Introduction to The Gitrog Monster

The Gitrog Monster was spoiled last January and I fell in love immediately. I’ve always been keen on GB(x) decks in this format, and this guy had everything I love about the color combination - lands matter, graveyard synergies, and insane resource conversion. Later that week, I participated in the first ever “Tuesday Brewsday,” a weekly event where /r/competitiveedh brews new decks, and we selected The Gitrog Monster, creating this list which has since evolved into what we play today. I piloted the list to victory, sacrificing all my lands for a turn three win attempt, getting disrupted, then pulling a win out of it multiple hours later. You can read the writeup here. I was hooked right away, and have been tuning it ever since.

Pros and Cons

First things first, let’s talk about why you should build The Gitrog Monster. You will enjoy this deck if:

  • You enjoy a deck that rewards your piloting skill. This deck has very strange lines and it definitely pays off to know the deck very well. Maybe you’re good enough to see a winning line, but do you see a line that wins if your opponent has a Counterspell? If they have two Counterspells?
  • You enjoy wonky combos. Our actual kill-con is very silly, but in my opinion is still elegant and the most compact and technically efficient way to play the deck.
  • You think that your commander should be an integral part of the deck. Not only is The Gitrog Monster part of our only win-condition, it’s also a powerful engine for drawing cards and ramping. Our entire strategy is shut down without access to him.
  • Your meta is full of midrange decks that will try and out-value you, or combo decks you can race. When not disrupted, this deck will be ending games on turns three to five.

On the other hand, this deck might not be your cup of tea if:

  • You are new to the format, or you lack experience playing decks that require tight technical play. This deck is demanding, and even after extensive practice I still make mistakes.
  • You want a straight, stable line to victory. Many times, the best play is to risk it, when you have only a 70% chance of winning. If you’re a conservative player, this deck will challenge your intuitions.
  • You often play against tax effects, gravehate, and hatebears. These effects will be the bane of your existence.
  • You don’t enjoy explaining things to people who have never seen this combo. Our combo can get quite complicated when we are pushed for resources, and especially when Skirge Familiar has been exiled from the deck.
  • Your playgroup doesn’t allow proxies and you don’t have a large budget. Unfortunately, there is a huge power level difference between this deck with vs without Bazaar of Baghdad. Maxing out on fetchlands is also important, and you will want access to all the fast mana Mox Diamond, Chrome Mox, and Lion’s Eye Diamond.

What’s the big deal with this frog dude anyway?

The most important thing that our commander does for us is provide us with a very clean and compact combo. With any discard outlet such as Wild Mongrel, as well as with Dakmor Salvage, we will be able to at any point put two cards from our library into our graveyard. Combined with our commander’s ability, as well as a Kozilek, Butcher of Truth anywhere in the deck, we will be able to draw our entire deck and win from there. This will be explained in detail below.

Froggy does more than combo, though. Making your fetchlands cantrip, Exploration on a stick, and having seriously insane interaction with Bazaar of Baghdad makes our commander a card advantage engine to be reckoned with. The card-drawing ability also gives us plenty of chances to make use of cards with the dredge mechanic. The upkeep trigger looks like a downside, but we’ll be drawing so many cards that we’ll be replacing our lands faster than they get sacrificed.

Strategy

Let’s talk gameplay. The majority of the time you’re playing, you will be searching for the fastest line to victory, so the most important thing for you to know is exactly how the combo works. With that in mind…

Finishing the Game

The only way this deck wins the game is with Dakmor combo. The combo is named after Dakmor Salvage, which is a land with dredge 2. If we have our commander in play and Dakmor in our hand, you can use any discard outlet (for example, Putrid Imp) to discard it and get a free draw trigger. Instead of drawing a card, we can dredge Dakmor back to our hand and mill two, and we’ve arrived at the same position we were in at the beginning of the loop except that we’ve put the top two cards of our library into our graveyard. If one of them is a land, resolve your Gitrog trigger and draw a card. Then repeat this until you see Kozilek, Butcher of Truth. If you dredge Kozilek into your graveyard, let his shuffle trigger resolve before continuing. If you draw the Kozilek, you can simply discard him from your hand to get the shuffle trigger whenever you want it. By casting Dark Ritual effects when we draw them, we can put Skirge Familiar into play and use this to generate infinite black mana. After this, you can cast Praetor’s Grasp or Geth’s Verdict an arbitrary number of times to kill your opponents.

Unfortunately, this combo is stopped by any kill spell targeting our commander or our discard outlet, as well as by gravehate. Thankfully, the combo has some built-in protection. For each extra land in your hand, you can simply discard another land and continue going off. Unfortunately, this trick doesn’t work on something like Scavenging Ooze. A hasty opponent might mess up and blow her green mana trying to exile Dakmor Salvage, in which case we simply need to have more lands in hand (or other ways to draw cards at instant speed) than she does green mana untapped. A well-trained opponent who knows the deck, however, will always wait to try and exile the Kozilek. There’s no way to save that, so it’s important to kill the Scooze before Koz hits the yard.

Speaking of gravehate, many players will try to exile Dakmor with Deathrite Shaman, and will argue that you cannot respond to mana abilities. Thankfully for us, DRS has no mana abilities. Rule 605.1a reads: “An activated ability is a mana ability if it meets three criteria: it doesn‘t have a target, it could put mana into a player‘s mana pool when it resolves, and it‘s not a loyalty ability.” DRS targets a land, so it isn’t a mana ability and this works at instant speed.

The Nitty Gritty

In general, the best line of play when comboing is as follows:

  1. Discard Dakmor and get a Gitrog trigger, and replace your Gitrog trigger by dredging Dakmor, and mill 2.
  2. If you hit a land, resolve your extra draw trigger and clear the stack. If the card you drew was a mana-positive spell (MPS for short) like Lotus Petal, cast it. Repeat until you dredge or draw Kozilek, Butcher of Truth.
  3. If you dredge it, resolve your shuffle trigger before continuing to combo. If you dredge into it plus a land, it is generally better to put the Gitrog trigger onto the stack first, so that it resolves after you shuffle up.
  4. If you draw Kozilek, keep it in your hand until you can’t dredge Dakmor anymore.
  5. With the mana you’ve built up with your MPSs, put Skirge Familiar into play, and repeat combo to create a lot of black mana. Often the easiest way to put it into play is by using a reanimation spell.
  6. Since at this point the combo is still non-deterministic, we cannot yet shortcut to infinite black mana. First, clean your graveyard and library such that all your cards are in your hand. You can do this by using cycle lands (which draw 2 with Froggy) to produce more draw triggers than you have cards in deck, then by discarding Kozilek over and over until all the draw triggers have resolved.
  7. Discard any land to Familiar (B+1, draw +1). Before you draw a card, cycle Barren Moor (B-1, draw +2) and discard Kozliek (B+1, shuffle). Then, draw your three-card library, and repeat for infinite black. After that, draw your library, then proceed to the next step.
  8. Cast Geth’s Verdict targeting an opponent. Cycle two lands to get four instances of “draw a card” on the stack, then discard Kozilek. Repeat this step until your opponents are dead.

Obviously, this combo will take awhile. After you’ve played with a group once, they will catch on, but unless your opponent has seen a similar deck you will have to play the combo out every time in tournaments. If you aren’t a fan of taking 20+ minute turns, this may be a problem. That being said, once you are proficient at executing the combo, it can be kind of fun.

Dredging into Combo

A lot of the time, you won’t have the land tutor for Dakmor, but you do have a discard outlet and Gitrog. Thankfully, you can almost always win with another dredge card, provided you have a cantrip (ideally a fetchland). Let’s say Stinkweed Imp is in the graveyard, and with a Wild Mongrel in play. Discard a land and dredge your Imp. You’re almost guaranteed to hit a land in your top five cards - about 97-99% probability, depending on the number of lands left in your library. This will give you another draw trigger, but in response, you can discard the dredger again and continue the loop. Once you hit a bigger dredge, in this case Golgari Grave-Troll, you can dredge with that instead.

I ran a program to determine some probabilities about whether we are more likely to “whiff” (meaning not hit a land on our dredge) on all our dredge pieces - that is, Golgari Grave-Troll (dredge 6), Stinkweed Imp (dredge 5), and Life from the Loam(dredge 3). For the simulation, I assumed that there were 88 cards remaining in our library, 30 of which were lands (including Dakmor Salvage). With no extra lands in our hand, dredging 6 gives us a 58% chance, dredging 5 gives us a 43% percent chance. However, if we have just one land in our hand - meaning that one “whiff” is forgiven - our numbers boost to dredging 6 at 89%, and dredging 5 at 79%. Finally, if we have enough mana to cast Life from the Loam and get 3 free resets, we have a 75% chance of hitting Dakmor before we whiff.

Winning During your End Step

If we have more than seven cards at the end of our turn, we can use our cleanup step as your “discard outlet.” If we discard Dakmor as our eighth card, our commander will trigger and priority will pass around. (Rule 514.3: “Normally, no player receives priority during the cleanup step, so no spells can be cast and no abilities can be activated. However, this rule is subject to the following exception. At this point, the game checks to see if any state-based actions would be performed and/or any triggered abilities are waiting to be put onto the stack, including those that trigger at the beginning of the next cleanup step. If so, those state-based actions are performed, then those triggered abilities are put on the stack, then the active player gets priority. Players may cast spells and activate abilities. Once the stack is empty and all players pass in succession, another cleanup step begins.)”

You will replace the draw with a dredge, and then draw again if you hit a dredge. After the stack clears, we will receive another cleanup step and be forced to discard down to seven again. We can use this to filter to any seven cards in hand. If we have one black mana open, we can cast Dark Ritual, and use Necromancy grab Skirge Familiar. After this, perform the above combo to completion. You need to use Skirge Familiar and can’t just chain rituals because your mana will empty between each end phase.

Winning with Chains of Mephistopheles

Chains of Mephistopheles creates some of the most complicated interactions in our deck. Not only is it fantastic at shutting down opposing blue decks’ draw engines, it functions roughly as a discard outlet for our purposes. Let’s say you have the combo set up, but instead of having a traditional discard outlet like Oblivion Crown, you have Chains. You have to find a way to draw to start the combo (say, a fetchland), which will get replaced by discarding then drawing. Since Chains makes us discard and then draw, we can discard Dakmor, then dredge it to the same draw, generating a frog trigger, and we can repeat this loop.

Unfortunately, Chains makes getting card advantage much harder. When we dredge into a land, Chains wants us to discard a card to draw for that one too. To solve this, we must dredge Dakmor into other cards with Dredge. This way, when we dredge into a land and get an extra draw trigger, we can replace that draw with dredging the non-Dakmor dredge card instead of replacing it with Chains’ effect. Using dredge cards to generate card advantage lets us discard our dredge cards to draw real cards and eventually draw our deck. At some point, Chains of Mephistopheles will need to be removed and replaced with a more traditional discard outlet, but it will get us to the point where we can do that.

Creating Infinite Mana without Skirge Familiar

The vast majority of the time, we will be using Skirge Familiar, as it is by far the easiest way to produce infinite mana. The path to creating infinite mana without Skirge Familiar is very complicated and gets extremely hairy. However, there are times when Familiar is not an option for some reason - maybe it got exiled along with Riftsweeper - so we must make do without him. We will begin by clearing our library and graveyard, leaving behind just Lotus Petal and any land. Pitch Kozilek, and you will get a three-card library. Having this three-card library will be the position which I will call “home,” and the majority of the loop is trying to get back home.

We will begin by discarding and dredging Dakmor Salvage and milling ourselves for two. There are three possible piles, and the first two are very simple. If we hit Petal and a land, we simply resolve our draw trigger, discard Kozilek, and go back home. If we hit Kozilek and Petal, we resolve the Kozilek trigger and go back home. The third possibility, however, is where things get interesting.

If we hit Kozilek and a land, we resolve your draw trigger, drawing Petal, and then shuffle our graveyard into our library. We’ll cast and crack Lotus Petal, then dredge Dakmor, milling our two remaining cards. First, we’ll resolve a Kozilek trigger and shuffle up, and then resolve a draw trigger. If you draw Lotus Petal, we begin again from the start of this paragraph. If you draw Kozilek, you can pitch it and go home. If you draw the land, you can pitch it to draw. If you hit Kozilek, you can pitch it and go home, but if you hit Petal, things get real complicated.

To draw the Kozilek back, which is needed to go back home, we’ll have to discard another card from our hand. After drawing Kozilek, we’ll discard him and shuffle up, resulting in a four-card library which is identical to home but with an extra land in our library. I will refer to this position as “base.” Once we arrive at base, we’ll dredge Dakmor, resulting in four possible piles. If we hit Petal and Koz, we’ll simply resolve the shuffle trigger and return to base. If we hit Petal and a land, we’ll resolve our draw trigger, which will either be Kozilek (pitch it and go back to base) or a land (pitch it, draw Kozilek, then pitch Kozilek and go back to base). This leaves two options that allow us to move forward: If we hit Kozilek and a land, we’ll first shuffle, then resolve a draw, and if we hit both lands, then we’ll dredge Dakmor in response to the draw trigger, shuffle up, and receive a draw. If we a land, we’re back home. If we draw Kozilek, we can pitch him and go back to base. If we draw Lotus Petal, we must crack it, then dredge Dakmor. If Dakmor hits both our lands, we’ll draw Kozilek, pitch him, and return to base. If Dakmor hits one of our lands and Koz, we resolve a draw, shuffle up, and we’re back home.

Whew! What a system. Now, unfortunately, this involves RNG and we cannot shortcut it. However, since we are changing the game state by adding mana to our mana pool, we are avoiding the unfortunate “slow play” ruling that gets the four horseman Legacy deck into trouble. Beneath I have included a flowchart which details the combo. Hopefully having a visual representation will make it a little easier to understand. (“Home” is the third cell on the top row, and “Base” is the third cell on the bottom row.)

Gitrog Monster Flow

5 Color Combo Store

Gameplay

Mulligan and Opening Turns

There is no one thing you should be looking for in an opening hand, but you will be looking for a gameplan. Putting Froggy into play on turn two or three with the help of rituals and fast-mana is definitely a gameplan, as long as you can follow it up by not choking on land-drops. An early tutor for Bazaar of Baghdad is a gameplan if you have some cards to spare. Even just a turn two Sylvan Library can be a gameplan. The important thing is for you to start building resources.

The first thing you’ll want to do in most games is assemble a draw engine. The most obvious way to do this is with your commander. Froggy is definitely a powerful draw engine with the right lands. That means that one common goal from opening hands is enough mana to cast Froggy and start drawing cards that turn. Cycling lands like Barren Moor draw two cards at instant speed. If for some reason you can’t get to the mana for Frog fast enough, you’ll want to find another way to start generating card advantage. Your best bet in the early game is Bazaar to filter through the dead cards for mana. Plus, Bazaar turns into a much more powerful draw engine after you cast your commander, which should happen very quickly so as to transition to the midgame.

Mid-Game

After putting Gitrog into play, our main goal is to make sure we’re taking full advantage of his abilities. He’s a Phyrexian Arena that makes your fetchlands cantrip, your cycle lands draw 2, and your dredges now read “Any time you would draw a card, you may instead mill X and draw a card.” All of this comes with an Exploration tacked on. Your focus at this point is going to be using your mana efficiently and hitting all your land drops. Missing land drops, even our extra land drops, can really hurt when we’re sacrificing a land every upkeep. Ideally, we’ll want to find some sort of way to make sure we continue hitting those land drops in the form of Crucible of Worlds or Life from the Loam. Loam is significantly better thanks to its combo potential, since it makes dredging into Dakmor pretty easy. Loam also has an incredibly powerful synergy with the cycle lands, meaning we can dredge multiple times per turn. If we draw a discard outlet with Loam and Gitrog in play, we have a good chance of winning either that turn or the next by dredging into our combo. During this phase of the game, we should be filling our hand and ramping, and searching for an engine either in Life from the Loam or Bazaar of Baghdad.

“Late”-Game (Post-engine)

Our commander has a ridiculous synergy with Bazaar. For example, if you tap Bazaar and dredge a card for each draw, and each dredge hits a land, you will get three draw triggers after discarding. If you discard one or more lands, you will get another draw trigger. This is because Gitrog cares about whether the lands were put into the graveyard at the same time (not during the resolution of the same ability). “Draw two cards” is shorthand for “Draw a card. Draw a card.” (Rule 120.2. Cards may only be drawn one at a time. If a player is instructed to draw multiple cards, that player performs that many individual card draws.) However, That means that you get up to three extra cards in hand. You even get to discard the cards you just dredged back to your hand!

On our combo turn, we will probably want to sacrifice Bazaar to Gitrog in your upkeep. This is primarily to preserve your mana-tapping lands, whose full value cannot be realized until our draw step, by sacrificing a land that can still be valuable in your upkeep. Sometimes, we will be casting Loam on our combo turn, in which case we can replay the Bazaar to get two Bazaar activations on the same turn. There are lots of ways to get multiple Bazaar activations in one turn, including Petrified Field, Crucible of Worlds, or simply shuffling Bazaar back in with Kozilek and tutoring for it again.

Loam usually takes a few turns to set up, but its power is undeniable. To get a Loam engine going, you’re going to need a land that draws a card - meaning a cycle land, or (if you have Frog in play) any land that sacrifices itself, like Petrified Field or a fetchland. We will use the drawland to dredge Loam so we are able to cast it multiple times in a turn. Dredging Loam will fill our grave and draw us a bunch of cards. At some point, we’ll be able to either dredge into Bazaar or draw into combo pieces.

As mentioned in the above supersection, Life from the Loam can also very easily dredge into Dakmor combo if you have the discard outlet. The more lands in your hand (meaning the more times you can cast Loam) the more sure it is that you won’t whiff. Three lands gives a 75% certainty, and six lands gives you an impressive 98% certainty. If you have other dredgers, those numbers skyrocket.

For a deck that spends most of its time worrying about the first six turns, we have a great late-game. Turns out, if we can stick Gitrog in play, he’s a card advantage engine that won’t quit. Really, our late-game looks a lot like our mid-game, so there’s not much to say - we just keep building more and more resources. Make sure you don’t get too much of your deck in the graveyard such that you can’t combo, and keep playing lands and drawing cards. It sounds tricksy, but don’t be afraid to Praetor’s Grasp for an opponent’s win-condition if for whatever reason you can’t get combo online.

Knowing when to cast Ad Nauseam and what to do with it is one of the most skill-intensive parts of the deck. With a Kozilek in the deck, we can’t go under ten life and continue flipping cards safely. This means that Ad Naus is much less powerful for us than it is in most other decks.

Generally, you won’t want to Ad Naus without having a bunch more resources. If you have to tap out to play it and don’t have both land drops left, or you don’t have your commander in play, don’t bother with a main phase Ad Naus. If you know you can resolve your commander on the next turn, then an casting it right before you untap is generally a pretty safe bet, ensuring victory. You’ll draw into a bunch of ritual effects and mana-positive rocks, and you’ll need to assemble them to win on that turn. Since our combo is graveyard-based, there’s no Yawgmoth’s Will in the deck, so chaining rituals into combo is much harder for us than for storm decks.

5 Color Combo Store Sale

Let’s go through these by section.

Manabase

Lands

Ancient Tomb - Format staple.

Barren Moor, Polluted Mire, Slippery Karst, Tranquil Thicket - Note that Blasted Landscape is omitted for being colorless. These cards are OK by themselves, making mulliganing easier since we have a bunch of cards that are lands when we need them to be. If you end up playing them as land drops, sacrifice them to Gitrog for your upkeep triggers so that you can Life from the Loam them later.

Bayou, Command Tower, Llanowar Wastes, Overgrown Tomb, Twilight Mire, Woodland Cemetery - Basic duals.

City of Brass, Mana Confluence - These will usually be our last land-drops and our first sacrifices unless we’re desperate for mana. Conserve life for Ad Nauseam.

City of Traitors - City is even more absurd here than usual, because we can sacrifice it to Gitrog in our upkeep if we don’t want to lose a “real” land.

Bloodstained Mire, Misty Rainforest, Marsh Flats, Polluted Delta, Verdant Catacombs, Windswept Heath, Wooded Foothills - Don’t crack fetchlands until you’ve already played your commander if you can help it. Keep in mind that your green fetches can find Dryad Arbor.

Cabal Pit - This card is deceptively good. It kills hatebears and is highly tutorable.

Cavern of Souls - One of our best tool against blue control, never be afraid to tutor for Cavern of Bazaar to make sure Gitrog resolves. Free style points for naming Frog.

Command Beacon - This card is great for getting Froggy back in reach in the lategame, plus it sacrifices itself.

Dryad Arbor - Turns Green Sun’s Zenith into a mana dork.

2x Forest, 2x Swamp - 4 is the right number of basic lands for this deck. We have seven fetchable lands and a good chance of hitting the cards we need off a Hermit Druid activation.

Gemstone Caverns - It’s a bit like Chrome Mox if you see it in your opening hand. It also allows for turn zero plays. Imagine Vampiric Tutoring before your first draw step!

Ghost Quarter - You mean I can Strip Mine my own Bazaar of Baghdad to replay it while tutoring a basic? Sweet!

Lake of the Dead - Not only does it produce an insane amount of mana on turn three, it also lets us draw cards with Gitrog. If you need to, you can play it as your land for turn and simply sacrifice it to its own effect get a draw trigger.

Petrified Field - This is the easiest way to get two Bazaar activations in one turn. It also doubles up with Cabal Pit if you need to kill something a little bigger than most hatebears.

Strip Mine - Most common target is opposing Strip Mines to preserve our Bazaar. Don’t be afraid to Strip Mine yourself just to draw.

Traditional Ramp

Mana Crypt, Sol Ring - Need I say more?

Arbor Elf, Birds of Paradise, Boreal Druid, Deathrite Shaman, Elves of Deep Shadow, Elvish Mystic, Fyndhorn Elves, Llanowar Elves - A plethora of early dorks feed into explosive second turns.

Chrome Mox - Don’t cast it until the turn you need the mana so you can imprint something less useful if you draw it. (Alternatively, ignore this advice and jam it so as to avoid the Trinisphere blowout.)

Mox Diamond - Same as above. If you’ve got Froggy and Dakmor but you’re missing a discard outlet, you can pitch Dakmor to get a free dredge.

Carpet of Flowers - Carpet is slowly seeing more and more play, as it should be. If there is just one Island, it’s a manadork with haste. If there are two, it’s a colored Sol Ring. It only gets better from there.

Extra Land Drops

Exploration - This card is fantastic to see in your opening hand, especially since it lets you play another one-drop the same turn.

Burgeoning - I typically consider this to be slightly worse than Exploration, since it’s far less useful in the mid-to-late-game where you might be Loaming (in which case you want to be able to Loam for a fetchland, play and crack it, and dredge the Loam all in on turn).

Azusa, Lost but Seeking - The big momma of extra land drop cards, Azusa can fuel insane engines with Crucible of Worlds. Don’t leave your Strip Mine at home!

Ritual Effects and Mana-Positive Rocks

Elvish Spirit Guide - A slightly more tutorable, slightly less versatile Lotus Petal. Elvish Spirit Guide is needed to be able to combo in our discard phase with zero open mana, fueling a Crop Rotation into a black source into a Dark Ritual.

Lotus Cobra - Cobra is pretty absurd. If you follow it up with a fetchland it’s mana-neutral. It gets crazy with cards like Crop Rotation.

Mana Vault - Turn two Gitrog seems good.

Grim Monolith - A significantly slower Mana Vault, Monolith will let us turn three Gitrog without first playing any lands.

Lion’s Eye Diamond - This card has many uses. The first is powering out our commander super early. I wouldn’t commit to this line unless I had a fetchland open so that the next turn I make sure to see three new cards. You can crack it in response to a tutor to cast the card you’re searching for. If you crack it with your commander out, you will not draw multiple cards for discarding multiple lands.

Lotus Petal - Pretty standard. Petal is required if you ever want to make infinite green. (Well, technically you could do it with Lion’s Eye Diamond, but it is much more complicated.)

Rain of Filth - Not only does produce a ton of mana, it also draws lots of cards with Gitrog in play. Make sure not to cast it until after you’ve made both your land drops, since it only gives the lands that you already have in play the ability.

Squandered Resources - Usually if you untap with this card and Froggy in play, you win that turn.

Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual - Standard black rituals. These are required for Ad Nauseam.

Culling the Weak - The one ritual blue storm decks don’t get to play. Thanks, mana dorks!

Tutors

Crop Rotation - Probably the best land tutor, it’s got lots of tricks. It enables an early Bazaar without a big hit to tempo. It can draw lots of cards with our commander out (try finding Ghost Quarter and hitting your own land - it’s an Ancestral Recall with “sacrifice a land.” It’s instant-speed removal with Cabal Pit. It’s mana-positive with Ancient Tomb/City of Traitors, or even spicier, Lake of the Dead. The only downside is you can’t tutor Dakmor Salvage to your hand to combo off.

Sylvan Scrying - By your third turn, you almost always want Bazaar, unless you’re going for Dakmor.

Realms Uncharted - This one is fun. If you’ve got The Gitrog Monster out, you can always get Dakmor Salvage to your hand since it dredges itself there, plus another land in your hand for protection. You can also just go ahead and cast it to get your best lands. For example, Bazaar of Baghdad, Petrified Field, Cavern of Souls, and some fourth card - either a utility land or something to give me more mana - is my go-to “value” pile.

Expedition Map - It’s the worst land tutor in the deck, but it gets the job done.

Traverse the Ulvenwald - Another real bad land tutor, but this one can find creatures too. Lotus Cobra is a common tutor target as it’s often mana-positive, and tutoring Eternal Witness is important too. Still, it most commonly finds Bazaar of Baghdad.

Worldly Tutor - It’s not uncommon to end-of-turn this on turn one to find Hermit Druid. When you have a discard outlet, go ahead and find Golgari Grave-Troll and try to combo.

Green Sun’s Zenith - This is probably our best creature tutor, simply because it functions as ramp. Being able to find Dryad Arbor on turn one is really nice, and finding a discard outlet or Hermit Druid for three mana is also powerful.

Vampiric Tutor, Demonic Tutor, Imperial Seal, Grim Tutor - The obvious black tutors. Grim Tutor is of course the worst here, and could be cut when you’re looking for more room.

Praetor’s Grasp - This card is deceptively powerful. Simply always finding a Mana Crypt is a powerful effect. We can also almost always find any number of format staples - Entomb, Crop Rotation, Demonic/Vampiric Tutor, and Mana Crypt are all common finds. You can also find Pact of Negation to protect your combo. Even using it as a one-of Bitter Ordeal has application against the fastest decks, like removing Prossh’s Food Chain or Zur Doomsday’s Laboratory Maniac.

Card Draw

Dark Confidant - Putting a draw engine online on turn two is pretty powerful. Being able to cast Bob on turn one makes a hand automatically keepable in my opinion.

Sylvan Library - This is the best draw engine in the deck. Library has incredibly weird interactions with the Dredge mechanic. The trigger reads “At the beginning of your draw step, you may draw two additional cards. If you do, choose two cards in your hand drawn this turn. For each of those cards, pay 4 life or put the card on top of your library.” If, when the trigger resolves, you have no cards in your hand that you drew this turn (maybe because you dredged them), you don’t have any cards to select, and therefore have to pay no life. On the other hand, if you have any cards that you DID draw, you have to select two of them (or one, if there is only one) and either return them or put them back. This means that you can dredge three cards and pay no life, or dredge two cards and either pay life or put back just one card. Sylvan Library’s trigger also resolves after your free draw for turn, meaning you can discard the card you dredged for turn if you have a discard outlet and dredge it again. When using Library “fairly,” you almost always want to just take the eight unless you have a way to shuffle your library.

Necropotence - This card looks terrible at first glance, since it interrupts our combo by exiling whatever we discard. The good news is that it doesn’t actually interrupt our combo. Since Necropotence and The Gitrog Monster both create triggers, and the same event (discarding Dakmor Salvage) is triggering both abilities, you can put them on the stack in any order you want. Simply make your Frog trigger resolve before Necro’s, and you can dredge the Dakmor back into the safety of your hand. Similarly, if you discard Kozilek, you can resolve the shuffle trigger before the exile trigger and save your cards from exile. Don’t use Necropotence super aggressively unless you have the resources to win either that turn or the turn afterwards.

Bazaar of Baghdad - I had a lot of trouble choosing where to put Bazaar as it fills so many roles in the deck. Bazaar is easily the most essential card in the deck after Dakmor, and without it, I would probably work on something more on the midrange side of things. It lets us discard dredgers and lands, draws two cards a turn, and is highly tutorable.

Graveyard Package

Hermit Druid - Druid is a tad slow, but it’s our most powerful way of putting cards in the graveyard. Generally, a Hermit line goes something like this. Play Hermit Druid on turn three or four, next turn play Gitrog and hold Hermit activation until end of turn, then untap, activate Hermit again, and win. Keep in mind you have a fair chance to hit Koz on each activation, but if you hit a dredger too, then the draw from the Gitrog trigger can resolve first and dredge it to your hand.

Golgari Grave-Troll - The card says “dredge six” and is a creature. Pretty good.

Stinkweed Imp - Honestly this card is pretty questionable. We don’t necessarily need a second Grave-Troll and it’s not in any way more tutorable. It’s currently in the deck to be a second dredger for Hermit Druid and Bazaar of Baghdad lines, both of which rely heavily on hitting a dredger, but it certainly could be cut at some point.

Life from the Loam - This card is a key part of our engine, making sure we always have land drops. It’s insane with our commander, it’s insane with cycle lands, it’s insane with Azusa and other similar effects.

Entomb - Number one target? Not surprisingly, Life from the Loam.

Noxious Revival - This card is pretty good, though it may eventually be replaced by Regrowth. Having one of these effects for zero mana is very useful for when comboing is mana-tight.

Eternal Witness - This also could be replaced by Regrowth. I play E Wit because it works with my creature tutors, but three mana is a bit steep.

Crucible of Worlds - It’s an insane card advantage engine with my commander, a bit of a lock with Strip Mine, free value with cycle lands, and lets me dredge into Bazaar of Baghdad as my land for turn. Still worse than Life from the Loam though.

Necromancy - This is included in the deck to make end-step comboing easy, but it has a handful of other uses too. It can return our other creatures, and it can also hit opponent’s graveyards. Since it’s instant-speed, it can be used as gravehate, and you can even use it to pull Gitrog out of the yard if he gets countered.

Combo

Dakmor Salvage - The only win-con in the deck.

Kozilek, Butcher of Truth - We play Kozilek over Ulamog purely for Ad Nauseam reasons. There’s a way to make Gaea’s Blessing work, but it involves casting Volrath’s Dungeon and therefore doesn’t work during your end phase. Since I would need to play Kozilek anyway to win in my end phase, I opt not to play Blessing as well, despite its various advantages (like beating Anafenza, the Foremost).

Noose Constrictor - I constantly debate whether this is better than Wild Mongrel. Constrictor can be a real beater when you’re drawing lots of cards per turn, and makes short work of planeswalkers. On the other hand, Mongrel blanks Snuff Out, Slaughter Pact, etc. Anyway, we need this slot to turn Green Sun’s Zenith into a combo piece.

Putrid Imp - The only one-mana discard outlet.

Skirge Familiar - The easiest, but by no means only, way to produce infinite mana. He’s also our best discard outlet since he turns all our cards into black Lotus Petals.

Chains of Mephistopheles - This card is pretty cool, and comboing with it gives you free style points. It’s also a bajillion dollars and totally unneeded for the deck. We mostly play it because it’s a “discard outlet” and also disruption.

Oblivion Crown - A discard outlet with flash has several advantages. If you’re afraid of countermagic or removal, you can sit there with Gitrog and play for several turns and try and combo off in response to whatever would eventually remove him, giving yourself a chance to draw more cards useful for comboing.

Geth’s Verdict - We play this card to win in our discard phase by looping in infinitely.

Ad Nauseam - You should never cast this card without the intention to win that turn. Our curve is relatively high for an Ad Naus deck, so play a few goldfishes resolving the card to see how it plays.

Utility and Combo Protection

Abrupt Decay - Kills hatebears and can’t be countered.

Riftsweeper - Without this card, exiling Dakmor Salvage or Kozilek means we lose the game.

Sylvan Safekeeper - Not only does it protect our creatures, it draws cards with our commander. Sacrificing lands also gives us the spicy possibility of activating Bazaar of Baghdad more than once per turn.

City of Solitude - This protects our combo even from the activated abilities of cards like Tormod’s Crypt or even Faerie Macabre. It’s invaluable and once it resolves, you can’t be interrupted. I wouldn’t play it if you don’t plan on winning that turn, though.

Conclusion

Hopefully I have shown that The Gitrog Monster is a powerful deck that should be respected at the highest levels of play. I’d like to thank MTGSalvation users BobTheFunny and DTrain, as well as reddit users ShaperSavant, SaladTurtle, and JimWolfie. All of their input on the deck has been invaluable and all of their work is represented somewhere in the text of this primer. Now that I’ve presented what I found to be the best version of the deck, I look forward to seeing what others do with my work.

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I've been playing Magic for about eight years, and commander for about four. I've been playing commander seriously for about two years now. I spend a lot of my time over at /r/CompetitiveEDH, a community of over 6000 members that discusses Commander from a competitive standpoint.