Commander Deep Dive: Old Character, New Flavor, Glissa Sunslayer

Bennie Smith is a longtime Glissa fan, so a new Glissa is right up his alley. See how he would build around Phyrexia: All Will Be One preview Glissa Sunslayer.

Glissa Sunslayer
Glissa Sunslayer, illustrated by Krharts

A Brief History of Glissa

If you’ve been reading my columns for a while, you may know of my love of Glissa, the Traitor.  Back when it was in Standard, nearly all my decks featured Glissa and artifact graveyard recursion. Here’s an article I wrote back in early 2011 where I went over a Golgari Fauna Shaman deck that featured artifact creatures; a playset of Glissa, the Traitor; and even a copy of Necrotic Ooze, another card that I was gaga over back in the day. There’s also a decklist with Glissa and Ratchet Bomb as a bit of a combo.

Glissa, the Traitor

Over the years I built Commander decks with Glissa, the Traitor, including an awesome deck tech video with The Professor from Tolarian Community College.

Of course, Glissa, the Traitor was the second version of Glissa in Magic; the first version was Glissa Sunseeker, which I like to include in many of my monocolor or two-color green decks.

Glissa Sunseeker Liquimetal Coating Liquimetal Torque

Especially with the addition of Liquimetal Torque, Glissa Sunseeker can snipe artifacts or even other permanents over and over again while you’re floating mana to cast spells or activate abilities. Occasionally, the first strike ability might also come into play if you’re running a way to pump her power.

The Sunslayer

Now in Phyrexia: All Will Be One, we have a third spin on Glissa!  Let’s check out Glissa Sunslayer:

Glissa Sunslayer

I really love how this design is a clear callback to Glissa, the Traitor in some ways and how different it is in other ways.  Glissa, the Traitor has received errata to add Phyrexian to the Zombie Elf creature type, and Glissa Sunslayer has that as well. A 3/3 for three mana with first strike and deathtouch carries over as well.

But instead of artifact graveyard recursion, the new Glissa wants to rumble into the red zone and preferably deal combat damage to an opponent so you can get the triggered ability. Having first strike and deathtouch makes it very tough for an opponent to profitably block the new Glissa, but the downside of taking that combat damage is the triggered ability as well as commander damage.

You get three choices from that triggered ability. The default, and likely most popular choice, is the card draw. Magic players love few things more than drawing cards, and Glissa Sunslayer offers card draw right there in the command zone.

The second choice is the ability to destroy target enchantment, and that means any enchantment, not necessarily one controlled by the defending player, which has potential for politics.  If an opponent really wants a problematic enchantment destroyed, you can strike a bargain: if they won’t block Glissa you can point that ability at the enchantment that needs destroying.  And there are a lot of enchantments in Commander that need destroying. Let’s take a look:

Enchantments to Destroy

Rhystic Study Smothering Tithe Mystic Remora Mirari's Wake Garruk's Uprising Ghostly Prison Propaganda Aura Shards Black Market Connections Anointed Procession Guardian Project Cathars' Crusade Blind Obedience Doubling Season Grave Pact Kindred Discovery

For me personally, I’m going to have so much satisfaction in sniping down Rhystic Study, Smothering Tithe, and Grave Pact!

The last choice on the triggered ability is quite narrow, but I love having this option. It reminds me of a conversation I had with Gavin Verhey with Wizards of the Coast (WotC) a few years back, where I was lamenting the firehose of cards getting made that boosted +1/+1 counter strategies and the distinct lack of countermeasures such as Vampire Hexmage. Not long after that came Blightbeetle, which was certainly welcome but quite small in effect.  Might Glissa Sunslayer be another tool for those trying to contain the counter madness?

Removal of Counters

Vampire Hexmage Blightbeetle Narset, Parter of Veils Ashiok, Dream Render Saheeli, Sublime Artificer As Foretold

Besides +1/+1 counters, you can also remove loyalty counters from planeswalkers, which aren’t typically running rampant in Commander games but occasionally can be problematic. There might also be oddball cards that you’ll want to remove counters from in games where you’ll be glad for the option; for instance, someone’s planning on shenanigans with As Foretold.

Okay, let’s dig into cards that you’ll want to consider for the 99 of a Glissa Sunslayer Commander deck!


Shadowspear Rancor Rhonas's Monument Akroma's Memorial Haunted Cloak Gemrazer Titanoth Rex Vorrac Battlehorns

Deathtouch and trample play mighty well together; one point of damage is considered lethal damage, so the rest of the power tramples over to either the next blocker or your opponent’s life total, and when you’re trying to deal combat damage to opponents for Glissa’s triggered ability, trample is something you very much want to have.

Shadowspear is darn near perfect here, since one thing that can stop Glissa’s attacks is an indestructible creature, and for one mana you can turn off that ability until the end of the turn. The +1/+1 and lifelink it gives is delicious gravy on top. Rancor is another solid choice here. I’m also considering Gemrazer, which can grow nonhuman Glissa from a 3/3 to a 4/4 with first strike, deathtouch, trample, and even reach if we’re in the market for it.  Oh, and it will destroy an artifact or enchantment an opponent controls in the process. 

Titanoth Rex (or better yet, the Godzilla, Primeval Champion skin) makes for a nice combat trick if your opponent throws a chump blocker in front of Glissa to deny you the combat damage trigger.  Oops, here’s a trample counter for Glissa! And since we’re playing Golgari, we might even have a way to reanimate Titanoth Rex from the graveyard!

More Evasion

Rogue's Passage Manifold Key Access Tunnel Suspicious Bookcase Thieves' Tools Hot Soup Trailblazer's Torch

Another way to make sure we get our Glissa triggers is to make it impossible to block, using cards like Rogue’s Passage and Manifold KeyThieves’ Tools is another choice if Glissa’s power hasn’t been increased.  Trailblazer’s Torch doesn’t provide evasion per se, but it does make it nearly impossible for an opponent to block and kill Glissa, even if their creatures also have first strike.

Extra Triggers

Strionic Resonator Lithoform Engine

Sadly for Golgari, there really aren’t ways to get extra attack steps, so if we want to squeeze more triggers from Glissa in the same turn, we’ll want to look at cards like Strionic Resonator to copy the trigger. Lithoform Engine is great because it’s got powerful other modes that can be quite good too.

Card Draw Matters

Psychosis Crawler Alhammarret's Archive Exploration Cultivator Colossus Sakura-Tribe Scout Venser's Journal Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse Hand of Vecna Empyrial Plate

Assuming we’re drawing extra cards from Glissa quite often, how can we take advantage of that? Psychosis Crawler drains life, while Venser’s Journal gains life. Hand of Vecna and Empyrial Plate convert cards in hand into added power and toughness for the equipped creature, while Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse can make all your creatures the size in power and toughness equal to your hand size. Oh, and along the way, she’ll make a 2/2 Cat token when you draw your second card!

Another way to take advantage of the extra card draw is to let you make extra land drops with something like Exploration and Sakura-Tribe Scout. On the extreme side of that is Cultivator Colossus; if you have a couple of land cards in hand, you could really convert those lands into new cards and many land drops after the ability resolves.

Remove Counters for Profit

Binding the Old Gods The Eldest Reborn Phyrexian Scriptures The First Iroan Games The Mending of Dominaria Jugan Defends the Temple The Cruelty of Gix Glistening Oil Devoted Druid Cauldron of Souls Dark Depths Tombstone Stairwell Elephant Grass Tornado Infernal Darkness

Sometimes you’ll want to remove counters from your own permanents, and Sagas seem like the perfect choice for this, effectively resetting them to zero lore counters each time Glissa triggers. Binding the Old Gods, The Eldest Reborn, and Phyrexian Scriptures can really turn the screws on your opponents by resetting the page count each turn.  The First Iroan Games can be fun, toggling between Chapters II and III over and over each turn.

Glissa can also remove -1/-1 counters from something like Cauldron of Souls bringing something back from persist, or from getting extra mana from Devoted Druid. You can even make use of Glistening Oil and use Glissa’s trigger to remove that -1/-1 counter you get on your upkeep.

Cumulative upkeep cards make use of age counters, and Glissa can keep you from having to pay more than just the one age counter so that we can keep around Tombstone Stairwell, Elephant Grass and Infernal Darkness.

What’s even cooler is Tornado, which uses age counters for cumulative upkeep and velocity counters, so Glissa can trim both of those away each turn, letting us easily use Tornado’s activated ability once on our turn and once during one or more opponents’ turns, blowing up any permanent that’s bothersome. I’m pretty sure if you’re not playing Tornado in your Glissa Sunslayer deck, you’re not doing it right.

Enchantments with Drawbacks

Demonic Pact Treacherous Blessing Demonic Lore Necropotence Black Market Connections

Another consideration is playing powerful enchantments that have a drawback, like Demonic Pact and Treacherous Blessing. Once you get the benefit, you can use Glissa’s trigger to get rid of them. Then there are enchantments like Necropotence or Black Market Connections that can wear out their welcome if you’ve gotten low enough on life and you need to get rid of them yourself.

Zombie Matters

Gravecrawler Undead Augur Lord of the Accursed Undead Warchief Plague Belcher Zombie Master Graveborn Muse

Glissa is a Zombie and Zombies are quite well-supported throughout the history of Magic, so we could fill out our creatures with Zombies and Zombie tribal support cards. I really like Zombie Master since it provides Glissa with a much appreciated form of evasion; you can even play Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth to ensure everyone has Swamps

Elf Matters

Harald Unites the Elves Imperious Perfect Wirewood Lodge Ezuri, Renegade Leader Elvish Warmaster Skemfar Avenger Elvish Dreadlord Elves of Deep Shadow Gnarlroot Trapper Taunting Elf Nectar Faerie

Golgari is a much better Elf tribal color combination, so we might want to add Elf cards and Elf support to the deck.  In particular, I like Harald Unites the Elves; since it’s a Saga, we can remove lore counters from it with Glissa to keep resetting the chapters.

Phyrexian Matters?

What about Phyrexian tribal?  As of this writing, I don’t see any cards that specifically reward you for playing Phyrexians, but who knows what the rest of Phyrexia: All Will Be One previews shall bring?  Heck, there might even be something along those lines in March of the Machine.  New Glissa fans, keep an eye out for that!

What other cards would you want in a Glissa Sunslayer deck?  Would you be tempted to add a tribal element to it?

Talk to Me

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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!