Commander Showdown – Tinybones vs Kroxa

(Tinybones, Trinket Thief by Jason Rainville | Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger by Vincent Proce)

Which Card? Discard!

Welcome back to Commander Showdown, the series where we compare and contrast two commanders with similar abilities to suss out the differences and similarities in their strategy and deck construction. A lot of new legends have been released recently, but none have taken them internet quite by storm as much as the adorable new Tinybones, Trinket Thief.

Tinybones gives mono-black discard a true home in Commander… but for every ounce of cuteness Tinybones possesses, Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger can offer us just as much horror and carnage. Kroxa made splash as the most-built commander from Theros Beyond Death, staking a claim for Rakdos discard. How does the new skeleton compare to the most ancient Titan? What cards do they have in common, and which cards separate them? Let’s dig in!


Hungry Hungry Titans

Let’s begin with Kroxa. Upon first cast, Kroxa operates more as a spell than a commander, forcing a discard from other players. Later, if enough cards are accumulated in the graveyard, Kroxa can bust back out to the field and really apply pressure, forcing a discard with every attack, and more importantly, draining life from enemies if they’re unable to discard properly.

That life loss is particularly important, because simply making everyone discard cards isn’t a win condition. If anything, it’s the opposite – the game can drag on and on with no end in sight when people get stuck topdecking. It’s an awkward situation indeed when a discard deck has assembled a healthy number of Megrims and Liliana’s Caresses and Raider’s Wakes, but a Mindslicer or Sire of Insanity has already stripped away all their cards, so no one is losing life. Discarding cards from other players’ hands is a very powerful strategy… but discard decks absolutely must minimize the time between discarding their opponents’ hands and winning the game. Not just because the opponents might grow a little salty about having no hand, but also because every draw step your opponent gets is an opportunity for them to disrupt Kroxa’s plan.

There are a myriad number of interesting ways to drain life from enemies that discard decks have used in the past, and they’re still useful here. For instance, Painful Quandary is, in fact, quite painful.

A most interesting play pattern has emerged in Kroxa’s data, however. Because Kroxa will certainly be in the graveyard as early as turn two, Kroxa players have made the wise decision to include a lot of reanimation effects to re-trigger the discard (or life loss) ability. As a result of such a high number of reanimation effects in a Rakdos deck…

…the Worldgorger Dragon combo has joined the Titan’s army. Reanimating the Dragon exiles all other permanents, including the reanimation enchantment. This immediately kills the Dragon, bringing back all permanents, including the reanimation enchantment, which revives the Dragon, and repeats the whole process. With a single Syr Konrad the Grim in play to observe the Dragon leaving the graveyard (or even just repeatedly blinking Kroxa) your opponents are in for a very deadly combo.

I’ve been lukewarm about the Worldgorger combo in other places, but I’m all for it here, as it helps close the door quickly, and a swift end is useful for a prolonged gameplan like discard decks. Additionally, even without this specific combo, Kroxa players are finding very clever ways to put the final nails in their opponents’ coffins. Feldon of the Third Path can make token copies of Kroxa each turn, whittling away at life totals. Liliana, Waker of the Dead can also help turn empty hands into lethal prospects.

I’ve got a few other recommendations for Kroxa too, but I’ll discuss them later. For now, I’ll leave you with a titanic decklist!

Death is Hungry

Commander (1)
Creatures (15)
Sorceries (16)
Artifacts (15)
Instants (6)
Enchantments (12)
Planeswalkers (1)
Lands (34)

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Tiny Bones, Big Heart

Up next is Tinybones, Trinket Thief, who is equal parts adorable and deadly. Assuming this gameplan goes well, we’ll be the only people with cards in our hand, and when we’re taking 10-point chunks out of enemy life totals, the game can end in very short order.

We don’t have time to dilly-dally. Right out the gate, I want to be clear: I don’t think Megrim or even Shrieking Affliction effects belong in this deck.

*Shocked gasps in the audience*

Hear me out! Tinybones draws us cards as opponents discard cards, which makes effects like Bottomless Pit quite potent. However, the most important part of Tinybones’s kit isn’t the card draw ability. It’s the activated ability. The endgame. When our opponents have nothing in hand, there is no spell I’m interested in drawing that I’ll want to pay mana for when I can instead pay six mana to clock our enemies for 10 life. I believe it’s a trap to devote too much energy toward trying to draw cards with Tinybones, and a much more streamlined plan to enact some mass discard as soon as possible and immediately sink mana into Tinybones’s ability.

As a result, there’s no time for Liliana’s Caress or Shrieking Affliction. Tinybones can end the game in four activations. Shrieking Affliction would take three rounds to do less damage than one Tinybones activation. That’s too slow for our purposes, and doesn’t impact our math nearly well enough. Our commander fulfills that role, let’s not waste card slots on more of them.

So what do we focus on instead?

Mana. Mana and big discard. More mana lets us cast and recast Tinybones more reliably, and activate that ability more easily. Mono-black is great at big mana, and activating our commander’s ability twice in one turn? That’s a prospect so amazing that I can just imagine the look on our opponents’ faces when it happens.

In the meantime, toss out your Megrims and just throw in more discard spells, from Delirium Skeins to Rotting Rats. Words of Waste is particularly monstrous, as Tinybones itself will fuel this ability. I’d even advise a Myojin of Night’s Reach as a fail safe in case an enemy is able to escape from underneath our hand-crushing heels.

Mix it together, and what have you got? A list that looks like this:

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I didn’t expect Kroxa and Tinybones to be as different as they ended up. Kroxa gives us the typical fare we expect from a discard deck, punishing our enemies when they discard cards as well as punishing them after they’ve run out. And, of course, Kroxa is, on average, using a combo to close things out after the deed is done.

Tinybones, on the other hand, is much more… cruel. The sole goal turned out to be the emphasis on keeping opponents at zero cards in hand, which leaves less room for the cards that care about the act of discarding. Altogether, this seems like a harder challenge, but with a much more profitable reward.


Cards to Consider

Before we finish up, let’s review a few cool cards that deserve extra attention for these commanders.


Kroxa

  • Lifeline: I’m normally dubious about this card, but Kroxa has convinced me is its proper home. Every turn, Kroxa will resurface and die again. That’s a lot of discard, but more importantly, that’s a lot of damage. Just make sure you time it properly to avoid opponents getting value from this too. This is a finisher card, not an early play.
  • Dawn of the Dead: The same principle applies here. Bringing Kroxa back multiple times can go a long way, and sometimes there are other creatures we might want to get back for a one-turn visit, too! This supplements Feldon of the Third Path in the list quite nicely.
  • Piranha Marsh: Weird one, right? This is here because of the Worldgorger Dragon combo, so you don’t need any extra helpers, just to blink your lands to find lethal damage.
  • Claim // Fame: If Unearth can show up in 53% of Kroxa lists, this can too.
  • Memory Jar: This card refills enemy hands and immediately discards them for more Megrim triggers. I don’t like too many Reforge the Soul effects to give our enemies fuel, but it’s nice to have a fast-acting effect like this.

Tinybones

  • Nirkana Revenant: I’ve mentioned this already before, but our commander will appreciate the big mana to make sure we can use its ability, not to mention just so we can recast it, because folks will likely have their targets set on Tinybones.
  • Stronghold Rats: I’m seeing a lot of cards like Hypnotic Specter on Tinybones’s page, but no love for this unblockable rat that affects everyone!? Madness!
  • Cabal Conditioning: A lesser-known discard spell that still ruins everyone’s day.
  • Soul-Guide Lantern: Some players – like myself – may not mind discarding all those cards, because their Meren of Clan Nel Toths will just bring them right back. Don’t let us. Discard cards and make them stay gone!
  • Uba Mask: My ultimate must-have pick for Tinybones. Make sure no one gets to keep any cards in hand, even if they play a huge draw spell!

Time to Sing the Doom Song

So, which of these discard-manders is most intriguing to you? Are you all about the flexibility of Rakdos discard, or is Tinybones too adorable to resist? Better yet, let me know how you’ve navigated the tricky discard field to find lethal damage even after enemy hands have been emptied – share your strategies below!

Oh, and of course, don’t forget to vote for the commander you wish to see on the next Commander Showdown!

Til next time!

Joseph Schultz works in a library by day and shuffles libraries by night. He hosts the EDHRECast with Matt Morgan and Dana Roach over at http://edhrecast.libsyn.com/ and has recently taken over as Editor for the articles here on EDHREC! He was also born exactly one year before Magic: the Gathering, which he thinks is probably some kind of sign. Follow @JosephMSchultz on Twitter!