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Budget Commander: The Gitrog Monster ($50)

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Hey folks, welcome back to Budget Commander! Last time, we checked out how to build a cheap(ish) version of Archangel Avacyn. This time, we're back in Shadows over Innistrad to check out the most popular (and most powerful) commander to emerge from the set, The Gitrog Monster.

The Gitrog Monster is no slouch when it comes to combat. A 6/6 creature for 5 mana is big, even in Commander, plus anything larger than it will still have to worry about deathtouch. The frog can kill with commander damage in 4 swings, or 3 swings if you increase its power by 1 (bringing it to 7). While its combat prowess is a sweet perk, that's not the main draw here. It's how The Gitrog Monster interacts with lands that makes this creature so powerful and exciting to build around. Let's break down the frog's land-based abilities and figure out the best ways to abuse them:


All-Natural Ramp

The most straightforward benefit of The Gitrog Monster is allowing you to play an additional land on your turns. Its value at the surface is simply ramp: if you have more than one land in hand during your turn, you can play two of them. More lands in play equals more mana to cast stuff. Simple! Lands are generally the best source of ramp in Commander since most playgroups avoid land destruction but often run removal that can target non-land ramp, like Reclamation Sage to destroy a Sol Ring.

If we dig deeper into the benefits of land ramp, we find a ton of cards that become more powerful as you put lands on the battlefield. Here are a few notable options:

Lookin' good so far, Mr. Frog!

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Enriching the Soil

Now we come to my favorite sentence on The Gitrog Monster: "Whenever one or more land cards are put into your graveyard from anywhere, draw a card." Drawing cards is my favorite thing to do in Magic, and Mr. Frog does so in a very unique and interesting way! You draw a card when the lands are put in the graveyard from anywhere; this counts lands going into the graveyard from play, your hand, your library, even from exile (Pull From Eternity)!

Small tangent rule clarification! Many people (myself included) have been confused about how many cards you draw with The Gitrog Monster. You only draw One card each time an ability resolves that puts lands into your graveyard, Not One card per land put into the graveyard. For example, if Satyr Wayfinder's trigger puts 3 lands from your library into the graveyard, you only draw 1 card, not 3, because all the lands went into the graveyard at the same time. If you use Ghost Quarter to destroy your own Forest, you will draw 2 cards: 1 card for when you activate Ghost Quarter's ability and it goes to the graveyard, and then 1 card when the ability resolves and the Forest goes to the graveyard. 

This trigger is wide-open for abuse with tons of wild and powerful synergies! Let's break down some of the most notable strategies to draw some sweet cards:

Sacrificing Lands. There are tons of great lands that sacrifice themselves to do something sweet: fetch lands like Terramorphic Expanse or Verdant Catacombs, Strip Mine and Wasteland get rid of troublesome lands, ritual lands like Ebon Stronghold give us a temporary mana boost, and so on. Most Commander decks already run some amount of self-sacrificing lands because they're great; The Gitrog Monster rewards you further for playing already great cards!

We can also go out of our way to run "meh" looking cards that become powerhouses with The Gitrog MonsterSquandered Resources, a bulk rare that never saw play in Commander, has seen a price spike due to its synergy with Mr. Frog, letting you mana accelerate your big plays and acting as a sacrifice outlet whenever you want to draw cards. We can also go the villain route with Desolation, drawing cards as we sip on the tears of our opponents.

I guess now would be a good time to mention that last bit of text on The Gitrog Monster: "At the beginning of your upkeep, sacrifice The Gitrog Monster unless you sacrifice a land." This clause is a neat throwback to some of the classic (and crappy) "big monsters" of Magic. Cards like Leviathan demanded you sacrifice lands to appease them, as if their overpriced casting costs weren't enough of a hoop to jump through. While this land sacrifice is sometimes a drawback, it's often a bonus in the case of The Gitrog Monster, letting you splurge on the land count, while always giving you a free way to cash in the excess lands in play for card draw.

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Hand Discard. We have plenty of sweet ways to discard lands. Cycle lands like Barren Moor are obvious choices, but we have more nefarious options in Black as well! Raven's Crime draws us a card when we use its retrace ability. Or how about we take out everyone's hand with Mindslicer, and then draw a card for each land we binned, putting us way ahead? Want to go into "mustache-twirling villainy" territory? How about destroying everyone's hands, creatures, and lands with Pox and Death Cloud, while drawing a buttload of cards in the process? Who needs friends when you can do sweet plays like that!

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Self-Mill. We have a lot of options to drop lands into our graveyard straight from our library. Cards like Satyr Wayfinder and Nyx Weaver do a fair job of this, with the Satyr also digs up a land for us to play if we don't have enough in our hand. Solid, fair cards. But now to the BROKEN stuff! I'm talking about the Dredge mechanic, which was never a fair mechanic to begin with. The Gitrog Monster unapologetically abuses dredge to an extreme. Dakmor Salvage, Life From the Loam, Golgari Grave-Troll, Stinkweed Imp, Golgari Thug, and Shambling Shell are dredge staples that do dirty, "I need to take a shower after this game" stuff with The Monster.

Here's how it works. It's the start of your turn. You have The Gitrog Monster in play and Stinkweed Imp in your graveyard. On your draw step, you could draw a card as normal, or you can dredge up your Stinkweed Imp, milling the top five cards of your library into your graveyard. In a 99-card deck with 40 lands, you have a 93% chance of at least one of those five milled card being a land. Odds are you hit at least one land, so The Gitrog Monster triggers, drawing you a card. Now you're up a card (since you also dredged Stinkweed Imp), and you've filled your graveyard with five more cards that are ripe for graveyard abuse like Animate Dead, Eternal Witness, Centaur Vinecrasher, and so on. VALUE! It gets even nastier if you ended up milling another meaty dredge card with your Stinkweed Imp, like Golgari Grave-Troll. You can use the draw from The Gitrog Monster to instead dredge up the Troll, which means milling six more cards, which means likely milling another land, which means drawing another card. It gets crazy real fast!

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Once you're playing extra lands, drawing tons of cards, and filling your graveyard, winning is inevitable.

Want to crush with big stompy creatures? Drop into play an Avenger of Zendikar, Rampaging Baloths, Void Winnower, or anything else either through ramp (Green's specialty) or by graveyard recursion (Black's specialty). 

Want to grind out your opponents, feast on their tears, and win either by attrition or by forcing them to concede by anger and despair? Go Stax with cards like Desolation, Pox, and Death Cloud, always staying ahead of the opposition by drawing way more cards than they do.

Want to go combo? The Gitrog Monster has that covered, too. Here's a combo that is currently popular with the more competitive crowd that involves The Gitrog Monster, Dakmor Salvage, and a free, repeatable discard outlet in play, plus an original Eldrazi titan, either Kozilek, Butcher of Truth or Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre in your library/hand.

This is how it works:

  1. Discard Dakmor Salvage. Popular discard outlets include Skirge Familiar, Putrid Imp, and Wild Mongrel.
  2. The Gitrog Monster sees a land (Dakmor Salvage) enter the graveyard and draws you a card.
  3. Instead of drawing, dredge up Dakmor Salvage, milling 2 cards in the process.
  4. Repeat step 1.

You now have an infinite self-mill loop, and you'll never deck yourself due to the Eldrazi titan shuffling your graveyard back into your library. The most common way to win at this point is to have Skirge Familiar as your discard outlet to generate infinite Black mana and win off a a lethal Exsanguinate or similar. If you don't have the Familiar, you can just mill it into the graveyard and put it into play with Reanimate or similar effects, or just generate the mana off Black ritual cards like Songs of the Damned.

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Budget Decklist ($50)

This budget The Gitrog Monster gives you taste each playstyle listed in the article. We've got some big threats, some resource denial, some combo potential, and a lot of card draw. It's a good starting point that you can tune towards the specific playstyle you most like.



Upgrades and Fiddly Bits

The first cards I'd look to pick up for the list would be the remaining two dredge cards, Life From the Loam and Darkblast. Squandered Resources and Lake of the Dead are two more explosive acceleration cards that are amazing in any deck led by The Gitrog Monster.

If you're looking to play dedicated combo, one of the original Eldrazi titans is a must so you can perform the infinite loop — either Kozilek, Butcher of Truth or Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre.

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Which Tribe To Build?

Voting returns! Let me know which of these tribes you want me to build in an upcoming Budget Commander. Here are your options:

  • Vampires: Your favorite bloodsuckers taking advantage of the Madness mechanic and piling on +1/+1 counters.
  • Werewolves: They flip out and kill people with combat damage. That's the plan, at least.
  • Humans: Lots of great cards happen to be Human, but we also have plenty of "Humans matter" cards from both Shadows over Innistrad and original Innistrad.
  • Bears: An unbearable amount of puns. Is it pawsible to win?
  • Elephants: Even jankier than bears, but a trunkload of puns to trumpet on about.


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