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Kicking It With K’rrik!

Can Bennie Smith build a fun and not-broken deck around K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth? Watch him make his case with Commander 2019’s most infamous card!

Commander 2019 has been in the wild over a week now and has been making waves! Have you seen the price of Dockside Extortionist? The Spike side of the format has been doing some crazy things combining Dockside Extortionist with ways to blink it like Deadeye Navigator to create arbitrarily large quantities of Treasure tokens. I think the hype is just a bit overblown – for instance, it’s pretty much a blank to draw after someone has popped Nevinyrral’s Disk or cast Akroma’s Vengeance, and is going to be pretty mediocre if your opponents aren’t playing decks with tons of early artifact or enchantment mana acceleration. But a lot of the time you’re going to get at least decent value from a two-mana card in a relevant tribe and people have been snapping up copies of the singles so they don’t miss out on the fun.

Many of the new legends have been making a huge splash as well. Over at EDHREC, Atla Palani, Nest Tender sits at the top of the list with over 400 decklists submitted to the deck databases that the site scrapes. Anje Falkenrath isn’t far behind in second place, and at third is the monoblack Horror Minion that I’m going to dig into today—K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth!

A cursory glance at K’rrik suggests an overcosted legendary creature – a 2/2 for seven mana isn’t something you’d usually get excited about. But the capacity for mana cost reduction the card represents is where things get very interesting. For one thing, the Phyrexian black mana in the casting cost means if you’re willing to sacrifice six life, you could play K’rrik for just four generic mana. If you’ve got a Turn 1 Sol Ring, you could cast K’rrik on Turn 2. Of course, the first removal spell any of your opponents happens to have would likely be pointed right at K’rrik, so you’d do well to carefully choose when you’re going to cast K’rrik so you can get some value out of it first.

The intriguing thing about K’rrik’s text box is being able to cast black mana spells at a discount by paying life instead. We start a game of Commander at 40 life, so there’s a lot to work with, but we need to be mindful that losing life at two per mana discount can add up fast. K’rrik helps with that by having lifelink and growing larger whenever you cast a black spell, so we’ll want a bunch of cheap spells we can cast to grow K’rrik to a size where he can offset the life loss. Thankfully, black has a lot of ways we gain life too, so we’ll look for those cards to add to the mix.

Let’s get brewing!

Cheap Instants

My first order of business was to look for spells costing one black mana that can do useful things. That way, we can get value from K’rrik and begin adding +1/+1 counters on it right away. The first order of business were cards that could save K’rrik from removal like Boon of Erebos and Supernatural Stamina. At two mana we’ve got Rush of Vitality, Unlikely Aid, and Imp’s Mischief. I like that these spells boost K’rrik’s power too, which means we can use it as a way to get more from its lifelink ability or to take down an opposing creature in combat.

Then there are some cheap utility spells like Darkness, Tainted Strike, Cremate, and Withering Boon. These can be a huge surprise out of nowhere, even if you don’t have the mana up to normally cast them.

Sacrifice seems like an interesting spell to have in your back pocket, especially if K’rrik is going to be dying or exiled anyway. Two life for seven black mana at instant speed can allow you to do some very surprising things.

Since we’ve loaded up on a bunch of instants, it seems to me that Toshiro Umezawa would be a good card to add to the mix, especially given the potential cost reduction afforded by K’rrik.

Power Boost

K’rrik can certainly grow to an impressive size with enough black spells cast, but starting at a 2/2 means it can take a lot of time before his lifelink ability is going to pay real dividends. That’s why I like these cards to help make K’rrik scale into a much bigger size as the game goes on.

Lifegain

Demon’s Horn and Staff of the Death Magus do a nice job of paying you back one life for each black spell you cast. Bontu’s Monument does a similar thing with creature spells you cast. I’ve added some creatures with lifelink like Vampire Nighthawk to the mix, along with Whip of Erebos to give all your other creatures lifelink too. Aetherflux Reservoir can pay you back big time when you have a flurry of spells I can see getting cast in one turn. Then there are cards like Crypt Incursion, Spoils of Evil, Gray Merchant of Asphodel, and Exsanguinate that can really add up to huge infusions of life.

Two cards in particular really take it over the top. Pontiff of Blight gives all your creatures extort, so assuming you have at least two opponents, each spell you cast, you can pay two life to gain two life for each creature you have on the battlefield. For three opponents you’re actually coming out ahead.

Then there’s Eternity Vessel. If you’re able to cast it while your life total is reasonably high, you can pay a ton of life to cast a flurry of black spells, and then play a land to reset your life back to where it was. This could even do fun things with Aetherflux Reservoir if the charge counters are set higher than 50.

Life Loss Synergy

A couple of cards printed recently do some fun things with strategies where you’re paying life for fun and profit. Font of Agonies stores up the life loss as blood counters you can cash in to destroy creatures. You can even pay two life with K’rrik instead of paying the black mana in its activation cost! Vilis, Broker of Blood is an expensive Demon that you’d love to cast at a discount with K’rrik, and then further life loss turns into cards drawn. Be careful, though—the draw trigger isn’t a “may,” so if you lose enough life you could potentially deck yourself!

Interaction

Black gives us plenty of ways to interact with our opponents’ creatures and graveyards, so I’ve loaded up with them here. It’s particularly nice that K’rrik can discount a lot of them to costing no or little actual mana, so we’ll rarely have a moment where we are truly “shields down.” I like that K’rrik lets us pay two life instead of black mana when Nihil Spellbomb is put into the graveyard so you can draw a card.

Mana Acceleration

Even though three mana in K’rrik’s mana cost is Phyrexian mana, seven mana is still significant when you start adding Commander tax to it, so we’ll want to deploy a lot of ways to accelerate mana. Black has some of the best, including Cabal Coffers and Cabal Stronghold along with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. Jet Medallion does serious heavy lifting in paying one generic mana of black spells so you can potentially cast two mana spells for zero mana with K’rrik on the battlefield. I like Walking Atlas along with Terrain Generator to put additional lands onto the battlefield, potentially resetting Eternity Vessel multiple times in one turn.

Card Draw/Selection

While it’s nice that K’rrik can give us some big turns with a flurry of spells, the mana discount means it’s easy to quickly run out of gas, so I’m including some ways to refuel our hands. The mana discount really plays nicely with Memory Jar and Damnable Pact.

Good Stuff

Lastly, I’d like a couple of extra ways to protect K’rrik. I like Swiftfoot Boots over Lightning Greaves because I want to be able to attach other Equipment to him and Lightning Greaves can sometimes make that difficult. Cauldron of Souls giving K’rrik persist synergizes nicely with the +1/+1 counters it gives itself.

And Army of the Damned? I mean, what other spell are you wanting to cast for a huge mana discount than one that can make you 13 Zombies?

Sweet deck! Let’s see how close we are to 100 cards.

Converted Mana Cost

Number of Cards

0-1

16 (including lands that don’t produce mana)

2

14

3

12

4

10

5

8

6

5

7+ and X

5 plus commander

71 total cards plus 38 mana-producing lands equals nine cards too many, so we need to make some cuts! Let’s see what we can trim.

When thinking through how the deck is going to play out, I don’t foresee having too many times where I’ll be discarding to hand size to feel I really need these cards. And while the lifegain of Venser’s Journal is nice, I don’t think the gain is worth the mana investment compared to the other options for gaining life. Batterskull is nice but seems a little clunky.

Slaughter and Withering Boon are usually my go-to cards in black decks, particularly mono-black, but it occurs to me that sometimes my life totals are going to be rather precarious leveraging K’rrik’s abilities, so I think for this particular deck I’m going to set them aside. I do like Sword of Feast and Famine, but I feel that we’re already getting mana discounts with K’rrik, so the untap ability of the Sword is less needed.

Spoils of Evil can be quite good sometimes and quite mediocre sometimes, so I’m okay with cutting it here. Cremate is pretty low impact in comparison to the other one-mana spells so it gets the axe. I like Tainted Strike, but since K’rrik isn’t naturally very big, I’d hate to have it rotting in my hand, waiting for a big enough creature to make it worthwhile.

Okay, so here’s how the deck ended up:


What do you think? Are there any cards I’ve overlooked? If you see any new cards from Commander 2019 that should find a home here, let me know!

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I’ve been writing about the Commander format and Magic: The Gathering in general for nearly two decades. Visit the Star City Games article archives for tons of content dating back to January 2000!

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