This entry is part 2 of 12 in the series Let's Kill

Hayes1 (1)¬†Hayes here for a new series of “Let’s Kill” articles. The first few articles of this string in the series are going to feature tribal decks. Follow me on twitter @hayesthehayes for more updates on the series. I plan on releasing these every other week alongside writer Mark Mahler.

If you’re a gambling man and want to live and die by the sword then Grenzo is the goblin for you.

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He’s not here to mess around. Grenzo embodies the chaotic and greedy strategy metrics that the rakdos clan usually calls home through his (2) costing ability to randomly generate value.


To me Grenzo is at home in a goblin tribal deck. Most relevant goblins have a power of 1-2. This means you can power out grenzo on turn two putting 0 into his X additional cost and be ready to flip cards the following turn. There are also enough goblin lords who buff other goblins that it is possible to cast Grenzo for the basic amount and then modify Grenzo’s power later so that he hits the few 3 power goblins that exist like Krenko, mob boss and goblin marshal. For more information on the goblins that you probably want to run in a goblin tribal Grenzo deck check out the goblins from my Wort, Boggart Auntie deck. The goblins are equally good for the most part in both decks. Info found here. The only truly notable card not listed there is goblin rabblemaster.

What Grenzo really does for goblins is that he brings a stronger game against control decks. In previous goblin decks that I’ve played most of my games asked me a single question: how willing are you to play into a wrath effect? Success came through navigating when to go all in and when to hold back and wait to fight after the wrath. Grenzo’s ability to play off the bottom of your deck gives you two main play strategies that can make you more flexible to what is going on with the rest of the board.

First you can play a normal game of magic and bench Grenzo in the command zone. There have been plenty of games where I naturally curve out and bum rush people with my little red friends. When it doesn’t work my goblins are usually all dead because they got eaten up by a sweeper. At the point where I untap after the massacre with four or five lands with no goblins on the field I have two options. I can lead off with the cards in my hand or play Grenzo. Leading off with my draw after getting my board decimated is probably not as strong because I assume that I put my best goblins into play as early as I can so I can stand to capitalize the most. So usually I choose to play Grenzo with either 0 or 1 in his cost for his X amount depending on how many lands I have in play. I always choose to cast Grenzo for an amount where I can activate his ability that turn if able. This means sometimes accepting the fact that I won’t hit a 3 power goblin in exchange for getting one extra flip. From that point forward I am playing off the top and the bottom of my deck.

The other core strategy is almost the inverse. I start with Grenzo at a power of 2 and play a land each turn and pass the turn with no plays. At the end of turn step before my turn I flip Grenzo for however many times I can and build up my army that way. I like this strategy because the cards that are coming off the bottom are ‘free’ and I can work on sculpting a strong hand while increasing my land count. Once the board has been cleared the basketball is in my hands: I can move in with my initial starting hand and go for the throat.

These two strategies are sometimes a choice and at other times a forced direction. Because we are playing a black and red deck and because we are trying to maximize the potential value of a Grenzo flip our manabase is incredibly simplified. I run only sol ring and forgo other mana artifacts so that I increase the number of times that I am revealing creatures off of my flips. Sometimes I have ancient tomb and a [card]Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx[card] to bump up my mana but beyond that there are mostly basic swamps and mountains. When too many lands are drawn it usually forces me into relying more on Grenzo because I have to keep up with my opponents. I can’t afford to do nothing. The opposite is also true: when I have a greedy starting hand with only one or two lands I find myself having to commit to the board from my hand instead of through Grenzo. If I try to play Grenzo on turn two and go for the flipping strategy and my land drops dry up I usually die to my opponent’s mana advantage in the mid to late game.

The Non-goblins…

Grenzo decks that are not tribal usually fall into two categories. One is a deck that spends lots of resources manipulating the bottom of the deck. The other tries to go big on mana and cast a huge Grenzo and hope to untap next turn to cheat out fat creatures.

The ‘big Grenzo’ decks are not very predictable, usually running good stuff R/B big creatures with passives that boost their multiplayer ability. The deck manipulation Grenzo decks are primarily using a host of reito lantern, junktroller, Tel-jilad stylus and run Heartstone to boost the number of times they can Grenzo. I respect how much they are trying to manipulate the bottom of the deck. If they get a good threat out they can recur the threat over and over again through Grenzo. But I don’t think it is a solid strategy because it fails if the opponents kill Grenzo or wipe the table with a destroy all permanents effect. The set up cost is too high and not consistent enough for the strategy to be seriously competitive. I can see Heartstone and perhaps Tel-Jilad Stylus being run in goblin decks because they are the more efficient manipulators but beyond that you are diluting your Grenzo activations by including these non-threats in your deck.

Support Grenzo! Woo-hoo!

Grenzo shouldn’t just be seen as a commander. His mana sink ability is a tool that can be toolboxed into other decks. I’ve considered running him in my Prossh, Skyraider of Kher EDH deck because the deck can generate so much mana that bypassing Grenzo’s X cost isn’t really a big deal. I can see Grenzo acting as a finisher sort of how Genesis Wave does. Where in a pure R/B deck Grenzo doesn’t have access to as many extreme mana boosters the added green can send the number of potential flips skyrocketing.

Fighting Grenzo

Combating Grenzo is easy if it is a non-goblin deck. Kill Grenzo or Silence him and your opponent is forced to play fair. If it’s a goblin deck though, beware. They can easily win without ever casting Grenzo. Determining what form of Grenzo a player is piloting is important in figuring out who to kill first at your local commander meetup.

Until next time!


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