Grave Danger - Precon Primer
(Gisa and Geralf | Art by Aaron J. Riley)
Hello dear reader, and welcome to EDHREC’s Precon Primer series! In this series, we take a deep dive into the latest precon products by reviewing the new commanders, discussing deck strategies and how they play out of the box, and highlighting the best new cards and reprints. I’m Nick from the Scrap Trawlers, where we do EDH on a budget, and I’ll be your guide for this article.
It's no surprise that Commander is the most popular casual format. In fact, it's so popular that some people learn how to play the game through Commander! Due to this, Wizards of the Coast has created a new product series called Starter Commander Decks. There are five decks in total, each themed around an easy-to-play strategy, consist entirely of reprints, and can be purchased for around half the price of normal Commander decks.
One of the issues I had when I started playing Magic was that I couldn't play with all of my friends at the same time. Commander wasn't as prominent of a format as it is today, so I was stuck playing Standard. These decks are the solution to that problem! You can easily grab a few of your friends, purchase these decks, and begin your journey into the world of Magic: the Gathering together; all without spending a fortune!
Of the five decks, one that caught my immediate attention was Grave Danger, the Blue Black Zombies themed deck. Creature family strategies are popular among veteran players and newcomers alike, and for good reason! They're naturally synergistic and easy to understand. Plus, who doesn't like the idea of commanding an army of the dead?
The face commander of this deck is the sinister sibling duo known as Gisa and Geralf. When they enter the battlefield, you mill four cards. They also allow you to cast a zombie from your graveyard once per turn. As far as wizards go, they have a respectable power and toughness at 4/4. You may not be winning with commander damage, but you'll deter some unfavorable attacks. Since your graveyard will act as a second hand, mill four almost reads draw four! There are 26 zombies in the deck, so chances are good you'll hit at least one. Before we continue, let's take a look at the whole decklist in all its undead glory.
Starter Commander (Grave Danger)
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Bring Out Your Dead
The gameplan is simple: play zombie, send them into battle to die for the cause, and bring them back with Gisa and Geralf for round two. Or three. Or four! Zombies are the most resilient creature strategy in magic. You may be slower than goblins, and you may not have the evasion of dragons, but nothing short of a Merciless Eviction is going to stop your army of darkness from taking over the game if it goes long. Normally, creature type strategies flounder in games with heavy removal. Zombies thrive in those environments, so much that you'll often sacrifice them yourself!
Creatures with enters the battlefield or dies triggers are very important to provide incremental value over the course of the game. Champion of the Perished gets bigger. Mire Triton mills for more zombies. Diregraf Captain slowly ticks away at opposing life totals. Those are just the tip of the unholy iceberg!
What if you can't convince your opponents to block or attack you? Have no fear, Fleshbag Marauder is here as a repeatable source of removal that will eventually remove all your opponents' creatures. Looking for something a little stronger? Necrotic Hex is one half board wipe and one half army-in-a-can! If you want something more traditional, spending a couple mana into Vampiric Rites will help you keep pace with the rest of the table.
Eventually you'll want to show your friends an early grave, and a few death loops from format all-star Gray Merchant of Asphodel or a Ravnican Lotleth Giant will get the job done. Don't have a high devotion to black? Don't worry about it! If zombies can sleep, then Army of the Damned is the haymaker dreams are made of. With a big enough board presence, landing a Vengeful Dead or Vela the Night-Clad will make your opponents think twice about casting that Wrath of God.
For starting hands, a "perfect" 7 involves three lands and some mana acceleration like Arcane Signet. With those four cards, you can play Gisa and Geralf on turn 3 and either begin casting zombies from your hand or graveyard. The early game will revolve around creating value engines involving your commander. This can be as simple as Lazotep Reaver in combination with Spark Reaper to repeatedly gain life, draw a card, and grow a zombie army token. In the middle of the game, focus on protecting your engines with spells like Lazotep Plating and Sinister Sabotage. Slowing your your opponents' plans with removal in Feed the Swarm and Enter the God-Eternals will keep them a step behind while you continue to accrue value. In the late game, if your graveyard is big enough you can come from behind with a devastating Zombie Apocalypse, or simply overwhelm your opponents with larger zombies with support from Cemetery Reaper, Lord of the Accursed, and Liliana's Mastery.
What's Old is New Again
The Starter Commander decks don't contain any new cards, but there's a few noteworthy reprints! Liliana, Untouched by Death is effectively a second copy of your commander, with bonus removal tacked on. Normally Planeswalkers are less effective in commander since you'll lose creatures trying to keep them alive, but you'll have plenty of blockers to defend her that you really don't mind sending to the graveyard! There's also Havengul Lich as a great way to reanimate a creature from anyone's graveyard, and maybe steal some abilities along the way. Lastly, Loyal Subordinate sees its first ever reprint. Anyone who's played against this card knows how annoying and effective it is at lowering life totals. In this deck it's even harder to remove! If your opponents aren't packing exile removal, this subordinate is here to stay.
So is Grave Danger worth picking up? For what this product is attempting to accomplish, I'd say yes. While this may not be as strong as the Undead Unleashed precon from Midnight Hunt, it's a fraction of the cost. It's a great start to fill out your Zombie collection, with a solid foundation of interaction, ramp, and card draw that's easily built upon if desired. There’s plenty of ways to take this deck to the next level, but if you’re looking to do it on the cheap, check out the upgrade article right here on EDHREC! If you’d like to see more from the Scrap Trawlers you can find us on Twitter, YouTube, and Twitch.