Using the graveyard as a resource

Commander (EDH) forum

Posted on Aug. 24, 2021, 9:57 p.m. by enpc

I know some players love playing from the graveyard and effectively use it as a second hand, while other players don't even like playing wheels becuase they have to potentially discard good stuff.

Given that there are some really cheap reanimation effects but also really cheap mass graveyard exile effects, how does everybody feel about playing from the graveyard and to what extent are people comfortable doing it?

And how much graveyard interaction do you run in your decks, both for you and for others?

TypicalTimmy says... #2

I run a surprising amount of recursion (back to hand) in my Lathliss, Dragon Queen deck.

  • shhh... It's a secret how ;)
August 24, 2021 10:14 p.m.

TypicalTimmy says... #3

There are lands such as Haven of the Spirit Dragon that recur dragons, and I can copy it with lands such as Thespian's Stage and Vesuva. Then use Crucible of Worlds to reclaim those lands if need be.

August 24, 2021 10:16 p.m. Edited.

Gleeock says... #4

I typically am not a big fan of playing recursion. But I do have a Kardur deck where I am starting to turn a corner with that a little. I have started playing it more as coincidental, big-play piece for some decks instead of the main-show & that has been working well.

On the flip side I will play a bunch of Graveyard interaction (hate) especially if it is part of multiple utilities on one card. I will continue to call Immersturm Predator underrated, same with Author of Shadows, same with Klothys, God of Destiny

August 24, 2021 10:21 p.m.

Necrosis24 says... #5

When I first got into edh I didn’t want to discard or sacrifice my permanents, but after changing my Chromium, the Mutable into a Varina, Lich Queen deck I have grown to love messing with my graveyard and am okay with exiling cards permanently as well.

Some of my favorite interactions have come thru using Altar of Dementia with Faith's Reward sacrificing my board to mill out an opponent then bringing it all back for some etb triggers with Binding Mummy or Noxious Ghoul.

Recently built Kathril, Aspect Warper which utilizes self-mill and recurs all my creatures with Odric, Lunarch Marshal each creature is to be feared.

You can lose everything to a Tormod's Crypt or Leyline of the Void but overall having graveyard recursion makes me less worried about protecting my pieces, so I can sometimes make seemingly unfavorable plays that actually benefit me in the long run.

August 24, 2021 10:35 p.m.

I added a Wildest Dreams very recently to my Hallar, the Firefletcher deck--there are several wheels therein and Wildest can basically be a tutor in some long-lasting games.

August 24, 2021 10:41 p.m.

DrukenReaps says... #7

I almost always put some amount of graveyard recursion in my decks. It can certainly stink when someone exiles after I play a Buried Alive or set something else up but I've also shied away from revolving entire decks around it. I don't want Rest in Peace to just be me scooping every time. My Mairsil, the Pretender uses my graveyard and hand equally and my Ghen, Arcanum Weaver is more just cool to use rather than the deck's focus.

August 24, 2021 10:52 p.m.

plakjekaas says... #8

There's so many cards that recur cards from your graveyard in every color, you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't run anything.

Especially in a format like Commander, where your opponents combined probably run more answers than you have threats in your deck, you need to make sure that a simple opposing Wrath of God or an overloaded Vandalblast is not the final word on your gameplan, or you're gonna have a bad time in the last half of the game. You could try and fix the problem with tutors and card draw, which you should already be running, of course, but in a singleton format, there's a chance you just need that unique effect once more, but the card is in your graveyard. A Bala Ged Recovery  Flip, an Eternal Witness, a Mystic Sanctuary, a Reanimate or a Sun Titan can work miracles for you in those situations, and even with a Rest in Peace in play, none of them are completely dead cards. So low risk, high reward, and you don't need to focus on a graveyard strategy to enjoy the benefit of reusing its cards.

For exact the same reason, you should run some graveyard hate. Something like Scavenger Grounds or Soul-Guide Lantern which still has other utility even if you don't have to exile a graveyard. Low opportunity cost with max utility, every deck can run them. They don't hurt in your hand, and well timed use can even win you the game.

Or you could lean into not using the graveyard and Rest in Peace to hose everyone who agrees with what I just said ;-)

August 25, 2021 12:17 a.m.

shadow63 says... #9

My favorite commander is Muldrotha, the Gravetide I think that sums up my opinion pretty well

August 25, 2021 12:25 a.m.

MTGesus90X says... #10

plakjekaas: your opponents combined might have more removal than you have threats, but they shouldn't be ganging up on you like that.

August 25, 2021 12:42 a.m.

plakjekaas says... #11

MTGesus90X true, but the best removal in multiplayer is mass removal. I've played plenty games where my board got wiped over and over again, even when I wasn't the threat. You'll want your Dryad of the Ilysian Grove, that you play for a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle combo you're not close to assembling yet, back even if it dies to a Bane of Progress that was played to answer a Sigil of the Empty Throne that wasn't yours.

August 25, 2021 12:50 a.m.

MTGesus90X says... #12

plakjekaas: "best removal" is likely dependent on your playgroup and/or the deck you're using. most players in my group prefer to keep their permanents and will use targeted removal.

August 25, 2021 12:58 a.m.

TypicalTimmy says... #13

I would say the "best" removal, is mass exile.

Mycosynth Lattice + Eviction or Hellkite Tyrant = win

Nobody keeps anything. That, or player removal.

August 25, 2021 1:29 a.m. Edited.

legendofa says... #14

Is it a problem if one of my old decks had so much recursion, people accused me of using multiples of cards?

Eternal Witness is a basic inclusion anywhere I can put it, but I haven't used Timeless Witness yet. Geth, Lord of the Vault isn't quite as ubiquitous, but I have a lot of fun there. I want to build something around Sedris, the Traitor King and Geth some day.

August 25, 2021 2:10 a.m.

RambIe says... #15

Ever watch the old-school original batman TV shows? Every week batman would be captured in some sort of retarded trap then while the villain is dialoging batman would flip open a pouch on his bat-belt and reveal the a 1in a million device to break the trap

I always felt a good edh deck should play just like that. While your opponent is dialoging about there win, you should slap down that 1in a million answer to break the trap

That's why I always include a utility belt In Everydeck I make. The ability to get cards back from graveyard and sometimes even Exile is often just that solution. Becouse outside of toys getting broken
"mill & discard is a thing and the struggle is real"

August 25, 2021 6:50 a.m.

DrukenReaps says... #16

MTGesus90X even if we look at 1 deck vs 1 other deck the suggested amount of removal is about 10. Now there is usually some that hits creatures and some that hits artifacts etc. But I don't find it hard to have more removal for one player than that player has threats. Also I've been arch enemy so many times... I think folks should always just accept that at some point most of the removal is going to be pointed at them and they need to be able to recover if they survive to see someone else be arch enemy.

August 25, 2021 9:21 a.m.

TriusMalarky says... #17

Once the game gets to a certain point, using the grave as some sort of "extra hand" becomes super valuable. I mean, Eternal Witness reads "tutor up a card that you've already played this game", which is really just "draw the perfect card for the situation, but tiny restriction". The longer the game goes, the better this stuff gets. And it's still solid early game too.

I'd always run some way to gain advantage from the graveyard, even if it is just Klothys or Scooze. It has a huge amount of potential as a resource, and ignoring it is like saying "I know there's oil under my land, but I'd rather make $7.25 an hour at McDonald's"

August 25, 2021 9:28 a.m.

RambIe says... #18

"DrukenReaps says...#16 MTGesus90X even if we look at 1 deck vs 1 other deck the suggested amount of removal is about 10. Now there is usually some that hits creatures and some that hits artifacts etc. But I don't find it hard to have more removal for one player than that player has threats."

This is true, But I want to add to this
3 x 10 = 30, and let's say the 1 permanent in question is the difference between wining and loosing the game.

August 25, 2021 9:57 a.m.

RambIe says... #19

I posted that becouse I agree with DrukenReapss first post
graveyard focus is a weakness but disregarding recursion completely is worse.
Every deck needs removal and every deck needs ways to cope with removal. Failure to do so is just a weakness that will lead to you becoming upset.

August 25, 2021 10:10 a.m.

MTGesus90X says... #20

DrukenReaps: what people are you playing against that have less than 10 threats?

Ramble: losing*. a deck can cope with removal by casting more threats. you can't just force grave recursion in every single deck when it doesn't make sense.

August 25, 2021 12:35 p.m.

RambIe says... #21

There are facts and then there are opinions
Example: fact - your just some alt account looking to troll
Example: opinion - i think your comments are idiotic

im not going to waist my time Arguing logic facts to illogical opinions.

August 25, 2021 1:53 p.m.

DrukenReaps says... #23

MTGesus90X I guess this depends on what we mean by a threat. How many singular cards or strong synergies in a deck can legitimately bring the game to a close? How many cards do you really have to remove to neuter someone's deck? In my experience it isn't generally more than 10. In games that last an average of 10 trips around the table and 1 player has their impactful plays cut short/interrupted/removed even 5 times. If they even make that many impactful plays... That's not easily brushed off.

My Kozilek has about 15 cards or interactions which can bring a close to the game reasonably well. My Mairsil relies on about 8 key cards which if exiled would make winning a nigh impossibility. My Ghen might have 20 depending but one of my friends runs Zacama, Primal Calamity... Ayara runs probably closer to 8 because she is one of the threats.

Of course I'm going off threats in my meta. So your meta, if you have a regular group, could be totally different.

August 25, 2021 2:08 p.m.

plakjekaas says... #24

MTGesus90X "Best removal" is removal that deals with the most dangerous permanents in play for the lowest price. My Wrath of God killing 12 creatures for just 4 mana and 1 card will leave me more to work with to try and win the game than the opponent who had to cast a Murder, an Assassin's Trophy, an Abrupt Decay, a Doom Blade, a Ravenous Chupacabra and a Swords to Plowshares for half that effect, now tapped out and empty handed. It's very simple math.

Magic is a game of resource management. Denying yourself resources that are easily available at low opportunity cost, is a surefire way to reduce your chance of winning compared to the other players who did run Bala Ged Recovery  Flip. It's not forcing anything, if you don't need it, it's a land. If you do need it, it's a late game Exsanguinate for the win, in the best case. So how does it not make sense to run the card in almost every deck you can play it in?

August 25, 2021 2:37 p.m.

EleshNornsFs says... #25

So much graveyard. All the graveyard. My primary EDH deck has been dubbed the recycling bin because it has so much recursion. All the recursion. The deck was built around getting value for killing my own stuff. Who needs card draw when it is just easier to fill your graveyard?

August 25, 2021 2:47 p.m.

RambIe says... #26

That's a good point, an early Mesmeric Orb with a mid game Living Death will get you alot farther then any card draw

August 25, 2021 3:18 p.m.

enpc says... #27

RambIe: I mean it's a high risk, high reward strategy. Assuming your deck has more reanimation support than just Living Death (i.e. it's a reanimator deck) then you're probably fine. But as an all in strategy, it's just begging to be responded to with a Crop Rotation into Bojuka Bog.

August 25, 2021 9:39 p.m. Edited.

RambIe says... #28

Shameless plug Firja, Judge of Persistent Valor
You would think so and if your dredging you would be correct
But when your milling everyone with let's say Altar of the Brood+Mesmeric Orb I have found players become so focused on being milled they loose track of the concept that something like Living Death can drop a 4 card loop ending the game. I have consistently successfully pulled off this strategy even when people play against me multiple times. I mean your right they could Exile my gy, but they don't instead they always go after breaking the mill peaces thinking there gana loose to being decked.

August 25, 2021 10:43 p.m. Edited.

EleshNornsFs says... #29

I noticed a similar pattern with an older iteration of my Recycling Bin, that focused heavily of removal on a stick. The opponent would be so worried about protecting their boardstate that they didn't realize I was filling my graveyard at the same time.

August 26, 2021 7:14 a.m.

RambIe says... #30

@EleshNornsFs watch my left hand, watch my left hand, surprise right hand :)
where is your shameless plug ?

August 26, 2021 9:26 a.m.

RambIe says... #31

ugg sorry for my poor word choices i realized afterwards that could be miss understood by anyone reading this. so let me try saying that again
Misdirection isn't just a fantastic card, its also a fantastic strategy
can you please link your deck?

August 26, 2021 9:35 a.m.

EleshNornsFs says... #32

Ramble I actually don't have a recent iteration on here. It's one that I change pretty regularly. It used to look like this The Child of Sorrow (Removal Simulator 2020), but right now it is a fairly milquetoast Meren Hulk.

August 26, 2021 10:10 a.m.

RambIe says... #33

lol i get it, many of us focus on actually building or updating, and uploading to tapped out only comes as a secondary thought or if stuck needing help.
thank you for sharing.

August 26, 2021 10:27 a.m.

DuTogira says... #34

You’re asking the wrong question with “is the graveyard a resource? Some people don’t like using it”.
The graveyard was originally designed to be the modern equivalent of exile. Stuff went there and stayed there with VERY limited exceptions. The players who hate seeing their stuff go the yard are stuck in this mentality.
Since those days, wizards have created exile and pivoted such that the graveyard IS a resource. It’s unique in that you always have to spend at least one card to leverage it (which means any graveyard matters card is automatically competing with every other useful card in your deck), but that just means that any “graveyard matters” card should provide significant upside.

All of the above is a long winded way to say: the graveyard is a resource which you would be a fool to ignore. If you have access to cards that can leverage the graveyard in a big way, they’re almost certainly worth playing. Just be aware that every graveyard matters card is competing with every other good card you have available (so don’t go crazy on the yard stuff), and you should be in fine shape.

August 26, 2021 11:37 a.m.

Caerwyn says... #35


Alpha already had various ways to interact with the graveyard--there might not have been mechanisms to fill your graveyard with relative ease, but it was clear from the very beginning of the game that the graveyard was intended to be useful. Five cards, spread across three colors (though mostly black) specifically allow you to use the graveyard as a resource: Animate Dead, Nether Shadow, Raise Dead, Regrowth, Resurrection.

Alpha also already had exile, though it went by "remove from the game entirely": Swords to Plowshares and Disintegrate.

Arabian Nights skipped over these effects, but they came back very quickly in Antiquities, which also expanded graveyard shenanigans to Blue, and Legends, which had more recursion options.

Then we got The Dark, which is the first real set to focus on using the graveyard as a tool outside of "get my card back"--cards like Eater of the Dead, Frankenstein's Monster, and Grave Robbers, which allowed you to weaponize your graveyard for additional boons. The Dark also saw the introduction of Tormod's Crypt, the first real piece of dedicated graveyard hate.

Even in the initial sets, it is clear that the graveyard was designed to serve as a possible second hand and, by August 1994, it was clear that the graveyard was to be considered a resource in other manners as well. Saying that it was "originally designed to be the modern equivalent of exile" ignores how many early-game effects interacted with the graveyard, as well as ignores the fact that exile has existed since the game's very first set.

August 26, 2021 11:57 a.m.

enpc says... #36

DuTogira: The original intent of the question wasn't meant to be "Is the graveyard a resource?" but was more talking about players passively using the graveyard (through effects like Eternal Witness and Phyrexian Reclamation) to get a second go of some cards versus players who actively play out of the graveyard, using effects like self mill and card like Buried Alive to actively fill up their graveyard only to play out of it later.

The conversation here has been good though, so I didn't wan't to derail it just becuase it wasn't my original topic of conversation (which is a bit narrow and more applicable to cEDH rather than EDH as a whole).

As a side note, I play a Saffi Eriksdotter graveyard combo deck, so it's not like I don't know about using the graveyard as a resource. That being said though, I still typically will avoid running lots of wheels and draw/discard effects unless the deck heavily leans into the theme. I get the efficiency of wheels but I've always been very much a "play from your hand" kind of player. Even my Saffi deck reflects this.

August 26, 2021 8:52 p.m.

golgarigirl says... #37

In general, my philosophy matches my name. Perfect is the circle between life and death and back to life. I do not fear pitching cards, milling, etc. I only worry when it ends up exiled.

In reality, it depends on the deck. Some decks I have are far more adept at playing in their graveyard than others. Reanimation in Alesha? That's the point. Reanimation in Marath? I play a piece or two, but it's not reliable and probably returns things to my hand. Much less efficient and definitely not reliable.

Given that commander, especially on the casual side, tend towards long games, it's silly to completely ignore the graveyard unless it's for a distinct purpose.

August 26, 2021 9:19 p.m. Edited.

RambIe says... #38

We talked about decks that dabble in recursion and decks that focus on it.
But we forgot about single target and mass. Just like single target removal and mass removal. We have single target recursion and mass recursion. As I already stated all my decks atleast dabble in it but I also make sure to have atleast 1 mass recursion to respond to being boardwiped. My most recent deck I added Long Rest which seems janky at first glance but has actually performed much better then I ever expected. I mean its a fantastic come back after getting wiped and punched in the face.

August 26, 2021 10:17 p.m.

RambIe I try not to get boardwiped in the first place ;). Counterspell, Heroic Intervention, Flawless Maneuver... you ain't touching my stuff

August 26, 2021 11:31 p.m.

plakjekaas says... #40

I like Creeping Renaissance and Seasons Past for the late-game refill. Especially if it's not creatures you want back. In a superfriends deck, "drawing" 6 new planeswalkers back in hand makes most of my opponents shiver :D

August 27, 2021 12:50 a.m.

enpc says... #41

plakjekaas: I had forgotten about Seasons Past. It's probably one of my favourite "mass" return cards, since it can be used as a combo outlet as well (givien infinite mana and one of hte cards you're returning is a tutor).

I find that so many of the mass return cards are prohibitively expensive (mana wise) though. At least Seasons Past can pull double duty and is on the high end of reasonable.

I have taken to running Elixir of Immortality in my Thrasios list. Yes, it's shuffle but it's so mana efficient and with Thrasios and Infinite mana it lets you recur any spell as required, which generally takes a loop of 2 or more cards to do.

August 27, 2021 2:39 a.m.

RambIe says... #42

enpc"I find that so many of the mass return cards are prohibitively expensive"
I completely agree, this is why I limit to just one per deck. In late games most decks have an over abundance of mana so it's OK to splurge on a cmc if it's going to be the difference between wining and loosing.

But it all depends what winning looks like
Cedh = my combo peace got countered, I need a cheep fast way to play it again
Edh = I just got wiped... I was so close to winning, I need to get my boardstate back I don't care what it costs.

August 27, 2021 7:45 a.m.

TriusMalarky says... #43

Yeah, mass recursion pieces can be expensive mana wise, but remember that they basically read "tutor a bunch of stuff to your hand". Seasons Past, as an already mentioned example, typically reads " tutor 3-5ish cards to your hand, and also a land if there's one in your graveyard for whatever reason". Even drawing 4 cards for 6 is a pretty okay rate, but you're not just drawing a bunch of random cards, you're drawing several cards that you want.

August 27, 2021 6:02 p.m.

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