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This deck was born while I was looking for Doomsday piles to put into my first Marchesa's deck.
Eventually, I found this article about how to combo off with Doomsday and Grenzo, Dungeon Warden (I'd put the link, but I think the website has been taken down time ago). It was really cool and very well explained, so I started to brew my own version. It came together quite easily and, in a matter of few months, I already had a stable build.
At the beginning, I wanted this to be a semi-casual deck, but with time it became more and more optimized and many "competitive" cards eventually replaced others that were perfoming no that well. After all, you know... It never felt quite right to claim my deck was "semi-casual" and then kill the table with a Doomsday.
Anyway, compared to other established cEDH lists, there are a lot of cards that are still missing. Some (like Badlands, for instance) are just too expensive for me to purchase, others come from more recent sets and, since I virtually stopped playing Magic with the Walking Dead, I tend to take my time before ever consider them.
By the way, the deck is still quite strong. I'd say is a 4 on a rating scale from 1 to 5 (where 1 means "casual" and 5 means "competitive").
The deck mostly relies on using Grenzo's ability to flip creatures from the bottom of your library. Roughly have 1/3 of the cards are creatures, so the chances of flipping one are quite decent, but you still need some setup in order to reliably have some impact on the game. Moreover, most of them have power 2 or less, so you can cast Grenzo as soon as turn 2 (with X=0) and still get value out of him. You could find way of pumping him later on.
Being a 2-mana commander makes Grenzo quite easy to recast (after a removal etc.). Nonetheless, there is no need to expose him if you're not planning to activate him any time soon. So think about developing your board state first.
The best time to flip a card is generally at the end of the last turn before you get to untap, so that your creatures don't die to sorcery-speed wrath effects. If you have Thran Turbine out you can wait until your upkeep, but flipping after your draw step is a risk because, if you happen to flip Maralen of the Mornsong, all your opponents will get to tutor whatever they want before you.
The main win condition is Doomsday, that allows you to stack the bottom of your library with one of the many combos in the deck.
In theory, you could win as soon as turn 3, provided you cast Grenzo, Dungeon Warden on turn 2 and follow up with Doomsday the next turn, with something like Dark Ritual or Sol Ring that lets you have 2 spare mana open. In some situation, you could even spend turn 1 casting Vampiric Tutor to search for missing combo pieces and still be able to go off at turn 3.
As a downside, not having access to blue, you'll have a hard time protecting Doomsday when you're trying to go off. By the way, the most problematic issue is against stax: cards like Torpor Orb or Cursed Totem can single-handedly shut down your entire strategy.
Moreover, it's worth noting that Grenzo's ability isn't affected by graveyard hate like Rest in Peace. The creature still gets onto the battlefield even if it didn't touch the bin.
In general, any opening hand with 2 mana sources is fair game. Better yet if accompanied with some tutoring effect.
As already said, you generally want Grenzo out as soon as possible to start flipping cards, even if the chances to actually hit a creature are initially quite low. Any tool that could help you to improve these odds are also welcome.
Remember that, with the London mulligan rule, you can purposedly go below 7 cards and send to the bottom of your library any relevant creature that you're willing to flip later on.
From this point onward, your main goal is to gather enough resources to go for the combo line that better fits in with the cards you have. Otherwise, you won't tipically play cards from your hand, unless you really need to answer to some threat.
The deck runs many combos. In fact, it's not that unusual to accidentally assemble one of them by just randomly flipping cards with Grenzo.
Here's the list:
This is probably the easiest combo to assemble, since it only requires 2 cards and you only need to find a way to pump Grenzo's power by 1 to flip them from the bottom of your library.
The only disadvantage is that you have to pass through your combat phase, so you can't win at instant speed.
For those who don't know the combo, you basically tap Kiki-Jiki to copy Zealous Conscripts. When the token enters the battlefield you target Kiki-Jiki, gaining control (unrelevant) and untapping it. You can now repeat the process as many times as you want, making infinite hasty tokens and attacking everyone for lethal damage.
This combo requires 3 cards but can win at instant speed, since it relies on direct damage and doesn't need to pass through the combat phase.
Although you can use Viscera Seer too, Skirk Prospector is slightly better because it nets you mana in the process and it's a goblin. This is particularly important because, as you'll get to see in a moment, this deck has several ways to fetch goblins and there are several cards that care about goblins in general.
The combo works as follows: you copy Lightning Crafter with Kiki-Jiki, the token champions Kiki-Jiki, then you tap it to deal 3 damage and sacrifice it. Kiki-Jiki returns to play untapped, so that you can repeat the process as many times you want until you kill everybody.
The upside of this combo is that you don't need to pump Grenzo to flip it, since all creatures have power 2 or less.
Here, you name Goblin with Metallic Mimic, then you sacrifice Murderous Redcap so that it will come back to play because of persist, but the -1/-1 counter will be elided with the +1/+1 counter granted by the Mimic. You can repeat the process infinite times, shooting everybody to death with Redcap's triggered ability.
This isn't technically a combo, since you're not winning right away, but if it gets unanswered your opponents will be prevented from drawing new cards for the rest of the game.
Also, it could be considered a 1-card combo, since you only need to flip Maralen and she will tutor for the other piece by herself.
If you have both cards in play, on your turn you'll pay 3 life to tutor for whatever, on other players' turn they'll still pay 3 life but can't search for anything.
As I said before, Maralen has to hit the battlefield just before your draw step for this to work.
Here I will detail some notable piles you can stack with Doomsday.
It's important to note that they're meant to be a guideline and not an exhaustive list. In fact, sometimes you could have some combo pieces already on the battlefield (or in your hand), other times you could have more or less mana available for extra protection and so on. You should adapt them to the game situation.
Cards are listed in the order they would be flipped by Grenzo, i.e. the first card will go on the bottom and the last on top of your library.
This is the basic pile and the cheapest one, since it only requires 4 cards and 2 mana to go off.
You can swap Mad Auntie for Brass Herald and get the same result, provided you name rogue when it enters the battlefield.
Steps to follow:
This pile still requires only 2 mana to go off.
It starts like the previous one, but uses Kiki-Jiki only to make mana and goes for Murderous Redcap combo instead.
Steps to follow:
Aside form the 2 mana, this pile costs 16 life as well. Which is a lot.
Therefore, I don't recommend it but there could be some scenario where you would need it, so it's good to know it exists.
Steps to follow:
This pile doesn't need Grenzo to go off.
The only requirement is to have 3BB mana open and a creature on the battlefield.
Steps to follow:
Many of the piles for Insidious Dreams are essentially the same for Doomsday, with an additional card to put the rest on the bottom of your library.
Most of the piles require you to draw a card, so the better moment to cast Insidious Dreams is right before starting your turn.
Unfortunately, you won't have slots available for mana acceleration, so the focus here is more on the cards you have to discard to pay for Insidious Dreams' additional cost.
This pile only requires 2 cards and 3R mana to go off. Therefore, it's the one I recommend in most cases.
Essentially the previous pile, but with Temple of Malice instead of the hideaway land.
This pile only requires 3 cards, although you need 7 mana to pull it off.
The trick here is to use the first pile to fetch a second one (namely, the one with only goblins) and go off from that.
This pile requires one more card to go off, so I don't recommend it.
Same as before, but with Kiki-Jiki instead of Mike & Trike.
This is exactly the same pile as for Doomsday.
As already pointed out, it requires 3BB mana and a creature on the battlefield, but doesn't need Grenzo to go off.
Here goes a description of each card I run in this deck and why.
They can be divided in three categories:
Since most of the cards belong to this category, they shall be considered as staples unless otherwise specified.
The deck runs 34 lands, which for my standards is kind of on the lower end of the spectrum.
More competitive builds can probably go even lower, but I prefer to play safe on that.
As the time passes and this list gets further refined though, it's still possible I would shave more lands from it.
Historically, black/red is a color combination that doesn't have access to a lot of ramp.
In addition, bear in mind that your commander enters on turn 2. So any ramp spell that costs 3 or more mana will make you tap out the next turn for no real benefit, since even if you get to activate Grenzo one more time on turn 4, you're only getting even with the activation you missed on turn 3.
The deck has a small goblin subtheme.
It isn't for flavour reasons though, but just because many combo pieces happen to be gobins as well.
The deck runs as many cretures as possible to keep Grenzo relevant even when there is no combo available.
This is probably the first deck I've made without the Top.
It's still a good card, mind you, but I feel it doesn't bring enough to the cause. I just prefer to use the slot for other stuff.
Say you start by casting Sensei's Divining Top, the next turn you're rather willing to cast Grenzo, Dungeon Warden.
Yeah, you could use it on turn 3, provided you have spare mana for it, but the more the game advances, the less it matters what's in your hand and, as a consequence, what's on top of your library.
In the end, you're not going to activating it that much and, if you draw it in late game, it's mostly a dead card.
In the article that inspired this deck, they indeed recommended Worldgorger Dragon as a way to go off without having Grenzo on the battlefield.
At the beginning, I just thought the combo was too convoluted and I preferred to go for the more straightforward Mike & Trike.
As the time passed, I've come to build other decks with Worldgorger Dragon, but I never felt I might reintegrate it here.
In fact, Worldgorger combo is cheaper to deploy with Doomsday, but the point is: this deck is already on the "glass-cannon" category. It doesn't need yet another combo that loses you the game, should the opponent have - say - Swords to Plowshares.
Mike & Trike on the other hand, are cards that you can actually cast outside of the combo and still get some value.
This card seems an automatic inclusion, and indeed was in the deck at the beginning.
I soon realized it didn't fit in with the mana curve, so I removed it.
Let's say you cast Braid of Fire on turn 2 and then Grenzo on turn 3. By the time Grenzo hits the table, the first mana is already gone. Yeah, you get 2 more mana on turn 4, but you're only getting on par with your initial investment.
Ok, let's say you cast Grenzo first, then. On turn 3 you're not going to activate him, because you're busy casting Braid of Fire. On turn 4 you're only netting 1 mana, which is half a Grenzo's activation. Even worse than before.
At the end of the day, Braid of Fire is a card that does nothing for two turns, that's why it's out.
Nearly every other decklist I've seen runs a combination of these three cards. I don't understand why.
First of all, there has to be some creature in your graveyard, which won't necessarily be the case. Even if so, it's likely to be either because it was too big to be flipped by Grenzo, or it has somehow got killed.
If it was too big then, it's probably still too big now, unless you find a way to pump Grenzo first. If it was killed, tipically it was because of a board wipe, so Junktroller and friends are probably in your graveyard too. To me it's unlikely that it got hitted by a spot removal, they're would rather remove Grenzo.
I only see these cards worth getting value out of a creature that you either sacrifice to Ashnod's Altar, or chump-block with each turn. But Ashnod's Altar is 1 card out of 99, you couldn't rely on that, and if you're forced to chump-block each turn chances are you're kind of losing. I don't see you going anywhere with it.
Epitaph Golem is slightly better because it doesn't tap to activate, so it can go infinite with Ashnod's Altar and a token-maker. The problem is: it has power 3, making it not that easy to flip with Grenzo. Therefore it's out too.
These two were originally in the deck because, unlike Junktroller and friends, they can survive a board wipe.
In addition, they both can go infinite with Ashnod's Altar and any creature that makes 2 or more tokens. If the token-maker is also a sac outlet (like for instance Sling-Gang Lieutenant), you can swap the Altar for Mana Echoes and get the same result.
After all it's a nice combo to have, but the problem is: if you don't get either Ashnod's Altar or Mana Echoes into play, the other cards are quite unimpressive. And if I had Demonic Tutor in my hand, I'd rather go for Doomsday than waste my time going wide with tokens.
After some testing, I cut Soldevi Digger for being too narrow, since you can't chose which card to put on the bottom, but I kept Reito Lantern because it could act a a graveyard hate, since it can hit your opponents too.
At some point, I realized I was consistently finding myself with better things to do with those 3 mana. In the end, by the time the Lantern becomes relevant, the game is already in its late stages and the deck isn't likely to survive anyway. I finally cut it too.
With Grenzo out, this card can recur any of your creatures for value, although the ones that you actually may be interested in are only a few (I'm thinking about Dockside Extortionist, Goblin Matron, Imperial Recruiter, Priest of Gix, Tuktuk Scrapper and maybe Mindclaw Shaman).
Overall it's a neat trick, although it's unlikely that you get to pull it off consistently. Otherwise, it's a 1-mana artifact that does absolutely nothing.
Many Grenzo lists, especially on the casual level, run a lot of tokens.
I've already mentioned that, if you happen to have Ashnod's Altar or Mana Echoes on the battlefield, you can do crazy things with tokens.
Unfortunately, there aren't that many ways to consistently bring these two enablers into play. So most of the times, you'll be just flipping a bunch of unrelevant critters.
Sling-Gang Lieutenant is actually decent, I've tried it out for a while, but in the end you almost always want to go for Doomsday instead.
I love the card, many competitive lists play it.
Yes, it's another way to win with Doomsday on turn 3, but you must have two Swamps already on the board to do so. I just don't think this deck runs enough of them to support it.
Also, we're already quite low on lands, and having to sacrifice one can really screw us up.
This can tutor for Doomsday.
Ok, but everybody gets to know you're trying to combo out. I've already noted that the deck isn't exactly at its best when it comes to protect Doomsday. Also, if for any reason it fizzles, you're pretty much dead.
In the end, I think giving the others a chance to prepare for your combo is too much of a risk.
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