GIHK: Karador, Ghost Chieftain – By Sparrowdoge

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Intro:

For the first year and a half that I played edh, I built almost exclusively “goodstuff” decks. Just piles of powerful cards with maybe a tiny bit of synergy. The crowning example of this was my Cromat deck, which featured a theme of card advantage, wraths, and every planeswalker I could get my hands on. It won a lot of games in my playgroup, but it did so in a miserable way with games lasting for hours as I wrath’d the board over and over again to set up a favorable position. My friends didn’t like it. Looking back, it wasn’t that good—most truly competitive edh decks would stomp it into the ground, but at the time no one in the group was playing anything of the sort, except for Muscratt’s Arcum Dagsson deck which routinely stomped Cromat’s face. The point I’m trying to make from that digression is that I try not to make goodstuff decks anymore.  Now I’m working on exploring what I find to be more interesting: decks with an actual plan. The one I’ve been working on for a few months now is Karador, Ghost Chieftain.

Here’s the catch: I wanted a competitive, toolbox-y deck, with lots of recursion, tutors, and lots of ways of interacting with/policing the board, but I didn’t want to play the same entwined “Tooth and Nail” to fetch up Mikaeus, the Unhallowed and Triskelion. I wanted to think about each turn more than that.

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The Boss:

Karador to me is actually a pretty boring looking commander. Unlike flashy commanders like the Mimeoplasm or Nekusar, the Mindrazor, who scream for attention, Karador sort of “exists.” It can be tough to get enough creatures into the graveyard quickly and keep them there (if you’re playing good reanimator effects) long enough to actually bother casting Karador. This is especially true in the build I run, where I generally have a more powerful play in hand than in the command zone. So, in a way, I didn’t build my deck around Karador, but instead I built it around the principle of Karador, the principle of graveyard-based recursion.

Politics and Karador:

In my experience Karador garners medium hate at the table. He’s no Jhoira of the Ghitu or Memnarch, but the finely tuned recursive engine he can produce has been the source of many an “ugh.” Keep that in mind, and please watch out for Bojuka Bogs. They will be played, and you will have over-extended.

Ways to Play:

Karador Matters, the Deck:This version of Karador plays a lot of low cost creatures with either etb (enters the battlefield) or sacrifice effects, a la Qasali Pridemage, Spore Frog, and Eternal Witness. The deck then dumps as much fodder into the graveyard as it can, casts Karador, and enjoys their recursion of weenies. This will often pack something like Acidic Slime, Reveillark, Karmic Guide, Saffi Eriksdotter package that when paired with a sac outlet allows for infinite noncreature permanent destruction.

Kombodor: There are some nasty infinite combos in Junk, many of them creature based. The Reveillark/Karmic Guide combo mentioned above, Triskelion/Mikaeus, the Unhallowed, and a boatload of protection and tutors are the main building blocks. Cards like Linvala, Keeper of Silence and Grand Abolisher are common protection choices, and Rune-scarred Demon allows for a tutor that can be fetched with a Birthing Pod, which might be the MVP of Karador decks.

Stone-Cold Reanimator: You’re maindecking Entomb so fast it makes your head spin. You’re playing a turn-two Sheoldred, Whispering One despite the weeping sounds on the other side of the table. Most Karador lists incorporate a graveyard theme, but this is the “Fatties now” approach.

Toolbox: With the inclusion of Birthing Pod, most Karador lists take on a toolbox-y tone. I categorize my list as a toolbox—and for me that means that it plays a lot of effects that interact with the board and a number of ways to fetch them.  All-star cards include Massacre Wurm, which hoses tokens and makes wraths devastating. Fauna Shaman and Survival of the Fittest, which turns your in hand creatures into reanimator food and toolbox tutor. Dimir House Guard, who offers a sacrifice outlet midway through your pod-chain and is also transmuteable into cards like Birthing Pod or Wrath of God.

Notable Jank:

None that I’ve found yet!

Deck Teck

 My list:

Sorcery (22)

1x Akroma’s Vengeance
1x Black Sun’s Zenith
1x Buried Alive
1x Cultivate
1x Demonic Collusion
1x Exhume
1x Increasing Ambition
1x Jarad’s Orders
1x Life From the Loam
1x Life/Death
1x Living Death
1x Mulch
1x Planar Cleansing
1x Read the Bones
1x Reanimate
1x Rise of the Dark Realms
1x Terminus
1x Tooth and Nail
1x Toxic Deluge
1x Unburial Rites
1x Victimize
1x Wrath of God

Instant (2)

1x Grisly Salvage
1x Krosan Grip

Enchantment (6)

1x Animate Dead
1x Aura Shards
1x Grave Betrayal
1x Hunting Grounds
1x Oblivion Ring
1x Underworld Connections

Creature (30)

1x Acidic Slime
1x Angel of Serenity
1x Ashen Rider
1x Avacyn, Angel of Hope
1x Bane of Progress
1x Craterhoof Behemoth
1x Dimir House Guard
1x Eternal Witness
1x Fauna Shaman
1x Grave Titan
1x Hermit Druid
1x Karador, Ghost Chieftain
1x Karmic Guide
1x Lotleth Troll
1x Magus of the Disk
1x Massacre Wurm
1x Pack Rat
1x Putrid Imp
1x Qasali Pridemage
1x Restoration Angel
1x Reveillark
1x Sakura-Tribe Elder
1x Scavenging Ooze
1x Sheoldred, Whispering One
1x Shriekmaw
1x Stinkweed Imp
1x Sun Titan
1x Viscera Seer
1x Woodfall Primus
1x Yavimaya Elder

Land (37)

1x Barren Moor
1x Brushland
1x Caves of Koilos
1x Command Tower
1x Crypt of Agadeem
1x Evolving Wilds
3x Forest
1x Godless Shrine
1x Golgari Rot Farm
1x Grim Backwoods
1x Isolated Chapel
1x Kor Haven
1x Llanowar Wastes
1x Murmuring Bosk
1x Overgrown Tomb
2x Plains
1x Razorverge Thicket
1x Reliquary Tower
1x Secluded Steppe
5x Swamp
1x Temple Garden
1x Temple of Plenty
1x Temple of Silence
1x Temple of the False God
1x Terramorphic Expanse
1x Tranquil Thicket
1x Transguild Promenade
1x Vault of the Archangel
1x Vivid Marsh
1x Woodland Cemetery

Artifact (3)

1x Birthing Pod
1x Grimoire of the Dead
1x Plague Boiler

For a Limited Time Only:

 Grimoire of the Dead – I just haven’t gotten the value out of this card I wanted. A four-mana Rise of the Dark Realms is sweet, but I’ve had trouble with the artifact getting removed too quickly. I may leave it in and test it a bit more before cutting it though.

Grave Betrayal – This card is nuts. Oddly enough, though, I haven’t found it nuts enough. This gets to the key difference between a “goodstuff” deck and a well-oiled synergistic machine. It’s a good card that doesn’t really forward my game plan of abusing the etb effects and recursion that I have, and it’s a bit slower than resolving a Sheoldred. This might stay in for a while so that I can get more data, but so far I’ve been nonplussed.

Golgari Rot Farm – I just… Every time I play one of the Karoo lands, I feel bad. I’ve missed a two-drop, and I’m biting my lip praying that no one else at the table is packing a creeping mold, or a beast within, in case I get wrecked. This will probably be a basic plains soon.

On the Fetch List:

 Greater Good – Sac outlet? Check. Card draw? Check. Pitch cards to the graveyard? Check.

Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite – Oh look, a card that reads “You probably win the game.”

Entomb – Because consistency is important when you want to make other people cry.

Stonecloaker – Graveyard hate, as well as protecting my own key cards, and throwing something like Reveillark back into my hand seems good. 

Staples: (These cards aren’t “necessary” to make the deck, but you’ll see them in almost every list.)

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Sun Titan – With the ability to recur Eternal Witness, or Plague Boiler, or Animate Dead, Sun Titan sees a lot of play.

Karmic Guide – Reanimation on legs is absurd. You can pod it, flicker it, Reveillark it, tutor it, or just play it again and again with Karador. It’s gross—and it doesn’t die to Doom Blade.

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Eternal Witness – To be fair, almost every deck playing green plays the Witness. That said, slapping one down to grab the Rise of the Dark Realms you just played to create a soft lock on the table is disgusting.

Viscera Seer – The sac outlet. Outside of Greater Good, which is less optimal in weenier builds, Viscera seer does it all. Let’s you sac things, let’s you dig through your deck—it’s an absolute house.

Stinkweed Imp – Generally a better choice than Golgari Grave-Troll, despite the lower dredge count. It’s more castable, actually serves a purpose on board, and sits in a cozy place on your pod chain.

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 Birthing Pod – Sac outlet and reusable tutor. In a deck that plays things from the graveyard, this is just a two-for-one every turn.

Survival of the Fittest/Fauna Shaman – See above.

 Sweet Tech:

Jarad’s Orders – With Karador’s tendency to favor creature heavy builds and reanimation, this reads pay four, tutor two cards. That’s amazing.

Grisly Salvage – Like Jarad’s Orders, in a Karador deck this card reads a little more like “Pay two, draw five.”

Magus of the Disk – I promise you, you will cast him more than once per game and you will feel dirty. The good kind of dirty.

Putrid Imp/Lotleth Troll – The really explosive reanimator starts begin with either these cards, or entomb.

Mulch – This card is great for hitting land drops and filling your graveyard. There’s a foil version of Innistrad, but the Rebecca Guay art from Stronghold is the unequivocal right choice.

My Tech:

Demonic Collusion – I use this card as a discard outlet as often as I use it as a tutor. Five mana to pitch something like Sheoldred and Ashen Rider and fetch Victimize is backbreaking, and when that plan doesn’t work you still have the tutor in hand.

Life // Death – I’ve gotten a lot of value out of this card. Usually I’m just casting Death as another low cost reanimation spell, but sometimes, especially if I have a way to reanimate a Craterhoof Behemoth I’ll animate my lands and swing for enough to kill several players at once.

Budget List:

Price: 55$. I’m sorry. I have failed at making the deck at our regular budget price. A few of the cards I felt were a bit too good to keep out, like animate dead and eternal witness, and those cards add up fast.


Sorcery (19)

1x Akroma’s Vengeance
1x Creeping Renaissance
1x Cultivate
1x Demonic Collusion
1x Exhume
1x Immortal Servitude
1x Increasing Ambition
1x Jarad’s Orders
1x Life/Death
1x Living Death
1x Mulch
1x Planar Cleansing
1x Read the Bones
1x Regrowth
1x Rise From the Grave
1x Stitch Together
1x Unburial Rites
1x Vigor Mortis
1x Zombify

Artifact (2)

1x Conjurer’s Closet
1x Plague Boiler

Land (37)

1x Barren Moor
1x Bojuka Bog
1x Evolving Wilds
11x Forest
1x Grim Backwoods
7x Plains
1x Secluded Steppe
11x Swamp
1x Terramorphic Expanse
1x Tranquil Thicket
1x Vault of the Archangel

Instant (1)

1x Grisly Salvage

Enchantment (4)

1x Animate Dead
1x Aura Shards
1x Collective Blessing
1x Oblivion Ring

Creature (37)

1x Acidic Slime
1x Ashen Rider
1x Big Game Hunter
1x Bone Shredder
1x Champion of Stray Souls
1x Corpse Connoisseur
1x Dauntless Escort
1x Dimir House Guard
1x Doomed Necromancer
1x Eternal Witness
1x False Prophet
1x Fertilid
1x Fleshbag Marauder
1x Golgari Grave-Troll
1x Golgari Thug
1x Harvester of Souls
1x Hermit Druid
1x Karador, Ghost Chieftain
1x Kessig Cagebreakers
1x Magus of the Disk
1x Netherborn Phalanx
1x Nezumi Graverobber
1x Putrid Imp
1x Qasali Pridemage
1x Sadistic Hypnotist
1x Sakura-Tribe Elder
1x Satyr Wayfinder
1x Silverchase Fox
1x Soul of the Harvest
1x Splinterfright
1x Spore Frog
1x Stinkweed Imp
1x Stonecloaker
1x Sylvok Replica
1x Terastodon
1x Viscera Seer
1x Withered Wretch

 Budget Tech:

Staying on budget was a nightmare. This deck actually does look decent, but it really wants a Birthing Pod, a Fauna Shaman, and a Reveillark among other things. I think it’s an excellent starting place, and I tried to include some of the cards you won’t be switching out as you add to the deck—cards like Hermit Druid, Ashen Rider, Magus of the Disk, and Living Death.

 Conclusions:

I built my version of Karador to be decision-centric. I want it to make me think. When I cast a tutor, I want the targets to be different every game. This is why I don’t run Triskelion/Mikaeus, the Unhallowed. It’s not that it feels “cheap” to me—I’m fine with other people running infinite combos. It’s that I don’t have to think if I do that. I want to be reading the board state, thinking about every possible thing that could happen. Sure, in a vacuum I tend to fetch Sheoldred to be reanimated. But often – like when I play against my own Empress Galina deck – Sheoldred is not the optimal choice and I have to think through other possibilities. That’s the point of Fauna Shaman, and Pod, and Jarad’s Orders. Sure, they’re tutors, but they’re conditional. I can’t just pay two mana and search my deck for a win condition. I have to do the mental work to find the “right” win condition for the situation, and that feels really good. I’ve lost a fair number of games with Karador. I’ve won far, far more. But it’s almost never the “winning” that feels good. It’s the understanding that I’m learning while I play and that I’m actually flexing my cognitive abilities, and that’s a massive part of why I play magic.

 Signing off for now,

-Sparrowdoge

P.S: Email the team at GeneralsIHaveKnown@gmail.com

P.P.S: God, imagine if Karador was a zombie instead of a spirit. That would be so awesome. I just want to run Gravecrawler. Really. I love that card.

Sources:

To help me put together the budget list, as well as to understand other modes of playing with Karador, I used the following lists and articles.

http://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/edh-karadors-greater-realm-1/

http://www.mtgsalvation.com/forums/the-game/commander-edh/multiplayer-commander-decklists/213229-karador-ghost-chieftain-fairly-generic-or-is-it

http://www.starcitygames.com/magic/commander/24270-Karador-Players-Guide.html

http://mtgjunkie.com/karador-ghost-chieftain/

P.P.P.S: Image-7

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