Taking Command - Grenzo
There’s a story you’ll hear among magic players. Though it varies from place to place, it tries to define the formats of the game from one-another. It goes a little something like this:
Limited is like mud-wrestling. It’s a desperate slog of sucker punches until one of you keels over. Neither of you are coming out clean.
Standard is a knife fight. Limited resources, but cut-throat nonetheless.
Modern is a gun fight. It’s fierce, flashy, and you never quite know when someone will die abruptly.
The Legacy and Vintage formats are a pair of Samurai in a grassy field. It is an elegant fight, where it takes but a single stroke of the blade to win.
There is, of course, one final entry. COMMANDER. Commander isn’t a fight. Commander is dinner and a show. Commander, in as few words as possible, is PRO WRESTLING! Everyone has a personality. A gimmick. A zany outfit. Even a crazy name. Any number of crazies enter the ring, but only one can leave. You may have guessed by my tone that commander is, by far, my favourite format. And with this new column at my side, Taking Command will pick out a new legendary creature each time to explore.
With that said, I’d like to introduce you to one of my dearest friends. His name, is Grenzo. Just look at him. Doesn’t that cheeky smile warm your heart? Artwork aside, allow me to state the case for putting this B A D B O Y in your command zone. First off, his flexible casting cost. How many legends do you know who are bold enough to have an X up top hmm? For anyone about to fiddle with the search settings on gatherer, the answer is three. Three legends in the whole history of magic. And what, pray, can I get from pumping mana into Grenzo? More stats, is what. Like a hearthstone designer’s idea of balancing, Grenzo drops in with X +1/+1 counters on him for every mana paid, which in Commander can become a very big deal.
Threatening enemy players with one hit K.O.s from commander damage is always fun. But the thing is, I usually ignore this trait when playing Grenzo. It’s far more fun to pump him out on turn 2 and just leave him there… MENACINGLY. I mostly do this because of his OTHER ability. To simplify, pay two mana: you grab the bottom card of your deck, and if it’s a creature, you cheat it into play if it is smaller than Grenzo. Otherwise it gets canned. And you might be thinking now
“But Doug. Surely if we want to cheat out some fatties, we’d keep Grenzo in the command zone until we could cast him as a big man!” And I hear your concerns. But herein lies the trick to making a fantastic Grenzo deck: You need to find creatures that grow as they enter the battlefield. Let me give you an example.
Imagine you put out your Grenzo on turn 2. It’s now turn 3, and the other players watch with bated breath. You activate Grenzo’s 2 mana ability, and you place Arcbound Overseer into your discard. Now, the ability compares the power between the two creatures. Since the Overseer is in the graveyard, it counts as a 0/0, and passes the test. It then enters the battlefield as a 6/6 with a very threatening ability.and voila, you are now the target of all your opponents. Note that this ability does not cause Grenzo to tap, so the more mana you have, the more shenanigans you can pull off each turn!
Naturally, we should add some mana rocks to our deck. Rakdos Charm is the first one that springs to mind. BUT WAIT! I hear you scream. The more non-creature cards we put into the deck, the more chances we have to ‘whiff’ when activating Grenzo. Never fear, dear reader. We can solve this by simply adding mana rocks that are also creatures. Alloy Myr, Iron Myr, and Palladium Myr answer the call! Some other creatures that ‘work’ in this regard are Workhorse, Priest of Gix and Priest of Urabrask. While these guys are more of a one-time mana deal, they happen to work nicely for some INFINITE COMBOS.
You heard me right, guys. Grenzo isn’t just a cheaty Mccheatface. He can also do some degenerate things. Imagine for a moment you have in play one of Grenzo’s key cards: Reito Lantern, and Ashnod’s Altar. Now imagine cheating out your Priest of Urabrask and saccing it to the altar. You’ve spent 2 mana to create 5. Use the lantern to pop the priest back underneath your deck where it can be Grenzo’d again and OOP. You now have an infinite loop of your priest entering the battlefield and dying. This allows for infinite damage with Goblin Sharpshooter, another fine Grenzo target. Or even infinite mill with an Altar of the Brood in play, which is a good way to get around hexproof players.
Let’s take it a step further: put Grenzo to work with Illusionist’s Bracers or a Heartstone, and now your combo is generating infinite mana. And let me tell you: a Grenzo deck with infinite mana is a force to be reckoned with. The moment you have it, you can now Grenzo out your entire legion, and cycle any of your more potent ETB and on-death effects. Ever heard of a man called Gray Merchant of Asphodel? This is all well and good in magical christmas land, but Grenzo needs to be able to hit all of his beasties. If only there was a way to organize the BOTTOM of your deck so you can more reliably hit. Let’s begin with Scry.
The Scry mechanic is Grenzo’s bread and butter. Every time you scry, you look at X cards on top of your deck, and put them on the bottom in any order you choose. Red and black are hard-pressed for powerful scry effects, but my favourite is Sigiled Skink. This little bugger manages to be a scry on legs, making it yet another good Grenzo target. Stomping Slabs may not say scry, and in any other commander deck it would be useless. But to be able to grab 7 cards from the top of your deck, plug all the dudes to the bottom of the pile and jam it under your deck? If it’s stupid but it works, it ain’t stupid. Some more ‘Scry but not really’ cards you’ll make use of will be Thrumming Stone (and the other ripple cards if that takes your fancy), Teferi’s Puzzle Box and Mindmoil. The puzzlebox is especially powerful, as it causes other players grief while usually only benefiting you.
Some other key mentions are Braid of Fire, which, if drawn early, allows your upkeeps to become explosive Grenzo digs. Cloak and Dagger is particularly cheeky, as it is able to jump onto Grenzo as he enters the battlefield at instant speed, to complement the Swiftfoot Boots package of cards one would want to defend Grenzo. What is really important to know about playing Grenzo is that he is pretty potent even on a budget. While there can be some pretty pricey cards to add, none of them truly boost the deck past the power it already has using basic stuff. It’s main weakness has to be graveyard denial, however. If you take on Grenzo as your lead man, be prepared to deal with cards like Rest in Peace and Leyline of the Void. These cards disable Grenzo’s ability entirely, and the LAST thing you want to be doing is playing a fair game and paying *shudder* normal mana costs for things.
Either way, I hope I’ve given you some inspiration for your next Commander deck. Make sure to leave a comment if you think you know some more sweet cards to play alongside Grenzo. Also take a second to request other commanders for me to write about.
As a massive narcissist I will definitely read them.
I'm an avid lover of all things table top. I also have a growing collection of board games which inspire me to create my own. I put my loud and expressive personality to good use as a dungeon master for my friends, having run many campaigns through 4th and 5th edition D&D.
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