Forgotten Harvest - Block Party with Virtus and Gorm

(Elven Warhounds | Art by Kev Walker)

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Hello neighbor! Welcome back to another instance of Forgotten Harvest, where I construct a deck using some of the most underplayed cards on EDHREC. This go-round, I'll be taking a turn with the gruesome twosome: Virtus the Veiled and Gorm the Great.

I've seen a lot of takes on this duo since they debuted in Battlebond, and to be honest, I've been disappointed with the various builds. Virtus and Gorm decks usually break down into one of three categories:

  • Deathtouch-tribal
  • Lifechop-tribal (my term for Virtus's triggered ability)
  • Voltron-esque Equipment-based builds

All of these versions focus heavily on the themes of the better of the two commanders: Virtus, the Veiled. Virtus is played in 328 decks on EDHREC, while Gorm is in about a hundred less (219 to be exact). And I get it! Gorm's ability requires at least one other card to be effective, while Virtus just needs a single, unimpeded attack to be worth the cost. But the interaction of the two cards is so much deeper than the ideas above.

My different take borrows from the themes of all three of the above versions, coalescing into a deck focused on controlling the combat step. I make sure the creatures I want blocked face off against a defending creature, and the attackers I want unblocked actually make it through the line. In doing this, I don't overly rely on Equipment or Auras, instead dedicating deck space to options that work in a multitude of board states. This could be cards that force combat interactions, or have benefits when blocked or unblocked.

Block Captains

Ever since the days of Elvish Bard, green has been an expert at forcing blocks. Carrying on that legacy in Standard today is Ochran Assassin. So far, this deathtoucher is only seeing play in 143 decks. I'm sure that number is bound to go up, but for now it's low enough that I get to talk about the card, so neener-neener! I'm not crazy about the five mana it costs me to put an Elvish Bard into play, so I tend more toward the Assassin and other "Hey! Block me!" creatures like Taunting Elf.

There's also a contingent of green creatures that don't require every creature to hug them, but do single out a specific buddy. Matsu-Tribe Decoy (196 decks) and Lurking Arynx (43 decks) both pick out a creature of their choice and force a block during combat. Sure, there's always the chance that the creature could become tapped come the combat step, no longer making it a legal blocker, but the point here is clearing a path for Virtus and his crew, so who cares!

This deck contains a fair number of creatures just begging to be blocked (see next section). To help them partner up in combat, here comes Satyr Piper. Played in only 45 decks on EDHREC, this musical goat-man ensures that your "when this becomes blocked" triggers go off. The only downside is that the Piper doesn't specify which creature must block.

That's why we're also running Rimehorn Aurochs. How on Earth is this card only played in eight decks?!?!? It's totally worth it to play snow lands to get access to that sweet activated ability. And as a bonus, it doesn't specify that either target be one of your creatures. You can use this card as a political tool in combat all over the battlefield! Please give this ungulate a look the next time you play green, and don't limit it to the eight Aurochs-themed decks on EDHREC. Please!

Blocking Problems

Now that we've covered the means to force blocks during combat, let's get into some of the creatures that are begging to be blocked. First up, Elven Warhounds (32 decks) usually feels a little overpriced for its 2/2 body, but when we can all but guarantee a block on the battlefield, combined with the fact that this creature doesn't die in combat, it looks pretty great for this kind of deck. Plus, it looks great wearing a Nemesis Mask.

From Gatecrash, Rust Scarab can provide us with some artifact or enchantment removal when blocked. In 191 decks on EDHREC, the Scarab becomes a part of this deck's removal package. Given its size, the Insect might also be able to take out a defending creature in the process.

Green isn't the only color with excellent "when blocked" abilities. Black provides Corrupt Official from Mercadian Masques. Played in only 32 decks, I can see how the high mana cost may drive some people away, but with regeneration and forcing the discard of a random card when blocked, I think the cost is well worth it.

I know there are some people who really don't like land destruction in EDH. There are others that will flip the table when a Strip Mine hits play. So, I suggest Thresher Beast with the warning that not everyone will like it. It only sees play in 63 decks right now, so I hope you do give it a try, but I'll understand if you'd rather keep your friends. At least they choose which land hits the bin when they block.

Finally, I have to assume that there are some decks out there running combat tricks which could require us to have an escape plan. It could also be wise to have a line of defense, should we swing in with our army and leave no creatures up to block. Sunstone is a great addition to help in both cases, and works well with the snow lands in the deck for Rimehorn Aurochs. It's only seeing play in 263 decks, but that could certainly go up.

You Cannot Block My Style!

I would be remiss if I went this whole article without squeezing in one gif:

There! Thanks for letting me get that out of my system. Anyway, here are some creatures your opponents aren't going to want in their quiet little town.

Providing some deck filtering upon connection, Emperor's Vanguard only sees play in 83 decks. I think it's a great card for the cost, and with a 4/3 body that is only going to grow, we can force it to be blocked later in the game, as a means of taking out defending creatures.

Almost the inverse of Rust Scarab above, Caustic Wasps blows up an artifact after drawing blood. The flying will come in handy to help get this little fella through any defenders, especially in the early game when you can use it to pick off any mana rocks that could lead to trouble.

Hailing from Mirrodin, Woebearer is one of my favorite cards when playing Zombie tribal, and it should see more play than the 181 decks it's currently in. Having evasion baked in along with a continuous source of slow-reanimation makes this card a real all-star in creature-centric builds. It was a superhero in my Thraximundar deck, and I highly recommend it!

While you'll likely not have it deal combat damage when it connects, Bone Dancer is a wonderful means of building up an army from fallen foes. Being able to target specific creatures to block means that graveyards should be ripe with targets. Just pick your favorite and clear a path for the Dancer. I'm shocked this is only in 282 decks given the power of reanimation in EDH.

Finally, since we're playing snow lands, it felt appropriate to sneak in Rime Transfusion (64 decks). While somewhat narrow in scope, this Aura seems perfect for what we're trying to accomplish in this deck: getting Virtus and friends through the line. I don't know if it has viability outside of these kinds of builds with reasons to play snow lands already baked in, but it'll work in this deck.

Now, let's have a look at everything all together:

Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
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What a Blockhead!

That about does it for this build on Forgotten Harvest. What are some of your favorite underplayed cards that deal with the combat step? Are there any commanders that you think have more versatility than what the typical deck demonstrates? Any other questions, comments, or snide remarks? Let's talk about it below. I'll be on there to talk about the greatness of Rimehorn Aurochs, and, in keeping with this article's theme, will block you if you disagree with me. Just kidding! But I will be there to get into the underplayed cards you'd like to see featured in this series in future articles. Until next time!

Midwest transplant to the Pacific Northwest, Kyle has been playing the jankiest of decks for nearly 20 years. He loves non-lethal combos, obscure deck themes, Cloudstone Curio, and winning with Coalition Victory. When he's not tapping lands or brewing decks, Kyle is enjoying his other ridiculously expensive hobby: building with Lego.