Let Me Sell Ya - Koll, Skullclamp cEDH

Jake FitzSimons • January 10, 2023

Showcase Koll, the Forgemaster | Illustrated by Nico Delort

When I see one toughness, I think "two cards". That's because like most Magic players, I'll kill an innocent creature with a clamp to the skull without a second thought. If you're anything like me, let me sell ya on Koll, the Forgemaster, his finest tool, Skullclamp, and how you can pair the two for a truly unique cEDH deck. Yes, this is a cEDH deck built around the other Dwarf1 from Kaldheim, the one who forged the Tyrite Sword and a commander I've been playing and winning with since about five hours after it was first spoiled.

The Goal with Koll

The goal with Koll is to find Skullclamp and break Skullclamp. That's not too hard, given it's already broken (Skullclamp is banned in Standard, Modern, Legacy, and of course, Mirrodin Block Constructed), but Koll manages to take it up to eleven by recycling any creature you feed to the almighty clamp. With Koll, the Forgemaster, Skullclamp, and access to a mana-neutral creature, it takes one mana to draw two cards. That alone is a monstrously powerful advantage engine that will leave you wishing you had more than two hands to hold that many cards. But still, there's more. Once you find a way to skirt the equip cost, congrats, you can draw your entire deck. From there, either of Mask of Immolation or Mortarpod are used to sacrifice any mana-neutral (or -positive!) creature until the entire table is dead from 1 damage pings. Simple!

Combo explained here at Commanderspellbook

"A four card combo? How can that possibly work in cEDH?". I hear you, I do. Koll is Boros, Koll requires a lot of moving pieces, and Koll relies on cards that have never seen any play in any format, much less cEDH. But what might surprise you - and everyone you play against - is the sheer redundancy that lies within. Cost-reducers are plentiful, mana-neutral creatures are a dime a dozen, and tutors? It's easier to find Skullclamp in Koll than it is to find Ad Nauseam in a five-color deck. No cap clamp.

Finding Skullclamp

"Gee, you think? You think that maybe I should tutor for this clamp, that I use every day, at every opportunity? You're a freaking genius, ya IDIOT" - Koll, the Forgemaster

By the power of GreySkullclamp, I love tutors. When you think of good tutors, you probably think of black. Green is close, at least for creatures. Blue is somewhere behind both. Red and white? They're way back in the rear, struggling to pronounce tutor, much less use one. Or at least, that's what the goons at Big Color Pie would have you believe. In reality, finding Skullclamp is trivial, because when it comes to Equipment, Boros has no equal.

That's right, ten different cards that find Skullclamp. Including Skullclamp itself, that's eleven possible cards you can find in your opening hand, a 57.4% chance of success. And when I say success, I mean it. A hand that can't find Darksteel's biggest mistake is a hand that can't win. Always, always mulligan until you have a direct line to Skullclamp. Without it, the best thing you can say about Koll is that he trades with Tymna the Weaver.

While the above tutors can all find Skullclamp, there's no denying that some are better than others. At the top end, we have Steelshaper's Gift, scourge of Modern, finder of Hammers and the most efficient tutor we will ever see for this deck. Treat opening hands with Steelshaper's Gift as what they are: gifts. On the other end are cards like Goblin Engineer and Relic Seeker that take a moment to wind up. If you're relying on the latter, make sure you have appropriate fast mana or an otherwise powerful hand with relevant interaction or support pieces.

So, you've got your hot little hands on Skullclamp, what next?

Kobolds and Ko.

It's time to find a clampee, a disposable creature whose skull you're happy to recycle. Don't fret, you won't need to tutor these: there are so many in the deck that you'll never be more than a few draws away from seeing one. In the event you don't, Goblin Recruiter, Ranger-Captain of Eos, Recruiter of the Guard, and Imperial Recruiter are at your service.

The simplest are the Kobolds, defenseless and free. Clamp them for one colorless, draw two cards, then slam them back down before they know what happened to them. Memnite is much the same. They aren't exactly exciting, but these little goobers are part of what makes me love Koll as much as I do. Especially Kobolds of Kher Keep. It's rewarding to stare down wincons like Thassa's Oracle, Underworld Breach, and Ad Nauseam with a trio of Kobolds wearing pajamas.

These are refunders. They work much the same when assembling a loop, but the fact that you pay the cost up front will occasionally assist with sequencing. They also have unique lines: Myr Moonvessel pairs nicely with Oswald Fiddlebender when looking for crucial two-mana artifacts, and Impulsive Pilferer which allows for infinite mana paired with Skirk Prospector, a non-Skullclamp Equipment card, and costs reduced to (0) - not to mention reducing the required artifact/enchantment count for a successful Dockside Extortionist victory. Speaking of Goblins, we have to acknowledge the terrible two.

It's a red deck that plays Dockside Extortionist, go figure. It's not just mana-neutral, it's extremely mana-positive, but unfortunately it's a 1/2, impervious to Skullclamp. Thankfully, Skirk Prospector exists and can do all the hard work of killing Dockside Extortionist. The same is true of _____ Goblin: as long as it's mana-positive, it will work with Skirk Prospector and Skullclamp for infinite red mana and card draw. Yes, Koll, the Forgemaster is among a select few cEDH decks that have to take sticker cards seriously. No, I'm not happy about it. Anyway, beyond Skullclamp, as long as either of these Goblin can make at least two more mana than they cost, they will go infinite with Koll and either of Mortarpod or Mask of Immolation.

Stop Paying The (1)

No, not Rhystic Study. To the extent you can, please continue paying for Rhystic Study. I'm talking about the equip cost on Skullclamp, a single colorless mana. To be fair, that's already a ridiculously low price for drawing two cards, but the only thing better than paying one mana for two cards is paying zero mana for two cards, and just like Koll's tutor suite, the cost reduction options are surprisingly numerous:

Another Kaldheim native, Birgi, God of Storytelling is one of the few cards in this article that you'll find in other cEDH decks. It's perfect for going infinite with Skullclamp, but in a deck with this many zero-cost cards, Birgi, God of Storytelling is an absolute mana machine. A cheaper (and easier-to-tutor) alternative is Auriok Steelshaper. Making Skullclamp free to equip allows it to go infinite with every mana-neutral creature listed above except Fervent Champion, which isn't actually mana-neutral to begin with. Puresteel Paladin requires a little more setup, thanks to Metalcraft, but with an artifact count of 19, this is no challenge. More importantly, Puresteel Paladin completely removes the equip cost. Reducing the equip cost by (2) rather than just (1) makes no difference for Skullclamp, but it does make a difference for our real win conditions, Mortarpod and Mask of Immolation.

Fighting 'Round The World

Fighter Class has its own mini section because it is both a tutor and a cost reducer, and because I love it so. It feels like it was custom-made just for Koll. As it fulfils two roles, any opening hand with Fighter Class has a good chance at being a keeper. Play it for two mana, find Skullclamp (or Mask of Immolation/Mortarpod), and you can assemble yourself a win. It really has no equal; Fighter Class is the stuff wins are made of. Oh yeah, and the third level lets you force blocks. If that ever comes up for you, let me know.

Tips and Tricks

The Armory

Once you've found Skullclamp, you're going to draw a lot of cards, and as you're drawing, you're going to run into all those Equipment tutors I mentioned earlier. Surprisingly, cards like Steelshaper's Gift and its ilk remain useful at all stages of the game, thanks to the all the utility Koll, the Forgemaster has in his armory. If you're held back by a Rule of Law or a Null Rod or you think trying to pop off with a Rhystic Study in play is too risky, Citizen's Crowbar is your answer. If you know the table is completely stacked with interaction, find yourself a Conqueror's Flail or cheat it into play with Oswald Fiddlebender or Goblin Engineer so nobody sees it coming. If the game is going long and you need a way to grind, invite the second most broken Equipment card ever printed to the party: Umezawa's Jitte.

Paradise Mantle earns a spot in the deck on account of how nicely it plays with zero-mana creatures. With Kobolds of Kher Keep or an equivalent, Paradise Mantle works much the same as Birds of Paradise, a one-mana investment followed by consistent mana production. That's good enough for decks with Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh in the command zone, and it's good enough for Koll, the Forgemaster, but even this cloak of feathers is a worthy tutor target if you already have access to Skullclamp and Fervent Champion. While most mana-neutral creatures require a cost reduction effect to go infinite with Koll and Skullclamp, Javier Dominguez can use Paradise Mantle instead. With haste and inbuilt equip cost reduction, Fervent Champion can pay for its own cost on every entry by equipping Paradise Mantle before Skullclamp. Like all the other loops in the deck, that means infinite draw, and that means a victory. You can see this combo explained here.

Recruitment Drive

Skullclamp will mostly eat mana-neutral creatures, but remember that they're not the only ones with a toughness of one. Some of the best tutors in Boros also share that lowly number. The ability to not only fetch out Dockside Extortionist but recycle the same tutor to find Skirk Prospector is an extremely powerful one. As long as you have the mana, you can fetch out an amazing number of cards by using the same Recruiter over and over again, and best of all, you'll be drawing cards while you do it. Find a Grand Abolisher to protect yourself from pesky blue players, find a Goblin Cratermaker to get rid of that Collector Ouphe, or if you think you're safe to win now, find that Puresteel Paladin.

Help, I've Lost Clamp!

In some ways, Koll, the Forgemaster is more of a Skullclamp deck than it is a Koll deck. That makes finding Skullclamp priority number one, which in turn makes destroying Skullclamp priority number one for your opponents. Whether they blow it up with Abrade or they answer it on the stack with Mental Misstep, anticipate opponents doing what they can to put the Clamp in the bin. But for as powerful and important as Skullclamp is, it is not how we actually win the game. Think of it like a more traditional deck losing Ad Nauseam: it might be annoying, but the real win cons are elsewhere. This leaves us with two options.

The easiest thing to do is just bring it back. Red is very good at bring artifacts back into play, and white can hold its own if you dip into cards like Sevinne's Reclamation or the recently printed Recommission, but remeber that you don't need Skullclamp. You need what you've always needed: Mortarpod or Mask of Immolation. Yes, it's harder to find them without your primary draw engine, but don't spend more time than you need to mourning Skullclamp. Simply pivot and start trying to assemble the win directly.

Attack the Stax

I won't lie: Koll has a difficult time with stax. Plenty of decks looking to vomit out their hand and go ballistic with fast mana do as well, but Koll specifically suffers against almost every common stax card in cEDH.

Rule of Law effects, à la Archon of Emeria and Eidolon of Rhetoric, are disastrous for Koll. Beyond the general focus on chaining low-cast cards, the entire Skullclamp combo revolves arounds playing and replaying the same thing; not easy to do when you can only cast one spell a turn. Collector Ouphe and Null Rod are much the same, turning Equipments into Equipnots.

The answer to all of them? More removal. Thankfully, that's something white and red do extremely well. The cream of the crop is the recently printed Soul Partition, as good at removing limiting stax as it at double dipping on Dockside Extortionist. Beyond the white bounce spell, we've got other catchalls, like March of Otherworldly Light and Unexpectedly Absent, and more specific answers, like Swords to Plowshares, Wear // Tear, and Abrade. Goblin Cratermaker is even worth running for the surprising quantity of cards it can destroy and the fact it's available off almost every creature in the deck. Knowing when and how to use removal is a major skill in cEDH, one that's important to keep in mind at all times with Koll.

Dealing with Counterspells

Being a Boros deck, Koll won't be influencing the stack much beyond Deflecting Swat, Pyroblast, and Red Elemental Blast. Instead, Koll has to preempt interaction with protection pieces like Silence, Grand Abolisher, Ranger-Captain of Eos, and Conqueror's Flail. Silence and Grand Abolisher need no introduction, and we've already discussed Flail, but Ranger-Captain of Eos shines especially bright in Koll because we can reuse his effect. No, Skullclamp won't kill him, but his own sacrifice effect will, which can make for multiple turns worth of protection. If you want to take this further, you can find room for Flamescroll Celebrant // Revel in Silence or even Myrel, Shield of Argive. Just remember you can't Clamp the Soldier tokens, Koll's +1/+1 ability will kick in.

Notable Exclusions

This is an alternative combo and one that used to see play in earlier iterations of Koll. With Koll, a mana-neutral creature, an Equipment with an equip cost of (0), and Goblin Bombardment, you have the tools necessary to ping down the entire table. This sounds good, given how close it is to the Mask of Immolation/Mortarpod line, but unfortunately Goblin Bombardment is exceptionally difficult to find. Outside of Enlightened Tutor and Gamble, Boros does not have efficient enchantment tutors. If you're building a budget variant of the deck or you're desperate for additional redundancy, including Goblin Bombardment and one of the two Equipment isn't the worst choice you can make, but the deck doesn't need it.

At its heart, Koll is a deck about asking questions, not providing answers. Having said that, if you want to answer opposing graveyard strategies, Lion Sash is perfect. Like with all the equipment in this deck, it's extremely easy to tutor for. With effects like this and we could one day see a slower, toolbox focused variant of the deck. For now, consider Lion Sash if you're playing in a meta with an uncommonly high number of graveyard centric decks.

Paired with Koll, Skullclamp, and any of the mana-neutral red creatures, Runaway Steam-Kin functions as a Skullclamp breaker. You need to be able to play and replay that creatures three times to begin with, but once you can, you've got a mana-neutral loop. That sounds pretty good, but unfortunately Runaway Steam-Kin doesn't do much of anything with the non-red Skullclamp enablers and won't reduce the cost enough to allow for a Mortarpod/Mask of Immolation win.

Fans of Hammertime in Modern may well notice the absence of Sigarda's Aid. While it provides flexibility by allowing an instant speed Skullclamp and can even cheat on the first equip cost, it doesn't do much more than that. By the time you're up and running, it's a dead card and it fails at actually improving or protecting this deck's primary gameplan.

Puresteel Paladin is good enough, why not Sram, Senior Edificer? As someone who played Cheerios in Modern during that brief period in 2017 when everyone thought it might be the next best thing and for a long time thereafter, it pains me that Sram, Senior Edificer isn't good enough. Sadly, there just aren't enough Equipment pieces for Sram, Senior Edificer to trigger reliably. Even if Koll doubled the number of Equipment it ran, Skullclamp will almost always be the first Equipment card you play, meaning draw is already taken care of.

If Jitte just isn't enough for you, there's always the best of the sword cycle, Sword of Fire and Ice. A repeatable source of card advantage and removal is the kind of thing that can run away with a drawn out game very easily. At three mana to cast and two to equip, you're looking at an investment of five before you see any return, but the political power that comes with throwing out a Shock every turn is surprisingly high.

My Clamp of Approval

Just in case my enthusiasm isn't coming across, let me spell it out for you: Koll is extremely fun to play. Despite being hyper focused on Skullclamp, the sheer number of interchangeable pieces means you'll frequently stumble upon infinites without realising it. You'll reacquaint yourself with some of the most broken Equipment ever printed, you'll learn to mulligan aggressively, and you'll enjoy the novelty a truly unique deck. There's genuinely nothing like Koll in cEDH; he shares his lines and combos with no other deck. If that appeals to you and you want to try something beyond the realm of Thassa's Oracle or a four-color Partner soup, Koll is the deck for you. If you'd like to see the deck in action, you can see me pilot it here! You can also read a community primer here.

Koll, Skullclamp cEDH

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Commander (1)
Creatures (30)
Instants (12)
Lands (27)
Artifacts (19)
Enchantments (2)
Sorceries (9)

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Jake FitzSimons is a writer from Sydney and a Magic fiend. He's either the johnniest spike or the spikiest johnny, nobody is sure which. When he isn’t brewing or playing cEDH, he can be found writing, playing piano, and doting on his little cat.