The Toolbox - Cryptbreaker

(Cryptbreaker | Art By Darek Zabrocki)

Death Can't Stop Me

Welcome back to The Toolbox! Here we take a look at underplayed cards and evaluate where they ought to see more play.

Today we are taking a look at Cryptbreaker! I've heard many people talk about how powerful this card is, but I've rarely seen it actually hit the battlefield. Why should more people be playing it, though? Let’s take a look!

Cryptbreaker is a 1/1 Zombie for a single black mana, which by itself is a nice way to start your curve. His first activated ability lets you bin dead cards, transforming them into 2/2 Zombies. His second ability lets you use those Zombies (plus a little life loss) to generate some card advantage. When I first read this card I thought, “Ok, seems like a pretty sweet Zombie card.” How narrow my vision was! Yes, this card is at its best when you have a huge board of Zombies, but there are so many different ways in which this card can shine. Just look at the commanders!

Gisa and Geralf allow you to cast any Zombies that you’ve discarded, so that checks out. Varina is an obvious choice because she's a Zombie and she likes to churn through a lot of cards, which she then turns into a ton more Zombies. Balthor acts as a sort of a Living Death for black and red creatures, so you want to discard beefy creatures while also making blockers to stall for you until you're able to activate Balthor.

What other commanders can really make this little Zombie shine, though? Is it only just various Zombie tribal commanders, or is there something more? Let’s find out!

I Can Break These Cuffs

Chainer, Dementia Master is a 3/3 Human Minion for five mana that gives all Nightmare creatures +1/+1. You can also pay three black mana and three life to return a creature from any graveyard to the battlefield under your control, except it's also a black Nightmare in addition to its other colors and creature types, which makes it so that creatures that you reanimate benefit from Chainer’s anthem effect. The downside is that when Chainer leaves the battlefield, you have to exile all Nightmares. Why does a Nightmare commander want one measly little Zombie, though?


Well, as a reanimation general, Chainer needs to actually have something in the graveyard to reanimate. One of the most effective ways to do this (aside from Entomb) is through repeatable discard outlets, such as Cryptbreaker. While something like Mesmeric Orb is more efficient, Cryptbreaker makes 2/2 Zombies which can be tapped to draw cards, used as chump blockers, or get sacrificed to any number of things; you could sacrifice them to Yawgmoth, Thran Physician, Altar of Dementia, Ashnod's Altar, the possibilities are endless! You can tap things like Fleshbag Marauder, Sidisi, Undead Vizier, tokens from Liliana, Dreadhorde General, and Gray Merchant of Asphodel to help draw cards. 

The utility and value that Cryptbreaker offers to a general such as this cannot be understated. Take a look at the decklist for yourself to see!

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Smiling at Death

That’s right, it’s time for Alesha, Who Smiles at Death! She's a recursion machine, snatching low-power creatures from your graveyard to send at your opponents. If you choose a Master of Cruelties, for instance, and they both end up being unblocked, then that immediately knocks that player out of the game!


I am by no means saying that Cryptbreaker should replace Cathartic Reunion, but the former is a nice way to supplement the latter. If you discard a Teysa Karlov to Cryptbreaker, for example, then bring her back with Alesha, you've not only made use of the subject of this article, but you've also put an additional creature with lifelink and vigilance into play! One thing that really makes Cryptbreaker a much stronger inclusion to me is that you can bring it back with Alesha if it dies. Plus you have a bunch of creatures that you want to discard in the deck already anyway. 

There are also several cards that incidentally are Zombies or make Zombie tokens that you can tap to draw cards, such as Carrion Feeder, Doomed Dissenter, and Open the Graves. The tokens also get buffed by cards like Judith, the Scourge Diva, and have all of the usual sacrifice shenanigans. You can sacrifice them to Yawgmoth, Thran Physician, Goblin Bombardment, and Yahenni, Undying Partisan. You can get even more payoff from these sacrifices from Dictate of Erebos, Smothering Abomination, Zulaport Cutthroat, and so much more!

Don’t believe me? Just take a look at the deck!

Commander (1)
Creatures (40)
Instants (4)
Sorceries (7)
Artifacts (8)
Enchantments (6)
Planeswalkers (1)
Lands (33)

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Ertai, the Corrupted has less-than-stellar stats, being a 3/4 for five mana in three colors. However, his ability to counter a spell for the price of tapping, paying a blue mana, and sacrificing a creature or enchantment can be quite handy. So when you sacrifice a random Bitterblossom token with a Grave Pact out, it's nothing but upside! I know, this is going to be one of the weirder decks I’ve written about, so bear with me until I can explain. 

So I know what you’re thinking, this is crazy and completely off theme for Ertai! Seriously though, look at his EDHREC page and you’ll see how crazy it is. Once you do that, you’ll be able to see a very prominent Zombie tribal theme. I don’t quite get why there’s such a density, but I think it works, honestly; I definitely prefer it over the discard/reanimator shell. 

When you have a massive board from Endless Ranks of the Dead, Anointed Procession, Gisa and Geralf, and/or Dreadhorde Invasion, to name a few, it’s hard to imagine that you won’t have a few spare creatures to hold up as blockers, after which you can tap to draw cards, especially when you’re making even more Zombies with Cryptbreaker himself. The cost of discarding a card even becomes negligible with Havengul Lich, Sheoldred, Whispering One, and Lord of the Undead! Sacrificing a random Zombie token to Ertai himself is also way less detrimental than having to sacrifice something like a Death Baron.

Just take a look at the decklist and you’ll see all the madness going on in Ertai’s EDHREC page! 

Commander (1)
Creatures (30)
Instants (5)
Sorceries (8)
Artifacts (7)
Enchantments (9)
Planeswalkers (1)
Lands (39)

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Rest In Peace

I hope that you all enjoyed reading this, and that you’ve found a new home for Cryptbreaker! Do you think that these commanders pair well with Cryptbreaker? Do you think I’m overhyping this 1/1 Zombie, or do you agree that it's highly underrated? What other underrated cards do you think others should have in their toolbox? Thank you as always for your support for the series! Please share your thoughts in the comments below, and as always, have a great day!

Elijah is a mildly obsessive EDH player from Georgia. He started playing during Battle for Zendikar with Green/Black Eldrazi Aristocrats and still pays tribute to the plane with his Omnath, Locus of Rage storm brew. He is always excited to innovate and try new things in Magic and Life. Elijah is currently a full time student looking to go into Computer Engineering but also has a bit of an artistic streak.

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