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Glissa, The Traitor: Commander Primer


Let me describe a simplified life cycle of a game of Commander:

  1. Players play out lands, mana rocks, and mana dorks
  2. The board starts to develop with creatures and someone starts to take the lead
  3. Someone wraths the board or removes the biggest threat and sets the strongest player back a few turns
  4. Steps 2 and 3 repeat some number of times depending on your group's patience
  5. A threat or group of threats go unanswered and someone wins

What if, instead of scrambling to rebuild your board each time a threat or group of threats die, you instead surge ahead in card advantage to get a better chance at being that player who survives until the end? Let me introduce you to my Commander Glissa, the Traitor and her corresponding deck, The Deathtrap.

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Glissa is an incredible commander that packs an insane amount of power. Her low casting cost makes it easier to cast her multiple times in a game. Her potent combination of First strike and Deathtouch clearly signals your opponents to find someone else to attack. But make no mistake, her ability to recur artifacts is by far the strongest feature. Being able to recycle used artifacts for profit over and over again can be downright degenerate and — more importantly — fun! Let's check out the components of a Glissa deck and see what makes this incredibly deadly engine run.

Reusable Artifacts

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The beauty of building a Glissa deck is that you can include all of your favorite artifacts. The only requirement is that they end up in the graveyard once an opponent has destroyed them or you've inevitably sacrificed them for profit. Besides the usual suspects like Sol Ring and Gilded Lotus, some of my favorite artifacts for Glissa to recur are:

  • Solemn Simulacrum: While the Sad Robot is quite popular in a variety of EDH decks, it's especially at home here. Providing mana ramp, card advantage, and a body that chump blocks is great value for four mana, and it's hard to pass on the opportunity to play or replay it when given the chance.
  • Dreamstone Hedron: This artifact helps you ramp out huge spells you couldn't cast otherwise and turns into a reusable Harmonize later.
  • Mimic Vat: Mimic Vat has synergy with the rest of your deck's game plan, which is to kill all opposing creatures. When something too degenerate gets Imprinted onto it (like a Rune-scarred Demon) and your opponent gets rid of it, Glissa will help you get it back on the field with a new juicy target.
  • Expedition Map: Whether you need to find a Strip Mine, the other half of your Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth/Cabal Coffers combo, or just a simple Command Tower, the Expedition Map is the right tool for the job. Being able to use this effect over and over again is more important than you might think.
  • Nihil Spellbomb: Some EDH decks (like this one for example) live and die by the contents of their graveyard. Being able to keep Karador, Ghost Chieftain, Varolz, the Scar-Striped or even an opposing Glissa, the Traitor in check with just a single card is a very powerful effect.

Removal Spells

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What's a control deck without removal for problematic permanents? While Glissa prefers the removal to kill creatures, it's important for answers to be versatile and the selection of cards below should clearly indicate that.

  • Executioner's Capsule: With Glissa in play, this is effectively Doom Blade with Buyback for a single Black mana. Simply use it to kill a creature, use Glissa's trigger to get the Capsule back in your hand, then recast and reuse the Capsule. Be on the lookout for the dawning look of realization on your opponents' faces when they figure out what you're doing.
  • Maelstrom Pulse: While you primarily want to be destroying creatures with this deck, it's important to have removal for other annoying permanents as well. Maelstrom Pulse will take care of anything but lands and can also wipe out an army of Cat, Goblin, or Elf Warrior tokens all at once.
  • Beast Within: This card's downside can actually be an upside in this deck. A 3/3 Beast is an easy target for a kill spell that you can use to trigger Glissa's ability again. 
  • Putrefy: As playing against this deck will teach you, artifacts are an important resource in EDH. Having the option to take out an artifact or a creature makes this almost always a live draw.
  • Sylvok Replica: A Naturalize effect made reusable by Glissa, this creature is practically vital to the deck's function. Having access to this early helps slow down fast Sol Ring starts and being able to reuse this late-game helps stop Akroma's Memorial and other impossibly strong permanents from destroying you.

Board Wipes

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If you thought the spot removal was the last of the control elements, I'm afraid you were mistaken. Removing a single threat often won't be sufficient and the only option will be to blow up the entire board and start over. The spells below will help you accomplish that.

  • Black Sun's Zenith: This spells wipes the board while being able to ignore both indestructible creatures and regeneration. It also neatly shuffles itself back into your library for future use.
  • Gaze of Granite: While this effect always costs a fair amount, you can engineer situations where this leaves you with permanents and your opponents with nothing but lands. It's also a great draw when you're impossibly far behind and can't even imagine what could get you back into the game.
  • Plague Boiler: Plague Boiler takes a lot of time, a lot of mana, or both before it does anything; but it's an artifact which means you can tutor it out of the graveyard with Glissa. You also have the ability to leave it wavering on one or two counters to threaten extinction as soon as your opponents' boards get too scary.
  • Nevinyrral's Disk: A generally more efficient option than Plague Boiler, Nevinyrral's disk serves the same purpose while only missing Planeswalkers.
  • Life's Finale: Damnation would be preferred here if money were no object (as we'll mention in the Budget section later), but with the high starting life totals and mana ramp prevalent in the format, six mana is still a fine cost to pay for this type of effect.

Mana Ramp and Card Advantage

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  • Cultivate: Along with Kodama's Reach, this is an iconic green spell that provides mana ramp, color fixing, and pseudo-card advantage at an efficient rate. 
  • Coercive Portal: While in a 1v1 this is simply an Artifact version of Phyrexian Arena, be careful before casting it in multiplayer matches. If your opponents deem you the biggest threat, they can simply outnumber you and vote for carnage, thereby eliminating the Portal and your board.
  • Deadbridge Chant: If this stays on the board for any length of time, you start to race ahead of your opponents in card and/or board advantage. It's hard to find a card in your graveyard that you're not happy to Regrowth or Rise from the Grave. This card, along with more targeted cards such as Eternal Witness and Regrowth, allows you to buy back cards from the graveyard that you need if Glissa isn't around to get them back for free.
  • Harmonize: Green's version of Concentrate, it's hard to find card draw more efficient in this color.
  • Sakura-Tribe Elder: While this looks just like a boring Rampant Growth on the surface, it can also chump block once and it also has synergy with Mimic Vat.

Win Conditions

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Continually destroying your opponents' threats is fun, but eventually you need to find a way to win the game (or so they tell me). I like to stick to noncreature cards for this category since creatures die to so many forms of removal, including the board wipes that we run multiples of in this deck.

  • Vraska the Unseen: Vraska does exactly what this deck wants. Her plus ability protects her and gives you Glissa triggers if opponents decide to attack anyway. Her minus ability Maelstrom Pulses something. Her ultimate creates Assassins with what some have termed Super-Deathtouch, an ability that can literally remove an opponent from the game.
  • Genesis Wave: While not technically a win condition, if you survive for a while and cast this for X = 10-20 (which is totally doable in EDH), you have a great shot at overwhelming your opponents and getting miles ahead in the game.
  • Garruk, Apex Predator: While more expensive than Vraska, both monetary and mana-wise, veil-cursed Garruk packs a huge punch. Similar to Vraska, his normal abilities synergize with Glissa and protects himself, while his ultimate makes it easy to take a player out of the game.
  • Garruk, Primal Hunter: This smaller version of Garruk is harder to protect than the other two walkers I've mentioned, but a 3/3 plain Beast isn't nothing and being able to suicide to draw three cards makes him an overcosted Harmonize at worst if you have Glissa, the Traitor on the field.
  • Curse of the Cabal: Just like doubling the number of permanents you have with Genesis Wave makes it hard to lose the game, halving an opponent's number of permanents makes it hard for them to win the game. Beware this card outside of 1v1s because casting it in multiplayer is likely to earn you an enemy (albeit a substantially weakened one) for the rest of the game.

Putting it all Together

So what do you get when combine valuable artifacts, deadly kill spells, powerful win conditions, and a general that ties them all together? Here's the list I've been running and tweaking for the past several months:

Cardboard Version and Upgrades

At the time of writing, this list costs 35.89 tickets on Magic Online, which is where I own and play the deck.

For the paper version, cutting Bayou decreases the cost by an incredible amount while the rest of the cuts are a bit more inventive.

If your pockets are deep and you're looking for upgrades to make to either version of this deck, the following cards are good places to start looking.

Conclusion

I hope you've enjoyed this Commander primer for Glissa, the Traitor. I know I've thoroughly enjoyed the games I've played with her at the helm, and I hope this inspires you to build the list for yourself and see how powerful it can be. You can reach out to me in the comments below or on Twitter @JakeStilesMTG with any comments or feedback. Until next time, may you never have too much removal.


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