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Teysa's Dance of Life and Death

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Man! Wizards of the Coast has a real love for Teysa! There has been a copy of good ol’ Teysa in each iteration of the Ravnica Plane blocks. Only Niv-Mizzet has an equal number of appearances. Niv-Mivvet has been consistent in casting cost and ability over the years, where he combines card drawing and damage dealing and always costs you six mana.

Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius
Niv-Mizzet, Parun

Always six mana, always has a damage/draw card combo of some sort. He is tight. You know who Niv-Mizzet is going to be when he shows up!

Teysa on the other hand has had massively different card appearances and casting costs, going from three to seven mana.

Teysa, Orzhov Scion
Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts
Teysa Karlov

The first version was three mana, was a sacrifice outlet for three of your White dorks in order to exile an opposing foe, and then could turn dying Black dorks into 1/1 flying Spirits that just counted as White. There was an obvious synergy here with Black and White dorks as your sacrificing here to kill something could keep you even in terms of card advantage as you made 1/1 flying dorks to replace the dying ones.

Then we had the next Teysa. She isn’t a sacrifice engine. She has vigilance and protection from creatures which haven’t appeared before (or since). She doesn’t have an improved synergy for White and Black dorks together. She is a No Mercy for things that punch you in the face, and then she’ll make spirit tokens, that are now both colors. Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts is one of my favorite cards from that set, and she’s great in multiplayer. But she’s not anything like the first one.

And then we have the next version of Tesya, “Teysa Karlov.” She’s four mana, and she has lost the keyworded abilities. She no longer makes Spirits of any sort, although she is a token lord and will double dying triggers as well as pump creature tokens a bit. There is no consistency here at all from one set to the next.

For purposes of Today’s article, I am going to be calling the original Teysa appearance, Teysa I, her more recent iteration Teysa II, and then finally the upcoming Ravnica Allegiance one Teysa III.

I enjoy the potential of Teysa III.

There are a lot of ways to use her.

For example, take Doomed Traveler.

Doomed Traveler

This popular common has a death trigger that will trigger twice when it dies if your Teysa III is on the battlefield. You’ll net two tokens instead of one. As they are token creatures, they will also benefit from lifelink and vigilance. That’s pretty solid!

Now there are two lines that I think you can take with Teysa III.

The first is to play into bw tokens.

Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
Lingering Souls
Phantom General
Intangible Virtue
Elspeth, Sun's Champion
Liliana, Death's Majesty

Run a number of effects that will net you tokens or pump your tokens. Twin them to cards like Tithe Taker, Hunted Witness, and Doomed Traveler. Make a bunch of tokens with Tesya’s death trigger enhancing. Add in Field of Souls to get another two Spirits! Grab a bunch of Angels with Divine Visitation instead! Call it a deck.

Tithe Taker
Hunted Witness
Field of Souls
Divine Visitation

And this would be a good deck! It’s concise. It’s synergetic. It works as a deck!

But the above token-fun times deck is not the deck I will be building for your today. Sorry. Instead I am going to be leaning on my Johnny nature to abuse the death trigger of Teysa is different ways.

Let me show you a few cards that suggest themselves in order to demonstrate the direction I am looking to explore:

Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed

This is Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed. It’s a serviceable 3/2 for four mana that’s essentially unblockable in most games. What makes it strong is that it’s available for a self-sacrifice. When it does, you can return any Black card to your graveyard from your hand. This sort of a self-sacrifice effect is pretty strong.

Now, this is where I want to go with creatures like Xiahou Dun

Black Market

This is Black Market. When something of yours was evilly taken from this world, you can get a charge counter on it for your pain and loss. That counter gives you free mana. However, when you control Teysa III, that [card]Black Market[/card] is not getting two counters, not just one.

That’s where I want to push my deck.

Nim Deathmantle

First I want cards that will help bring my dying stuff. I don’t want to run indestructible effects, and I want my creatures to die! I just want them to return later on for more uses. That’s the space where Nim Deathmantle plays it’s sick tune. Let’s say you sacrifice Xiahou Dun to get back any Black card from your graveyard. Then you can recur it for four mana from the Deathmantle and it comes back into the battlefield on your side. And it’s equipped as well. Now you have collected any death triggers that you have out as well as kept your Xiahou Dun out and recurred your Black card to your hand while also working overtime to break Teysa III.

So forget that creature token stuff. This is the deck I want to build, as inspired by her!

Ready? Let’s take a look and see!

Teysa’s Dance of Life and Death | Commander | Abe Sargent


And there we are! The goal here is to create a dance of creatures weaving in and out of the battlefield and then creating a powerful number of death-triggers as they do which is utilized to put the game state more and more under your control.

This deck wants to start with death-trigger, and I began with creature that had them. Some big name creatures are here, such as Wurmcoil Engine or Solemn Simulacrum that you’d expect. While I did make a few exceptions, such as Yosei, the Morning Star, I tried to keep my death trigger dorks cheaper to cast.

Black Cat

A perfect example of this is Black Cat. It’s a perfect 2-drop for multiplayer as I find it keeps people back longer than a deathtouch 1-drop like Typhoid Rats does. People know that if they attack into it and kill it, you will punish them with a random discard which can screw up their plans. That makes this creature a compelling early body. But it also has game here with Teysa III. You’ll rack up two random discards instead of one, and if you can start recurring it, then things are likely to get out of hand pretty quickly.

And Black Cat is just one example.

Archon of Justice

How about Archon of Justice? Want to exile two permanents when it dies instead of just one? And unlike the death triggers of cards like Academy Rector that exile the creature that you sent out, this one just died, so you can either recur it with Deathmantle effects or other Orzhov styled recursive tricks, such as Unburial Rites. This is the sort of death trigger on a dork that you want to get behind!

And don’t forget that we are running some sweet sacrifice effects that will let you sacrifice a creature.

Vampiric Rites
Viscera Seer
High Market

We have a number of lands, creatures, and other permanents that can sacrifice a dork. So you can cast Teysa on turn four, and then Archon of Justice the next turn and then immediately sacrifice it to something like Viscera Seer to Scry 1 as well as exiling two opponent permanents (including lands). It’s a compelling option to sacrifice to these sorts of effects which will, in turn, make the rest of the deck work!

I also have death triggers off of other effects as well.

Dark Prophecy

Dark Prophecy is a great example. Imagine that it was on the board in the above example. Now you are sacrificing the Archon for Scry 1, and then exiling two permanents as well as drawing two cards from the Prophecy! That’s a lot of card advantage!

Black Cat? Solemn Simulacrum? We have a lot of death triggers that yield cards.

Hidden Stockpile

Hidden Stockpile is perfect here! It’s both a sacrifice effect that can Scry 1, as well as a (sort-of) death-trigger that makes a dork at the end of the turn. Again it’s perfect for this sort of a deck as it plays multiple roles. Even when playing a 100-card deck, you don’t want to waste deck slots.

Martyr's Bond
Athreos, God of Passage

We have some other death trigger in here that will be downright abusive with Teysa III’s duplication thereof! Athreos, in particular, will basically turn into recurring the dead creature, as even in a 40 life format, there will be at least one opponent you can target twice who’s unlikely to spend a full 6 life to keep a recently dead dork from heading to your hand.

Cauldron of Souls
Cauldron Haze

As I mentioned above, I am really looking for ways to recur something that died, rather than prevent it from dying. I am running Cauldron Haze instead of an indestructible-granting instant trick. You’ll see cards like Twilight Shepherd and Adarkar Valkyrie in here for this reason.

But that’s not my biggest trick in this arena…

Reveillark

Reveillark likely is. You can evoke it and then it’ll die and you’ll FOUR creatures from your graveyard if you have enough there that match it. I tried to run a number of Black Cat and Solemn Simulacrum style cards for you to recur. It’s nasty here!

Necrotic Sliver
Burnished Hart

We also have a few creatures that, like Xiadou Dun above, can sacrifice themselves for various effects. They include stuff like Necrotic Sliver and Burnished Hart. These can leap themselves into the graveyard, and can trigger your many death-triggers elsewhere. Your Reveillark will love to recur a Hart or Sliver as well!

Filigree Familiar
Treasure Keeper

I am also running a few fun cratures here and there that fit my theme perfectly, are cheaper to grab, ands can do some damage. The Familiar is Reveillark-able and another great early drop. The Keeper is amazing with Teysa III on the battlefield, and you get the idea.

I had some space for a few spoiler and answer effects.

Hushwing Gryff
Aven Mindcensor

Since this is not a deck that uses creatures with enters-the-battlefield abilities, save for the random Simulacrum, the Gryff feels very strong here. If it does nothing, you can still sacrifice it as a body. The same is true of Aven Mindcensor as well for opponent’s search effects. I want to protect my graveyard from removal, and most removal effects target the player. So I am running Leyline of Sanctity to prevent myself from being targeted by graveyard removal. You can tutor for it if it’s needed in that matchup.

If the Gryff works well for your metagame, you could add Torpor Orb as well.

And that’s pretty much my deck! The goal is to abuse death-triggers with Teysa (and maybe Strionic Resonator) in order to bury the table under various death-triggers that, when added up, can put you into a dominant position from which to win the game.

And there we are! I hope you enjoyed my Johnny-esque take on Teysa III rather than the Orzhov Tokens build that I suggested above. What did you think? Did I miss anything? Any suggestions to make? I’d love to hear your comments below!

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