A Play-By-Play With Karador, Ghost Chieftain

Some Commander games just beg to be recorded for posterity! Sheldon Menery recounts a memorable one with a special guest featuring a double dose of Karador, Ghost Chieftain fun!

When fellow Commander Rules Committee members Scott Larabee and Toby Elliott recently visited, it seemed like a great opportunity to get in a play-by-play. We invited Magic Community Cup star, podcaster (@mtgradio), and all-around fine man Tom Delia as our fourth for some poolside hijinks.

Scott is playing Kruphix, God of Horizons, which is a Kraken, Leviathan, Octopus, and Serpent deck. Toby has Tasigur, the Golden Fang, which is a classic Dredge deck. Both Tom and I are playing somewhat similar Karador, Ghost Chieftain builds. Both of us volunteer to pick a different commander, but everyone says having two in the game is fine.

For those of you who haven’t seen one of these play-by-plays, I’ve recorded as much information as is feasible. For example, sometimes I just list that someone plays a land without recording which specific land it is; it most of those cases, it’s only a mana-producer anyway. I’ll note as many individual life changes as possible, which you’ll see in parentheses, but don’t take a skipped one as anything other than a missed notation; everyone was paying attention, so the recorded ones are accurate. Part of the issue becomes not slowing the game too much in order to write down things. Folks have suggested video, which is an option I’ll likely explore in the future.

Turn 1

Scott: Flooded Grove, Sensei’s Divining Top.

Tom: Forest.

Me: Temple Garden.

Toby: Breeding Pool.

Turn 2

Scott: Island, Research the Deep. Clashes with Toby; both get a land.

Tom: Swamp.

Me: Savannah.

Toby: Forest, Millikin.

Turn 3

Scott: Vesuva, copying Flooded Grove. Casts Soothsaying.

Tom: Plains.

Me: Swamp, Yavimaya Elder.

Toby: Activates Millikin, milling Pieces of the Puzzle. Casts Yavimaya Elder and plays Slippery Karst.

Turn 4

Scott: Land, Coastal Piracy.

Tom: Swamp, Solemn Simulacrum, gets Forest.

Me: Swamp, Crypt Ghast.

Toby: Millkin activation sends Extract from Darkness into the graveyard. Swampcycles Jhessian Zombies and plays the Swamp. Attacks Scott with Yavimaya Elder (38). Casts Tracker’s Instinct, milling two Island and Ancestral Memories, putting Sidisi, Brood Tyrant in his hand.

Turn 5

Scott: Academy Ruins, Wonder. Passes the turn and activates Sensei’s Divining Top. We have a rule in the group of our closest friends that you always Top at the first opportunity in order to save time; you then reserve the right up until your turn to change the order of the cards if the battlefield state shifts dramatically (we also allow each other free looks). This might not work for everyone, but with people you know and trust, it saves a great deal of time.

Tom: Plains, attacks Scott with Solemn Simulacrum (36). Casts Wild Pair.

Me: Forest. No real action in my hand.

Toby: Millikin activation mills Forbidden Alchemy. Casts Life from the Loam, getting the two Island he milled last time. Plays one of them and casts Sidisi, Brood Tyrant. Mills Havengul Lich, Codex Shredder, and Twisted Abomination. Attacks Tom with Yavimaya Elder (38).

Turn 6

Scott: Island, Deepchannel Mentor. Attacks Toby with Wonder (38) and draws a card off Coastal Piracy.

Tom: Attacks me with Solemn Simulacrum. I block with Yavimaya Elder and ask if he wants to put damage on the stack. He reflexively says yes; some habits die hard. I sacrifice it, getting Plains and Swamp. He casts Read the Bones, keeping both on top and drawing them (36). Casts Darksteel Ingot and then War Priest of Thune, taking out Scott’s Coastal Piracy. He gets Fleshbag Marauder with Wild Pair. Toby’s Yavimaya Elder, Scott’s Wonder, Tom’s Solemn Simulacrum, and my Crypt Ghast all pine for the fjords.

Me: Announce that it’s “on,” and cast Spore Frog.

Toby: Dredges Life from the Loam, milling Forest, Lonely Sandbar, and Measure of Wickedness. Plays Swamp. Activates Millikin, milling Verdant Catacombs. Casts Nyx Weaver. Flashes back Tracker’s Instincts, putting Sheoldred, Whispering One in his hand and Praetor’s Counsel, Bojuka Bog, and Forest into the graveyard. I keep an eye on that Bojuka Bog, hoping Tom’s graveyard gets better than mine really fast.

Turn 7

Scott: Casts the very techy Reef Worm.

It just got serious.

Tom: Casts Wall of Blossoms, declines to search with Wild Pair. Plays Command Tower and then casts Conjurer’s Closet. Attacks me with Fleshbag Marauder; I activate Spore Frog. At end of turn, he blinks Wall of Blossoms.

Me: Bayou. Seems like a good time to casts Wrath of God. Scott gets a 3/3 Fish.

Toby: Exiles Verdant Catacombs, Forest, Pieces of the Puzzle, Extract from Darkness, and Ancestral Memories to cast Tasigur, Golden Fang. Casts Life from the Loam, getting back Bojuka Bog, Lonely Sandbar, and Forest, which he plays. Discards two Island.

Turn 8

Scott: Oracle of Mul Daya and a Forest off the top. Attacks me with his Fish (37).

Tom: Karametra, God of Harvests; doesn’t search with Wild Pair (I assume he knows his deck well enough to know there’s not another thirteen in there). Angel of Finality (with a Karametra trigger); he targets Toby when it enters the battlefield. Toby responds by activating Tasigur, milling Greenwarden of Murasa and Vengeful Pharaoh. He chooses Scott, who gives him back Life from the Loam (seems pretty friendly). Tom searches up Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice with his Wild Pair trigger. At end of turn, Conjurer’s Closet blinks Angel of Finality, which targets me when it comes back; Tom to (40) from Trostani.

Me: Plains. I can Genesis Wave for five, but that seems like asking for disappointment. I’m not in imminent danger, so waiting the turn is the right call—especially since I have quite a few action cards at six mana.

Toby: Overgrown Tomb untapped (36). Sever the Bloodline, targeting Angel of Finality.

Turn 9

Scott: Forest off the top, revealing Surestrike Trident. Nimbus Swimmer for five. Activates Sensei’s Divining Top, putting Stormsurge Kraken on top.

Tom: “Let’s start with the most fun play,” says Tom, which is one of the reasons he’s here in the first place. Then he casts Oblivion Sower, which doesn’t seem that much fun at all for us. He targets Toby, who exiles Spellweaver Volute, Forest, Soul Manipulation, and Opulent Palace. Tom gets six lands from Toby’s exile pile and goes to (48). Sacrifices Verdant Catacombs to get Overgrown Tomb onto the battlefield untapped (45). Casts Harmonize. Plays Temple of Silence, keeps whatever it is on top. Attacks Toby with Karametra (30) and me with Trostani (35). Casts Karmic Guide, which triggers Karametra (Plains). When it enters the battlefield, he gets Saffi Eriksdottir from Wild Pair and Solemn Simulacrum from his graveyard. His life total ends at (51). At end of turn, blinks Karmic Guide with Conjurer’s Closet and reanimates War Priest of Thune, which blows up Soothsaying. Ends up at (55). Pretty good turn for him.

Me: Llanowar Wastes. Genesis Wave for six. It’s not all that great, with Teysa, Orzhov Scion; Sakura-Tribe Elder; Mortuary Mire; and the saving grace, Eternal Witness. Sudden Spoiling and Gravepurge go into my graveyard. Eternal Witness returns Genesis Wave to my hand. At end of turn, Toby activates Tasigur, milling two Forest, returning Sever the Bloodline.

Toby: Woodfall Primus, blowing up Conjurer’s Closet. At least that tomfoolery will stop for now.

Turn 10

Scott: Casts a ferocious See the Unwritten and completely whiffs. Reliquary Tower off the newly-revealed top of the library. He then activates Sensei’s Divining Top to reveal and play Homeward Path. Casts Quest for Ula’s Temple.

Tom: With Karmic Guide’s echo trigger on the stack, targets it with Saffi. Obviously doesn’t pay. When it returns, gets back Saffi (59). Attacks Scott with Oblivion Sower, Toby with Karametra, and me with Solemn Simulacrum, War Priest of Thune, and Trostani. Toby blocks with Woodfall Primus. Scott blocks with his Worm. I block the War Priest with Teysa, Trostani with Sakura-Tribe Elder, which I then sacrifice. I go to (33). War Priest of Thune dies. After combat, he sacrifices Saffi onto Karmic Guide. He casts Victimize, targeting Fleshbag Marauder and Wall of Blossoms.

Rules side note: Victimize is unusual in that sacrificing the creature is part of the resolution, not a cost of casting the spell. The caster doesn’t need to choose what to sacrifice until resolution, meaning once he or she chooses it, you can’t respond. There’s also the “if you do” clause, meaning if you somehow get rid of all of the caster’s creatures, he or she can’t bring back the targets.

Back to Tom: Victimize resolves. Tom sacrifices Karmic Guide and gets back the targeted creatures. Toby sacrifices Woodfall Primus; Scott sacrifices his 6/6 Whale and gets a 9/9 Kraken; Tom sacrifices Solemn Simulacrum, and I sacrifice Eternal Witness. Tom casts Sepulchral Primordial, getting my Eternal Witness (with which he returns Conjurer’s Closet), Scott’s Wonder, and Toby’s Woodfall Primus. He targets Homeward Path, which Scott activates, giving us all back our creatures. He casts Grave Titan, triggering Karametra to get Plains; his life total ends at (91). Another good turn for Tom Delia.

Me: Sidisi, Undead Vizier, exploiting Eternal Witness. I look for the fun play, but it seems like the only reasonable thing here is Planar Cleansing, which I cast. Scott activates Sensei’s Divining Top. Tom targets Sepulchral Primordial with Saffi. This may have been a punt—Ashen Rider might have been the call—but I’m focusing on the Bojuka Bog in my hand. With the black Primordial, Tom gets my Sidisi and Scott’s Oracle of Mul Daya (and Toby has nothing). I then Bojuka Bog Tom.

Toby: Casts Sheoldred, Whispering One. Attacks Tom with Woodfall Primus; he blocks with my Sidisi.

Turn 11

Scott: Hand is low, so he Tops on his upkeep. Casts Kiora, Master of the Depths and activates the +1 ability.

Tom: Sacrifices Sepulchral Primordial to Sheoldred. Casts Panharmonicon. Now it’s really on. Casts Gonti, Lord of Luxury, targets me and Scott. Casts Conjurer’s Closet. Casts Woodfall Primus (Karametra getting him another land). Blows up Kiora and Academy Ruins. At end of turn, blinks Gonti, Lord of Luxury with Conjurer’s Closet. When it returns, he targets Toby twice.

Me: Genesis Wave for ten. This one is way better. I get Plains; Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim; Puppeteer Clique; Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite; Woodfall Primus; Grave Pact; Archon of Justice; Karametra, God of Harvests; Forest; and Duplicant. Puppeteer Clique targets Tom’s Sepulchral Primordial (which will solve a long-term problem, since the Primordial will get exiled). Duplicant targets Tom’s Woodfall Primus. My Woodfall Primus targets Panharmonicon. I get Toby’s Woodfall Primus (which targets Conjurer’s Closet) and Scott’s Oracle of Mul Day from Sepulchral Primordial. I reveal a land and play it. At end of turn, Sepulchral Primordial gets exiled.

Toby: Casts Sepulchral Primordial of his own, but there are no targets. Forestcycles Elvish Aberration, only to discover he has no basic Forest left. Exiles seven cards to cast Tasigur, leaving only Damnation in his graveyard.

Turn 12

Scott: Casts Whispers of the Muse with buyback, digging for anything. Plays Tropical Island, but has no other action.

Tom: Sacrifices Gonti, Lord of Luxury to Sheoldred. Plays Sunpetal Grove. Casts Eternal Witness, getting Forest off Karametra, and returning Panharmonicon to his hand. Casts it. Seems like it’s about to get insane. Casts Genesis Wave for twelve. Seven of them are lands, to include Temple Garden untapped (89). Reclamation Sage targets Grave Pact and Duplicant. Shriekmaw targets Elesh Norn and Toby’s Woodfall Primus. Farhaven Elf will eventually get him two more basic lands. He also gets Phyrexian Reclamation. I respond by having Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim sacrifice Duplicant and Elesh Norn; Grave Pact triggers. Toby activates Tasigur, milling Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre. Fortunately for him, putting a card back into his hand is part of the resolution of the ability; Ulamog’s trigger won’t go onto the stack until a player gets priority. Scott gives him back Damnation. Grave Pact trigger resolves; Toby sacrifices Woodfall Primus to blow up Panharmonicon. It comes back and takes out Phyrexian Reclamation, but not before Tom puts Eternal Witness back into his hand. He also activates Verdant Catacombs, but doesn’t have any Forest or Swamp left. His life total ends up at (88). After the Ayli resolutions, mine is (60). Grave Pact and Elesh Norn go away. Tom casts Eternal Witness to get Gonti, Lord of Luxury.

Me: During my upkeep, I sacrifice Woodfall Primus to Sheoldred. It persists back, targeting Scott’s Sensei’s Divining Top, which he activates and then (surprisingly!) lets go to the graveyard. I asked him later about it, and he said that he wanted whatever it was on the top of his library to stay there. There is a large battle during my combat, which results in life totals of Tom (66), Scott (33), and Toby (27).

Toby: Has nothing for Sheoldred to return. Casts Solemn Simulacrum, getting Island.

Turn 13

Scott: Casts Kiora’s Follower.

Tom: Flashes back Creeping Renaissance, naming artifact. Casts Panharmonicon. Casts Gonti, Lord of Luxury. I respond by first sacrificing Woodfall Primus to Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim, to exile Panharmonicon. Tom targets me with Gonti. He casts Glimmerpoint Stag and gets the last Forest from his library with Karametra. Glimmerpoint Stag exiles his Gonti; he then gets a cool play by casting my Gonti (which he got with his). Casts Conjurer’s Closet. Before end of turn, I sacrifice Archon of Justice to Ayli to exile Conjurer’s Closet and then Sheoldred with Archon’s trigger. At end of turn, his Gonti comes back, and he “legend rules” mine. He targets me with (his) Gonti trigger. He now has five cards face down in front of him.

At this point, we agree that I should stop writing things down, as lunch is waiting (homemade Maryland crab soup, made with crab we had flown in the night before). It gets even wilder than it was.

Along the way, Toby casts Damnation on my extremely good battlefield, then Bojuka Bogs me. Tom casts Genesis Wave for fifteen. “Barf,” says Scott Larabee, which is premature, since one of the permanents is Gray Merchant of Asphodel, taking Tom to (98); one of the cards is Massacre Wurm, which puts a dent in some life totals as well. He then gets another cool play by making a copy of Gray Merchant of Asphodel with Spitting Image that his Gonti plucked from Toby (140), killing him and Scott.

I resolve Genesis Wave for eighteen, which gets my Massacre Wurm and kills his. My battlefield is extreme, his is reasonably good, and he gets a turn with my life total at a manageable place. He can’t kill me. My hand is stuffed full of goodness and his is empty, so it’s likely that we’re going to play a long, grindy rest of the game. His life total is crazily high, but it looks like I could whittle it down by about 30 a turn while gaining a little myself.

We decide to call it there. If lunch (not to mention Toby and Scott) hadn’t been waiting, we would have played it out.

I show him my hand, which includes Reveillark, Blinky the Eldrazi Displacer, Sun Titan, Restoration Angel, and Ashen Rider. He contends that I would have likely won that one, but we don’t really care. We had a great time playing and there’s amazing crab soup and a delicious rosé made from 100% Sangiovese (that’s the grape they make Chianti out of) from Maryhill Winery in Washington State.

After lunch, we played two more games with Tom; then Scott, Toby, and I played three more before packing it in for the night. For those of you who are curious, Toby, Scott, and I did have some chats regarding the future of Commander, but nothing earth-shattering. We’re quite happy with where the format is at the moment, especially since there are some cool new cards out. Speaking of which, my Commander 2016 review went up yesterday!

The Week’s Decks Without Comment: Karador, Ghost Chieftain, Times Two

This week, you get a double feature with both Tom’s and my decks.

Check out our comprehensive Deck List Database for lists of all my decks:


Purple Hippos and Maro Sorcerers; Kresh Into the Red Zone; Halloween with Karador; Dreaming of Intet; You Did This to Yourself;



Heliod, God of Enchantments; Thassa, God of Merfolk; Erebos and the Halls Of The Dead; Forge of Purphoros; Nylea of the Woodland Realm; Karn, Beatdown Golem


Lavinia Blinks; Obzedat, Ghost Killer; Aurelia Goes to War; Trostani and Her Angels; Lazav, Shapeshifting Mastermind; Zegana and a Dice Bag; Rakdos Reimagined; Glissa, Glissa; Ruric Thar and His Beastly Fight Club; You Take the Crown, I’ll Take Leovold; Gisa and Geralf Together Forever;

Shards and Wedges

Adun’s Toolbox; Animar’s Swarm; Karrthus, Who Rains Fire From The Sky; Demons of Kaalia; Merieke’s Esper Dragons; Nath of the Value Leaf; Rith’s Tokens; The Mill-Meoplasm; The Altar of Thraximundar; The Threat of Yasova; Zombies of Tresserhorn


Children of a Greater God


Animar Do-Over; Karador Do-Over; Karador Version 3; Karrthus Do-Over; Mimeoplasm Do-Over; Phelddagrif Do-Over; Rith Do-Over; Ruhan Do-Over

If you’d like to follow the adventures of my Monday Night RPG group (in a campaign that’s been alive since 1987) which is just beginning the saga The Lost Cities of Nevinor, ask for an invitation to the Facebook group “Sheldon Menery’s Monday Night Gamers.”