Conditions Allow - Haakon, Stromgald Scourge

(Haakon, Stromgald Scourge | Art by Mark Zug)

Shambling Into the New Year

Hello, wonderful people of the internet, and welcome back to Conditions Allow. This series is centered around legendary creatures with drawbacks, around which I try to build a deck and turn said weakness into a strength. Today we're abandoning the holiday cheer to delve deep into the darkest corners of mono-black EDH. As Theros: Beyond Death spoilers continue to roll out, I want to talk about another creature that's good at escaping from the Underworld: Haakon, Stromgald Scourge.

Haakon, Stromgald Scourge has a powerful ability that lets us cast Knight cards from our graveyard. Let me tell you, anytime I get to cast cards from the graveyard, I get excited. Doing so is a form of virtual card advantage, and a big part of what makes commanders like Kess, Dissident Mage and Muldrotha the Gravetide so powerful.

However, I wouldn’t be talking about Haakon if he were as straightforward as either Kess or Muldrotha. Similar to Phage, the Untouchable, Haakon doesn’t want to be cast from the command zone. Unlike Phage, whom you can cast safely with a Torpor Orb in play, Haakon actually can’t be cast from the command zone. In fact, Haakon can’t even be cast from your hand, only from your graveyard. Additionally, whenever Haakon dies, you lose two life, just to ensure that we don't abuse his cast-from-the-graveyard ability.

This means we have a lot of work to do just to get Haakon, Stromgald Scourge into play. Black only has access to one card that can put its commander straight into our hand: Command Beacon (green, meanwhile, has access to Road of Return). This one land is the only way we can get our commander out of the command zone, so finding it as consistently as possible is the first order of business for this deck. After that, we still can’t cast Haakon until he hits the graveyard. This seems like the spot where Haakon decks might start to deviate from one another, so I’m going to head to Haakon’s EDHREC page to see what the most popular options are.

Why Can't I Hold All of These Cards?

As I thought, there is a lot of variety in discard outlets for Haakon on EDHREC. Bog Witch is one of my favorites, because it lets you discard your commander while giving you the mana to cast it. There are a couple of instants and sorceries that help us discard, like Ill-Gotten Gains and Behold the Beyond, the latter of which is interesting because it sets you up for subsequent turns, but I think we should expect a little bit more from a spell that costs seven mana. Demonic Collusion is a little better, especially because we have the potential to cast it multiple times. There are a lot of things we're going to want to search for, so this is a valuable asset.

I’m a little surprised that neither of these cards are on the page, especially because Necrogen Mists makes an appearance. All three of these cards let us discard cards while slowing down our opponents, which is great because our deck needs a lot of setup to get going. We don't even mind the discard as much, because we can always expect to cast Knights from our graveyard. This lets us cast important noncreature spells from our hand while filling our graveyard for when we do manage to get Haakon, Stromgald Scourge into play. Dark Deal is another great way to mess our opponents up while filling the graveyard for subsequent turns.

Just in case we don't find any of the mass discard cards, I’m rounding out the set of discard outlets with a couple of free effects. Skirge Familiar lets us discard for mana, while Putrid Imp and Patchwork Gnomes are just free discard effects just in case we need them. And of course, I've already talked about Bog Witch. These let us discard only what we want to, and act as backups if any of our more annoying enchantments get destroyed.

If they don't ever get destroyed though, we're going to want plenty of Knights for discard fodder. Don't worry though, they'll be back.

I’m Invincible!

Now that we have a plan for getting Haakon into the graveyard, we can start to consider the Knights to include in the deck. If we follow the blueprint of his EDHREC page, we won’t actually play that many Knights. The most common strategy seems to be to hack creature types with Conspiracy or Ashes of the Fallen. Then you're free to recast any creature you want, such as Kokusho, the Evening Star, Rune-Scarred Demon, or Grave Titan. This sounds powerful, but I’d like to explore our options without relying on changing creature types.

Looking at the list of Knights available to black, it's easy to see why it might be preferable to cheat and make Kokusho or Grave Titan into Knights, instead. Nearly all of the black Knights are small, with little ability to have much of an impact in a game of Commander. Two that stand out to me, however, are Syr Konrad, the Grim and Cabal Paladin. Both of these creatures reward us for continually sacrificing and casting Knights from the graveyard. Syr Konrad works with any Knight, while Cabal Paladin requires us to use one of the two artifact Knights that came out in sets during 2019.

The key pieces to this burgeoning deck will be Jousting Dummy and Diamond Knight. Both of these creatures are Knights, and can be cast from our graveyard with Haakon in play. They are also both historic spells, fulfilling the requirement for Cabal Paladin’s and Syr Konrad, the Grim's triggered abilities. If we can repeatedly cast either artifact Knight from the graveyard, both the Paladin and Syr Konrad will win the game.

Another major advantage to building around artifacts is that we don't need to rely upon colored mana. Ashnod’s Altar is a sacrifice outlet that also gives us the mana to cast Jousting Dummy, but it won’t work for Diamond Knight. This is where cost reducers come in. Jhoira’s Familiar is great because it also reduces the cost of Haakon and Syr Konrad, while Foundry Inspector only reduces the cost of artifacts. Heartless Summoning is perfect for the deck as well. It makes the Dummy free to cast, and causes both artifact Knights to die as a state-based-action, making it very easy to set up our loop.

This is a lot of pieces to put together for our combo: we need to find one of the artifact Knights, enough cost reducers to cast them, and jump through all the hoops to get our commander in play.

To make this process just a little easier, there are a few backup strategies to make the deck is as synergistic as possible. Aetherflux Reservoir works with the normal combo because we are casting the creature from the graveyard, building potentially infinite Storm. Bontu’s Monument also works and enables a couple of other fun tricks.

With Bontu’s Monument's cost reduction, each of these creatures also goes infinite with Phyrexian Altar to let us win with many of the cards mentioned so far (except Cabal Paladin). You can also substitute in K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth and any other sacrifice outlet (or Heartless Summoning) to achieve the same effect.

Hunting Giants, Slaying Demons

There are a couple of big creatures that could do a lot of work in this deck. Razaketh, the Foulblooded searches through your library for combo pieces, or finds Command Beacon to get Haakon out of the command zone. Vilis, Broker of Blood doesn’t search, but provides a truly ridiculous amount of card draw, especially in concert with K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth. We don’t have to worry about including these big creatures, either, since all the discard in the deck lets us put them straight into the graveyard to bring back later.

Speaking of ridiculous amounts of card draw, I want to highlight two more cards that can make this deck surprisingly explosive. The first needs no introduction: Necropotence. With this infamous enchantment we can get as many cards into our hand as we'd like. There are a handful of sources of lifelink in the deck to offset any life loss, allowing us to see more cards. The real synergy here is with Syr Konrad, the Grim, though. With Konrad in play, every creature drawn and discarded during the end step turns into a Shock against each opponent, as those creatures enter the graveyard, and then leave to exile, triggering Konrad both on the way in and on the way out again.

The other card is probably one you weren't expecting: Shimmer Myr. This little Myr grants all of our artifacts flash. Flash gives us the potential to cast important combo pieces after activating Necropotence, or simply to play vital combo pieces in the end step before our turn. Perhaps most valuable, however, is the fact that it lets us cast Jousting Dummy out of the graveyard at instant speed, allowing us to respond to graveyard hate or other interaction on the stack during our combo turn.

Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer

When I first sat down to brainstorm ideas with Haakon, I expected to go along a route that used Conspiracy and Ashes of the Fallen to change creatures into Knights, but I'm actually really glad I didn't have to. It's always satisfying to successfully build around a commander for this series without changing the rules. Diamond Knight and Jousting Dummy are the star of the show here, along with Syr Konrad and Cabal Paladin. All of these cards are from recent sets, right up to Throne of Eldraine. It wasn't possible to use Haakon, Stromgald Scourge like this just a year ago, which is also great. It's always fun to take new cards and look back through Magic's history to see what has suddenly become possible.

What cards have you been looking at adding to old decks? Are you inspired to build something new as we enter the new year? I know I'm excited, and I'd love to hear your thoughts, too!

Ben was introduced to Magic during Seventh Edition and has played on and off ever since. A Simic mage at heart, he loves being given a problem to solve. When not shuffling cards, Ben can be found lost in a book or skiing in the mountains of Vermont.