Underdog's Corner - Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin
(Tin Street Market | Art by Noah Bradley)
War of the Legendary Creatures
Hello, everyone! Welcome to another edition of the Underdog's Corner! If this is your first time reading, I'm going to spend the next thousand or more words telling you about a legendary creature that's getting less attention than he should. With War of the Spark, we saw a staggering 16 legendary creatures enter into the fold for EDH. A few have immediately risen above the rest, as we're seeing with Feather, the Redeemed and Niv-Mizzet Reborn, and even some like Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves have jumped into the upper echelon unexpectedly. Then there are the legends that lag behind - the ones I love to talk about! Today we'll cover a legend that I'm surprised is in the bottom 25%. Let's meet our newest Underdog!
Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin
Hmm... That name looks familiar.
Krenko looks pretty different since we last saw him. His last iteration, Krenko, Mob Boss, is a personal boogeyman of mine and a combo machine. Honestly, the main thing they have in common is being able to create ludicrous amount of Goblin tokens while also being Goblins themselves.
Let's look at what the new Krenko brings to the table.
"Whenever Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin attacks, put a +1/+1 counter on it..."
A three mana 1/2 isn't all that impressive, but once we enter combat the first time, Krenko bumps up to a 2/3. Three toughness tends to turn the corner in terms of survivability in the early game; using Scryfall's EDHREC filter we can see the most popular creatures with CMC three or less that would be able to block Krenko in the early game, and of the top 60, only 9 would be able to block and kill him, which means he's got great odds for attacking and surviving in the beginning of the game. That's just the first time he attacks, too; once he attacks again, he becomes increasingly more resilient in combat.
"...then create a number of 1/1 red Goblin creature tokens equal to Krenko’s power."
This is where Krenko's power comes from, and in turn, the Goblins come from his power. We've seen a few legends in the past create tokens based on power, but Krenko is the first red commander with this ability. Arguably, Krenko has the most potential to take advantage of this ability thanks to red's ability to quickly and easily boost power. Finally, while Goblin tribal is a valid and powerful strategy, I want to look beyond tribal. We won't ignore it completely, but we're not going to be tethered to it either.
This new Krenko is still powerful, but I think if we try to compare to the two side by side, we will end up disappointed. Rather than being an alternative for Krenko, Mob Boss, I want Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin to stand on his own. Rather than continue this comparison, let's look at another red legend that has more in common with new Krenko: Valduk, Keeper of the Flame.
Released in Dominaria, Valduk has gained a nice cult following over the year since his release. Both he and Krenko create tokens, with different conditions. Valduk creates a number of temporary 3/1 Elementals based on the number of Auras and Equipment attached to him. Krenko creates a number of 1/1 Goblins equal to his power. While at first glance these abilities aren't terribly similar, I think their deckbuilding choices will greatly mirror each other. With over 200 decks, Valduk offers a lot of data, so let's lean into Valduk's EDHREC's page to find suggestions.
Keeper of Tin Street
The top end of Valduk's page unsurprisingly contains a lot of Equipment. Most of them are cost-efficient, intended to get the most of his ability quickly. While we won't want all of them, let's check out the major players.
Tenza, Godo's Maul has one of the highest stats-to-cost ratios of Equipment available to us. Creating an additional three tokens per combat is massive, and let's not forget that it also will give Krenko trample. Even on his first swing, Krenko will be a 5/6. While that can be chump blocked, we still make a ton of tokens. Besides, once we add trample to the mix, things become more complicated.
Found in 50% of Valduk decks, we have the Aura Bravado from the venerated Urza's Saga. While Bravado won't immediately buff Krenko in combat like our Equipment will, it does offer a higher ceiling. Let's assume that we enchant Krenko with Bravado, and then attack. We'll only make two tokens, but Krenko will then become a 4/5. When Krenko attacks the next turn, he'll create five tokens, and then become a 10/11. That's a massive amount of stats over only two turns. If left unchecked, that could easily spell doom for our opponent as we overwhelm them with Goblins. While it doesn't have quite the same ceiling, Stoneforge Masterwork and Pennon Blade are great second and third copies of Bravado and will produce very similar results.
Once we've made all of these tokens, what do we do with them? For a mono-red deck, the answer is easy and somewhat formulaic. Without a diversity of options, we're going to lean on some tried and true staples.
Goblin Bombardment is one of the best sacrifice outlets in the game. It's cheap, it's free to use, and it's a more resilient permanent type than a lot of its brethren. Even without any buffs to our army, we can use this enchantment to double our damage output whenever we swing all-out against an enemy, just in case we need the extra few points to get there. What's more thematic than throwing these fiends to their gleeful deaths?
If we want a redundant effect for that functionality, Cavalcade of Calamity really pumps out the damage with small tokens. Outpost Siege is often played for its impulse-draw mode, but don't forget that it can also ping opponents whenever a creature we control leaves the battlefield. Not just when they die, but when they leave the battlefield. This can be a massive deterrent for a board wipe in the right situation, especially if we can play it into a developed board.
I won't say much about these two, since you've likely faced down these terrors yourself if you've played with or against any token decks that include red. Appearing in 17,500 and 10,500 decks respectively, both Purphoros, God of the Forge and Impact Tremors will end the game in short order if left untouched. If you're playing these, be prepared to protect them.
Let's discuss a few lesser-played gems though. This is a series about lesser-played commanders, so what better way to show them off? First up is Marton Stromgald, who appears in a measly 700 decks. As someone who has been on the receiving end of this card before, I will assert this number is too low. While Marton is a very fragile card, attacking once with him will often spell doom for our opponents' life totals. Even attacking with three creatures will grant a hardy +3/+3 bonus to those creatures. Note that Marton does not count himself nor buff himself with his ability, so he will always be a 1/1. However, note also that we can stack this trigger to resolve before Krenko's triggered ability to supercharge our Goblin output. If you want a similar effect, check out Veteran's Armaments. It puts your board at risk, but it will pay back the investment at minimum.
For another team buff we have Mercadia's Downfall. This card is only currently played in 86 decks, but I think it's potential impact is worth more than that. For three mana, we can pump the power of attacking creatures by the number of nonbasic lands the defending player controls. Note that this affects any attacking creatures, not just our own, so there's a potential to use this card politically. This card can fill a similar role to Berserk, which we discussed in my last article. For special notes on this card, it will only count nonbasic lands for the player each creature is attacking. A creature attacking Player A, who has five nonbasic lands, will get +5/+0, while a creature attacking Player B, who has two nonbasic lands, will get +2/+0. Let's be clear, though - nonbasic lands run rampant in EDH, so you'll never attack someone who only has 2. You're more likely to attack someone who has nothing but nonbasic lands!
Lastly, we have the big guns. Tribal has been a fairly supported archetype over the years, and we have several cards to push us over the edge. We're not wholly going to dive into Goblin tribal, but it would be remiss to ignore these powerful pieces. Shared Animosity stacks well with Krenko's triggered ability, and it will let us turn many of our tokens into killing machines. If we attack with five Goblins, they each get +4/+0. Attacking with a 1/1 is a nuisance, but attacking with multiple 5/1s makes blocks difficult. Coat of Arms is another great tool in our arsenal as well, and it can even help our survivability. (Watch out for other tribal decks, though, as it is a purely symmetrical effect.) Finally, while I typically don't like Obelisk of Urd, I can actually see it pulling weight in this deck. I love that Krenko plays well with anthem effects. If we are able to attack twice with Krenko, we'll almost be able to play it for free just off of Krenko's Goblins!
Brothers and Sisters in Arms
Before we move onto the decklist, I'd like to say that this commander finally gave a me a way to build in a direction that I've been struggling with. I've always wanted to build decks like Varchild, Betrayer of Kjeldor and Valduk, Keeper of the Flame, but I've always been turned off by their relative lack of similar effects. Writing about Krenko, I realized all three of them can be included in the same deck and function as alternate commanders for one another. Many of the tricks that work with Krenko, such as Coat of Arms or Shared Animosity, also work incredibly well with Varchild's Survivors and Valduk's Elementals. It's a direction that I'm happy to have discovered, and I think gives this deck more legs rather than relying on primarily on its commander.
Goblins New GrooveView on Archidekt
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer
Thanks for reading, and thank you for joining me in the Underdog's Corner!