Un-mander Showdown — Grusilda vs The Mimeoplasm
The Monster Mash
Silver-bordered commanders are here for just a few short weeks, and while Un-mander isn't usually my thing, there's one legendary creature from Unstable who hits so close to home that I absolutely must write about her.
I'm lucky to have many commander decks. Most are budget, several are just experiments, but there's one deck I cherish above them all, and that's The Mimeoplasm. As my first official deck, it's been with me for years. You can therefore imagine my delight when I saw Grusilda, Monster Masher.
You'd better have a Relic of Progenitus at the ready, because your graveyards are not safe. Both of these commanders mix, match, and knit the dead together like they're Stitcher Geralf. It's about time we have an Un-mander Showdown: Monster Mash edition.
I'd like to start with the commander we already know. The Mimeoplasm hails from the original Commander product Devour for Power. For five mana, he consumes two dead creatures, becoming a Body Double of one of them and scavenging the other for +1/+1 counters like Varolz, the Scar-Striped.
This affords you an endless number of combinations. In the original Devour for Power deck, you could become a copy of Troll Ascetic with ten +1/+1 counters from Artisan of Kozilek. I think my very first Mimeoplastic combination was Hydra Omnivore (from the Riku of Two Reflections player) with a power boost from my Lhurgoyf.
The original Commander product came out in the same year as New Phyrexia, so it didn't take players very long to discover some of Mimeo's most potent amalgamations:
Who needs to deal 21 points of commander damage when you can use infect instead? Combined with any 6+ power creature, Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon can give itself haste and fell an opponent with a single blow. Blighted Agent is another solid option, though it requires 9+ power, which is a little tougher to come by. You'll also need Lightning Greaves to be most effective; there's a 100% chance your unblockable infected commander becomes Public Enemy #1, so you have to work fast before it gets Terminated.
Combinations like this have given The Mimeoplasm a similar reputation to Rafiq of the Many as a master of one-shot kills. Such commanders are regarded as dangerous before the game begins. Even if you've toned the deck's power level down a few notches, opponents will try to kill Mimeo on sight because they know what it's capabilities.
For those who dislike infect, there are numerous other useful Mimeoplasm combinations.
Invisible Stalker has natural unblockable and hexproof, which makes it a great host for the +1/+1 counters of an enormous Consuming Aberration or Lord of Extinction. All those counters feel great on a Walking Ballista too, because you can turn them into damage. Plus, you can cast the Ballista for zero mana to put it straight into the graveyard.
It also doesn't hurt to just use Mimeo as a Beacon of Unrest. If the instant-win creatures aren't available, there ain't nothin' wrong with concocting a 15/15 Sheoldred, Whispering One for five mana. That's the real heart of Mimeo's playstyle. It's a reanimator deck, through and through. From Animate Dead to Necromancy to Reanimate to Dance of the Dead, there are many ways to revive expensive creatures for very little mana.
Animating a Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur on turn two or three is backbreaking. Paying two mana for a Consecrated Sphinx is obnoxious. Plus, lots of your expensive creatures get to serve dual purposes; Terastodon is a great reanimation target and a good choice for Mimeo's +1/+1 counters. Void Winnower can either buff your commander or cut off a bunch of enemy spells.
Naturally, Mimeoplasm decks run a gamut of spells like Buried Alive and Entomb to get things in the graveyard. Since you'll often end up with those huge creatures in your hand, discard spells like Frantic Search are also enormously useful. (A personal favorite of mine is Commander 2016's Ancient Excavation.)
In Mimeo's Instants section we also see Counterspell at 30% popularity. A few other counterspells litter the list too, like Swan Song. This is a big hint about Mimeo's strategy. Once you reanimate a big creature, you have to keep it alive, because a Path to Exile is definitely headed your way. If you've ever player a Delver of Secrets deck in a 60-card format, this gameplan probably sounds familiar to you. You get a big threat on the board very quickly and for very little mana, then protect it until it wipes out your enemies.
My Arm is a T-Rex, Your Argument is Invalid
Mimeo's my pet deck, so I hope you won't mind me sharing my personal list for this commander. This is the deck I've been tuning for years, so I've been able to trade up into some really spicy cards. Take a look:
There are some real treasures here, especially my pride and joy Survival of the Fittest. However, despite powerful cards like Survival, competitive EDH players would take one look at this list and roll their eyes. There are some great cards, but Diluvian Primordial and Spelltwine aren't hyper-competitive cards. They're my fun cards, as I've tuned this list for the not-quite-competitive-not-quite-casual power level of my personal playgroup. If our game doesn't end quickly, I like to have late-game powerhouses, and I just can't resist the allure of Liliana's majesty in Rise of the Dark Realms.
Competitive Mimeoplasm lists often make use of absurd graveyard combos. Necrotic Ooze is a useful utility creature, but it's even better when it steals the activated abilities of Phyrexian Devourer and Walking Ballista, turning your library into cannon fodder. The famous Mikaeus, the Unhallowed + Triskelion combo often rears its ugly head as well. Oh, and don't even get me started on the craziness Hermit Druid enables. These combos are great, but they're not my personal meta's power level, so I mix up some dorky cards along with the powerful ones.
There's one other important mixture in this decklist I'd like to call to your attention and that's the deck's balance of 'self-graveyard' cards vs 'other-graveyard' cards. As an example, Meren of Clan Nel Toth is a self-graveyard commander, while Lazav, Dimir Mastermind is an other-graveyard commander. The Mimeoplasm encourages a reanimator strategy, but reanimator strategies frequently turn inward to self-graveyard shenanigans, only reanimating their own Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augurs or Rune-Scarred Demons, etc.
Since Mimeo can eat anyone's creatures, I personally like having a balance of cards that fill up not just my own graveyard, but also my opponents'. Mesmeric Orb does this with annoying proficiency. I've also found Windfall spells to be surprisingly effective. If I get Bojuka Bogged, I like to have backup graveyards. If you're thinking of building Mimeo, this is a balance you'll have to learn to navigate as well. Do you want to use your own graveyard, someone else's, or both?
That's enough about the Plasm for now. We have another graveyard manipulator to discuss: Grusilda, Monster Masher. What happens when you trade blue and green for red? You get something a little crazy and a lot of fun. In true silver-bordered fashion, Grusilda goes a step beyond The Mimeoplasm when fusing her dead creatures. While Mimeo converts one creature into +1/+1 counters, Grusilda actually combines two creatures, giving you not only the additional power but their abilities as well. This opens up a whole new can of worms.
Mairsil, the Pretender might be a little jealous, because Grusilda gets to combine activated abilities without any one-per-turn restrictions. Pili-Pala goes infinite with Grand Architect in artifact decks, but here it goes infinite with Palladium Myr or Kozilek's Channeler. Tap for two mana, then pay two mana, untap your creature, and make a mana. Repeat ad infinitum.
Another powerful combo is Cinderhaze Wretch and Tree of Perdition. Tap the Tree-Wretch to make an opponent discard a card, then untap it by placing a -1/-1 counter on it. Once its toughness is at 1, use Tree of Perdition's ability to switch its toughness with an opponent's life total. Now that you've got more toughness, you can repeat the discard-untap abilities for the next opponent, and then the next. When the dust settles, your opponents will be left with no cards in their hands and 1 point of life each.
Let's take a break from activated abilities really quick and discuss some power. Grusilda makes some fantastic face-punchers. Remember Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon from Mimeo's all-star cards? Here it pairs nicely with a fine red Lightning Runner. Slapping double strike on a Malignus doesn't sound half-bad either.
If you're playing silver-bordered cards in the 99 as well, let me direct your attention to Three-Headed Goblin and Infinity Elemental. The former combines magnificently with frankly any big creature. The latter combines with lifelink. Fuse together Infinity Elemental + Vampire Nighthawk and you have a creature that gives you infinite life if it so much as bumps into another creature or player. Hard to lose when you have infinite life. (The Unstable FAQ also clarifies that when you have infinite life, if you get attacked with someone else's Infinity Elemental you'll still have infinite life. Infinity - infinity = infinity. I don't understand it either, but that's how the laws of mathematics work.)
Speaking of weird rules, here's an important one. As we saw in this episode of Game Knights, when Mark Rosewater flickered a combined Host/Augment creature, it left and returned to the battlefield as one unit. This is a departure from the rules for meld, another mechanic that 'combines' creatures. If you flicker a Brisela, Voice of Nightmares, it comes back as its two separate components, Gisela, the Broken Blade and Bruna, the Fading Light.
This isn't the case for genuinely combined creatures, though. In the spirit of silver borders, a Host/Augment pair is considered to be a single creature, and therefore leaves and returns as one entity. This is also true of Grusilda's mashups. (Mark Rosewater has confirmed it here. However, please note that if you mash a creature you own with one your opponent owns, and it has to return to it's owner's control, you must undergo a challenge to see who gets the creature.)
The reason this interaction is important is because it gives Grusilda access to some truly disgusting abilities, namely persist and undying. With these abilities and a few +1/+1 counters, you can build your own Mikaeus, the Unhallowed + Triskelion combo, but without the Mikaeus.
Flayer of the Hatebound and Murderous Redcap combine with several other creatures to immediately win you the game, including each other! Deal the Flayer's damage to an opponent, the Redcap's damage to itself, then bring the creature back and do it all over again. Triskelion works the same way, repeatedly killing itself as it pings opponents to death. I also really want to combine Infinity Elemental with Flayer of the Hatebound.
Probably my favorite thing about Grusilda, Monster Masher is that she doesn't exile creatures the way Mimeo does. If her creations die, she can reassmble them. Plus, Grusilda doesn't just give menace to your combined creatures, she also gives it to your enchanted and equipped creatures! If your creature is wearing Lightning Greaves or, better yet, Animate Dead, it's harder to block.
A Graveyard Smash
Enough theorycrafting. Let's take a look at an actual decklist for Grusilda.
I'll get to the combinations in a second, but I want to pause and focus on the true stars of the deck: the mana ramp. Grusilda's ability is expensive. Very, very expensive. Your first combination will cost you a total of ten mana. You absolutely need mana ramp in this deck if it's going to function properly, so don't skimp on it. I don't care if Worn Powerstone is a strictly worse Sol Ring, you need the mana.
You also need ways to get those creatures into the graveyard where they belong. Entomb and Buried Alive are top-notch. Lots of those creatures will end up in your hand too, so you'll need ways to discard them. Dark Deal and Molten Psyche are great options, as is Reforge the Soul. You can't skimp on mana, and you can't skimp on these discard spells either. If one of your key mashup creatures gets stuck in your hand, that won't be any fun at all. Discard spells help grease the wheels and get your deck moving.
Alright, now some combos. I've already discussed a few, but here are a few other standouts:
- Keldon Firebombers + It That Betrays steals a bunch of lands from your opponents.
- Spikeshot Elder/Spikeshot Goblin + Infinity Elemental for tons of damage.
- Goblin Sharpshooter + Avatar of Woe lets you clear the board completely. This also works with any deathtouch creature.
- Heartless Hidetsugu + Gifted Aetherborn. This also works with any lifelink creature.
As you can probably tell, my favorite creatures in this deck are the ones that combine with multiple other creatures. Vampire Nighthawk and Gifted Aetherborn are particularly synergystic. Lifelink works with Infinity Elemental and Heartless Hidetsugu, while deathtouch works with Goblin Sharpshooter and other pingers. These are powerhouse combinations, either locking down the board or giving you a significant advantage over your opposition.
Keen players have probably noticed I didn't include cards like Pack Rat or Warchief Giant in the deck. The original draft actually did include those cards, because they synergize so well with enters-the-battlefield creatures like Rune-Scarred Demon. Ultimately, though, they never quite pulled their weight in my games. I also tried Grenzo's Ruffians, to try a build-your-own Hydra Omnivore, but it also never quite got there.
What I realized is that Grusilda's monster mashes really have to be all-powerful. Grusilda isn't likely to survive for very long, and neither are her combinations. When it takes a ten mana investment for your first combo, it had better have a big impact. Just like Mimeo, people are likely to target this Monster-Mashing lady, because they know how absurd her ability is. When you do get to pull off her ability, make it count.
Cards to Consider
Let's finish up with some suggestions for both commanders. These cards aren't very popular for these commanders, but I think they deserve some extra consideration.
- Negate: As mentioned earlier, Counterspell shows up as a popular card for The Mimeoplasm. In my experience, the spells I want to counter are noncreature spells, namely removal spells like Path to Exile that target my huge monsters. Negate saves on the double-blue cost, making it a little easier to cast when you need it most.
- Stubborn Denial: Speaking of counterspells, I've found this lesser-known counterspell to be more useful than Swan Song. The times I need a counterspell are nearly always the times I need to protect my big creatures, which have enough power to enable Ferocious. Plus, this doesn't give my opponent a Swan token to block my Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon.
- Bane of Progress: Sometimes you need the surgically precise Acidic Slime, other times you need the absolute sledgehammer of Bane of Progress. Since Mimeo doesn't run many artifacts or enchantments, this tends to be one-sided and totally devastating.
- Twilight's Call: I might be the only player I know who runs this, but I can't help it, I like it. I'm already playing Living Death, after all. I'm fine letting other players get back their Sun Titan and their Solemn Simulacrum when I'm getting back all three Phyrexian Praetors.
- Champion of Wits: I'm surprised this hasn't shown up in more Mimeo lists. It's Careful Study on a stick. I consider it better than Prime Speaker Zegana, which some players copy with Mimeo to draw tons of cards. Mimeo-Zegana doesn't double its own power though, so Champion of Wits gets my vote because it's easier to cast.
- Necrotic Ooze: Remember all those Cinderhaze Wretch and Pili-Pala combos? Well, you don't need Grusilda to reanimate them when you have Necrotic Ooze.
- Dread Summons: Very underrated and simple way to fill up graveyards with a lot of cards.
- Daretti, Scrap Savant: I like this guy for the repeatable discard effects. Reviving your Lightning Greaves isn't bad either.
- Sire of Insanity: Speaking of discard, nothing does it better than Sire of Insanity. This gets rid of your opponents' pesky removal spells and fills up the yard with lots and lots of juicy reanimation targets. Frankly, I also really like Delirium Skeins for the same reasons.
- Key to the City: Another useful way to discard cards, but it's especially helpful to get your powerhouse creations through your enemies' defenses. I've been looking for a deck to put Key to the City, and I think this is definitely it.
There are tons of combinations for both commanders. Plenty didn't make the cut in these lists, but that doesn't mean they're not worth trying. For example, Mimeo can also abuse Sage of Hours with tons of counters. Alternatively, Grusilda can throw together both halves of B.F.M, or perhaps a Platinum Angel + Abyssal Persecutor so no one can win! [Insert evil laughter here.] The possibilities are truly endless.
As Un-manders go, Grusilda, Monster Masher doesn't actually seem too wild. Creating huge infect double-strikers is something decks can already do with a Tainted Strike. Combos with activated abilities have already been available with Necrotic Ooze. Grusilda's combinations are a blast, but still feel roughly within the scope of black-bordered Magic to me. I may just be biased, though, since I've been making graveyard mashups with The Mimeoplasm for six years. No matter how you like to recombine your dead creatures, both of these commanders make for some really fantastic games.
So, what Un-mander Showdown would you like to see next? X vs Sen Triplets? Phoebe, Head of S.N.E.A.K. vs Lazav, Dimir Mastermind? We only have a few more weeks, and then it'll be back to your regularly scheduled EDH. Let me know your thoughts below!
Til next time!