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Old School Orzhov Life Combo Control


Achieving Infinite life by combining the en-Kor creatures with something like Daru Spiritualist is nothing new. The strategy was a big player in the Legacy metagame way back in the Type 1.5 days thanks to the consistency Living Wish and other creature tutors brought to the table. This was also a time when the deck didn't have to deal with Jace the Mind Sculptor, which allows life combo opponents to win through infinite life. The deck has long since fallen out of favor, so the core combo is insanely cheap considering the power level. I mean, most casual playgroups don't have a lot of Jaces running around. Additionally, lots of cards have been released that allow for more options that past versions did not have. This is especially true for the color Black, which brings us to the list we're looking at today!

Cost: $18.00 at the time of publication

The Core

Nomads en-Kor
For those not in the know, the combo works by pairing any en-Kor creature (most commonly Nomads en-Kor) with creatures that gain toughness when targeted (usually Daru Spiritualist). Because the damage redirection ability of the en-Kor creatures can be used at any time, not just when damage is being taken, you can infinitely target any creature, regardless of whether or not damage is being dealt. So, Daru Spiritualist gains infinite toughness, and from there you can play any card that gains you life based on a creature's toughness. Worthy Cause and Diamond Valley were both common options back in the day, though I doubt many of us have Diamond Valley lying around!

Shaman en-Kor and Task Force both act as additional copies of our core combo pieces, adding consistency to the deck.

The Backup

Traditionally, the deck plays Green, since the color provides more creature-searching cards than other colors. Those cards are all way above our budget, though. Instead, we're playing Black, which gives us plenty of playable options itself. Shred Memory is the best in terms of consistency. Sure, the graveyard disruption is decent nowadays, but really we play it for the transmute. With this ability, Memory can search for literally any part of our three-card combo. Militia Bugler has the same potential, though he's not a guarantee. We also get Ransack the Lab, which digs three cards deep to find anything we might be looking for.

Another great thing about this color combination is the sheer versatility of our cards. Both Condemn and Devour Flesh can act as removal for opposing threats, or as a combo piece. Since we can target ourselves or our own creatures with them, they're perfect as the actual life gain part of the combo. Huatli, the Sun's Heart is another versatile card. Like our two removal spells, she plays two roles, either gaining us infinite life after we've combined our two combo creatures, or acting as an actual win con, allowing us to deal infinite damage with said creatures (as long as they can get past blockers).

Another powerful card afforded to us thanks to the Black splash is Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim. Her sacrifice ability is yet another method of life gain for us, but it's not her only use. Post-combo, she's perfect for ridding the field of pesky permanents that might be hindering our actual victory. With infinite life, we have all the time in the world to draw into resources to sacrifice to her, clearing away roadblocks that might prevent Spiritualist from smacking in for exorbitant amounts of damage.

Benevolent Bodyguard is our primary means of protecting our combo. Since we're a creature-based combo, targeted removal is the most common way our opponents will try to stop us. Bodyguard is more than willing to take a bullet (or Lightning Bolt) for the cause. The protection he affords can also be used offensively, too. Since it makes our target unblockable to whatever color we pick, Spiritualist can hide behind his Bodyguard to sneak in for lethal damage (should Huatli be in play). While it can't provide the same sneaky strategy that Bodygyard can, Selfless Samurai is another form of protection that we can actually search for with Shred Memory or find off the top with Bugler.

Tips and Tricks

Shred Memory
The most important thing to master with this deck is the complexity of the combat tricks it's able to achieve. Ignoring the ability to gain you infinite life, consider the sheer strength of your en-Kor + Spiritualist combo. Together, they can block anything that doesn't fly or have deathtouch. Simply block the two biggest threats the opponent swings with, and redirect all damage Nomads would be dealt to Spiritualist, who then gain his infinite toughness to allow both to survive. Multiple instances of en-Kors adds to this, and even affords you some room to get aggressive without fear of losing your creatures, should the time call for it. Burn spells are also much weaker against your creature-suite than other combos that rely on a populated battlefield. This is especially true considering Shaman en-Kor's extra redirection ability, which can save other non-combo creatures through a series of clever redirecting hoops.

Starlit Sanctum is likely the most commonly played card for the strategy that didn't find its way into our list. I felt that the colorless mana it provided was too restrictive, considering we're on two colors and a budget. Additionally, with thirteen life-gain effects in the main deck (many of which can be tutored for) I found the cleric-centered land unneeded.

Selfless Savior and Vigilant Martyr serve the same purpose as Bodyguard does in the main, but can't give an infinite toughness creature a way to ignore blockers like he can, though. Still, they're strong protectors and I could easily see two or more copies of one of them being played alongside the benevolent human. Originally, my list also included four copies of Duress for protection, since it was a way for us to deal with counter magic as well as targeted removal. I ended up removing them in favor of other cards, but discard is always a strong proactive way to ensure a successful combo.

Rasaad yn Bashir and Speaker of the Heavens are two potential win conditions to consider. Rasaad is a more restrictive Huatli, but he's fun in his own way. It's just too bad we can't search him up with Shred Memory. Our artifact suite of Wings of Hubris, Thieves' Tools, and Wedding Invitation all can be found with the transmuting sorcery, and all provide a way Spiritualist to circumvent blockers our opponent might set up, attempting to survive our infinite damage swing for just a little bit longer.

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