Earlier this week, I had the urge to brew up some Clerics in Standard. The creature type actually has one of my favorite cards in the new set in the form of Nullpriest of Oblivion. In fact, there are actually a ton of great cards that also just happen to be Clerics as well, which was one of the things that actually drew me to the deck: it didn't seem like it would suffer the same way some traditional archetypes do when it comes to tribal decks.
A lot of times, when you try to build tribal decks that are implied within a specific set, the individual cards are often not very powerful, or overpriced. Not so with Clerics! Most of the cards in the format are actually pretty strong, and have impactful abilities that affect the game. There's also a ton of synergy that's happening among the various clerics in the various sets. Today I want to show off some of those synergies that I tried to take advantage of.
This was the list I ended up with after testing the archetype for a few hours.
B/W Clerics | ZNR Standard | Frank Lepore
- Creatures (30)
- 2 Lurrus of the Dream-Den
- 2 Murderous Rider
- 3 Orah, Skyclave Hierophant
- 3 Taborax, Hope's Demise
- 4 Archfiend's Vessel
- 4 Cleric of Life's Bond
- 4 Luminarch Aspirant
- 4 Nullpriest of Oblivion
- 4 Speaker of the Heavens
- Planeswalkers (1)
- 1 Elspeth, Sun's Nemesis
- Instants (2)
- 2 Heartless Act
If you want to see how we got to this version, as always, be sure to check out the videos down below!
As you can see, we have a total of 24 mana sources in the deck. We initially had around 25, but with our curve essentially stopping at four mana, I think 24 should be an okay amount. I've said this before, but I do sincerely wish there were more two-colored land options in Standard that came into play untapped right now. Gain lands don't. Temples don't. Triomes don't. Fabled Passage doesn't. You're basically heavily replying on the Pathways to fix your mana and play your cards on curve, and there isn't even a full cycle of them! I know I've mentioned it before, but I sincerely miss check lands and shock lands.
Speaking of lands, initially two of the Agadeem's Awakening were two copies of Hagra Mauling. Ultimately, I kept being more and more impressed by Awakening, so much so that I went up to the full four copies and cut a few copies of Call of the Death-Dweller. Call was originally the go-to reanimate spell in the deck, but there were several times we didn't have a one-drop in the graveyard, which would only allow us to bring back a single creature, instead of the preferred two. While it costs around six or seven mana to be truly effective, Awakening was great at getting back a 1-drop, a 2-drop, a 3-drop, and even sometimes an Orah, Skyclave Hierophant. Additionally, if you're just getting back the same 1- and 2-drop that you would with Call of the Death-Dweller, Agadeem's Awakening only costs two mana more. It's the scalability that's really impressive and attractive here.
There were two other factors to this change as well. The first was that I wanted more/cheaper removal, and in this way, Murderous Rider is just superior to Hagra Mauling, especially when you have a 2/3 body that gains you life, which is a central strategy in the deck. The second was that I wanted more lands that could enter the battlefield untapped in the deck, and Agadeem's Awakening was the better double-faced card for this. This was the other reason that I didn't mind going up to the full four, since a lot of the life loss you might take would easily be offset in this deck.
The reanimator theme was one of the most powerful in the deck, and with good reason. Not only does the archetype support a lot of great reanimation cards - Nullpriest of Oblivion, Call of the Death-Dweller, Orah, Skyclave Hierophant, Agadeem's Awakening - but one of the best things you can do is get a 5/5 flyer by reanimating an Archfiend's Vessel. The deck simply has so many ways to get cards back from the graveyard, and most of the options are either two-for-ones or extremely versatile.
One of the cards that impressed me a ton was Taborax, Hope's Demise. While we never had the five required counters on him, but he regularly drew us multiple cards if he wasn't dealt with, and being a cleric, we can also get him back with most of our reanimate cards, including Orah, Skyclave Hierophant.
Orah, Skyclave Hierophant was another card that I was shocked by! Being able to get another creature back when any of your creatures die (graveyard availability permitting) is really powerful. This was a card I originally just some card you'd find in the Precons that I thought would be unimpressive, but every game, just like Taborax, he had to be the first card the opponent dealt with, or else we'd be gaining a ton of advantage from him.
One thing I was considering was potentially playing Luminous Broodmoth over Orah. Is this a good choice? I'm not sure; there are certainly pros and cons to both. For the Broodmoth, you get every creature back when it dies (other than Taborax), and it has flying (along with the creatures it returns). For Orah, you get to select which creature you get back, but sometimes there may not be options, like if a 2-drop dies and you don't have a 1-drop, or when a 1-drop dies. We're also talking about 3 toughness vs. four, one has lifelilnk, and one gives your other creatures flying when they return. Orah also triggers your other cleric synergies as well. I think there are pros and cons to each. Maybe a one/two split is the way to go for now.
One card I was heavily considering was a copy of Maul of the Skyclaves. There aren't a ton of evasive creatures in the deck, and I think having a repeatable way to fly over the opponent's stuff, especially with a huge Cleric of Life's Bond, would push the deck a little further. I could see cutting the final Call of the Death-Dweller or maybe the single Elspeth, Sun's Nemesis, which we were just trying out.
I was way more impressed with this deck that I thought I'd be, and even if we didn't win every match, it was still a lot of fun to play. There's a ton of velocity and card advantage happening, and all of your cards have a ton of synergy with each other. But don't take my word for it. Check out the deck in action here, along with its evolution.
As I said, the deck was great, and I was super impressed with a lot more of the individual components than I expected to be, such as Nullpriest of Oblivion and Luminarch Aspirant, both of which were extremely versatile. It's a weird feeling that I kind of want to talk about every individual card in the deck, because each one seems to pull its weight and each one is a little obscure when it comes to Standard. I was just generally impressed with the entire cleric package that's available right now, and I'd love to know what you guys think as well!
That's about all I have for now, but be sure to leave those thoughts about the deck down below in the comments. Is there anything I'm missing? Are there any cards I should include or consider? Let me know down below! Thank you guys a ton for reading, I love you all, be sure to stay safe, and I'll catch you all next week!