Three Gimlis And How To Build Around Each For Commander

Bennie Smith is all about Gimli from The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth for Commander. But which one? All of them, of course!

Gimli, Counter of Kills
Gimli, Counter of Kills, illustrated by Viko Menezes

The cards of The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth along with Tales of Middle-earth Commander have been fully revealed, and there is a Dragon’s horde of treasures for Commander fans to be excited about!  And if you happen to be at the least a passing fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s books, there is so much lore and flavor that it’s a bit overwhelming to know where to begin deckbuilding! 

Even if you have a favorite character you’d like to choose as a commander, there are two or three choices for each of the main characters.  For me, the favorite was Gimli, son of Glóin, the Dwarf representative of the Fellowship of the Ring. Gimli’s gruff and tough mannerisms with a heart of gold hooked me from the very beginning, and led me to play various Dwarf characters in several different Dungeons & Dragons campaigns over the years.

I’ve got three choices to build around my favorite character, and rather than just pick one to do a deep dive into for today’s article, I thought that I’d give my thoughts on all three.  That way, if you’re also a Gimli fan and want to build around one of these three, you’ll be able to get some ideas to help you assemble your deck.

Three Gimlis

Let’s take a look at the three versions of Gimli:

Gimli, Mournful Avenger Gimli, Counter of Kills Gimli of the Glittering Caves

They each have a very different flavor to them. Gimli, Mournful Avenger cares about your own creatures dying, which is novel design space for a Gruul legend. Gimli, Counter of Kills cares about your opponents’ creatures dying, which is not so unusual for a red legend.  As an uncommon, his power level is a bit weaker than the other two, but he can still make an interesting choice to lead a deck. 

Finally, from the Commander decks comes Gimli of the Glittering Caves. A 1/1 for three mana feels a little bit under the curve even with double strike, but the rest of Gimli’s text box more than makes up for it.  Gimli can quickly grow if you play enough legendary creatures in your deck, and each +1/+1 counter means two extra points of damage due to double strike. And if Gimli does deal damage to a player, you get to make a Treasure token—and usually double that due to double strike.

Gimli's Axe Gimli's Fury

We also have a few other cards that should go into a Gimli deck for the flavor they bring.  Certainly we’d include Gimli’s Axe; the +3 power and menace will be welcome for all three versions of our Dwarf hero. Gimli’s Fury is a solid combat trick that’s a little less awesome with Gimli, Counter of Kills since that Gimli already has trample, but well worth it on flavor alone.

Okay, let’s jump in, but don’t toss us by our beard!

Gimli, Mournful Avenger

Gimli, Mournful Avenger

This version of Gimli represents our Dwarf hero grieving for his kin when he realizes that all the Dwarves in Moria have been killed by the foul creatures beneath the ground. In the artwork, I believe Gimli is kneeling beside his cousin Balin’s tomb.

The mechanics of the card have Gimli grow stronger each time another creature you control dies, representing his grief strengthening his resolve to fight. Each time, you get to put a +1/+1 counter on Gimli; the second time this happens in a turn, Gimli becomes indestructible, and the third time this happens in a turn, Gimli fights up to one target creature you don’t control. So at a minimum, in a turn where three of your creatures die, Gimli would become a 6/5 indestructible Dwarf that fights another creature. We’d want to have at least two creatures ready to die in any given turn to help Gimli dodge destroying or damage-based removal.

Self-Sacrificing Creatures

Sakura-Tribe Elder Tinder Wall Reckless Barbarian Generator Servant Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker Feldon of the Third Path Jaxis, the Troublemaker Orthion, Hero of Lavabrink Magus of the Wheel Magus of the Order Cankerbloom Yavimaya Elder Haywire Mite Emrakul's Hatcher Hajar, Loyal Bodyguard Emrakul's Evangel Awakening Zone From Beyond Brood Monitor

There are a ton of cool creatures we could use in such a deck that are ready to die for a good cause. Sakura-Tribe Elder is a staple Commander card, but instant of sacrificing it early, I’d want to keep it around to help protect Gimli.  Making temporary copies, such as with the abilities of Feldon of the Third Path or Orthion, Hero of Lavabrink, can help grow Gimli, since those creatures die by the end of the turn.

If you’ve been looking for a deck to run Magus of the Order – like I have – this seems like a fantastic place for it, since you’ll get two creatures dying to get the effect, which is what you want to give Gimli indestructible.

Emrakul’s Hatcher and other cards that make Eldrazi Spawn or Eldrazi Spawn are perfect, since the creatures can be sacrificed at any time to add one colorless mana to your mana pool.

Sacrifice for Profit

Goblin Bombardment Greater Good Zopandrel, Hunger Dominus Thermopod Ashnod's Altar Eldritch Evolution Birthing Pod Eldrazi Monument Evolutionary Leap

You might also consider running cards that let you sacrifice creatures for a bonus.  Goblin Bombardment jumped to mind, but I also like Zopandrel, Hunger Dominus, since activating it means giving Gimli indestructible until end of turn, and Zopandrel gets an indestructible counter too.

Dies Trigger

Skullclamp Death's Presence Fecundity Yedora, Grave Gardener Ulvenwald Mysteries

Gimli shouldn’t have all the fun triggering from creatures dying, so let’s sprinkle in a few of these cards. Fecundity is a little risky since it works for everyone, but if you build your deck right, you should get more value than most.

Gimli, Counter of Kills

Gimli, Counter of Kills

Gimli, Counter of Kills represents the Gimli after he passes through the Moria and becomes friends with the Elf Legolas. Legolas and Gimli are both skilled fighters and strike up a humorous rivalry across several battles as to who has the most kills when fighting against Orcs. This version of Gimli keeps track of when creatures an opponent controls die, and pings each creature’s controller for a point of damage. The more creatures die, the more damage Gimli counts out against your opponents’ life totals!

Shadowspear Basilisk Collar Loxodon Warhammer Witch's Clinic Batterskull Resurrection Orb

Since Gimli is dealing out chip damage, I’d likely want a few ways to give Gimli lifelink to buffer my life total. Loxodon Warhammer is particularly good for this, since it gives a huge power boost which combines nicely with Gimli’s trample ability.

Extra Damage

Torbran, Thane of Red Fell Fiery Emancipation Solphim, Mayhem Dominus Angrath's Marauders City on Fire Mechanized Warfare Chandra's Incinerator

Gimli’s ping ability is only one point of damage each time a creature dies, but luckily for us, red has a lot of ways to push that higher.  Fellow Dwarf Torbran, Thane of Red Fell is a slam-dunk inclusion, ramping that ping from one to three each time. Then there are double damage cards like Solphim, Mayhem Dominus and even triple damage cards like City on Fire.

Give Opponents Creatures

Varchild, Betrayer of Kjeldor Varchild's War-Riders Goblin Spymaster Akroan Horse Hunted Dragon Life of the Party Relic Robber

Many opponents will play right into your hands with the ever-popular token creature strategies, but you can’t always bank on that, so I’d play with some cards that give your opponents creatures. You can get some old-school cred by playing Varchild’s War-Riders, a little-seen card from Alliances.  I also like the newer card Life of the Party, which will hand out goaded copies to each opponent when it enters the battlefield.

Kill Creatures

Blasphemous Act Starstorm Chain Reaction Mogg Infestation Pyrohemia Goblin Sharpshooter

Of course, you want your opponents’ creatures to die, so you’ll want to play a fair number of red removal spells like Blasphemous Act and Chain ReactionMogg Infestation is a fun card that can be particularly effective in this deck, either destroying a bunch of tokens that might end up killing that player with Gimli triggers, or knocking off a handful of huge monsters and replacing them with much more killable Goblin tokens. And then there’s Goblin Sharpshooter, which can mow down a bunch of one-power creatures all in one turn.

Gimli of the Glittering Caves

Gimli of the Glittering Caves

Gimli of the Glittering Caves represents Gimli after the conclusion of The Lord of the Rings’s story and the defeat of Sauron. During the Battle of Helm’s Deep, Gimli first saw the Glittering Caves located in the mountains behind the fortress, and was so struck by their beauty that, after the war, he brought Dwarves from Erebor (the Lonely Mountain from The Hobbit) and founded a colony in the caves.

This version of Gimli wants you to play legendary creatures to grow stronger, and to deal combat damage to players in order to generate Treasure.

Legendary Creatures

Magda, Brazen Outlaw Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh Norin the Wary Zurgo Bellstriker Delina, Wild Mage Karlach, Fury of Avernus Moraug, Fury of Akoum Neheb, the Eternal Squee, the Immortal Squee, Goblin Nabob Grenzo, Havoc Raiser Tuktuk the Explorer

Magda, Brazen Outlaw is the first legend I’d add to the deck since she cares about both Dwarf cards and Treasure. I’d also play Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh, namely because I could cast it the same turn that I cast Gimli, allowing me to immediately add a +1/+1 counter and have a creature buffer against sacrifice effects.

Probably the funniest card to have in this deck is Norin the Wary; whenever a player casts a spell or a creature attacks, Norin will exile himself and return to the battlefield during the next end step, which will grow Gimli a +1/+1 counter.

Karlach, Fury of Avernus and Moraug, Fury of Akoum are also very useful legends since they can help generate extra attack steps, potentially gaining more value from Gimli’s combat damage triggers.

Increase Power

Blackblade Reforged Sword of the Animist Commander's Plate Hammer of Nazahn

Even though Gimli will grow with the +1/+1 counters, I’d want some more ways to buff his power, with one of my all-time favorite Commander cards Blackblade Reforged leading the way. Hammer of Nazahn is another awesome choice.

Deathtouch and Trample

Basilisk Collar Quietus Spike Gorgon's Head Gorgon Flail Shadowspear Loxodon Warhammer Sword of Vengeance The Reaver Cleaver

Deathtouch and trample combine quite nicely with double strike, so I’d choose a few of these Equipment for the deck as well.  Quietus Spike is a double-threat, since Gimli’s double strike plus deathtouch will kill almost any blocker set in his way, but if there are no blockers, the double strike means Quietus Spike’s ability will trigger twice.

Extra Attacks

Relentless Assault Seize the Day Aggravated Assault Scourge of the Throne Akki Battle Squad Hexplate Wallbreaker

Extra attacks can mean more Gimli damage triggers and even more Treasure, so I’d want some of these in the deck too.

Combat Damage Triggers

Sword of Light and Shadow Sword of Fire and Ice Professional Face-Breaker Mask of Memory Bloodforged Battle-Axe

Since we’re invested in trying to get Gimli to deal combat damage to a player, why not get even more of those triggers?  Double strike plus Sword of Fire and Ice means drawing two cards and two times two damage. Professional Face-Breaker will make even more Treasure tokens for you, and you can sacrifice Treasure to dig for cards to play from the top of your library.

Which version of Gimli is your favorite?  Are there any cards I overlooked that you’re excited to put in your Gimli deck?  Which of the characters from The Lord of the Rings is your favorite?

Talk to Me

Do me a solid and follow me on Twitter!  I run polls and get conversations started 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. 

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