Underdog's Corner - Geth, Lord of the Vault

(Geth, Lord of the Vault | Art by Whit Brachna)

Black is Back

Hello, everyone! Welcome to another edition of the Underdog's Corner, where I highlight a legendary creature that has been neglected compared to its peers. This week, I'm delving into the pits of mono-black.

While scrolling down the mono-black page on EDHREC, Toshiro Umezawa genuinely tempted me. With just over 200 decks, Toshiro takes his place as the 12th most played mono-black commander. However, as I kept scrolling, I stumbled onto another legend that has always held a spot in my heart. Coming in as a featherweight by the numbers, we have Geth, Lord of the Vault. What's he all about?

Geth, Lord of the Vault

First appearing in Scars of Mirrodin, Geth sits at the bottom even compared to his contemporaries from the same set. Kemba, Kha Regent maintains one of the top spots in mono-white, and Ezuri, Renegade Leader and Skithiryx, Blight Dragon also hold high stations in their colors as well. Then there's Geth.

I've had the pleasure of seeing Geth once in the wild, but it didn't get to do much thanks to the other decks at the table. However, the mere threat of his ability kept all of us on our toes:

{X}{B}: Put target artifact or creature card with converted mana cost X from an opponent’s graveyard onto the battlefield under your control tapped. Then that player puts the top X cards of their library into their graveyard.

With enough mana, Geth allows us to steal artifacts and creatures from our opponents' graveyards. Not only that, but Geth will mill the opponent that we steal from. This is a key feature of his ability, as it allows us to find more targets. Without anything to target, Geth's ability doesn't have a backup plan. Despite having an enormous mana advantage, the aforementioned Geth player I faced sputtered in the early game because their were no targets to steal for many turns. His engine could never start turning.

The main avenues that we'll be looking to exploit are reanimation and theft, with a secondary focus on milling our opponents. Geth is also going to want a lot of mana, so we're going to frame these effects with the assumption that we're playing with big mana effects.

Phyrexian Scriptures

I always love looking at the High Synergy section of a commander. For commanders that don't have broad application, it gives us a snapshot of what we're looking to do. For many players, this is a great starting point to building around core concepts.

Life's Finale is Geth's top synergy card, with a rating of 47%. It's not hard to see why; it seems tailor-made for the Steel Thane. Not only do we get to wipe the board of creatures, but we get an inverse Buried Alive to tutor any number of potential targets for Geth's ability. This tutoring effect will probably be aimed at the strongest deck in a random pod, but if you know the meta you can choose your targets with more surgical precision.

Sepulchral Primordial is a one-shot reanimation effect that hits all of our opponents. While it's no Blatant Thievery, the comparison alone should raise an eyebrow. On average, stealing three creatures is going to be a huge tempo swing, especially in a longer game. Even stealing a few utility creatures is worth the price of admission.

Together, Mindcrank and Bloodchief Ascension form an infinite combo that mills our opponents until they've lost all their life - quite the oxymoron. By themselves, both offer a nice amount of utility. Mindcrank gives us an outlet to mill our opponents, especially since mono-black is lush with effects that drain our opponents. Meanwhile, Ascension weaponizes Geth's mill effect to tear down our opponents' life totals.

Liliana of the Dark Realms isn't as obvious a pick as the other four. Her ultimate will definitely fuel our gameplan if we can fire it off, but I don't evaluate planeswalkers based on an "if." Her plus ability doesn't ramp, but hitting our land drops every turn is worthwhile. Her minus ability can remove small targets, but I think we could do better with kill spells. I think she's an odd inclusion, but a 65% inclusion rate speaks for itself. She can tutor Leechridden Swamp which has cute synergy with Mindcrank.

Big Mana, Bigger Graveyards

Geth's ability is expensive. Unlike the most popular reanimation effects like Reanimate and Animate Dead, we're paying a premium to bring back the dead. We have to settle for Stir the Grave. That's okay, though; mana-intensive strategies are often hamstrung by the colors they're in, but we're in one of the best colors for it.

Regarding artifacts, we have Caged Sun, Gauntlet of Power, and Extraplanar Lens. All three only allow us to double our black mana, but two of them allow our opponents to benefit from the symmetrical effect they provide.

However, we can avoid this somewhat with Lens by choosing Snow-Covered Swamps as our basic land of choice. With their recent reprint, it's a much more palatable choice, financially speaking. It also allows us to run the incredible new board wipe, Dead of Winter. While giving our opponents extra mana can be a dangerous gambit, our deck is designed to take better advantage of it, which should give us more leeway to abuse the effects.

Mono-color decks offer lenient mana requirements which allow decks to run a higher density of non-basic lands. For this deck, though, we're going to try to keep as many Swamps in our land base as possible. Many of our doublers and mana accelerants care about Swamps; Crypt Ghast and Nirkana Revenant each double the mana from our Swamps, and Bubbling Muck is a black-shifted High Tide. We would be undercutting our own potential if we removed too many of those basics.

Since we're going deep on both mana-doubling effects and density of Swamps, we should have no problem running the Cabal lands. Cabal Coffers is a known quantity for many players, but we should at least acknowledge it: it accelerates our mana immensely. Cabal Stronghold is a tough sell outside of mono-black, but within our color combination we shouldn't have a hard time netting mana from its ability. Magus of the Coffers is one of the slowest and most vulnerable of ways to double our mana potential, so if we find that we have too many of these effects, this is a good first cut.

As an aside, let's not forget that Mirage Mirror exists and can copy any of our mana doublers to churn out explosive turn after explosive turn.

Without Geth, we won't have much to do with our mana. Mana sinks in the form of "X" abilities will give us a way to utilize our resources more efficiently. Damnable Pact can be used to refill our hands or even kill off another player. The same can be said for Exsanguinate. Profane Command also becomes incredibly versatile, especially if we've established a board full of creatures.

'Til Geth Do Us Part

Reanimation, theft, and milling are all part of the same equation when it comes to Geth, Lord of the Vault. We need to mill creatures so we can steal creatures so we can mill creatures... and so forth. It's an intertwined loop of effects. While we can afford to have a few impactful one-off mill effects, we're going to want a constant stream of mill to continually open up options for us.

With the recent reprint of Altar of Dementia, you really don't have an excuse to not run the card. Sacrifice a creature you've stolen, sacrifice your own creature, it doesn't matter - someone is getting milled for the trouble. The fact that it's an unconditional, instant-speed sacrifice outlet is gravy. Altar of the Brood is another usual suspect when it comes to mill gameplans, which makes it worth a mention. Milling each opponent after stealing something with Geth seems really good. And let's not forget Dread Summons!

Sword of Body and Mind is a pet card, but milling the green player ten cards will probably net us an enticing target to steal. At worst, we at least get to create a Wolf token to sacrifice to Undercity Informer or Altar of Dementia.

Lastly, we have Mesmeric Orb. This card could win an award for the most disproportionate hate thrown at it in a given game, but we still get our mana's worth if we can wheel around the table once with it.

Shallow Graves

Beyond the main pieces that hold Geth's strategy together, we have a lot of flexibility to build him how we want. We'll want to include cards like Command the Dreadhorde that can reanimate multiple creatures or single target theft-reanimation like Animate Dead and Beacon of Unrest. With a focus on big mana, we can fill our top end with Kicker costs and massive sorceries like Josu Vess, Lich Knight or Decree of Pain. There's even potential to get the most out of an Endless Whispers package.

Geth has a unique set of decision trees built into his design, since he is required to interact with our opponents to operate well, especially for players that enjoy politics. I think this gives Geth a unique edge that I think deserves a bit more attention. Below is a decklist that I've thrown together for what I would enjoy out of his playstyle.

Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer

Once again, thanks for joining me in the Underdog's Corner! If you have any suggestions for future Underdogs, let me know in the comments below!

Mason is an EDH player from Georgia, who is a self-proclaimed Johnny and Vorthos. His MTG career started with a casual lifegain deck with only a single win-condition. When not consuming MTG, he spends his time being a full-time student, an avid sports fan, and a dabbling musician. Mason can be found on twitter @K_Mason64