(Glissa, the Traitor | Art by Chris Rahn)
The Best Gal Pal
After four articles going over the new cards and commanders from Ikoria, Lair of Behemoths and Commander 2020, I thought it would be refreshing to take a momentary pause and take a crack at a slightly older legend. Today we’ll be going through my favorite Golgari commander, Glissa, the Traitor!
Glissa is an interesting Golgari legend. While she still cares about the graveyard like many of her black and green brethren, she, unlike the rest of them, cares about artifacts instead of creatures or lands. It’s no surprise that when you look at her most popular themes on EDHREC, the Artifact Theme is at the top!
It’s due to this niche strategy, at least for Golgari, that I decided to write about her today-
What theme is that…?
Well, throw what I had planned out the window. This seems much more fun, so let’s see what the average Glissa deathtouch deck looks like!
Average Glissa Deathtouch
Overall, the deck looks pretty solid. It needs another land or so, a couple more sources of card advantage, and maybe a few more efficient deathtouchers, but this list looks like it could get shipped out as is and have a fun time at a table!
If you know anything about me by now, though, this isn’t good enough for me. We can do something cool and funky with this build, it’s just a matter of deciding what that is. The deck needs more card advantage, and I want to find a way to utilize our deathtouchers in the most efficient way possible… which strategy provides card advantage and really appreciates blockers that can direct attacks elsewhere…?
Walking the Plane and Bringing the Pain
The Planeswalker Theme fits this description perfectly! Planeswalkers provide inherent card advantage while also giving our deathtouchy dorks a job aside from “block this creature to save me some life”. We can work towards an end game with these ‘walkers and use our rattlesnakes to deter attacks. While planeswalkers don’t often get to use their ultimate, that isn’t such a far off dream for us. If no one can attack profitably, then we have the chance to go wild! Yes, yes, Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice would probably be a better commander for a deck like this, but Atraxa doesn’t need any more decklists, let’s be real.
There is one issue, though. Normally when I dive into the theme pages on the site, there is a specific page for the color combination I am looking for, much like I had talked about with last week’s Lutri Article with the Izzet Spellslinger page. The closest we can get to a Golgari Planeswalker deck is the Jund Planeswalker Theme, which is littered with an impressive number of red cards, making it almost unusable for us.
This is where we need to get a bit creative. While the Planeswalker Theme may not give us all the cards we need, I’m sure it can still be useful. Let’s see what some of the most common planeswalker commanders are…
Once you get past the Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice, Sisay, Weatherlight Captain, and Golos, Tireless Pilgrim decks, there are some pretty interesting commanders that pop up, and one of them caught my eye with a mere 34 decks to her name…
While 34 isn’t a lot of decks, I’ll take what I can get right now. I’m working with two niche themes, and one of them doesn’t have direct support in this color combination, so I can’t be particularly picky. As such, for the remainder of this article, we’re going to be using Storrev’s Planeswalker page to select the cards we want for our deck as opposed to a theme page.
I know it’s a bit of a bummer not being able to directly use the theme pages for this article, but as robust as they are, sometimes they don’t have the tools we need. It is important to acknowledge and work around this limitation in situations like these; that way, we can still get the desired outcome.
I want to point out that there is more space in the deck for more planeswalker synergies if you take out some of the Glissa tech. Nemesis Mask, Triangle of War, or Urza’s Bauble are some of the cards that fall under this category, but I wanted to make sure to keep some of them in. If I didn’t, there would be no point of running Glissa as the commander, and we would just shift fully to Storrev, Devkarin Lich. I wouldn’t mind this, in theory, but we would end up running a very different, more value-centric deck, consisting of cards like Ravenous Chupacabra, Bloom Hulk, and Reclamation Sage. This would be a pretty fun build, all things considered, but we started this as a deathtouch deck, and that’s what I want to end with, darn it!
There are eleven cards that I took from Storrev’s page. Most of them are ‘walkers, but there are also a couple spells that I couldn’t pass up even if I wanted to.
We wanted card advantage? Well, here it is!
We’re going to be getting into combat and blocking creatures quite often, so Liliana, Dreadhorde General is perfect for us. The majority of our creatures have small bodies and will die in combat, so drawing a card whenever one of them dies will happen easily and often. Liliana can also cast her own Barter in Blood, which will also net us cards while thinning the number of creatures around the table. Then, if she ever gets to ultimate… well, it’s almost assuredly game over for your opponents. Leaving them with only a single permanent of each type? That’s devastating. Even our 2/2s should be able to clean up at that point.
Ugin, the Ineffable and Karn, Scion of Urza are the only two colorless ‘walkers in the deck, but they definitely show us the power of colorless ‘walkers. Both of them can draw us cards after some set up, and each also produces more creatures to block for us! Ugin’s tokens can be thrown away whenever we see fit so we can draw our card, while Karn’s Constructs only gets bigger and bigger thanks to our minor artifact sub-theme. Speaking of artifact synergies, Ugin’s cost reduction ability is fantastic for reusing Mind Stone or Triangle of War with Glissa, giving us more ways to eke out card advantage!
I had mentioned that almost all of the cards from this page were ‘walkers aside from two of them, so let’s get through them before getting any deeper into the deck!
The Eldest Reborn is a powerful uncommon from Dominaria that forces our opponents to immediately sacrifice a creature or planeswalker and then discard a card on the following turn. The real reason for its inclusion is for its last trigger, though. With it, we can Reanimate any creature or planeswalker from any player’s graveyard! Most often, we will use it to bring back our own ‘walkers to get a second life out of them, but on the off chance that our opponents have a better target, we can snag that instead!
The second and last nonwalker spell in the deck is Pernicious Deed. This enchantment is a great card that double as both a deterrent and removal. With open mana, we can manipulate politics and force opponents to comply with our demands; otherwise we can simply blow the board to bits. The best part, though, is that even when we decide to pull the trigger, Deed only hits creatures, artifacts and enchantments. Our planeswalkers dodge the blast and can continue to uptick in relative safety!
I really contemplated adding in The Elderspell as well, but I honestly couldn’t find room for it. The Elderspell is flexible for us. It can get rid of any planeswalker, even our own, so that we can bestow a hefty number of loyalty counters onto one of own ‘walkers. While not always applicable, it can definitely be a powerful move that takes the table by surprise. Had I not been trying to bake in some Glissa synergy, this would have made the cut.
Walking the Walk
We’re not done, though! We still have six more cards to go through, and all of them are planeswalkers! Three are green, and three are multicolored, so let’s get to each!
Out of all the ‘walkers in the deck, I have to say that Viven, Champion of the Wilds is definitely my favorite. Yeva, Nature’s Herald is one of my favorite commanders, so a planeswalker with her ability that can flash in a creature with deathtouch is awesome. That’s just her passive, though. Her +1 allows one of our creatures to play offense and defense, while her minus has the potential to draw us into more creatures! All around, she is a great card for our deck: everything she does is something we want.
The last two mono-green ‘walkers, Vivien Reid and Garruk Wildspeaker are general “good stuff” ‘walkers, unlike the very synergy-driven Vivien above. This iteration of Viven provides us card selection, removal, and an ultimate that will win us the game if we can protect her well enough. Garruk Wildspeaker, on the other hand, gives us a bit of mana acceleration, a way to get more bodies onto the board, and, yup, you guessed it, an ultimate that can help us with the game! Overrun effects like the ones Vivien and Garruk have are quite good, but they perform even better in this deck. When you combine deathtouch and trample, you only need to assign a single damage to blocking creatures, and the rest goes straight to your opponent! This makes each of our creatures even that much scarier, even if they are simply small dorky ones!
Vraska Relic Seeker is a great six-mana planeswalker. She provides an evasive token, can destroy a pesky nonland, nonplaneswalker permanent while making you a Treasure token, and finally, she can drop an opponent’s life down to a measly one life so we can pick them off whenever we see fit. Even disregarding her ultimate, if we use her plus ability as soon as she comes down, she already has eight loyalty, which is an incredible amount! Combine that with all of our great blockers, including the tokens she produces, and there is a chance that our opponents will never be able to profitably get rid of her thanks to how much loyalty she can accumulate.
The Golgari Garruks are some of my favorite cards, so there was no way I was not going to include Garruk, Cursed Huntsman and Garruk, Apex Predator. Garruk, Cursed Huntsman provides us with two blockers who, when they die, can add loyalty to any Garruk we have on board. His second ability is great value, allowing us to snipe any annoying creature and net us a card for doing so. Similarly, Garruk Apex Predator also comes down and immediately impacts the board. With either of his plus abilities, he can kill off opposing ‘walkers or give us a 3/3 deathtoucher to add to our side of the field. Much like Cursed Huntsman, his minus lets us pick off any creature, but the reward this time is a chunk of life, which we will gladly take. Both of their ultimates function similarly to Garruk Wildspeaker‘s and Vivien Reid‘s, giving us a strong, tangible end game to work towards.
Garruk Relentless was a consideration for this deck, but I didn’t feel like he pulled enough weight. Yes, he has the potential to produce deathtouch tokens, and is on-theme, but I don’t feel like he impacts the board as much as any of the other ‘walkers I included. The ultimate on his flipped side, “Creatures you control gain trample and get +X/+X until end of turn, where X is the number of creature cards in your graveyard“, seems like the kind of effect we want, but I don’t like having to rely on the number of creatures in our ‘yard when we aren’t a dedicated graveyard deck and are only running 23 creatures. It has an incredibly high ceiling, but an equally low floor, and that worries me, especially with the uptick in graveyard hate recently. These reasons might be small nitpicks, but in a deck with a few more creature and graveyard synergies, he would definitely fit right in.
You’ve Got a Friend in Me
One question that may come up is why I didn’t include Doubling Season and The Chain Veil. I normally am not too particular with my budget when brewing decks for my articles, but I felt like these two cards are different. Both of these are not only pricey, but also are incredibly swingy and can often lead to unwanted bad feelings all around.
Most often, these cards play out in two ways:
- Either you play them, and they are immediately destroyed, or
- Your opponents can’t answer them and you run away with the game unopposed
Much like in last week’s article where I discussed how I disliked how feast or famine Companions were, in terms of deckbuilding, I feel similarly in regards to the variable nature of these two cards and their gameplay patterns. As such, they didn’t make the cut.
Leave it to me to brew a Golgari deck that doesn’t involve graveyard shenanigans, right? Regardless of how off-beat a deathtouch + planeswalker deck may be, I really like the interaction that these two strategies have with one another. While Golgari has some of the best commanders around, I do think that Golgari does suffer a bit from a lack of depth. Sure, sure, this color combination can dive deep into the graveyard, but it doesn’t seem to have much of a color identity outside of that. This is an issue that a lot of color combinations suffer with, and isn’t just exclusive to black and green.
Once white is done being fleshed out as the main planeswalker color, I think some of that love can be given to Golgari. Despite what people may think, black/green folk are pretty nice! In the lore, we’ve seen that Vraska, Storrev, and even Reyhan, Last of the Abzan are all good people at heart and care deeply for and show fierce loyalty toward the people that they take care of. Sure, this color combination also has The Gitrog Monster, who eats people, and Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis, who is literally an avatar made out of a mountain of dead bodies… But they can’t all be winners, can they? Every color has a Grand Arbiter Augustin IV or two…
Would you have stuck with Glissa for this deck, or would you have moved fully into Storrev? Maybe you would have splashed blue to gain access to Damia, Sage of Stone and Baleful Strix, or are you more of an Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice kind of person? Do you think Golgari, and, to an extent, Abzan should be the colors of planeswalker synergies? Make sure to let me know down below!
As always, if you’d like to reach me, I’m active on Twitter (@thejesguy), where you can always hit me up for Magic- or Jeskai-related shenanigans 24/7. If you have any comments, questions, concerns, or anything else of the sort, please don’t hesitate to leave them below or get in touch! Stay safe, and keep fighting the good fight. I support you. No justice, no peace.
Glissa No Touchy my Friends