Skullbriar, the Walking Grave – Abuse Package

 It should go without saying that Skullbriar, the Walking Grave is a unique card. A fast creature, that always grows. With an ability unlike anything printed before, or since. You see, it is able to keep counters place on it, no matter where it goes. That is, anywhere but your hand, or library. And with the change to the tuck rule in EDH, this will never be relevant. It offers up a unique interaction, as death won’t reset it. Send it to the command zone, only to bring it back, with haste, at the same size. What’s more, Skullbriar is able to reinforce and increase the number of counters on itself. With it’s second ability, granting it innate growth. Yet, as a 1/1 for 2, requiring both colours to cast, even with haste, it can be a tricky play. So being able to give it counters outside of it’s own abilities will play a vital role.

This package will focus on this. How we can abuse the fact that Skullbriar won’ lose power by dying, or moving zones.

Varolz, the Scar-Striped – $0.59


Varolz on his own is a wonderful inclusion to the deck. A 2/2 for 3 with the ability to sac something to regenerate him is wonderful. But the ability to scavenge anything is even better.  Especially when the second ability fuels the first. What’s more, the +1/+1 counter synergies run deep. As you can keep pumping them onto Varolz, and protect him as need be. However, there is an even better interaction here. If you sacrifice Skullbriar to Varolz, you can scavenge Skullbriar. Then, instead of exiling it, return it to your Command Zone. All the while, Skullbriar maintains the number of counters on him. A cheap scavenge, abusing the rules of Commander, as well as enabling +1/+1 counter synergies. Varolz is an unexpected combo piece and a perfect low cost inclusion.

Forced Adaptation – $0.25


A simple common from Gatecrash with an ever growing upside. Adding a +1/+1 counter to whatever creature it enchants, at the cost of a {G}. Aura’s are a fickle spell, and tend not to stick around long. Even the more powerful ones die with your creature. A such, they’re very often called Card Disadvantage. Except for decks with creatures with Hexproof, this almost always holds true. But here that isn’t the case. With it’s low cost and counter synergies, it offers this deck a powerful advantage. And then, as Skullbriar dies – as it inevitable will – the impact Forced Adaptation left will remain.

Disciple of Bolas – $1.49


Disciple of Bolas aims to abuse the size, and the stubbornness of Skullbriar. Sacrificing it to the Disciple to yield both lifegain and card draw. As this isn’t a consistent method of drawing cards, it finds itself here, rather than in card draw. The life gained isn’t much to ignore either, as Black and Green together don’t get much of it. Regardless, the ability to throw Skullbriar under this metaphorical bus yields fantastic advantages.

Unearth – $2.29


A cheap way to bring back a dead Skullbriar, without invoking the dreaded Commander Tax. Additionally, the option to cycle it when it isn’t needed is a rare flexibility. Options are the most valuable thing in the game besides card advantage. This card provides both. What’s more, the capacity to bring back something else entirely only adds to this flexibility. This card is never dead. Not a complex card, but reanimation 3 ways is always a good thing.

Deathrender – $2.78


Having Skullbriar die is less than a disadvantage, and more of a circumstance we want to abuse. Throwing them under the bus, or into unkind blocks. As such, finding a way to some value from it’s death is part of what we want. Deathrender offers that. On the surface it comes off expensive. 6 mana for only +2/+2 isn’t the best. But, on death, cheating in a creature, as well as equipping itself to that creature rounds it out. Especially in long games of EDH. That price tag becomes more than paid in the end.

Death’s Presence – $0.35


Death’s Presence offers up the same benefit of Varolz, but in a different way. At {5}{G} instead of Varolz {1}{B}{G} you get an enchantment, that will immediately produce the counters on death. There are no concerns about exiling the creature from your bin, or paying extra mana. What’s more, the two cards work well to reuse dead creatures as counters for your alive ones.

Opal Palace – $0.35


Opal Palace is likely the kind of card one would expect to cut right away. It doesn’t fix your mana, only filters it. And what other abilities it has, go against the natural flow of the game. Realistically, you don’t want to be casting your commander more than a few times. Adding in, that it’s cost to cast will increase, you don’t want a land that only filters. But in this deck, that assumption changes. Skullbrier is a cheap creature to begin with. With haste, it’s an attacker on turn 2, no different from other 1/1’s. But it’s a creature that we want to die. Opal Palace offers added advantage as it will keep making Skullbrier bigger. And considering how cheap it is anyway, that extra mana is no big deal.

Reyhan, Last of the Abzan – $7.13


Reyhan, Last of the Abzan is the piece that will kick this deck into Maximum Overdrive. Moving counters on creature on their death, without removing from the creature. This neat detail turns her into a 3 mana Death’s Presence against Skullbrier. What’s more, she’s a 3/3 for 3 that will move her own counters if she meets her demise. Sacrifice Skullbrier with her out, put the counters on something else, bring back Skullbrier, then sac the something else. Or, just let them all die in combat. This deck wants to be aggressive. Reyhan gives every trade an upside. That kind of value simply can’t be beat, for such a low price. And, then, at worst; if she dies right away, she becomes {1}{G}{B} put 3 +1/+1 counters on a creature. Which isn’t bad.

Skullbriar offers up unique games plans and strategies. And where these can be found, one should use them as best they can. Abusing the fact that Skullbriear can die and keep it’s counters is what’s vital about this deck. Otherwise, you may as well use any other commander.



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