Commander Deck Tech: Karador, Ghost Chieftain
This week we are continuing last week's trend of doing things with your graveyard. This time however, we are doing it with a different color-pie and a different commander in Karador, Ghost Chieftain. I had this deck put together back in 2012 from the original commander deck Counterpunch. Over time I upgraded that deck, but eventually commander got even more popular and it was eventually scrapped for something newer.
With this rebuild we are focusing more on self-mill and graveyard interactions than anything else. Karador's ability allows you to play him cheaper for each creature in your graveyard, so the faster you get creatures in your graveyard the faster you can cast Karador and start reanimating. In most cases you'll be playing him on turn 4 or 5, but in some rare instances you can get him out on turn 3. Once Karador is in play we can play 1 creature spell per turn from your graveyard.
To help get creatures and other cards in your graveyard we have 3 cards with the dredge ability in the deck with: Life from the Loam, Stinkweed Imp, and Dakmor Salvage. With Life from the Loam we can potentially loop a Strip Mine or Wasteland each turn and start to take away all of your opponents land sources. This makes them focus on dealing with that or being locked out of the game. If this happens you can keep the pressure on until you start to have enough mana to start playing a spell each turn while also strip mining them. We are also running Ramunap Excavator and Crucible of Worlds to continue to support a land destruction theme. They're also great for replaying fetchlands and continuing to gain value from stuff in your graveyard.
I decided to continue supporting the self mill with: Mulch, Grisly Salvage, Vivien on the Hunt, Satyr Wayfinder, Kagha, Shadow Archdruid, and Gravebreaker Lamia. I didn't want to have too much self mill, but at the same time it's good to have some. You want creatures in the graveyard but you can also get them there by other outlets than just mill. We run several cheap mana dorks and creatures that can die early and will be in your graveyard early on.
We also could use some card advantage and card drawing, and luckily we are in some fantastic colors to get some amazing cards. In suitable fashion I am running Sylvan Library and Phyrexian Arena. Both will be targeted with enchantment removal when your opponents have them. Also both can be brought back from your graveyard with Eternal Witness or Sun Titan. If either of those creatures die you can recast them from your graveyard with Karador. So one of our main threats to us would be graveyard hate, and cards that exile your creatures. To combat this we are running a few protection spells in Heroic Intervention and Teferi's Protection. We also decided to play a copy of Saffi Eriksdotter which can help another creature from not dying, and potentially get an extra “Enter the Battlefield” trigger.
Early in the game we might not be able to cast Karador, and sometimes even in the late game. If he has died a few times he can get really expensive to cast from the command zone, even if you have a huge graveyard. Because of this we are playing other reanimate effects. Also, Karador can only reanimate 1 creature per turn with his ability, and maybe we'd like to do something crazy and reanimate two, three, or four cards in one turn!
The deck runs 11 other sources of reanimation spells or abilities to help not be solely focused on Karador being in play. We are running: Sun Titan, Sheoldred, Whispering One, Reveillark, Priest of Fell Rites, Nethroi, Apex of Death, Karmic Guide, Junji, the Midnight Sky, Unburial Rites, Eerie Ultimatum, Necromancy, and Animate Dead.
We also need to be worried about the opponents creatures and permanents so we are running 7 pieces of spot removal as well as 2 wrath effects. We also have 10 creatures that help with spot removal whether it is a creature, artifact, or enchantment that needs to be destroyed. Having creatures that do these abilities also can potentially allow you to use them multiple times once they get reanimated. The creatures consist of: Acidic Slime, Ashen Rider, Caustic Caterpillar, Fleshbag Marauder, Knight of Autumn, Plaguecrafter, Ravenous Chupacabra, Reclamation Sage, Shriekmaw, and Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre.
Now, most of these creatures have multiple uses depending on the board state and what you need at any given time. The only creature of these I was kind of on the fence on was the Ulamog. He can potentially be hit during a mill and make you shuffle your graveyard into your library. This can have devastating effects if you had something you wanted to reanimate in your graveyard. However, there are lots of mill decks and the last thing I want to happen is to get milled out. This would happen very quickly from milling yourself and a potential opponent milling you out with a Bruva or something similar. Ulamog is essentially a Feldon's Cane that also has late game upside to be cast to destroy a permanent. This is one card I'll be watching during playtesting to see if it needs to be cut, or if it's good.
This deck makes a full month of graveyard dependent commander decks from me. I know with Dominaria United it's only going to get better. So many fantastic cards spoiled already, and so many good cards for every format!
I hope this Karador, Ghost Chieftain build gives you some great ideas for your own reanimator deck. In only a few weeks we will have some fantastic new commander brews from Dominaria United for you!
Until Next Time,