Do Over Project: Kresh, Back Into The Red Zone

For this week’s exploration into the Do Over Project, Sheldon Menery Embraces the Chaos once again and transforms his signature Commander, Kresh the Bloodbraided, into a whole new experience via a brand-new deck.

After Phelddagrif, Kresh the Bloodbraided has over the years become one of my signature decks. It seems that it should be one of the earliest I build in the Do Over Project (it will in fact be the sixth). Many cards have moved in and out since I started recording configuration control over it back in January 2010. I considered simply building the deck out of all the cards that have come out of the deck over the last five and a half years, an homage to its history. I wondered if there was the basis of a coherent deck there. Let’s take a look, skipping the lands:

Creatures (60)

Anathemancer, Artisan of Kozilek, Avalanche Riders, Avenger of Zendikar, Bellowing Tanglewurm, Bloodthrone Vampire, Bone Shredder, Brooding Saurian, Caller of the Claw, Charnelhoard Wurm,, Civic Wayfinder, Creakwood Liege, Deathbringer Thoctar, Dragon Broodmother, Eater of the Dead, Fell Shepherd, Flamerush Rider, Geth, Lord of the Vault, Grave-Shell Scarab, Harvester of Souls, Indrik Stomphowler, Inferno Titan, Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord, Khabal Ghoul, Madrush Cyclops, Massacre Wurm, Melira, Sylvok Outcast, Molten Primordial, Nantuko Vigilante, Necrotic Ooze, Nezumi Graverobber, Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath, Pawn of Ulamog, Petrified Wood-kin, Platinum Emperion, Primeval Titan, Psychosis Crawler, Rampaging Baloths, Rubblehulk, Rune-Scarred Demon, Sapling of Colfenor, Shattergang Brothers, Shriekmaw, Skullbriar, the Walking Grave, Spawnwrithe, Spearbreaker Behemoth, Spellbreaker Behemoth, Sprouting Thrinax, Stampeding Wildebeests, Tajuru Preserver, Thicket Elemental, Viridian Shaman, Visara the Dreadful, Vulturous Zombie, Whisperwood Elemental, Wilderness Elemental, Wood Elves, Woodripper, Wurmcoil Engine, Xathrid Demon.

Artifacts (15)

Altar of Dementia, Armillary Sphere, Basilisk Collar, Darksteel Plate, Dreamstone Hedron, Eldrazi Monument, Empyrial Plate, Grimoire of the Dead, Lightning Greaves, Mimic Vat, Null Rod, Scrabbling Claws, Skullclamp, Swiftfoot Boots, Tsabo’s Web.

Enchantments (13)

AEther Flash, Bloodchief Ascension, Defense of the Heart, Feed the Pack, Fires of Yavimaya, Grave Pact, Night Soil, Oversold Cemetery, Pandemonium, Pattern of Rebirth, Primeval Bounty, Sneak Attack, Vicious Shadows.

Sorceries (10)

Decree of Pain, Demonic Tutor, Explosive Revelation, Insurrection, Natural Order, Praetor’s Grasp, Regrowth, Rise of the Dark Realms, Rite of Consumption, Tooth and Nail.

Instants (11)

Berserk, Consume the Meek, Grim Return, Krosan Grip, Savage Summoning, Red Elemental Blast, Reroute, Rescue from the Underworld, Sprouting Vines, Summoning Trap, Tsabo’s Decree, Worldly Tutor.

Planeswalkers (1)

Garruk, Primal Hunter.

That’s 110 cards — so nearly two decks’ worth of nonland cards. Certainly we can’t just slap together the leftovers. Another reason is that many of those cards already went into other decks (and some of them even came back into the original — speaking of which, in the pursuit of making the whole deck foil Italian cards, I just acquired an 8th Edition Grave Pact for it; that’s the best of all Grave Pact pictures). So what’s the choice here? As I stared at the current decklist and the pile of cards above, one thing became clear to me: Kresh has gotten away from his original charter of getting into the Red Zone. It’s still a creature deck, it’s still about attacking with some creatures, but it’s become more about graveyard reanimation and flinging disproportionately large creatures at peoples’ faces. My goal is to get away from that for the next 99 and back to roots, so to speak.

This build was done with a few things in mind. First is obviously the Do Over idea that I can’t use any cards currently in the original deck. Second is that the combat phase would be the most important part of the new deck. This means an aggression. Both attacking, being an attacker, and dealing damage (like with Charnelhoard Wurm) become important. Finally, the deck will be built with cards I have on hand, in foil (if they come that way). No buying or trading or swapping cards in from other decks. Since there are plenty of cool cards on the list above, I’ll be looking to use as many of them as I still have around. I’ll continue with my general “no tutors” idea, although if I have that Natural Order available I’ll probably use it. Demonic Tutor will still be out. As I go through the card boxes, I’m sure I’ll find some hidden gems that I hadn’t counted on. I’ll confess that sitting on top of the box were some pretty spicy foil copies of things from my Karador deck that I just replaced with Italian versions, so a few of those will creep in. I’ll still need a few sacrifice outlets to help Kresh do his thing. Add some utility creatures and we’re done.

Here’s what I see as the most interesting 99 of what I found:

Let’s break down the card choices (for reasons other than “there they were”):


Blood Artist: The biggest problem with a creature-based deck is getting your creatures wiped out. At least you can make the person doing the wiping pay for it. There aren’t really that many combos in the deck, so there’s no machine-gun engine, but with Kresh and a few sacrifice outlets there is some draining to do.

Bloodbraid Elf: This really was an “I had it laying around” choice. If this deck is an homage to a Commander past, this card is an homage to a Standard deck with which I had a great deal of success (as did a number of other people). The path to victory with this deck will be dealing damage at every opportunity, even if it’s just three at a time. BBE will do that and get something else out of the deck.

Charnelhoard Wurm: The first card in the decklist because I just really wanted to play it. I didn’t realize until taking a second look that it triggers on any damage, not just combat. I didn’t set up any tricks that way, but it’s nice to know for future builds.

Champion of Lambholt: I’d like to combo this with Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder. He can get rather large rather quickly.

Crypt Ghast: One of the ports over from Karador Turns Italian, I’m never going to get a big boost from this unless someone else is playing Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. It’ll be nice but not the swingy card it can be in decks designed to take advantage of it.

Doomgape: This card has been in and out of so many decks and I still want to keep trying to work it in. It’s a trampling 10/10 for 7 mana! Even if it has to sacrifice itself, there is still some lifegain. It’s one of those cards — and I imagine even moreso in Kresh — that people panic about and will spend targeted removal on (or fire off a board wipe before they want to).

Fertilid: I had to pick my mana ramp slots carefully in the deck because of card availability. Fertilid isn’t going to help Kresh much save for getting lands.

Flamewake Phoenix: One of my iffier choices, I want to see how it runs. Again, since there are a number of things which trigger off of combat damage, I want to deal it out in as many packets as I can.

Giant Adephage: Love this card. It fits with the “always battling” theme, and since it’s an inexpensive card I can use non-foil ones as the tokens it creates.

Grave Titan: I was happily surprised when I found this in the box. Who wouldn’t be?

Indrik Stomphowler: I needed some utility creatures, and since this had gotten cut with the printing of Conclave Naturalists it was available.

Harvester of Souls: The card draw in the deck is a little weak. Harvester of Souls can go a long way for making up that ground. It doesn’t trigger on tokens, but that’s hardly a problem.

Inferno Titan: Found it right next to the Grave Titan, so I was doubly happy. Since I’ll be doing loads of attacking, getting chump blockers out of the way is a good idea.

Kulrath Knight: I’m interested in seeing how good this will be even if I don’t have any ways of putting counters on creatures. The only problem here might be getting it Cloned and shutting down Kresh.

Madrush Cyclops: It’s cheap, has haste, and gives haste to my team.

Massacre Wurm: Seems like a nonbo with Kresh, but it wipes out blockers. And it has that life loss thing going.

Polis Crusher: There are many good enchantments in the game. I’m even playing some of them. They must be crushed (well, everyone else’s, since you know I’ll use mine responsibly).

Puppeteer Clique: I needed a little graveyard hate and here was a nice answer. Looking forward to reanimating someone else’s Sepulchral Primordial.

Rubblebelt Raiders: This came up in my Gatherer search for “each attacking creature.” It will always at least give itself a counter, but in this deck it should have many friends.

Rumbling Slum: If this had been printed in 1999, it would have dominated. Four-mana 5/5s that have an extra ability are still pretty decent today. This is the reason I thought to put Basilisk Collar in the deck.

Shard Phoenix: I initially put this back into the box, then took it out as the 60th or 61st card. It’s another way of clearing out the chump blockers while pumping up Kresh at the same time.

Somberwald Sage: The deck has lots of creatures and I had to get creative with the mana ramp.

Spawnwrithe: You going block something important or are you going to block Spawnwrithe? That’s just what I thought.

Terastodon: I was playing a pickup game at the GP in Orlando last year, and someone gave this to me. I remember chatting with him for a bit and getting his name, but since I didn’t write it down, I’m sad to admit that I have forgotten it (and I’m usually very good with names). Thanks, pretty cool guy whose name I don’t remember!

Wall of Blossoms: It’s a wall, and it blossoms cards into your hand.

Wilderness Elemental: This creature will usually deal out piles of damage before someone deals with it. It will get very large very quickly.

Zealous Conscripts: I was looking through the Avacyn Restored box for something else and saw that I had one of these. I was very happy. It means I can get rid of a scary blocker (and then hopefully sacrifice it before it becomes a scary attacker) or borrow something useful for a turn. Eldrazi Monument would be cool.

Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder: Make Thrulls, sacrifice Thrulls, battle with Thrulls. It’s all pretty simple. Armada Games regular Anthony Rueda has shown us that you just slam the Thrulls into other players so that you can have more without worrying about sacrificing Endrek Sahr.

Erebos, God of the Dead: This was another find while looking through a box for something else. If my path to killing people relies mostly on combat damage, then their life totals have to be in check (although I suspect that commander damage from Kresh will, every now and again, deal with large life totals).

Nissa, Vastwood Seer: I’m playing this because once she’s transformed, she’s a repeatable Coiling Oracle that I don’t really think anyone will bother to go out of their way to kill.

Sek’Kuar, Deathkeeper: Sek’Kuar should help with rebuilding a board after someone inevitably Wraths.

Sidisi, Undead Vizier: The reason I’m not playing this in the normal Kresh deck — where it would be extremely spicy — is because I had to make a choice of where to put the single copy during my Dragons of Tarkir update; it ended up in Karador.


Basilisk Collar: Rumbling Slum suggested playing the card, but it’s honestly extremely good in any creature deck because its costs to cast and equip are so low.

Bow of Nylea: The activated abilities are nice; the real upside is my attackers having deathtouch. It will mean bits more damage creeping through, both from extra unblocked creatures and from tramplers.

Fellwar Stone: I normally wouldn’t play mana rocks in a green deck, choosing instead to play raw mana ramp. Since the number of choices I had available were low, I had to resort to a few artifacts.

Gruul Signet: Ditto Fellwar Stone.

Phyrexian Altar: One of the sacrifice outlets which I hope will help keep the Thrull problem at bay, it’s also a little fuel for casting things and bulking up Kresh. I had it laying around because I picked it up a few months back knowing that you don’t see the foil one available that often. I knew I’d eventually find a deck for it.

Sword of the Animist: I was very cool on this card when the spoiler came out. I have since changed my mind.

Tsabo’s Web: I love this card because it does two things. First, it replaces itself. Second, it shuts down some of the format’s best lands, especially those that might give me trouble such as Maze of Ith or, even worse for Kresh, Mystifying Maze.

Wayfarer’s Bauble: Again, a card that I wouldn’t normally consider in a green deck without the restrictions I placed on myself for building the deck.

Whispersilk Cloak: I like the Planechase art better than the original, which reminds me of the annoying little wizard from the He-Man cartoon. True fact: I typed “annoying little wizard from the He-Man cartoon” into a browser and this is the result.


Blood Moon: I knew my basic land count would be high, so why not shut down the very greedy mana bases? This isn’t a foil, it’s an alter. It was one of the first I ever had, a gift from then-L2 Judge Claire Dupré. It’s been waiting around a long time for me to play it.

Balrog Moon

Druids’ Repository: This was another gem from searching Gatherer (this time for “whenever a creature you control attacks”). It doesn’t even have to deal damage! Seems a little cheaty.

Five-Alarm Fire: This card is super-dangerous in Goblin decks. I know Patrick Jarrett would approve.

Necrogenesis: Spell recursion is less a thing in my local environment than creature recursion. A little graveyard control which then turns into attackers is the right call.

Outpost Siege: My intention is to most often choose Dragons. As with Blood Artist, I need to make someone pay for shoveling dirt on my road to victory. I can see a few later-game situations where Khans might be the right choice because I need the extra card draw.

Palace Siege: There’s really only one mode for this in the format. Khans provide the graveyard reuse that most black decks have in spades and this one is a little weak on.

Fires of Yavimaya: Haste is a dangerous thing.

Nature’s Will: Making my attack step into mana ramp can provide a kind of boost that I’ll need to stay ahead of other decks. When putting this in, I realized how good it might be in an aggressive Temur deck that sometimes wants to casts instants. We’ll see how it plays out here and go from there.


Ambition’s Cost: This we the 62nd card. I figured that since there isn’t a specific thing which I want to do, more card draw would be the best choice.

Farseek: If I’m casting this on turn two, then I’ll have the Forest I need; this will help me get the color of mana I’m missing.

Genesis Wave: The deck is mostly permanents. By the time I get wiped out, Genesis Wave should help me restock reasonably well.

Kodama’s Reach: The original deck’s reliance on creatures to do most of the work of getting extra lands onto the battlefield means there are card slots open for this one.

Maelstrom Pulse: Sometimes you get lucky and two different people have the same thing on the battlefield. Of course, there are also always token swarms as good targets for a Pulse.

Overwhelming Stampede: There’s no Avenger of Zendikar here, but there are nonetheless enough creatures that this Overrun upgrade will do the work of killing people, especially if Kresh has gotten running.

Relentless Assault: I didn’t want to go too far into extra combat steps (although Nature’s Will did want me to be able to find a Hellkite Charger), but catching the board in a weak position once might be enough.

Search for Tomorrow: Even though slots were open, I didn’t have every card I would have liked. Rampant Growth and Skyshroud Claim are the other biggies, but I had neither (and the latter is in the original anyway).

Shamanic Revelation: We sometimes fall into the trap of getting super-greedy with card draw. The cool play here is casting this right after Endrek Sahr and another creature, turning just a few cards into a whole grip full of them.

Tooth and Nail: I have one of these (an altered version) which keeps floating around. I’m careful to not put it into decks which could create infinite combos. In this deck, it will probably most often get Massacre Wurm.

Victimize: Some little bit of recovery if large creatures end up in the graveyard. Sacrificing a Thrull token is the clear choice here. Remember that this spells is a little unusual. The targets are the creatures in the graveyard. The choice of what to sacrifice isn’t made until resolution (it’s not an additional cost to cast the spell). This means if someone gets rid of the creature you want to sacrifice, you’ll have to choose something else—you must choose something else. It’s not a may, despite the later “if you do” clause. If they get rid of everything you want to sacrifice (like someone responds with Evacuation), then you’ll get nothing.


Consume the Meek: Tokens are a thing in Commander. I have a few, but everyone else has lots more.

Wild Ricochet: It was in the pile and it does wacky things. What more is there to life?

Restrictions force creativity in Commander. Here I made choices that I might not otherwise make in a deck because of the box into which I put myself. The deck isn’t significantly weaker because of those choices, although I might call it less synergistic. It’s a semi-“Good Stuff” pile that will take some thoughtful play to get value out of. When you’re in the mood to see how much extra mileage you might be able to pull out of a deck, this is just the style you’re looking for.

This Week’s Deck Without Comment is the original mentioned above, so you can compare. * denotes an Italian version of the card; + denotes an altered-art version.


Commander: Kresh, the Bloodbraided

Creatures (33)

Solemn Simulacrum
Acidic Slime
Big Game Hunter
Bloodshot Cyclops
Butcher of Malakir
Devouring Swarm
Disciple of Bolas
Disciple of Griselbrand*
Eternal Witness
Farhaven Elf
Flayer of the Hatebound*
Greater Gargadon
Hamletback Goliath
Lord of Extinction+
Mitotic Slime*
Pelakka Wurm
Scavenging Ooze+
Seedguide Ash
Stalking Vengeance
Withered Wretch
Woodfall Primus
Yavimaya Elder
Ghoulcaller Gisa*
Kokusho, The Evening Star*
Kothophed, Soul Hoarder
Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
Ob Nixilis Unshackled
Xenagos, God of Revels
Urabrask, the Hidden

Spells (28)

Sol Ring
Tormod’s Crypt*
Goblin Bombardment
Grave Pact*
Greater Good+
Hedonists’ Trove
Lurking Predators
Pernicious Deed
Survival of the Fittest
Cauldron Dance
Crypt Incursion
Flaring Pain
Grab the Reins
Makeshift Mannequin
Momentous Fall
Spore Cloud+
Chandra’s Ignition
Essence Harvest
Howl of the Horde*
Living Death+
Morgue Burst
Skyshroud Claim

Planeswalkers (1)

Garruk Wildspeaker*

Lands (37)

Blood Crypt
Bojuka Bog
Command Tower+
Dragonskull Summit
Exotic Orchard
Graven Cairns*
Grim Backwoods
Kessig Wolf Run+
Overgrown Tomb
Rakdos Carnarium
Reflecting Pool
Reliquary Tower
Savage Lands*
Stomping Ground
Strip Mine
Temple of the False God
Twilight Mire
Phyrexian Tower+
Volrath’s Stronghold+
9 Forest
2 Mountain
4 Swamp

Check out our awesome Deck List Database for the last versions of all my decks:


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