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Commander & Change — Obzedat, Ghost Council

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My normal playgroup is pretty casual. We play with strong stuff, but most of us play for fun and are mostly there to hang out together with the game we love. The other night, though, most of my normal crowd couldn’t make it, so I found myself sitting down with a largely unfamiliar group. It was six people total, and the decks I saw hit the table were—and there’s no other honest way to put this—cutthroat. These guys were going for blood. I knew I was going to be a bit out of my element—it was a tough situation for a guy who plays decks worth $75 most of the time. I looked in my case and saw what I thought was my best chance—I pulled out my Hythonia, the Cruel deck. Ten turns, three Cyclonic Rifts, and two-and-a-half hours later, I combo’d out and killed the table.

The win was nice, but not really the point. Most often, I think the best choice for Commander is a deck like a Wiffle bat: fun, friendly, and—while not just a deck that rolls over the second anyone else does anything—not designed to destroy your friends. But we occasionally wind up at a table loaded with power, and then it can feel like bringing a Wiffle bat to the Battle of the Bulge. That’s a really, really bad idea.

Obzedat, Ghost Council

This deck goes for pure power. We want cards with impact, so the build is leaning into that strength. It may need some tuning to work within your meta, though, so be prepared to tinker. It’s also playing with enchantments; enchantments are often difficult to deal with for a table, and it gives the deck a direction rather than simply being a pile of great cards.

Vault of the Archangel
Obzedat is fairly difficult to cast, so we want to hit our mana. We also want to maximize each card, so we have a good number of lands with spell-like effects—lands that do things are like free spells! Eighteen basic lands join with a few budget duals to make our colors. Then, there are a whole bunch of lands that help us survive and thrive in a tough matchup. Vault of the Archangel and Radiant Fountain help us gain life. Springjack Pasture and Forbidding Watchtower give us creatures that can block to keep us alive. Myriad Landscape and Temple of the False God give us extra mana. Blighted Fen is actually removal, and Mystifying Maze can hold off something really brutal. Mind Stone and its new big sibling Hedron Archive help ramp, while the three Orzhov artifacts both ramp and fix. Pristine Talisman gains us more life, and Unstable Obelisk can kill something in a pinch.

We want to keep cards coming, and we need to be able to win the game somehow, so we’re running Sign in Blood and a few other cards like it. We also have Damnable Pact, which can kill someone if we need it to, and Well of Lost Dreams, which works well with all the life-gain in the deck. Syphon Mind does serious work. And because a bunch of our answers and our primary win con are enchantments, we have a couple of way to search for them. Three Dreams and its not-as-cool, pay-more-for-fewer-cards friend Plea for Guidance will not only search for our combo, but can find an Oblivion Ring or Prison Term if that’s what we need.

Obzedat gains a lot of life, and we have several passive ways of gaining more, so one of our possible ways to win is Felidar Sovereign. We can’t cheat it—it’ll have to survive an entire turn cycle, and our life total will have to stay up—but later in the game, when people have far fewer answers at their disposal, if we have a high enough life, we could actually pull that off. Divinity of Pride can help here; a 5-mana 8/8 flying lifelinker is good at just about every table. Sigil of the Empty Throne can get out of hand quickly, especially with Heliod, God of the Sun or Daxos the Returned on the field to crank out enchantment tokens.

Vizkopa Guildmage
The primary way to seal the game, though, is the classic (though fairly annoying) combo of Exquisite Blood and Sanguine Bond. As long as both cards are on our battlefield, all we have to do is gain life or cause some damage, and we win—gaining life causes life-loss, life-loss causes life-gain, repeat to victory. Vizkopa Guildmage serves as Sanguine Bond number two, but unfortunately, there’s no replacement for Exquisite Blood. Play out those two cards, activate Pestilence or whatever, and win the game.

Banishing Light and Oblivion Ring are sort of the benchmarks for enchantment-based removal. Faith's Fetters, Act of Authority, and Journey to Nowhere serve as versions of the same effect: We put enchantments on the battlefield and take care of some problem. Quarantine Field is a new staple. Tack onto that several Wrath effects—Extinguish All Hope is our best one because so many of our creatures are also enchantments—and we should be able to take care of most problems. Triad of Fates also serves as strange removal, and we can exile our own tokens for cards. Arcane Lighthouse lets us target our opponents’ creatures with our enchantments.

A bunch of our creatures come from Theros block—we’re looking for enchantment creatures and constellation effects. The two Gods are strong on their own, are searchable with our enchantment tutors, and trigger Daxos the Returned, who’s in here (of course). Doomwake Giant, Agent of Erebos, and Nighthowler all have great abilities. Fountain Watch does a good job of protecting a lot of what we have. Crystal Chimes can return a whole bunch of our dead cards.

Several of our enchantments are just good, too. The Sieges and Retreats all have strong abilities (note the black ones both can trigger our combo), and check out Necromancer's Covenant. Wrecking reanimator strategies and making a bunch of Zombies sounds good!

Obzedat, Ghost Council ? Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

  • Commander (0)

Isolated Chapel would probably be my first over-$75 add. Mana-fixing is always helpful. Greater Auramancy would be crazy-good, but its price tag kept it out. Hedonist's Trove might be fun, and Test of Endurance is better in some ways than Felidar Sovereign—yeah, our life total needs to be higher, but it’s harder to get rid of, so it’s more likely to survive the turn cycle. Chalice of Life would lean toward more life-gain.

Mortify
There are also some great budget cards to consider! Mortify is just quality removal, One Thousand Lashes is on theme, and Vampire Nighthawk serves as a rattlesnake and life-gain enabler. The new Alhammarret's Archive makes life-gain even better and helps with card-draw. Agent of Masks is a nifty creature that will trigger the combo if it’s on board all by itself, just winning on upkeep. (If it bumps us over 50 life, too, it can win with Felidar Sovereign: Put the Sovereign trigger on the stack first and then the Agent’s. The Agent’s will resolve, gaining us the life, and then the Sovereign will check to see what our life total is.) Crypt Ghast is a solid card in any deck running black, and it would work well with Exsanguinate. A more creature-heavy build could consider Gray Merchant of Asphodel, too. Trading Post is a solid add in almost every deck, and a reanimator package (cards like Animate Dead and Beacon of Unrest) both scale to the table and add some more power.

The elephant in the room is Starfield of Nyx. Much ado has been made about this card, and it still hasn’t really found a home in most formats. If you like to live more on the wild side, go for it, but it’s too risky for me. Because it will be common for this deck to have five or more enchantments on the field, it means we’ll suddenly have a bunch of creatures—that die when someone plays Day of Judgment. Now we’re way behind. That doesn’t balance with the ability to bring things back every turn for me, but hey, go for it if you want!

How do you like to manage an unknown playgroup? How about when you want to play but your only option is to do something different for you? Please let us know!

This list is a starting point. Adjust as you see fit—if you know something will work better for your meta, go for it. If you have a favorite card, run it. Go for life-gain, make more enchantments, or just run things like Sun Titan for more individual card power. Make it yours!

Total cost: $73.27


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