Today I want to talk to you about my favorite tribe in Commander – Zombies. Try as I might, I have yet to get a Zombie deck to stick, probably because there are too many cards I want to jam into the 99. Of course, there are ways to curtail your options, like excluding black from the equation. Geralf, Visionary Stitcher gives us the options to build around a unique Zombie commander – one that takes to the skies and avoids the swamp.
Geralf cares about Zombies and tokens, and Havengul Runebinder and Undead Alchemist are two cards that I’ve enjoyed since their debut over a decade ago. He’s a perfect fit for this pair. First, he sends Undead Alchemist to the clouds, which makes it more difficult to block. This creates more tokens (with the upside of exiling creatures from your opponent’s graveyard) and increasing your winged army.
When your creatures die, you can use Runebinder to create more Zombies and then make your existing horde more threatening. There are ways to make this package more threatening. You can add Altar of the Brood to try and one-shot your opponent’s libraries with Undead Alchemist and Eternal Skylord for more flying goodness. You can even go deep for the original Stitcher Geralf to make sure your graveyard is stocked and you have an excessively large creature to hurl at your adversaries.
There are a few more ways to make Zombie tokens in blue. While the embalm creatures from Amonkhet work just fine, I prefer God-Pharaoh’s Gift. Seeing as how we’re not rebuying creatures from our graveyard with any regularity, exiling them for value seems like a reasonable option, and an excuse to run Desecrated Tomb. There’s no harm in running Gate to the Afterlife to churn through your deck here either. Body Double might not be a zombie but it does a fine job of raising the dead in a very blue way. Champion of Wits turns itself into a Zombie and helps to filter you to gas all at once.
Part of the joy of running a commander like Geralf is activating him multiple times in a turn cycle. There are a plethora of options that do just that. Rings of Brighthearth and Illusionist’s Bracers let you double down on Gerald’s machinations and get twice as many tokens for your trouble.
Thornbite Staff means that as long as you have actual creatures, you can make as many tokens as you desire. Intruder Alarm is a card that seemingly combos with everything and Geralf is no exception to that rule. Corridor Monitor might be a one shot but it does have the upside of turning into a 4/4 thanks to Geralf. Magewright’s Stone and Thousand-Year Elixir round out the package of making Geralf pull overtime.
But what is going into Gerald’s lab? Reef Worm is every blue sacrifice decks dream but Chasm Skulker isn’t far behind. Geralf’s Mindcrusher has the good fortune of coming back thanks to undying and combines nicely with both self mill and Undead Alchemist shenanigans. Draining Whelk has a certain charm of those early 2010s Commander games where haymakers were far more expensive.
Screaming Swarm represents a recurring source of parts from which we can craft Zombies, as do Cavalier of Gales and God-Eternal Kefnet. These three have some additional utility which is sure to please the mad scientist at the helm. Keiga, the Tide Star is one of the best creatures to bin as it lets you nab the best remaining creature on the board while also leaving a Zombie Dragon behind.
Geralf, Visionary Stitcher also works in a steal-and-sacrifice strategy. Normally the domain of failed red-black draft archetypes, the goal here is to take the best threat on the board every turn and turn it into a Zombie. Backup sacrifice outlets can include Altar of Dementia, Barrin, Master Wizard, Blasting Station and Spawning Pit.
But how are you nabbing the creatures? Roil Elemental can provide you a steady stream of fodder while Chamber of Manipulation and Overtaker can turn cards in hand into Ray of Command. Vedalken Shackles has no real downside in this deck as you can simply feed whatever you steal to Geralf. Reins of Power and Helm of Possession can do the job as well, not to mention recent addition to Magic canon, Mind Flayer.
Speaking of recent additions, the last year of Commander decks have some real treats for Geralf. Curiosity Crafter turns our token horde into an army of Ophidians while Perplexing Test can make sure that your shambling swarm is the last thing standing. And while we’re on the subject of sweepers, Spectral Deluge can put in some serious work to clear the path while Inundate, while not new, can also leave your blue Zombies all alone.
Of course, there are more tricks to be had with your winged undead. Reconnaissance Mission, Bident of Thassa and Coastal Piracy all turn them into card drawing machines. Imagecrafter, Amoeboid Changeling and Unnatural Selection can play tricks on your opponent, turning your Zombies into other creatures after blockers are declared (perhaps Pirates for the sake of Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator) or turn other saboteurs like Thada Adel, Acquisitor into zombies for the duration of combat.
You also get to run some interesting takes on mana acceleration and search. Sure, you can run Solemn Simulacrum, but why not add Skittering Surveyor to the mix? And Sailor of Means was good enough for two draft formats – surely it’s Horned Turtle body is good enough to be transmogrified into some sort of horror, provided it leaves the Treasure behind.
Despite seeming rather focused, there’s a lot of play to be had with Geralf, Visionary Stitcher. While I explored how to send undead flesh to the sky for fun and profit, there are plenty of other paths to take. But in the end, they all lead to the same place -flying in formation behind the rotting flesh of the undead.