Conditions Allow - Lord of Tresserhorn

(Blood Mist | Art by Joseph Meehan)

Digging My Own Grave

Welcome back, everyone! Once again, I am Ben, and this is Conditions Allow. If you missed my first article, this series is about building around commanders with a drawback, and making use of those drawbacks to unlock the full power of these difficult legendary creatures. This week, we delve into some Zombie goodness with the Lord of Tresserhorn.

Lord of Tresserhorn is a legendary Zombie with, “When Lord of Tresserhorn enters the battlefield you lose two life, sacrifice two creatures, and target opponent draws two cards.” That is a lot of work our commander is doing for our opponents, most notably letting someone draw two cards. What do we get in return? A 10/4 legendary creature which we can pay one black mana to regenerate.

That ten power is a tempting figure for a Voltron enthusiast. Letting our opponents draw cards could also be a powerful political tool, even outside of a Group Hug strategy. But Tresserhorn is also a Zombie, and his life loss clause sounds like a great way to enable Dethrone in an aggressive token based strategy. Let’s look at his EDHREC page to see how others have approached this versatile legend, and how best we can turn these drawbacks into benefits instead.

Digging Up Old Dirt

Zombie decks are well-trodden ground, and around 38% of all Tresserhorn decks are Zombie Tribal. Looking through his Signature Cards, we will find staple creatures like Diregraf Colossus, Gravecrawler, and Rooftop Storm. Interestingly, there are also spells like Tainted Strike and Temur Battle Rage. Tainted Strike grants Infect, turning Lord of Tresserhorn into a one-hit kill, while Temur Battle Rage grants double strike and trample. These are both powerful effects, but with a little digging, I think we can find better options.

Indeed, among the enchantments commonly included is Blood Mist, which will grant one creature double strike every turn. In conjunction with cards like Cemetery Reaper and Diregraf Captain, Lord of Tresserhorn becomes a repeatable threat, which is exactly what we’re looking for. Those lords will also help our army of Zombie tokens close out games especially with the help of Marchesa, the Black Rose’s Dethrone.

Tokens, Tokens, Everywhere

To get Lord of Tresserhorn to stick to the field in the first place, we’ll need creatures to sacrifice. Luckily for us, Zombie tokens are plentiful and easy to dig up. Diregraf Colossus creates a 2/2 token every time we cast a Zombie spell. Ghoulcaller Gisa is notorious for her gravedigging abilities, as is Grave Titan. Finally, Liliana’s Reaver creates another Zombie when it deals combat damage, and if we don’t mind including some non-Zombies, Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder creates expendable Thrull tokens every time we cast a creature.

What do we do with all these wonderful tokens? I’m glad you asked. This is where red comes in really handy, and we start to deviate from Lord of Tresserhorn’s EDHREC page to create some really unique Zombie madness.

Purphoros, God of the Forge and Impact Tremors are infamous for their game-ending potential, and do a lot of work in any tokens strategy involving red. They are both automatic includes which play nicely with the much more expensive Kindred Charge. Not only does the charge double our triggers for Purphoros and Impact Tremors, it doubles the damage we can deal in combat, often serving as a game-ending card.

Anger is a fairly well-known haste enabler, letting us turn our Zombies sideways as soon as possible. Slightly less well-known, however, is Ashling’s Prerogative, which appears in only 482 decks on EDHREC. This two-mana enchantment is a standout card in Krenko, Mob Boss decks. Not only does it let you tap Krenko right away, but it also considers zero to be an even number. This means all your tokens have haste, as well as Lord of Tresserhorn himself.

Stepping away from red for a moment, Kindred Discovery is a truly ridiculous card. Any time a Zombie enters the field or attacks, we get to draw a card. Notice it doesn’t specify nontoken either, so all the tokens from Diregraf Colossus and Ghoulcaller Gisa will draw us cards. If we can give them haste, they will draw us another card when they attack.

Dawn of the Red

There is one notable red Zombie I am surprised isn’t on Tresserhorn’s EDHREC page. Neheb, the Eternal is a popular mono-red commander, and acts as the main lieutenant of this deck. Even just connecting with a Lord of Tresserhorn and two unbuffed Zombies with Neheb on the board generates fourteen red mana. This lets us drop mana rocks in our second main phase, or play some really big X spells.

Neheb is commonly paired with Jaya’s Immolating Inferno and other big damage spells. Black gives us access to Torment of Hailfire and Dark Salvation. If you favor more card draw in your decks you can include Blue Sun’s Zenith and Stroke of Genius as well. Personally, I prefer more direct cards like Aggravated Assault, which can easily run away with a game. Just be careful of decking yourself with Kindred Discovery.

A Tale of Two Power

There is one last piece of the Tresserhorn puzzle, which I have alluded to above. In Magic, lords are creatures that give other members of their tribe some bonus, usually a boost to power and toughness. Undead Warchief is an excellent example, giving both a discount to our Zombies and a buff to their power and toughness. There are eight Zombie lords in total, and I’m going to include all of them. They are a vital part of letting Lord of Tresserhorn kill in two hits, and for making an army of measly 2/2s a much more frightening threat.

Diregraf Colossus is probably the most consistent token producer in the deck, and interacts very well with our only non-Zombie lord, Marchesa, the Black Rose. The Colossus enters with +1/+1 counters on its own, meaning it will almost always come back with Marchesa’s effect. Draw effects like Graveborn Muse as well as Lord of Tresserhorn’s own enters-the-battlefield trigger will usually ensure we don’t have the highest life total. This ensures Marchesa’s Dethrone anthem is almost always active, giving all our attackers a further power boost. In a pinch, we can even sacrifice Tresserhorn to his own trigger and recast him repeatedly with Rooftop Storm, lowering our life total arbitrarily. Just keep in mind that his trigger was errata’d to life loss rather than payment, so it can very definitely kill you if you're not careful.

Hordes of the Undead

Voltron and token strategies often struggle with the same things: board wipes and heavy removal. After putting all of your resources into a field full of tokens, a timely Wrath of God can knock you out of the game entirely. Zombies, however, are a tribe with a lot of built-in recursion. Gisa and Geralf let us easily replay Zombies from the graveyard, as do spells like Living Death and Zombie Apocalypse.

There are also a number of creatures that come back from the graveyard easily on their own. Prized Amalgam comes back for free when you cast another creature from the graveyard, and Squee, the Immortal can come back from anywhere. Most importantly, Gravecrawler can very easily be cast from the graveyard. This ability is very powerful with Diregraf Colossus on the field, allowing us to spit out Zombies over and over and over again.

Now that we’ve had a look at the best ways to support our Lord of Tresserhorn, let’s see what the full list looks like.

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Lord of Tresserhorn makes for an interesting Voltron deck. Usually, Voltron generals depend on auras and equipment to get to game-winning levels of power, but we don’t need to rely on those nearly as much. Tresserhorn also has the advantage of his Voltron pieces easily supporting a more conventional token strategy. Blood Mist is quite happy to give Liliana’s Reaver or Grave Titan double strike, and the Zombie lords serve to turn our army of 2/2’s into an army of 6/6’s. This means that even if we stall out against other creature heavy decks, we can rely on the power of cards like Purphoros, God of the Forge, Kindred Discovery, and Lord of Tresserhorn himself to tip the balance in our favor.

That brings us to the end of this Conditions Allow! Which commander’s drawbacks do you most enjoy building around? Which would you like to see in future articles? Let me know in the comments!

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.