Unlikely Alliance – Kraum & Silas

(Unlikely Alliance | Art by Phil Foglio)

More Human Than Human

Welcome to the Unlikely Alliance column! This series investigates the Commander format’s least played Partner combinations. While many Partner combinations lead to obvious builds – or are just obviously strong – we’re here to build fun lists that most others haven’t explored.

Kraum’s Partner pairing today will be with Silas Renn, Seeker Adept.

(Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus | Art by Aaron Miller) and (Silas Renn, Seeker Adept | Art by Joseph Meehan)

Your Vote Matters!

This is our second outing and last time I asked you to vote on a Partner for today’s article. A week after that poll started I was ready to start work, and Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus was just barely in the lead. Ikra Shidiqi, the Usurper was only a few votes behind, and she has subsequently taken the lead, so for everyone who voted for her I promise that we’ll come back to the Naga Wizard next time. Thank you to everyone for voting!


Non-Expensive Builds

A goal with the deck lists in this column is to build them inexpensively. That’s not to say they are budget builds, but we won’t be using much that costs more than $10 unless those cards are absolutely on-theme for the deck, and we can’t find suitable alternatives. For example, this week we are including Thing in the Ice despite the fact that it has tripled in price over the last 3-4 months due to the popularity of Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice.


Commander Analysis

Let’s see what our Partners are made of. Mechanically speaking, that is; we don’t really need to dwell on the details of necro-alchemy or etherium infusion here.


Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus

Kraum’s primary role in Partner decks is to be paired with Vial Smasher the Fierce, often in Chaos-themed builds. Beyond that, the dual-headed Horror usually sees play for its passive card draw and/or for a color splash, but as a member of the least popular Partner commanders there is insufficient data for EDHREC to categorize its common themes without looking at specific pairings.

Despite having evasion and haste, Kraum’s CMC is a little too high to be a Voltron commander. That being said, Kraum makes for a great alpha striker from out of the command zone, finishing off vulnerable opponents. If it can’t get through, then it’s perfectly good at drawing us cards while defending against small-to-middling stuff.


Silas Renn, Seeker Adept

Silas is also a one-trick pony among the Partner commanders, mainly being used in artifact themed decks with Akiri, Line-Slinger. That being said, Brian Canada recently gave us a solo-build on Cure for the Common Game.

Unlike Kraum’s universally useful card-drawing ability, Silas’s recursion ability is very niche since it requires that Silas deal combat damage. Despite demanding twice Kraum’s monetary value and showing up in gameplay videos more oftem, according to EDHREC stats, he’s an even less popular commander than Kraum, presumably because of the combat damage clause. My thought for optimizing his ability is to put things directly into the graveyard, so we can use Silas as a tutor rather than spending effort on recurring cheap utility artifacts.


The Intersection

Kraum gives us card advantage, while Silas… also gives us card advantage! Unfortunately they take different forms that aren’t exactly synergistic, except if you’re playing Eggs. But we’re not going to durdle about with these aggressive commanders, because that’s our real point of intersection: aggression. Both commanders want to swing aggressively, even though Kraum wants to hit hard, while Silas just wants to hit at all. Still, an aggressive deck sounds like a good plan to me.

So then the question becomes: what kind of artifacts can we put into the graveyard that are of interest to an aggressive deck? We’re only likely to get two or three artifacts into play this way, so they need to be impactful.

Looking at the EDHREC page for the pairing we find a lot of recursion engine pieces and targets, but is there anything else that stands out? Not really, so let’s look at the site’s Themes page for inspiration. Equipment theme? We definitely want Whispersilk Cloak in the deck for Silas, but most of the support cards for equipment are in white. Graveyard theme? It can be aggressive in the right builds, and Kraum is a Zombie, but I feel like if we wanted to build Grixis graveyard we should be playing Sedris, the Traitor King. Besides, we’re not going to find many artifact Zombies. In fact, there are only three, and two of them are white.

What about Kraum’s other subtype, Horror? Okay, so there are 10 Artifact Horrors… and they don’t all suck. What if we built Grixis Horrors tribal? What does the tribes/horrors page look like?

Okay, so it’s not a common tribe. 18 Horror-themed decks for Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice is so few relative to her other decks that it doesn’t even register on her list of Tribes/Themes, but you can still click her card on that page to see the stats for her Horror tribal decks. Even if there were more Horror decks, the fact that Atraxa is non-red whereas Kraum is blue-red (not to mention their completely different abilities) gives us plenty of opportunity to differentiate ourselves. Since Atraxa is all about the counters, why don’t we focus on Horror creatures associated with mill strategies to gives us a secondary way to win?

Now we should look for any artifacts worthy of Silas’s attention on Atraxa’s Horrors page:

I think we’ve found some accessories for our Horror hoedown; we just need to find ways to get them in our graveyard.


Narrative

I like to summarize a deck’s narrative before fleshing out the details, to keep us on track when building. Our party host, Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus is organizing a hoedown at the local mill for all its Horror friends. Kraum wants them to be pumped up and ready to rumble party, and has hired an event coordinator, Silas Renn, Seeker Adept, to set up the best party decorations from our deck.


The Deck

Kraum // Silas – Horror Hoedown at the Mill

Commander (2)
Creatures (33)
Instants (4)
Sorceries (8)
Artifacts (12)
Enchantments (3)
Lands (38)

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Spotlights

Let’s walk through some of the deck’s most important cards.

 

Graveyard Tutors

To make Silas as effective as possible, we want to tutor his targets directly to our graveyard.

 

“Self-Mill”

We’ll want more opportunities to put cards directly into the graveyard than that. Fortunately, a mix of on-theme looting and self-targeting wheel effects are available to us.

 

Creature Tutor Targets

Here are some of the most desirable artifact creature targets for tutoring.

 

Other Party Decorations

Here are some of the most desirable non-creature artifact targets for tutoring.

 

Tribal “Ramp”

This deck will run fewer mana rocks than other decks, so that it can take advantage of tribal artifacts and other on-theme sources of mana.

 

Trample

Trample is a great way to take advantage of our party decorations. Did you know that outside of Demons, Horrors are the most likely black creatures to have Trample?

 

Targeted Destruction

Personally, I’m happy to give up premium removal in favor of cards that fit a deck’s theme, but you should always choose to build in ways that bring you joy.

 

Asymmetrical Board Wipes

These are our peak party plays. I’m sure you can think of another to include.

 

Recursion

While the deck is not focused on graveyard recursion, we’ll want to bring along some redundancy for Silas’s ability. Also, we all like value, right? Of course we do.

 

Mill

Mill is the backup strategy for when we’re facing down infinite life gain, pillow fort, or other strategies that keep our Horror Hoedown locked down. Don’t forget a card or two that forces your opponent’s to draw out the last of their deck, otherwise we’ll lose to Eldrazi titans, Elemental Incarnations, or Nexus of Fate.

 

Emergency Combo

Ready to win (almost) outright after a long, drawn-out game? This combo is a little fragile, but that just makes it all the more fun to pull off.

 

ETB Lands

To keep this deck’s budget under control, I chose to forego some of the format’s more powerful color fixers in favor of the Ravnica bounce lands and Theros scry lands.

Sadly there are not a lot quality Landfall abilities in Grixis colors that fit our deck, but I did find some other lands with ETB effects that we might choose to bounce.


Alternatives

Thing in the Ice and Bedlam Reveler both want us to play more instants and sorceries, so when you’re piecing together a variation of this deck keep an eye out for spells that can be cast more than once because of abilities like Flashback, Aftermath, or Buyback.

You might also consider pushing the deck’s Mill theme and include more Wheel strategies without having to give up on Horror tribal, and still being able to take advantage of Silas to get your most desired artifacts into play.

Horrors are black’s Beast creature type; sort of a catch all for world-specific non-Demon monsters. As such, they cover a lot of ground with their abilities, so it’s worth look around for more gems among their kind.


The End

Thanks for exploring Kraum // Silas with me; it has once again been a blast! As noted earlier, next time we’ll be building with the least-built Partner commander, Ikra Shadiqi, the Usurper.

Until then, keep having fun!

Mike is a stay-at-home-father of two, and former online games developer. He's been playing Magic off-and-on since Antiquities, when he would organize Grand Melee side events at conventions. Although he plays to win, he does so with decks that are fun to play, preferring social experiences to competitive ones. His first Commander was Grimgrin, Corpse-Born, which is fitting because he was employed by Disney at the time.