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Summoning the Prince of Undeath


Sometimes, what to do with a deck just jumps out at us. For me, today's commander was explicit. Let's take a look.

Orcus, Prince of Undeath

Four mana plus xx, and when we cast him we can either wipe the board or return up to x mana's worth of creatures to the battlefield... and they get Haste. So, it seems to me we want to have access to a bunch of cheap creatures which do things when they enter the battlefield, play them out, let them die, then return them with Orcus. We want to do this a lot.

Orcus, Prince of Undeath | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

I am a huge fan of big mana Black decks. Nothing like Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth with Cabal Coffers and Crypt Ghast on the 'field, generating 30+ mana every turn. Because we want to maximize how many cards we return with Orcus each time we do it (and being aware Orcus will cost an additional 2 when we do this as well), we want to generate a lot of mana.

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Cabal Coffers

So, we have our 40 lands, including Cabal Coffers and Cabal Stronghold. We also have Crypt of Agadeem, which always seems risky to me but should be pretty good here. We are running Expedition Map, which 100% of the time goes to get Urborg. (Unless, of course, you drew Urborg naturally, in which case get Cabal Coffers.)

But we want a lot of mana, so we're also running several mana rocks. Check out Phyrexian and Foriysian Totem! Both are cool, but watch out for the Phyrexian one, because if that 5/5 takes damage, you'll have to sacrifice permanents for each damage it takes. It can be a great way to chip in some damage after a board wipe, though.

Finally, we've got our mana doublers in Crypt Ghast and Nirkana Revenant. These guys are worth getting out and worth paying for to return, because even a single round with one of them on the table creates an absurd amount of mana. Remember you can tap all your mana before using it within the same phase, so there may be times when you want to make all the mana you can, then sweep away the entire board and use the mana to return it with an Orcus play.

Because we want to achieve numerous effects, we're fairly limited in the creatures we're running. In facts, we have fewer than 10 creatures with a mana cost higher than three, and two of them are our mana doublers. There are some nice effects at one and two mana, though, so we've got a bunch of them. They mostly fall into a few categories: damage, draw, and token creation.

Damage shows up in several ways. Sometimes, like with Cauldron Familiar, it just... does some damage. Other times it's -1/-1 counters on opponents' creatures or, in the case of Anathemancer, direct damage to a player based on how many non-basic lands their running.

Draw also shows up differently. Often times it's the traditional Black way of drawing - lose a life and draw a card. But we also get random Explore or Scry triggers, one card searches out a land for us, and Liliana's Standard Bearer is crazy for a turn where we sacrifice our own board and replay them all.

Wand of Orcus
We have a few random tokens, but mostly Amass and other Zombie token generators. They work well with Wand of Orcus, and the extra bodies are worth having around. We also have some random Treasure token creation. More mana is good in this deck!

We've got a few other effects kicking around. Blanket of Night is sort of Urborg number two; we want that effect, so it's worth the slot. Dreadhorde Invasion keeps up a steady trickle of tokens (or, really, keeps making one token bigger). Zombie Infestation is a nice way to flash in a blocker, and we can probably just Orcus back the creatures we discard.

We don't have much by way of removal. This is probably a mistake, but I wanted to lean into making the deck do its thing, so we're running more creatures and fewer removal spells. It's possible something like Fleshbag Marauder and friends would be useful in keeping the board clear, but of course the other option for our Commander is to wipe the board; having access to a board wipe in the command zone seems (to me, at least) to cut back on the need for other removal. That said, Widespread Brutality and Bleeding Edge both serve as removal, and they both Amass, which is nice.

Angrath, Captain of Chaos is a big help. Not only does he Amass for us (if we want), but all our little dudes gaining Menace is likely to help us punch through some damage.

Rise of the Dark Realms is a great way to end a game in a deck like this. Imagine their surprise when you don't just return your own creatures, but all of theirs, too. Good for the turn after an Orcus wipe, that's for sure.

Last thing - we've got some sacrifice outlets. We need them, because we want a way to clear our board and recast Orcus to get everything back. It all gets Haste, so it's worth it to do it this way. The best ones are probably Ashnod's Altar and Phyrexian Altar, since they give us mana we can use to cast Orcus, but we also have Goblin Bombardment, Spawning Pit, and Carrion Feeder kicking around. Don't be afraid to aggressively kill your own creatures with Skullclamp, either, digging for more value (and a sacrifice outlet).

Should be fairly simple and pretty fun. Play lands and little dudes. Make some extra mana and find a sacrifice outlet. Sacrifice the whole board and replay it with Orcus, gaining all the ETB effects again. Ping in damage where you can, keep the pressure on, rinse, and repeat!

What would you do with Orcus? Is there a build which leans on his wrath ability? Let us know in the comments!

It's possible we want some cards like Impact Tremors or Purphoros, God of the Forge. Since we have creatures coming in all the time, leveraging the damage we cause could be good. Additionally, Black Market should be considered. I didn't want to cut any more creatures, but whenever stuff is dying a lot that thing can make a lot of mana!

Thanks for reading.

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