One of the best things about Historic is the frequent injection of new cards into the card pool. Even though they can’t all be bangers, it’s enough to keep us on our toes. Sure enough, along comes Historic Anthology 5. This one certainly has some cool cards and iconic favorites. Surely I’m excited about Kolaghan’s Command and Dromoka’s Command, two cards I’ve had great success with, right?
Nah, I’m excited for Grisly Salvage.
I’ll be honest though; when I started concepting this article, I assumed I’d be working more with Unburial Rites. Instead, it ended up being more of an ode to Witherbloom Apprentice and Silversmote Ghoul. If that doesn’t immediately pique your interest, I’m not sure what will.
All decks with Witherbloom Apprentice look cool in my book, even if they don’t necessarily end up being format-dominators. In this case, maybe we have both. We have a plethora of cheap spells to continually trigger it, which means it will often feel like a four-power creature, some of which is evasive damage, plus it gains some life back.
Think of Witherbloom Apprentice like a Golgari Quirion Dryad or Monastery Swiftspear, both of which have a pedigree of success in cantrip heavy, low land count decks. There’s no reason why Witherbloom Apprentice can’t do the same in a format with Abundant Harvest, Faithless Looting, and Brainstorm.
Grisly Salvage fits in this deck because it fuels Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger and Claim. Together with Abundant Harvest, decks like these become incredibly consistent and rarely run out of things to do with their mana. I’ve seen Faithless Looting alongside Kroxa and wasn’t impressed. Even though you can benefit from sifting through extra discard spells or lands, there isn’t much to discard for value. Overall, Grisly Salvage is superior in this shell.
Keep in mind that you can’t play any green Pathways or Fabled Passages with a Forest because all your lands need to cast Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger. It makes the mana tricky but it’s very doable with what we have access to.
My sideboards continually will try to fight graveyard hate, Jeskai Control, aggro, and Izzet Phoenix, while remaining mindful of the other possibilities in Historic. Thankfully, Golgari allows you to handle most problems.
Here’s the first of many Silversmote Ghoul decks. This deck takes the above shell and cuts red mana and the Lurrus of the Dream-Den companion in order to facilitate Sedgemoor Witch. Although I’m not a huge Sedgemoor Witch fan, I’d be remiss not to discuss it in these shells. Sedgemoor Witch complements Witherbloom Apprentice and Grisly Salvage, provides bodies for Village Rites and Phyrexian Tower, and can help gain life in order to return Silversmote Ghoul to the battlefield.
It doesn’t seem difficult to bring back Silversmote Ghoul consistently when you have access to Witherbloom Apprentice, Sedgemoor Witch, Cling to Dust, and Scavenging Ooze. The Grisly Salvage, Silversmote Ghoul, and Cling to Dust package is so clean and I can’t wait to try it.
I could see a version of this deck with Unburial Rites and Craterhoof Behemoth. Cryptbreaker could also be nice, although it would probably take the spot of Sedgemoor Witch. A couple of copies of Priest of Forgotten Gods could be solid.
Driven // Despair is also kind of cool here but I’m saving that for a deck that can truly appreciate it.
It’s entirely possible that Witherbloom Apprentice and Death’s Shadow are not a combo.
The Death’s Shadow decks play out much differently in Historic from in Modern, so I could actually see this pairing work. If you have either threat going, you’re in solid shape. Both of them together can be great too, since you’ll be able to juggle your life total more efficiently. If you start with a Witherbloom Apprentice or two, it’s possible that you’ll pad your life total so much that Death’s Shadow won’t be castable, but you’re probably winning in that case too.
Concerns about that pairing aside, this deck is using Grisly Salvage to find cheap threats and bring them back with Call of the Death-Dweller or Lurrus. Overall, it’s not much different from playing Ranger of Eos in an Orzhov Death’s Shadow deck. If you wanted to try something like this without Death’s Shadow, that’s understandable, but it’s also the cheapest, biggest threat available.
The idea of a nonblue Arclight Phoenix deck always intrigues me, even if it doesn’t end up working out. Without blue’s card drawing, there’s always a risk of running out of gas. Arclight Phoenix will sit in your graveyard, unable to return. However, cards like Finale of Promise, Ox of Agonas, and Abundant Harvest help mitigate those issues. I can definitely see a world where Arclight Phoenix no longer needs the blue cards.
Can we get Silversmote Ghoul in here too? We have Witherbloom Apprentice and could play Cling to Dust if we wanted to. I could see it as a two-of, but that’s about it. Maybe there’s a different version without the two-drops and goes harder on self-milling with Stitcher’s Supplier. Those decks tend to fold to graveyard hate, whereas Witherbloom Apprentice can actually carry you.
Winning a Pro Tour with Zombies has certainly endeared me to the tribe, but my PT deck wasn’t nearly as awesome as this one.
Cryptbreaker and Zombie Infestation make quite the combo. Stitcher’s Supplier and Grisly Salvage provide the necessary milling to trigger Creeping Chill, which brings back Silversmote Ghouls. You should be able to go wide enough and mill yourself enough that Unburial Rites on Craterhoof Behemoth is always a threat. Even in the face of graveyard hate, you still have a chance to win through normal means.
In theory, you could already do something like this with Faithless Looting instead of Grisly Salvage. However, Grisly Salvage digs much deeper and also works with Creeping Chill, which makes enabling Silversmote Ghoul even easier.
Narfi, Betrayer King could be cool if you moved away from splashing Unburial Rites and played more Snow-Covered basics. Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven are another potential synergy to exploit, especially since sacrificing a Food token will return Silversmote Ghouls.
As much as I’d like to throw out a Molderhulk decklist, it’s not even close to being something that can exist in Historic. This will have to do.
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Fauna Shaman
- 2 Scavenging Ooze
- 2 Craterhoof Behemoth
- 3 Thragtusk
- 1 Ramunap Excavator
- 1 Stitcher's Supplier
- 1 Knight of Autumn
- 1 Silversmote Ghoul
- 1 Yasharn, Implacable Earth
Oddly, I’m ending the article with the first deck I concepted once I saw Grisly Salvage. The other stuff I thought of ended up being much cooler!
My initial plan was to have some midrange creatures to hold the fort against aggressive decks, which eventually become huge threats when Craterhoof Behemoth enters the battlefield. The closest analogue I could think of was Golgari Adventures, although many of those cards aren’t great in Historic, so I ended up here. Lingering Souls would make these decks much stronger. So would Satyr Wayfinder.
If there were a good creature that destroyed a nonland permanent, I’d be happier about this deck. Thragtusk used to be the universal solution but it’s severely outmoded these days. Being able to use Unburial Rites for value would dramatically increase the power level of the deck. Instead, we’re probably going to lose to a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria or Nissa, Who Shakes the World.
There are several other decks that Grisly Salvage slots well into, from Jund Food to Paradox Engine combo decks. Cards like Elvish Reclaimer, Terravore, and Knight of the Reliquary are solid threats without a home. If you wanted to dig for a certain land (like Lotus Field), Grisly Salvage helps there too. Once we get Rally the Ancestors or Return to the Ranks, a combo Aristocrats deck will be solid.
This is all to say that Grisly Salvage is exactly the type of enabler I want to exist in Historic.