Commander Inspiration: Graaz, Unstoppable Juggernaut

Mikeal Basile
February 13, 2023

“Magictating” is defined as getting into the zone with your Magic the Gathering collection--thinking, planning, organizing, reminiscing about past games, and imagining future games. It is a combination of hard thinking about the game and calm meditation, reveling in the joy it brings you.

So, when Commander deck inspirations articles first started I was making them with the intention of not hammering out an end-all be-all list. I don't always want you to think that building a deck in Commander is all about finding the most optimized list. I want to inspire my fellow creators to engage in deck building—not deck assembling. I actually prefer to give you a general idea and discuss what's out there that you might miss, and why those choices make it so much fun. Overall, like other Commander deck inspirations articles, this article is aimed at inspiring you to build a new deck, and maybe even do so in a way that's outside the standard approach. This article in particular is targeted at those of you that may have, may not have, or even may be thinking about building a Juggernaut Commander deck headlined by none other than…Graaz, Unstoppable Juggernaut!

Now, you could make this a deck full of “good stuff” creatures that are smaller in size, and then they just get better with Graaz, but I'd rather make this a spicier mono-brown deck (yes, artifacts used to be brown—as you can see from the handy retro frames that have been run back out lately). I love seeing my artifacts in those traditional frames, so bonus points to everyone that builds their Grazz decks with mono-brown!

The coolest thing about Graaz is that the base power and toughness of your creatures gets altered. Not being blocked by walls is a nightmare for those Pramikon, Sky Rampart wall tribal decks (doesn't everyone have one of those?) yet, the coolest thing is making your creatures into a tribe of juggernauts that are all base power and toughness 5/3. They all become just like the original Juggernaut, how cool! That means that if they have +1/+1 counters on them as they come into play, then they are now way under-costed creatures. It's like getting an anthem for all your creatures to suddenly get +5/+3 simply for resolving your Commander. I love battlecruiser decks like this—it's good clean fun to bash people's walls down with unstoppable juggernauts.

Clockwork Beetle (MRD) Clockwork Fox (CLB) Clockwork Beast (ME1)

If you're looking for a cool sub-theme, then waste no time and get into the whole clockwork cycle. There's some interesting stuff in this collection of creatures, and they do some tricky things as well. Clockwork Beetle is sweet as it's just one mana, but when Graaz hits it becomes a 7/5 just like the big daddy himself. Clockwork Fox is much scarier as a 5/3 and will certainly take down a threat as it swings in each turn—just waiting to get the cards flowing. The Clockwork Vorrac, Clockwork Hydra, and Clockwork Dragon are also nasty as well. Vorrac and Hydra can add counters indefinitely, and the dragon is an enormous 11/9 flier with Graaz out, plus the ability to keep growing! There's some disturbingly powerful cards here for not very much mana at all. Now, while Clockwork Swarm, Beast, and Avian all look wonky they actually synergize really well with Graaz. Graaz makes your creatures attack every turn, but what about when there's no smart place to throw your creatures. When your attack choices all look miserable, well, it's time to tap your creatures down and rebuild those +1/+0 counters on them. Now all your creatures can't attack as they're already tapped. It is a nice way to dodge combat, but still leave people wondering about the potential crack back you offer—Opponent: “What's that Clockwork stuff's power and toughness?” You: “Avian is a 9/3 flier…oh, the Condor is a 8/6 flier as well, and this super cool Clockwork Beast with Drew Tucker artwork is a 12/3 beat stick. Attacks?”

Arcbound Overseer (DST)

Speaking of interesting cycles worth including as subthemes, arcbound creatures love being in mono-brown decks. Arcbound Crusher is on-brand as a juggernaut, but it also just keeps growing in this deck as you pump out cheap creatures. I know I'll keep mentioning this, but once Graaz hits, you have an unbelievable army with a game-ending pump to everything…crusher is nice as it inherently has trample as well. Meanwhile, when the arcbound creatures die, they happen to have this lovely triggered ability called modular. You get to dump the +1/+1 counters onto something else. Perhaps you might drop them on Graaz and go one-shot someone with some commander damage? Perhaps you'll get to live out a sweet dream by combining Arcbound Overseer and Arcbound Reclaimer to recycle artifacts infinitely from your graveyard. Meanwhile, using Steel Overseer to pump up everyone is pretty much a given in a deck like this. If only there was some super amazing Arcbound creature that had a sacrifice ability that helped your profit from all of these synergies…oh, wait, that's right— Arcbound Ravager is a real card. It was an infamously powerful card, and it still lingers to this day, nearly 20 years later, as an artifact deck powerhouse. So, yeah, include Arcbound Ravager in this deck for sure. Having early drops like Arcbound Stinger, Arcbound Worker, and Arcbound Slith all help you to not get run over by other mid-range strategies. Their modular capabilities allow you to dump their counters after a chump block onto another modular or regular artifact creature. And, as you know, when you drop Graaz they all become much scarier threats.

In addition to the arcbound and clockwork cycles we should consider running quite a few cards that work with both tribal synergies, as Graaz makes your creatures into juggernauts, and other cards that scale well with Graaz's power and toughness buff. These are cards like Cryptic Trilobite, Chronomaton, Crystalline Giant, Stonecoil Serpent, Hangarback Walker, Walking Ballista, Phyrexian Marauder, and Endless One. Finally, a deck that wants to run Phyrexian Marauder, and can get away with casting it for only 1 or 2 mana, and still have it be a potentially problematic threat. Meanwhile, Steel Overseer is an obvious include in a deck like this with a Liberator, Urza's Battlethopter and the Thopter Squadron. Then head over to the cycle of Tetravus, Pentavus, and Hexavus. This vast swath of seemingly random creatures all become monstrously difficult to deal with when Graaz hits play, and they are all decently costed in early, mid, and late-game respectively. Having a Bloodline Pretender in there will also help you get extra leverage from Graaz's passive juggernaut creature type being granted to your whole board.

Mystic Forge (M20)

Graaz doesn't have to be only the bomb you play with. Karn, Silver Golem can also be a hidden commander you squirrel away in your 99. Combining Karn with cards like Mystic Forge, Forsaken Monument, Unwinding Clock, and Darksteel Forge has long been a way for artifact decks to crush opposing players with unfair boardstates and grossly unbalanced powers. Using cards like Ugin, the Ineffable and Foundry Inspector to get big bombs like these into play entirely too early or playing two of them in a single turn can lead to game ending board states in a hurry. Having Karn, Silver Golem turn your Mystic Forge into a 4/4 is pretty good, but then having Graaz make it into a juggernaut is somehow even more satisfying.

Now, if you're worried about keeping Graaz in play long enough to be successful, then consider using this little commander protection package: Swiftfoot Boots, Mask of Avacyn, Lightning Greaves, Darksteel Plate, Whispersilk Cloak, and Commander's Plate. Additionally, if you're looking for ways to get those cards into your hand a bit faster, then consider running both Bonder's Ornament, Mind's Eye, Staff of Nin, Trading Post, and Skullclamp (there's plenty of smaller creatures in here that this works beautifully with). Just don't expect it to be excellent once Graaz is out, as those creatures will all have a minimum of three toughness.

As for ramping, well, I would like to suggest using the following: Mindstone, Hedron Archive, Dreamstone Hedron, Blinkmoth Urn, The Mightstone and Weakstone, Worn Powerstone, Sol Ring, Basalt Monolith, Thran Dynamo, Ur-Golem's Eye, Sisay's Ring, Everflowing Chalice, Guardian Idol, and Coveted Jewel. While a few of these are a bit obvious, I seriously urge you to consider utilizing the crazy possibilities of Blinkmoth Urn and Coveted Jewel. Sure, they seem a bit risky, but once you've lost the jewel, it's a bargaining chip and a political tool. Meanwhile, the Urn is bonkers if you get it running properly. This deck can be fairly low to the ground, and quickly threaten the entire table once it resolves Graaz.

If you're worried about the deck not having any tricks in it, then check out a few of these sneaky things. Adaptive Shimmerer is a fun surprise for people swinging into you when they think you're just a colorless deck with no cool instants to worry about. Although, there's always Scour from Existence and Titan's Presence to nail people feeling over confident. Meanwhile, Not of This World is a fantastic zero mana protective surprise for people looking to target your commander or a few other big mana bombs you're playing with. Lastly, we have Warping Wail to add a little bit of flexibility into our instant slots. Sadly, this is about all we have available outside of playing with the ever so fun Vedalken Orrery. Consider how powerful it would be to flash Graaz in on end step and then threaten lethal to the entire table.

Mascot Exhibition (STX)

If we take a look at the sorceries we have available we find quite a few more powerhouse spells open to us. All Is Dust is a fantastic way to break card parity by blowing up everyone else's stuff and leaving all of ours standing. This can function similarly to a Craterhoof in that it can be a way to end a game out of nowhere. Meanwhile, there's Expanded Anatomy if you're looking for a card to synergize with our +1/+1 counter theme. Also, Gruesome Slaughter gives you another way to get out of attacking for a turn and just eliminate potential trades and big blockers without worrying about a crack back or awful blocks. Additionally, Mascot Exhibition and Skittering Invasion both offer up great ways to flood the board with juggernaut potential; once we drop Graaz all those tokens become seriously powerful juggernauts!

Arch of Orazca (RIX)

In summary, a Graaz deck looks incredibly fun to build. Sure, it's a deck that forces you into a narrow set of spells and a relatively limited number of creatures. After all, every card needs to be colorless. I should mention that Bonders' Enclave, Arch of Orazca, and War Room are great lands to run in the deck alongside the perennial favorite—Temple of the False God. Anyway, I contend that Graaz is probably one of the most fun colorless commanders available to you—provided you like swinging into the red zone. Overall, Graaz is a fantastic choice for a battlecruiser deck, and once you've got him in play…well you know. Well my friends, may the walls, juggernauts, and the cards be ever in your favor.