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Shadowborn Sunrise

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This past weekend at PAX East, we learned some stuff about Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014. The first thing that popped into my head upon seeing Shadowborn Apostle was how well it would work with Second Sunrise and Faith's Reward. (Does that mean these Clerics are eggs?) That happens to be W/B . . . and those instants work great with Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter, a powerful W/B commander! And even better, this happens to be Orzhov Week!

Oh, am I getting ahead of myself? In case you don’t check and recheck Twitter to the point of a nearly-dead phone battery during (as I do) during PAX weekends in hopes of seeing exciting spoilers, here’s the fresh new Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 inclusion:

Here's a cleaned-up version of Shadowborn Apostle from screenshots of Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 as revealed at PAX East. Next to it is my own Photoshopped rendition of the card as it may appear in Magic 2014. We don't know for sure that this July's core set will contain our new Relentless Cleric, but the fact that it's in the next Duels edition is a pretty good indicator.

Now, I’ve written about Commander a little bit, but never has an entire one of my articles been just for one list. Today changes that.

Commander

Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter is the one that immediately jumped out to me, and he’s the one I’ve stuck with. People across the Internet are already rushing to build their Shadowborn Apostle Commander decks and arguing about which build is optimal. I won’t claim Counterpunch’s legendary Vampire is the best, but he synergizes very well with two cards I already know I want to play—oh, and his colors happen to match this week’s theme week.

I saw a pretty sweet Karador, Ghost Chieftain Apostle deck, but really, my only regret with Vish Kal is that I can’t run Doubling Chant.

Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter
Doubling Chant
Karador, Ghost Chieftain

Apostle Package

Faith's Reward
Second Sunrise and Faith's Reward These Modern combo enablers, with a suite of six 2014 Human Clerics, essentially say, “Search your library for a Demon creature card and put it onto the battlefield.” With Vish Kal, they can be even more powerful depending on the circumstances, and we’ll go forward looking to break them even further.

Immortal Servitude This Orzhov card (it even has a watermark!) serves as an additional copy of the two above. Its downside is that it’s not an instant, but its upside is that it doesn’t need to be—it can restore things that have hit our graveyard this turn just as well as those ending up there from previous turns and/or from zones other than the battlefield. Its other upside is that it’s black (See: Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed), and its other downside is that it only returns things of a converted mana cost we choose . . . darn.

Twilight's Call We have to choose a creature type, and all the other players get to play along, but this is still a powerful effect. We can choose Cleric to grab all our Shadowborn—and fetch up another Demon from our library—or we can choose Demon and return a bunch of powerhouses to bring the beatdown.

Shirei, Shizo's Caretaker and Twilight Shepherd These are both renown reanimation specialists, and they can do some good work here. Uninterrupted, Shirei will let us search up a new Demon on each player’s turn as long as we have b available each time, and Twilight Shepherd can function as a Sunrise effect at sorcery speed . . . or at instant speed with other synergies embedded within the deck.

Shadowborn Apostle – The big question for me here was whether to run twenty-five copies or thirty copies. Twenty-five was the number that made Thrumming Stone math almost perfect (one in four in the library should mean one in four off each ripple trigger), but of course, perfect math doesn’t quite pan out in reality. Running thirty would give us better odds while rippling and also just give us all-around better odds of hitting those first six Apostles. In the end, I went with twenty-four because there were just too many fun cards I wanted to run—and because twenty-four is a multiple of six.

Demons

Harvester of Souls
Bloodgift Demon This was among the first Demons I knew I wanted in the deck. This deck’s weakness will be assembling the requisite number of Apostles, and having twenty-four virtually dead cards could be a problem. Card-draw exists to alleviate that.

Harvester of Souls Speaking of card-draw, this guy can be a machine. The irony is that by the time he enters the battlefield, the six Clerics who summoned him will have long died. However, if we’re able to later activate another set of six with this Demon looking on, we’re in for a hefty refueling.

Ob Nixilis, the Fallen This guy might not seem obvious, but he’s quite tempting with a deck already consisting of Faith's Reward and Second Sunrise. Imagine sacrificing all of our lands and then returning them to the battlefield to drain someone of upwards of 15 life. 15? Yeah, that’s with just five lands. This is Commander; imagine ten lands for 30 life. Oh, and now he’s really big. I only found one land-sacrificing effect I wanted to run, but if you want to gamble that your key instants won’t be countered, try Zuran Orb, Coffin Puppets, or Jeweled Spirit. Claws of Gix is quite playable in Commander anyway, and by contrast, the most all-in card for this strategy is Forbidden Ritual. With that strange Visions spell and Ob Nixilis, you should be able to take two players out of the game (virtually if not completely).

Rune-Scarred Demon This is the key Demon. If we don’t already have a Sunrise effect, I expect the Rune-Scarred Demon to be the first Apostle selection in order to search one of those white spells up.

Mirror Entity and Changeling Hero The only two white Demons in the deck, these Changelings have pretty powerful roles. Mirror Entity can let us go aggro with a swarm of 1/1s by making them X/X monstrosities. (That’s assuming we make X big. 0 is not recommended.) Changeling Hero can be fetched up at instant speed with a set of Clerics in response to a Wrath of God effect in order to protect a key creature such as Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter, Shirei, Shizo's Caretaker (even though it won’t trigger), or a Twilight Shepherd that already has a -1/-1 counter.

Combos and Utility

Thrumming Stone
Mikaeus, the Unhallowed Already known for his combo prowess, the undead Avacynian priest is nonetheless quite potent in that he allows a set of six non-Human Apostles to search up twice the Demons. And if there happens to be a Carnifex Demon around—or if one just so happened to appear—it could remove all those +1/+1 counters with a nice swath of -1/-1 counters so that another Demon could be found . . . and then another. What’s that? They are Human Apostles? I guess we’ll need Conspiracy then, but even without that, Mikaeus makes Vish Kal virtually immortal and just plays nicely with the whole rest of the deck.

Thrumming Stone This was the twenty-eighth card in the deck—after the twenty-four Shadowborn Apostles, Second Sunrise, Faith's Reward, and Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter. Possibly an even better Demonic Tutor choice than Faith's Reward for an initial Rune-Scarred Demon search, this card can really make the deck thrum.

Mortal Combat With a deck full of tiny 1/1s that already want to hit the graveyard, why not run this simple win condition? With Thrumming Stone pulling Apostles out of the library and Apostles pulling Demons out of the library, a bunch of them are bound to end up in the graveyard, and this card can reward us handsomely for that. Just imagine an Akroma's Vengeance taking out a bunch of our creatures—including an Academy Rector.

Conspiracy The big question for this card will be whether we want to choose Cleric or Demon. Either way, the Apostles will work with Mikaeus, the Unhallowed, as the not-Xenograft text overwrites all existing creature types (just don’t choose Human!). Notably, if we choose Cleric, our Shadowborn Apostles will stop being Humans and will only be Clerics. If we choose Demon, they’ll all just be Demons. Cleric is a great choice because it allows all of our creatures to tap for Ancestor's Prophet, but additionally, Rotlung Reanimator becomes infinite with Vish Kal and any sacrifice fodder: Sacrifice the fodder to the Vampire commander, and since the fodder was a Cleric, Rotlung gives us a Zombie—no, wait; it’s a Cleric, too. Infinite! On the other hand, if we choose Demon, our Shadowborn Apostles can fetch any creature from our library . . . such as Rotlung Reanimator. Oh, what cruel irony!

Reito Lantern
Reito Lantern With all the library-searching (Apostles for Demons and Rune-Scarred Demon for any-cards), we may want to throw back used-up stuff just to search it up again. Also, we can screw up opponents’ graveyard strategies. Elixir of Immortality is reasonable here as well, but it could mess up some of our reanimation.

Martyr's Bond This spot goes to either Martyr's Bond or Grave Pact, though running both is quite powerful as well. I wanted Grave Pact just because of the existence of Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed, but Martyr's Bond gives us more versatility for taking out other permanent types, and I didn’t want the meanness of running both.

Carnival of Souls This weird one was among the last I squeezed in. I wanted to decide whether the deck should be able to just go infinite in its combo assembly, and if it can, this card will be a part of it. It probably involves a whole bunch of Apostles, this card, Reito Lantern, Rune-Scarred Demon or Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed, and Immortal Servitude or Twilight's Call—oh, and a . . .

Healer of the Pride This is like an oversized and doubled-up Soul Warden, which people already claim is good enough for Commander. Plus, with all the 1/1s bouncing back and forth between the graveyard and the battlefield, we should be gaining a ton of life. But if we ever want to overload our combo action with Carnival of Souls triggers, this card will be integral.

Digging for Apostles

The cards in this section are all to help dig to find the initial six Shadowborn Apostles. Once things start rolling with those, we should be golden, but to start out or if we’re interrupted, we’ll want ways to avoid just top-decking.

The exception is Infernal Tribute, which may seem to be an awkward choice. This combos well with Martyr's Bond, allowing us to essentially destroy any nonland permanents our opponents have as long as we’re willing to make the proper sacrifice. It also lets us dump an annoying Necropotence or reset a Conspiracy. And if we’re about to Faith's Reward, it just reads, “2: Draw a card.”

Phyrexian Arena
Infernal Tribute
Necropotence

Lands

Mistveil Plains Here’s another Reito Lantern, though it can only be activated once per turn.

Fetch lands – There is a higher density of these simply in order to thin out the deck for Thrumming Stone. They also play well with Sunrise effects, as they can fetch a land and then return to the battlefield. This applies to Ghost Quarter as well.

Bounce lands – Karoo, Everglades, and Orzhov Basilica help shore up the slightly low land count, which exists in its slightly-low state both for Thrumming Stone and because there were too many awesome cards.

Mistveil Plains
Ghost Quarter
Karoo

/cardlist

All those headings were the same as the headings in the decklist code above, so my signoff heading is the code used to end the decklist script.

You know your jokes suck when you have to explain them.

Anyway, I’m over on word count, and I’m going to be cut off any second, so I hope you enjoyed this look at the new negative-four-month-old Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 card and my comboey take on Orzhov Week. Until next time, I’m Andrew saying, “The most important thing is–”

Andrew Wilson

@Silent7Seven

fissionessence at hotmail dot com