Monday, October 31, 2011

Kaervek the Merciless - A punisher EDH list.

(I didn't give this post a pun title or some other clever witticism because Kaervek don't have time for that shit!)

Hello, all. I have completed a new decklist, which I humbly submit for your approval. Or, more likely, disapproval. Why? Because it’s a hardcore, straight-up “griefer” deck. The point and purpose of a griefer deck, also known as punisher decks, is to give your opponents grief, or punish them, for simply playing the game of Magic. A classic example of a “griefer” card is Underworld Dreams, which punished players for drawing cards – a typical game action that generally can’t be helped. Mana Barbs is another good example, as it punishes players simply for tapping lands for mana. Sure there’s that one Legacy Dredge deck that wins without ever tapping a single land, but that’s 1 deck out of a billion that can pull it off. By default, an opponent cannot hope to defeat you or even put up a fight without tapping lands.

It’s no coincidence that most of these effects are found in Red and Black. Neither color gets a huge number of these effects as they are targeted at a fairly small niche of players, most players do not find these effects to be much fun to play against, so WotC wisely avoids packing sets full of punisher cards. But they do print a few here and there, because these cards do have their fans, and Magic tries to cater to nearly all of its players’ tastes and predilections. I can’t say I’m a fan of these effects myself, but I’m also a bit of an explorer and I like to try things outside of my usual areas of comfort.

I’m of the general opinion that decks with Rite of Replication are strictly better that decks without Rite of Replication. But RoR has grown a bit stale in my playgroup. Not for me, of course, I never get tired of casting that card! But everyone else has started to groan the minute they hear the phrase “Rite with Kicker…” escape my lips. I’ve even had people concede in response to me targeting one of their creatures, just to screw me out of getting 5 Consecrated Sphinxes or 5 Primeval Titans. I maintain a pretty firm stance that I ingnore “douche scoops” like that, but when it’s Rite of Replication, that is the one scenario when I will honor the scoop because frankly I’m probably being just a wee bit douche myself.

Okay, that got a bit off topic, but there was a point. I’m trying to branch out and explore areas outside my comfort zone. First off, I’m trying to build more two-color decks. It should be well known by now, but I’m a staunch advocate of the three-color EDH decks. I tried a handful of two-color decks back in the day, and was universally underwhelmed by their performance. I inevitably wound up adding a third color, and suddenly the decks would start kicking butt. So, for the longest time I shunned mono-color and two-color decks in favor of stronger, more versatile three-color decks.

Then, I build a Wrexial deck. Wrexial started out as a role-player and key win condition in my Vorosh control deck. The few times I was able to utilize Wrexial in that deck, he was far more interesting, exciting and powerful than I’d anticipated and I found myself playing that deck in such a way as to make him the centerpiece of the deck, far more even than Genesis who was the original MVP of the deck… But I couldn’t draw him often and reliably enough to satisfy me, so I caved and built a two-color deck, with Wrexial at the helm. It was the first two-color deck that I truly enjoyed. It was certainly capable of victory, but more importantly games with the deck tended to be very fun even if I ultimately lost. 

So, the Wrexial deck has made me rethink my prejudice against two-color decks. I still generally prefer the versatility and variety running three colors affords me, but I am no longer strictly opposed to going with two. My next excursion into the realm of dual colors was after the release of New Phyrexia when I cut the black out of my Oros Equipment deck, making it a Red/White build with Jor Kadeen at the new General. For the first time ever, for me at least, cutting the third color down to two actually made the deck STRONGER. Sure I lost a few cards I’d love to have, but overall the deck is more consistent and performs more smoothly than it did before.

Now I find myself quite interested in building more two-color decks. It’s a lot easier on my dual/non-basic mana base, which in turn allows me to have more decks built at the same time. It is a win/win situation… as long as the decks themselves perform and play well enough. So far Wrexial and Jor Kadeen have actually exceeded my expectations, so I’m hoping to continue that trend with this next stable of decks. You’ve already seen my R/G Stonebrow deck, so today I present to you: Kaervek the Merciless!

Scythe Specter
Massacre Wurm
Seizan, Perverter of Truth
Bloodgift Demon
Falkenrath Noble
Fleshbag Marauder
Braids, Cabal Minion
Sheoldred, Whispering One
Vampire Nighthawk
Dimir House Guard
Pestilence Demon

Zo-Zu the Punisher
Viashino Heretic
Crater Hellion

Lightning Reaver
Defiler of Souls
Kaervek the Merciless

Solemn Simulacrum
Psychosis Crawler
It That Betrays

Syphon Mind
Barter in Blood
Go for the Throat
Decree of Pain
Promise of Power
Vampiric Tutor
Demonic Tutor
Praetor's Grasp
Sudden Spoiling
Bottomless Pit
Polluted Bonds
Painful Quandary
Words of Waste
Call to the Grave
Phyrexian Arena

Wheel of Fortune
Blasphemous Act
Sulfuric Vortex
Vicious Shadows

Bituminous Blast
Spiteful Visions

Geth's Grimoire
Grafted Exoskeleton
Basilisk Collar
Lightning Greaves
Sol Ring
Rakdos Signet
Talisman of Indulgence
Darksteel Ingot

All Is Dust

Rix Maadi, Dungeon Palace
Shivan Gorge
Leechridden Swamp
Volrath's Stronghold
Phyrexian Tower
Bojuka Bog
High Market
Maze of Ith
Temple of the False God
Command Tower
Blood Crypt
Tainted Peak
Terramorphic Expanse
Graven Cairns
Rakdos Carnarium
Blackcleave Cliffs
Dragonskull Summit
Akoum Refuge
Sulfurous Springs
Swamp x 10
Mountain x 8

There you have it, folks. A nice, juicy punisher deck. Perhaps some explanation of card choices and functionality is in order…

The punisher effects should all be pretty obvious and straightforward. The rest of the deck, though, is a bit up-in-the-air until some serious playtesting can commence. I loaded up the deck with as much control and defense as I could squeeze in. Time will tell if it’s enough, because once people know what this deck is capable of, I expect to get some serious hate coming my way.

In the random “good stuff” category we’ve got some interesting items. Bloodghast might seem out of place, and it’s true that he does next to nothing on his own, but he has a number of good interactions. The first and most obvious is combining him with Skullclamp for a nice little card drawing engine. Most veterans of the format are quite familiar with this interaction. However, he also helps break the symmetry on a few other cards. Braids, Defiler of Souls and Call to the Grave all demand that I make sacrifices as well as my opponents. As long as I can keep dropping lands, Bloodghast can be the martyr to those effects turn after turn, allowing me to continue to advance my board while keeping my opponents behind on development.

Geth’s Grimoire is also part of a draw engine, working with cards like Rix Maadi or Words of Waste to keep my hand full and my opponents’ hands light.

Grafted Exoskeleton and Basilisk Collar are primarily there to equip to Kaervek to make him even more of a threat than usual. Giving Kaervek Infect is a good way to speed up his kill clock, while the collar ensures that ever spell cast will result in a dead creature and some life gain for me.

Vampire Nighthawk is a stellar blocker and can come down early to ward off multiple attacks early on. One of the conditions for successfully piloting this deck to a win is that you really need to keep your life total higher than everyone else’s. Getting the early life lead will go a long way toward ensuring victory later, as many of the effects in the deck will hurt you as well.

Scythe Specter and Lightning Reaver are both “pet cards” of mine, and while they definitely both fit the theme of the deck quite well, their power level does leave something to be desired. That said, I’ve managed to kill off multiple planeswalkers in a single turn with the Reavers EOT damage ability.

Praetor’s Grasp, in theory, should work like this: First priority is to yank effects that would neuter our deck – I’m thinking stuff like Fracturing Gust or Akroma’s Vengeance that can wipe out multiple enchantments at once, since enchantments will play a major role in the deck. Second priority is nabbing a Sword of Stuff and Junk with relevant protection abilities, since I don’t have room for Swords in the deck itself. Sword of Feast and Famine or Sword of Fire and Ice are the two most useful based one damage abilities, but Light and Shadow might also be highly relevant for its protection colors. Keeping Kaerveck or another key creature alive will be difficult without assistance. Third Priority is to swipe a Sol Ring or some other powerful mana generator, as this deck will likely need plenty of mana to operate.

Finally, Sudden Spoiling is a cute little trick many opponents won’t see coming, at least the first time. At worst it’s a three-mana fog, which is kinda bad, but could save your butt big time. But it also combos nicely with Pestilence Demon, Massacre Wurm or Crater Hellion to wipe out an opponent’s creatures.

Two future changes I want to make:

1.       Swap out Crater Hellion for Balefire Dragon. The Dragon is a little harder to utilize because it’s a combat damage trigger, not an ETBF ability, but 6 damage kills a lot more than 4 damage in EDH.
2.       Swap out Bottemless Pit for Liliana of the Veil. I appreciate what “random” does for the Pit, as it really makes life difficult for opponents. Trouble is, I have no control over what I discard either, and frankly I like having that control. It’s worth it to me to give opponents the same control, because I believe I will benefit more from it than they will.

That’s pretty much the deck in a nutshell. Any questions, tips or suggestions, just leave a comment.



  1. Oh man, I could ramble on and on about this deck. I love EDH/Commander theory and this type of deck is a wonderful topic because its hard to pull off. By that I mean having a chance to win and not making the game completely miserable for you and/or everyone else. I built a "Kaervek the Jerk" earlier this year and it's seen a lot play. It's a ton of fun but with your build I fear for your safety. In AND outside the game lol. I think I can help you out a lot with this one but I don't want to muck up your blog. Shot me an email if you want to discuss.
    "Come with me if you want to live."
    p.s. Love your blog. Cracks me up and reminds me of myself.

  2. You HAVE to run Wound Reflection in this deck. Notice it says "opponent". It's just silly! Also, shame on you for running Grafted Exoskeleton.

  3. Thanks for the kind words! I appreciate the positive feedback. And yes, my build is pretty heavy on the "huge A-hole" theme. This may blow up in my face, but it'll be a fun experiment regardless.

    I was very careful to make the deck capable of actually winning, or at least that's what I am going for. We'll see if it worked soon enough...

  4. Hi, I'm really contemplating running a deck like this. How did it end up play testing for you?

    1. I only ever played it twice, because I didn't end up playing at local stores as much as I was hoping to. Life got in the way. First game, I griefed the table pretty hard but got hated out of the game just as hard for my trouble... so, mission accomplished, I guess?
      The only other time I played it was in my regular group, once, just because I was about to dismantle it. I didn't win the game, exactly, but it definitely trolled the hell out of my group. Reactions were a mixture of hilarity and pure outrage. So, definitely mission accomplished there.

      I'm definitely going to revisit this list at a near future time, due to all the recent greifer goodies in Rakdos. Sire of Insanity and Havoc Festival, for instance are superb picks for this deck.

    2. I made a makeshift version of this, i had sanguine bond and exquisite blood to go infinate,actually exquisite blood is great in general because its whenever an opponent loses life so if your other opponents are fighting each other you gain life too since damage counts as loss of life. the other thing i had was heartless hidetsugu, and gave him infect, it was stupid lol. i held the board at ransom i got hated on and pullled the trigger, everyone died simultaneously. its fun, but you get hated on so bad...

    3. LOL, yeah, I can imagine. Hidetsugu + Infect is something my group would simply not tolerate, but I appreciate the fact that is, nonetheless, a highly appropriate play for a deck like this to make!

      I actually had a Zombie deck for 60-card casual Multiplayer years ago, and I always ran a pair of Shepherd of Rots in the deck so that if things went south for me, there was decent chance I could just end the game in a draw.

      Looking back, that was a pretty dickish thing to do... but I don't exactly regret it!