A while back I wrote about my wildy popular Commander deck – Godo, Bandit Warlord. This week I’ll be discussing my other commander deck, a Jund deck that is focused on dominating the mid-to-late game with recursion, bombs, and sweepers with a general that just so happens to be Kresh, the Bloodbraided. The deck isn’t focused around it’s general at all, in fact, I’d go as far to say that the deck wins a majority of it’s games without ever even casting it’s Commander. That’s not saying Kresh is a bad card, it’s more that the deck is powerful enough once it gets going, casting the Commander isn’t the best thing to do with it’s mana.
Kresh’s overall game plan is to ramp into bombs, recur said bombs, and destroy everything. Being a Jund deck, the colors are perfect for ramp, tutors, and mana intensive cards that make a big splash. Kresh’s tutor package consists of:
These are the best tutors within Kresh’s colors that the deck can support. I’ve put a lot of thought into it and the only reasonable tutor that isn’t in the deck is Imperial Seal, mainly due to not owning one. However, it’s not a huge deal. With this many tutors in the deck it can often be tough to make an initial decision on the correct target. My targets are usually the same depending on a non-threatening game state. The first couple of tutor targets are Phyrexian Arena and/or Survival of the Fittest. A loose opening hand with a couple mana and a cheap tutor effect will more than likely have me tutoring a Phyrexian Arena if there’s two black mana available. Arena will often draw the deck into a position where it’s hitting a land drop and a threat every turn – which is where the deck would like to be. If it’s an opening hand with more mana and a tutor without a real business spell I’ll search for Survival of the Fittest. I’ll usually search for Anger and Squee, Goblin Nabob but not Genesis. The reason being once the graveyard starts to fill up, it’s a quick target to be removed. It’s often wiser to wait until the late game to put Genesis in the graveyard to get full value from him. It serves no benefit to have Genesis sitting in the graveyard without the mana to abuse it. These two enchantments are my early game targets based on the situation.
If I asked anyone that’s ever played against my Kresh deck, they’d say it’s a Primeval Titan deck more than it is a Kresh deck. Primeval Titan is the most tutored-for card in the deck. The deck is incredibly mana hungry and Primeval provides the food. Primeval Titan also provides a recursion engine in Volrath’s Stronghold or a quicker path to victory, like the Standard deck, with a Kessig Wolf Run. Other targets include the two Worldwake man-lands (Raging Ravine/Lavaclaw Reaches) for mana fixing and power, then the two black producing lands – Shizo, Death’s Storehouse and Bojuka Bog. One trick against graveyard focused decks is to Primeval Titan searching for Bojuka Bog and Golgari Rot Farm, have the Bog bounce to the Rot Farm with the enter the battlefield trigger on the stack.
Next up are the “Heavy Hitters” in the Kresh deck! They would be Tooth and Nail, Praetor’s Counsel, then Genesis Wave. With Tooth and Nail, I tutor up a couple of different packages. The main packages being:
Kiki-Jiki/Terastodon–This is a very unfun package for the opponent but extremely effective. I often use this pair of creatures as a repetitive “Armageddon” type package. I say Armageddon instead of Violent Ultimatum because Kresh plays enough destruction effects that problematic cards often don’t stay on the table.
Terastodon/Bloodfire Colossus– Very similar to the package above except it’s for a one-time use before Bloodfire clears the table aside from a 9/9 beater.
Sheoldred/Anything else – Sheoldred is just this good. Not usually a first choice but very powerful.
I usually try to only cast a late game Genesis Wave only. It’s most effective after a few uses of Primeval Titan. I try to not have X equal less than eight. This avoids not putting Terastodon or Woodfall Primus into play. The card advantage created from Wave are enough for most people to concede. I have a tough time remembering losing a game after I cast Genesis Wave where X equaled ten or more. Praetor’s Counsel, like Genesis Wave, is best used late game after there’s been a graveyard established for the best effect. It’s always great to cast Counsel after a Genesis Wave for picking up the spells that Wave put in the graveyard.
I should probably reveal the deck list before continue:
Kresh, the Bloodbraided [See picture above]
1 Dryad Arbor
The acceleration in the deck begins at two mana with Sakura-Tribe Elder and not at one with Birds of Paradise. Kresh isn’t worried about being fast, this is a deck that wants to control the game and have inevitability later on. Easily killed mana sources are a liability in this game plan. Others include Wood Elves, Cultivate, Kodama’s Reach, Explosive Vegetation, Skyshroud Claim, Solemn Simulacrum, and Primeval Titan. Wood Elves and Skyshround Claim can get Dual lands, Shock lands, and Dryad Arbor! Eternal Witness is pretty clear-cut and self-explanatory, it fits the theme of the deck with recursion and can be recurred to bring back spells instead of just creatures. Fleshbag Marauder, Flametongue Kavu, Shriekmaw, and Spitebellows are the creature removal spells often tutored for by cards such as Survival of the Fittest, Fauna Shaman, and Birthing Pod. Each has its own special role and purpose. Spitebellows is one of the few cards remaining in the deck because of the Commander. Tutoring for a Spitebellows with Kresh in play to kill something often gives Kresh +10/+10 which may be enough to win the game! Aside from removal creatures there’s utility creatures such as Acidic Slime, Woodfall Primus, Pelakka Wurm, and Wurmcoil Engine. These creatures are solutions to pesky permanents and low life totals. The draw engines are well… cards that are the best options to draw cards: Sensei’s Diving Top is played for the same reasons it’s played in every format it can be, filtering draws with shuffle effects has a dramatic effect on the game and the outcome. Skullclamp isn’t as effective as many people would think, not too many creatures in the deck actually die to Skullclamp – it’s more for insurance on creatures. Phyrexian Arena, Graveborn Muse, and Harmonize are simple enough. Greater Good and Momentous Fall are both ridiculous with Kresh or any Tooth and Nail target drawing enough cards to put the deck in a dominate position.
There’s a total of five Planeswalkers in the deck – a Chandra, The Firebrand, Sorin Markov, Lilliana Vess, Garruk Wildspeaker, and a Garruk, Primal Hunter. There are not three Garruks. Why? The two in the deck are more than enough. Their abilities are also much more useful! They fit roles that are more desired. Untapping lands and drawing cards are needed more than a slow tutor in Garruk Relentless. By slow tutor, I mean at the very earliest, it’s a tutor one turn away, in a format with large creatures! Meaning more than likely Garruk Relentless is going to kill itself in an attempt to flip over. Chandra, Firebrand is everything this deck wants, from copying an Explosive Vegetation, to a Tooth and Nail or just killing some creatures! She’s extremely useful. Sorin Markov is really just unfair, aside from the very obvious thirty life drain for six mana, the vampire is an ‘out’ to decks that enjoy gaining infinite life (aside from general damage). Lilliana Vess, what a powerful card. She’s a Vampiric Tutor and a Living Death, I’ve only used her ultimate a handful of times without people conceding. It’s really just like being a kid in a candy store with all of the enter the battlefield triggers in the deck.
Lastly, there’s a bunch of the most optimal removal in Kresh’s colors. Nothing too interesting or worthwhile to discuss. I highly recommend picking up Kresh if you’re tired of hasty wins and want to grind out a long victory. Blowing up each and every one of your opponents permanents gives a feeling that’s really unlike anything else while you attack with a 9/9. The Timmy in me is screaming with joy while the Johnny and Spike are still having a great time!
Well that’s all for this week, come back again next week! Until then, keep Storming!
Bryant Cook on MTGthesource