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The Hero, The Saint, The Chieftain & The Interview

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(Spoilers: There’s no heroes or saints here. It’s just based off a great song.)

Welcome, dear readers, to the first of my interview articles. I promised in my first article that as this column goes on, you will begin to meet more and more of the diverse cast of characters that makes up my weekly Commander group. In this piece, I’m interviewing Drew, a player I’ve known for quite a while and is often one of my go-to people when I need to bounce an idea off someone. Today, we’re going to take a look at his signature creation: Karador, Ghost Chieftain, a powerful and near omnipresent threat in many of our Commander games.

Bryan S. Scholl: So, Drew, please introduce yourself and share your history with Magic.

Drew Knapp: Hello readers, I’m Drew Knapp, Language Arts Instructor by day, massive nerd by night, and literary obsessive individual at all times. I live to think and love to game, thankfully Magic lets me combine the two together. Where gaming is concerned, I bleed Vorthos but build decks like Timmy. (Note: Drew is referencing the Magic player psychographics created by Mark Rosewater. Information about these can be found here and here)

I really first started during Odyssey Block, cementing a long standing love for black and all things graveyard based, but played semi-competitively (winning the occasional Friday Night Magics, nothing spectacular) from Shadowmoor through Scars of Mirrodin. Then I discovered Commander, loved the combination of battlecruiser Magic and “build around” commanders, and never looked back.

BSS: If you could describe what Karador’s gameplan is in a few sentences, what they be?

DK: Karador’s gameplan is relatively simple: Play the early game with efficient creatures and ramp, accelerate into battlecruiser magic as quickly as luck will allow, then start hurling haymakers around the table (all while slowly fueling my graveyard plan). Karador is auxiliary to this plan, being almost the only reanimation effect in the deck, but he allows the game to go long if the haymakers don’t get the job done the first go around.

The deck can actually win in one of five ways: ridiculous X spells such as Genesis Wave or Debt to the Deathless, mass reanimation such as Living Death or Rise of the Dark Realms, recurring powerful life drain with cards like Siege Rhino, Gray Merchant of Asphodel(Affectionately, Gary), and Kokusho, the Evening Star (AKA: Koko Puffs).

It can also use overwhelming board states with Avenger of Zendikar and Craterhoof Behemoth or flat out attrition opponents with cards like Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim and Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter.

BSS: So, would you classify Karador as a non-linear Graveyard deck?

DK: That sounds like the perfect definition, yes. Assemble whatever win condition appears best for a given scenario, and be ready to change plans on the fly.

BSS: Walk me through an average game with Karador. What seems to help things go your

way, and what can seriously hose the deck?

DK: The game ideally starts at turn two with a mana dork (Sakura-Tribe Elder being the best) and snowballs from there, playing creatures with some combination of powerful Enters-The-Battlefield and Leaves-The-Battlefield effects, even better if they sacrifice themselves to fill up the graveyard and make the late-game Karador a painless cast. This is amplified by a smattering of powerful hand and graveyard tutors so I can find whatever fits the current plan best.

Early game I want my Elder, mid-game I ideally want to be chaining Birthing Pod targets or dropping powerful creatures and enchantments ahead of curve, and late game I’m aiming to straight out-value whatever the rest of the table has going on. The deck is somewhat light on card draw so luck (and the aforementioned handful of tutors) tend to be what swings things in my favor, though the deck does a pretty good political job of appearing non-threatening until the haymakers start to drop.

Hosers are actually not a huge issue for the deck (a large part of why I like it). I don’t like seeing Torpor Orb or Rest in Peace, but unless someone is suddenly going hard against my mana base the deck has enough “good stuff” to just play on curve regardless of one or two of its strategies getting hosed.

Oh, that said, my curve is monstrously top heavy; if my curve doesn’t happen the deck can just flop there doing nothing.

BSS: In my previous article, I broke down the majority of casual commander decks into a small handful of archetypes. These include graveyard decks, big mana decks, mana cheat decks, voltron decks, and good stuff decks. How do you think Karador would fare against each of these styles of play?

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DK: Alright, one at a time-

Graveyard: Depends on the strategy, my Karador is slower than traditional reanimation strategies but can potentially grind them down and has Rise of the Dark Realms to potentially turn their strength into a weakness. I’ll call it close to even. However, if their deck is about using everyone’s graveyard, I’m in some serious trouble. Looking at you, Geth. (Note: One of the members of our group plays his Geth deck exclusively.)

Big mana decks are often faster than Karador is (unless an early Zendikar Resurgent sticks), and while the deck packs a handful of hate for the most problematic artifacts and lands in this strategy, it still is probably the worst matchup.

Mana cheat decks are also not a great matchup, Kaalia of the Vast and Narset, Enlightened Master both in particular could easily wreck Karador’s day, though I haven’t played against one in awhile. I’d still guess that this would be a hard grind, though if they don’t kill me with the initial explosion I’ve got the long game in my favor.

Voltron decks rely pretty heavily on certain pieces, I’m comfortable with my ability to deal with individual problem artifacts and enchantments, especially with a table of other interested parties, but I would still put this in a 50/50 range.

I’m confident that the deck can out-goodstuff a goodstuff deck, its top curve does a very good job of going way over the head of the comparatively “efficient” foodstuff.

BSS: Awesome. Thank you so much for your time.

DK: No problem, I look forward to doing it again and getting to know the readers.

Drew’s Karador, Ghost Chieftain

Creatures (43)
Spells (20)
Land (36)
Commander (1)

So, there you have it. An interview, a spicy brew, and the week is through. Join me next week as we look into another sweet Commander list, one that is very near and dear to my heart. My very first Commander deck, and it still proves to be my favorite up until today: Mayael the Anima.

Be sure to leave a comment if you enjoyed this week’s piece. Or if you didn’t. Or if you have any questions for Drew or myself.

All the best,

Bryan

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Bryan Scholl
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Bryan Scholl

A Canadian turned Floridian, Bryan is a on-and-off tournament grinder who has now turned to Commander as an outlet for his Magic addiction.
Bryan Scholl
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About the author

Bryan Scholl

A Canadian turned Floridian, Bryan is a on-and-off tournament grinder who has now turned to Commander as an outlet for his Magic addiction.

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