flipping through some of the other cards, just to see what the Time Spiral block had that might interest me.

I stumbled upon a Magus of the Disk. A reusable wrath effect that was instantaneous with Necrotic Ooze on the field? Yes please! But my REAL find of the day came when I found a poor, malnourished elf. Her clothing was minimal in what looked like cold weather and her skin was obscenely pale for a race known for their outdoorsmanship.

Greenseeker is, in many ways, exactly what the deck wants. She’s a discard outlet that only works once a round, but when you’re discarding cards you plan on dredging back anyway, there’s virtually no cost, particularly since she fetches you a land in return. Not only are we hitting our land drops every turn, she’s feeding our graveyard thanks to the dredge cards she’s discarding for us.

I’ve never been more enamoured with a common elf before.

She beckoned to me, coaxing me to dive deeper into the budget bins to find other treasures hidden away by time and obscurity. I found two such cards in Far Wanderings, a super ramp spell that’s fairly easy to evoke threshold on with this deck, and Invigorating Falls. Normally, I’m not a fan of one-shot life gain effects, but running enough creatures to make Mortal Combat a win condition meant that a life for EVERY creature in a graveyard would give me the buffer I needed to survive the inevitable onslaughts of people trying to kill me outright before Combat could go off.

I’d found some neat utility stuff that I’d never heard of, because I’d had to search the remains of what others had discarded, but what about the power that I needed to close out games? This is where Karador stopped recycling and started grafting.

It became necessary to pull cards from decks where they were sub-optimal to the deck that they would truly shine in. I’d found Karador’s “one creature per turn” to be quite slow and inefficient, so more recursion was needed. Reya Dawnbringer was taken from the Odric deck that never had a chance to play her, while Sheoldred, Whispering One was ripped from a Teysa deck that wanted to work more closely with tokens than reanimation. Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter is normally a difficult card to cast efficiently in a b/w deck that lacks good ramping artifacts, so he was moved to Karador as well, doing triple duty as beater, life gain, and a sac outlet. With all of the lands that were being milled into my graveyard by dredge, Knight of the Reliquary was a natural fit after a one-and-done stint with Sigarda that never caught on.

But there had to be more! More had to be done! When I realized the implications of what I was doing, I took a personal plunge off of the deep end by including Yosei, the Morning Star and the recently un-banned Kokusho, the Evening Star. At the very worst, I would have tools to fend off the hate that these cards were going to garner for me.

I spent all day that next weekend grinding out ONE game with Karador. One game that took the better part of THREE HOURS that finally ended with a Yosei-lock on my last opponent, both of us sitting at upwards of 80 life.

Karador, and by extent the Golgari, are NOT a fast deck to run. Like the fungus that grow under the city of Ravnica, it’s slow to expand, but the expansion is inevitable. It’s constantly eating away at the rot and bring new life from it, much like my new elven friend who has already proved her weight in mushrooms (and then some).

Everytime I play with Karador, I feel uneasy. Is this the game where someone will exile my entire graveyard with a single crypt or Bojuka Bog? Will they catch on to my plans? But in the end, I have little to fear. Although the deck has decent cards now, there’s a joy in using these cheap outcasts that are all but useless anywhere else.

The swarm accepts all, even the misfits that don’t seem to have a purpose anywhere else. But everything has a purpose, a niche to fill. You’ll never know what you’ll find when you look under the surface.

If you want to contact me, leave a comment below or feel free to email my address at Wiehernandez(at)gmail(dot)com, or follow me on twitter @BlueRam1409. I’m also on the MTGSalvation forums as BlueRam. I love talking to my readers and getting feedback on how to improve the column…or, at least what’ll be left of it.

Join me next week for what is quite possibly the last article I write for “Savor That Commander Flavor”.

Until then, dive deep into those discount bins and keep a lookout for some  treasured finds.

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