Garna’s Bloody Value

Garna is reversing the reputation that Rakdos commanders have, and she’s doing it fast! Put this hasty number together for The Command Zone at SCG CON and beat your next pod senseless!

Wow, has 2018 been a banner year for Commander enthusiasts or what? Just
this week, Ultimate Masters will be released and fair number of
much beloved but expensive Commander cards have gotten a desperately needed
reprint. Huzzah!

Earlier this year Dominaria dropped with a heavy legendary theme,
and to back that up there were a whopping 42 legendary creatures we could
conceivably build decks around. I mean, just take a look at all of them:

I mean, I could spend almost ten months writing weekly Commander columns
just from this bumper crop of new legends. As it is, I covered ten of these
(see the list at the bottom of this column). I’m sure I’ll circle back to
more of these over time, but an interesting thing happened recently. One of
these brand new cards was printed in Ultimate Masters.

I would love to hear what design considerations led to Garna, the
Bloodflame being reprinted in Ultimate Masters in the very same
year as it first showed up in an expansion set. It’s certainly a very
interesting card, one that I overlooked the first time around, but now that
I’ve had a second look my interest has been piqued. So this week let’s dig
into Garna.

Level zero of a Garna deck would be an aggressive Rakdos deck utilizing
Garna as a response to the inevitable sweeper that will come down to spoil
the beatdown fun. Garna would bring back all of your creatures that died
that turn, and then on your turn you could replay a few of them and attack
with them that same turn due to the haste ability of Garna. One level
deeper would be to sacrifice your creatures for profit and get them back
with Garna, possibly setting up some sort of engine. One level even deeper
would be to discard creature spells for profit and get them back with
Garna. I’m not personally interested in a particularly aggressive level
zero Garna deck, but the other options sound intriguing!

I checked EDHREC’s database and it shows just 42 decks so Garna definitely
needs some love! I went ahead and pulled the average deck, let’s check it

I like a lot that’s going on here. There’s a lot of leaning into the engine
possibilities, with Ashnod’s Altar, Phyrexian Altar, Blood Artist, and
Zulaport Cutthroat. Add Purphoros, God of the Forge and Impact Tremors to
the mix.

Iron Myr and Leaden Myr are interesting in that they can tap for mana, then
sacrifice for mana to one of the Altars, and basically pay for themselves
to be recast with Garna. On the other hand, I don’t like that they don’t
benefit from the mana discount from Bontu’s Monument and Hazoret’s
Monument. But they do get the cast triggers from the Monuments and the
Monuments provide discounts for other creatures so that’s fine.

Last One Standing is an interesting gem I would have never thought of.
Depending on how complicated the boardstate is, odds are likely good that
the creature left behind will be insignificant. Meanwhile, Garna comes down
and recovers all the creatures that went into your graveyard that turn.

Magus of the Wheel is fantastic with Garna since you can get back any
creatures you discarded to the Magus ability, and get back Magus too! And
check out Skirge Familiar, which can cash out any creature cards in your
hand for extra mana at no permanent loss of cards the turn you cast Garna.
That’s some spicy tech!

Now let’s take a look at the mana curve of the average deck compared to
what I consider a solid baseline Commander mana curve.

Hm. There needs to be some adjustments here for sure. And looking over the
decklist, there are some cards I want to cut, along with cards I want to
add. So, let’s get to it!

One Mana: Adds

I want a few more cards at the one mana slot, so these seem like good
inclusions. Deathgreeter plays nicely with some of the other engine cards,
netting you life along the way. Since a lot of creatures are likely going
to be dying anyway, Skullclamp is a natural fit. I’m kind of surprised it
wasn’t in the average decklist! Lastly, some pinpoint removal is always
helpful so I made room for some, including the awesome Tragic Slip. I mean,
triggering morbid will certainly be incredibly easy!

Two Mana: Cuts

I like the idea of discarding creature cards for profit and then getting
them back with Garna, but I feel that Cathartic Reunion and Tormenting
Voice are a tad too expensive to use in this way. I mean, that’s seven mana
at sorcery speed to play Garna and one of these spells. Faithless Looting
on the front side is cheap enough to make room for. The two mana rocks are
fine and all, but I feel that the Myrs already serve that function in this
deck and have more Garna synergy. I’m not big on tutor effects, so I’m
cutting Diabolic Tutor.

Two Mana: Adds

I wanted to add some more creatures. Generator Servant seems like a cool
card to power out Garna since you can get it right back. Reassembling
Skeleton plays nice with sacrifice effects since you can bring it back all
on itself.

I know I just cut two mana rocks, but Thought Vessel’s effect seems
necessary, especially if you don’t have enough pieces to really get an
engine going, but you still want to play Garna to bring back a bunch of
creatures that died and end up with more than seven cards in your hand.

Speaking of engine cards, Nim Deathmantle seems clutch here if you have a
sacrifice outlet for Garna. That way, you can keep bringing Garna back
without needing the Command Zone. If you sacrifice Garna to Ashnod’s Altar
all you need is two more mana to bring Garna back with Nim Deathmantle’s
death trigger.

I considered incorporating some storm cards into the mix since any engine
with Garna will require re-casting creatures over and over, but honestly, I
felt that something like Grapeshot or Tendrils of Agony is already handled
by cards like Blood Artist that play better with the synergies. But then I
was looking at Haze of Rage, and it occurred to me this was one way of
setting up a kill if you don’t have cards like Blood Artist and need to
kill by actually attacking with some creatures. You can potentially make
each creature so big as to be lethal.

And as you can see, I made some room for more pinpoint removal.

Three Mana: Cuts

Buried Alive sounds cool, but that’s three mana plus the cost of Garna to
really get it going so I’m cutting it. I’m also not a big fan of having
recurring “everyone sacrifice a creature” engines in my Commander decks
(you may recall my article
Golgari Sacrifice: The Fun Way
), so I’m cutting Fleshbag Marauder and Plaguecrafter.

Three Mana: Adds

I really like Bontu’s Monument and Hazoret’s Monument so I wanted to add
another card of a similar vein so I added Cloud Key. Which does work with
the Myrs!

And how’s this for spicy tech – Faerie Macabre! Each time you cast Garna
you can discard Faerie Macabre to regulate someone’s graveyard of a few
cards and get it right back.

Four Mana: Cuts

No tutors! Bye bye, Diabolic. Crypt Ghast seems a little odd in a two-color
deck, especially one without Urborg, Tomb to Yawgmoth. And honestly, I
don’t feel that mana is going to be a big problem with this deck. I’m also
not entirely sure Falkenrath Noble is all that great here. It’s not bad per
se, but I think we can do better.

Four Mana: Adds

Speaking of doing better, here’s some creatures for a Garna deck! I like
Whisper here, sacrificing cheaper creatures that are easy to bring back and
cast again while reanimating something that costs more mana. Ravenous
Chupacabra and Damnation brings some more removal to the deck.

Five Mana: Cuts

There are way too many five mana cards in this deck so I took a big ax to
the decklist. Gray Merchant is just a glorified Blood Artist for way too
much mana so I gave it to boot. Living Death and Reforge the Soul are too
expensive for what I want to be doing with this deck.

Ingot Chewer and Shriekmaw were difficult cuts. I like that they can be
cast very cheaply with evoke and then brought back with Garna, but there
were some difficult cuts that need to be made.

Five Mana: Adds

Isn’t it funny how many different decks that Krav, the Unredeemed is just
fantastic in? A sacrifice outlet that draws cards and gain life? Sign me

Speaking of fantastic, Open the Graves is perfect here! With all the
sacrificing going on, you’ll be incidentally generating a huge army of
Zombies which you can either attack with (yay haste from Garna!) or
sacrifice to an Altar for mana.

Six Mana: Cuts

These are all okay cards, but I don’t think they’re the best use for these
slots. Adding Mindslicer kind of replaces the need for Sire of Insanity.

Six Mana: Adds

I think these cards are better at six mana. Deathbringer Thoctar sits there
and sucks up value as you do your engines. And what better card to bring
back from the graveyard a few times than Kokusho, the Evening Star?

Here’s how the deck ended up:

Here’s the new mana curve, with three more lands added to the mix.
Including Winding Canyons, which can potentially let you go off at instant

The mana curve is lower than I typically do for a Commander deck, but I
feel that fits better in this sort of deck.

So, what do you think? What sort of cuts do you disagree with? Are there
any cards that I overlooked?

By the way, #SCGCON is this weekend, and I’ll be battling all three days in
The Command Zone alongside Starcitygames.com Commander illuminaries Sheldon
Menery and the Commander VS crew! If you’re coming to Roanoke to join in
the fun, be sure to come by and say hello!

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subscribe to my channel too

! Right now, I’ll be posting Top 5 cards from each of my StarCityGames.com
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Deck Database

Below I’ve got links to decks I’ve written about going back to January
2017. If you want to read the associated article, just put “Bennie Smith”
and the commander name into the Google and it should pop right up. I’ve
written a lot about Commander – and Magic in general – so if you want to
explore further the

StarCityGames.com article archives

have my articles all the way back to January 2000!

Guilds of Ravnica

Niv Mizzet, Parun

Emmara, Soul of the Accord


Lazav, the Multifarious (decklist in the comments)


Tajic, Legion’s Edge


Etrata, the Silencer


Izoni, Thousand-Eyed

Commander 2018

Aminatou, the Fateshifter


Xantcha, Sleeper Agent

, Lord Windgrace,
Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer

Core Set 2019

Sai, Master Thopterist


Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma


Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire


Chromium, the Mutable


Grothama, All-Devouring


Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle

, Grand Warlord Radha
, Arvad the Cursed,

Muldrotha, the Grave Tide


Slimefoot, the Stowaway


Yargle, Glutton of Urborg

, Squee, the Immortal

Firesong and Sunspeaker


Jodah, Archmage Eternal

Tiana, Ship’s Caretaker

Masters 25

Hannah, Ship’s Navigator

Rivals of Ixalan

Azor, the Lawbringer

, Etali, Primal Storm

Nezahal, Primal Tide


Zacama, Primal Calamity


Tetzimoc, Primal Death


Zetalpa, Primal Dawn


Ghalta, Primal Hunger


Grusilda, Monster Masher


Dr. Julius Jumblemorph


Vona, Butcher of Magan


Tishana, Voice of Thunder


Admiral Beckett Brass


Gishath, Sun’s Avatar

Commander 2017

Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith


Inalla, Archmage Ritualist


Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist


O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami


Mairsil, the Pretender


Taigam, Ojutai Master

Hour of Devastation

Razaketh, the Foulblooded

, Zur, the Enchanter
(Mummy’s Curse),

Djeru, With Eyes Open

, The Locust God, Karona, False God
(All the Deserts),Nicol Bolas, Neheb, the Eternal


Oketra the True

Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun

, Atogatog
(Cartouches & Trials),

Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons


Samut, Voice of Dissent


Rhonas the Indomitable

, Hazoret the Fervent

Kaladesh Block

Yahenni, Undying Partisan

, Nicol Bolas, Child of Alara (5
Color Energy),

Rishkar, Peema Renegade


Kari Zev, Skyship Raider


Sram, Senior Edificer

Commander 2016

Breya, Etherium Shaper


Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice


Tymna the Weaver // Ravos, Soultender

Other Commander Decks

Anafenza, the Foremost

(shutting down shenanigans),

Momir Vig, Simic Visionary

(no green creatures),

Kytheon, Hero of Akros

(Tribal Gideon),

Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Commander Strategy

Let’s Talk About Lands

Who Should I Attack?

Targeted Removal in Commander