Commander Showdown - K'rrik vs Yawgmoth

K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth by Chase Stone | Yawgmoth, Thran Physician by Mark Winters

Like Father, Like "Son"

Mono-black is one of my truest joys in Magic. Back in the days of Future Sight Standard, I enjoyed a beautiful deck that utilized Korlash, Heir to Blackblade, Phyrexian Arena, and Tendrils of Corruption to bring my enemies to heel. When I began to play Commander, it wasn't long before I got the itch to fashion a deck that would appropriately hearken back to this glory.

Yet, in truth, I never found a deck I was satisfied with. I tried Korlash, I tried Geth, Lord of the Vault, I tried Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief, but nothing quite got there.

Then 2019 happened.

Yawgmoth, Thran Physician released in June with astounding aplomb. Viscera Seer was a great sacrifice outlet, and Yahenni, Undying Partisan's indestructibility made them an A+ in my book, but Yawgmoth... he drew cards. And he made other creatures weaker. And he could Proliferate!

Not two months later, K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth made his debut, and I found myself in crisis mode. Phyrexian mana? Phyrexian mana!? The deal was done. I had to build one of these busted mono-black beauties. I couldn't help myself. They were so good.

The problem was... which one!?

For this week's Commander Showdown, I'd like to walk you through my journey with Yawgmoth and the man who claims to be his kin, and hopefully uncover some of the nuances that make these uber-powerful mono-black commanders so entrancing... and so deadly.

Go to Your Room

Let's begin with Yawgmoth, Thran Physician. I'm sure Commander players already know this by now, but sacrificing your own stuff is an upside, not a downside. It dodges exile effects. It prevents people from Blatant Thievery-ing your belongings. It can be used to kill off all the creatures you stole with that Insurrection. They could print a card that says "Sacrifice a creature: That's all", and we would probably play it.

I lead with this because Yawgmoth is a sacrifice outlet that also has even more upside. Can you tell I'm in love? Because I'm in love.

It's important to note, of course, that Yawgmoth presents a very obvious opportunity for infinite combo. An Undying creature such as Butcher Ghoul can be sacrificed to draw a card, and it return with a +1/+1 counter. By sacrificing another creature - perhaps a Geralf's Messenger - Yawgmoth can place a -1/-1 counter onto the Ghoul and annihilate the +1/+1 counter, resetting the loop. Yawgmoth will run out of life and cards if you're not careful, but enough Blood Artist effects will likely keep you covered.

To the best of my ability, I wanted to avoid infinite combo. Yawgmoth would facilitate an amazing deck for a Bolas's Citadel + Sensei's Divining Top win condition, for instance, but that's not what drew me to mono-black all those years ago. As Sheldon Menery said on episode 100 of the EDHRECast, I'd like my brain to win me the game, not just my cards.

In fact, I went to great lengths to find a way to make Yawgmoth more unique than other mono-black strategies, particularly by harnessing the power of his Proliferate ability.

Extra loyalty counters on planeswalkers, discarding cards to put -1/-1 counters on everyone else's creatures and using Yawgmoth to add even more, slowly infecting my enemies with poison counters, I went hardcore into all of these strategies.

But it always came back to one thing: I like sacrificing my creatures, dang it. I wasn't here to slowly Proliferate ten counters by discarding a bunch of cards. I wasn't here to creep up to an Ob Nixilis, Reignited ultimate. I was here to bleed my enemies dry with Blood Artist and Zulaport Cutthroat and draw cards while doing it.

This is an approximation of the final list I came to, updated to include cards released after Modern Horizons.

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When every Weaponcraft Enthusiast is also an Ancient Craving, you know you're onto something special. I found that Yawgmoth never played like an outright powerhouse, hitting the table with insurmountable value right out of the gate. Rather, I found him to play precisely the way he's depicted in the lore - secretive, brooding, slowly digging for answers and building toward a goal that only he can truly see.

He must also measure his resources - that is, creatures - very carefully, lest he run out of steam. I found little patience with the Proliferate ability, threatening to use it more than I actually intended to, and discovering it to be a greater cost than it initially appears. It was so much more gratifying to draw, to dig, to find Yawgmoth's ultimate answers, to loop Bloodghast and Nether Traitor in and out of play, to deploy a line of Falkenrath Noble and Zulaport Cutthroat in one turn and watch as Ophiomancer and Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder supplied the fuel for a new revolution, to squash the hopes of my enemies by using a Necroskitter to scoop up their weak, foolish creatures and further my grand design--!

Ahem. I mean... uh... Yawgmoth is a good Aristocrats deck.

You're Not My Real Dad

Let's turn our attention to the next mono-black commander, K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth. Where Yawgmoth allowed me to treat my creatures as dispensable fodder, K'rrik offered an even more tempting proposition. After all, it doesn't matter if you win by an inch or a mile. Any life points you have left over at the end of the game are extra resources you could have utilized.

And I plan to utilize them.

Easily the most important aspect of K'rrik's Phyrexianizing ability is that it doesn't just apply to casting costs; abilities can also be paid for with life instead of mana. As many know, this turns Blood Celebrant into Treasonous Ogre. Font of Agonies became an Ouroboros of free destruction.

Surely this greed will lead to hubris, though? Surely K'rrik will run out of life? I can't rely on finding Gray Merchant of Asphodel every game, right? That's when Pontiff of Blight raised its spectral head, allowing K'rrik to pay two life to gain even more life!

The most important lesson I learned with K'rrik, however, is that when your commander saves you on this much mana, the rest of the deck absolutely needs to compensate.

I love Night's Whisper, but K'rrik wanted to see it every game. I found myself more in love with Succumb to Temptation than Read the Bones simply because it could cost one less mana. Vilis, Broker of Blood didn't just draw some cards. It drew all the cards.

In short, with K'rrik, I ran into the exact opposite problems as Yawgmoth. Yawgmoth kept me flush with cards, but would run out of mana before the work could be completed, while K'rrik let me cast anything, but would run out of steam.

Which caused me to lean even further into the cantrips. Spells that drew me more cards, which let me cast more spells, which would gain me life, which I could use to cast more spells that draw more cards....

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It wasn't enough. Even with a Nightmare Lash or a Blackblade Reforged keeping K'rrik's power high to allow his lifelink to refill the tank, it just wasn't killing my enemies fast enough. I needed the zero-mana Tainted Strike. No, not even that... combat was too slow!

I was already casting a dozen spells in one turn. Aetherflux Reservoir was now both life, mana, and win condition! Repay in Kind would turn my exquisite agony into their downfall! Tendrils of Agony would delete my puny opponents! THE WORK WOULD AT LAST BE COMPLEAT!


Ahem. Sorry, I don't know why that keeps happening.

A search to keep up on card advantage led me down a path with only one logical conclusion. Free mana begat a desire for more cards, which begat a play pattern wherein I would cast dozens of spells in one turn, which begat the infamous Storm.

And remember how I said I didn't like infinite combo? Well, this wasn't infinite, so in my head, that made this all perfectly normal. Amazing how we can trick ourselves into becoming the very thing we wanted to avoid.

Cards to Consider

For posterity, I'd like to make note of a few of the special gems that made this power spiral so enthralling.


  • Oblivion Stone: The card Mire in Misery was absolutely not the first time black got access to enchantment removal.
  • Sorin Markov: I mentioned above that I didn't personally find it helpful to lean into planeswalkers and Proliferate with Yawgmoth. But this thing puts enemies right within lethal range, and Yawgmoth has a darn good chance of actually activating Sorin's -3 twice during a game.
  • Wayfarer's Bauble: Just a reminder that this is even better in a mono-black deck that likes having lots and lots of Swamps.
  • Sudden Spoiling: Amazing Fog effect that can also kill off any creatures you've put two -1/-1 counters on. Oh, and they don't get to respond to it!
  • Sling-Gang Lieutenant: Very versatile in this deck. Draw cards, gain life, trigger Dictate of Erebos, whatever you need, it supplies.


  • Hatred: Attack with K'rrik, pay 18 life. He deals 21 commander damage. With lifelink.
  • Null Profusion: Far and away the best card I could ever hope to draw in the middle of the Storm. Pro tip: this includes playing lands.
  • Painful Lesson: Not the kind of thing most decks would use, but I was hungry for anything that would keep the train moving, and this type of redundancy helped immensely.
  • Wretched Confluence: Still hungry for more card advantage, only this one could also get back a Gray Merchant of Asphodel!
  • Tainted Strike: Even without my power-crazed insanity, this genuinely does shock me. Only 15% of K'rrik decks are playing this so far. Pumping him to 9 power isn't too tough, and this is a zero-mana surprise insta-kill. Glorious.

Maybe it's Hereditary

So that's a fairly simple deconstruction of my descent into madness. Mono-black just seems to hold some sway over me, entrancing me with its promises of power, filling me with the knowledge of how to use different pieces of the game as extra resources, and blinding me to the fact that these playstyles were past the typical power level of my usual playgroup.

Yawgmoth, Thran Physician and K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth aren't just powerful commanders, they're two of the most amazing mono-black cards I've ever seen, each because they perfectly evoke the concept of power at any cost. Playing them was like wearing the One Ring, and it will take a soul stronger than mine to keep it secret, keep it safe, and keep it fair.

Unless, of course, these styles are a perfectly acceptable power level for your group. In which case... all hail Phyrexia.

PS: For those of you wondering how long I kept the above decks, and how my journey ended, well, I have a confession. I don't just play Magic with friends, but also with my entire family.

And it's very, very hard to look your mother in the eye and explain to her that you built a mono-black Storm deck that takes ten minutes to complete a turn and which tends not to let other people play the game.

This is the woman who once held up four counterspells in a row to stop my game-winning turn.

So I think it's good to have a support network that doesn't just keep you uplifted, but also keeps you in check.

Plus, I did eventually find another mono-black commander that I love. Hopefully those maniacal instincts are kept in check, and I'm no longer tempted to fall back into my old ways.


So, which of these mono-black powerhouses do you prefer? What ways have you found to keep an eye on your own power levels? Which commanders tempt you to the dark side?

Oh, and which commanders would you like to see in the next Showdown?

Til next time!

Joey is the lead editor and content producer for EDHREC. You can find him hosting and creating tons of great videos over at or give him a follow at @JosephMSchultz on Twitter, where he likes to celebrate Commander, coffee, and corgis.