The Balrog: Thromok the Insatiable

Anthony Burchett • February 6, 2023

Image from The Lord of the Rings © Middle-earth Enterprises

Welcome to Alter of the Brewed, the article series where we build the most thematic Commander decks from Hobbiton to Mordor. Today's article puts us right between the two, as we build a deck that plays like the beast beneath the Mines of Moria: the Balrog!

Opening Old Doors

Several years and many decks ago, I had a Thromok the Insatiable deck that I really loved, but if you're like me and deckbuilding is a creative art form, it's difficult to keep a deck around forever. You just want to keep building more, exploring new ideas, and eventually you run out of space and old brews have to retire.

One of the many sweet components of living in an online world is we get to be a part of virtual communities, find like-minded people with whom we may have never crossed paths, and find joy around commonalities in our spare moments throughout the day. I saw a post on Twitter recently of a friend trying to build a Thromok deck, and suddenly my mind was launched into the past as I relived the recklessly aggro days of my own Thromok deck I'd forgotten all about.

Here was the gameplan (and will be ours today, as well):

  • Get at least 7 creatures into play.
  • Cast Thromok the Insatiable with Devour 7 so he comes in as a 49/49 creature. (6 is okay too, but not as cool.)
  • Attack.
  • Most importantly, if anyone tries to do anything to stop you, counter their spell... with Fling.

That's right. Did you know the most effective counterspell isn't blue? It's red, and it reads "Destroy target player. Remove all their spells from the stack."

Speak Friend and Enter

As I played the deck for many months, it occurred to me how eerily similar Thromok the Insatiable was to the Balrog that Gandalf faces in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. It's a giant fiery creature bursting from underground, eating lots of little creatures, and when it is eventually bested, it at least makes sure to take an opposing wizard down with it.

And so, I present to you, the Balrog:

It may not seem so, but this deck is actually very political. Thromok doesn't have any intrinsic evasion, so swinging him into players is not necessarily a death sentence. Regardless, he'll be very scary, and players will point removal your way or try to talk you out of attacking. This is where you remind them of the story of the Balrog. It's completely understandable that you want to remove this giant thing, but if you do, know I'm going to have to get my value out of it before it dies.

All it takes is for the Balrog to Fling one time before your opponents understand they don't want to be on your bad side.

Whipping Up a Gameplan

I've given you a brief overview of the gameplan, but let's look step-by-step how we can use the Balrog to pummel our friends into the ground.

Step 1: Get at least seven disposable creatures.

One easy way to do this is to have some creatures that come down early and give you value early. This way it doesn't feel bad for them to get eaten. I also realized that a lot of spells that make tokens make Goblins specifically, and so I thought it would be particularly thematic to lean into creating hordes of Goblins like in the Mines of Moria.

Step 2: Play Thromok for X = 6 or X = 7.

The reason you want these numbers specifically is that Devor 6 will make Thromok the Insatiable enter as a 36/36, and Devour 7 as a 49/49, both of which are often lethal amounts of damage if they connect. It's not all that difficult to achieve this by turn 5 in this deck, but you want to do your best to always be representing something powerful to do, so I would suggest waiting a couple of turns to make sure you can cast Thromok AND hold up mana for a payoff.

Step 3: Assert dominance.

Turn the big thing sideways. Attack. And when you do, your pod will cower in fear. Use this to your advantage like we talked about earlier, holding a Fling-effect over their heads if they try to stop you. We're not expecting combat to work, but there are a few ways we can at least try. (I'm particularly excited about how thematically appropriate Fiendlash is.)

Step 4: Get paid for Thromok dying.

You won't always be able to talk your opponents off removal, and this is a deck that plans on killing off our own Balrog anyway. With this in mind, we can make sure we have payoffs on hand every time it dies. It can really wrap up a game quickly when you chuck Thromok at one player for 49 while you also, say, draw 49 cards.

Step 5: Surprise your opponents with a backup plan.

This deck seems relatively one-dimensional, and it kind of is, so our backup plan is just having other giant things that can come down and replace your Thromok when your opponents think they've neutralized the threat. Our attack-fling-payoff cycle can find a home with any of these big baddies pretty effectively if Thromok has become too expensive to cast from the command zone.

You Shall Not Pass (Priority)

That's all there is to it! Stop those pesky wizards while their spells are still on the stack with a giant, fiery, frankly irresponsible beast, and create huge splashy moments you'll remember for years. And if you're successful, you can probably get several games done in less time than it takes to watch The Fellowship of the Ring!

If you like this deck, take a look through my past articles in my Alter of the Brewed series here on Commander's Herald, and you can find all the decklists in one handy place over on my Archidekt page.

Thromok: The Balrog

View on Archidekt

Commander (1)
Lands (35)
Creatures (18)
Sorceries (15)
Instants (18)
Enchantments (6)
Artifacts (6)
Planeswalkers (1)

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Anthony is a freelance digital artist, editor, and designer from St. Louis, MO. He began playing Magic: The Gathering in 2009, and now primarily plays the Commander format with friends and brews new decks just to take them apart a month later. You can find all his art, decks, articles, and products at