Teysa: Sacrificing Tokens for Fun and Profit

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Mookie
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Post by Mookie » 5 months ago

The Obzedat have revived you with purpose. Don't squander their blessing.
- Teysa, Orzhov Scion.
"Image"




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Introduction

To understand this deck, one must first understand how to die.
Die: verb.
To pass from physical life.
(source: Merriam-Webster)
700.4. The term dies means "is put into a graveyard from the battlefield."
(source: Magic comprehensive rules)
As a deck builder, one concept that appeals to me is synergy: the idea that the whole is stronger than the sum of its parts, and that some cards work better together than others. Some synergies are obvious - Goblin Warchief wants to be in a deck with Goblins, while Master of Etherium wants to be in a deck with artifacts. Other synergies are less obvious - Hedron Crab and Vengevine don't interact with one another directly... but one can fill a graveyard, while the other wants to be put into a graveyard.

Synergy can also turn downsides into upsides. A card like Death's Shadow makes losing life into a benefit, while Laboratory Maniac turns an empty library into a victory. This opens up a lot of options for deck building - often powerful ones, since downsides tend to be costed aggressively - consider that drawing seven cards costs seven mana, while discarding seven cards costs only one.

This is a deck built around one of the most basic negative acts in Magic: having our creatures die. Most creature-based decks want their creatures to stick around - to attack, to block, and to provide ongoing value. We take a different stance: death is just another part of life - specifically, the end. And to us, the way in which a creature dies is often even more important than the way it lived. To that end, we fill our deck with expendable creatures. We surround those creatures with ways to benefit from their death. And finally, we sacrifice those creatures, for fun and profit.

Cruel? Perhaps. But what were you expecting from the Orzhov?

This is an aristocrats-style deck built around generating tokens, then sacrificing them for value.


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Commander Analysis



Mana cost:
Teysa is a member of the Orzhov Syndicate, the guild on Ravnica representing black and white mana. As enemy colors, black and white have many resonant parallels - life vs death, Black Knight vs White Knight, the group vs self. This carries into many of the themes associated with Orzhov colors - the Extort mechanic gains life by taking it from our opponents, while the Afterlife mechanic turns our creatures' deaths into more life.

At three mana, Teysa is on the cheaper side for a commander - she's able to come down early, and we can recast her several times if she gets sent back to the command zone. There are also some cards such as Sun Titan and Unearth which are specifically capable of reanimating small creatures, which we may take advantage of.

In terms of color identity, white and black are known for their premium removal, such as Vindicate and Wrath of God - there are few card types that Orzhov can't deal with. Black also provides tutors and card draw, while white offers more interaction for noncreatures. However, as a color pair, Orzhov does not have particularly good access to interaction on the stack (the best we can do is black discard or white tax pieces), and its ability to ramp is also fairly lacking (most black ramp options only benefit swamps, while most white ramp options require having fewer lands than your opponents).

Type: Legendary Creature - Human Advisor.
Humans are one of Magic's most common creature type, appearing on almost every plane and in every color. There are some tribal support cards, mostly hailing from the plane of Innistrad, making them a fairly powerful tribe in Modern, with cards like Champion of the Parish and Thalia's Lieutenant. Human tribal decks tend to lean towards small aggressive creatures, which isn't a particularly powerful archetype in EDH, but there are some payoffs that are more valuable to us.

Advisors are mostly in Esper colors, with most of them either being in the Orzhov or Azorius guilds on Ravnica. However, as the only tribal payoff isn't in our colors, this tribe isn't very valuable to us.

Stats: 2/3
Three toughness makes Teysa a little hardier than some commanders, but still on the small side - she dies to Lightning Bolt. Two power means commander damage isn't very likely either, unless you're playing something like Cathars' Crusade. However, this low power does have some significant upsides, allowing Teysa to benefit from some of white's small-creature-friendly cards.

Sacrifice three white creatures: Exile target creature.
A targeted exile ability which serves great as a rattlesnake... or a sacrifice outlet if you have lots of expendable tokens. This is, fundamentally, a 1-for-3 card disadvantage, which means we need some way to generate lots of bodies if we want to take advantage of it repeatedly. Repeatable exile is very powerful though, and the mere threat of activation can stop some players from attempting to combo or play scary things.

Whenever another black creature you control dies, create a 1/1 white Spirit creature token with flying.
Oh hey, a way to generate lots of expendable bodies! This is the more heavily-used of Teysa's abilities, allowing us to double-dip on sacrifice effects, assuming we're sacrificing black creatures. The tokens also have flying, which makes them good at carrying equipment or serving as chump blockers. Alternatively, we can use Teysa's ability to soften the impact of a board wipe - if we have a lot of black creatures get killed at the same time as Teysa, we'll end up with a board full of spirit tokens. These tokens can also be used to fuel various spirit synergies.

This deck may not be for you if:
  • you want to play big creatures
  • you dislike complicated and cluttered board states
  • your meta has tons of grave hate
  • you're not comfortable winning with combo

You may enjoy this deck if:
  • you like tokens and going wide
  • you want to win by grinding out your opponents with incremental value
  • you value having uses for your creatures other than attacking and blocking
  • you enjoy synergistic decks with many interconnected pieces



Other Commander Options
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  • Teysa Karlov - Teysa 3.0 is another excellent commander for an aristocrats-style deck - we run her as part of the 99. Many 3.0 decks are focused less on tokens and more on creature that natively have death triggers.
  • Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim - a more efficient sac outlet in the command zone, who works well with lifegain and sacrificing bigger creatures.
  • Judith, the Scourge Diva - an option for aristocrats in Rakdos colors. Can have a somewhat more aggressive slant due to her anthem, but the ping ability is a potent control option with deathtouch.
  • Athreos, God of Passage - if you can put enough pressure on your opponents' life totals, has a powerful recursion ability. Sometimes seen at the head of an army of Shadowborn Apostles.
  • Elenda, the Dusk Rose - also benefits from many creatures dying. Can go both big and wide, although there are a few hoops to jump through due to her only triggering on death (meaning you can't send her to the command zone).
  • Ravos, Soul Tender and Tymna the Weaver - both partners offer card advantage in the command zone, and have abilities that work well with a more aggressive focus.
  • Krav, the Unredeemed and Regna, the Redeemer - these partners provide lifegain, a sacrifice outlet, token production, and card draw - pretty much everything one could ask for. They're also on the more expensive side.

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Deck History

the second card in the deck
I have been playing Teysa since approximately 2013. The earliest version of this deck was actually proxied - the first Commander deck I ever built was Animar, Soul of Elements, and I decided I wanted my second deck to be all the colors the first deck wasn't. I first started playing during the original Innistrad block, and that has certainly left a mark on my playstyle - I've always been a fan of graveyard synergies. When the mono-colored preconstructed decks were printed in 2014, I took that opportunity to pick one up and use it as the basis of an actual paper version of Teysa (mostly because it meant I could finally get my hands on a copy of Skullclamp).

This deck has gone through a lot of changes over the years, partially because there are so many cards worth consideration - any card related to tokens, sacrifice, or the graveyard is potentially worth including, and those are all extremely popular themes that get revisited in most sets. I'm now up to around eleven Commander decks, but this one is still the one I tweak the most often - the puzzle of balancing sacrifice outlets vs token producers vs payoffs (while still running enough ramp and card draw) is a problem I don't know if I will ever be able to fully solve.

Teysa herself has also gone through changes, with two new versions being released in the returns to Ravnica. Despite that, I still believe that the original is the best commander for this deck - no other option provides as much support for a token-based strategy.



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Decklist

Decklist

Commander


1 Teysa, Orzhov Scion
Approximate Total Cost:


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Card Discussion

a brief note on card choices
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not appearing in this decklist
Something to note when looking over these cards is that I have a self-imposed budget restriction of $2 per card, with exceptions for things I happen to already own or trade for. As a result, when looking over the card choices, I will recommend focusing more on the categories of cards than the individual selections - I make no claims that the cards currently in the deck are optimal, and many possible substitutions exist. Of all the decks I own, this is likely the one most in flux - there are many, many possible inclusions, and new potential cards are released all the time.

I definitely keep an eye on more expensive cards though - I try to cover additional options when applicable.
token production
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snake? snake? snaaaaaake!
Let's start by taking a look at the cards devoted primarily to token production. It is important to note that every black creature is a potential token producer due to Teysa's ability. However, even taking that into account, this category is still a bit on the lighter side. This is primarily due to me modifying the deck over time to be more resilient to board wipes. Many of the more powerful token producers are on creatures like Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder. As a result, if a board wipe is played, you will lose both your tokens and your token producers. I've focused more on cheaper token producing creatures and noncreature token producers to account for this.
  • Darkest Hour - entirely here for its synergy with Teysa - we can sacrifice any creature to make a now-black spirit, giving us as much sacrifice fodder as we want. At only a single mana, it's quite efficient. Doesn't do anything without Teysa out though. It does turn off Teysa's spot removal.
  • Dreadhorde Invasion - repeatable free-ish token production. Does need a sacrifice outlet to get a new body though.
  • Ophiomancer - makes a token on every upkeep, assuming you have a sacrifice outlet. Deathtouch also makes the snake a great blocker.
  • Pawn of Ulamog - turns creatures dying into Eldrazi Spawn. As efficient as things can get.
  • Tombstone Stairwell - we don't have a ton of ways to fill our graveyard, but our creatures do tend to die a lot. Gets very silly alongside Teysa, capable of spawning massive numbers of tokens on every upkeep.
  • Open the Graves - turns creatures dying into Zombies, which we can use alongside Teysa to triple-dip on sacrifice value.
other options
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I've chosen to focus on cheaper token production, but many options exist.
sacrifice outlets
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the cost is more important than the payoff
Sometimes, we want our creatures to die. These are chosen primarily based on efficiency and resiliency - if we're trying to perform a combo, having a free sacrifice outlet is usually necessary. They are redundant in multiples, so it's usually a good idea to hold back any extras.
  • Viscera Seer - at one mana, it's among the cheapest free sacrifice outlets available.
  • Altar of Dementia - artifacts are harder to kill than creatures. Also fills our graveyard or can serve as a win condition.
  • Cartel Aristocrat - protects itself through the sacrifice of others. Also a human, which can be relevant.
  • Spawning Pit - a free sac outlet that doubles as a token producer. You can sacrifice your board in response to a wrath, then redeploy at half-strength.
  • Ashnod's Altar - almost never played fairly. Being a mana ability means it gets around split-second. We don't have that many expensive spells to ramp into off it, but extra mana is often useful.
  • Yahenni, Undying Partisan - another sac outlet that can protect itself, this time with indestructible. Also gets pretty big if enough things die.

other options
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There are many sacrifice outlets available, depending on what your goals are.
interaction
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solve target problem
Our opponents aren't goldfish - they will take actions to try to win, and to prevent our own victory, and we need to be prepared to foil their plans. Fortunately, we have access to many types of removal, capable of dealing with most permanent-based problems.
  • Leonin Relic-Warder - temporarily deals with an artifact or enchantment, or permanently if we sacrifice it with the trigger on the stack.
  • Martial Coup - a board wipe that also gives us a small army of tokens.
  • Priest of Forgotten Gods - makes our opponents sacrifice creatures, while serving as a sacrifice outlet, mana dork, and card draw for us. It wears many, many hats.
  • Anguished Unmaking - solves any problem, at the low cost of three mana and three life.
  • Aven Mindcensor - shuts down tutors of all flavors. This deck can have difficulty with big green decks, and shutting down their land-based ramp slows them down significantly.
  • Fiend Hunter - solves a creature problem temporarily, or permanently if we sacrifice it before the first trigger resolves. Can also target our own creature if we want to trigger its enters-the-battlefield effect again.
  • Kambal, Consul of Allocation - Orzhov isn't known for its ability to interact on the stack, but this is a major headache for any sort of storm-based deck. Or any other deck that is light on creatures.
  • Crush Contraband - exiles two problems. There are some particularly annoying enchantments (such as Rest in Peace) that we really want to have answers to.
  • Grave Pact - turns all our spare tokens into edicts. Capable of keeping most boards clean if it sticks around.
  • Dictate of Erebos - as with Grave Pact, it's a very good way to keep the board clean.
  • Ethereal Absolution - we aren't running a lot of good ways to deal with go-wide strategies other than mass removal (which will also clear our own board). This serves as a powerful check to opposing go-wide strategies, while also serving as a token producer and grave hate.
  • Merciless Eviction - one of the most flexible board wipes available. Exile means we don't need to worry about any sort of recursion. Good at dealing with decks built around planeswalkers, artifacts, or enchantments, which are often otherwise pretty resistant to removal.
  • Decree of Pain - wipes the board, and draws a giant pile of cards. The cycling ability can also be relevant if you're expecting countermagic.

other options
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There are many options for removal in both black and white. White also provides access to hate cards, while black offers discard. Your interaction suite should usually be reflective of your meta - if people are running problematic creatures, run more spot removal. If people are playing lots of graveyard strategies, run more grave hate.
draw
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every body gets to draw cards
Card advantage is important, both because we want to be able to find answers to problems, and because we want to find the cards we need to assemble our own synergies. This deck usually wins by assembling a critical mass of interlocking synergies, which means that we really want to be able to dig deep to find what we're looking for. We also have access to several mass recursion spells, which work well with us churning through our deck quickly - even if we play a creature and it immediately dies, it is likely we will be able to get value from it again in the future.
  • Skullclamp - one of the most efficient card draw effects available, turning every spare token into two cards.
  • Mask of Memory - cheap to cast and equip, and works well with any evasive bodies we have (such as Spirit tokens). Also fills the graveyard to set up future recursion.
  • Bygone Bishop - we're running a lot of cheap creatures, so turning them into more card draw is useful.
  • Dark Prophecy - turns creature deaths into more card draw. Unique in that it also triggers on tokens, unlike most similar effects. The trigger is mandatory, so consider finding some lifegain if you find yourself running low on life.
  • Grim Haruspex - more card draw from creature deaths. We don't have any other morphs in here, so hiding its identity is rarely worth it.
  • Mentor of the Meek - one of the more powerful payoffs for running lots of small creatures, turning every token into extra cards.
  • Midnight Reaper - similar to Grim Haruspex. Causes life loss, but also triggers from its own death.
  • Phyrexian Arena - more classic black card draw, trading life and time for cards.
  • Tymna the Weaver - more ways to trade life for cards. Works best if we have evasive creatures available (usually spirit tokens).
  • Gonti, Lord of Luxury - a bit of filtering to go with our card advantage. Deathtouch makes them a good blocker, and taking the card from an opponent's deck can give access to effects we don't otherwise have access to. Also very entertaining to recur repeatedly.
  • Teysa Karlov - not technically card draw, but she allows us to double-dip on all of our death triggers, similar to Teysa 1.0. This generates virtual card advantage (because we get more value per death) or actual card advantage (if the death triggers in question are drawing us cards). Granting lifelink and vigilance to our tokens is a bit of incidental upside that works well with any evasive tokens we have.
  • Smothering Abomination - more ways to draw cards from the deaths of our creatures. It does need food, but still draws a card even if it ends up cannibalizing itself.
  • Syphon Mind - in a four-player game, this is effectively a Harmonize with upside. Actual results vary depending on the number of players in the game.

other options
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Black offers many options for trading life for cards. White's card advantage options are a bit more limited, but there are also many artifact-based draw engines that are worth consideration.
  • Necropotence, Necrologia, and Ad Nauseam - some of the most powerful ways to trade life for cards. Can be awkward if you've already put a lot of pressure on your life total, but they're first-class in terms of efficiency.
  • Well of Lost Dreams - in the opposite direction, Well is a way to convert lifegain into card draw. If you run more lifegain, it may be worth consideration.
  • Sign in Blood, Night's Whisper, Ancient Craving, Read the Bones, and other one-shot effects - all good options if you expect a faster game, and want your card advantage immediately.
  • Yawgmoth, Thran Physician - a sacrifice outlet that turns creatures and life into more cards.
  • Sword of Fire and Ice - if you're running an equipment package, there are options for repeatable card draw other than Skullclamp.
  • Coercive Portal, Mind's Eye, Endless Atlas, and other artifact-based card draw - depending on the contents of your deck and your requirements for card draw, there are many colorless options worth consideration. The black card draw is usually more efficient though.
  • Scroll Rack - a classic combination with Land Tax, if you happen to be running it.
recursion
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rise, so that you may fall once more
Recursion serves several purposes in this deck. One purpose is card advantage, using our graveyard as a second hand. Another purpose is insurance against board wipes - mass reanimation is a great way to rebuild. The third purpose is as a combo piece - many of our combos involve some sort of recursion loop, where one recursive creature returns a second recursive creature, which then returns the first creature again.
  • Phyrexian Reclamation - trade life and mana for recursion, at a reasonably efficient rate. We don't always have enough diversity in our creatures to go full toolbox-mode with our recursion, but being able to buy back something specific is still nice.
  • Animate Dead - recurs any creature, from any graveyard at an extremely efficient rate. We're not a dedicated reanimator deck, so we don't have a ton of beefy creatures to grab back, but that is a direction that could be built into.
  • Reassembling Skeleton - self-recurs, providing repeatable sacrifice fodder. Gold standard for self-reanimation.
  • Athreos, God of Passage - depending on the creature that dies, we may or may not get it back. Still, Athreos is hard to deal with, and the life loss adds up over time.
  • Dusk / Dawn - the front half is an asymmetric board wipe that leaves our small creatures alive. The back half returns any fallen small creatures to our hand, of which we have many.
  • Karmic Guide - reanimates any creature from our graveyard, no questions asked. Works very well as part of a recursion loop.
  • Living Death - mass reanimation is fun. Can backfire if our opponents have lots of problems in their graveyards, but that is why we run grave hate and exile effects. Also works well if we can set it up by sacrificing our board beforehand. Alternatively, use it as a board wipe when appropriate.
  • Reveillark - more synergy for little creatures, this time in the form of recursion.
  • Sun Titan - one of the few ways we have to reanimate noncreatures. Can serve a lot of functions, depending on what you have available.
  • Angel of Glory's Rise - a very powerful payoff for building Human tribal. Incidental hate for Zombie tribal decks is nice, but the main draw of the card is the one-sided mass reanimation effect.

other options
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Both white and black have many options for reanimation and recursion. Most of these effects only work on creatures, but there are some other options.
mana
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mana may be exchanged for goods and services
Casting spells is important. Black and white aren't the greatest colors at ramping, which means we often need to rely on artifact mana. However, both have some options available. This deck can have a lot of strict color requirements, with double or triple-weighted mana costs (such as Dark Prophecy), which means that colored mana is generally preferred.
  • Sol Ring - the most-played card in the format for a reason.
  • Orzhov Signet - a cheap and efficient mana rock, which also provides filtering.
  • Sword of the Animist - a cheap way to repeatedly ramp. We have a lot of cheap creatures that can carry it.
  • Boreas Charger - if you're behind on lands, it can catch you up.
  • Burnished Hart - sacrifices itself to provide ramp. Fetching lands makes it more resilient than most other ramp we have access to.
  • Pitiless Plunderer - turns all our creatures into Lotus Petals. Or treasures, I suppose. A very powerful mana engine when active.
  • Smothering Tithe - taxes and slows down our opponents, or provides ramp. Both modes are useful.
  • Black Market - capable of producing very large amounts of mana if it is active for any amount of time. We don't have any giant X spells like Torment of Hailfire to pump it into, but that is a direction that could be built into.

other options
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Although we don't have access to the best ramp spells, options do exist.
tutors
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it could be anything, even another tutor!
Tutors add consistency to decks. They make it easier to find specific answers, or to assemble combos. Black provides access to unconditional tutors, while white provides access to more narrow tutors. This deck is pretty light on tutors due to budget considerations, but many options exist.
  • Expedition Map - an efficient way to fetch up particularly important utility lands.
  • Demonic Tutor - likely the best tutor in the format, capable of fetching anything for only two mana.
  • Buried Alive - fetches cards directly into the graveyard. Great for setting up mass reanimation spells, but can also be used to fetch Reassembling Skeleton or other graveyard-friendly creatures for value.
  • Sidisi, Undead Vizier - turns any spare token into a tutor, while leaving behind a respectable body.

other options
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Both of our colors have many options for tutors - some narrow, some more flexible.
lifegain
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why spend your own life when you can use someone else's?
Many Orzhov decks have a lifegain theme, with cards like Ajani's Pridemate and Regna, the Redeemer providing payoffs for gaining life. This deck isn't built around that theme explicitly, but it is capable of putting a lot of pressure on its own life total by converting life into other resources. Most of the cards in this section serve multiple purposes - both buffering our life total and hindering our opponents.
  • Authority of the Consuls - some incidental lifegain attached to a potent anti-aggro effect - this deck doesn't enjoy being attacked by large hasty threats.
  • Soul Warden - more incidental lifegain. Not a lot of additional upside here, but the body is relevant, and can be fed to Skullclamp[card] when appropriate.
  • [card]Blood Artist - turns deaths into life drain. Often functions as a win condition to go along with a sacrifice loop, but can also add up quickly over the course of a game - if enough creatures are on the board, it may prevent an opponent from resolving a board wipe.
  • Dawn of Hope - primarily here as a payoff for our lifegain, but it also enables itself with the lifelink tokens. Not necessarily efficient, but being able to draw cards and generate tokens gives it a lot of flexibility.
  • Zulaport Cutthroat - similar to Blood Artist, it turns deaths into life drain. Only triggers on our own creatures, but it also hits all of our opponents and bypasses hexproof. Human tag is also relevant.

other options
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There are many cards capable of incidentally gaining life, ranging from any creature with lifelink to the more exotic.
utility lands
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the market is always open
Depending on your manabase, you may be able to include some number of utility lands. This deck has a relatively high Plains count to enable Emeria. A deck not playing Emeria could get away with playing more nonbasic lands, and thus also fit in more utility lands.
  • Bojuka Bog - grave hate on a land. We usually value hitting our land drops over holding it back, but it's still usually worth the cost of entering tapped.
  • Emeria, The Sky Ruin - a powerful recursion option if the game goes long. We're not able to turn it on as easily as a mono-white or Selesnya deck, but we do have some ways to repeatedly fetch basics out of our deck.
  • High Market - yet another sacrifice outlet. The lifegain is pretty minor, but sometimes we just really want our creatures to die.
  • Thawing Glaciers - a bit on the slow side, but it is card advantage in the land slot, and means you'll be able to hit land drops very consistently. Works even better if you have ways to untap it or copy the effect.
  • Vault of the Archangel - turns our 1/1 tokens into real blockers, and can also gain some life if we need to.

other options
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Other options exist in the utility land slot. When considering other options, compare the value get from them versus the consistency of playing another basic. Alternatively, if you're playing them to get more value from your land slots, it may be worth instead playing a spell that generates more value. If you're playing more utility lands, consider additional ways to fetch them, such as Weathered Wayfarer.
  • Strip Mine, Wasteland, and other land-destroying lands - worth consideration if you find yourself running into problematic lands across the table.
  • Volrath's Stronghold - a bit inefficient, but it is recursion on a land.
  • Buried Ruin - can be useful if you find important artifacts dying frequently, such as Skullclamp or sacrifice outlets.
  • Phyrexian Tower - another sacrifice outlet on a land. This one even ramps!
  • Westvale Abbey - a token producer on a land. Also flips into a giant demon.
  • Field of the Dead - if you're running enough different lands, it's pretty efficient token production. Tapped and colorless makes it a big opportunity cost though.
  • Mistveil Plains - worth consideration primarily because it is one of very few ways to get instants and sorceries back into our deck, which can be relevant if you're doing a lot of tutoring.
mana-producing lands
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when one color of mana just isn't enough
The main component of our manabase - the lands providing fixing and colored mana. We have some stricter color requirements, so fixing is pretty valuable. On the other hand, we want to be running a decent number of basics for cards like Emeria, the Sky Ruin and Sword of the Animist. Playing around Blood Moon and Back to Basics may also be relevant, depending on your meta. Unfortunately, enemy-colored manabases don't have as many options as ally-colored manabases, which means some number of tapped lands may be necessary.
  • Plains (x10) - the deck actually skews slightly towards black, but this is the minimum number of Plains necessary for Emeria, the Sky Ruin.
  • Swamp (x6) - we don't have anything that specifically requires swamps, but there are cards that care about running more. Consider flipping Plains and Swamps if you want to build in that direction instead.
  • Caves of Koilos, Command Tower, Isolated Chapel, Marsh Flats, and Tainted Field - untapped fixing.
  • Myriad Landscape - a bit of ramp in the land slot.
  • Orzhov Basilica - a little mana smoothing in the land slot. Can be useful alongside cards which care about how many lands you have relative to your opponents.
  • Orzhov Guildgate - not a great fixing land.... but at least it has Teysa flavor text!
  • Path of Ancestry - a bit of incidental scry. Yet another perk to running more Humans.
  • Scoured Barrens - yet another tapped land. Can be useful if you have more of a lifegain focus.
  • Shambling Vent - manlands are useful here because they can serve as sacrifice fodder in a pinch.
  • Temple of Silence - tapped fixing, but the incidental scry can be useful.
  • Terramorphic Expanse - a bit more tapped fixing. Works well with Sun Titan, or if you have other land recursion.

other options
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More than any other category, your manabase is going to depend on your budget - some players will be running original duals and all the relevant fetchlands, while others will be stuck with guildgates. Use what you have access to.
  • Scrubland, Godless Shrine, Fetid Heath, and other untapped fixers - always worth including.
  • Verdant Catacombs and other fetchlands - also worth including. Their value goes up if you have more lands with basic land types.
  • Mana Confluence, City of Brass, and other untapped-fixing-with-downside - again, worth consideration if you find yourself wanting better fixing, and aren't encountering too much pressure on your life total.
  • Forsaken Sanctuary and other tapped lands - try to avoid them, but may be necessary if you find yourself needing more fixing.

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Strategy

This deck has two primary plans for victory: grinding out value, and combo. Both of these plans are closely interlinked. If we can draw more cards and deplete our opponents' resources, it is easier to combo. Alternatively, if we can assemble several synergistic pieces, we can generate a bunch of value. As a result, which approach to take is going to depend on a lot of factors: the cards you have in hand, how fast you expect the game to be, the other decks at the table, how much hate is present... and many others.

Plan A: Value
card advantage: the basis of many strategies
Most games are going to start with us focusing on grinding out value. This primarily takes the form of generating card advantage. However, this deck runs very little pure card draw. Instead, it is focused primarily on draw engines like Skullclamp, Tymna the Weaver, and Mentor of the Meek. These engines typically are powered by creatures - either triggering off them entering the battlefield, dealing combat damage, or dying. As a result, we also have a strong incentive to continuously generate more creatures. The easiest way to do so is with token production, such as Ophiomancer or Dawn of Hope. However, we can also fuel these engines with expendable nontoken creatures, assuming we are drawing enough cards to replace them.

The other type of value we care about is mana production. The more mana we have, the more things we can do. The simplest way to generate more mana is to hit our land drops, which will generally require card draw. However, there are also some other options we have to generate more mana - Sword of the Animist, Black Market, and recurring Burnished Hart are all examples. One thing to note is that we are generally not going to be able to keep up with a dedicated ramp deck - we aren't running a ton of mana rocks, and we don't have nearly as many ramp options available to us as a green deck would. As a result, our goal when ramping isn't to cast more expensive spells - we aren't planning to win by casting a giant Exsanguinate or Genesis Wave. In fact, our curve is generally going to top out at six mana. Instead, our ultimate goal when ramping is much purer: speed. We want to be able to cast more spells per turn so our opponents have fewer windows to disrupt our plans.


Plan B: Combo
Ultimately, neither drawing cards nor ramping are going to win the game - for that, we turn to combo. Our end goal for drawing cards is to find our combo pieces, and our end goal for ramping is to have enough mana to deploy them in a single turn. Our combo engines actually look pretty similar to our card advantage and mana production engines - they generally trigger off having creatures die, and want us to feed them with expendable tokens. However, the place that differs is the output - Blood Artist drains our opponents of life, Altar of Dementia mills them out, and generating infinite tokens can let us just win through combat.

Plan C: The Fair Way
putting a well-stocked graveyard to use
The final option we have for winning is the fair way. While draining someone out from 40 life with Blood Artist is difficult, draining someone out from 15 or 10 life is significantly easier. This deck isn't really focused on attacking, but we run enough evasive creatures (mostly 1/1 flying spirit tokens) that we can attack when necessary. Keeping the board clear with Grave Pact (or just exiling everything relevant with Teysa) makes combat a lot easier. The deck isn't optimized to win in this fashion, but cards like Cathar's Crusade can make winning via combat a very realistic option.

Switching Gears
When to switch from focusing on value to focusing on combo is generally going to depend on what resources we have available. If we already have some combo pieces available, we can start digging or tutoring for what we still need. Alternatively, if our opponents are tapped low or running low on cards, that may provide an opening for us to combo out without needing to care about interaction. I've definitely won games immediately following a Torment of Hailfire or Cyclonic Rift depleting the resources of most of the table. The third situation where it may be worth focusing on combo is if we, personally, are running low on resources - if the board keeps getting wrathed and we can't stick a value engine, it may be a good idea to just stockpile cards in hand until we have everything we need.

On the other hand, there are times that trying to combo is a bad idea. If our opponents are holding open lots of mana for interaction, it can be better to hold back and wait for other opponents to play threats and force out removal. If someone successfully sticks a problem card and it isn't quickly dealt with, the coast is probably clear for us. Alternatively, it can be risky to combo if we can't do everything necessary in a single turn - if we play out an important creature and the board gets wiped, that could set us pretty far back. In that case, we should try to only expose combo piece we have redundant copies of. Alternatively, play out cards that will generate value even if they get removed.



.

Building an Engine

definitely not being used for anything nefarious
This deck usually wins in one of two ways: either by assembling an infinite combo, or by assembling a set of cards which generate value in a non-infinite way. Almost all of these engines require three things: a way to generate creatures, a way to kill our creatures, and a payoff. Some cards are capable of filling multiple roles (such as Altar of Dementia and Spawning Pit), which makes assembling an engine easier. Whether or not these engines are infinite or not depends on the efficiency of the components involved.

The first ingredient of any engine is creatures. Ideally, we'll be using tokens as our fuel - they are expendable, replaceable, and come in bulk. Black tokens are particularly valuable, since Teysa lets us use them twice, but we also have other ways to generate more tokens. The alternative to tokens is recursion - if we have some way to grab back the same creature repeatedly, we can sacrifice it over and over. Many cards we have specifically trigger off nontoken creatures, so this can be preferable for some engines. Finally, if we have enough expendable creatures, we can sometime use that to kickstart our engine - we'll run out of fuel quickly if all we have to feed our engine is a Soul Warden and a Zombie token, but any fuel is better than nothing at all.
Example token producers: Darkest Hour (with Teysa), Ophiomancer, Open the Graves
Example recursion cards: Reassembling Skeleton, Sun Titan, Angel of Glory's Rise

The second ingredient of our engine is a way to burn the fuel - more explicitly, a sacrifice outlet. Some sac outlets cost mana or have timing restrictions, but the best ones are free and instant-speed (or even better, mana abilities). If we don't have a sac outlet, combat and board wipes are also options - it's possible for us to come out of some board wipes with more creatures than we started with. The main concern is that if we wait too long for our creatures to die, then they may instead be bounced or exiled. Also note that sac outlets are generally redundant in multiples - if you have one available, there usually isn't a need to play out an extra.
Example sacrifice outlets: Cartel Aristocrat, Ashnod's Altar, Smothering Abomination

The third ingredient for our engine is to hook it up to some sort of valuable output - when our creatures die, we want some way to extract value from their deaths. What type of output this is is going to decide whether the engine is an actual win condition, or just a value engine. Drawing cards is usually the first output we care about, since it can draw us into other types of output. However, for our engine to truly be perpetual, we'll need for one of our outputs to be more expendable creatures to feed back in.
Example payoffs: Blood Artist, Skullclamp, Grave Pact
Sample Engines and Combos
Show
Infinites:
  • Darkest Hour + Teysa: sacrifice any creature, get back a 1/1 black flying spirit token. Allows for infinite sacrifices.
  • Fiend Hunter + Sun Titan, Angel of Glory's Rise, or Karmic Guide: Fiend Hunter exiles the other creature. Sacrifice Fiend Hunter, and it returns, to return Fiend Hunter again.
  • Karmic Guide + Reveillark: Karmic Guide returns Reveillark. Sacrifice Karmic Guide. Sacrifice Reveillark. Reveillark returns Karmic Guide and another small creature.
  • Leonin Relic-Warder + Animate Dead: Animate Dead returns Leonin Relic-Warder. Relic-Warder exiles Animate dead, which causes Relic-Warder to die. Animate Dead returns again.
  • Pitiless Plunderer + Reassembling Skeleton + Teysa (or another token producer): Sacrifice Reassembling Skeleton, producing a Treasure and a token. Sacrifice token for another Treasure. Sacrifice Treasures to return Skeleton.
Non-Infinites:
  • Tombstone Stairwell + Teysa: On each upkeep, create a bunch of Tombspawn tokens. At end of turn, they will all die, creating a bunch of Spirit tokens.
  • Reassembling Skeleton, Phyrexian Reclamation, or Dawn of Hope + mana: pay mana, make (or recur) bodies.
  • Ophiomancer: get a token on each upkeep. Sacrifice it for value.
  • Spawning Pit: sacrifice creatures, get counters. Use counters to make tokens, then sacrifice them again.
Combine any of these body-producing engines with a sacrifice outlet and a payoff.

.

Playing the Game

Opening Hand
For our opening hand, we'll typically look for 3-4 lands, and some sort of card draw. The deck requires a critical mass of pieces to function. As a result, while we could rely on drawing into those pieces naturally, it is usually better to have some way to dig deeper into our deck. If you don't have any card advantage, instead look for some sort of ramp or acceleration.
Sample hand 1
Show


A little shaky, but keepable. We'll get a bit of scrying off the Path of Ancestry to help with the flood, and Tymna can draw some cards. If you're going last or don't expect to be able to freely attack and get a Tymna trigger, it may be worth throwing back.
Sample hand 2
Show


Throw back. Neither Yahenni nor Athreos do anything without other creatures. It might be keepable if you had an amazing land to fetch up with Expedition Map, but that is unlikely. Worth keeping if you're already down a card though - throw back a land and fetch up Thawing Glaciers to make up for the mulligan.
Sample hand 3
Show


Keep. We don't have any expendable creatures yet, but we have a fantastic card draw engine in Skullclamp and a ramp engine in Sword of the Animist. It may be worth sandbagging Skullclamp until we can get immediate value.

Early Game
a good way to hit every land drop
Our first focus is going to be ramping and hitting land drops. Our curve is low enough that we can get away with not ramping, but we don't want to fall too far behind our opponents either - the faster we can get a draw engine into play and start generating value, the better. Similarly, some of our draw engines require mana to function, so having mana available is important. If you have a way to guarantee land drops, such as Sword of the Animist or Thawing Glaciers it is usually worth it do so. Alternatively, if you have a way to turn creatures into cards, such as Skullclamp or Mentor of the Meek, it is often a good idea to do so to help hit those land drops.

Playing Teysa out on turn 3 is usually a safe choice - she isn't a high enough profile target for people to burn removal on that early. Her 2/3 body is also pretty reasonable on curve - we have a couple of pieces of equipment for her to carry, and three toughness is enough to survive most early combats. Still, this deck isn't really focused on winning via combat damage - holding her back on blocking duty is usually a good idea if you aren't going to get some sort of benefit.

Mid Game
start putting your creatures to work
After the game has been going for a bit, try to start assembling some sort of value engine. Drawing just one card per turn isn't going to be enough - find some sort of payoff, and wring as much value from your creatures as possible. Cards like Smothering Abomination and Grim Haruspex are great here. Your limiting factor at this point in time is likely to be mana - don't worry about building out your board state, and instead focus on generating value. Depending on what sort of value engine you have, it may also be a good idea to play out a token producer, which provides another axis for value generation. You'll also want to make sure you have a sacrifice outlet available, since most value engines run off death triggers.

At this stage of the game, board wipes may be start to be played. This is one of the reasons we focus so much on generating value from our creatures - if we've already gotten value from our creatures, we don't care if they die. Try not to extend too much into a board wipe if you don't think you can recover - instead, hold creatures back until you can get more value from them. Still, if your creatures do die, don't worry too much. We have ways to generate plenty of value from a well-stocked graveyard.

Late Game
This deck wins by generating a critical mass of synergistic pieces, so finding a win condition is inevitable, assuming you can draw through your deck quickly enough. Once you have enough mana, start trying to figure out how you are going to win, given the resources you have available. If you happen to have a mass reanimation spell, try to find a way to stock your graveyard - either sacrifice a bunch of creatures for value, or just draw a bunch of cards and discard to hand size. Alternatively, if you have several parts of an infinite combo, hold them in hand while you try to draw or tutor for the remaining parts.

Another option is to just keep grinding out value - given enough card draw, you'll usually find some way to close out a game. At this point, it may be possible to pivot your value engine from card advantage to board control - either keep the board clear with Grave Pact, or just shoot down all the problematic creatures with Teysa. This is the phase of the game that board states can get bloated, so playing out a Blood Artist and making a lot of creatures die can also serve as a win condition if life totals are low enough. The deck is capable of winning with minimal preexisting board state, so bide your time and find an opening.

Backup Plans
nuke it from orbit. it's the only way to be sure.
Sometimes, things don't go as planned. There are a lot of ways that this deck can be put a bad spot, ranging from our stuff being blown up to our life total being pressured. In some ways, this can be a blessing in disguise - if you're behind, your opponents will pay less attention to you, which can leave an opening for a surprise victory.

If your board gets wiped: this is what mass reanimation is for. We also run normal recursion.

If your combo piece gets exiled: always inconvenient, since it hurts our recursion and mass reanimation plans. The deck runs a lot of redundant combo pieces, so find a replacement for whatever is lost.

If Teysa is stolen: annoying, but the deck functions without her. She also doesn't do much for most opposing decks, so they are unlikely to try that hard to keep her around.

If an opponent plays a bunch of scary things: we play board wipes and spot removal. It may be possible to point them in a different direction using Teysa as a rattlesnake.

If an opponent plays a hate card: Humility, Rest in Peace, Cursed Totem.... there are a lot of cards that shut down our strategy. Find some removal for it - most of ours exiles, so you won't need to deal with it again.


.

Change Log

changelog
Show
Older changes on Tappedout
8/13/2019 - initial version
10/20/2019 - primer status!
Last edited by Mookie 3 months ago, edited 19 times in total.

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Post by ChocoDude » 3 months ago

I appreciate how much work you put into this, but it's sad to see no comments. I've been working on my OG Teysa deck for several months now having come back to MTG after a 10+ year hiatus. Commander seems like my speed, so I've been building decks. I'm up to five now that I play here and there. Teysa is my most frustrating. I feel like modifying it all the time trying to get it just right.

As for your thread, with your $2 limit per card I suspect you'll get less comments from folks since that's a limitation to greater card discussion. Have you been adding more expensive cards to your Teysa deck? I'd be willing to discuss more with that out in the open. I have several more expensive cards in the deck and this deck still confounds me relative to my other EDH decks.

I will ask (in the $2 card range) have you thought about adding Blind Obedience? I think it's great because of the Extort mechanic. Also, note in your discussion that Darkest Hour actually hinders Teysa's removal mechanic since it turns all creatures ONLY black. In that regard, Painter's Servant is a much better choice or in addition to Darkest Hour as it doesn't hinder half of Teysa's mechanics.

Let's get discussions rolling!!

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Post by Mookie » 3 months ago

Ha, thanks for being the first to comment! Teysa is one of my oldest decks - around six years now? Yet it's also the deck I tinker with the most often - there are a lot of variables to mess with and new cards to test. Because of the need to balance sacrifice outlets vs token producers vs payoffs (while still running enough card draw and ramp), it's really difficult to say that any specific configuration is optimal.
ChocoDude wrote:
3 months ago
As for your thread, with your $2 limit per card I suspect you'll get less comments from folks since that's a limitation to greater card discussion. Have you been adding more expensive cards to your Teysa deck? I'd be willing to discuss more with that out in the open. I have several more expensive cards in the deck and this deck still confounds me relative to my other EDH decks.
I do break the $2/card limit occasionally, but I generally try to hold to it. When I do break the limit, it's usually restricted to $5 at most, and primarily for extremely high-impact cards - Smothering Tithe is the most recent example. Partially to manage costs (I'm up to eleven decks, and keeping them all up to date can be expensive), but mostly because I enjoy the challenge. On the other hand, the restriction specifically refers to me actually purchasing singles - I'm perfectly fine with trading for cards or using cards opened from packs (hence why Demonic Tutor is in). I am certainly open to broadening the discussion to other cards - I've tried to cover potential inclusions in the various 'other options' sections. I'll make a note of that.
ChocoDude wrote:
3 months ago
I will ask (in the $2 card range) have you thought about adding Blind Obedience? I think it's great because of the Extort mechanic.
Blind Obedience is actually on my shortlist of cards to test. With the inclusion of Dawn of Hope, the ability to gain life becomes much more attractive. To a lesser extent, Dark Prophecy and Midnight Reaper also appreciate having a life total buffer. I'm currently testing Authority of the Consuls and Soul Warden as my dedicated lifegain cards, to see how that theme feels.

I'm not entirely sure how much of the deck I want to push towards lifegain though - I could go all-in, with Well of Lost Dreams, Regna, the Redeemer, and Necrologia, but at that point it may be better to switch to a different commander.
ChocoDude wrote:
3 months ago
Also, note in your discussion that Darkest Hour actually hinders Teysa's removal mechanic since it turns all creatures ONLY black. In that regard, Painter's Servant is a much better choice or in addition to Darkest Hour as it doesn't hinder half of Teysa's mechanics.
Yeah, shutting off Teysa's exile ability is an unfortunate side effect of Darkest Hour. I usually don't play out Darkest Hour unless I'm planning to combo out, at which point using Teysa as spot removal usually doesn't matter. Painter's Servant is a very solid upgrade over Darkest Hour - it's a bit easier to kill due to being an artifact creature, but the deck also has a lot of synergies for creatures (reanimation, sacrifice, etc).

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Post by ChocoDude » 3 months ago

Yeah, I contemplate the same regarding the balance between lifegain and beneficial-lifedrainers. Currently, I'm running Soul Warden and Blind Obedience as opposed to Authority of the Consuls, which I have but chose Blind O instead. So far so good. Here's a link my decklist: https://archidekt.com/decks/88729#OG_Te ... all_We_Go?.

I think I need to run more ramp. I don't think it's quite enough. I'm also on the fence about the two Monuments and am considering adding in another board wiper. Oh yeah, I've built it as a Human sub-theme for the most part. Thoughts?

For your deck I have thoughts of additions and subtractions, but some of them may simply be a consequence of your price limitation. In that regard, you said you were open to trading for more expensive cards. Have you checked out Cardsphere? Great resource for trading your "trash/treasures" for someone else's "trash/treasures."

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Post by Mookie » 3 months ago

ChocoDude wrote:
3 months ago
I think I need to run more ramp. I don't think it's quite enough. I'm also on the fence about the two Monuments and am considering adding in another board wiper. Oh yeah, I've built it as a Human sub-theme for the most part. Thoughts?
Yeah, you look a little light on ramp. I'll highly recommend Pitiless Plunderer. Expedition Map, to tutor up Urborg / Cabal Coffers is also an option. It really depends on your curve and how much mana you spend though - if you find yourself flooding out, and more card draw or mana sinks. If you find yourself starved for mana, add more ramp.

I used to run Oketra's Monument, but didn't find it to be doing enough - I wasn't casting a white creature spell every turn, so the mana discount was negligible. I'm not a big fan of Bontu's Monument, but, again, it depends on how many creature spells you're casting.

My human subtheme is primarily for Angel of Glory's Rise, which is an absurd card. Also works well with Buried Alive. I used to run Xathrid Necromancer, but found myself not quite having enough humans for it. Does do very interesting things alongside Mirror Entity though - turn the zombies into humans, sacrifice for value, get replacement zombies. Not sure if you have enough payoffs for Patriarch's Bidding though.

Two board wipes looks a little light, although it depends on what your meta looks like. I'll highly recommend Merciless Eviction if you want a third.

Haven't heard of Cardsphere, but I'll give it a look. May have soured somewhat on things a bit after Pucatrade, but I have been meaning to do more trading. I stopped carrying around my trade binder once it got too heavy, which... sort of defeats the purpose of having it in the first place.

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Post by Mookie » 3 months ago

Throne of Eldraine is out, so going through the new cards and logging which ones I find interesting. There are quite a few considerations for Teysa, since there is a bit of a graveyard theme in black.

Ayara, First of Locthwain - weaker sacrifice outlet than Yawgmoth, Thran Physician would be, and only eats black creatures. On the other hand, she provides a bunch of incidental life drain. I'd be interesting in testing, at least.

Charming Prince - I don't think it would make the cut, since I don't have enough ETB effects. Still, it's a cheap flicker effect.

Piper of the Swarm - a relatively inexpensive token producer, although I think better ones exist. Could be fun if you were running Ogre Slumlord.

Deafening Silence - this deck doesn't cast a lot of noncreature spells per turn, and often appreciates another hate piece for spell-based decks it can't interact with. May be worth consideration over or in addition to Kambal, Consul of Allocation.

Order of Midnight - interesting to contrast with Gravedigger and Graveshifter. Not an ETB effect, so it doesn't work with reanimation, but it is cheaper than the other two and still works with other recursion. Flying makes it decent at carrying equipment.

Doom Foretold - I want to test it. Not sure how good it actually is, but feeding it with Reassembling Skeleton seems good. Eats all sorts of card types (not just creatures), and generates some card advantage when it goes away.

Castle Ardenvale - my main issue with it is that I'm trying to keep a high Plains count for Emeria, the Sky Ruin, which means I need to have my other lands contain as many black sources as possible. This may actually be the official tipping point for me cutting Emeria and fixing my land color distribution. I don't think that a 1/1 for four mana is that impressive, but the fact that this will usually enter untapped and taps for colored mana makes it a significantly lower opportunity cost.

Castle Locthwain - as above, often enters untapped and taps for colored mana, giving it a low opportunity cost. The life loss is relevant, but I wouldn't expect to be activating this unless I were low on cards in hand. Seems pretty powerful otherwise.

Witch's Cottage - I don't think I could support it with my current manabase, but could be interesting if Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth were in (or I had more swamps in general). A lot of my creatures generate card advantage, so being down a card to rebuy one doesn't hurt quite as much.

True Love's Kiss - interesting for consideration over Crush Contraband. Cantrips instead of being a 2-for-1. Think I prefer the latter for pure efficiency (and me not having a ton of artifact/enchantment removal), but still interesting.

Fabled Passage and Arcane Signet - I, for one, welcome our new format staple overlords. I should probably be running some other two mana rocks first though (specifically Talisman of Hierarchy).

Chittering Witch - Sengir Autocrat was in an older version of the deck, but I cut it due to not doing enough. The witch provides a sacrifice outlet and removal, which are both very significant upsides.

Tome of Legends - I pay attention to pretty much every new colorless draw engine for Teysa, even though they almost always end up getting cut. I don't think this one is an exception, since I don't flicker or attack with Teysa that often, but the fact that it is so cheap (and lets you cantrip immediately) means it may be worth testing.

Syr Konrad, the Grim - I didn't originally have it on the list, but I played a game recently against it when I had Tombstone Stairwell in hand and realized that they are very, very silly together. Provides an alternative to Zulaport Cutthroat in my Buried Alive package, while also dealing a lot more damage (and being a better body) when just hardcast.

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Post by ChocoDude » 3 months ago

Wow. Thanks for the Throne of Eldraine review! Syr Konrad seems intriguing to me. He costs quite a bit, but recurring him should help. So, I've been thinking about our respective decks. One thing I didn't mention is that I have no playgroup at the moment. I simply have a co-worker who I can play with maybe over lunch one day a week. So, basically I'm playing one-vs-one. As such, I've tried to make my decks all faster (low CMC). This is why my Teysa deck is running a CMC 2.55. I noticed yours is at 3.24 which would be way too slow for my current situation. Additionally, I've technically ONLY played multiplayer once with just three-players, so I'm not sure what a rule-of-thumb average CMC should be for larger groups. Have any ideas?

You mentioned you've been playing Teysa for 6 years, I'm sure you know a thing or two about how she plays in multiplayer EDH. I've been making a Varina deck as well and many folks have commented on how awesome Tombstone Stairwell is for that deck. I'm now seriously considering it for both decks. I bumped up my offer % in Cardsphere for two copies of it. We'll see if someone is willing to sell it to me.

My deck: thanks for the advice...I dropped both Monuments in favor of Expedition Map and Damnation. Both of which I had. How do you feel about Damnation as opposed to Merciless Eviction and/or Martial Coup for Teysa? Additionally, I've been tracking how much life loss my own deck has been causing me versus life gain in the for the last couple of games I've played. It's definitely been hurting me more than gaining me life. So, I decided to pull Midnight Reaper (preferred it for my Varina deck anyway) out in favor of Mask of Memory. I really like that idea of equipping my flying spirit tokens and hopefully obtaining some card advantage and filtering. I love the filtering that Varina provides. I'm assuming you're generally happy with the Mask.

As for your deck: Are you happy with Black Market? I found it too expensive for the benefit. It can provide massive mana gain, but it's not immediate especially if you're devoid of sac outlets or fodder. Also, your thoughts on Kambal, Consul of Allocation? I'm guessing he's much better in multiplayer. Also, how about Burnished Hart? Seems too slow to me in general. I had a Weather Wayfarer and a Land Tax so I'm playing them instead?

All that being said, there's a ton more I'd like to say, but I've gotta get going. I want to discuss the Throne cards more and well I guess I'll briefly talk about Cardsphere now. So, it's not a direct trade site. You basically sell cards, build up a bank account...or...just directly contribute funds to your account, then buy cards from other users. It's definitely cheaper than TCG Player, eBay, and far cheaper than Card Kingdom or your LGS generally. The only two drawbacks are: 1) you have to wait, patience helps, and 2) sometimes the condition of cards you get isn't as good as listed, but it's RARELY happened to me and you can complain to the Cardsphere overlords or simply talk the seller down in price before you commit funds to them. Overall, I've spent 350 cards out by mail, received 251 all for a total of about $1800. MUCH MUCH MUCH better than toting a trade binder around!! Oh, if you try it out, I'd recommend: 1) watch their intro videos or tips, 2) get your cards organized if they aren't already, 3) input all the cards you'd be willing to sell first before ever clicking the Send tab to see who and how much folks are willing to offer you on a % basis for your cards. I've only had one semi-bad sale and only because the person never committed funds to me after receiving the cards. Of course, they never responded to my communications either, but I just emailed the Cardsphere admin and after three weeks of no-comms they sent a warning to the person and after no response, they committed the funds to me. So, I've NEVER lost cards that was trying to sell. Generally, folks are really cool on the site. Alright, that was WAY more than I was going to say. Cheers for now!

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Post by ChocoDude » 3 months ago

Oh yeah, I really should add Buried Alive to my deck, but I was trying to avoid mass reanimation. Maybe I should add a couple of those too?

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Post by Mookie » 3 months ago

ChocoDude wrote:
3 months ago
So, I've been thinking about our respective decks. One thing I didn't mention is that I have no playgroup at the moment. I simply have a co-worker who I can play with maybe over lunch one day a week. So, basically I'm playing one-vs-one. As such, I've tried to make my decks all faster (low CMC). This is why my Teysa deck is running a CMC 2.55. I noticed yours is at 3.24 which would be way too slow for my current situation. Additionally, I've technically ONLY played multiplayer once with just three-players, so I'm not sure what a rule-of-thumb average CMC should be for larger groups. Have any ideas?
Hard to pin down an exact CMC, since it depends so much on your meta, but I would say that around 3-3.5 is usually fine. Multiplayer games tend to go longer, so you have more time to play expensive spells. It does depend a lot on the meta though - the faster your meta is, the lower you'll want your curve to be. It also depends on how much card advantage you have and how much ramp/acceleration. I almost never aim for a specific average CMC when building decks - if I find the deck being too slow, I cut expensive cards and add ramp, and if I find myself running out of action, I add card draw.
ChocoDude wrote:
3 months ago
You mentioned you've been playing Teysa for 6 years, I'm sure you know a thing or two about how she plays in multiplayer EDH. I've been making a Varina deck as well and many folks have commented on how awesome Tombstone Stairwell is for that deck. I'm now seriously considering it for both decks. I bumped up my offer % in Cardsphere for two copies of it. We'll see if someone is willing to sell it to me.
The best part of Tombstone Stairwell is that it always requires the rest of the table to read it. I'm still waiting for the World rule to be relevant. The card requires a bit of setup (since you want to have at least 4 or so creatures in your graveyard), but it's capable of generating more tokens in a single turn cycle than pretty much any other card I can think of.
ChocoDude wrote:
3 months ago
How do you feel about Damnation as opposed to Merciless Eviction and/or Martial Coup for Teysa?
I would probably put it below Merciless Eviction and above Martial Coup. I haven't run Damnation, but I have run Wrath of God / Day of Judgment in the past. As above, which is better is going to depend somewhat on the speed of your meta - a faster meta will want the cheaper answer. I do think Merciless Eviction is really good though - it's capable of solving pretty much any problems, and this deck doesn't have a lot of other answers to artifact/enchantress/superfriends decks.

I'm Martial Coup in here partially because I found myself wanting more token production - if you feel you have enough, it isn't as necessary.
ChocoDude wrote:
3 months ago
Additionally, I've been tracking how much life loss my own deck has been causing me versus life gain in the for the last couple of games I've played. It's definitely been hurting me more than gaining me life. So, I decided to pull Midnight Reaper (preferred it for my Varina deck anyway) out in favor of Mask of Memory. I really like that idea of equipping my flying spirit tokens and hopefully obtaining some card advantage and filtering. I love the filtering that Varina provides. I'm assuming you're generally happy with the Mask.
Generally happy with Mask, yes - it's a pretty solid source of card draw, and the discard is an upside due to mass reanimation / Tombstone Stairwell. If not for budget concerns, I'd actually like to try out a Stoneforge Mystic + Sword of Fire and Ice (+ other equipment) package, but I'm not sure if SoFaI is actually better than Mask in this deck.
ChocoDude wrote:
3 months ago
As for your deck: Are you happy with Black Market? I found it too expensive for the benefit. It can provide massive mana gain, but it's not immediate especially if you're devoid of sac outlets or fodder. Also, your thoughts on Kambal, Consul of Allocation? I'm guessing he's much better in multiplayer. Also, how about Burnished Hart? Seems too slow to me in general. I had a Weather Wayfarer and a Land Tax so I'm playing them instead?
I've generally been happy with Black Market, but it definitely is a high-variance card. I'm running it partially because I think more variance makes for a more fun game, but I couldn't say whether it is actually good.

Kambal is.... fine, but probably one of the weaker cards in the deck. I'm testing him as a source of incidental lifegain. Usually gets a few triggers off before getting killed, since this sort of effect tends to draw hate.

Burnished Hart can do some interesting things with Sun Titan or other recursion, and it also provides a death trigger, but yes, it is a bit slow. Weathered Wayfarer and Land Tax are both cards I would favor over it. Definitely a good idea to not rely entirely on artifact ramp though.
ChocoDude wrote:
3 months ago
Oh yeah, I really should add Buried Alive to my deck, but I was trying to avoid mass reanimation. Maybe I should add a couple of those too?
May I ask why you were trying to avoid mass reanimation?

Personally, I'm a fan of mass reanimation - I think it is important to have some cards that are capable of scaling if the game goes long. Living Death doubles as a board wipe, while Angel of Glory's Rise is usually a combo piece. Both are capable of generating piles of value by reanimating a bunch of bodies. Like Black Market, they can definitely be a bit high-variance though - if an opponent has a bunch of scary stuff in their graveyard, or if your graveyard gets exiled, or if you just haven't drawn enough creatures. Good way to recover from a board wipe though.

Buried Alive can also function as a value card if you fetch Reassembling Skeleton / Bloodghast / Nether Traitor / etc, or have other recursion available.

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Post by Rumpy5897 » 3 months ago

Wow. I accidentally stumbled into the thread to find a nicely fleshed out write-up, and clicking through to other decks in your sig reveals this to be a constant for you. I shouldn't be surprised, really, given your insightful posts in other threads. Have you thought about submitting those for primer status to recognise your work? I'm just one guy, but from my perspective all they really need is a slightly fatter strategy section.

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Post by Mookie » 3 months ago

Rumpy5897 wrote:
3 months ago
Wow. I accidentally stumbled into the thread to find a nicely fleshed out write-up, and clicking through to other decks in your sig reveals this to be a constant for you. I shouldn't be surprised, really, given your insightful posts in other threads. Have you thought about submitting those for primer status to recognise your work? I'm just one guy, but from my perspective all they really need is a slightly fatter strategy section.
Ha, it feels good to be recognized. :D

I've thought about it, but not sure how up-to-date they want things to be kept. Between my budget restrictions and my tendency to only actually update my decks once every six months, there are a lot of new cards that sort of slip by me. Still, couldn't hurt to nominate and see what happens.

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Post by ChocoDude » 3 months ago

Hard to pin down an exact CMC, since it depends so much on your meta, but I would say that around 3-3.5 is usually fine. Multiplayer games tend to go longer, so you have more time to play expensive spells. It does depend a lot on the meta though - the faster your meta is, the lower you'll want your curve to be. It also depends on how much card advantage you have and how much ramp/acceleration. I almost never aim for a specific average CMC when building decks - if I find the deck being too slow, I cut expensive cards and add ramp, and if I find myself running out of action, I add card draw.
Thanks! That's a really useful EDH guideline to follow. Much appreciated!

As for Kambal in your deck...perhaps that's what you can sub out for Blind Obedience? It'll still drain & gain for you and probably be less of a removal target than Kambal, while still slowing your opponents down some.

As for me avoiding mass reanimation, I'm not sure why I've avoided it. I'm still new to EDH and was never a super awesome MTG player. I'm always learning and getting better at card evaluation, evaluating my game-play, and just understanding the game in general. I was mostly leaning towards a not-as-obvious recursion theme while pinging/grinding opponents to death. And, as I mentioned, the mass-reanimation spells tend to cost more which isn't as useful to me in 1v1. However, I am trying to build my decks in a way that they could be played either as 1v1 or multiplayer, so I think I'll definitely add in Buried Alive. It would help my recursion quite a bit, maybe add in Victimize too. Then I'll playtest and contemplate Living Death and/or your fancy angel. That does seem really fun, especially with Mirror Entity and Tombstone Stairwell.

Question about Tomestone: does every player have to pay the cumulative upkeep since everyone is getting a benefit from it?

Throne of Eldraine: I have a copy of Ayara, First of Locthwain on the way. Her "black creatures" clause really makes having Darkest Hour and Painter's Servant necessary, but that'll help Teysa on the whole anyway. It would be nice to shift the deck towards more black creatures on the whole those. However, maybe even shifting to a few more of the Afterlife creatures even if they're white might help as the tokens are black & white.

I'm also going to try out Castle Locthwain. Although I don't have any copies yet or even on order. Other than that, Arcane Signet is only auto-include for me. I'd like to try Syr Konrad, the Grim and maybeTrue Love's Kiss. How has Crush Contraband versus Return to Dust performed for you?

Lastly, I think I'll pick up a copy of Merciless Eviction after your recommendation to test out versus Austere Command and Damnation.

Cheers!!
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Post by Mookie » 3 months ago

ChocoDude wrote:
3 months ago
As for Kambal in your deck...perhaps that's what you can sub out for Blind Obedience? It'll still drain & gain for you and probably be less of a removal target than Kambal, while still slowing your opponents down some.
That would be one possible cut, yes. Otherwise, I'd probably be swapping out Authority of the Consuls, which has a similar function. All three are ultimately meta calls - Kambal is better against creature-light decks, while Authority and Obedience are better against creature-heavy decks. I'm in the process of moving changing metas, so will probably evaluate things once I figure out what the new meta looks like.

Completely understandable re: mass reanimation - they do tend to be more expensive. One thing I would say about 1v1 vs multiplayer is that it is a lot easier to win a 1v1 game via grinding out your opponent with card advantage. However, when you play multiplayer, there is usually a lot more removal and board wipes, plus your opponents are drawing three cards for every one you draw. As a result, I would say that most multiplayer games are won via 'big' plays - think Craterhoof Behemoth, Torment of Hailfire, and Expropriate: large, splashy, proactive actions. Combo is one avenue I'm running, and mass reanimation is the other. Still, they're not the only options - Jazal Goldmane, Cathar's Crusade, and Debt to the Deathless (off Urborg + Cabal Coffers) are all good options too.
ChocoDude wrote:
3 months ago
Question about Tomestone: does every player have to pay the cumulative upkeep since everyone is getting a benefit from it?
Only its controller needs to pay.

Let me know how Ayara does! I'd like to test her eventually, but probably won't have time to do so for a while.
ChocoDude wrote:
3 months ago
How has Crush Contraband versus Return to Dust performed for you?
Jury is still out on this, but I do think Crush Contraband is a bit better - I've always found Return to Dust's timing restriction pretty awkward. If you can wait longer on answering a problem, the odds are good that someone else will deal with it first.

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Post by ChocoDude » 3 months ago

I'll probably play the deck a couple times in the next two weeks, so I'll let you know how Ayara goes. First, I have to receive the card in the mail.
One thing I would say about 1v1 vs multiplayer is that it is a lot easier to win a 1v1 game via grinding out your opponent with card advantage. However, when you play multiplayer, there is usually a lot more removal and board wipes, plus your opponents are drawing three cards for every one you draw. As a result, I would say that most multiplayer games are won via 'big' plays - think Craterhoof Behemoth, Torment of Hailfire, and Expropriate: large, splashy, proactive actions.
Another EDH gem. Thank you!

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Post by ChocoDude » 3 months ago

Curious about your thoughts on Myriad Landscape vs Ash Barrens?

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Post by yeti1069 » 3 months ago

Myriad ramps, Barrens only fixes. If you're considering either, I would probably go with Myriad, though it is slow.

Barrens is a closer comparison to Terramorphic Expanse.

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Post by ChocoDude » 3 months ago

Ahhh. I actually liked Barrens more since Myriad seems so slow, but that makes sense why one would choose Myriad over Barrens. I guess Barrens would tend to be better in 3+ colored Commander decks then. Maybe I'll pull it from Teysa. Thanks for the that!

Krosan Verge seems far far better than Myriad because it can ramp for any Plains and Forest too, but of course, doesn't work for Teysa.

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Post by Mookie » 3 months ago

As @yeti1069 said, they have different effects - Myriad Landscape ramps, Ash Barrens fixes. I generally favor Myriad Landscape for being a more unique effect - there aren't a lot of lands capable of ramping, and as a nongreen deck, we don't have a ton of options for ramping out lands. It's also a pretty solid target to recur with Sun Titan, and helps turn on Emeria.

Ash Barrens is fine, but there are a lot of alternatives for fixing.

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Post by ChocoDude » 3 months ago

Ok. On the mana-fixing vein, would you generally prefer to play Terramorphic Expanse over Ash Barrens? With the caveat that Fabled Passage and, of course, Prismatic Vista are higher on the food change than Terramorphic?

Seems like with Terramorphic and Evolving Wilds you're guaranteed to fix on turn 1, whereas Ash Barrens you can't. However, Ash Barrens could be laid down T1, or anytime, for colorless mana and it wouldn't slow you down should you play it outright. In addition, you wouldn't necessarily keep an opening hand with just one land, so I'm thinking that Ash Barrens could still be used on T2 to mana-fix. In addition, at least with Ash Barrens later in the game, you'd be able to actually tap for the mana-color that you're fixing for granted that you haven't already played a land card that turn. With Terra and Evolving you wouldn't be able to tap for that specific colored mana the turn you play it.

General preferences?

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Post by Mookie » 3 months ago

Depends on the deck. Terramorphic Expanse and Evolving Wilds have landfall synergies, and generally work better if you plan to recur them repeatedly with Sun Titan / Crucible of Worlds. There are also a few niche cases where they enable white's 'if you have fewer lands than an opponent' cards like Weathered Wayfarer, Tithe, and Boreas Charger. The reason why I have them in this deck in particular is actually because an older build was running Hidden Stockpile and I wanted the Revolt trigger.

Still, Ash Barrens is probably better in a vacuum due to the option of entering untapped. I haven't made the switch here mostly because of budget reasons - Ash Barrens was expensive for a while. Might be worth reinvestigating now that they have been reprinted and the price has come down. On the other hand, the versions I'm currently running are Russian and given to me by a friend, so might still keep them in. Hmmm....


As a side note, I've expanded the ending sections - Strategy, Building an Engine, and Playing the Game. Let me know if anything seems unclear.

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Post by Rumpy5897 » 3 months ago

The expanded sections are a good read, nice level of detail. This is perfectly submittable for primerdom.

A couple points that snuck up on me as I re-read the post:
  • The very beginning of the introduction is extremely general. You bring up tribal decks, turning downsides into upsides, and then don't really bring that up again. It might be better to focus in a little closer to where the deck operates.
  • Your combo machinery is quite multi-pieced and intricate, yet you never actually detail it in the post. You mention assembling an engine in great detail, but you don't point out all the loop avenues you've got going on (I see Darkest Hour, Reveillark + Karmic Guide, Fiend Hunter + Angel of Glory's Rise, there might be more?). Would probably be good for inexperienced readers like yours truly to explicitly list that somewhere.
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Post by Mookie » 3 months ago

Ha, fair. I've tried to note when cards are combo pieces, but I don't think I've called out any combos explicitly. Added a subsection for that under 'Building an Engine'. There may also be some combos I've missed, but half the fun of playing this sort of deck is finding new combos as you go along.

Will probably go ahead and give everything a look-over - planning to submit for Primer status sometime this weekend, so we'll see how that goes....

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Post by Rumpy5897 » 3 months ago

Heh, you wrote that stuff up just as I was editing my post to try to sneak in a bit more detail without double posting :P Thanks!

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Post by ChocoDude » 3 months ago

I think your addition explaining infinite combos is GREAT!! Thanks! I've seen other folks discuss them around the web so it provides extra value to your "possible primer".

Tombstone Stairwell: Folks are saying how great it is as a token generator on the Varina thread and you're using it for Teysa as well. What I'm curious about is why your meta doesn't just kill it just before your turn? I had to read the card a couple times and as I understand it you cast it for 2BB, all your opponent get the benefit of zombie tokens before you do, then you have to pay 1B upkeep and you then you get your tokens. Seems awfully susceptible to removal before you obtain any benefit while spending 3BBB. Am I interpreting that correctly? With Varina, she's got a built in way to dump creatures into your graveyard quickly. With Teysa, you may get to sac a few creatures and/or Buried Alive three prior to your Tombstone turn. But damn it seems really flimsy to me. Is it THAT good or have your opponents not caught on to its benefit for you yet?

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Post by Mookie » 3 months ago

ChocoDude wrote:
3 months ago
Tombstone Stairwell: Folks are saying how great it is as a token generator on the Varina thread and you're using it for Teysa as well. What I'm curious about is why your meta doesn't just kill it just before your turn? I had to read the card a couple times and as I understand it you cast it for 2BB, all your opponent get the benefit of zombie tokens before you do, then you have to pay 1B upkeep and you then you get your tokens. Seems awfully susceptible to removal before you obtain any benefit while spending 3BBB. Am I interpreting that correctly? With Varina, she's got a built in way to dump creatures into your graveyard quickly. With Teysa, you may get to sac a few creatures and/or Buried Alive three prior to your Tombstone turn. But damn it seems really flimsy to me. Is it THAT good or have your opponents not caught on to its benefit for you yet?
On, people are definitely aware - it often doesn't live until my upkeep. The key is that you get the tokens on every upkeep. Which means that even if it only lives through two upkeeps, that's still (2 x creatures in graveyard) tokens and death triggers. Don't play it out if you're missing a way to take advantage of it (usually a minimum of Teysa + something else).

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