The Knowledge Pool - Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord
(Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord | Art by Eric Deschamps)
Hi everyone! Welcome back to The Knowledge Pool!
Recently I've been helping a friend build their first Commander deck, and after a few games playing my Ghalta deck, she discovered that she liked ramping and playing big creatures. Her only complaint was the lack of interaction that Ghalta has, a necessary evil of most mono-green lists. With this in mind, and a request to stay within a $50-60 budget, I began combing through potential options.
If we want to play big creatures and have lots of mana, we're going to want to stick with green, and with our current budget we'll want to stick with two colors so that we're not forced into playing too many lands that come into play tapped. Building any green-inclusive combination will let us build in more interaction than the Ghalta deck, so where do we go from here?
After discussing the options with my friend, we narrowed the search to green-black and green-white. Given their recent reprintings, two commanders are particularly appealing in these colors: Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord and Trostani, Selesnya's Voice.
Ultimately, my friend wants to build both of these decks, but the first one we've worked on is Jarad. Since Jarad is 6th in line among Golgari commanders, often overlooked for other options like Meren of Clan Nel Toth and The Gitrog Monster, I hope you'll join me as we help construct this big bad together!
Let's talk about what Jarad offers a Commander deck: Jarad grows bigger as we fill our graveyard with creatures, and then let's us drain our opponents' life as we sacrifice the creatures we play. One thing I love about this suite of abilities is how complementary it is. A lot of creatures will grow bigger as we stock up the graveyard, and the bigger these creatures get, the more pressure we can put on our opponents. Jarad can then turn these big bodies into even more damage, meaning we can easily win the game through aggro or burn.
While perhaps not as impactful as his other abilities, Jarad also has the option to return to hand from the graveyard if we sacrifice a Swamp and Forest. This last ability is a footnote in comparison to the other two, but it does mean that we can avoid commander tax when Jarad dies, and we would do well to play a few cards that allow us to interact with lands in our graveyard.
Jarad is an excellent ambassador for the mechanics available to Golgari. Dredge will help us accomplish our goal of sending creatures to the grave, and even though it's not the most versatile ability, Scavenge will give us the chance to get extra value off the big bodies we're dumping into the yard. The Undergrowth mechanic also counts creatures in the yard, and while not strictly a Golgari mechanic, Delirium from Shadows over Innistrad will serve our game plan well. Playing with these mechanics means our potential card pool is huge, which helps make building a budget brew around Jarad a simpler task. It also helps that recent sets like Battlebond, Ultimate Masters, and Modern Horizons have made a lot of great green and black cards more affordable.
Without further ado, let's take a look at the deck list and our game plan. You can find an interactive version of this deck here.
Jarad, Golgari Lich LordView on Archidekt
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This deck has a curve centered around a converted mana cost of 3.58. The bulk of our spells cost 2-4 mana, and a few of our more expensive spells will reduce in cost as we fill our graveyard with creatures.
Our gameplan is simple: play spells that will let us Dredge our deck into the yard, then recur any spells or creatures we need to establish a board presence. One of the most efficient ways we can begin wearing down our opponents is with Jarad's activated ability, so I've tried to include creatures with a lot of power. Some of these large creatures offer utility like Terastodon, which will blow up any problem noncreature permanents. We also have a handful of creatures like Boneyard Wurm, which will grow naturally as we play out our strategy and which act as perfect fodder to Jarad. We can then recycle any of our creatures with reanimation spells so that Jarad can dole out a lot of damage over the course of a couple turns.
Even though our "combo" doesn't require a lot of pieces, we will rarely be able to play out our strategy undisturbed. I've built this deck so that it can out-value opponents, allowing it to win battles of attrition. This list has a lot of removal, and much of it comes attached to creatures. Ideally we'll be able to play these removal creatures, sacrifice them for value, and then Regrowth them in a pinch. Many of the classic sacrifice outlets like Ashnod's Altar and Phyrexian Altar don't fit the budget of this deck, but there are still a lot of great options for extracting value from our creatures. Jarad will be our primary sacrifice outlet as we try to close a game, and we're also packing a handful of other options that will reward us with card draw when we bin our creatures.
This deck has one glaring weakness: we're very soft to effects that attack our graveyard. Unfortunately, there aren't a ton of options for compensating in this area, but we can limit our vulnerability by being conservative with our Dredge effects. I've also included Perpetual Timepiece as an insurance plan in the face of cards like Rest in Peace. The one silver lining for this deck is that we're not relying on a combo comprised of specific pieces. Jarad only cares about big bodies, so as long as we don't let Jarad get permanently exiled (which should be easy, given that he's our commander), we might be able to win a game in which our grave strategy has been disrupted.
Our weakness to graveyard hate is the main factor limiting the power level of this deck. I was surprised to find how many really powerful cards I could shove in this deck despite the budget, and I think this deck will be able to hold its own in a meta of 75% decks. Obviously, upgrading this deck will help with consistency and bump the power level, but I think it should perform well as is.
Big BadsView on Archidekt
This deck features more vanilla creatures than most of my builds, but given that we're primarily interested in powerful fodder for Jarad, we don't mind the lack of utility. That being said, when it comes to creatures that grow larger with the number of bodies in the graveyard, I've aimed for the ones with additional abilities. For instance, we can Bestow a creature with Nighthowler to make a giant threat, then when we sacrifice our enchanted creature, we get additional fodder when Nighthowler falls off. Splinterfright comes with natural trample, and even fuels itself.
My favorite of these spells is Bonehoard, which will come into play as a giant creature thanks to Living Weapon, and can then equip to any of our creatures for two mana after we sacrifice the Germ token. Bonehoard will make any of our creatures a worthy sacrifice to Jarad.
I was surprised to find that I could find the budget to fit Lord of Extinction into this deck, thanks Ultimate Masters! Truthfully, Lord of Extinction isn't necessary for this deck to function, but it does represent one half of the classic combo with Jarad. If you've never seen Lord of Extinction in action, it will almost always be gigantic, given that it counts all cards in all graveyards. There is a very real chance that we can sacrifice it to Jarad and kill the entire table, especially if we've had the chance to Dredge a few times.
Ghoultree and Molderhulk would not be here if not for their cost reduction abilities. I imagine we will be casting these for as little as 3-4 mana, making them much more palatable. Molderhulk is also a budget way for us to play with the lands in our graveyard, a deciding factor for its inclusion.
Because most of these creatures offer little more than big bodies, we need a few ways to help them punch holes. Since we'll be putting a lot of cards into our yard, Brawn is an easy addition that will ensure that our huge creatures can crash through enemy chump blockers. I've also included End-Raze Forerunners to help with this task. I really like Forerunners: it's a budget card that offers an Overrun ability, and itself has vigilance, trample, and haste on a 7/7 body. Eight mana is on the more expensive side, but as a finisher, Forerunners will get the job done in a lot of situations.
Jarad is the obvious payoff for us playing so many big creatures, but I've also built in a bunch of different ways to make the most of our giant fodder.
A Cycle of Life and DeathView on Archidekt
The bulk of our payoff spells draw us cards. Life's Legacy and Disciple of Bolas will let us turn any of our big dudes into a ton of card draw. Greater Good is another option for grinding up our creatures, and the best part is that we can do it over and over. While discarding three cards is the "drawback" of Greater Good, if we can dump a Genesis or Brawn, we'll be getting additional value in the long run.
Altar of Dementia will let us sacrifice our creatures for free, and most of the time we'll be milling ourselves to put a lot of extra bodies in the graveyard. Each creature we put in the graveyard also makes Victimize all the better, letting us trade a card like Viridian Emissary or Satyr Wayfinder for two giant creatures. This will also help us to get the most from Izoni, Thousand-Eyed, and will give us tons of options for Varolz, the Scar-Striped to Scavenge from.
I really like Korozda Guildmage in this deck, as both of its abilities are relevant here. For three mana we can give one of our big creatures evasion, and for four mana, we can sacrifice a huge monster in exchange for a board full of Saprolings.
Most of our payoffs come from sacrificing our creatures, and Death's Presence will snowball as a result. Each big creature we sacrifice will make another creature that much bigger, making it hard for our opponents to disrupt us outside of a Wrath.
Our creatures and payoffs make up the primary meat of this deck, but we still have a handful of other tricks at our disposal.
For the situations when we get stuck with a Genesis or Brawn in hand, or else we want to set up a reanimation play, I've included Lotleth Troll and Tortured Existence as ways to ditch the cards in our hand. Troll has the added bonus of growing bigger the more things we discard, while Tortured Existence will let us recycle our creatures for additional uses.
I've pointed out that we want to be able to access the lands in our graveyard, and while Ramunap Excavator and Crucible of Worlds are a bit outside of our price range, World Shaper is a great alternative. World Shaper will help us mill ourselves, but if we play it while we have a stocked graveyard, we can sacrifice it immediately to one of our many outlets to act as a giant ramp spell.
Two cards that I was thrilled to include at such a low cost are Command the Dreadhorde and Traverse the Ulvenwald. Command the Dreadhorde will let us put the best creatures from all graveyards on to the battlefield under our control, and is scalable to fit our life total. This card got the nod over options like Ever After because of its extra utility. Traverse the Ulvenwald is fixing in the early game, and a tutor in the late game. We should be able to trigger Delirium without much effort, and Traverse will let us find our winning piece once we know if we're going to need a Lord of Extinction or a End-Raze Forerunners.
Cuts and Adds
Given the budget nature of this deck, we've already had to make some concessions during the card selection process. Instead of focusing on cuts, I will list a couple of cards I would consider adding if you wanted to put a bit more money into this deck.
One area where we were forced to compromise is reanimation spells. At the moment, many of our reanimation spells return cards from our graveyard to our hand, which means we won't be cheating mana costs by putting them right into play. Cards like Reanimate, Animate Dead, and Necromancy are all great options here for a few more dollars.
If you would like to expand the reanimation theme without putting much more money into the deck, Stitch Together or Life // Death are potential options. Stitch Together in particular would synergize nicely with Dredge, and it's possible that it's a better fit for this deck than Living Death. I've included Living Death because it offers a game-ending effect in addition to reanimation, but it's also a nonbo given that many of our creatures will lose power if we empty our graveyard. This is one instance where I need more testing to reach a conclusion, but for around $2.50 it's hard to pass on Living Death at the moment.
We can eliminate some of the randomness from our Dredge effects by swapping in cards like Buried Alive and Entomb. Some players prefer more random effects, but these effects will increase the deck's power level if you're looking to upgrade.
Big creatures with powerful abilities are always expensive. Commander staples like Sheoldred, Whispering One, Mikaeus, the Unhallowed, and Grave Titan are devastating reanimation options, and they offer abilities that can take over a game on their own. These could be swapped over some of our vanilla creatures.
We've talked about Crucible of Worlds and Ramunap Excavator, both of which would be excellent inclusions here. We also talked about Lotleth Troll, a card I would happily swap for Fauna Shaman if given the chance.
Lastly, it goes without saying that our mana base could be improved. Including Overgrown Tomb, Woodland Cemetery, and Twilight Mire would all help with our fixing and consistency, while Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth would make black mana easier.
Thank you all for taking the time to read my article! Until next time, I wish you all the best and happy brewing!