Bringing Magic to Life – Unburying the Dead!

(Meren of Clan Nel Toth | Art by Mark Winters)

Creating in New Ways

Hey everyone! Kya here once again! Welcome back to Bringing Magic to Life, the series where I appease my corporate overlords and justify my existence here on EDHREC. Here we’re going to turn our gaming table into more than just a cardboard throwdown. Here we’re going to bring our decks to life!

This month we’re actually doing something a little different from what I normally do in this series. Typically we create some fun 3D models and print them out to add a little spice to our games. However, to limit our creations to just 3D printing would be unfair for some, so we’re going to find more accessible ways to create small goodies for our table. Not going to lie, it took me a while to find something that didn’t involve a 3D printer, paintingl or an anvil, but I think I found something pretty fun that will take anyone only an afternoon to complete! Before we get to that, though, we have to find a deck worthy of our creations!


The Return of the Dead

It’s amazing that after so many articles I still have decks that haven’t been shared yet. We’re getting close though, which is enough of a justification to buy more cards, as far as I’m concerned!

Today is a special article, as this is actually one of my most played EDH decks, especially when playing with people for the first time. I can’t express enough how stressful it can be to try and make good first impressions. You never want to be that person who needlessly wipes the floor with everyone else at the table, but of course you want to have fun too! This is why I think it’s important to own at least one deck that is resilient, but not reliant on immediate combos or overly oppressive win conditions. This deck is my go-to when unsure what I’ll be facing and I’m trying to measure a pod for the first time. What is this magical deck I speak of you ask?

It’s Meren, the girl with the zombie tattoo! As a dark-haired girl with a soft spot for Zombie Dragons, I couldn’t help but fall in love with her when she was first released. I can’t stress enough how impressed I was with her right out of the box. Wizards has done a great job with many of their Commander decks, but I would put Meren up there as one of the best precons ever created, especially since it can even hold its own against other more tuned decks. Adding even more joy, every piece to upgrade her always feels amazingly satisfying.

So what does she do? Okay, well all know what she does. She’s one of the most popular commanders of all time. Trading death with experience counters, to place a creature back into play for free, is amazing. Even if you don’t have the counters you can still get a creature back to your hand! Truly one of the few commanders that you’ll always benefit from as long as she’s on the field. I personally prefer her far more then Karador, Ghost Chieftain. Having to pay the mana cost to summon something from my graveyard? Uh, no. Meren has spoiled me far too much to pay for my creatures like some commoner. So how do we make a great (but not so nasty) Meren deck? Well we go with the basics.


The Fear We All Know

Let’s start with the soul of any Meren deck. Sometimes a girl needs to keep the boys at bay, and these three do a great job at just that! Insanely simple and effective. What’s best is that Meren can keep bringing them back! It’s surprising how greatly a single one of these cards can stall a pod’s growth. Although you could argue that these are Stax cards, I’ve noticed that despite this, many don’t find hard feelings when these cards continue to hit the battlefield. Best of all, I can control the length of their cruelty, based on how powerful the pod is that I ventured into.

Absolutely no surprises here, and probably nothing you haven’t seen before, but I wanted to highlight these cards to make a point. One of the top reasons I believe Meren is so popular is that she can take average cards and turn them into miniature gods, even over the simplest things. Keep reviving a Tribe Elder and get extra ramp every turn, all while gaining counters! Blow up someone’s Sol Ring every turn, all while gaining counters! Make yourself invincible from combat damage, or even turn your Spore Frog into a political savior for someone else! All while gaining counters! The list goes on. By the way, I think we can all agree on one thing here: if you’re not the Meren player, you hate that dumb frog!

Know the best part of not having a combo in your deck? Absolutely zero temptation to do something completely degenerate. There’s actual fun in killing Protean Hulk and looking through the deck, trying to find something relevant to the actual board state or at the very least just putting creatures on the field. Then do it again and again with Meren! Even with famous combo-searchers like the cards show above, we don’t have to be tempted into combos if we don’t want to be.

Another fun and common mechanic with Meren is the oddball way you can build your graveyard into a second hand. That, or play with cards like Greater Good to add even more value in death triggers. Although I do have a few more direct tutors, it’s exciting to always have plenty to access, but at the same time enjoy the surprise of not knowing for sure what’s coming.

Also, in games where I’m not sure what to expect, I can change the tempo of how quickly I need to win as I want, within reason. This sounds like a strange middle ground to tutoring for you fancy blue players, but us Golgari girls enjoy our methods.

Finally, the absolute best aspect of Meren! You can completely curate how you want to win, which is rare for EDH decks. Do you want to just play a bomb and slowly control the board? Drop a Sheoldred and amass your graveyard to the field. Do you want to just consume peoples’ life totals while adding to your own? Kokusho or Gray Merchant of Asphodel would be happy to help! You want to just token spam and sting people to death with a bunch of Hornets? Well, the Queen has your back! Heck, I even have a Demon of Dark Schemes to do some massive work with energy counters of all things! Energy counters! In EDH! Where else but Meren?

Oh. And if you want to be a jerk, we can Mindslicer for days. I’m not saying “don’t swing at me.” I’m just saying if that 1/1 even glances in my direction I will bring us back to the stone age quicker than you can say “Nel Toth.” That’s all.

As briefly mentioned already, this isn’t an article to share anything we haven’t seen before. Outside my fangirling, it actually had a purpose. With the recent update from the Rules Committee of Rule 0, I thought this article would be a small contribution to my support of it. Commander is a casual format and sometimes we forget that. I’d like to think that with Meren still being on top, many players have also found that fair balance of enjoying engaging games that are not overly stressful or a waste of time due to excessive durdling. Below is the decklist to represent that mentality:

Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer

Birth From the Grave!

Now that we went over one of my favorite decks, it’s time we got to work on how we’re bringing it to life… or perhaps unlife! I originally thought of making a sculpture of a Zombie Dragon or of Meren herself with a step by step tutorial. However, I thought that would be too much work for everyone to follow along from just a simple article. For those who have followed my series before, I like to keep these craft projects relatively easy and simple. Some of the more artistically inclined might scoff, but it’s tough to make gold from a wave of the hand and expect others to do the same!¬†Another reason I went away from the sculptures is because, truthfully, it’s not just Meren we love here. It’s all the things she allows us to do in the graveyard! So with that said, let’s build a graveyard worthy of her praise!

First thing we’re going to grab is some clay! For my purposes I got this non-hardening clay for other projects, but it would be advised to get some that will harden to ensure your graveyard doesn’t break apart easily. Especially if you’re going traveling with this to show off to your friends! Clay is very cheap, so this whole adventure should only cost you a few dollars.

Next thing we’re going to do is flatten out our clay to make it nice and even. Want to know a secret? It doesn’t need to be perfectly flat. After all, spooky graveyards are rarely on even ground. With that said, do make some effort to ensure that the cards can at least rest on it.

After that we’re going to lay down a card we don’t care about on the clay. Let’s just throw down this filthy blue card, because who needs those? After this we’re going to use an X-ACTO knife to cut around the card, giving some room on each side. Got to make sure we give enough room for sleeves! Feel free to use a ruler to make your cuts straight, and if you’re under 18, make sure you’re asking an adult for help before handling sharp tools.

Now we’re going to start making some crosses and tombs to put around our graveyard, to keep the cards still. Keep these limited, as you want room for your fingers to be able to easily and casually dig through your graveyard throughout the game.

Using the knife, we’re going to cut some rather sloppy crosses out. They’re old so it makes since they’re a little warped! If you screw up, it’s clay! Just try again and again. It doesn’t need to be perfect, and you can always shape out whatever error you make. Then we’re going to add a big tombstone for Meren herself, to give the command zone something special! Using the knife, we’re going to engrave her name into her slot.

Now lets fit everything together! Just smashing those pieces into the ends, we can rub up the clay around the joints to make them stick easy. I wish 3D parts got along so easily.

I also added a small thin roll with a very small space between Meren’s tombstone and the graveyard. This allows us to prop Meren up. Let’s use a Mortify to test out her chair. Goodness knows I have enough of them if the card didn’t fit, and got bent out of shape.

Now for the final test! Lets add in the real deck with the sleeves to see if everything fits. Good! Now it’s time for painting!

First, we’ll give it a quick primer spray of black. After that, we’re going to paint the tombstones our nice stone colors and a simple brown for the crosses. We could get fancy, but again, this is just a quick project for some fun! If you do want to go more involved, I would recommend 2-3 shades of green for the grass, which will look great with the black under. Maybe at the very end a few small flowers near the Meren prop to keep her up and look pretty!

Now we’re all set! Let’s look at the game field. That’s a cool little graveyard if you ask me! A simple prop that will make your graveyard feel just a little more special!


Closing Thoughts

So what does everyone think? Don’t quit my day job? Stick to 3D modeling? That’s fair, but the graveyard was a blast to make. Hopefully this will encourage others to add some crafts to their battlefields as well. Small little additions to these are especially nice because they do not take up a lot of space or become an obnoxious centerpiece. They complement the theme of your deck and highlight what your commander is all about!

Also everyone finally knows my go to deck if they ever run into me. If I see a Rest in Peace now, I’m taking it personally!

Until next time,

Kya

Never fear! Kya's here! Kya has been a long time EDH player and hobbyist. With an extended history of blacksmithing and 3d printing various MTG related items for fun, she has turned her attention to sharing her mad scientist brews to the public. Although a competitive player by nature, her aim is to provide fun and silly deck ideas to those looking to spice up their play groups. Kya is here to scratch that demented individual's itch for pure chaos and show everyone that a Warp World can be a fun experience! Except when you have a Hive Mind and Eye of the Storm out...