The Dead Shall Serve – MtG Commander Deck

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This week on Geekenstein, I’ll be dissecting my favorite (and strongest) Commander deck, led by Sheoldred, Whispering One. My Sheoldred build is primarily based on the old Reanimator archetype, with elements of Mono-Black Control thrown in to keep other players from messing with it. The goal of the deck is to get its large creatures into the graveyard by any means necessary, then reanimate them and beat the enemy’s face with them. You’ll want to play this deck if: you enjoy getting multiple uses out of your creatures; if you want a deck with surprising resiliency and the capability to come from behind for the win; or if you like your wins to be totally crushing to your enemies, trampling them underfoot with your massive zombie army!

 

In this article, I’ll list the creatures you can do this with, cards to get them into the graveyard, cards to get them back out, a massive mana-acceleration suite, and tutors, card-draw, spot removal, board wipes, and other utility cards. (A quick note: many cards will be appearing in several lists. This deck is very versatile, with many cards filling several roles.)

The Commander:

Sheoldred, Whispering One.full

Sheoldred is an absolute beast of a Commander, with a huge mana cost and a huge effect on the game to match. Her reanimation ability is the one we’re most interested in for this deck. The best move is to play Sheoldred later in the game, when you have a well-stocked graveyard from the constant board wipes and spot removal of an EDH game. Her other abilities aren’t too shabby, either. Forcing each opponent to sacrifice a creature on each of their turns can be absolutely backbreaking, and it synergizes incredibly well with It That Betrays and Grave Betrayal. Her third ability, Swampwalk, is underwhelming and restricted, but you can’t ask for everything. It does give you another avenue of victory against other black decks, but that’s about it. Finally, there’s her stats. 6/6 is a great body to have, taking four hits for a General damage win and putting her beyond the reach of a lot of damage-based removal.

Getting Creatures In Your Graveyard

The first part of Sheoldred’s combo is getting creatures into your graveyard. You can get them there through the wear and tear of playing them, then seeing them die, but where’s the fun in that? This suite of discard and Entomb-style effects allow you to get your creatures into the graveyard early in the game so that you can bring them back to destroy your opponents. The most powerful of these is Buried Alive, which allows you to bring three creatures into the graveyard for further use. Burying a Crypt Ghast, an It That Betrays, and a Mikaeus, the Unhallowed, followed by a Twilight’s Call is a nearly instant win, and is completely possible to accomplish with the tutors available in the deck. Care must be taken, however, to only use these effects when you can revive the creature that turn or the turn after (perhaps with Sheoldred), lest they be lost to a Bojuka Bog or a Nihil Spellbomb before you can retrieve them.

Reanimating your creatures

These cards are the linchpin of the deck’s strategy, allowing to revive your huge beaters for a low price. Reanimation spells wring additional value out of your creatures, ensuring that the graveyard is not the last stop for your  creatures and keeping up the threat to your opponents. This is especially true of the mass reanimations like Liliana and Twilight’s Call, which will bring a large army in on your side to grind your opponents into dust.

Giant Creatures

The end goal of this deck is to win through combat damage from a variety of large creatures, obtained through the reanimation mentioned above or absurdly large amounts of mana discussed below. Mikaeus helps provide protection against board wipes; Drana, Avatar of Woe, and Dark Hatchling act as repeatable spot removal. Sepulchral Primordial, Scion of Darkness, Geth, and Ink-Eyes allow you steal your opponents’ dead creatures, while It That Betrays takes your opponents’ sacrifices for you, a very good interaction with Sheoldred’s ability. Rune-Scarred Demon, Lord of the Void, and Nightmare round out this menagerie, flying over the heads of your enemies and providing value to boot. This deck’s primary win condition is its creatures, so go all out with them; if they die, they’ll just be coming back.

Mana Acceleration

This category is pretty straightforward: make lots of mana so you can play more spells. Mind Stone and Leaden Myr help you ramp out your spells earlier, while Journeyer’s Kite, Armillary Sphere, and Liliana of the Dark Realms keep you on your land drops so you can afford the more expensive spells. These are cheap conjuror’s tricks compared to Crypt Ghast, Nirkana Revenant, and Caged Sun, however. Doubling your mana allows you to play the deck to its full potential, so these cards should be among the first you tutor for or reanimate into play. Cabal Coffers and Magus of the Coffers fill this same role. What can you do with all this mana? Exsanguinate is a great way to improve your odds, often turning a gang beating (this deck tends to draw a lot of hate) into an inevitable victory through the massive swing in life totals.

Tutors

Tutor effects are one of black’s greatest strengths, allowing you to grab whatever answer you need at the moment, providing beautiful versatility and reaction to the deck. Insidious Dreams is especially worth noting here, since it allows you to discard a creature in order to go grab a reanimation spell to bring it back to the field ready to roll. Tutors are incredibly versatile, and require high skill in reading the board state and deep knowledge of your deck in order to get the most use out of them, which skills will come to you as you play the deck and get used to it.

Spot Removal

These spells require little elaboration: is a creature bothering you? Kill it. ‘Nuff said.

Board Wipes

Sometimes, a game of EDH just needs a good reset button, and these spells cover that need quite nicely. Mutilate and Black Sun’s Zenith can be modular, as well, clearing away token swarms and leaving the path clear for your army of massive zombified creatures to swing home on their masters. Be careful with your Living Death and Living End, and make sure you will always get more out of them than your opponents will.

Card Draw

Having all the mana in the world will mean nothing if you don’t have cards to play with it, which is where these cards come in. Keep your hand well stocked and you’ll be well on your way to victory.

Miscellaneous

I’m including Rain of Tears in this list because of the profusion of Maze of Ith in online games (via Cockatrice) and in real life through From the Vault: Realms. Even if there isn’t a Maze at the table, it’s usually a safe bet that you’ll see some sort of problem land that requires removal. The swamp-based equipment is here to speed your opponents to their grave. Equipping one to a Rune-Scarred Demon or Sepulchral Primordial puts your opponents on a very short clock in the late game.

exhume_the_dead_by_oshikuma-d4cnxqh
Art by Oshikuma

The Decklist:

Commander (1)

  • Sheoldred, Whispering One

Artifacts (7)

  • Armillary Sphere
  • Caged Sun
  • Grimoire of the Dead
  • Journeyer’s Kite
  • Lashwrithe
  • Mind Stone
  • Nightmare Lash

Creatures (18)

  • Avatar of Woe
  • Corpse Connosieur
  • Crypt Ghast
  • Dark Hatchling
  • Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief
  • Geth, Lord of the Vault
  • Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
  • It That Betrays
  • Leaden Myr
  • Lord of the Void
  • Magus of the Coffers
  • Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
  • Nightmare
  • Nirkana Revenant
  • Rune-Scarred Demon
  • Scion of Darkness
  • Sepulchral Primordial
  • Shriekmaw

Enchantments (5)

  • Animate Dead
  • Grave Betrayal
  • Greed
  • Quag Sickness
  • Strands of Night

Instants (7)

  • Dark Banishing
  • Doom Blade
  • Entomb
  • Go for the Throat
  • Insidious Dreams
  • Murder
  • Victim of Night

Planeswalkers (2)

  • Liliana of the Dark Realms
  • Liliana Vess

Sorceries (6)

  • Ancient Craving
  • Buried Alive
  • Diabolic Revelation
  • Diabolic Tutor
  • Exsanguinate
  • Rain of Tears

Lands (39)

  • Cabal Coffers
  • 38 Swamp

For Magic Online/Forge/Cockatrice players, you can download the deck list here.

There you have it, the decklist for my Sheoldred Reanimator deck. It’s served me quite well, and I hope it will do the same for you. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns about this deck, or about MtG in general, let me know in the comments below or via email (jakeppetersen@gmail.com). Also, if you want to write about Magic for us, send your article pitches to us at Contact@Geekenstein.com. I’d love to have some partners in Magic coverage on the site.

MTG Madness