Planeswalker commanders can be fairly controversial. For my part, I find that the “this can be your commander” text turns me off aesthetically, so I was surprised to be so excited about the newest planeswalker that happens to be a legal commander: Grist, the Hunger Tide, who fits pretty well into a Grist Mill Commander deck!
So why can Grist be your commander? Well, Grist is a 1/1 Insect creature anywhere but the battlefield, and that ability means that (nearly) anywhere, anytime, Grist is a creature, thanks to a Grist-specific rule that you’ll be able to actually read once the rules update comes out (Magic’s Rules Manager, Jess Dunks, has been pretty clear on this one!).
With that in mind, how do we build around Grist? My mind goes back to last summer, when I built four Mystery Decks for CommandFest 2. One of them was an Insect Tribal deck featuring Izoni, Thousand-Eyed as the commander – you can read all about it right here. While that was a fun one, I’m not going to be bound by a budget restriction for this build, so we should see a little bit of an uptick in card quality. Paradoxically, during deckbuilding, that also resulted in me not playing quite as many Insects, but the focus isn’t actually on the natural Grist hit rate with that +1.
As always, if you like the deck and would like to try it out yourself, you can use the Streamdecker link at the bottom to order the whole thing at once or pick up any pieces you need here at ChannelFireball.com.
Work smarter, not harder, I say. These cards let us take creatures from the graveyard and just toss them on top of our library, making it easy to go off with Grist and stack a huge pile of loyalty counters onto our commander. Aside from the sorcery speed Forever Young, these are all also great cards to hold up if you feel graveyard hate coming on. Grist does some work priming our graveyard for this, but that +1 isn’t going to be enough on its own, so we’ll have to fill our graveyard the old fashioned way.
These cards are here to do important work! Putting some lands or the occasional creature in our hand is a nice afterthought, but really, what we want to do is put cards in our yard. That fuels Grist’s ultimate ability and primes us for a timely Footbottom Feast effect to set up a huge +1. Skull Prophet even doubles up as ramp!
Of course, that’s the fair way to fill the graveyard. Magic players of the past speak of a forbidden mechanic – dark magics that fill your graveyard from your graveyard with no mana required. An ability whose name I dare not speak… but I guess typing is okay.
That’s right, it’s dredge! I’m playing Dredge in Modern right now – at least until Modern Horizons 2 is legal in paper, anyway – so this is a natural inclusion for me. Since we’re already dropping cards into the graveyard, it’s not so hard to get these going, and they’re all playable at various rates of efficacy. Grave-Shell Scarab is the least powerful as a dredger but gets a pass for its insectoid nature. Golgari Thug puts a creature – probably an Insect – on top of our library, while Golgari Grave-Troll benefits from our overall plan, and Stinkweed Imp is a pretty obnoxious blocker. Dakmor Salvage is fine in a pinch and doesn’t hurt our mana base too much, so it sneaks in, but it’s cuttable if you feel the need for more untapped lands.
Okay, we’ve talked a lot about filling up the graveyard with Insects before activating Grist, then reusing those Insects as fodder for the ultimate ability. Where are these Insects we’ll be filling the graveyard with over and over?
Insects may not be known for their combat prowess most of the time, but if you want to attack, these are the bugs you’re looking for. Crash of Rhino Beetles is a great reference to a moderately unplayable card from back in the day, Crash of Rhinos, and a solid beater besides once you hit the late game. Giant Adephage copies itself when you hit, and since the tokens have that ability too, there’s a threat of exponential growth. Vorapede is a solid midgame play that comes back for a second try at a size that can trade off with Titans, and of course, the Scutes are powerful growth engines. Mortician Beetle can also get huge at a surprising clip, as we’ll be sacrificing creatures ourselves.
These are here for their utility, though some are more prepared for combat than others. Gleancrawler is particularly hilarious in this deck, as we have some sacrifice synergies to go with it. You won’t always want to use Deadbridge Goliath’s Scavenge ability, but when it’s valuable, it can really be game-changing. Hex Parasite is fairly narrow, but there’s usually something with counters to steal.
Our sacrifice engines. Grave-Shell Scarab can also sacrifice itself, but that’s very costly to repeat, so these are the main engine cards.
Our token generators – aside from Grist, of course. There are more token generators in this deck, actually, but they’re not Insects, so you’ll just have to wait a little bit to hear about them.
And then, of course, we have the changeling squad. Realmwalker is one of the most important cards in this deck – playing Insects off the top of our library is great, but knowing if we have a hit off Grist can be even better. The rest are solid inclusions, with Bloodline Pretender growing enormous off of our Grist combo and Chameleon Colossus just getting huge with some mana investment.
Our other creatures are here to support our Insect/graveyard/sacrifice theme.
This is our sacrifice package. I’m not going too hard on the Aristocrats theme, but Syr Konrad, the Grim is the best of the best in this deck as we mill ourselves with Grist. Mazirek’s job is to be sort of a reverse Cathars’ Crusade, allowing us to sacrifice things in order to grow what will be an enormous board of tokens if everything goes well. Oh, and I’m not doing any Grave Pact stuff in this list, as I’m not a huge fan these days, but if that’s something you like, that type of effect is certainly strong here.
Blex’s front side is a solid way to cram an anthem effect into this list, but if you need to fill your graveyard in a pinch and/or draw some cards, flip this over and Search for Blex! I don’t know what’s so tough about finding Blex – it’s right on the other side of the card, after all – but if spending time looking gets us value, so be it.
After being demoted from the commander spot in this deck, Izoni is doing just fine with this “fill the yard” theme that Grist supports so well. She’s also a solid sacrifice engine as long as you have the mana to make payments to her.
Hogaak may be my least favorite creature after Mythic Championship IV, but it’s a fantastic inclusion here. Between Insect tokens for convoke and some spare spells for delve, it shouldn’t be hard to cast Hogaak in the place in which it was always (maybe?) intended – the world of Commander.
So now that we’ve been through the creatures, let’s highlight some other special cards before we move on to the full deck list. With such a powerful graveyard theme, why would we not dip a little bit into reanimation?
Reanimating just one thing doesn’t seem super impactful in this deck, so we’re going big. Agadeem’s Awakening takes advantage of our solid curve – in the late game, it should be easy to find creatures at mana value one to five to reanimate, which is a great deal for eight mana. Haunting Voyage should ideally be foretold, as that way it’s a one-sided Patriarch’s Bidding. Be careful with Bidding against more cohesive tribal decks – I’ve never wished for “cycling 2” more than I have with this particular card. Cycling 3 would even be fine – it’s basically the opposite of Akroma’s Vengeance, right? Right? Okay, well I’m taking the time machine by myself to change this card.
A few more ways to turn Insect tokens into cards won’t go amiss, and both of these are top-notch.
Welcome to the Reclamation Station! On your left, we have Moldervine, which synergizes well with our sacrifice outlets and just general blocking. On the right, Phyrexian Reclamation brings back key Insects – and non-Insects – and can even grab Grist out of the graveyard, since Grist is a creature there!
We don’t have so many non-Insects that I want to play Conspiracy, but Maskwood Nexus is cheaper and higher upside because of the token generation. It synergizes with Grist, of course, but don’t forget Blex, Bidding/Voyage, and (spoiler alert!) Swarmyard.
Finally, here are some of my favorite lands in the deck list:
Get more mana out of our stocked graveyard? Why, I’d love to!
A land you’ll love to mill.
Any time you have a planeswalker commander, this is worth considering!
Okay, that’s the whole deal! If you’re excited to grind out some value with a fun, thematic Grist deck that can do explosive things, this is the deck for you. Of course, as with any recipe, don’t forget to modify for any preferences or allergies you might have and then season to taste. See you next time!
Grist Mill EDH by Eric Levine