by David Rowell, Contributing Writer
Ghoulcaller Gisa is definitely the better of the two zombie masters.
To recap what she does:
Legendary Creature – Human Wizard
B, tap, Sacrifice another creature: Put X 2/2 black Zombie creature tokens onto the battlefield, where X is the sacrificed creature’s power.
I’m also a fan of her flavor text; it’s actually a quote straight from the Uncharted Realms talking about her and her brother.
“Geralf, must you always whine? I agreed to nothing. I’ll raise ghouls anytime I wish.”
It’s pretty obvious that she wants to be surrounded by a horde of zombies – the flavor of throwing a monster to the zombies to call forth more zombies is pretty solid in my books. Mechanically, mono-black doesn’t mind getting a swarm of monsters – black is used to getting tokens at the cost of lives. The only real downside to her ability is having to tap along with having a mana cost. She’s also rather high on the curve at 3BB – meaning she’ll get expensive fast if she gets killed a lot.
As far as mono-black zombies in Commander are concerned, however, Ghoulcaller Gisa is probably going to be our best bet when she comes out. Geth, Lord of the Vault and Mikaeus, the Unhallowed are probably our best bets aside from her – but we’ll be playing them too.
Geth, Lord of the Vault is a solid zombie. A 5/5 Legendary Zombie with intimidate for 4BB is pretty decent, and his ability is pretty solid.
XB: 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 his or her library into his or her graveyard.
As Gisa won’t always be in play, we’ll need a way to get cool cards into play. By hitting an opponent to grab something small, we get to start filling up their graveyard for other shenanigans that we’ll be doing soon.
Mikaeus, the Unhallowed is the first lord our deck gets to see – it gives all of our non-humans (so not our Commander, but everything else) +1/+1 and undying. While undying doesn’t effect our zombie tokens, it gives the majority of our creatures another layer of protection.
Before that, we need to make our little zombie tokens as strong as possible – and why not play all of the zombie lords?
Cemetery Reaper is a 2/2 Zombie lord for 1BB that gives our other zombies +1/+1; but he’s cool and has another ability, too. For 2B, tap, and exile a creature from a graveyard, we can make a 2/2 black zombie creature token. Geth, Lord of the Vault, while he wants to be able to pull stuff out of the graveyard, can help fill the graveyard in order to make creatures for Cemetery Reaper to animate. But that’s only the beginning of the lords.
Death Baron is one of the more expensive zombie lords, sitting around 12 dollars. But he’s solid. At 1BB for a 2/2, he doesn’t differ too much from Cemetery Reaper. He gives both Zombies and Skeletons +1/+1, which also makes him the only skeleton lords in the game, too. But he also gives each of those creatures deathtouch, which is fantastic due to the smaller size of his zombie companions.
Lord of the Undead is one of the strongest zombie lords by far – and is also pretty pricey around 9 dollars. Yet again a 2/2 for 1BB that gives other zombies +1/+1, he also has a pretty cool ability. For 1B tap, you can return a zombie card from your graveyard to your hand. Sadly there’s no zombie tribal spells, so he’s only going to be grabbing creatures back – or changeling cards, but they’re not prominent in black.
Undead Warchief is probably the coolest of the lords. For 2BB, we get a 1/1. Pretty lame for 4 mana. But he also makes your zombie spells cost 1 less to cast, which is pretty cool. The only real downside is that our Commander is a Human Wizard rather than a zombie. He also gives all of our zombies, himself included, +2/+1, which is pretty solid. That at least brings him up to a 3/2 for 2BB, which is much more reasonable.
Lastly, Zombie Master is the first zombie lord – at 1BB for a 2/3 rather than a 2/2. Instead of giving a power boost, he gives all zombies swampwalk and Regenerate for B. The only real downside with this is that it works for all zombies, not just yours. If you’re facing something like Thraximundar, you should probably avoid casting your Zombie Master. Filth, on the other hand, gives just your creatures swampwalk. We’ll explain later why this swampwalk is important, but it’s also nice to have a horde of unblockable zombies. In addition to the lords, we’ve got a few more things that give us boosts.
In addition to being mana doublers, Caged Sun and Gauntlet of Power also give all creatures of the chosen color +1/+1. As all of our zombies are black, this easily gives us even more power on our zombies.
Obelisk of Urd on the other hand takes advantage of having a lot of tokens by having convoke and giving the chosen creature type +2/+2 – easily making our zombies twice their original size. Hall of Triumph is for all of your black creatures and is pretty solid too at only a 3 drop. Coat of Arms is the classic tribal support card, but it’s a risky play against other tribal decks.
Between all of these lords and buffs, the 2/2 zombie tokens that Gisa makes get much larger- but how are we going to get those tokens when we have to sacrifice creatures?
Well, Gravecrawler is probably the best possible option.
As a constantly recastable 2/1 Zombie, he’s perfect for Gisa’s goals. You can play him for B, sacrifice him for another B to get 2 or more 2/2 zombies to replace him, and then you can just replay him for another B. But the fantastic thing is that our zombie lords significantly increase the number of creatures we get, as it changes how big our sacrificed zombie is. The rest of the time, however, it’s generally fine to sacrifice other zombie tokens to increase the general number of zombie tokens you have.
But what else makes tokens?
Army of the Damned and Endless Ranks of the Dead were both really cool zombie token cards from Innistrad block that never saw standard play – but I think have a place here. Army of the Damned already sees play due to 5BBB not being as hard to hit in Commander, and being a win condition on it’s own. Endless Ranks of the Dead is less played due to not doing anything the turn it comes into play – but here it can do a little bit more due to how slow the format is and how many zombies you’ll have on board. Grave Titan is a cool dude, though – even though he isn’t a zombie himself, he brings 2 2/2s with him, and every time he swings he makes two more.
Tombstone Stairwell is one of the few “Enchant World” cards in the game, and it’s fairly playable. At 2BB, during each upkeep, each player gets a 2/2 “Tombspawn” black zombie token with haste for each creature in their graveyard. However, it has a cumulative upkeep of 1B.
As a reminder of cumulative upkeep:
At the beginning of your upkeep, put an age counter on this permanent, then sacrifice it unless you pay its upkeep cost for each age counter on it.
Now, whenever Tombstone Stairwell is destroyed or the turn ends, all the tokens are destroyed and cannot be regenerated. The only real downside is that everyone gets these tokens – but you’re likely going to have a larger graveyard than most of the other players, and your zombies are going to be larger than theirs. One fun trick is that you can also keep the zombies if they’re indestructible – though black doesn’t have much to do so with.
Now, what else does black like doing? Well, encouraging us to play more black!
These two are additional mana doublers in the form of creatures. Crypt Ghast gives us a pretty relevant Extort trigger, too – when we’re recasting Gravecrawler a ton of times, being able to drain people out and keep your life total up. Nirkana Revenant does the same thing as Crypt Ghast, but also has the ability to pump itself +1/+1 per black you pay into it. With Filth in the graveyard and a swamp under an opponent’s control, you can completely blow a player out of the game.
Extraplanar Lens is another mana doubler, but it does come at the cost of exiling one of your basic lands to imprint onto it. I wouldn’t say this is an auto-include, but it’s a strong option for this deck.
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Cabal Coffers are the two big mana producers of this deck. Each of them have you tap 2 mana into them to get a larger amount of mana out. Nykthos pulls a ton of mana equal to your devotion to black (in the case of this deck at least), while Cabal Coffers gives you mana equal to the number of swamps you control.
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth serves a few purposes here. One, it allows Cabal Coffers to tap for black equal to the lands you control rather than just the swamps. Two, it makes all of your opponent’s lands swamps – so you can hit any player with swampwalk – at least, as long as they control at least one land.
Phyrexian Altar is one of the biggest combo cards in all of Commander. There’s very few things that don’t combo with this card. The main thing for this deck is this and Gravecrawler.
As Gravecrawler only costs B and can be sacrificed to Phyrexian Altar for B, meaning you can sacrifice it to recast itself as long as you control another zombie, giving you an infinite sacrifice outlet. Meaning, cards like Blood Artist turn into win conditions.
Those and a few other cards create the skeleton list we see below:
Geth, Lord of the Vault
Lord of the Undead
Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
Liliana of Dark Realms
Army of the Damned
Victim of Night
Dictate of Erebos
Endless Ranks of the Dead
Coat of Arms
Gauntlet of Power
Hall of Triumph
Obelisk of Urd
Whip of Erebos
Cavern of Souls
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
What do you guys anticipate seeing with Gisa? And of course, if I forgot anything, feel free to mention it! I’m always open to ideas.
Until next time,
- SolemnParty (David Rowell)
by David Rowell, Contributing Writer
As per WUBRG order, I’ll be talking about Stitcher Geralf before talking about Ghoulcaller Gisa - but before I get to that, I need to apologize about this article, as Stitcher Geralf is kinda lame as a mono-blue Commander. But anyway, moving on.
I’ll go over him once over just for recollection’s sake.
For this deck, our Commander is a 5 drop – 3UU for a 3/4 Legendary Human Wizard. Not fantastic stats, but not bad either. His ability reads as follows:
2U, tap: Each play puts the top three cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard.Exile up to two creature cards put into graveyards this way. Put an X/X blue zombie creature token onto the battlefield, where X is the total power of the cards exiled this way.
As I said before, having the effect of hitting all players gives him a lot more versatility than Ambassador Laquatus, though one thing I forgot to mention is that Laquatus has more range than Geralf does due to the fact that Ambassador Laquatus doesn’t have to tap for his ability.
As far as his ability is concerned, he fits flavorfully with the rest of his Skaabs from Innistrad – putting your deck in the graveyard to feed your other Skaabs, Essentially the same as his mono-blue creations, which all either mill you to make it easier to cast some of your other Skaabs, or they require creatures to be exiled from your graveyard as additional casting costs.
Based on flavor reasons, the blue Zombies in Innistrad block have to interact with your graveyard, which does conflict with our new Geralf – but that was probably due to Limited reasons that would have pushed a different archetype in draft. These creatures are well costed, especially for mono-blue not caring about that double blue cost all that much. I think the flying is really important, especially with Skaab Ruinator being recastable out of the graveyard as a 5/6 flyer for 1UU.
As for self-mill, the lower costed 1/4 for 2U on Armored Skaab for self-mill 4 is solid. and Geralf’s Mindcrusher is a 5/5 for 4UU that mills target player 5, and has undying so he can do twice. The self-mill is generally just to cast the above creatures.
The main problem with creating a Geralf deck is that it’s very difficult to build it as zombie tribal – there’s very few in just blue.
Undead Alchemist is probably one of the best of these mono-Blue zombies for this deck. At 3U for a 4/2 zombie, he’s well costed for his 4/2 stats, and his ability is impressive. Any time one of your Zombies would deal combat damage to a player, that player mills that many cards from the top of their library instead. In addition, any time a creature is put into an opponent’s graveyard from anywhere, you get a 2/2 black Zombie creature token onto the battlefield. It synergizes well with other mill that you’ll be doing, giving you more Zombies to do more damage with. It also turns the zombies made by Stitcher Geralf into gigantic milling machines if your opponents don’t have anything to block with.
These are more are what I recommend for the list, and I’ll post the rest of my recommendations in the Skeleton List below.
Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
Blue Sun’s Zenith
Spin into Myth
Elixir of Immortality
Gauntlet of Power
Sensei’s Divining Top
Jace, Memory Adept
Jace, the Living Guildpact
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
Cavern of Souls
Nythos, Shrine to Nyx
The majority of this list is flavorful, but focuses on a few combos. As a Johnny, I have no choice but to play mono-blue with a few combos that I just can’t help but love. The main problem I had in building this deck was trying to find a niche for him that I liked – he doesn’t do a whole lot as a commander, and he is a terrible Zombie commander due to the fact that there are very few mono-blue zombies. Most of the good blue Zombies are black and blue. We’ll get to a list for that soon, though.
Stitcher Geralf is the center of the deck. His abilities are what the deck is mostly built around, from both a flavor and mechanic point of view. His army of skaabs are built from the corpses he can rummage together – stitched together to create monstrosities. The ones he makes on his own card, however, is from any graveyard, when things are being exiled from the top of all player’s libraries. The skeleton list I have here doesn’t play a lot of creatures – mainly because it’s a skeleton list. The “big stuff” that you would play is up to you, whether it be eldrazi or krakens. The main combo for this deck is Palinchron with any of the mana doublers in the deck, or Peregrine Drake with Deadeye Navigator, to get infinite mana. You can find these combos here, as it’s a very common combo in Commander.
This combo enables us to use Deadeye Navigator with any of our zombies that make us mill cards from the top of our library to completely empty our decks.
Then, we win the game by attempting to draw a card with an empty library with Laboratory Maniac in play. Laboratory Maniac replaces the state-based action of losing with winning, instead – which is always fun, and it’s difficult to prevent without killing Laboratory Maniac. You can help prevent that by playing Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir to prevent your opponent from interfering during your turn., or to play Laboratory Maniac at instant speed to help sneak him in.
Aside from the combo, having infinite mana lets you play every card in your deck regardless and find a way to win that way.
With infinite mana and Intruder Alarm in play, we can continuously make zombies with Geralf’s ability, as long as we hit at least one creature per mill from Geralf. As a creature enters off of Geralf’s ability, the Intruder Alarm will trigger and untap all creatures in play. Fatestitcher with this combo also lets you tap every permanent your opponent’s control, which is always a good option. The rest of the time, Fatestitcher gives you the ability to untap Stitcher Geralf, or to tap down an opposing blocker for any reason.
The next article will be much easier to write, seeing as black has much, much better Zombie support, and Gisa will be a lot of fun to mess around with.
Until next time.
-SolemnParty (David Rowell)
by David Rowell, Contributing Writer
As soon as Gisa was announced, I knew to expect this guy in blue – so today, I’ll be doing double duty and talking about both Stitcher Geralf and Ghoulcaller Gisa – but I’ll be starting with their story.
Little is known of their actual origins – Geralf and Gisa are brother and sister, and are cousins to Mikaeus, the Lunarch.
They were essentially two sides of a coin – Geralf embodied the blue aspect of Innistrad’s zombies by being a mad scientist, stitching corpses together to his own ends, while Gisa was a necromancer, just animating the bodies to torment the living.
The flavor of the UB zombie tribe was the flavor of all kind of zombies. The blue aspect was that of Frankenstein – beings stitched together from corpses and given life through lightning or magic. These zombies tend to be stronger and more intelligent as the stitcher can stitch together only the best materials if they so wish. The black aspect was that of the more modern zombies – the slow, shambling zombies of Dawn of the Dead that just exist to kill the living and wipe out the living.
In fact, before the siege of Thraben, they simply played games, called the Moorland Necrowars. They waged their necromantic armies against each other to see who the better ruler of undead was. Seeing as there were no deaths (well, aside from necessity to make the zombies and skaabs) these really were practically games. Of course, any living humans in the way would be turned into more corpses for their games, and these corpses wouldn’t just be a part of these games,
Together, they agreed to take down one of the few sanctuaries for living human kind – Thraben. They created Grimgrin, a giant zombie the height of two men that easily took down the gates of Thraben himself. Their goal was to conquer the city and to kill Mikaeus, the Lunarch – so that Geralf could become the ruler of Thraben itself.
Granted, this plan failed. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben managed to rally her forces and fight back the undead overcoming the city. Sadly, Mikaeus, the Lunarch was still killed by Geralf – but the city was in no state for him to take for himself. At this point, he met Liliana Vess, who showed great interest in the corpse of the Lunarch. Being a necromancer, we can already assume where that led.
But enough of that. Let’s talk about the cards.
Stitcher Geralf is a 3/4 Legendary Human Wizard for 3UU. Solid typing, stats, and costing. 3UU is a little on the high side for a commander, but his deck doesn’t need to revolve around him. His ability is unique, but similar to Gisa’s. for 2U and tap, everyone mills 3, and then you can exile up to two creature cards milled this way to stitch together a zombie, whose power and toughness are X, where X is the total power exiled this way.
One advantage to this ability is due to the nature of the ability, you can exile Eldrazi with the ability before they are able to shuffle back into the library. Over all, Geralf is a pretty solid mill commander – I’d say he’s strictly better than Ambassador Laquatus as he hits all players (though it includes you, so it isn’t always fantastic) and he gives you a zombie theme, too.
From a flavor standpoint, I really like the fact he literally stitches the Zombie tokens together from the creatures that are milled with his ability. It captures his Frankenstein vibe really well. The only problem I have is that he is mono-blue – there are so few mono-blue zombies that a zombie tribal deck with him as a Commander isn’t very good – he works well alongside his sister, though.
Ghoulcaller Gisa was announced before her brother, and I like her a little bit more.
For 3BB, you get a 3/4 Legendary Human Wizard – same stats as her brother, she’s just black instead of blue. Her ability is also pretty decent, like her brothers. For B, tap, sacrifice a creature, you get X 2/2 black Zombie creature tokens each to the power of the sacrificed creature.
Again, I love the flavor of this card. She just wants as many zombies as possible to overwhelm humanity, rather than stitching less, stronger zombies together.
She actually works very well with her brother – he makes a huge zombie with his ability, and then Gisa breaks his huge zombie down into a ton of 2/2 zombies. I’m not exactly sure how two things stitched together give rise to a whole ton of things not stitched together, but I”m not going to complain about synergy.
Next time, I’ll be talking about their own decks – Geralf is first due to WUBRG order. Then, Gisa, and then I’ll be talking about using the two of them together in a third deck, which you can probably guess the commander of.
Until next time,
-SolemnParty (David Rowell)
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