Commanding Respect: Grenzo, Dungeon Warden
Demonic Rituals and You!
Welcome back one and all to Commanding Respect, a column on deckbuilding with obscure commanders. Today's honored guest: Grenzo, Dungeon Warden! "But Bryce!" cry the fictional masses that exist in my head to buoy my self-confidence, "Grenzo isn't an obscure commander at all!" And those fictional masses would be correct! According to online database EDHREC,Grenzo is the fourth most popular commander in Red Black (at time of writing).
But! What if there were a frame of mind where Grenzo is considered "obscure"? What if a particular archetype transcended commanders, but Grenzo was rarely used for that archetype? What if Bryce is creating an overly-elaborate lead-in to a concept she really wants to write about? Well, we're covered all three of these bases with a Shadowborn Apostles deck.
Shadowborn Apostle is, in short, a weird card. It features a mechanic shared with only one other card: the ability to have any number of them in your deck. (For the curious, that other card is Relentless Rats.) Once we have six of them out, they can pool their power (and sacrifice their lives) to summon forth a vile demon from the depths of fiery hell, our library. The most popular Apostles commander are Athreos, God of Passage and Shirei, Shizo's Caretaker. Grenzo ranks at a distant 17th most popular at time of writing, tied with Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath. Now that is what I call obscure. Let's get to the deck!
The Magic Number
Immediately, we're faced with a unique deckbuilding problem. Our list will contain some (probably large) quantity of a single card: how many Shadowborn Apostles do we need? An important card to take under consideration alongide this question: Thrumming Stone.
Thrumming Stone is perhaps the staple-iest of Apostle / Rats staples, since these are the only Commander decks that can possibly make use of it. Any Apostle we cast digs four deep for a potential friend with the same name. And, if we hit multiple Apostles, we get multiple triggers to continue digging. Knowing this, I intuitively want at least 25% of the deck to be Apostles. I'm not much for math, butthis Reddit user is, and provides a nice breakdown of your chances of rippling out [most, all] of your Shadowborn Apostles. By the time we can cast Thrumming Stone, 39 is cited as the number of Apostles needed for getting enough clerics to summon two demons. Taking a page from a friend's book, I'm going to run close to that many Apostles (36), because what's more flavorful than six groups of six trying to contact evil creatures?
Phone a Friend
What would a demonic ritual be without a few demons coming to the party? With our 36 Apostles, and approximately 36 lands, we only have 27 slots left in this deck when we account for our commander, so every card really has to pull its weight. A few demons are pretty much auto-includes: Rune-Scarred Demon, for example, is an unconditional search on a body, and with six Shadowborn Apostles on the battlefield, it becomes an instant-speed search. Razaketh, the Foulblooded is similarly powerful– more so, even, because his ability to repeatedly search our library can quickly assemble one of the infinite combos in our deck (something we'll cover in a little bit).
A surprising number of demons provide mass removal, in one form or another. Pestilence Demon is precisely what his name might indicate: the enchantment Pestilence, but on a demon. Archfiend of Depravity forces opponents to sacrifice down to two creatures, and should hopefully take care of boardstates with numerous large creatures or multiple indestructible creatures.
We've already discussed the wonder of Thrumming Stone and its power to power out most or all of our Shadowborn Apostles. However, we've yet to cover how that kills people. My favorite method is sacrificing six Apostles to fetch Rune-Scarred Demon, who in turn fetches Shared Animosity. Next combat, our opponents will face down some seriously dangerous clerics. For those interested in a more immediate solution, consider adding Roar of the Crowd to your list, as it can potentially one-shot a single opponent.
To keep our options open, I included one infinite combo that comes more from the Grenzo side than the Apostles side. It has three initial pieces aside from our commander: Epitaph Golem, Siege-Gang Commander, and Ashnod's Altar. With all of these pieces on the battlefield, the loop looks like this: sacrifice Siege-Gang Commander and at least one of its tokens to Ashnod's Altar, generating four colorless mana. Activate Epitaph Golem to put Siege-Gang Commander on the bottom of our library, then activate Grenzo to place Mr. Siege onto the battlefield. This combo generates infinite mana, infinite Goblins, and thanks to Grenzo, as many Apostles as we want from our library. From here, there are numerous methods of closing out the game. I've chosen to use Purphoros, God of the Forge: if Rune-Scarred Demon can fetch Purphoros, our loop turns into infinite damage.
Location, Location, Location
With so much of our deck dedicated to multiple copies of a single card, you'd better bet we're going to kit out our landbase. We get to use essentially every decent land out there capable of producing large quantities of mana: Cabal Coffers (which scales off of Swamps we control), Nykthos (which scales off of symbols in the mana costs of permanents we control), and the less-used Crypt of Agadeem (which scales off of black creatures in our graveyard).
I've loaded plenty more than mana generation into our lands– in fact, this might be the most nonbasic-heavy Commanding Respect list to date. I encourage you to take a gander at the list above and acquaint yourself with the graveyard hate, evasion, recursion, and more that our lands can provide.
What We Do in the Shadows
Another day, another oddball deck here on Commanding Respect. Do you have some opinions on Apostles? Have an even weirder take on summoning demons? Drop me a line on Twitter, or send me one of those good-old-fashioned electronic mail things. And remember: you can command any deck you want, as long as you command respect.You can check out my work on edhrec.com as well!
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