Grave Danger - Upgrade Guide
(Gisa and Geralf | Art by Aaron J. Riley)
Can you dig it?
Hello dear reader, and welcome to EDHREC’s Precon Upgrade series! This series has Partner With the Precon Primer series, where we thoroughly review the latest preconstructed decks. I’m Nick from the Scrap Trawlers, where we do EDH on a budget, and I previously reviewed the Grave Danger from the Starter Commander deck series. Today we're digging up old friends to stitch together a more powerful version of the precon. To start, let's look over the original list:
Grave Danger Started Deck
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While not the most powerful option for a Zombies deck, Gisa and Geralf fly under the radar and provide value and longevity throughout the game. Unlike some Zombies decks that care about creature quantity, our focus is on quality. Creatures with enters the battlefield and dies triggers can be looped to overwhelm our opponents with superior card advantage and repeated removal. To get there, we'll need to add cards that fill our graveyard to transform it into an undead toolbox; reanimating whatever tool we need to solve a problem, or become one.
A graveyard without bodies is just a yard with fancy fencing. To fill our gated community we'll add Undead Butler and Crow of Dark Tidings. These have both enters the battlefield and dies triggers to double their value. While Forgotten Creation has neither, it does provide a free Windfall for us every turn to keep things moving.
In: Undead Butler, Crow of Dark Tidings, Forgotten Creation
Diversifying our card advantage is a good way to ensure we don't lose to an untimely Bojuka Bog. Secrets of the Dead comes down early and works in tandem with our commander, drawing a card whenever we cast a zombie from the yard. Tomebound Lich filters a card and is a strong chump blocker. Corpse Augur can net a ton of cards in the late game and staying ahead of our opponents.
In: Secrets of the Dead, Tomebound Lich, Corpse Augur
What if we need a specific zombie right now? Vile Entomber and Corpse Connoisseur can tutor exactly what we need straight to the graveyard for casting. When that's not fast enough, Pyre of Heroes puts the creature directly onto the battlefield, and doubles as a sacrifice outlet.
In: Vile Entomber, Corpse Connoisseur, Pyre of Heroes
Speaking of sacrifice outlets, we'll want ready access to one so we can continue looping creatures and accruing value. Carrion Feeder and Nantuko Husk can do it for free, and can come in for a surprise kill if you're crafty. Stronghold Assassin is an oldie but a goodie, and while it only hits nonblack creatures its a great rattlesnake that can gain you political favor.
In: Carrion Feeder, Nantuko Husk, Stronghold Assassin
Gisa and Geralf's once-per-turn reanimation restricts us from going too crazy, so let's add a few more recursion options. Repository Skaab can grab any instant or sorceries you may have milled. Tomb Tyrant is a fun include that doubles as a sacrifice outlet to bring a random zombie into play. When we want to be less random, Patriarch's Bidding is a great finisher to bring everything back.
In: Repository Skaab, Tomb Tyrant, Patriarch's Bidding
To cap off the additions, let's add more removal. Ravenous Rotbelly is a supercharged version of Fleshbag Marauder, removing up to 9 of your opponents creatures! Overcharged Amalgam and Dimir Charm provide instant speed support and utility via counter spells, removal, and even more card advantage.
In: Ravenous Rotbelly, Overcharged Amalgam, Dimir Charm
Time to discard some flesh. Since we can only cast zombie creatures from our graveyard, anything that's not a zombie is less valuable to our plan. Liliana's Devotee is an easy cut. Vela the Night-Clad is better suited for go-wide strategies. Overseer of the Damned is a little too slow to make an impact.
Out: Liliana's Devotee, Vela the Night-Clad, Overseer of the Damned
We also need to lower our curve to ensure the zombies we do find in our graveyard can be cast reliably. Josu Vess, Lich Knight has a wicked kicker ability for 10 mana, but not much else. We've added a few smaller self-mill creatures, so Geralf's Mindcrusher is an easy swap. Gravespawn Sovereign is better placed in decks with lots of zombie tokens.
Out: Josu Vess, Lich Knight, Geralf's Mindcrusher, Gravespawn Sovereign
As I stated above, we care about creature quality over quantity. While tokens are nice and can go a long way to provide sacrifice fodder and death triggers, some of them can go, especially those we can't cast from the graveyard. Curse of Disturbance isn't always reliable, and Open the Graves doesn't provide enough value for the cost. Liliana's Mastery does provide an anthem and a total of 6 power, but these aren't the abilities we're looking for. Syphon Flesh is straight outclassed by Ravenous Rotbelly as a removal option.
Out: Curse of Disturbance, Open the Graves, Liliana's Mastery, Syphon Flesh
Since we're not going wide, some of the zombie lords like Cemetery Reaper and Lord of the Accursed can go since they don't have enters or dies triggers. Unbreathing Horde does, but we'd rather cast anything else from our graveyard. We've added a few great sacrifice outlets to replace the costly Spark Reaper
Out: Cemetery Reaper, Lord of the Accursed, Unbreathing Horde, Spark Reaper
Lastly, we'll remove of some of the more lackluster cards. Murder and Cruel Revival are very narrow as removal options. Grimoire of the Dead is too slow and telegraphed. Vampiric Rites just feels weird in a zombie deck, and we've enough sacrifice outlets to get the job done.
Out: Murder, Cruel Revival, Grimoire of the Dead, Vampiric Rites
Let's check out our final creation!
Grave Danger Starter Deck Upgraded
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With 1/3 of the deck being zombies, Gisa and Geralf will now more reliably hit at least one zombie with their trigger. Those zombies will also have a larger impact on the board when you bring them back. We also removed the go-wide token sub-theme and added better removal options. All 18 of these upgrades will only cost around $8! What did you think of the upgrade? Do you prefer a more token-based strategy for zombie decks? Do you think Grave Danger is completely outclassed by the Undead Unleashed precon? Sound off in the comments! If you're looking for more Scrap Trawlers content, follow us on Twitter, Youtube, and Twitch! Until next time, dear reader, remember to budget...before you buy it.