Commander Showdown - Prossh vs Korvold
(Prossh, Skyraider of Kher by Todd Lockwood | Korvold, Fae-Cursed King by Wisnu Tan)
Jund 'Em Out!
We all know Prossh, Skyraider of Kher. He's huge, he makes Kobolds, and his appetite is so vast that after he's finished eating your creatures for breakfast, he'll eat your opponents for brunch.
However, a new Jund Dragon has arrived to the party, and he, too, is hungry for victory. No, I don't mean that Jund Dragon. Or that one. Or that one or that one.
I'm talking about Korvold, Fae-Cursed King.
If I may speak plainly, Wizards of the Coast took the leash off the designs in the Brawl preconstructed decks. From Arcane Signet to Chulane, Teller of Tales, the set was nothing if not built to appeal to Commander players, and Korvold is no exception; every permanent you sacrifice makes him bigger and draws you a card.
Two Jund powerhouses that devour everything in their path. How do their strategies differ? Where do they overlap? Let's find out on this week's Commander Showdown!
I Couldn't Kher Less
Let's start with Prossh, Skyraider of Kher. Before we're even able to discuss general strategies, we have to address the elephant in the room: Food Chain. 46% of Prossh decks run this enchantment, and it's no mystery why.
Prossh is famous for being one of the de facto Food Chain combo commanders. When he's cast, he'll create a bunch of Kobold tokens. The point of these tokens is to be eaten by Prossh, but this grubby-looking enchantment lets him do much more than that. Exiling those tokens will give you mana you may only spend on creature spells. Exiling Prossh himself will get you tons of mana too, mana you can spend on Prossh to create even more tokens... and then exile them all to get even more tokens than that... and so on and so forth until you have infinite mana and infinite tokens. (You can pull off a similar trick with Food Chain and Squee, the Immortal.)
What do you do with all these resources? Easy: you win!
Creatures flying in and out of play is great for a Purphoros, God of the Forge. Infinite tokens is a stunning prospect for a well-timed Goblin Bombardment or other potent sacrifice outlet. Speaking of sacrifice outlets, they'll make sure those tokens perish properly, which can trigger your delicious Zulaport Cutthroat or Poison-Tip Archer. Alternatively, an Ashnod's Altar or Phyrexian Altar can convert those tokens into mana you don't have to spend exclusively on creature spells. If you do wind up with tons of mana you can only spend on creature spells, though, Walking Ballista is basically a Comet Storm. Some decks will even use Ogre Battledriver or Goblin Bushwhacker to power up those infinite tokens just enough to give the entire table what-for.
I'd be lying if I said Food Chain wasn't exactly what I would anticipate from a Prossh deck if I sat down across from one. 46% of decks using this combo is an extremely relevant statistic. Notably, when we use Advanced Filters to look exclusively at Prossh decks that include Food Chain in the 99, a good deal of them use mana dorks like Elvish Mystic or Llanowar Elves, which are not normally seen outside of green Elf tribal decks, to speed right to the point where they have enough mana to power out the combo.
Still, 46% is not the majority of decks, so let's not flatly assume that all Prossh decks are using this combo. There are still a good 54% that don't. What does Prossh do when he's not looking for a combo?
See If I Kher
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Much of the same, honestly. Prossh make token. Prossh eat token. Enemy lose life. Prossh win game.
Prossh is one of the OG nasties of the format, and like many commanders these days, there's likely no 'wrong' way to build him. As he gets more and more tuned, though, certain play patterns do reveal themselves.
Fascinatingly, Prossh lists, even those that don't make use of combo, don't make use of powerhouse effects like Overwhelming Stampede or Shared Animosity. The synergy is obvious: Prossh makes a bunch of tokens, and these will pump everything up into the sky and dish out the damage so hard that your opponents won't be able to get up. Yet they don't show up highly on Prossh's page. What gives?
It turns out that this is just too slow for Prossh. It isn't just Prossh's capacity for combo that makes him attractive to the cEDH meta, it's also his speed. There are actually non-combo Prossh lists that make use of effects like Defense Grid and even City of Solitude like they're Grand Abolishers, to ensure his turn is his alone.
Why? Because when Prossh hits the board, he hits like a truck. His impact is meteoric. One spell, seven bodies, and a guarantee of six death triggers at instant speed. That's 14 damage from a Purphoros, God of the Forge. With In the Web of War in play, that's 19 damage out of the blue. If you have haste, Beastmaster Ascension automatically procs you to 40 damage. A Poison-Tip Archer will witness six deaths if Prossh decides it's meal time. Don't wait for a Shamanic Revelation, use Fecundity to refuel. The payoffs need to be instant, not next turn.
We'll ruminate more on Prossh in a moment, but right now, there's another Jund powerhouse that demands we pay him tribute.
I don't know what his human form was like, but Korvold, Fae-Cursed King is certainly better off as a Dragon than whatever he was before. Every time you sacrifice anything, he gets bigger and draws you a card. That's absurd value. Korvold joins the list of commanders who follow the "Whenever you X, draw a card" formula, and may wind up drawing more cards than the majority of the members on that list.
As we just saw with Prossh, Jund can sacrifice their own creatures quite easily... however, I can think of something else Jund is great at sacrificing, and which costs a lot less mana:
Why bother playing lots of creatures and making lots of tokens, both of which we might run out of before Korvold gets his fill, when we can just sacrifice our lands? Every Evolving Wilds draws us a card. Protecting our commander with Sylvan Safekeeper will also provide us with fuel. Every Scapeshift will both find us a Field of the Dead to make a stupid number of Zombies, but also will buff Korvold up to lethal power.
Creatures are finite, but lands are nothing if not experts at recursion. Crucible of Worlds or Ramunap Excavator will keep our commander stocked on fetch lands, and World Shaper or Splendid Reclamation will serve up a big helping when Korvold goes back for seconds and thirds.
Not only that, but if we do want to sacrifice creatures to Korvold, Landfall strategies are absolutely excellent at producing tons of creature tokens.
Avenger of Zendikar is a known quantity, and Korvold is quite happy to either feed those Plants or eat them. With Titania, Protector of Argoth, Korvold can sacrifice a land, get bigger, draw a card, then get a token, eat the token, get bigger, and draw a card. These Elementals give him the option to go wide with a big army instead of going tall with all his counters. Nesting Dragon is sometimes forgotten in red-inclusive Landfall strategies, but Korvold likes that it provides him with two nom-nom bodies for the price of one land drop.
As a dedicated Lord Windgrace player, I would be foolish if I didn't admit that Korvold will draw more cards for dead lands than Windgrace ever will. I'm still going to stick with the big kitty, but Korvold is so good at rewarding you for sacrificing things that he frankly co-opts a lot of Windgrace's territory. He's basically The Gitrog Monster + Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest (both of which are excellent in this deck, by the way).
Let's take a quick breather to stop by Korvold's buffet table:
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There are a few non-Landfall cards that I made sure to keep in because of their sheer power. Tendershoot Dryad and Prossh give us a big infusion of bodies on the battlefield when we need them. Dockside Extortionist's sheer number of Treasure tokens is just nasty, even if they didn't also draw cards and power up Korvold.
I know I built the deck to sacrifice lands more often than creatures, but Pitiless Plunderer triggers when any creature we control dies, including tokens, which we definitely plan on making a lot of. This is also true for Moldervine Reclamation. To be honest, I genuinely worry that Korvold will deck himself out because of how many stinking cards he's able to draw through the simple expedite of eating our stuff. We have a lot of stuff to feed him, folks.
Oh, and don't discount his ability to become a card-carrying member of the commander damage club. He'll approach astronomical heights almost by accident, and combined with Jund's propensity for removing any obstacles in their way, I don't expect enemies to survive for very long if Korvold sets his sights on their life total.
The Stunned Shunned Jund Fund
Prossh, Skyraider of Kher and Korvold, Fae-Cursed King are astonishing conversion engines. Each of them helps teach players to view game objects as different resources. A land and a Treasure token aren't just able to provide you with mana, they can also become a +1/+1 counter and a card in hand. A Kobold might be a blocker or an attacker, but it's also an enters-the-battlefield trigger, a leaves-the-battlefield trigger, a temporary power boost, or maybe even a source of mana.
In fact, this degree of versatility in resources is exactly what makes Oko, Thief of Crowns such a hot topic in other formats. For Oko, a single Food token represents quite a lot of versatility and a shocking amount of potential. Prossh and Korvold use their cards in the exact same way. One resources begets another, which begets another, and each of those conversions leads to a dark and dangerous road for every single one of your enemies.
Where these Dragons differ most, I would argue, is simply in the type of resource they care most about sacrificing. Prossh cares about bodies. The existence and death of creature tokens is absolutely his jam, especially considering he brings such a huge posse to the party whenever he's cast. Korvold can follow a similar trajectory, but I find that he gleans better returns with the sacrifice of other resources, such as Treasures and lands, which are easier to accumulate or recur.
Consider also the tempo for both of these commanders. Prossh, as mentioned previously, detonates as soon as he hits the field, a la Maelstrom Wanderer. Every attempt to remove him also means he only comes back stronger. In some cases, he is at his most fearsome when he's in the command zone. Korvold, on the other hand, isn't exactly a small fry, but he'll likely wait a turn before he explodes with lethal value. He takes a moment to escalate into his ultimate boss form.
Sacrificing your own things in Magic: the Gathering can sometimes be more of a boon than a detriment, and I don't just mean for Meren of Clan Nel Toth players. Prominent community members like The Command Zone have even advocated using effects like Greater Gargadon as a sacrifice outlet in case opponents attempt to steal or exile your cards, or in case you steal someone else's and don't want to give it back to them. Self-sacrifice is already low-key amazing, but Prossh and Korvold are the spitting image of sacrifice for value. If you're planning to invite one of these Jund Dragons to the table, but aren't sure which one will be the best dinner guest, pay close attention to what it is you'd like to feed them.
Cards to Consider
Before we go, let's take a moment to look at a few fun cards that deserve an extra glance for each of these commanders. As with the decklist above, I tried to tailor my recommendations for Prossh to a non-Food Chain build.
- Yawgmoth, Thran Physician: I have an unnatural affinity for this guy, I admit. And I know Prossh is already his own sacrifice outlet. I just don't want him to run out of cards in his hand.
- Temur Battle Rage: Surprise! My attacking commander is actually lethal now!
- Tainted Strike: See above.
- Pattern of Rebirth: When the enchanted creature dies, which you can often make happen at your own will, you go get any creature. Any creature!
- Tendershoot Dryad: Somehow Mycoloth continues to show up in 34% of Prossh decks, even though it's slow, risky, and requires a big investment. I recommend Tendershoot instead.
- Chandra's Ignition: Y'all. Korvold will get huge. This could be lethal all on its own. All five of the cards I'm suggesting for Korvold only show up in about 8-16% of his decks so far, but this is the one whose low popularity surprises me most of all.
- Seal of Primordium: If only Naturalize could also draw me a card and power up my commander... oh wait!
- Constant Mists: If you plan on hitting people with Korvold, don't let them hit you back.
- Crux of Fate: Only one of the Top 21 most popular commanders is a Dragon. Korvold will very frequently be able to use this to clear the field for a massive swing.
- Growth Spasm: Often forgotten, this little guy. Sacrifice fodder like Farhaven Elf matters a lot to a deck like this, and Growth Spasm gives us both a land and a body to toss away at will.
Now I'm Hungry
These commanders' reputations precede them. When you consume that many permanents and somehow turn it into a weapon against your enemies, it's the kind of thing that they won't ever forget. There's a reason Jund's inaugural mechanic was called Devour, after all!
So, which of these commanders would you rather build? Are you all aboard the Prossh train, or has Korvold's curse started to affect you too? Let me know in the comments below!
Oh, and don't forget to vote for the pair you'd like to see on the next Commander Showdown!
Til next time!