Sometimes, you want to play a deck that just sits back, grinds out incremental advantage turn after turn, and then just buries the rest of the table with it once they’re done trying to take each other out. What better way to do that than with a deck that endlessly marches back from the grave, one creature at a time. Karador, Ghost Chieftain leads the charge for this spectral procession in a value-oriented deck with a light Spirit-Tribal subtheme.
The Ghost with the Most:
Karador lends himself to a creature-heavy playstyle, especially with creatures that prefer to spend chunks of time hanging out in the graveyard or sending themselves there for value. However, while his ability to let you cast creatures from the yard is powerful, it is limited to a single time per each of your turns. As such, the deck is designed to make each cast of a creature from the graveyard have maximum and lasting impact. This particular list also leverages a few small Spirit synergies.
Commander Karador Deck List - Lee Livingston
The Apparitions from Beyond:
The curve is filled with ghostly goodies from top to bottom. Selfless Spirit and Remorseful Cleric are cheap creatures that can toss themselves into the bin to save your board or ruin other graveyard strategies’ day, while Kataki, War’s Wage and Kami of Ancient Law help keep other noncreature permanents from ruining yours. At the other end of the curve, Oyobi, Who Split the Heavens spits out sizeable tokens each time you cast a Spirit or Arcane spell, while Kokusho, the Evening Star and Yosei, the Morning Star are sizeable bodies that benefit from repeated trips to the graveyard and back again. Iname, Death Aspect plays a role as a powerful pseudo-tutor, allowing you to dig any number of spirits out of your deck and throw them into the bin. This can quickly discount your commander down to just the three colored pips in his cost, and also gives you plenty of options to bring back with his ability.
The Unfortunate Souls:
The spirits aren’t the only creatures to walk through the rotating door between life and death. Good old Sakura-Tribe Elder is particularly impressive when in the building phases of the game, ramping you each turn while you play out spells from your hand. Shriekmaw can be cast for its Evoke cost from the graveyard as well, appearing just long enough to Terror a problematic target before diving back into the bin, ready to surface again.
The Shamans and Spirit Walkers:
A few creatures aren’t here to die, though. While getting a single creature back a turn is still a great way to win the attrition game, bringing a few more back can bring you over the top. Meren of Clan Nel Toth s tailor-made for this style of deck, racking up experience counters quickly, and then reanimating creatures turn after turn once she gets rolling. Nethroi, Apex of Death can be cast from the yard for its mutate cost, much in the way Shriekmaw can, and with so many Spirits in the deck, it should be easy to find a target to add the Nightmare Cat Beast onto, bringing up to 10 CMC of creatures back along with it. Gravewaker is a solid flying creature that can give you a fantastic mana-sink to bring back even more creatures, especially in conjunction with a Seedborn Muse or charged Black Market. Sheoldred pulls double duty, taxing opponent’s boards while building yours back up. The repeated edict effect of Sheoldred is a lightning rod for opposing removal spells, but Karador can mitigate that nicely, creating a one-two punch of recursive value. The Butcher of Malakir has a similar impact on the board, stapling a Grave Pact to a beefy body that can be brought back.
Since you can only bring one creature back a turn, it’s still important to keep your hand stocked, but it does mean that tossing creatures away to pay costs isn’t nearly the downside it normally could be. Fauna Shaman in conjunction with Karador turns one creature into a tutor for an additional green mana. Similarly, Birthing Pod can chain you up through the CMC of your creatures, all while recasting the sacrificed creature to maintain your board presence. Primordial Sage gives raw card draw as you rebuy your ghosty buddies turn after turn. Eternal Witness, while it doesn’t have an inherent way to take a dirt nap, rebuys the spells that keep your creatures safe.
The Bumps in the Night:
Backing up the endless ghost army and the mediums that like to are all manner of spells, pulled right from the space between life and death. Farseek, Cultivate, Kodama’s Reach, and Migration Path all fuel this fairly mana-hungry deck. Grisly Salvage and Mulch help fill the yard while ensuring you hit your land drops as well. Horobi’s Whisper, Mythos of Nethroi, and Beast Within all provide spot removal, ranging from narrow to wildly versatile. If multiple creatures are causing you problems, and let’s face it, you usually are in Commander, then Barter in Blood, Duneblast, and Decree of Pain can solve your problems. Rounding it out, Eerie Ultimatum helps Karador make his best Wild Hunt impersonation, bringing back as many differently named permanents from beyond the veil as possible.
The Spooky Background Music:
Alongside the spells and the aforementioned Birthing Pod, you have a wide variety of potent permanents. Evolutionary Leap and Attrition join the Pod as ways to turn creatures into value for minimal cost, while Ashnod’s Altar can grind them up for mana, often used to help recast the creature that was just sacrificed upon it. Abzan Ascendancy and Death’s Oasis give some extra value each time a creature dies, either leaving behind a body or filling your graveyard and picking up a cheaper creature, helping to bypass Karador’s once per turn rule. Journey to Eternity and Nim Deathmantle bring creatures back as well, with the Deathmantle in particular just hanging out to bring back important creatures as possible. Deadbridge Chant fills the yard, and then helps build repeated advantage by bringing back random creatures or tossing a random card back into your hand, especially potent with the powerful single target spells this deck utilizes. Zendikar Resurgent and Grave Betrayal are expensive effects that are worth the cost, fueling your spells, filling your hand, and keeping your board stocked with fallen foes.
The Strange Happenings:
When you sit down with this deck, your goal is to deflect attention away from yourself, building small advantages while keeping your board at a non-threatening level. Cards like Kami of False Hope and Attrition do a fantastic job of sitting in play and directing eyes elsewhere. The deck shines in the late game when it has put a few of its recursive engines in place so that when everyone else is bloodied, you can weather their attention while you overwhelm them with haymakers. A particularly devastating loop is to find Yosei and repeatedly sacrifice it and bring it back with Nim Deathmantle, especially when facilitated by Ashnod’s Altar. For two mana per loop, you are able to tap down five permanents an opponent controls and rob them of their untap step, enabling a pretty effective soft-lock while you crash in with your team or dig to a Kokusho, switching the loop from a soft-lock to a 5 life drain on each opponent.
This deck is on the more casual range of options that I’ve written about so far, lending itself to kitchen tables where everyone is looking to assemble their battlecruiser and swing at each other with devastating haymakers in the late game. If you’re looking to pick up any pieces, ChannelFireball has you covered, and right now, it’s never been easier to convert your unwanted draft rares into the Commander staples you need. Just box up your extra cards, ship them in, and receive an offer. You can even get a 30% bonus if you sell them for store credit, so picking up some of the pricier pieces like Pod and Sheoldred, or Karador himself, is easy. As always, let me know in the comments what you think of the list, and I’ll see you next time with a reader-submitted brew after my own heart.