Preface Note: This is the first time I've written a Primer, so it may be lacking certain elements common among Primers. Please feel free to comment your suggestions, thoughts, or recommendations. Thank you for your time and understanding.

~ U r a z i e l

I was first introduced to Magic the Gathering at a friends birthday during the Spring of 2011. Having piqued my interest, it was easy for several close friends of mine to convince me to buy a preconstructed standard deck from M12. Within a few months I began playing the game more frequently and became utterly invested in both its lore and the nuanced gameplay.

The release of Innistrad, and it's compelling theme, was a major influence in my interest in the game. I found I was very drawn to the world, which was reinforced by the subsequent sets in the block, Dark Ascension and Avacyn Restored. During this time I played competitive standard and continued to do so all the way through to Return to Ravnica. While Return to Ravnica enjoyable, it lacked the character and theme that I so admired in Innistrad.

It was around this time that my younger brother taught me about the EDH format. I very quickly jumped the standard-ship in favor of EDH, being very drawn to the extent of deck customization involved while retaining the competitive integrity of standard. Uncertain as to what commander to build the deck around, I started searching, yet I was always drawn back to Innistrad. Having an aversion to mono-colored decks, the choices were between Geist of Saint Traft , Olivia Voldaren , and Grimgrin, Corpse-Born . As I was mulling around with the decision a friend of mine noted the following combo: Grimgrin, Corpse-Born + Rooftop Storm + Gravecrawler + Blood Artist . Finding that I rather liked this combo, I was convinced to run Grimgrin, Corpse-Born .

Despite having played competitive standard I still lacked a nuanced understanding of the game. Namely, the full roster of mechanics in the game, a strong understanding of the stack, and detailed knowledge of the turn breakdown. This resulted in many of the early iterations of the deck being clunky, poorly conceived, and painfully casual.

These early iterations of the deck had the following unrefined themes:

  1. Zombie-Tribal
  2. Infect
  3. Group Hate
  4. Voltron
  5. Artifact Centered Synergies and Ramp

After a few years of playing the deck I got irritated at some of the limitations of the colors and decided to change my commander to Sydri, Galvanic Genius . I would change commanders 3-4 times for around a year trying to figure out what I wanted to run and what I desired in a commander. Regardless of which commander I built, I always found myself drawn back to Grimgrin, Corpse-Born in the same way I'd been drawn to Innistrad. Ultimately, I decided to put all my effort into refining the deck, streamlining its theme, and making it my primary focus.

Thanks to my playgroup(s) and the many close friends therein, the deck's current iteration is by far its strongest. Furthermore, its now almost completely optimized, with the acquireboard only optimized addition being Underground Sea . The only other possibilities for addition, which are in part contingent on the context of the playgroup and the overall necessity/utility provided by the spells include: Mana Crypt , Prismatic Vista , Clearwater Pathway  , and either Scalding Tarn or Misty Rainforest .

My current playgroup consists of 6 players including myself: Danhammertown, frozen_iguana96, joncj1994, Elbris_Seeker_of_Leaf, & another friend (who will hopefully feel obligated to either provide me his TappedOut Acct. or make one).

I strongly recommend checking out some of their decks, if you're interested in the composition of the playgroup.

Generally speaking the power of our respective decks has increased significantly since we began playing. As such most of the decks, while geared towards the playgroup's meta, are 80%-95% competitive.

It should also be noted that almost everyone runs blue in some capacity, and half the group has at least one deck bearing a heavy to intermediate control theme. The prevalence of control elements (particularly counterspells) in the playgroup means that cheesing a win will almost never happen. Since we're familiar with the infinite combos within the playgroup and those prevalent in EDH and cEDH, winning in this fashion rarely occurs as these attempts are unlikely to resolve. In short, wins are hard earned.

I also want to note that the only real house-rule we still implement is the Partial-Paris Mulligan (however, our decks are fully equipped to handle any mulligan type).

Grimgrin, Corpse-Born doesn't look like much on the surface and is often overlooked due to his drop cost and, more specifically, the first clause on his information text. Despite this, Grimgrin is far more effective and provides far more utility than initially meets the eye.

In my deck he serves the following functions:

  • A deterrent to creature casts
  • A source of creature removal
  • A combo-piece
  • An instant-speed sacrifice outlet
  • An effective source of voltron damage
  • (and) A synergistic zombie element

I've found that Grimgrin is rarely, if ever, the lynchpin of the deck. He certainly has a threatening presence while on the board, however, I rarely cast him without either being far ahead in the early-game, or having a specific need in the context of any given game. He's also rarely removed from the board once cast, more often stolen. Speaking to this point, Grimgrin tends to play the role of a political pawn, allowing me to leverage creature-removal and maintain the power-balance of the board-state. This being said, recently the deck's tuning has encouraged me to cast him in the early to mid-game to leverage this aforementioned control.

Grimgrin is also surprisingly difficult to remove with combat damage. This is entirely due to his first ability, which is, in my opinion, his single strongest attribute. As long as you control a creature aside from Grimgrin, he's essentially a blocker, and a strong one at that. Since he need not be tapped to activate his second ability, he can be buffed in response to a player declaring a blocker, or targeting him with a damage-inflicting spell. In this way Grimgrin often throws surprises at the unwary and is less prone to being remove.

His second ability is also an excellent way of maintaining game efficiency. Should an opponent attempt to remove a creature I control (especially with an exile-mechanic) I can sacrifice it to Grimgrin's ability in response. So too can I sacrifice creatures I've declared as blockers prior to the combat damage being assigned. In this way, I minimize the damage that would be incurred to my board and optimize the outcome (e.g. Grimgrin gets big!).

As a final note, I absolutely love piloting this deck and I wanted to showcase how effective Grim-Grin can be as a commander, despite his mid-tier rank, and by deviating from a linear zombie-themed build.


My personal description of the deck is a toolbox anti-combo control-deck with a zombie subtheme (a bit long-winded I know).

The transition to control and anti-combo themes were highly influenced by the decks of two members of my current playgroup and another good friend of mine. I played many games against Danhammertown's Azami, Lady of Scrolls control deck, Drawzami; frozen_iguana96's Zur the Enchanter deck, Nozur; and 4ooorilla's Shirei, Shizo's Caretaker deck, Shirei, Caretaker of Machines.

Dealing with these three powerhouses, the unique features of their decks, and their respective combo potential, I was forced to cut the chaff from my deck and increase the volume of control elements. Now the deck has an incredible amount of utility and can influence the game at any given time. I especially enjoy that this deck has solutions to just about any detrimental effect or spell.

Design Methodology

When it comes to card considerations and deck composition, there are several things I tend to factor in.

  • Whether the CMC is greater than 4, and, more specifically, how many colored mana symbols are present. I like keeping the average CMC below 3.
  • Whether it manifests (top-decked or otherwise) as a dead-drop during the game.
  • The trade-off between CMC and utility/benefit provision upon cast.
  • (and) Whether there's an optimal alternative (contingent on synergistic qualities and overall utility).

Other points of consideration more specific to my own biases are that I utterly despise Sorcery spells, and will do just about anything to run an instant alternative if it exists. Another bias influencing my decisions to run the mechanics I chose, was that I refuse to run cards that indirectly enable your opponents. An example of this is Windfall , while it's an effective card in it's ability to replenish your hand, I would never run it because it can provide your opponents advantage. This would encourage the use of cards like Notion Thief and alter the composition of the deck in such a way that it wouldn't resemble it's current state. I much prefer group-hate effects as I can usually work around them.

Alrighty, time for me to share an unpopular parting thought, influential to the methodology of my deckbuilding (e.g. why I run control). I have almost zero respect for 2-card infinite-combo wins, I think they're annoyingly common and completely unoriginal. The deck is specifically control-heavy to account for such inconveniences. I honestly have a difficult time fathoming why combos like Triskelion + Mikaeus, the Unhallowed ever see play. The likelihood of both components resolving is little to none (if you have a reasonably competent playgroup) and, assuming just one doesn't reach resolution, you've basically thrown away 6 mana. Here are a few other's that are equally cancerous...

I want to clarify that I take offense to the combo's themselves, not those players running them. As such, feel free to argue your point for these combos as I genuinely cannot see their merit.

Alternative Card Considerations

I'll explore my acquire-board swap decisions below, describing what to replace when I finally acquire these components.

  • Mana Crypt : This one could very easily replace Mana Vault since I've encountered numerous situations where it is utterly useless after being tapped, however, my main hesitation is that Vault allows me to drop my commander turn 2 if played turn 1. I'll have to play additional games to determine whether vault is worth running over crypt.
  • Underground Sea : This will complete my mana base (as I like it) and will likely be traded out for one of my current basic lands.
  • Hullbreacher : Unfortunately, I had to replace my Gray Merchant of Asphodel While a solid card in the build it was the most recognizable card that wasn't integral to the deck's functionality. I'd really rather not cut Gary since I did a cool alter of him (see below).

The core of the deck is designed around reactionary gameplay and adaptability. The blue control elements are seldom used to ensure a spell of my own resolves. Rather these control elements are primarily intended on stifling opponents from getting out of control and to prevent combos from resolving. Similarly, the other (non-counterspell) control elements are centered around mitigating my opponent's board states and board advantage.

Given the colors of the deck, artifact Ramp and/or Pseudo-Ramp, as is the case with Dark Ritual , Lotus Bloom , & Lotus Petal , is absolutely necessary. These mana supplementing artifacts are critical for early game advantage, but take second precedence to card draw and card advantage mechanics. Any form of card advantage allows the deck to pop-off and cement its position in the early game. Speaking to this point, I'll highlight the card-advantage present in the deck and then move on to the other critical elements of the deck.

Card Advantage

My current notion of card advantage in my deck is separated into the following categories: Card Draw, Deck Thinning, and General Card Advantage (G.C.A. hereafter). We'll consider these categories below.

Card Draw

  • Dark Confidant : The low drop cost for consistent card draw is amazing. With my deck's current average CMC I'm rarely concerned about the damage inflicted to me. Worst case scenario he becomes Grimgrin food.
  • Graveborn Muse : Provides numerous synergies despite being a pet card. The zombie sub-theme, commander synergy, and presence of Rooftop Storm makes this card significantly more worthwhile. If I can drop her with a few other zombies early game, she's an absolute game changer. Her only shortcoming is her CMC and the x2 cost.
  • Liliana's Standard Bearer : I made the decision to swap Phyrexian Arena out for Standard Bearer for a few reasons. One, he's a zombie that fulfills a card-draw role while providing additional synergies with the existing zombies. Two, he can synergize very well with Grimgrin in that I can sacrifice a number of creatures (like Gravecrawler repeatedly) to maximize card draw potential.
  • Rhystic Study : Everyone's favorite game interrupting shenanigan. Need I say more?

Deck Thinning

  • Fetch Lands
    • Polluted Delta , Flooded Strand , Marsh Flats , and Verdant Catacombs : Fetch lands are amazing for numerous reasons, color access and fixing, deck thinning, and manipulation of the deck order/top-deck. At this point, I'm running the four fetch lands listed, but I'm looking to add Misty Rainforest to the deck-list to have an even split of blue/black fetch options. The deck thinning element is especially useful as top decking a land at an inopportune time can prove extremely detrimental. Deck thinning the lands from the deck ensures you're more likely to draw into a spell. In short, fetch lands provide a wealth of utility and should be a staple in every EDH deck.
  • Tutors
    • Vampiric Tutor : Probably the single best tutor in the game given it's drop cost and that it's instant speed. A must have for any deck with black in its color identity.
    • Demonic Tutor : Another excellent tutor with unlimited search potential. Despite it being sorcery speed, the drop cost is excellent and it's another must-have tutor.
    • Mystical Tutor : Probably the second best tutor in the deck due to the strong presence of control elements in the build. Just as with Vampiric Tutor , the fact that it's instant speed makes it integral to the deck.
    • Intuition : Just picked this bad-boy up. This card is fire for it's overall utility, while I may just end up picking options for redundancy, it can be extremely effective for getting the win. Assuming I have a strong graveyard, I can fetch Yawgmoth's Will , Mission Briefing , & Snapcaster Mage , to ensure a Yawgmoth's Will cast.
    • Spellseeker : A strong asset for the deck as it allows me to grab 18 different cards, most of which are control. It has been especially effective in it's ability to grab Cyclonic Rift , which in dire situations makes it a game changer. Furthermore, since the tutor is tied to a body, I can always use it as Grimgrin food.
    • Trinket Mage : This has been a pet card of mine for a while, but it's extremely useful, allowing me to choose between 10 different artifacts. It's especially versatile in it's ability to fetch either Seat of the Synod or Vault of Whispers , convenient when I've missed a land drop early game, or need access to a particular color. Just as with Spellseeker , since the tutor is tied to a body we can feed Grimgrin when needed.


  • Sensei's Divining Top : A must-have staple in most, if not all, EDH decks. Controlling what you top deck is essential. The fetch lands mentioned above also synergize very well with Sensei's as you can rearrange the deck when you'd otherwise draw into dead drops or sub-optimal cards.
  • Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas : Tezzeret's first ability could easily be classified as deck thinning, however, since there's no guarantee that any of the top five cards of the deck will be an artifact, I prefer to categorize it as G.C.A. Another useful tool, beyond the scope of G.C.A., is his second ability, which effectively allows me to remove artifacts with Grimgrin.


To account for combo heavy win-cons, having a healthy supply of counterspells and control elements is essential. Approximately 20% of the deck is dedicated towards some kind of control, whether it's counterspells, mana denial, or graveyard denial.


  • The counterspell options are mostly self explanatory, but for newer players it should be mentioned that alternate costs to many of these (e.g. Force of Will , Pact of Negation , etc.) allow for reactionary play. Such counters can come as an unexpected and unpleasant surprise to your opponents. Aside from the conventional control spells (instants), I should highlight the importance of Counterbalance & a newer addition card:Chalice of the Void(MRD). When the first of these two entered our playgroup I didn't fully understand or appreciate it. The finer points of it's use, including the ability to counter split second spells, and it's incredible synergy with Sensei's Divining Top , opened my eyes to it's overall utility and how it can function as passive spell denial for your opponents. The second of these two is absolute filth and in my playgroup it's ideal to drop it for countering spells of CMC 0 or 1. Chalice is really gross in the early game and mitigates use of Sol Ring, Sensei's, and a whole bunch of other necessities/staples.

Mana Denial

  • The only true mana denial element of the deck is Contamination , which is absolutely brutal. Since this card also inhibits my ability to generate blue mana (excepting artifacts) I play it in two situations, when I'm desperate, or when I already have board advantage and need to ensure specific spells to resolve. Perhaps the single biggest benefit (and detriment) of this card is its ability to stifle blue players from countering your spells. It is also extremely useful for effectively neutering opponents with color identities outside of black. I especially like using this card against Elbris_Seeker_of_Leaf's, Animar, Soul of Elements deck Animar as the pro-black makes it a huge pain. Given the sacrifice heavy theme, and the presence of Gravecrawler , I can usually maintain the upkeep cost of Contamination with little to no trouble.

Graveyard Denial

  • In many decks, your graveyard essentially functions as a unique separate deck. Thus, stripping your opponents of the advantages graveyards provide is almost always to your benefit. This is especially true when dealing with dredge and reanimator decks, or really annoying commanders like Marchesa, the Black Rose . Draugr Necromancer is a perfect choice for inhibiting your opponent's graveyard elements while preserving your own. This one recently replaced Leyline of the Void since it's more in line with the theme and generally provides more utility.
  • I've also included Withered Wretch as a secondary choice for such graveyard removal. It serves as both graveyard denial and works synergistically within the zombie subtheme. Furthermore, the instant speed ability for selective graveyard removal is especially devious when responding to a reanimation effect.
  • Lastly, we have Bojuka Bog with a very nice targeted ETB trigger for graveyard removal. I usually recommend playing this card reactionarily, rather than preemptively, mana needs being the determining factor in such cases.

Niche Asymmetric Control/Denial

  • Blightbeetle is one of my all-time favorite uncommons, providing a wealth of utility for a innocuous two-drop bug. The asymmetric counter denial is amazingly useful for dealing with a variety of irritating effects and commanders (e.g. Ghave, Guru of Spores , Marchesa, the Black Rose , or Animar, Soul of Elements ). The pro-green is just a little added benefit to an already stellar two-drop.
  • Let me start by saying these two cards represent perfect examples of Power Creep in this game and ought to be banned in the format on account of how strong they are. Regardless, I've chosen to incorporate both Opposition Agent and Hullbreacher . These two cards are absolutely busted and can make or break a game, or an opponents ability to even get a foothold. This is highlighted by early game Opposition agent drops which can be done in response to them cracking a fetch land.
  • While not truly asymmetric, given Grimgrin's unique ability to untap via sacrifice, Meekstone often acts as an asymmetric control element in the deck. Additionally, since only 4 of the creatures in the deck have power > 2, (one being Gilded Drake lol), I'm rarely, if ever, affected.


Just as with any Deck, having strong synergistic elements is critical to deck function and fully optimizes the utility of many cards in a deck. With this in mind, lets review the synergies in the deck.


  • Rooftop Storm : Since this card is present in the deck and an element in one of it's win-conditions, it's inclusion made me inclined to run the zombie subtheme. I don't like running a tribal theme for the sake of running a tribal theme, it feels unimaginative. As such I only included zombie elements that provided ideal synergies and utility. These zombies include...
    • Apprentice Necromancer : Reanimator* - While it's only a one-pop reanimation effect, the drop cost, creature type, and reanimation effect for creatures with effective ETB triggers makes it a versatile card for the deck.
    • Bone Dancer : Reanimator* - A newer addition to the deck, but the reanimation effect makes it quite useful. Additionally, this card is seldom blocked especially when I'm swinging that player with Grimgrin. The drop cost is preferable as compared to it's predecessor Phyrexian Delver . I've yet to play enough games to determine how impactful the card is, but at this point it's pulled its weight.
    • Coffin Queen : Reanimator* - An incredibly useful reanimator with a reasonable drop cost. An additional synergy with coffin queen is to tie it's ability to any ETB effect-bearing creatures ( Massacre Wurm being my personal favorite), then sacrificing it to Grimgrin when it's no longer useful and repeating the process.
    • Graveborn Muse : Card Advantage* - As discussed in the Card Advantage section, Muse is essential to the deck and in conjunction with the tribal sub-theme is a must have. While unlikely, I can pull 8 cards per upkeep with the full roster of zombies. This is usually closer to 2-3 cards per turn.
    • Liliana's Standard Bearer : Card Advantage* - Having just added this card to the deck's primary roster, I've yet to see it's impact. I suspect that the synergy with Grimgrin/ Oblivion Stone will yield promising results. I'll update this description accordingly as I determine it's relevance to the deck.
    • Gravecrawler : Utility* Combo Piece* - Easy tool for use in conjunction with Contamination .
    • Grimgrin, Corpse-Born : Utility* Combo Piece* Spot Removal*
    • Draugr Necromancer : Utility* - Graveyard denial against the many reanimator effects in my playgroup, plus the added utility of allowing me to cast any exiled creatures. This allows for ETB triggers, more options to feed Grimgrin with, and it isn't specific to the instance of Draugr Necromancer in play (given his wording).
    • Withered Wretch : Utility* - As mentioned in the Graveyard Denial section, Wretch serves mostly as graveyard hate while providing the synergies to recur Gravecrawler and providing additional card draw in conjunction with Graveborn Muse .
  • In addition to these zombies, another few cards which provide added utility to the tribal theme are Cavern of Souls and Unholy Grotto . These cards, very obviously, allow me to deny counterspell attempts on my zombies and gives me the option of returning them when needed or in response to my graveyard being targeted.

Grimgrin-Specific Synergies

  • Minamo, School at Water's Edge : By far my favorite of all the Grimgrin synergies. This card feels like it was designed for Grimgrin.
  • Creeping Tar Pit & Inkmoth Nexus : In the context of their synergy with Grimgrin, both of these cards represent sneaky ways of allowing Grimgrin to untap at a moments notice for attacking, blocking, or buffing. Animate-lands tend to be overlooked in most games and will usually surprise your opponents when used with Grimgrin.
  • Animation Module : Easily fetched with Trinket Mage and bearing a low drop cost, this card is useful for a variety of purposes, most notably Grimgrin. As soon as he gets a +1/+1 counter, things get a rolling and you have a self-sustaining outlet to keep him untapped, or proliferate a bunch of servos.
  • Gravecrawler : I don't think I need to elaborate on this one. These two are best friends!
  • Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas : Anyone familiar with the colors in Magic knows that Blue and Black have next to no Artifact removal. As such, and as mentioned in the G.C.A. section above, Tezzeret's second ability allows me to animate annoying artifacts which I can subsequently destroy with Grimgrin.

A Drop of Poison

    Quite literally just a drop...
  • Inkmoth Nexus & Animation Module : While both of these cards are in the deck primarily because of their synergies with Grimgrin, they also serve as additional Infect/poison counter inputs which gives them all the more utility. Yet another neat trick is those surprise infect kills by animating Inkmoth Nexus and using Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas to turn him into a 5/5 with his -2.

Small Pairings, Big Help

Playstyle Rules of Thumb

This deck is political in nature and reactionary, I cannot emphasize this enough. You don't want to be casting spells for the sake of casting spells. Decisions should be deliberate and as optimal to the context of your position in the game as possible.

This is also control deck, you need to pay attention to how many cards everyone has, what deck types they're playing, and who is likely to pose the biggest threat. Additionally, you need to pay special attention to mitigating their card advantage, this gives you advantage.

As a last point, you should really try to preserve your graveyard. Expending a counterspell or two to keep your graveyard intact is worth it 100 times over.

Opening Hand & Mulligans

Regardless of the mulligan rules your group plays by, it is very important to try to mulligan for one of the card advantage elements in the deck. Worst case scenario, take a hand that has at minimum two lands covering both colors and some general utility. I strongly advise you not to keep a hand with a single land and a mana rock like Sol Ring . The only exception to this being in the event you have Sensei's Divining Top , or Dark Confidant if your land provides access to black mana.

The deck functions its best when you have consistent card draw and optimally when you get it on the board as early as possible. While the deck will still play well regardless, this point cannot be understated.

Early Game

This deck should almost never be played aggressively in the early game. I'll touch on some exceptions, but in general the deck does best by playing a passive role until mid to late game (even then you're likely going to want to play relatively passive). Your mindset should be geared towards gaining gradual advantage and reserving mana for counterspells. In the context of my playgroup, it's often best if you try to keep at least two counterspells in hand and the mana to use them available.

The exceptions to aggressive play are contingent on you getting a pretty ridiculous opening hand, or in the event you start the game with sufficient mana/mana rocks to cast Grimgrin and you have Minamo, School at Water's Edge in the opening hand. In this case you want to drop Grimgrin ASAP, get the summoning sickness out of the way, and start controlling the creature presence on the board. This isn't to say that you should just remove any creature because you can, you want to be deliberate about removing genuine threats, or creatures that provide a lot of advantage (e.g. any creature giving them card advantage). Additionally, I tend to focus on removing the creatures of the players that consistently pose the biggest threat in games. Lastly, if the creatures on the board aren't a threat, or don't provide ridiculous utility, just hold Grimgrin in reserve. I prefer using Minamo on the preceding player's end-step anyway.

While this is also viable with Gravecrawler I would recommend doing so with caution. Even though the infinite-combo isn't the easiest to get out, or resolve, you want to try to avoid risking Gravecrawler getting exiled.

I've noticed that there's little harm casting Grimgrin early game even when you cannot untap him. He will no longer have summoning sickness, and in some cases it may be advantageous to tutor up either Minamo, School at Water's Edge or Gravecrawler . I will usually do this when I have a frustratingly slow start and it's imperative that I make impact. Otherwise I'll do this when everyone else is having an especially slow start and it will allow me to deter creature casts or manage the presence of creatures on the board.

In the event you have a player struggling with mana fixing in the early game, specifically if they're missing a color, I always advocate using either Strip Mine to remove the color (assuming it's the only access they have), or using Stifle to hinder a fetch land trigger and prevent their mana fixing of the given color. It's usually going to favor you to have at least one opponent you don't really have to worry about, even if it's only for a few turns. Caveat: This also depends on the demeanor of the player, some people play vindictively and you may want to opt out of such a decision if you know they're likely to retaliate. I generally don't like it when people play vindictively because they lose sight of trying to win the game and make sub-optimal decisions.


The mid-game is characterized by watching your opponent's hands and board states closely to best determine who represents the biggest threat. Shortly after the early game, you'll usually see one to three players really pop-off. Your job is to enable the rest of the players to deal with the biggest threat. Otherwise you must address it directly in the event everyone else has no options (ususally by means of counterspells and control effects). Usually, you'll be helping by ensuring a spell resolves that directly impacts the board-leader, or by throwing little curves at them and hampering their ability to retain advantage. Worst case scenario, you'll have to address a potential combo. If you see an opponent setting up the pieces for a combo and you have no options in hand I strongly recommend using your tutors as response mechanisms to address their threat, or other drastic changes and threats in the game.

This is also the stage of the game where opponents have a decent board state. You will almost never have to worry about an opponent's creature-heavy board presence. You should hold on to Cyclonic Rift for responses to an opponent attempting to swing you to death (or an equally reasonable moment). This is the reactionary method of dealing with creatures, ideally used when all your opponents have a decent number of permanents (puts them back a few turns). However, my preference, and one of my all time favorite pet card, is Massacre Wurm . This card is amazingly effective in the mid-game and onward, given the number of recursion effects in the deck coupled with Grimgrin as a sacrifice outlet allows you to get his ETB trigger to resolve as many as 5-6 times (this is obviously conditional on your hand/graveyard. So too can you copy Wurm with Phyrexian Metamorph .

If you have the largest and most threatening board presence at this point in the game, you ought to have Grimgrin out and swinging. Prioritize removing creatures that have significant impact on the game, but, if possible, attempt to allocate the damage to a single player if at all possible. This keeps you from taking too much heat and allows you to remove players one at a time without expending spells unnecessarily.


Things may be tenuous at this point in the game, you need to play it carefully if you haven't already cemented your position and established a threatening board-presence. This is where certain nasty combo's are likely to manifest for you.

You'll have likely expended a number of decent cards at this point, giving you a tasty graveyard. When the moment is opportune you'll want to attempt casting cards like Yawgmoth's Will . While its ideal use is instant speed, this assumes that you'll have Leyline of Anticipation out. Regardless, you'll likely have a number of one-time-use Ramp effects and Mana Rocks in your graveyard ( Lotus Petal , Dark Ritual , Mana Vault , etc.). Using these to pull out big combos allows you to push your opponents into a corner as they likely have fewer options and cards in hand than you at this point. Worst case scenario you may have Yawgmoth's in your graveyard (due to discard or mill effects), however, you'll still have options to cast it with Snapcaster Mage and Mission Briefing .

Additionally, this will allow you to cast your zero-drop or alternative cost counterspells from your graveyard to thwart anyone attempting to prevent you from comboing out, or just popping-off. This means that even if Rooftop Storm and Blood Artist are in your graveyard, you can still clutch out your infinite. Even if you don't have all the pieces to the combo, the likelihood that you have tutor(s) in graveyard and Sensei's Divining Top on the board or graveyard is pretty high. This means you have a wealth of options for comboing out.

You may not be in such a position to combo out with the win at this point, in which case you'll want to defer to the playstyle of the early to mid-game. Playing politically into the end game allows you to build up your graveyard options and advantage until you have the opportunity to combo out, or simply wear your opponents down. This conditions are admittedly more stressful, but equally interesting as they test your ability to utilize the deck and your opponents strengths and weaknesses to garner positional advantage.

Parting Thoughts

Since this is my first attempt at explaining how to pilot the deck, I imagine there are plenty of things that I did not address. I'd love to improve the current explanation and hope that any questions people have are directed to me in the comments. I'll do my best to update this section accordingly.


The biggest boon of the deck is that it can always have an impact on the game regardless of the board-state (with incredibly few niche exceptions). Much of the composition is driven towards toolbox effects since I wanted it to be functional, if not a threat, at any point in a game. I'll review what, in my opinion, represent the strongest elements of the deck below.


As mentioned earlier the deck is generally best suited to reactionary gameplay. In most games, I tend to be the one inflicting the most damage to my life total since I use life as a resource far more than the other decks in the playgroup. This being said, I'm comfortable having little to no HP under most circumstances. Whether it's by means of removing creatures that threaten what HP remains, or holding onto a Cyclonic Rift for the ideal moment, I don't usually fear being removed until around 8 or less. Deliberate use of specific spells and abilities are paramount to the survivability of the deck.

Political Effects

While touched upon in Piloting the Deck, many of the effects can, and should, be used politically. One such example, is using Minamo, School at Water's Edge to untap a player's commander to allow them a response or for use when declaring blockers. Ideally, politically motivated decisions provide the player options to survive, especially if they have tools you need to address a bigger threat. Other such options include Homeward Path , ideal for returning stolen commanders and other creatures to a player.

While I could touch upon a variety of other cards in the deck with political effects, I think part of the fun in playing the deck is discovering new ways to use the tools present in a political manner.

Unassuming Presence

Despite Grimgrin, Corpse-Born having a threatening presence (touched upon earlier), the deck flies under the radar. This is partially because I don't cast cards knowing they'll either provoke opponents, or put a target on my head. My playgroup understands the role of my deck and recognize that it represents a very real threat, however, I don't like giving them reasons to target me or my board-state. This could be considered my playstyle as opposed to a strength of the deck, but I genuinely believe that much of the deck is relatively passive and my board state is considered an inconvenience rather than a punishable threat.

In part, I consider the large percentage of instant speed spells/effects to be one of the reasons the deck has an unassuming presence. I'm not dropping permanent after permanent every turn. Those that I do cast either enable me to gain card advantage, recursion, or utility. Board state tends to be the measure of threat assessment and as such knowing which spells to keep in reserve is a major benefit.


The weaknesses of the deck are a combination of color-limitations and specific detrimental mechanics that prove difficult to manage.

Color Weaknesses

Notably, Blue & Black do not have access to just about any Enchantment and Artifact removal. Admittedly, this can be circumnavigated with the use of counterspells, however, the fact remains that they are a pain to remove. I'm familiar with some of the less common means of removal for both card types, however, I think they're mostly sub-par. My primary solutions to artifacts are Oblivion Stone , Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas 's second ability + Grimgrin, Corpse-Born 's removal, and Gate to Phyrexia (which is clunky). Enchantments are by far the most frustrating card type to deal with, regardless of the color identity of a deck. For those situations where enchantments are having a huge impact on the game (and thus already resolved), about the only options I have for dealing with them are Oblivion Stone , or Cyclonic Rift + a counterspell upon recast.

Stifling Stax Effects and Counterspell Prevention

Another extremely effective set of abilities that impede the deck's full function are Stax and Response-impeding abilities. Regarding the Stax effects, my deck is usually equipped to deal with them, and oftentimes I consider them beneficial for maintaining a balanced power-dynamic. Regardless, I'll list those effects that have the biggest effect on the performance of the deck.

  • Grand Abolisher : While I'm glad this card is only effective against me for its controller's turn, it's still extremely irritating to deal with. Losing my ability to influence spell resolutions always makes me uneasy. Luckily, Grimgrin, Corpse-Born tends to be very hungry for Grand Abolishers, meaning that at the very least I have options.
  • Winter Orb : I absolutely despise this card. In fact, it's probably one of my least favorite cards in the entire game. Makes gameplay with the deck miserable. Given the deck's limited artifact removal, I cannot let it resolve unless it's politically advantageous.
  • Vexing Shusher : Conversely to Winter Orb , this is one of my all time favorite cards. Shusher is totally unique, has interesting flavor, and is super effective in decks with R/G color identities. Analogous to Grand Abolisher , it's ability to nullify ANY counterspells makes it extremely effective against my deck. But, as with Abolisher I do have options for dealing with it (hint hint Grimgrin).
  • Null Rod : This card is annoying to deal with, despite having reduced the number of Artifacts in the deck. If dropped early game, it is stifling, preventing me from using the artifact ramp early game and delaying my board advantage until early-mid game. Another annoying aspect of this card is that it inhibits the use of both Seat of the Synod & Vault of Whispers ...
  • Cursed Totem : Oh boy... really gotta love having a useless commander. Also impacts a decent number of my other creatures, e.g. Coffin Queen , Withered Wretch , etc.
  • Chalice of the Void : This one is a relative newcomer to the playgroup, but JEEEZE is it nasty. Just as with Null Rod , Chalice is a huge nuisance in its ability to deny early game advantage. If cast for a single charge counter, it's proves debilitating to just about everyone in the playgroup. It's also easily overlooked, meaning that thoughtless spell-casts get punished in a bad way.

Graveyard Denial

Effects that deny me using or having a graveyard are also rather effective at mitigating the ability of my deck to perform. While the deck doesn't completely rely on my graveyard (or anyone elses for that matter), it removes a lot of my options. The cards it most directly impacts include all of my recursion pieces: Bone Dancer , Animate Dead , Reanimate , Coffin Queen , Apprentice Necromancer , Unearth , Academy Ruins & Unholy Grotto , and both Entomb and Gravecrawler .

These are the ones that really suck to deal with...


While I don't entirely consider it a weakness, I think most people, especially those in the cEDH community, would consider the absence of countless win-cons a weakness. This is a very deliberate decision on my part which has been influenced by the composition of my playgroup. I honestly rarely even rely on my infinite-combo, especially since it's common knowledge amongst the playgroup. However, the infinite-combo does represent one of my obvious win conditions. More often, the wins are a gradual and politically driven removal of individual players who make themselves a threat during the course of a game. As such, other removal conditions include surprise infect kills with Inkmoth Nexus , voltron damage, & Massacre Wurm (this one can often kill someone running tribal weenies or weaker creatures).

Regardless of my views on win-cons, I can acknowledge that I may not have a deck composition designed for numerous infinite-combos. While some may view this as a disadvantage, I honestly prefer it. I'll take the long drawn-out victory any day, survival and utility are the cornerstones of the deck.

I'd like to thank those members of my playgroup and prior playgroups who have always provided great company and challenged me at a game we all enjoy.

I'd also like to thank Abzkaban & scotchtapedsleeves for providing the inspiration for my deck-page customization. Thanks to the web-dev classes, referencing their css files was a breeze and helped me learn a lot.

Lastly, I'd like to pay credit to the originators of the images used in the deck description (free stock)

  • Grimgrin Alter - Skyhunter71
  • Background - Joran Quinten
  • Accordian - Daniel Svoboda
  • Accordian, Nested Img 1 - darksouls1


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91% Competitive

Top Ranked
Date added 8 years
Last updated 1 week

This deck is Commander / EDH legal.

Rarity (main - side)

8 - 2 Mythic Rares

60 - 3 Rares

14 - 3 Uncommons

7 - 2 Commons

Cards 100
Avg. CMC 2.25
Tokens 2/2 Bird, Treasure, 1/1 Servo
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Revision 9 See all

1 week ago)

+1 Flux Channeler side
-1 Matter Reshaper side
-1 Neurok Stealthsuit side