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By: Doctor Anime, Tomer Abramovici
Sep 13 2012 11:01am
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We have quite a few staple generals in Commander. Legendaries like Zur the Enchanter, Geth, Lord of the Vault, Sigarda, Host of Herons and Jhoira of the Ghitu pop up fairly often as go-to generals. Thankfully, even the most popular generals are hardly common sights at every table, and if we took a poll of the most played generals I doubt any one legendary would hog more than 5% of the total.

While there are dozens of known and loved generals, there are even more legendary creatures that are hidden from most Commander players' radars. The majority of these potential generals are unknown for good reason: they're bland, outdated, and generally sucky. However, there are a few that deserve more attention. Sek'Kuar, Deathkeeper, is one of those undervalued gems.

Sek'Kuar, Deathkeeper

I ran across this angry orc by accident while looking through the Gatherer search engine on Wizards' site. The card demanded my attention as soon as I read it and instantly set my mind abuzz with deck ideas. This dude is so Jund, doing Jund-like things 2 years before Shards of Alara officially slapped the name on the color combination! Sek'Kuar doesn't have the devour mechanic, but his ability is far more exciting and actually compliments devour perfectly. Your dying creatures make more creatures that have haste and pack a punch? Yes please! I must build a deck around this sexy beast!

Sek'kuar's ability is pretty straightforward. Nontoken creature goes in, token creature comes out. At it's simplest, Sek'Kuar gives your creatures a second life, sort of like persist or undying. It lets you win the board through attrition, trading your creatures for your opponent's creatures/removal and then continuing the assault with 3/1 tokens. But Sek'Kuar offers more. Let me show you how I (ab)use the angry orc:

 

Goal:

This deck revolves around sacrificing creatures for powerful effects. You sacrifice creatures to draw cards, ping opponents, gain life, land ramp, make opponents discard cards and sacrifice creatures, and yes, even make an army of 3/1 hasted tokens to obliterate your enemy.

Because you have so many ways to sacrifice creatures for fun and profit, the deck is packed with good sacrificial candidates. Some of them are your creatures that want to be sacrificed, like Viridian Emissary, and others are your opponent's creatures, which you steal with cards like Threaten and then sacrifice when you're done with them!

As for the budget, here's the total cost excluding basic lands, tallied on 9/12/2012:

 

Ramp:

Farhaven ElfOracle of Mul DayaPawn of UlamogSakura-Tribe Elder Perilous Forays 
Viridian EmissaryWood ElvesYavimaya ElderFarseekGolgari Signet
Rakdos SignetGarruk WildspeakerKodama's ReachCultivateRampant Growth

Viridian Emissary

Ramp is a crucial component of this deck. You usually have so many plays per turn that your biggest restriction is often your limited mana base. Ramp helps with that immensely. That's why I run 15 ramp cards.

Ramping creatures like Farhaven Elf are no-brainers. They ramp, then you sacrifice their puny bodies for even more benefit. Pawn of Ulamog is unique in that he ramps you in reward for your dying creatures, and the ramp he provides can also be sacrificed for goodies!

Perilous Forays is another all-star specifically in this deck. It's ramp that also acts as a much-needed sacrifice outlet for the deck's shenanigans.

Sacrifice Outlets:

Dimir House GuardDisciple of BolasGreater GargadonLyzolda, the Blood WitchSadistic Hypnotist
Blasting StationCulling DaisFeed the PackMomentous FallPerilous Forays
SkullclampVictimizeGreater Good

Lyzolda the Blood Witch

The best sacrifice outlets are ones that are repeatable (preferably on the same turn) and cost little/no mana to activate. This makes it easier to steal creatures and sacrifice them on the same turn, or play the card(s) you drew from sacrificing. Maximizing what you can do is very important.

That's why you'll notice a startling lack of Jund "devour" creatures. Obviously they're no-brainer inclusions with Sek'Kuar, right? Unfortunately, they cost too much for the deck (even with all that ramp!) and do too little. I don't simply want a fatty from a big devour play. I want something that has an immediate and huge impact that will last even if it doesn't last on the board long, like Disciple of Bolas.

About the sac outlets I did include: Sadistic Hypnotist is a game-winner and probably the strongest of the lot if you have a decent amount of sacrifice targets. It's very easy to wipe out ALL your opponent's cards and then go on to win the game. Greater Gargadon is another superb sac outlet that is particularly notable for its ability to also sacrifice non-creature permanents that you steal with Zealous Conscripts and Word of Seizing. Dimir House Guard is both a tutor or a sac outlet, whatever you need for the situation.

Lyzolda, the Blood Witch is very sexy in this deck. Ideally, she wants to be sacrificing black/red creatures. Sek'Kuar produces black/red tokens. A match made in heaven!

"Threaten" Effects

Conquering ManticoreAct of AggressionAct of TreasonInsurrectionMark of Mutiny
Mass MutinyThreatenTraitorous BloodTraitorous InstinctWord of Seizing
Zealous Conscripts

Insurrection

What's better than sacrificing your creatures for profit? Sacrificing your opponent's creatures for profit, of course! These cards let you steal your opponent's stuff and then sacrifice them. Oh, be sure to swing with them at your opponent's face first before you sac them, of course. It's only polite.

Word of Seizing and Zealous Conscripts get special mention because they can actually steal non-creatures too. Sometimes there's pesky enchantments blocking your lethal swing and these guys deal with that. Or you may just want to use your opponent's planeswalker abilities, whatever floats your boat. Word of Seizing also can stop opponents from combo'ing out on their turn.

But the all-star card of the pack is without a doubt Insurrection. This card is the #1 way for this deck to win. Insurrection is already bonkers in basically any red deck, as stealing all the creatures on the board for one powerful swing often amounts to gg's from opponents. Here though, it's even stronger because even if the almighty swing doesn't win the game outright, you can go ahead and sacrifice all your opponent's creatures instead of giving them back! It's brutal. It's also the only "threaten" card that I know of that can get around shroud, which is common thanks to Lightning Greaves.

More Sacrifice Goodness

Butcher of MalakirFalkenrath NobleNether TraitorPuppeteer CliqueReassembling Skeleton
Savra, Queen of the GolgariBlood ArtistDragon AppeasementFecundityGrave Pact
Vicious ShadowsWarstorm SurgeMimic Vat

Dragon Appeasement

Butcher of Malakir, Grave Pact, and Savra, Queen of the Golgari all serve the same purpose: they make every sacrifice you do hurt doubly hard on your opponents. They're also one way of getting around shroud / protection from red. Savra is also a way to gain life when you need it.

Falkenrath Noble, Blood Artist, Vicious Shadows, and Warstorm Surge all make your opponents lose life in a hurry when you start sacrificing creatures. Warstorm Surge also can act as removal if you need it, basically tossing around Lightning Bolts for you when you make tokens with Sek'Kuar.

Nether Traitor and Reassembling Skeleton are recurring sacrifice fodder. They fit perfectly with your sacrifice outlets and since they're nontoken creatures, they keep making 3/1's with Sek'Kuar! Good stuff.

Puppeteer Clique's graveyard target can be sacrificed before EOT, and you can sacrifice the Clique for an on-demand second GY target. Mimic Vat's tokens can also be sacrificed for profit in the same way. More good stuff.

Fecundity is tons of card draw. Tons. But my favorite of this bunch is none other than.. Dragon Appeasement! You heard me! Dragon. Mofuggin'. Appeasement. It's a bomb in this deck. This deck is perfectly geared to turn this baby from a janky uncommon to a bombtastic Yawgmoth's Bargain. I squeal with glee every time I get this draw engine running. Yes, Fecundity is better, but Dragon Appeasement is pure class.

The Rest aka Goodstuff

Acidic SlimeFauna ShamanHellkite OverlordTerastodonDiabolic Tutor
HarmonizeHull BreachPraetor's CounselPrice of GloryViolent Ultimatum

Hellkite Overlord

Acidic Slime, Hull Breach, and Violent Ultimatum are my choice removal for noncreature threats. Fauna Shaman and Diabolic Tutor are solid tutors for the stuff you need. Harmonize keeps the hand full of steam. Praetor's Counsel is your only GY recursion, so might as well be packing one of the best ones around. Hellkite Overlord is stylish and thematic, but also very viable. Huge, hasty, evasive, and somewhat resilient to removal. He's a nice alternate win condition.

One of my favorite inclusions is Price of Glory. It's anti-instant tech -- specifically, anti-counterspells. Blue mages everywhere shed a tear when this beauty resolves. And considering blue is the most powerful color in EDH, you can expect you'll be seeing annoying blue instants often enough that Price of Glory earns it keep.

 

Gameplay Footage:



45:49 is where the real fun begins!

 

Alternate Budget Card Suggestions

Here are some budget alternatives for the deck. This is far from an all-inclusive list (with such a large format that'd be nearly impossible!) but simply a sampling of other noteworthy cards.

More card draw:
Ambition's CostSkeletal ScryingPromise of PowerSyphon MindPhyrexian ArenaBloodgift DemonGraveborn Muse

Some of you may cringe at the lifeloss, but simply put, lifeloss isn't as impactful in EDH. That's why cards like Mana Crypt are instant staples in any deck that can afford the price tag. Personally, I prefer immediate card draw like Ambition's Cost over incremental draw like Phyrexian Arena, as 3 turns is an eternity in EDH.

More tutors:
Rune-Scarred DemonNight DealingsBeseech the QueenDemonic Collusion

Tutors are powerful. They let you trim your deck down to the very best cards for each need and then fill up on tutors to grab the card you need for the current situation. More is good! I think Night Dealings is one of the most neat of the bunch, as you'll be swarming with little creatures with this deck, so you'll be tutoring up quite a few times with this little enchantment.

More board wipe:
DamnationLavalancheDecree of PainDecree of AnnihilationObliterateJokulhaupsMolten Disaster

Sometimes you're in a tight spot and need to wipe the board. These cards are for those times.

More noncreature removal:
Beast WithinIndrik StomphowlerTin Street HooliganRelic CrushInto the CoreCreeping CorrosionKrosan Grip

Into the Core gets a special mention as one of the only solutions to Darksteel Forge. My local meta has Sharuum shenanigans with it, so my physical deck runs this card.

More fatties:
Kresh the BloodbraidedKazuul, Tyrant of the CliffsDeadwood TreefolkHoarding Dragon

Kresh is huge and flavorful but ultimately cut because he's not resilient or evasive. Still very fun though. Kazuul is great for politics, he's an excellent deterrent. Deadwood is nice because you can sac him early if you really want a second creature in your hand now. Hoarding Dragon would be fantastic if there was an artifact that the deck really wanted, since you can sacrifice him whenever.

More protection:
Bitter OrdealTajuru PreserverAsceticism

Bitter Ordeal is a way to deal with combo decks. Simply sacrifice a handful of creatures (pretty easy with this deck) and then cast Ordeal, removing the combo pieces from the opponent's deck. Pretty safe against counters too due to the storm mechanic.

Non-Budget Card Suggestions (infinites!)

There are some cards that do what this deck wants to do, only better. I'll first go over the card that are specifically good in this deck:

Better Sac Outlets:
Ashnod's AltarPhyrexian AltarSarkhan the MadDiabolic IntentDiamond ValleyHigh MarketMiren, the Moaning WellPhyrexian Tower

Ashnod's Altar and Phyrexian Altar are possibly the two most important upgrades for this deck. They are two of the best sac outlets, period. Not only are they repeatable sac outlets, they give you mana for it! That's insane. It increases the amount of plays you can do each turn tenfold. They easily replace subpar sac outlets like Culling Dais or Dimir House Guard. Also, it allows you to go infinite (gasp) with the deck.

To go infinite you need Phyrexian Altar, Reassembling Skeleton or Nether Traitor, and Sek'Kuar, Deathkeeper in play. Sacrifice the skeleton/traitor for B, Sek'kuar makes a token, sacrifice the token for B, use the 2 mana to return the skeleton/traitor to play. How does this win you the game? Well, add in Blood Artist / Falkenrath Noble / Warstorm Surge / Vicious Shadows and you ping the opponent to death. Or Pawn of Ulamog and sacrifice the eldrazi tokens being made instead of the Sek'Kuar tokens and you've made an infinite army of 3/1 hasted tokens. Finally, you can use Bitter Ordeal after going infinite to mill all your opponents out. Lots of infinite potential here.

Of course, if you don't want to go infinite and you don't want to be tempted to, simply don't add Phyrexian Altar to your deck.

The sac lands are a close second to the altars, and maybe Phyrexian Tower is just as good as them. Free sac outlets are very, very good.

Better Sac Targets:
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror BreakerSolemn SimulacrumWoodfall Primus

Woodfall Primus is one of the best noncreature removals in the format and a house in this deck. Solemn is one of the best ramp creatures, again superb here.

Kiki-Jiki is like a way better Mimic Vat in this deck. You get to copy whatever you want and then sacrifice the copy for profit. He's fantastic on his own, even better with sacrifice outlet, aaaaaaand he can go infinite too! The combo is him + Zealous Conscripts. Make a copy of the conscripts. Have the conscripts copy target Kiki to untap him. Copy the conscripts. Rinse repeat and you have an infinite army of hasted 3/3's. Again, if you don't like combos, don't run Kiki (or run him and take out Conscripts). The option is simply there.

Better Threatens:
Sarkhan VolHelm of Possession

Sarkhan isn't an enormous upgrade, but still a notable one due to his flexibility and multiple threaten potential. Helm is a sac outlet and a Threaten, total drool-worthy! Get it!

The Rest:
Liliana VessVampiric TutorGrim TutorSol RingDemonic Tutor
Primeval TitanStrangleholdEternal WitnessWheel of FortuneChaos Warp
Mana ReflectionSylvan LibraryAncient TombMana CryptSensei's Divining Top
BayouBlood CryptOvergrown TombStomping GroundTaiga
Urborg, Tomb of YawgmothVolrath's StrongholdVerdant CatacombsWooded FoothillsBadlands

Just your usual EDH staples. Run 'em if you got 'em!

 

Tell Me Which General You Want To See Next!

That's all for now. If you want to see a specific general get a deck spotlight by me then please let me know in the comments section!