What’s going down everybody, welcome to a very special deck tech. One for a deck that is very near and dear to my heart. It’s been in my holster for many years, at this point. If you listen to Commander Cookout Podcast, you’ll know that this deck is a CCO Classic! That’s right, today we’re delving into Lord of Tresserhorn! Quite possibly the jankiest of jank that I possess in my arsenal. It has terrible mana. It has terrible creatures. It has a Commander with not one, but three drawbacks. THREE! If that sounds like the pile of steaming garbage that you would like to stomp your opponents into the dirt with, then I have a treat for you! But, before we get into the bolts and potatoes though, we have to take a trip backwards in time, first.
It was around the time of Khans of Tarkir. I remember because I was looking into picking up the, then-reprinted, ally coloured fetchlands. Interestingly enough, what caught my eye when peeping fetchland prices was that there were these new ally colour ‘refuge lands’ being reprinted. You know, the lands that gain you a life when they enter the battlefield. I thought these new lands, while slow, would be an affordable way to fix one’s mana and negate life loss in a deck that might capitalize on such an indulgence. The idea grew a bit in my mind over the next few days. I thought, what if the deck purposefully played a slow, grindy game as to not care that it’s mana was a turn behind? What if, I built symmetrical life loss effects into the deck as a means to wear my opponents down? With all of these refuge lands, I gain my life back just by playing lands! It was a recipe that definitely wouldn’t fail. Right? After all, you only need one more life than an opponent to beat them.
So, there I was. On my way towards a new deck. The question was, what deck do I want? At the time, I had about 12 Commander decks, give or take. Looking through my deck boxes, trade binder and Commander-playables I decided on Grixis Zombie Tribal. I thought it might be a good idea to pay some life to draw cards, in black. Symmetrical Earthquake effects would be an affordable way for me to keep the board clean and burn some life points off my opponents. I can mass reanimate my zombies with a few different things like Twilight’s Call and Living Death. For anything else I needed, I had blue. Including Rooftop Storm. A critical support piece in zombie decks that include blue. A card that I had never played with before, either.
At that time, I did what everyone else does. I went online. I hit up several deck building websites and searched for Grixis Zombie deck lists. I hopped over to EHDREC.com to see what the majority of people online were doing. While there, I kept seeing the same type of stuff. Grixis good stuff and/or all the same black-based zombie decks that I had done many times in the past.
Then, while doing a Gatherer search for every Zombie card, I came across something that I had forgotten about since my days of sixty and four casual in grade seven. That’s right, I found The Lord.
Lord of Tresserhorn is a 10/4 that costs 1RBU. When it enters the battlefield, I lose two life, sacrifice two creatures and target opponent draws two cards. Also, I can pay B to regenerate it. Sounds completely awful and unplayable, right?! Well, let’s take a closer look at what some of those stats mean and why someone would actually want to build an entire deck around this. As opposed to just slapping it in the ninety-nine to beat wholesale ass, of course.
First, that mana cost is no joke. Four mana for ten power is a serious reason to sleeve up The Lord. Those two cards your opponents drew might not matter, if they’re dead. Second, regeneration is extremely useful in EDH. Modern board wipes do not include the
“cannot be regenerated” clause and with a price tag of (almost) $10 and $30 for Wrath of God and Damnation, respectively, Ol’ Lordy sticks around at the mere cost of leaving a black mana up. A black mana that we would be able to bluff removal with as well. It should also be mentioned that if we don’t regenerate Lord of Tresserhorn, the next best place for him to be, is in the graveyard. Not the Commander Zone. In most scenarios, that’s where he’ll be easiest to get back.
Finally, the crux of the deck. That second drawback of sacrificing two creatures on ETB. What if, I used creatures with triggered abilities that activate when they die? Not only is that unique, it also punishes my opponent for doing something that they want to be doing; killing my creech! Additionally, Lord of Tresserhorn can act as a pseudo sacrifice outlet from The Zone. I can still run all my mass reanimation that I had set aside and I could jam a value Torpor Orb to shut off the ever-present ETB value/good stuff decks! It was a no brainer from that point on. I scrapped the zombie tribal idea and leaned into a “dies-tribal” theme. So, here we are today, let’s get into it:
Lord of Tresserhorn – Ryan Peneff
That’s the deck organized by type. It’s simple and quick to digest this way. I like to look at it a little differently though. Here, we have it organized according to what each card does. If you’re new to Commander, this can be a useful way to gauge how effective your deck is at performing a certain task or function in game. It’ll give you an idea of how much redundancy you have in a given effect.
Lord of Tresserhorn – Ryan Peneff
If we look at the categories organized this way, it’s easier to start to see the bigger picture of what the deck wants to do. That being said, let’s start with the lands. You can see some of those original refuge lands still showing up after all this time. They’ll occasionally gain me a life or two. Maybe they’ll get bounced with the Ravnica Karoo style lands to be replayed a turn or so later, netting two life a piece.
Single Card Discussion
Let’s take a closer look at a few of the better utility lands in the deck and their specific reasons for being included in the pile.
- High Market: Generally useful to avoid The Lord, or anyone else, from getting exiled or stolen. We want a full graveyard. And remember, it’s always a good idea to put Big ‘Horny’ in the yard.
- Great Furnace, Vault of Whispers and Seat of the Synod: All in there to be able to get sacrificed to Costly Plunder, in a pinch. Obviously, we’d like to sac our creatures instead. But tapping to and sacrificing a land at instant speed to draw two isn’t always that bad!
- Bojuka Bog and Halimar Depths: General utility. Blue decks and black decks typically want these cards
- Everything else is included as a fairly budget option to make Grixis coloured mana with ease.
After the actual lands, I’d like to spend some time on the artifacts. Arguably the most important part of any EDH deck. Almost without exception, we jam artifacts to power-out our strategy ahead of the rest of the table. Here, it’s no different. The artifacts in this deck, while sticking to a fairly puny budget, can be some of the most important cards in the deck. With a ten-power commander and a few on-schedule mana rocks, we can have a kill as early as turn five. Not terrible for a low powered, budget, jank brew. More on this later. Let’s take a closer look at some of the ramp:
- Pristine Talisman: There’s that incremental life gain again. It helps, I swear! Everyone’s life will be going down at an even clip thanks to our death triggers affecting our opponents and LoT’s enter the battlefield trigger affecting us. This will help. Remember, we’re in it for the long haul.
- Iron, Leaden, Silver and Plague Myr: These all serve to power out Lord of Tresserhorn early and can be sacrificed in a pinch as well. Something that can’t be said of their two mana, non-creature counterparts.
- Nightscape Familiar: Helps to cast all non-black spells in the deck. It can be sacrificed, and it also regenerates.
- Deranged Assistant: Randomly milling yourself in a deck that cares so much about the graveyard is mostly beneficial. A mana dork that can be sacrificed to our Commander is never bad.
Moving on to the ever-important card draw category, we see typical black staples alongside the aforementioned Costly Plunder. Additionally, we find things that allow us to draw when we dust our own dudes. Harvester of Souls, (illest name in Magic?) Skullclamp and Vampiric Rites. All ways to help our strategy out at the cost of drawing a card. Seems like a good trade.
Taking a quick look at the mass reanimation I touched on earlier, we see four cards. They can all be used to generate a greater effect than what’s written on the card. For example, it’s not uncommon to sacrifice three creatures to flashback a Dread return where all three creatures dying result in your opponents losing ten life. Or, sacrificing a creature that returns something else in the yard to your hand. It’s extremely useful when you want your creatures dead to begin with.
The other three cards let you steal games – one of my favorite things to do. Flash casting Twilight’s Call is back breaking for our opponents if we have the most creatures in our graveyards. Wrathing your opponents but mass reanimating our team with Living Death is always hilarious. And of course, giving Lord of Tresserhorn and his team a Thrilling Encore post-wrath to get everyone’s creatures back is a true game ending move!
There is a fairly light control package built into the list as well. A few ways to keep the opponents on their heels, or to sway the game in our favour as we don’t mind our own creatures dying.
- Innocent Blood, Barter in Blood, Phyrexian Plaguelord and Degree of Pain: All these serve us by eliminating creatures from the battlefield. Eliminating our own gives us a benefit and makes us appear as less of a threat.
- Cyclonic Rift, Curtain’s Call and Reckless Spite: all gain us some card advantage while keeping the coast clear for a turn or two.
- Torpor Orb: Sometimes, we just have no creatures and we need to cast Tresser-Daddy. This allows us to do that. It also happens to shuts off our opposition’s ETB triggers. An awesome move against value decks across the table.
Of all the creatures in our library, twenty-one of them want to die. Sounds a little sadistic, I’ll admit. The point is, they’re in the deck to block or, to sac to Lord of Tresserhorn. Under normal circumstances, we don’t attack. We sit and wait. That strategy might seem boring to some but it does allow for drinks to be consumed in between turns and for the dirtiest and most effective of political shenanigans. More on this in a minute. The morale of the story is, have the creatures wait for their time to die. If you can block and then take advantage of Vampiric Rites or Phyrexian Plaguelord’s sacrifice ability, pre-combat damage, all the power to you!
Oh baby, here we are! This is what we’ve all been waiting for. The big finish. The money shot! The win conditions. Every deck needs them. We’re playing garbage draft commons. We best be makin’ our wincons the best and most compact available.
- Glistening Oil, Phyresis, Tainted Strike, Chandra’s Ignition and Demonic Tutor: Because infect. That’s why. See an opening? Go for it. Join the Dark side. Become one with The Machine! Infect and Chandra’s Ignition is an instant kill of all your opponents if cast on Lord of Tresserhorn. Ten infect to all creatures and opponents. Sounds like the best plan in Team Tresserhorn’s playbook.
- Distortion Strike, Soring Seacliffs and Rogue’s Passage: Savvy readers will have noticed that the original list had thirty-eight lands. The list organized by category had thirty-six. That’s because two actually serve as ways to kill people. Don’t see an opening? Make one. These allow you to get through if you’ve randomly domed someone already. Or can be an instant kill with Assault Strobe/infect granters. Both fine plays.
Aggro/Value Good Stuff
Mostly, in casual Commander, this is what you’re going to run into. If this is the case, work on padding your life total, establishing blockers and most definitely not overextending. You want to be able to make sure you can, not only make it to the late game, but also survive the onslaught of big creatures late game. As many as three separate opponents may be gunning for you. In this case creatures with die triggers that make opponents lose life are great political moves. They may be able to persuade an opponent to take advantage of another opponent with a lower life total. If you find you need to restock your battlefield with multiple blockers each turn, prioritize the creatures that reanimate or draw cards on their death triggers. It’s important to stay in the game until you have the ability to cast LoT with haste and bash in for the win when an aggro player is tapped out on blockers.
Control/Other Late Game Decks
You might run into decks that want to control the board for as long as possible while trying to find their win con/lock pieces. That is actually best-case scenario for us. This allows us time to use our sixteen different ways to draw cards in the deck. It also allows for maximum value off something like Twilight’s Call or Living Death. Control decks don’t tend to run as many creatures as we do, so we gain a much larger advantage from our reanimation cards. Make sure to check how many mana people have up prior to going big with a mass reanimate or a Chandra’s Ignition to win. You’d hate to get blown out after sacrificing two creatures and paying five for Ignition to have your LoT be Path to Exiled, or what have you. Additionally, expect counter-magic on LoT as people will start to see the writing on the wall after play against the deck a few times. Also, remember that his abilities trigger on entering the battlefield. Not on casting. So, don’t motion to sac or tip your hand to anyone for political reasons until you know he’s landed.
This is a less common type of deck to run into in casual metas. Tutors are run with far less frequency and redundancy in casual EDH. You still might run into combo players though. Fight these decks the same way you would a control deck. They probably won’t be running as many creatures. If they’re the type of combo that uses lots of slots in the deck, many might not be creatures. This might be the kind of deck that you can get some mid-game chips in on. They probably won’t hit you back and if they sweep your team, you’ll still be able to gain max value late-game on a timely Twilight’s Call, etc.
Politic as hard as you can playing this deck. Your creatures are there to block but, if you can avoid it by just using plain old speech, do it. Remind your opponents how bad your creatures are. You already paid the ultimate price by playing a 4/4 Caustic Hound for six! It’s a waste to attack you. It’s work more often than you think. Imagine you’re stretching your elementary school allowance for as long as possible. Except, you’re doing that with your creatures because they need to keep you alive and they need to help cast your commander.
The second political move you can make is to deal in card draw. Let people know that they can count on drawing cards should you land LoT. This will help win over the aggressor and have them attack someone else. Conversely, this can help win the trust of the person that might have fallen behind on mana or board presents. Two cards can go a long way.
If one is serious about building this deck, I truly feel that it is a fairly stout list, as is. Again, my version of this deck sees play at casual FNM’s. Or, EDHNM as we call it on Commander Cookout Podcast. A group of about thirty people run casual decks from low-tier jank to about mid-tier, tuned decks. This pile of bones hangs with the best of them once you have a good idea on how to pilot it in various situations. If I were to upgrade anything, I’d look at adding Mountain-finding fetch lands. Sometimes I feel as though I’m a little light on red. Particularly when I need trips red to cast LoT and Chandra’s Ignition on the same turn.
An additional couple fetches would help with guaranteeing a Mountain to turn on Anger in the yard as well. Next, I would look at one- and two-cost mana rocks. The four myrs that I play are great to sacrifice to LoT but, I would also welcome Mana Crypt, Mana Vault, Fellwar Stone and/or Arcane Signet. They would all help power out additional mana rocks or allow for turn three LoT into turn four infect/Ignition kills. Now we’re talking! Other than that, one, two and three cost tutors are always welcome, as well. But then, you might find that the deck is becoming a little too focused on finding the same thing every time and would start to get stale. That’s my take on tutors, anyways. To each their own.
I would very much like to recommend this deck to anyone who likes graveyard decks. Or anyone who’d like to join the dark side and start playing graveyards decks. If you’re the kind of person that loves taking a low to mid-tier deck and piloting the hell out of it and squeezing a victory out by the skin of your teeth, this deck is for you. It’s truly a pleasure to play as it always gives its pilot options when things are about to go down. It plays things that people have never heard of, not even the hardcore drafters that play only common cards. It’s a trip back in time with some of the most nostalgic cards from by-gone days of Magic and it’s been very good to me for all of its days.
Thanks for joining me today! If you’d like to find anything else out about this deck or play-test it, it’s available here. Additionally, you can hit me up on Twitter with questions. If you’d like to hear about other decks like this, you can tune into Commander Cookout Podcast wherever better podcasts are found. You can check out Commander Cookout on YouTube and of course, get everything else Commander Cookout related right here on Face to Face Games.