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Mastering Fear with Umbris

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Hello happy people! I hope that your day is most joyous! Today I want to look at a legendary creature that debuted in the Commander set that released along with Crimson Vow.

Let's look at my previous stuff I've written for these sets.

  1. I created a deck around Runo Stromkirk. When I built it, it hadn't been added to EDHREC.com, but in the first week there are already 120 decks built around it! People love him as much as I do! I built around the flavor of copying the Deep Sea tribe and have natural good entries there like Deep-Sea Kraken, flipping him reliably with expensive cycling creatures like Scion of Darkness, adding in creatures that have triggers you'd love to get twice such as Aethersnipe, and then some tribe washing like Conspiracy. You can find this awesome deck here.
  2. Then I took the really interesting Golgari leader Old Rutstein and his Peasant self out for a spin! Since all three of his abilities make tokens, I dug deep in token doubling effects like Doubling Season, Blood-matters cards in Black from the same set like Falkenrath Forebear, Treasure cards like Academy Manufactor and Grim Hireling, and loads of Food, Treasure, Blood and Clue making cards for the win! It's really a fun deck...enjoy it here! This may wind up being my favorite build from the set.
  3. Next, I wrote around the really cool Odric, Blood-Cursed, which was a fun synergy of keywords-matter like Akroma, Vision of Ixidor, as well as artifact matters cards like Nettlecyst and Akiri, Line-Slinger. We also have Blood makers and matters card from the Red half of Rakdos's theme, like Olivia's Attendants and Arterial Alchemy. I even found space to blink Odric a few times with things like Flickerwisp and Teleportation Circle. Check it out here!

Today?

Umbris, Fear Manifest

Umbris, Fear Manifest! This is very popular as there are already 448 decks registered over at EDHREC.com, and that's pretty cool! It's one of the most popular leaders from the set in Commander.

First, five mana for a 1/1 is a bit underwhelming, but it's +1/+1 for each card in your opponent's exile zone. That means that this really cares about exiling your opponent's stuff and can get in a Commander kill quite quickly. Unlike graveyard growth that can be answered by exiling the graveyard or reshuffling effects, this is unanswerable. Once something hits the exile zone, that's it, nothing else can happen to it. That makes Umbris very powerful, especially over the longer game. Then as it, or another Nightmare or Horror, hits the battlefield under your control, you can exile cards from a target opponent's library until they exile a land, which probably won't be that deep, although with a lot of players cheating their land counts in Commander these days, it could be worse than they think.

How am I going to build around Umbris? Note that you could do a tribal element, but we'll skip past that, although you might see the occasional support card in tribes.

  1. Ingest - The first thing I thought about when I saw Umbris was the power of ingesting Eldrazi here. Whenever you deal damage to a player with a creature with ingest, you exile the top card of their library. There are 8 Dimir-colored Ingesters we could look at.
  2. Unblockable - Since we'll likely want to kill with Umbris, or punch face with ingesting Eldrazi, we'll want ways to punch reliably.
  3. Graveyard Exiling - I will run several ways to mass exile all graveyards from the game over and over again. By answering graveyards repeatably, we won't be able to abuse our graveyard, so we won't run anything like flashback, disturb or recursion.
  4. Exiling Answers - Black and Blue have lots of answers to things that will also exile it. Black can exile creatures and planeswalkers, and Blue can exile with counters. Expect to see a number of exiling answers. You might see exiling discard in here as well, I'll look it up to see what I can find.
  5. Exiling Milling - There are a small but powerful number of cards that mill into the exile zone instead of into the graveyard. We'll run those here. I might want to run another one or two powerful non-exiling milling effects since we'll have so much exiling of graveyards.
  6. Lean into Control - Since we need time to mill our foes with exiling stuff or delaying a game until Umbris can kill, we'll lean into controlling things until our win cons from milling or Umbris smash are online, like Maze of Ith and Labyrinth of Skophos.
  7. Processors - There are a small number of cards in Battle for Zendikar that will let you put cards into your foe's graveyard from their exile zone to let you do some fun things. We might see some of these Processors here!

And those are my 7 routes to victory!

Ready?

Benthic Infiltrator
Dominator Drone

Let's start with some ingest-ers. As you can see, these are two three drop Eldrazi drones that feature devoid and ingest. The first is unblockable on its own but only deals one damage to your foes. It's a bit small at a 1/4 but it's very flavorful. Unblockable on this means that every hit you smash with will permanently pump up Umbris by 1, and no one is targeting this 1/4 for removal so you should get some good smashery from it for a while, and that subtlety fits Umbris nicely. The second card is a much bigger 3/2 with an enters-the-battlefield (ETB) trigger to force your force your foes to lose life. Pretty nice, but it needs helps to smash face.

Fathom Feeder
Sludge Crawler

Check out this pair! The Feeder is the best ingester in the deck. Devoid and deathtouch and ingest are all fun. The deathtouch lets you trade up on defense and gives your foe an uncomfortable choice when it swings into a much bigger dork. Block and trade down? Or let it through and take just one but get a card exiled? It also can be used as a mana sink late game to draw cards and force your foes to exile cards. Good card!

And then have you seen the Crawler? It's a great 1/1 for one mana. Love it a lot here! As you can see, it's a very playable turn 1 play, and can get in some hits in the early game to get your Umbris ready. Some will take a while to assemble a defense. It's also good in the mid- and late- game with it's pumpability. You can spend extra mana to pump it up. I also tossed in Black ramp like Cabal Coffers and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth to help lean on your mana making to turn the Crawler into a nice mana sink.

Wasteland Strangler is a fun Processor. On arrival to the battlefield you can put an exiled card back into that player's graveyard in order to -3/-3 a dork until the end of the turn. Nice creature and card flow! Love it a lot here!

Ulamog's Nullifier is another strong Processor. Four mana for a 2/3 flash, flies, devoid and on arrival to the battlefield it can tuck two exiled cards into an opponent's graveyard and then counter target spell. Having a counter on a body is nice as it adds to your creature total, although this will permanently drop Umbris by two. Also note that flash on a dork can provide a chump blocker for a game winning powerhouse attacking you, and it can block a nasty flyer that is sailing over your defense. In that case, you don't have to eat the exiled cards, it's just a combat trick. Good Processor pair!

It looks like most Processors are Limited fuel, so we aren't running that many, just these two. There are only 7 Dimir Processors, and some, like Cryptic Cruiser just aren't that good.

Sire of Stagnation
Oblivion Sower

This decklist is beginning to feel very much like Battle for Zendikar, The Commander Deck. Look at Sire, one of the most powerful Commander cards printed in the set, and...in our colors! It has reverse landfall. As your opponents drop lands, they exile the top two cards from their library and then you draw two cards. That is a huge break on ramp. When it's out I've seen people not crack fetchlands or play ramp spells like Cultivate to keep you from drawing cards. Unfortunately for you it's the biggest target you have among your stuff and it will draw removal like a flashing target sign over a zombie's head in a video game. But that won't last long since you have hexproof/shroud options like Greaves.

Check out the Sower! This 6-drop 5/8 has a nasty cast trigger - you can put all of the exiled lands that player controls in exile under your control and they arrive untapped. That's just nasty if you are later in the game and have 4-5 exiled lands just naturally from your exiling fun times. Do note that this is a bit of a non-bo with Umbris as it will likely pull more cards from exile then it gave you so it's a loss of some size, but the lands are going to be worth it. Love it a lot here!

Raven Guild Master
Circu, Dimir Lobotomist

Check out this Wizard'ing duo of exiling fun times. The first is a powerful 1/1 Mutant that morphs. When it deals combat damage to a player, you can exile mill a full ten cards from their library, which is massive. With Access Tunnel, Rogue's Passage, Whispersilk Cloak and Trailblazer's Boots, we have four ways to get in a smash with the Mutant. Check out the Human. When it's on the battlefield, if you cast a Blue spell, you exile a card from someone's library. When you cast a Black spell, you do the same. Both? Do it twice! The latter ability won't matter much in Commander, but don't sleep on it since you might exile a card like Sol Ring from one library or Swords to Plowshares that shuts down another player's card. Nice!

Etrata, the Silencer

Check out the power of this Vampire Assassin which feels appropriate in the "Vampire" set of Crimson Vow. I love it here, and this tech card isn't on the EDHREC.com page either. As you can see, Etrata is a cool unblockable, 3/5 for four mana, that has a neat trigger. When you smash a player, exile a dork they control and then give them a hit counter. Shuffle. Exiling removal is good for Umbris. Also note that the exiled cards do not return after Etrata leaves the battlefield. This thing is awesome removal that will happen over and over again in our build as we draw her.

Lord of the Void
Fallen Shinobi
Rootwater Thief

I really liked what Raven Guild Master was adding to the brew with its combat damage trigger to the ingesting we already had, so I grabbed these three powerhouses from my Gatherer search for combat damage triggers that exile stuff. None of the books of this trilogy are on the EDHREC.com page. Let's start with the game winning Lord. With an admittedly high seven mana for a 7/7 flyer, you get what you paid for. When this evasive threat punches face, you'll exile a nasty seven cards from their library into play! That's pretty strong in this build. I love it with the synergy with Umbris, because it will pump up your leader by 6 and give you a body to boot.

Next look at the Shinobi. When this 5/4 punches face, you exile two cards from their library and can cast them this turn, which adds to your card flow. It's doesn't naturally have an evasive body like the Lord, but with Ninjutsu, you can get in at least one punch before you begin the trauma. There are not many "enters-the-battlefield" cards you can abuse, but we do have the two Processors and obvious stuff likeSolemn Simulacrum here.

The last card is nasty. You can give this 1/2 flying for the turn to fly over someone if needed to smash. Then when you deal that damage, you can spend 2 generic mana to strip a card from your foe's deck to the exile zone. Nasty stuff here! That also gives you a permanent boost to your Commander! This is a good Trilogy of Face Punchery to read at the kitchen table.

Oona, Queen of the Fae

There is another Dimir legendary dork that also exiles cards en masse from an opponent's library. And serves as a nice mana sink as well. Enter Oona. Choose a color when you use her ability. She can spend mana to exile that many cards from a library, and then make a number of 1/1 flying Faerie Rogues that are equal to the color exiled. Note that this doesn't tap and doesn't require being used as a sorcery either. Nice! You can use her when attacked to make chump blockers, and she's also a nice-sized 5/5 flyer for six easy to cast mana. She's a strong addition to this brew!

Alright let's move away from exiling dorks.

Planar Void
Leyline of the Void

I love this "Void" duo of enchantments in Black decks that don't care about the graveyard, and I regularly love to run them here. Graveyard abuse is rife in Commander, and this pair will shut it down. Planar Void makes any card placed into any graveyard from anywhere exiled. Yours. Your foe's. Cards milled, cast, countered, or died all count. Love the power here! And the latter card can be cast even a turn earlier if you have it in your opening hand. Unlike the first card, this will only work on opposing stuff, not yours, and thus tends to get heavily answered by opponents to a higher degree than the self-hosing former card. Both are on harder to answer enchantments, and thus have real power. Nasty stuff!

Check out Mindbreak Trap! As you can see, this is a four-cost instant that can exile any number of spells on a stack. It's an amazing answer to storm cards, cards copied, or weird stacks in a multiplayer game. Also note that it does not counter the spell in question, just exiles it. So that means that if you are going up against an opposing spell that "can't be countered" this will still answer it! Good stuff! Not only is this great answer not in the EDHREC.com page for Umbris, but it's also only run in 1,197 decks which feels very underappreciated at the kitchen table since it can answer so many things. Don't forget that if you exile two or three cards on the stack than Umbris will grow multiple times. It's strong here!

Sever the Bloodline
Silence the Believers

Let's turn to some exiling removal. As you can see, each of these are four mana Black exiling removal spells that offer something else. Sever is a powerful sorcery that will exile a dork and every other creature with its name. That will sweep tokens of a similar tribe like Zombies or Soldiers, or hit copies of a card like one player's Consecrated Sphinx and another player's Clone of it. It can also be flashbacked for another go around the bin, which isn't likely given the hatred of exiling removal, but hey. It's still an exile effect if you remove it from the game later. Silence is a nasty instant that can strive for three more mana and exile more targets. It's a great mana sink later in the game, but a fine removal spell when it's just 1:1. Good duo!

Ravenform

We have loads of exiling of creatures and planeswalkers in Black and normal spells in Blue, but nothing that can exile artifacts that slip past our counters. Until this common card was added! This sorcery can exile a creature or artifact and then leaves behind a 1/1 Bird flyer. Which is pretty small in our format. We really needed an exiling answer to artifacts.

Sadistic Sacrament
Jester's Cap
Nightmare Incursion

Now let's move to more Rootwater Thief effects, since the ability to strip a card from a foe's deck is really strong with Umbris as we remove threats and grow our leader at the same time! The first is the powerful Sacrament. As you can see, this sorcery will let you search a library and then exile 3 cards from it. If you kicked it for an amazingly high 7 mana, then you can search and dig out an amazing 15 cards instead. It's unlikely to do that, but it's there if you want it. The Cap was the first card printed with this ability. Four mana to cast and two to sacrifice it. You then search and exile three cards from a foe's library. This can be used anytime, on your foe's turn or on yours. The Incursion is nasty. It's a 6-mana sorcery, sure, but you strip out cards equal to the Swamps you control and in a deck like this one with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, that could be nasty, and even without yours, someone else always has one as well. Great synergy here with Umbris!

And don't forget about Tasha's Hideous Laughter. As you can see, this 3-mana sorcery will force each of your opponents to mill exile cards from their library until have at least 20 mana value total revealed. This could easily be 5 or 7 or 9 cards each. It's nice here as additional ways to grow Umbris into a player killer very quickly. In a 4-way multiplayer game, if you cast this prior to dropping Umbris, and you get 5, 6 and 7, then Umbris is a 19/19. Protect it and you could win very quickly!

Ashiok, Dream Render
Ashiok, Nightmare Muse
Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

I am only running three planeswalker cards in this brew, but they are all Ashioks and we have 75% of all printed Ashioks in here, sans the precon one. Check out the Dream Render. Three mana easily, 5 loyalty, no pluses, your foes cannot search their library with things like fetch lands or spells. It's here for that -1 to force a foe to mill four cards and then exile their graveyard, and it should die after a couple of activations since it's tutor hate that gets targeted by attacks, burns, and removal. The Nightmare Muse version of them is very flavorful for this brew. It's +1 can make a 2/3 Nightmare (which triggers Umbris) that can exile two cards from a library from each opponent when it blocks or swings. Swing, and keep it safe for future attack triggers with your unblockable stuff. Block an attack on them and mill exile more stuff! Nice! The -3 here can bounce a nonland to the players hand and then they exile a card from their hand. Nice! It's an answer to things you cannot target for removal like enchantments or (normally) artifacts, and it adds more pushing of the battlefield towards Umbris's love of exiling things.

Let's check out the original version of Ashiok! Three mana for a three loyalty 'walker - and you can +2 it to mill exile three cards from a foe's library. Nice! And then you can -X and drop a creature you exiled previously for it's mana cost X, and it's a Nightmare for triggering Umbris! It's also good fuel for creature flow elsewhere. Love it a lot here!

Yarok's Fenlurker
Shimian Specter

I don't have many exile discards, just these two in the deck as most exile discards target a single player and I don't like 1:1 card discard in multiplayer. The Fenlurker is amazing here! On arrival to the battlefield, you can force each foe to exile discard a card. Then later, if you care to, you can pump it with crazy mana. It's okay. The Specter is another strong combat damage trigger. When it connects with a foe, then they reveal their hand. You choose a nonland and then exile it and other cards with its name (which won't be any in Commander barring something like Relentless Rats.) As you can see, this is a nice way to keep up the exiling pressure with another attacker that plays into the already built infrastructure for combat damage triggers for stuff that we have. Nice!

Now let's turn to some dope lands.

Shizo, Death's Storehouse
Bojuka Bog
Scavenger Grounds

Everybody knows to expect Access Tunnel and Rogue's Passage in a deck with combat damage triggers or a leader that can finish a player in one or two hits. But I also wanted toss in Shizo. You can tap it and a Black mana immediately for giving a legendary dork (read Umbris) fear for a turn. It's very powerful here as you can smash with your game winner against someone who doesn't have a Black or artifact blocker, and you can drop this out of nowhere and use it before you attack and kill out of nowhere for someone who was planning to block. Good stuff!

Then let's turn to the mass exiling lands. The Bog and the Grounds are epic weapons in the fight to end graveyard abuse in the never-ending struggle for the right to play a normal game of Magic. Neither takes up anything other than a land slot. Nice! The Bog taps for Black and does arrive tapped, but it's worth the tempo loss. It's a powerful graveyard removal from a target player, but it can be stopped by hexproof, which I run in my graveyard builds with cards like Leyline of Sanctity or Orbs of Warding. It won't always hit, but it should enough of the time!

And then we have the mass removal of the Grounds, which can sacrifice itself to exiling everything from all graveyards. Note that it sacrifices a Desert, so if you have Deserts in your deck other than the Grounds, then you could conceivably do this multiple times! It doesn't target anything. I also tossed in Relic of Progenitus to also hose everyone like the Ground and Nihil Spellbomb to hose one target like the Bog. Both of those artifacts will draw cards when used and won't cost you a card spot.

Let's look at two more cards and call it!

Nightmare Shepherd

Do you know why Nightmare Sheperd is here? I'll tell you! Flavor! He's named "Nightmare" after all! Not really; you can see that a 4-mana 4/4 flyer is a nice on curve option. Since we are exiling our graveyards all over this deck, there is no reason not to self-exile on death and make a copy. The token is just a 1/1 though, but we'll still get combat punching triggers. Note that the token is also a...Nightmare! That's good synergy with Umbris.

Last card, and let's look at a Manalith from Crimson Vow!

Honored Heirloom

This card is so good that it will make one of my Top Ten Best Cards from Crimson Vow...cough cough. As you can see, this is a powerful 3-mana artifact that can tap for any color of mana just like other Manaliths. Unlike them, you can tap this to exile a target card from a graveyard which will grow Umbris! It's very strong as additional graveyard hate against other stuff that arrives to the battlefield after your mass removal things like Bojuka Bog and Relic of Progenitus or after someone answers your Planar Void. This thing will never be the target of removal like Krosan Grip or Generous Gift, but it will get caught up in sweeping removal like Akroma's Vengeance that doesn't care about the Heirloom. It's the only in set card I added into this deck! I'm also surprised not to see it on the EDHREC.com page for it.

And there we are! Want to see it? Sure thing!

Fear Umbris | Commander | Abe Sargent


And there we go! Enjoy! I hope that you liked my card choices for this brew! Anything in here that we are missing or that you enjoyed? Just let me know and have an amazing day (and week!)

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