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By: jay85, Jay Nelson
May 05 2015 12:00pm
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 photo Night of dead title_zpskh5wypug.png

I want to take a break from Modern this week and show off one of my favorite Commander decks. It's strong, a joy to play with, and I haven't really seen any other deck that uses the same exact strategy that I use with Ghoulcaller Gisa. I'm sure there are decks like this one, but after doing some research I've yet to find one, so I thought it would be fun to share the list with you today. I call the deck, "Night of the Living Dead."


You may at first think it's just like all the other Ghoulcaller Gisa decks you may have seen. It does in fact share some of the same cards as the others, but what makes it different is how we summon our horde of zombies. Most other Gisa decks use creatures that are high powered as soon as they resolve and then sac them in order to amass their undead army. I took a slightly different approach.


Nightmare Squelching Leeches Korlash, Heir to Blackblade 

The goal of this deck is to not just cast huge demons and then sacrifice them to the Ghoulcaller for a ton of zombies. Nor are we trying to pump the zombies' power really high. This deck revolves around a swarm, a plague, of 2/2 zombies that we then overwhelm our opponents with (just like in all the zombie movies we love so much). And how we accomplish this goal is by sacing creatures like Nightmare and Squelching Leeches once we have our board covered with Swamps. We are playing 29 Swamps, including Leechridden Swamp. Just imagine our opponents barricading themselves in a besieged town in the dead of winter next to a flooding swamp that zombies muck through and invade. Sounds like a good time, don't you think?


Mutilate Lashwrithe Corrupt

Sticking with our theme, I've included these spells because they get better the more Swamps we have out. Mutilate should probably be Toxic Deluge, but heck with that. This deck is competitive already, and what I like most about Commander is we get to build decks around a certain theme or gimmick and they can still be powerful. I want to collect a lot of Swamps and then cast spells that reflect that game plan.


Abyssal Persecutor Phyrexian Dreadnought

These guys are usually what you would see in most Ghoulcaller Gisa decks. They come down big no matter what. We don't care that with Abyssal Persecutor on the battlefield we can't win the game because of his effect. He won't be alive long enough for that to matter. For just five mana (that's including Gisa's activation) we get six zombies, and we don't even break a sweat doing it. What's also cool about Abyssal Persecutor is when someone undoubtedly casts something like Rise of the Dark Realms they will resurrect and control him, pretty much shutting them out of the game until they find a way to destroy or sacrifice him. He's a nice deterrent for all those graveyard shenanigans people love to play in Commander.

Phyrexian Dreadnought is a mind blowing combo that can be accomplished with Gisa. Cast Phyrexian Dreadnought and then in response to his ETB sacrifice him to Ghoulcaller Gisa and get 12 (yeah, you heard right) 12 zombies!


Journeyer's Kite Expedition Map Terrain Generator Liliana of the Dark Realms

In order to make sure we get plenty of real estate for Gisa to perform her necromancy in, I've included these cards. Journeyer's Kite is a great way to ensure we hit each and every land drop. I love this card in my opening hand because in most Commander games the first five or six turns are usually noneventful since most players will just be trying to set up their board state. There are exceptions to this, but in my experience and in my playgroup, that is usually how it goes.

Expedition Map fits perfectly in this build since we are running the Cabal Coffers and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth combo. The Map helps in finding one of those pieces so we can have all the black mana our black little heart's desire.

Scrying Sheets, Terrain Generator, and Liliana of the Dark Realms are additional ways to get our Swamps out of our Library and onto the field so our Nightmare and Squelching Leeches are nice and plump for Gisa. Liliana of the Dark Realms can also be another Mutilate, which can come in handy in some games.


Phyrexian Arena Erebos, God of the Dead Necromancer's Stockpile Infernal Offering

These are some of our card draw engines. Not too much to say about Phyrexian Arena other than it is great and most black decks run it, and if they don't than they really should. Erebos, God of the Dead is another way to gain card advantage and he also shuts our opponents out from gaining life.

Necromancer's Stockpile is a rather unique inclusion since there are better options out there, but I believe Commander is an awesome time to experiment and use cards that are otherwise unplayable in other formats. I like it 'cause it fits the deck's theme and with Volrath's Stronghold or Unholy Grotto we can just keep recurring that creature we pitch to the Stockpile. It can come in handy in situations where we get mana screwed and have nothing better to do than make a 2/2 and drawing a card (which, in my book, is actually a pretty nice turn for you). Necromancer's Stockpile, Gravecrawler, or even Vengeful Pharaoh work nicely together.

Infernal Offering is another way to draw extra cards and even reanimate a creature. The Offering does require a little planning since you don't want the opponent you've chosen with it to reanimate an Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite or Massacre Wurm, but this is also why I've included these next set of cards to help combat that potential situation.


Bojuka Bog Agent of Erebos Coffin Queen Puppeteer Clique

In Commander there seems to always be a lot of graveyard shenanigans flying around. There are a ton of players who rely on their graveyards to be full of juicy targets to reanimate or to grant their creatures special abilities with things like Filth and Wonder. That is why every black deck I own I include Bojuka Bog. With Expedition Map it's even easy to time just right so you can Bog your opponent.

This deck has a total of seven enchantments. I will typically get two triggers from Agent of Erebos; one from when he enters the battlefield and sometimes another constellation trigger when I resolve one of the other six enchantments at some point in a game. The Agent will prove useful, and after he's done his job, sacrifice him and reward yourself with two zombies. You're welcome. 


 photo in garruks wake.jpg_zpsjfbnc8zp.png  VERSUS  Plague Wind

Ok, so what's the difference between these two spells? They are pretty much the same, except one also destroys opposing Planeswalkers while the other does not. so why do I run Plague Wind over In Garruk's Wake? Because creatures cannot be regenerated from a Plague Wind, that's why. I think both spells are very good, and I do run both in some of my Commander decks, but the reason why I don't run both in Ghoulcaller Gisa is because it doesn't happen all the time that we will actually need to sweep the board. It's not like we are going to get overrun by a ton of other decks, not with the horde we are able to conjure up from the depths of our Swamps. But there will be times that we do need to wrath the board, and I don't need my opponent casting something like Golgari Charm in response, or activating Yavimaya Hollow. It's also why I chose to run Damnation over In Garruk's Wake. If someone gets the jump on us, casting a four mana sweeper will save us more times than waiting to accumulate seven mana.

And let's be reasonable here, do you really think we are scared of Planewalkers with this deck? We don't need to destroy one with a card like In Garruk's Wake when we can just clear their board of creatures and then devote one or two Zombies in killing a measly Planeswalker. In some decks I will advocate running both these spells, but in this one, we just don't ever need to. I feel much safer in sweeping away creatures and not letting my opponent try and save them with a regeneration effect. This is why I believe Plague Wind is the better choice.


Gempalm Polluter

This card is degenerate. If you think it's a cheap, broken way to win and ruins the fun of playing a casual format like Commander, you are right. I agree with you. However, the reason why I still run it is because sometimes opponents will play something even more degenerate. This is Commander. People take this format too seriously, and I like to punish those kinds of players. Oh, you like taking infinite turns with Narset, Enlightened Master? I got a million Zombies, here's Gempalm Polluter. Cool, an opponent is playing five color goodstuff with Sliver Queen or Child of Alara. Ahem... Gempalm Polluter you!

This isn't the craziest thing you can be doing in EDH, and there's much worse things out there to lose friends over than with Gempalm Polluter (I can't help but think of Sorin Markov here), but c'mon, using something like this to deal 10 to 15+ life loss is still pretty good. Also, there is not much your opponent can respond with to a cycled Polluter. Commander should be fun and casual for everyone involved. I don't want to dissuade players from playing competitive decks because I love competition, I just don't like it when people take the format so seriously that they just have to win, even at the expense of boring three to five other people in the process. For these spikes playing a casual, just for fun format, I like to show them my palm.


Snow-covered Swamp

Yeah, I play Snow-covered basics in my Commander decks, even if I'm not running Extraplanar Lens. There's no downside to playing with them and you never know when an opponent casts the Lens and gives you the benefit, as well. If you don't have (or don't want to purchase) Snow-covered Swamps then that's fine, but you should replace Scrying Sheets and Extraplanar Lens.


Crown of Doom

I really think Wizards is doing a great job with these preconstructed Commander decks. Crown of Doom is so much fun to use. It's like watching your opponents play hot potato with it. One piece of advice I have concerning the Crown: If you are going to swing in for the kill make sure you leave two mana up post-combat so you can give it to another opponent, because it will come back to you after knocking someone out of the game.

I highly encourage everyone to play with more cards like Crown of Doom, Assault Suit, and the Offerings. This is what Commander is all about, interaction and fun cards.

Well, that about covers my Ghoulcaller Gisa deck. I hope you enjoyed reading about it and I'll be back next week with another edition of Journey Across the Multiverse. I got a pretty sweet Modern deck in store for you that is not only competitive but also only costs about 30 tickets

Until then, thanks for reading!