Welcome to another edition of A Seat at the Table, the column where I pick a commander and discuss a few cards that I’d slot into the 99.
This week, with Dominaria United officially releasing, I have decided to pick one of the legends that got my heart racing. Is it a fancy new mythic? Is it a rare that rips?
Nope. This commander is a new uncommon legend and that means you’ll be able to find plenty of copies to go around for this new and interesting deck leader.
For 1BRR, Garna, Bloodfist of Keld is a 4/3 Legendary Human Berserker. Let’s check out the textbox:
“Whenever another creature you control dies, draw a card if it was attacking. Otherwise, Garna, Bloodfist of Keld deals 1 damage to each opponent.”
There’s lots to love about a commander who rewards you for your creatures dying. The added tension of when they die is what makes this so good. The combat step is wild and complicated. Swing with creatures that will die, your opponents face either taking damage or giving you card draw. If you have a big enough board, a wrath effect can significantly harm your opponents. It must be noted that Garna does not count herself. With that in mind, here we go!
Sacrifice outlets are ways to have your creatures die on your own terms. I mentioned that the combat step is wild – it is possible to attack, deal damage, and then before leaving the combat step, having your creatures that just swung die for sweet card draw if that’s what you need. Sack outlets allow you to that have agency and control over your board. Sacrifice outlets like Ashnod’s Altar and Phyrexian Altar are mainstays in a sacrifice player’s arsenal. Goblin Bombardment allows you to ping while your creatures hit your graveyard when you want them to. Viscera Seer provides a Scry 1 per sacrifice. Carrion Feeder gets beefed up when you feed the zombie. Altar of Dementia provides you with the option to mill yourself or your opponents. With self-mill, you can pack the deck with recursive effects. Yawgmoth, Thran Physician can weaken or outright kill your opponents’ creatures while drawing you a card on top of whatever you choose to do with Garna.
Of course, there are cards like Plumb the Forbidden that allow you to sacrifice any number of creatures you control to draw a card and lose a life for each one. Don’t forget to pack some payoffs like…
When creatures die or you sacrifice permanents, you want to have things that trigger for more advantage. Mayhem Devil and Juri, Master of the Revue trigger specifically on sacrificing, but stuff like Zulaport Cutthroat and Bastion of Remembrance will trigger when your creatures die, draining each opponent. Have your opponents get hurt on the way in with Impact Tremors and Purphoros, God of the Forge. The Meathook Massacre and Agent of the Iron Throne are enchantments that ping your opponents when your creatures die. Liliana, Dreadhorde General fills your hand up so you can either double up on your draws when attacking creatures die or so you can get the best of both worlds in Garna’s triggers. One of my favourite cards is Vicious Shadows. Any creature dies, you decide which player gets hit for their hand size. Games go pretty quick when you’re nugging players for seven damage a death.
Token Creature Creators
You’re going to need creatures to sacrifice. I suggest token makers. Ophiomancer and a sacrifice outlet means a clock on your opponents when each snake hits them for damage. Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia only triggers once on your turn, but at two mana, that’s not bad. Besides, the decayed zombie tokens sacrifice themselves at the end of combat turning into cards in hand. Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder provides you with 1/1 Thrulls equal to the mana value of the creature you just cast. Because you can sacrifice creatures at instant speed in this deck (very likely), as long as you cast creatures with less than seven mana value and sacrificed all your Thrulls, you’re going to be churning out the tokens. Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools can generate tokens or sacrifice creatures to draw two cards. Genuinely underrated planeswalker.
Death Tyrant will turn your attacking creatures dying for card draw into more tokens. If they kill blocking creatures too, hey! More tokens! Plus, you can return Death Tyrant to play from the graveyard, an ability that is super fun and useful in this deck. As a matter of fact…
Token generators are fantastic for this strategy, but good old fashioned reanimation and skeleton effects are great too. The new Squee, Dubious Monarch can be pseudo-Escaped from your graveyard and creates a token on attack. Nether Traitor costs just one black mana to return to play when a creature you control dies. Bloodsoaked Champion and Reassembling Skeleton come back pretty cheap, too. Phyrexian Reclamation returns creature cards back to your hand from the graveyard. Chainer, Nightmare Adept skips your hand and lets you cast your creatures from your graveyard directly.
Fiery Emancipation is a stand-in for all damage doubling cards like Torbran, Thane of Red Fell and Gratuitous Violence. While Gratuitous Violence won’t double your Impact Tremors, it will double Garna’s one damage pings.
Attach Basilisk Collar to Garna or pop Whip of Erebos into place and you’re looking at gaining three life for each of your creatures dying when they’re not attacking. Whip can also return some pretty important creatures for you to add to the beatdown.
Honorary Mention – Lyzolda, the Blood Witch
Lyzolda, the Blood Witch has been one of my favourite commander decks for a few years. I love having a sacrifice outlet in the command zone, and I love that the colours of creatures I sacrifice matter. I love this deck. Garna, Bloodfist of Keld is the first time I’ve considered swapping commanders of that deck, but I know I’ll keep Lyzolda in the 99 if I make the swap. I might do something like roll dice and decide between Lyzolda, Tymaret, the Murder King, and Garna! Keep things fresh!
That does it for Garna. Who are you looking forward to building from Dominaria United? Let me know and I’ll write something up.