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In Memorium: A PreDH Tribute to Teysa, Orzhov Scion


With the release of Murders at Karlov Manor inevitably comes a few casualties. To the surprise of many, the murder at Karlov Manor wasn't the one and only Teysa Karlov...until a few stories later where she was found stabbed with her cane.

This wouldn't be the end of her story, however. At the end of the set's storyline, she returns as a ghost and claims her title as guildmaster of the Orzhov. But still, she has died and left her body behind, and so a funeral is in order. She even gets to attend her own, how about that? So today, I wanted to take the opportunity to go back in time and celebrate Teysa in Magic's past, as one might remember the life and times of a beloved friend or family member.

Teysa Karlov started from little, though became entangled with many major events on Ravnica such as handling the return of the Nephilim, the disappearance of the Parhelion, and even the creation of a new Guildpact following the breaking of the original. With time, she became a direct associate of the Obzedat themselves eventually, though she was unsatisfied with this result. Teysa attempted a coup but was stopped by her ancestor, though a later attempt with the aid of Kaya proved successful. As a result of the impacts of the Phyrexian Invasion, she was able to truly assume the role of guildmaster and lead the Orzhov into greatness. Despite her untimely death, she is no doubt going to continue this grand mission as a spirit amidst the new Ghost Council she is forming.

Teysa, Orzhov Scion

In order to better celebrate her life, I want to take things back to her early years. We're not doing a deck around Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts, Teysa Karlov, or even the recent Teysa, Opulent Oligarch. No, we're going to go back all the way to her first card with Teysa, Orzhov Scion from Guildpact. And we're going to do it even better: we're going to build a deck for PreDH - the Commander variant that pre-dates "made for Commander" cards!

Teysa was a staple of classic Commander pods and an outstanding early multicolored choice for your command zone. That legacy lives on today thanks to her latest printing in Ravnica Remastered, showing how even as she passes, we can look back on how things were in the beginning. Let's have a look at the list!

What I remember most about Teysa, Orzhov Scion were the things people were doing back when she was in Standard. I can't find many lists where she actually showed up in Standard (only seven show up on mtgtop8.com) but I remember people trying to do silly things on Magic Online back then. Things like using her alongside Twilight Drover so that you'd sacrifice three creatures and then make more tokens that you can sacrifice for more exile effects. In practice, it was too expensive each turn to be truly practical, but it was fun for casual tables, making it great for this exact kind of setting.

Twilight Drover

What makes that interaction so memorable is how unusual the card choice is. After all, when was the last time you saw Twilight Drover show up in your local Commander pod? It shows up here and there in some token decks, but I know it's not usually my first choice and I imagine it's similar for many other players as well. I love building with and playing Teysa - especially in PreDH with the more Limited card pool - because of the quirky cards you end up getting to use.

A perfect example of this is Darkest Hour.

Darkest Hour

Whenever I put deck lists together for articles, I go through Magic's entire card pool to do so, utilizing Magic Online as a helpful resource. Darkest Hour is always one of those cards I would tend to skim over and chuckle to myself because of how painfully mediocre the card is. You could maybe do something with, er, Bad Moon maybe? It's not normally that great! In a Teysa, Orzhov Scion deck, however, its stock goes up tremendously.

The key here is that whenever a Black creature you control dies, you get a 1/1 Spirit token. As it happens, Darkest Hour makes all of your creatures Black, meaning that the White Spirit tokens die and then come right back to the battlefield again, good as new! The problem here is it shuts off Teysa's exile ability, so it feels like a non-bo, but in reality it's a good engine to help keep a board around and is even great board wipe insurance! You can even cast your own Wrath of God and your creatures will stick around while your opponents get wiped out.

The best use of this play, though, is with something like Phyrexian Altar or Blasting Station. In the case of Phyrexian Altar, it provides you with infinite mana, allowing you to cast anything you want! If you happen to have a Geth, Lord of the Vault on the battlefield, you can win the game outright if your opponents have enough creatures and artifacts to hit. And, of course, if you have Blasting Station, then you just win the game on the spot, as you tap and sacrifice a creature to its ability, which puts another token into play and untaps it. As such, you can just mow down your opponents and win the game! If you don't want to necessarily win, just use Circle of Despair for a ridiculous amount of damage prevention to keep you going.

All of this works with Painter's Servant as well, but frankly everyone knows that. It's all about using the oddball cards and giving them their time in the sun, and if ever there was a deck for Darkest Hour, it's right here.

The core of the rest of the deck is largely built around spitting out as many tokens as possible. As such, many of the usual suspects are here. You'll probably recognize such classics as Bitterblossom, Emeria Angel, and Grave Titan - and why wouldn't you? If you're playing a token deck, they're practically essential. With PreDH, though, you lack many modern cards that are fairly popular and have to get a little bit out of the box as well.

Sacred Mesa
Cenn's Enlistment
Decree of Justice

For example, Sacred Mesa is the definition of a classic token generator that's hard to justify by today's standards. With the smaller and less Commander-centric card pool in play, though, it becomes far more interesting. The same could be said about Cenn's Enlistment. Frankly, there's not many circumstances where you'd want to play this in modern day Commander where there are numerous repeatable token generators. With far less available in PreDH, Cenn's Enlistment is a great way to continuously have tokens on the field. You even get to make great use out of some real classics as well, like Decree of Justice. The card doesn't get quite as much love as it used to, but in Teysa it might as well be an instant speed method to exile a bunch of creatures that also cantrips at the same time.

It's not just the cards that you have to utilize either, though. Sometimes it's about finding synergy to get the tokens down. Captain of the Watch and Cloudgoat Ranger were really awesome cards back in the day but just don't hold up by today's standards since they're one-and-done effects. However, have you tried looping between them with the help of a nice Hell's Caretaker? Maybe sacrificing to a Viscera Seer only to get these token makers back with Phyrexian Reclamation or Oversold Cemetery? Heck, you can even Erratic Portal them back to your hand for even more value, and if there's one thing an Orzhov guild master like Teysa loves, it's value.

In fact, that's why I love this deck in particular. Longtime readers will know that I'm an absolute sucker for token decks, but usually those kinds of decks go for a swarm-and-pump strategy. In other words, you make a lot of small creatures and then utilize multiple anthem or Overrun effects to make them massive and crush your opponents in one big swing. That's not really how this deck goes about landing its victory.

Sure, you can get the combo kills down. Darkest Hour, Teysa, and Blasting Station will wrap up games in record time, as will the numerous Reveillark combos you can take advantage of as well. With few tutors, though, you're not always assured to get there, and so in most games you'll be left to go for a more slow and steady value generating approach instead. This deck does that in several interesting ways you'll have a lot of fun simply trying to find new ways to make it all work to secure your victory.

Teysa may be dead but her will - and her spirit - live on forever in our hearts. We can remember her here as she was when she was much younger and arguably in her prime. Where will things go for her now that she's returned as a ghost? That will be something for another time in the future when we revisit Ravnica and see her once again. For now, though, let us celebrate her life, and may this deck crafted as a tribute to the longtime Orzhov leader bring you joy as you play it at your next Commander night.

Just be sure to not fall too deeply into her debt.

Paige Smith

Twitter: @TheMaverickGal

Twitch: twitch.tv/themaverickgirl

YouTube: TheMaverickGal

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