Replacement Commanders - Time to Troll!

(Grismold, the Dreadsower | Art by Filip Burburan)

Oooh, We're Halfway There!

Hello Commander faithful, and happy holidays as we enter this festive season! We are halfway through our 2019 arc of Replacement Commanders, the series where we take the spotlight traditionally aimed at the face commanders of the annual Commander precons and shift it to the other legendary creatures that can helm the decks. This year’s installment of the series is especially exciting as we’ve added the “bonus” legendary creatures from the precons as well, which are famously missing one color from the deck's overall color combination. We started off these bonus commanders with a bang, covering K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth in the last article, where there was a poll to determine which commander to look at next.

Before I state which of the options won that poll, I do want to say a massive “thank you” to everyone here, as there was an overwhelming amount of votes for the poll! It’s always amazingly humbling whenever I see the kind of support all of you faithful readers are willing to give me, just some nerd on the internet, and it gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling! But enough of the sappy stuff. Let’s look at this week’s Replacement Commander:

Grismold, the Dreadsower

Grismold is a unique design for Golgari. Reading his first non-keyword ability, it almost reminds me of Akroan Horse and other cards you would more commonly find in a Zedruu the Greathearted-style of deck. The second ability falls back in line with more common Golgari strategies, meaning there's already a ton of support for the +1/+1 counter build.

My biggest concern with playing a commander like this is that I’m not the only sacrifice/aristocrats player at the table in my normal meta, and the idea of giving opponents with similar strategies more ammunition is very dangerous. Then again, a strong removal suite for all permanent types and some decent threat assessment should solve most of those problems, if not all of them.

As we always do here on Replacement Commanders, we're going to look through three different potential directions to take this commander. Let's get cooking.

GrisMOLD? More like GriSWOLED, amirite?!

A lot of Grismold decks build around his interactions with tokens but for our first build, I'd actually like to focus more explicitly on Grismold's last ability, namely the accumulation of +1/+1 counters.

Golgari has a ton of effects that care about +1/+1 counters, which means we have a lot of other commanders whose pages we can peruse for ideas, such as Skullbriar, the Walking Grave. Oh, and of course there's the +1/+1 Counter Theme Page.

When looking through this page, I found a relatively new card listed there: The Great Henge. This is a fantastic addition to the theme. Grismold can become quite large, which makes the Henge cheap to play, and with cards like Hardened Scales, Corpsejack Menace, Winding Constrictor, and the iconic Doubling Season, the one counter the Henge provides can become many, many more. I love that Grismold naturally has trample, so we don’t need cards like Tuskguard Captain, but I do like giving my big trampling commander deathtouch, so Mer-Ek Nightblade is an easy include. I also enjoy using Loyal Guardian since we'll be able to move some counters around with a few cards like Forgotten Ancient and Reyhan, Last of the Abzan.

There are tons of ramp cards and card advantage cards that either deal with or generally synergize with +1/+1 counters, so we mix them all up in a big pile, make some cuts, and come out with a list like this one:

Swole Troll

Commander (1)
Creature (29)
Sorcery (13)
Enchantment (2)
Artifact (8)
Instant (9)
Land (38)

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The Friendliest of Battlefield Tyranny!

Look, I’ll be completely honest with you, faithful readers. I. LOVE. GRAVE PACT. And Dictate of Erebos, too. However, I rarely get the opportunity to play with either of these cards, because in my personal playgroups, they tend to be too much to handle. Grismold presents a unique situation where I do think these two cards are not nearly as backbreaking as they might be in other games by giving opponents creatures to sacrifice.

This is where I have to mention that my particular build won't include the core set of Grismold cards. Look, we've all seen his EDHREC page, we know he can get rid of the tokens he gives away with cards like Illness in the Ranks and Virulent Plague and Night of Soul's Betrayal. In fact, those cards are particularly good in tandem with Grave Pact effects because they don't let enemies sacrifice tiny useless tokens and force them to instead sacrifice an important creature. If this sounds like your jam, put these cards into your Grismold deck. I tuned to be kinder to my particular meta. And by kind, I mean I'm going to drop a Blood Artist to watch all these tokens die.

Normally with counters and tokens, Doubling Season and Parallel Lives are popular choices, while Primal Vigor is less popular due to its symmetrical nature. However, given that we want our opponents to have tokens to sacrifice, I think it'll work out well here. Strionic Resonator harmonizes with our Pact effects as well, giving us twice as many sacrifice effects. Since the goal is to get Grismold to be big enough for a big swing, I like using Blade of the Bloodchief, even though Grismold isn't a Vampire. This deck also presents an opportunity for us to run Custodi Lich, introducing the Monarchy to some games, which Grismold's trample should help him win back if it ever gets stolen.

Toss some things together and we get a list that looks like this:

Sac The Board

Commander (1)
Creature (20)
Instant (6)
Sorcery (12)
Planeswalker (2)
Artifact (11)
Enchantment (10)
Land (38)

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They See me Trollin’! They Hatin’!

One of the most important features of Grismold, the Dreadsower that, for some reason, absolutely no one is talking about, is that he is a Troll. I have always wanted to build a Troll tribal deck! Thrun, the Last Troll was originally my choice, but now with Grismold and some other cards from Throne of Eldraine, I cannot fight the temptation to troll the table with Trolls!

There are 29 total Commander-legal Troll creatures in Golgari colors. Looking at all of them, none of them are exceptionally terrible, while most of them are also not exceptionally good. There is a Regenerate subtheme among the tribe, as well as a smattering of +1/+1 counter abilities. This actually ends up working out fairly nicely, as we can mash some cards from the two decks above with some tribal synergies to make a whole new deck!

Most of the tribal cards shouldn’t come as a big surprise, either; Herald’s Horn and Vanquisher’s Banner are great cards, and even Heraldic Banner works well since all but one of the Trolls have green in their color identity. I normally try to shy away from ubiquitous tribal cards like Metallic Mimic unless there is next to no support for the tribe and we’re really desperate for anything we can find, but Mimic gives our tribe +1/+1 counters, so we can allow it. The average mana cost of our Trolls is right around 3.76, so I briefly glanced at Urza’s Incubator. In the end, I shied away from a creature-specific ramp card and went instead for Emerald Medallion, since it seems like the deck will be predominantly green.

I wanted the deck to be more aggressive (Trolls are angry, right?) so I looked for card advantage and other such categories that would reflect that. Kindred Dominance will wipe away everything but our favorite creature type, and I personally find Keeper of Fables to be a supremely clever card, since nearly all of the creatures in our deck are non-Human. Put some more of those ever-important support cards together and we might get a list like this:

Troll Em Out

Commander (1)
Creature (30)
Planeswalker (1)
Artifact (12)
Sorcery (10)
Enchantment (3)
Instant (5)
Land (38)

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This Isn’t the End of our Trollin’!

With this article, we're halfway through the Replacement Commander series for Commander 2019! It’s crazy to think that, with 2020’s bulking up of Commander products, we may be seeing a return to this series just a couple of months after its conclusion! For now, though, we still have six more commanders to get through.

Thank you again to all the readers for your support and all the comments each week! In the meantime, if you love talking about Magic and Commander as much as I do, feel free to follow me on Twitter, or check out the Praetor Magic YouTube channel and/or public Discord server! We’re halfway done and counting down to the end and the return of Uncommonders! See you next time, and as always, thanks for reading!

DM Cross started playing Magic: the Gathering when he was 8 years old. Currently 29 years old, he's become an avid lover of the EDH/Commander format and is constantly keeping an eye on everything coming out to see how to tune and tweak his favorite decks. DM can be found on Twitter @DM_Cross