Uncommanders - Kill Count

Alejandro Fuentes • November 30, 2023

A Common Case of Magic: The Gathering Addiction

Welcome back to Uncommanders! I should really have a copy-and-pasted intro for this series, but for whatever reason, I've decided to write a new one every article! And now I've run out of ideas! Isn't that just great? I guess I could just throw in some jokes about how Pauper players are all broke, but instead, I think I'll just leave it as a rant about how I have no intro. 

The Difference Between the Bloodflame and the Bloodfist?

Garna, Bloodfist of Keld is a commander I've been wanting to build for a while, and now I'm tackling her as a Pauper deck. I have to say, I've been really appreciating uncommon legendary designs recently. Wizards has been making a point of loading up the rares and mythics, like the Doctors and their companions, with as much text as possible. Luckily, in the interest of powering down slightly, they've been keeping the uncommon commanders basic, often with only one ability. Garna cares about exactly one thing, and that is your creatures dying. However, she gives us the option between direct damage and card draw, depending on when that creature dies. Both are powerful effects, and both are easy to achieve. Even though Garna is simple, she's quite strong and fun. If you ask me, that's how cards should be made. 

"Whatever it is, I'm willing to put wave after wave of men at your disposal. Right men?"

So, first things first: if we want creatures dying, we need creatures, and lots of them. Even though Rakdos isn't known for its token-making abilities, Krenko's Command and its ilk are within that color identity, so we'll take all of those. Every creature we make is a potential card in hand, so if we can sacrifice our cards twice, the card advantage is exponential. Hordeling Outburst can be sacrificed three times; it's in. Putrid Goblin can be sacrificed twice, easy inclusion. Mogg War Marshal is three cards for two mana. With Empty the Warrens, the sky's the limit. Some cards can make sacrifice fodder continuously, like the myriad copies on Tiamat's Fanatics, or Mordor Trebuchet, and this will result in a very strong engine. Our gameplan gets even better if the tokens can arrange their own demise, like the Eldrazi Scions and Spawn from the Zendikar block. Emrakul's Hatcher, our best Spawn-maker, is a bit costly, but it makes up for it by arriving with four bodies. Unfortunately, sacrificing the Spawn while they're attacking means the mana will mostly go to waste, but if we do need the mana, sacrificing them during the main phase means direct damage. 

Of course, not every token we make can sacrifice itself, so we'll have to bring in some slightly suspicious characters to do that job. Blood Bairn and its other equally murderous variants allow us to draw a card at no additional cost while also making combat very difficult for our opponents. If they let a Nantuko Husk through, it could very easily represent lethal. Not all of our sacrifice outlets are free, but when they cost a mana or two, it's for good reason. For example, Dark-Dweller Oracle doubles the number of cards we're seeing! 

With all these creatures arriving and departing so rapidly, we'd be foolish to waste the enter-the-battlefield and death triggers. In fact, our main way to close out the game is going to be through pings and drains. Impact Tremors, Witty Roastmaster, and Mirkwood Bats all do the same thing, which is slowly ping our opponents to death. Although aristocrats often seems like a slow strategy in Commander, these pings can add up fast. If you're making and sacrificing two tokens a turn off of Dragon Fodder effects, Mirkwood Bats pings every opponent for four, which is twelve damage a turn. I don't dare to dream about the amount of damage with Rapacious One. Combined with combat and Garna's pings, this deck can melt life totals, all while churning through its library and maintaining a constant snowball. 

What Was Once Yours is Now Mine!

As for the deck's interaction, we're running the standard package of Feed the Swarm, Tragic Slip, Go for the Throat, etc. Generic removal is always important to have, to be used in any situation. However, when we have the board state to use them, other forms of removal can be even more effective. Massive Raid will pick off a creature in the early game, and it'll pick off a player late game if we've got a large enough board. If we have ten creatures on board, we're probably winning anyways, but this deck is about killing things, and that includes overkilling things. If we have any sacrifice outlet on board, Act of Treason is premium removal. We can take the biggest thing on the board, get in for damage, remove it, and draw/ping all for three mana. Even better, sacrificing a creature gets around indestructibility, something that Rakdos struggles with. 

How Does it Run?

The deck does its thing with ease. Early game, it's able to develop smoothly, either with a bit of ramp, or by setting up some tokens to be sacrificed once Garna's on the board. It can seriously pull ahead with a Deadly Dispute, and once we cast our commander, we really get rolling. With the constant card draw, we never really run out of token-generation, and we end up snowballing, at least until a board wipe happens. But even then, we still get a sizable amount of damage with Garna's pings. The biggest problem is when Garna gets removed and we're forced to top deck. Luckily, Pauper has a great solution in the form of Undying Evil. As long as the spot removal merely destroys her, Garna is coming right back, effectively countering the spell. But it also doubles as a way to retrigger some of our big creatures with enter-the-battlefield triggers. Not much feels better than blinking an Emrakul's Hatcher for four pieces of sac fodder. A good tip for deckbuilding is to have cards that serve more than one purpose, like Abrade. It's a worse Lightning Bolt and a worse Smelt, but having both of those together makes it a great card to draw while playing. Undying Evil is a perfect example of that here. 

Here's my final list of a Rakdos value engine deck:

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You're a mean one, Mr. Akawalli, the Seething Tower!

I've been enjoying the uncommon legendary designs from The Lost Caverns of Ixalan just as much as I like Garna's design. Caparocti Sunborn, Nicanzil, Current Conductor, and Bartolomé del Presidio all do one thing, but they do it really well.

In terms of recent card design, do you prefer cards to be focused, or varied? If a commander only does one thing, it's somewhat difficult to make a unique deck around it, and it might get stale, but it does prevent the commander from being generic goodstuff, like Chulane, Teller of Tales can be. However, the commanders with a lot of text offer a lot to build around, and that can make for more active gameplay. There are fun commanders with only a few lines of text on them, and there are great legends that take half an hour to read. Which is your playstyle?

Alejandro Fuentes's a nerd from Austin Texas who likes building the most unreasonable decks possible, then optimizing them till they're actually good. In his free time, he's either trying to fit complex time signatures into death metal epics, or writing fantasy novels.