Putting the Grim In Your Grin

Bennie has been holding out for this day: the day he made Grimgrin, Corpse-Born into a Commander! Check out this fun-filled deck for neat ideas on how to start your own Zombie-pocalypse.

Hello there and thanks for taking a little bit of time from your Christmas weekend to stop by! As I write this, I’ve not yet finished my shopping and wrapping, but hopefully that’ll all be done by the time you read this…

Before I get to the meat of today’s column, I wanted to weigh in on something. Wizards just published their MAGIC™ INFRACTION PROCEDURE GUIDE, effective January 1, 2012. Adrian Sullivan noted two troubling changes that I agree seem like a really bad move, found in 1.4 and 3.1. Check out the link to read the full text for those entries if you haven’t already.

[Editor’s note: The IPG has been retracted for further review and alterations. The final IPG will be released sometime in January. Announcement by Matt Tabak.]


What does this mean? This is codifying optional triggers since apparently R&D dislikes using the word “may” to distinguish them. I don’t get it; how is using the word “may” not the optimal choice? You take away an easy-to-see and easy-to-remember word on a card and instead add 9 bullet points to the rules that you need to instead remember as the definition of optional abilities. This seems like a needless complication. It also strikes me as constricting design space—what happens if R&D wants to design something as an optional trigger that falls outside of these 9 specific bullet points? Instead of just using the simple and common sense word “may” they’ve got to add another bullet point to the rules?

Maybe someone with design chops can break it down for me, but I just don’t get this at all.

While that first one is mostly a head-scratcher, the second change feels like a total disaster.

3.1. Game Play Error — Missed Trigger

What does this mean? Players are no longer encouraged by the rules to maintain an accurate game state. In fact, 3.1 now encourages competitive players to do whatever they can to trick or distract their opponents into missing mandatory triggers that the player does not want to happen. This promotes a “win at all costs” approach rather than making the best in-game decisions you can. How in the hell is this change good for Magic? Yes, it sucks that occasionally better players lose to a “bad” player who would otherwise forget his way into snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, but that’s a small price to pay for accurate, honest, good games of Magic. There are plenty of opportunities for your “mental game” to gain an edge without opening up a Pandora’s Box of dirty tricks and shenanigans.

Wizards of the Coast has been making great strides in expanding the appeal of Magic, and the “acquisition” side of the equation has been kicking ass. This rules change appears to really do damage to the “retention” side of the equation. How is a newer player going to feel, after making the decision to elevate his game, after spending the time to practice hard and the money to acquire good cards, in order to go to a competitive event and do well, only to get screwed into a game loss because his opponent did something obnoxious to trick him into missing something? Do you think that player is going to walk away thinking, “Wow, that was a great game; the better player won so I better step up my game?” When that opponent goes on to win the tournament, what does that say to the new player—if you want to play at the highest level, you need to master dirty tricks?

Conversely, let’s switch opponents, and the newer player ends up winning the game despite forgetting a mandatory trigger that his opponent—dedicated to maintaining an accurate game state—points out to him despite probably losing because of it. The player is going to walk away thinking, “Wow, that was a great game, and my opponent was super-cool.”

Whatever practical judging considerations went into this rule change, I think it really does a lot of damage to the integrity and wider appeal of Magic. I hope that there’s enough player outcry against this to encourage reconsideration.

What do you think? Hopefully someone with some insight will give us a clue as to why these decisions were made.


I got a great holiday email from a reader the other day that I wanted to show the world. It really brought a smile to my face…

Thanks for your EDH articles, I love ‘em. Wanted to share a poem with you in honor of the holiday season:

‘Tis time of year
when we get sentimental
Burning Wishes- rejoice
over Fruitcake Elemental
The season we remember
our fortunes ‘n’ good livin’
tap Forbidden Orchards
to spread love and Gifts Given
A time of giving
need not be so pleasant
Gilded drakes, Sleeper Agents
make great Evil Presents
Time spent with loved ones
remember these meetings
the family gathering mechanic
only on Season’s Beatings
Make surplus eggnog
people get so thirsty
stiff them their necrotic booze
they’ll show you Snow Mercy
December twenty sixth
sleep in and snooze
try to breakthrough shopping crowds
for sure man, Yule Ooze
The merriment continues
with New Year’s Eve programs
suspend countdown
with our friend, Goblin Snowman

Happy holidays, Bennie, thanks for the articles! –Arnold Duo

Thanks, Arnold—that was awesome!


Alright, I gave Sean McKeown his moment in the Commander sun with his Grimgrin, Corpse-Born deck, but I’ve waited long enough. I and Grimgrin have been palling around in my Standard Ooze deck so much that he’s understandably upset I haven’t yet promoted him to first of 100, Commander in chief! In fact, I could even add most of the Ooze combo cards to the Grimgrin deck! Hmmm…

Dark Ascension will be here before we know it, so I better get cracking on my takes on our new potential Commanders. Let’s dig in, shall we?

Legendary Creature – Zombie Warrior

Being a black and blue legendary creature gives us access to two very good legend-friendly Kamigawa lands: Minamo, School at Water’s Edge and Shizo, Death’s Storehouse. Minamo is kind enough to untap our Zombie friend—who often needs a hand to sit up—and Shizo helps the often very large Commander “get in there” for big beats. I’m not going to go into all the great cards that complement his Zombie type; Zombie is a creature type Wizards has blessed with many fantastic cards over the years, and Grimgrin makes a superb Commander for a Zombie tribal deck. Sean’s deck was very heavy on this approach, so I’ll steer clear from that to provide some other ideas… but let’s also not forget Grimgrin’s profession, his class—Warrior! There’s really not much in black and blue that cares about that aspect, but there’s an artifact we might want to consider—Obsidian Battle-Axe, which will immediately equip when we cast Grimgrin and give him haste (assuming we can untap him as well).

Grimgrin, Corpse-Born enters the battlefield tapped and doesn’t untap during your untap step.

Grimgrin is big. He’s powerful, but he’s slow, and he’s hungry. Feed him, and he’s up and ready to go; otherwise you’ve got to get creative. Luckily you’ve access to blue and all sorts of untap effects, from Crab Umbra to Vigean Graftmage to Puppeteer to Intruder Alarm. Black even gets in on the action with Norritt! The one that really jumps out at me though is Fatestitcher. It can untap Grimgrin or tap down troublesome permanents; its ability costs just a tap and no mana and would be pretty sweet to copy with Necrotic Ooze.

On the colorless side of things, this might be a good home for Amulet of Vigor; that way Grimgrin will always be able to attack at least once without other help. One of my favorites, Thousand-Year Elixir, is also a no-brainer. Thornbite Staff might look a little weird, but if you attack with Grimgrin and use his triggered ability to kill something, the Staff will untap him. There’s also Umbral Mantle, which actually has untap as an activation cost, or we can just give him vigilance with Batterskull so you only have to get him untapped that one time.

Sacrifice another creature: Untap Grimgrin and put a +1/+1 counter on it.

Here’s where the rubber meets the road—we want to make sure we always have at least one sacrificial chump to untap Grimgrin. I use Reassembling Skeleton for this purpose in Standard and will certainly include one in this list. Bloodghast and Nether Traitor are also decent recurring fodder. Cards that can give us a lot of token creatures can be a big help too, from old-school cards like Sengir Autocrat (feeding Demons for decades) to new-school craziness like Army of the Damned (say, that goes pretty nicely with Amulet of Vigor doesn’t it?). I really love Tombstone Stairwell, but Sean’s version uses that quite effectively, so I’ll steer clear of it here.

Cards that can provide a steady stream of tokens can be quite useful too, like Pawn of Ulamog, Breeding Pit, Bloodline Keeper (say, Ooze combo piece!), Mimic Vat, and Lich Lord of Unx, Throne of Empires, and Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder. Acorn Catapult is an interesting possibility, pinging off problematic X/1 creatures while also being able to provide Grimgrin with a Squirrel snack to untap him with (by pinging him).

One other interesting angle you could take in a Grimgrin deck: since he already comes into play tapped and requires a special way to untap, cards like Arena of the Ancients, Dream Tides, and Embargo become a solid possibility.

Whenever Grimgrin attacks, destroy target creature defending player controls, then put a +1/+1 counter on Grimgrin.

With a special ability that rewards him for doing so, Grimgrin was born to attack, and I’ve seen him get insanely large in a hurry in Standard. Since 21 is all you need for Commander damage to kill an opponent, the trick is connecting with him. The obvious avenue is to give him trample, with cards like Loxodon Warhammer, O-Naginata, Helm of Kaldra, Sword of Vengeance, Power Matrix, and Akroma’s Memorial.

Another option is to give him evasion. Incarnations like Filth and Wonder are perfect and handily get sacrificed to Grimgrin to untap him while getting into the graveyard. Zombie Trailblazer is a great card in a heavy-black version; even without a lot of Zombies he can give Grimgrin swampwalk or give an opponent a Swamp if Filth is already in the graveyard (Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth can help here as well).

Ooze Shenanigans

Grimgrin is our Commander, and Bloodline Keeper provides him with tokens, so we can easily add Necrotic Ooze to the mix for the possibility to go nuts. We can search for these pieces, not only with Demonic and Vampiric Tutors, but cards like Buried Alive, Corpse Connoisseur, Morality Shift(!), and Entomb since Ooze likes stuff in the graveyard. So, what can we do when the Ooze goes off and has infinite +1/+1 counters? Triskelion immediately springs to mind, but then there’s some oddball but strangely beautiful choices like Spincrusher, Flowstone Sculpture, and Mindless Automaton. Lastly, Life’s Finale provides an interesting possibility of assembling some funky combo with your opponent’s creatures since Ooze can copy abilities from any graveyard!

Here’s my take on a very Oozy Grimgrin deck:


My one lonely Diamond Valley is definitely making its way here, sacrificing for infinite life if something unfortunate happens to my Ooze before I can kill everyone. Tortured Existence seems like a natural inclusion when there are cards you want in your graveyard and cards you’d rather have in your hand to play to the battlefield. One of my favorites, Cauldron of Souls, is a perfect addition to get extra use out of creatures, and the -1/-1 persist counters can often get knocked off by the +1/+1 counters.

Pretty sure most everything else pretty obviously makes sense, but if you have any questions about anything, or if there’s anything I overlooked, please let me know in the forums.

By the way, if you know anyone in the Richmond area who needs a place to live within the next month or two, I VERY much need a roommate. So keep an ear out for me, and if you hear of anyone they can contact me via the email, Facebook, or Twitter info below, and I will send along the details.

That’s it for this week, have a Merry Christmas filled with family and love!

Take care,


starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com

Make sure to follow my Twitter feed (@blairwitchgreen). I check it often so feel free to send me feedback, ideas, and random thoughts. I’ve also created a Facebook page where I’ll be posting up deck ideas and will happily discuss Magic, life, or anything else you want to talk about!

I’ve started a blog, it’s not Magic-related but you may find it fun to read and comment on. I update at least once a week so check on it often and let me know what you think! I recently revamped my blog header with a perfect drawing from the awesome MJ Scott, check it out!

New to Commander?
If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:

My current Commander decks (and links to decklists):

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