Gisa, the Hellraiser Commander Deck Tech

Ben Doolittle • March 28, 2024

(Gisa, the Hellraiser | Art by Chris Rahn)

Raising Hell on Thunder Junction

Outlaws of Thunder Junction previews have officially begun, and it is my great pleasure to bring you an early deck tech for Gisa, the Hellraiser. Gisa has always been something of an outlaw, but she may have found the perfect place to perfect the art of crime.

Gisa, the Hellraiser, a new legendary creature card revealed in the Outlaws of Thunder Junction kickoff stream.
Gisa, the Hellraiser, a new legendary creature card revealed in the Outlaws of Thunder Junction kickoff stream.

Gisa, the Hellraiser is a five mana 4/4 with ward. More relevantly, the first time you commit a Crime each turn Gisa creates two tapped blue and black 2/2 Zombie tokens. Crime is a new keyword for Thunder Junction that refers to targeting your opponents or any of their spells or cards. Gisa also gives her Zombies +1/+1 and menace, so they're really 3/3s with menace. She's always been a powerful Zombie commander, but this may be Gisa's most explosive version yet.

Before getting to all that Zombified goodness, however, you have to decide what kind of Crimes to focus on. Targeted removal is the most readily available, but there's plenty more to choose from. Anything that targets your opponents or their graveyards also counts, which makes me think about mill and reanimation. Targeting your opponents to mill cards and reanimating their creatures both make you Zombie tokens, hopefully overwhelming your opponents with sheer numbers backed up by their most powerful creatures.

Filling the Graveyard with Gisa

Mono-black may be better known for self-mill, but it still has plenty of powerful effects to mill your opponents. Undercity Informer and Altar of Dementia are both very strong with Gisa, the Hellraiser, since each Zombie they sacrifice is replaced by two more. Altar of Dementia doesn't even need additional mana to steadily grow your undead horde, although Undercity Informer may mill more cards. More than anything else, however, every necromancer needs their Embalmer's Tools. Compared to Altar and Informer, Embalmer's Tools grows your army much faster, since it require a sacrifice to activate. 

Of course, those do all require a creature already in play. You'll need some other effects to get the Zombie ball rolling. Luckily, you have plenty of options. I'm not trying to actually win by mill, so slower effects like Codex Shredder and Millstone are perfect early game effects. I'm even including Sands of Delirium and Grindclock. The important thing here is to target an opponent, so even activating either ability without extra mana or charge counters creates a couple Zombies. But most of the mill payoffs cost a little more mana, so you should have time to charge these up and hopefully get a few creatures into graveyards.

Grave Robbing is a Crime

The goal then becomes to pull the best creatures out of those graveyards and turn them against their owners. This also counts as a Crime, so even if there's nothing impressive to Reanimate you'll get two 3/3s with menace (thanks to Gisa's buff) alongside it. This is especially good because most spells that let you steal from an opponent's graveyard cost five mana or more. Most do come with some additional upside though. Endless Obedience has Convoke, so it's usually just two mana, and From the Catacombs can be reused thanks to Escape. Finally, Yawgmoth's Vile Offering also destroys a creature or planeswalker. Unfortunately, that doesn't count as two Crimes, even if it really should.

You also have plenty of repeatable ways to go grave robbing. Chainer, Dementia Master is a powerful commander in his own right, but he works extremely well under Gisa, the Hellraiser too. Geth, Lord of the Vault requires a little more mana to work, but also fuels graveyards for later Crimes, ensuring you never run out of targets. Similarly, Virtue of Persistence also represents two Crimes: one when you cast Locthwain Scorn and a second when you cast the enchantment from exile. And then, of course, it grabs a creature every turn thereafter, creating two 3/3s with menace alongside each one. 

Zombie Lords

Of course, you can't just rely on your opponents. Gisa creates a lot of Zombie tokens just by playing the game. Between mill, reanimate, and removal spells, a significant portion of this deck incidentally makes two 3/3 tokens. This version of the deck isn't a dedicated token deck, but it still makes sense to include a few Zombie lords. Getting your tokens up to 4/4 or 5/5 should be good enough in most situations. And if your lords do get killed, all of the reanimation in the deck can get them right back as well.

I also want to highlight Endless Ranks of the Dead. Most of the time it's a little awkward because it rounds down. It doesn't help recover from a board wipe, which is where you want the effect most. Gisa, the Hellraiser creates two tokens, however, so you can quickly start making additional tokens. Even better, every Gisa trigger ensures an additional Zombie from Endless Ranks, making it much more impactful. 

Incidental Crimes

In addition to the main plan of milling and reanimating, I want to include as many incidental crimes as possible. All targeted removal automatically fits this category, but some card draw and ramp does as well. In particular, Scheming Symmetry is much more powerful with the targeted mill in the deck. Palantír of Orthanc is also a powerful draw engine that also guarantees one Crime a turn. Keep in mind that Gisa, the Hellraiser only triggers once a turn. Whenever possible, it's best to hold removal and other instant speed effects to get Zombies on other players' turns, while relying on end step and upkeep triggers for Crimes on your own turn.

Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer

Outlaws of Thunder Junction is shaping up to be an exciting set, and Gisa, the Hellraiser is certainly no disappointment. She stands strong on her own, but also fits well into a deck built around the new Outlaw classification, and honestly anything else. 

Are you excited for Gisa, the Hellraiser, or has another outlaw caught your eye? There's lots more to look forward to, so keep your eyes open. And watch your back; these are rough parts.

Ben was introduced to Magic during Seventh Edition and has played on and off ever since. A Simic mage at heart, he loves being given a problem to solve. When not shuffling cards, Ben can be found lost in a book or skiing in the mountains of Vermont.