The first Commander deck I played against that reliably spewed out damage was Kaervek the Merciless. They would start small with an early Flame Rift and maybe Furnace of Rath. But quickly, Manabarbs, Storm Cauldron, and Ankh of Mishra combined to make everything painful, allowing them to drop Kaervek and put the last nail in the coffin. The deck attacked resources casual players normally took for granted.

While I could look back at my pre-Commander days and identify decks that would fit into what I now call “group slug,” at the time I was completely unprepared for decks that used life totals as a resource like Kaervek. At some point I got into the spirit with Nekusar, the Mindrazer, punishing players for doing one of their favorite things, drawing cards. But it has been awhile since I have been inspired to build around something so overtly aggressive.

In the spirit of Kaervek and Nekusar, I present Greven, Predator Captain, a general that can invert resource management to prey on unsuspecting players. We won’t just be attacking our opponents this week, we’ll be cannibalizing our own life total in an effort to find success with a quickness.

Kamikaze Greven

During the Weatherlight Saga, Greven il-Vec was the man in command of the skyship Predator and the armies of Rath. Second-in-command to Volrath, he vented his rage in aggressive ways. Greven, Predator Captain isn’t the first time we’ve seen Greven, but it’s the most exciting.

My initial vision for Greven, Predator Captain revolved around Assault Suit alongside new toys like Parasitic Impetus. But I think trying to play politics might be too cute. Why not take a more aggressive stance? Pestilence, Doom Whisperer, and Treasonous Ogre fuel explosive shenanigans from Greven.

Part group slug, part Voltron. Haste and menace help us slip under their defenses. Lifelink can help us refill on life. (Rules tip: Greven checks for how much life you lost, not how much your life total has changed. If you lost 4 life but also gained 6 life, you still lost 4 life and Greven gets +4/+0.)

Commander: Greven, Predator Captain

Creatures: Blood-Chin Fanatic, Bloodsworn Steward, Bloodtracker, Boldwyr Intimidator, Dire Fleet Ravager, Doom Whisperer, Erebos, God of the Dead, Garna, the Bloodflame, K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth, Kothophed, Soul Hoarder, Kuro, Pitlord, Lovisa Coldeyes, Molten Primordial, Moltensteel Dragon, Phyrexian Colossus, Razaketh, the Foulblooded, Rushblade Commander, Sonorous Howlbonder, Treasonous Ogre, Vilis, Broker of Blood

Artifacts: Aetherflux Reservoir, Basilisk Collar, Butcher’s Cleaver, Darksteel Ingot, Embercleave, Gilded Lotus, Loxodon Warhammer, Obsidian Battle-Axe, Prowler’s Helm, Rakdos Signet, Sanctuary Blade, Shadowspear, Talisman of Indulgence, Tenza, Godo’s Maul, The Cauldron of Eternity, Trailblazer’s Boots, Vorrac Battlehorns, Whip of Erebos

Enchantments: Arguel’s Blood Fast, Cover of Darkness, Dauthi Embrace, Greed, Lurking Evil, Pestilence, Pyrohemia, Reckless Assault, Spiteful Visions, Strands of Night, Vicious Shadows, Unspeakable Symbol

Instants: Grotesque Mutation, Hatred, Plunge into Darkness, Psychotic Fury, Rush of Vitality, Snuff Out, Tainted Strike

Sorceries: Chandra’s Ignition, Command the Dreadhorde, Disrupt Decorum, Nightmare Unmaking, Repay in Kind

Lands: 4 Mountain, 17 Swamp, Akoum Refuge, Blood Crypt, Bloodfell Caves, Castle Locthwain, City of Brass, Command Tower, Dragonskull Summit, Foreboding Ruins, Geier Reach Sanitarium, Hall of the Bandit Lord, Mana Confluence, Rakdos Guildgate, Shizo, Death’s Storehouse, Smoldering Marsh, Sulfurous Springs, Temple of Malice

Pay as You Go

Commander can teach you lessons and make you a better player; the importance of playing economically is one I’ve learned recently. Since we want to use our life total as a weapon, it’s important to be able to use our life points without being tied to other resources like mana or sacrificial creatures.

Greven asks you to go big when it comes to spending life points. Free life sinks like Doom Whisperer, Kuro, Pitlord, and Moltensteel Dragon are crucial to manipulating Greven’s power with a high level of granularity during combat, while still leaving us with life to use next turn.

There are of course inelegant options that can still do the job as well, but won’t allow for the same level of resource management. Treasonous Ogre should see more play in general, and trading life for mana is something this deck is more than happy to do. And while expensive, Phyrexian Colossus will allow us to make sweeping upgrades to our general’s power at a moment’s notice.

Unspeakable Symbol is a mainstay card for any general with lifelink or expected to have lifelink on a regular basis. Loxodon Warhammer, Basilisk Collar, and Butcher’s Cleaver help ensure we have lifelink when we need it.

How to Spend the Rest of Our Life

We won’t always be on the verge of defeating our opponents. In those rare situations, we still get to spend life to accrue card advantage like any black deck, with bonus damage from our general on top. Greed has seen several stylistic reprintings in Arguel’s Blood Fast, Erebos, God of the Dead, and Vilis, Broker of Blood; all of which come in handy here.

When we’re not drawing cards, we can be turn our life points into removal through Pestilence, Pyrohemia, or Reckless Assault. These play into Greven’s menace ability, as our opponents run out of blockers. And why not resurrect our creatures with Strands of Night?

The Warrior Spirit

I’ve included a Warrior package to help kick the deck into gear. Lovisa Coldeyes, Obsidian Battle-Axe, and Rushblade Commander give Greven haste. Boldwyr Intimidator and Sonorous Howlbonder provide some surprise to take our menacing general to the next level. Post-combat, there’s Blood-Chin Fanatic to sacrifice Greven, taking out another player and resetting our life total back to safety.

The rest of the deck is a little bit harder to quantify. We have our combat tricks and “Plan B” cards that will help to give us reach if we are overly focused on by our opponents. The core of this deck is worth building and improving upon. It’s not the first of its kind, but it is a rare breed of general that asks you to subvert some of your learned expectations about how to play Commander. Until next time, thank you so much for reading.

Ryan Sainio is a Graphic Designer who writes about EDH and the EDH community. He has been playing Magic: The Gathering since 7th Edition in 2002 and values flavorful and fun gameplay over competitively optimized decks.

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