Commander Deck Of The Week: Gimli, Mournful Avenger

Bennie Smith helps Gimli, Mournful Avenger with his task by putting him at the helm of a Commander deck that loves sacrificing Goblins.

Gimli, Mournful Avenger
Gimli, Mournful Avenger, illustrated by Bartlomiej Gawel

When I first read The Lord of the Rings back in middle school, circa 1980 or so, I quickly found a favorite character: Gimli the Dwarf. I just loved his rough demeanor, his toughness, his formidable fighting prowess, and his steadfast loyalty.  Not long after reading that trilogy for the first time, I began playing Dungeons & Dragons and rolled up a Dwarf fighter that was pretty much a carbon copy of Gimli and loved taking him on various adventures. I’ve played a few other Dwarf characters over the years and really enjoyed them all.

Flash forward to the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movies, which I pretty much loved… except for the depiction of Gimli. I felt like Jackson made him a bit of a bumbling fool, and rather than Gimli being the fighting equal of Legolas as in the books, Legolas is basically a demigod-level fighter compared to Gimli’s steadfast axe-swinging. I felt Jackson redeemed himself a bit in The Hobbit movies, with Thorin’s company of Dwarves being quite the capable and proficient band of warriors, but I definitely lament the screen treatment of Gimli.

And now we have The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth, with Gimli showing up in three different versions. I did a quick overview of them a month back, and at the time I was a little disappointed in each of them in terms of being a powerful Magic card.  In particular, I wasn’t sure I was even interested in building around Gimli, Mournful Avenger, but over time, as I thought about it more, I decided I did indeed want to build just such a deck.  Now that I have, I wanted to show it to you!

Mournful Avengers, Assemble

Gimli, Mournful Avenger

Flavor was the key to unlocking my desire to build this deck. Gimli, Mournful Avenger represents the time when Gimli leads the Fellowship into the Mines of Moria, only to discover that all of the Dwarves who lived there had been killed by Goblins and other fell beasts. It turns out there are a fair number of Goblin creatures that sacrifice for various effects, so as I was pulling together cards for the deck, I kept an eye out for Goblins in particular.  Seems only fitting that Gimli will get charged up from Goblins dying!

Let’s take a look at the deck.

Creatures That Sacrifice

Goblin Chirurgeon Skirk Prospector Bloodfire Dwarf Haywire Mite Tinder Wall Ingot Chewer Fanatical Firebrand Sakura-Tribe Elder Cankerbloom Reckless Barbarian Yavimaya Steelcrusher Feldon of the Third Path Thrashing Brontodon Magus of the Wheel Magus of the Order

Regenerate doesn’t appear much these days, but it still does decent work against many destroy effects, so Goblin Chirurgeon makes the list. Regeneration is a replacement effect which means: “The next time this permanent would be destroyed this turn, it isn’t. Instead, tap it, remove all damage from it, and remove it from combat.”  You can use Chirurgeon as a sacrifice engine for Goblin creatures even if you don’t need to regenerate but you want to charge up Gimli at instant speed. Bloodfire Dwarf is another classic card that has a relevant creature type and a useful self-sacrificing ability that can clean up a bunch of token creatures that may have gotten out of hand.

Feldon of the Third Path is an impressive “reanimator” card that makes a copy of a creature in your graveyard, but what’s really nice is that the creature sacrifices at the beginning of the next end step rather than exiling like a lot of these effects do, so you can squeeze a trigger out for Gimli.

Magus of the Order is one of those cards that you want to put into decks but always seems to get cut, but I think it’ll do great work in this deck, letting you get two triggers for Gimli while you pull out a huge green creature from your deck and put it on the battlefield.  I have a handful of likely targets in the deck.

Sacrifice for Profit

Evolutionary Leap Goblin Bombardment The Golden Throne Greater Good

I’ve included a few sacrifice engines that aren’t creatures, with Goblin Bombardment leading the charge—cheap in mana to cast, and no mana to activate. I like Evolutionary Leap since it can keep you finding creatures, and of course Greater Good is fantastic for drawing cards by sacrificing your larger creatures, or even Gimli if he’s grown big and someone hits him with an exile effect. The Golden Throne lets you sacrifice one creature for three mana, and its Arcane Life-support ability can be a literal life-saver on occasion.

Make Tokens

Beetleback Chief Siege-Gang Commander Avenger of Zendikar Mycoloth Wort, the Raidmother

Wort, the Raidmother was the last Goblin I added to the list, supplying three Goblin bodies and a sweet conspire ability that I’m excited to use and abuse. Mycoloth’s devour ability can be a sweet sacrifice engine to make a large creature and then spit out Saproling tokens on your upkeep.

Dwarves Matter

Mines of Moria Path of Ancestry Magda, Brazen Outlaw Maskwood Nexus

Magda, Brazen Outlaw is too good not to include since Gimli is pretty much made for attacking, and while I don’t have a ton of Dwarf cards in the deck, I do have a few, and Maskwood Nexus can make all my creatures into both Dwarf and Goblin creatures.

Other Dwarves

Gloin, Dwarf Emissary Gimli of the Glittering Caves Gimli, Counter of Kills

Other Dwarf cards include the other two versions of Gimli, and Gimli’s old man Glóin, who was one of Thorin Oakenshield’s company of Dwarves from The Hobbit novel.

Evasion for Gimli

Kessig Wolf Run Rancor Gimli's Fury Gimli's Axe Kodama of the West Tree Surrak and Goreclaw

While Gimli can grow large and fight down creatures along the way, he can quite easily be chump-blocked, so I’m including some ways to give him evasion. Trample is a big one, so cards like Rancor and Kodama of the West Tree can be quite helpful. I’m running Gimli’s Fury and Gimli’s Axe for flavor reasons, but both help punch through damage and are worth their slots.


Hull Breach Kenrith's Transformation Beast Within Goblin Sharpshooter Mogg Infestation Ezuri's Predation Blasphemous Act

I’m excited to have Mogg Infestation in my removal suite. Not only can it annihilate an opponent’s battlefield of big scary creatures and replace them with a bunch of 1/1 Goblins, which I can then mow down with Goblin Sharpshooter, but if Gimli has gained indestructible, I can even cast it on myself to kill my other creatures, replace them with twice as many Goblins, and get a bunch of extra +1/+1 counters for Gimli.

Card Draw

Skullclamp Tome of Legends Harmonize Guardian Project Doors of Durin Rishkar's Expertise The Great Henge

I expect good things from Rishkar’s Expertise considering how big Gimli can grow, and it’s definitely one of the spells I hope to conspire with Wort, the Raidmother. Doors of Durin is here for flavor as the back door the Fellowship used to enter into Moria, but its attack trigger is going to be fun, and since odds are good you’ll control a Dwarf, the creature you cheat onto the battlefield attacking will have trample.


Tyrite Sanctum Demolition Field Barrow-Blade Gerrard's Hourglass Pendant Vexing Shusher Cauldron of Souls Brash Taunter Insurrection

I sure wish Gerrard’s Hourglass Pendant was on Arena, where every Historic Brawl deck with blue packs every single Time Walk effect they can squeeze in there. I don’t see those cards too much around the Commander table, but the Pendant is mostly here for a big turn where I’ve sacrificed a bunch of creatures and then bring them all back again for five mana.

Vexing Shusher has gained some stock in the format as more and more cards with ward are printed. Ward counters a spell or ability that targets the warded permanent if the ward cost isn’t paid, but for one hybrid Gruul mana, you can punch through that ward with a spell.

I keep hearing folks talk about Insurrection as too expensive to play in Commander these days, so I’m here to bring respect back to this powerhouse card. It’s especially brutal in a deck like this one with ways to sacrifice the creatures you’ve gained control of after you attack with them.

Mana Ramp

Blighted Woodland Myriad Landscape Wild Growth Sol Ring Three Visits Nature's Lore Farseek Goblin Anarchomancer

My mana ramp is cheap to help ensure I can fix my colors early to cast Gimli on time. I’m excited to put Goblin Anarchomancer in the deck to shave mana from the mana cost of green or red spells, and it does a pretty good impression of a Moria Goblin.

The Deck

Okay, here is the full decklist:

Gimli, Mournful Avenger
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 07-14-2023

Here are the deck stats from our friends at Archidekt:

What must-have cards might I have missed including here?  Which of the three Gimlis would you build a deck around?

Talk to Me

Do me a solid and follow me on Twitter!  I run polls and start conversations about Commander all the time, so get in on the fun!  You can also find my LinkTree on my profile page there with links to all my content.

I’d also love it if you followed my Twitch channel TheCompleteCommander, where I do Commander, Brawl and sometimes other Magic-related streams when I can.  If you can’t join me live, the videos are available on demand for a few weeks on Twitch, but I also upload them to my YouTube channel.  You can also find the lists for my paper decks over on Archidekt if you want to dig into how I put together my own decks and brews. 

And lastly, I just want to say: let us love each other and stay healthy and happy. 

Visit my Decklist Database to see my decklists and the articles where they appeared!