Last updated on August 29, 2022

Tinybones, Trinket Thief - Illustration by Jason Rainville

Tinybones, Trinket Thief | Illustration by Jason Rainville

Nothing compares to those precious few seconds after you’ve cast Inquisition of Kozilek and your opponents slowly passes you their cards, reticence written on their face. They know what you’ll choose before you’ve even seen it, and now they’ll lose that card before they can even cast it.

Tinybones, Trinket Thief is all about that feeling. It elicits more nasty smirks per turn than any other commander. But how can this cute little skeleton play so punishingly? Let’s find out!

The Deck

Command Tower - Illustration by Evan Shipard

Command Tower | Illustration by Evan Shipard

This Tinybones, Trinket Thief EDH deck wants to play its commander early, force opponents to discard each turn, and then punish them accordingly. Because Tinybones is so cheap, we’ll generate some additional advantage each time we force a discard early and often before our opponents have a chance to respond.

Then, when they’ve been slowly drained over the course of the game, we’ll finish them off with a big spell like Torment of Hailfire, or we’ll just use Tinybone’s activated ability. Simply discarding our opponents’ cards doesn’t always deny access to their spells, and many decks are even themed around recursion, so we’ll counter by exiling their graveyards.

The Commander

Tinybones, Trinket Thief

Tinybones, Trinket Thief is a popular choice for discard-themed Commander decks and differs from the other top contenders in a few key ways. First, its two mana value makes it a great early play, and we can follow up our Tinybones cast with a Divest or Distress to start generating advantage immediately.

While Commanders like Tergrid, God of Fright have more powerful discard-themed abilities, Tinybones, Trinket Thief’s activated ability opens up our deck to an immediate endgame, where Tergrid is very dependent on your opponents’ cards.

Ditching Cards

Our bread and butter in this deck are our discard enablers. We’re including a great deal of the cheap, one-time discard spells: Distress, Divest, Mind Rot, Hymn to Tourach, Inquisition of Kozilek, Raven’s Crime, and Unnerve.

Smallpox and Pox pull double-duty as removal as well, and Inscription of Ruin’s modes make it applicable in many situations.

Awaken the Erstwhile

Awaken the Erstwhile can be a “swingy” spell, since it runs the risk of giving one of your opponents a lot more zombie tokens than you.

Bad Deal and Dark Deal replace the typical black draw spells, so no Sign in Blood or Night’s Whisper here. Okay, we couldn’t go without a Read the Bones, though. Filtering out the top of our library is just too important.

Words of Waste

Words of Waste is a nice dump for the odd one or two extra mana, and in some situations can be instant-speed discard, thus triggering Tinybones’s effect another time.

Since Tinybones, Trinket Thief can only draw us one card per turn, we need ways to trigger its effect on our opponents turns as well. Bottomless Pit and Gibbering Descent both trigger during each player’s upkeep, meaning we’ll draw a card each time. Drainpipe Vermin is our sleeper discard effect; chump block with it and pay the single black mana for a discard trigger after your opponents attack. Finally, Painful Quandary will trigger on others’ turns as they cast sorcery-speed spells.

Specters are the iconic black discarding creature, so it follows that we’ve selected a few of the best for our deck. The classic Hypnotic Specter is our cheapest specter; a 2/2 flyer with an additional effect was valuable back in the day, and its still worth the mana in 2022. Scythe Specter is our strongest specter, though. It makes each opponent discard a card, then saps their life as a punishment. Filling a similar role as the specters is Stronghold Rats. As a discard effect on an evasive body, it’s an honorary specter.

Finally, we’re including Virus Beetle and Augur of Skulls in case we need a little extra hand removal to get ready for Tinybones’s ability.

It Hurts to Lose

Drawing cards off of Tinybones’s ability is all well and good, but we’ll need to capitalize on those discard effects in other ways to be a real threat.

Waste Not

Up front we have to talk about Waste Not. Universally accepted as one of the best discard synergy cards out there, its popularity is self-explanatory. Specifically, it provides this deck with either some much-need chump blockers, a fair amount of mana ramp, or some always useful card draw.

Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage and Shrieking Affliction both punish our opponents before their hand is even empty, with Davriel giving us another repeatable discard effect.

Court of Ambition and Geth’s Grimoire accelerate our card draw, but the Court really shines when it hits those empty-handed opponents for 6 life each turn.

Quest for the Nihil Stone

Quest for the Nihil Stone takes a few turns to get going, but once it does, it decimates life totals left and right.

Megrim and Liliana’s Caress are absolute all-stars in this deck. Besides being consistent damage each turn, they work with our Peer into the Abyss to totally obliterate any player as they discard down to seven cards on their turn. Be warned: this can backfire easily when they draw into the inevitable Reliquary Tower, so use with caution. It’s worth casting our Profane Tutor to search up Sinkhole in preparation.

Tergrid, God of Fright

Finally, we’re running Tergrid, God of Fright. So long as we have consistent access to a discard effect, this card will go nuts. They can only discard nonpermanents for so long, and eventually we’ll be ramping with our opponents’ lands or stealing their Ancient Silver Dragons.

Deny, Deny, Deny

Countless Commander decks are built around using their graveyard, and discarding cards from their hand plays into their strategy. We’re accounting for those decks by leaning harder into graveyard hate than your average EDH deck.

Besides the essential Bojuka Bog, Soul-Guide Lantern, and Tormod’s Crypt, we’re running Stonespeaker Crystal for its extra cantrip-ish effect, as well as Grafdigger’s Cage to outright deny access to the graveyards.

Planar Void’s cheap mana cost means it can hit the field early and stick around for a long time. Finally, Nihil Spellbomb is a cheap investment with a small upside when it bites the dust, so it rounds out our list of graveyard hate.

Finishers

Punishing our foes for discarding cards isn’t enough. We need to end them with our discard effects as well. Casting Torment of Hailfire for ten or more mana will wipe an empty-handed opponent’s field or most likely finish them off completely. Death Cloud is the nuclear option, but both will combo well with Liliana’s Caress and Megrim to end a game.

Ramp and Bonus Mana

Discard spells aren’t often cheap, and we want to ramp hard to use Tinybones’s second ability multiple times per turn, or cast our X-mana spells to end the game. Black’s access to ramp is limited, so we’re running the usual suspects in artifact ramp. Sol Ring, Arcane Signet, Commander’s Sphere, Mind Stone; we know ‘em and love ‘em.

Crypt Ghast

We’re running Crypt Ghast, too. It’s one of the ultimate mana doublers in black, and comes with a bonus extort ability to toss some extra mana at.

Mana Base

Mono color decks have it easy when it comes to lands. Really, our only consideration is how many lands to run. Our mana curve peaks at 2 mana, but we’ll still want to play a land each turn to ensure we’re ready for Torment of Hailfire.

We’re running a solid 35 lands: 30 basic Swamps and a handful of utility lands. Reliquary Tower can save our own hand when Tinybones, Trinket Thief starts to go off, and Witch’s Cottage saves the odd specter creature here and there. Cabal Stronghold, while slower than Cabal Coffers, is still valuable ramp in a mono-black deck.

The Strategy

Our grand strategy isn’t too complicated, and our commander’s low CMC means it’s fairly forgiving as well.

We want to play Tinybones, Trinket Thief early and begin forcing our opponents to discard each turn with our cheap Distress and Divest-adjacent spells. Generating another draw each turn revs this deck’s engine, and soon we’ll shift into high gear.

Another especially important early play is our Planar Void or other graveyard hate effect. Setting up Grafdigger’s Cage or Tormod’s Crypt before an opponent can stack their graveyard is the top priority in this deck.

We’ll only draw on our turns if we only cast these sorcery-speed spells, so tutoring up Bottomless Pit and Painful Quandary is well worth it if you haven’t seen it by the midgame. The same is true for Megrim and Liliana’s Caress.

Once we’ve locked our opponents’ hands down, it’s finally time. Tinybones’s second ability puts a ton of damage down, and we’ll want to use it as many times as possible in the late game. It’s our main win condition, and if we can’t find our Swiftfoot Boots quickly, we’ll lose our commander to removal. Its cheap mana cost helps mitigate this loss, but eventually we’ll have to switch tactics to Torment of Hailfire or Death Cloud.

Combos and Interactions

We aren’t running many powerful combos. Rather, all our discard spells synergize well with each other and our commander. Our best one-two punch in this deck is Peer into the Abyss with either Megrim or Liliana’s Caress, or both! Once our opponent draws half their deck, they’ll inevitably have to discard down to their max hand size at the end of their turn, taking huge damage from our enchantments after losing half their life.

Budget Options

This deck currently sits around $212. That might be too steep for some, or too cheap for others. Let’s examine some budget options for this deck.

Cheap

Torment of Hailfire is our most expensive spell, but it can be easily replaced with any other late game X-mana spell. Profane Command and Exsanguinate can fill similar roles at a cheaper price point.

We can also cut back on our mana ramp, replacing Crypt Ghast and Cabal Stronghold with some extra mana rocks like Hedron Archive.

Expensive

In a similar vein, one of the quickest ways to spend more on a deck is supe-ing up that mana base. Replace Cabal Stronghold with Cabal Coffers, or even cut a basic and run both! Swap Charcoal Diamond for Jet Medallion, grab a Mana Crypt; the possibilities are nearly endless.

Other Builds

Despite being one of the best discard-themed commanders, other Tinybones, Trinket Thief archetypes have emerged and seen success. As one of the only legendary skeleton creatures, Tinybones makes a great commander for the measly 47 mono-black skeletons. With the standard tribal package (Coat of Arms, Door of Destinies, and various lords), this underrated tribe can pack a wallop.

We could always focus on discarding our own hand as well as our opponents with wheel effects, too. With a little bit of build-around, we can take better advantage of the cards in our graveyard than our opponents, and suddenly Tinybones, Trinket Thief makes for a fairly effective reanimator commander.

Commanding Conclusion

Go Blank - Illustration by Wylie Beckert

Go Blank | Illustration by Wylie Beckert

Hand disruption is one of black’s best effects to control the battlefield. It’s also darkly satisfying to remove your opponents’ threats before they can even cast them. Forcing other players to re-evaluate their strategies as key combo pieces get removed is what Tinybones, Trinket Thief does best, and we should be grateful WotC has gifted us with such a nasty little skeleton baby.

What do you think? Is Tinybones the best discard commander? Does its cuteness bug you as much as it does me? And what’s with the focus on “lose 10 life” effects lately, anyways? Let me know in the comments, or over on Draftsim’s Twitter.

Thanks for reading! Don’t let this deck go to your head!

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