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Building Asmora with Blood Tokens


Romans in the Decadence of the Empire, 1847 by Thomas Couture.

Jace, Telepath Unbound by Jaime Jones.

Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar, that is. I'll be calling today's commander "Asmora" for the rest of this column. I've only barely learned how to say her name. I'm sure not going to litter my first column of the year with that ridiculous trainwreck of a card name so she's Asmora from here on out.

There are a few reasons I was drawn to write about "Asmora" today. I was lucky enough to be gifted a box of Crimson Vow for Christmas and made the wise decision not to do a "deck in a box" column. It would have ended up just being a big pile of vampires without much synergy and who wants that?

Well, apparently, I want that.

As I was opening packs it dawned on me that the new Blood tokens play perfectly into a deck built around the not-so-lofty goal of trying to discard cards so that I can actually cast my commander.

The Underworld Cookbook

Asmora has no ordinary casting cost. Her name takes up the space where her mana cost would normally be shown, and her text box explains that I can cast her for a Black or Red mana if I've discarded a card this turn. Blood tokens let you pay 1 mana, tap and sacrifice them to draw a card.

Any plans I had to build some crazy chaos deck to mess with my online Tabletop Simulator group were immediately put on the back burner as soon as I realized that Crimson Vow was loaded up with that would let me be able to cast Asmora. You're welcome, guys. The inevitable night where I'm casting stuff like Scrambleverse, Warp World, Possibility Storm and Thieves' Auction will happen someday, but not anytime soon.

A Bloody Good Time

I'm going to theme this deck around the idea of throwing the afterparty for Olivia and Edgar's wedding. I'm inviting a lot of Vampires. I'm inviting so many vampires that I seriously thought about loading up the deck even more, running all the best Rakdos vamps I could get my hands on along with Patriarch's Bidding and some extra tribal stuff.

My problem with that plan was that this really isn't the best Vampire commander. That would be Edgar Markov, and this isn't even the best Rakdos Vampire commander. That could be Olivia Voldaren or any of a number of legendary vampires but certainly isn't Asmora.

We have a short guest list and the majority of party goers are going to be Vampires that can make Blood tokens.

Gluttonous Guest
Blood Hypnotist
Restless Bloodseeker

Gluttonous Guest, Bloodcrazed Socialite, Voldaren Epicure, Falkenrath Celebrants and Blood Fountain all give us Blood Tokens when they enter the battlefield. Blood Celebrant will make one when it dies. Restless Bloodseeker will give me a Blood token on my end step if I gained life that turn. This deck's best Blood token generator might be Anje, Maid of Dishonor. She'll give us a Blood token for each vampire that enters the battlefield under my control.

With over a dozen of these Blood token generators, I'm optimistic that I will be able to get my commander onto the battlefield. Asmora isn't exactly a game-winning combo piece, though in his column from last July Mark Wischkaemper did give us a janky deck with a combo finish that is so convoluted that it will be a real challenge to pull off in a game.

I should note that Mark went with "Asmor" in his article but our commander is female and in Romance languages (originally derived from Latin) a name ending in a vowel usually denotes a woman's name. John versus Johanna. Stephen versus Stephanie. Alex versus Alexa. Mark is a fine writer, but I'm going to diverge from his column on this one point and will be sticking with Asmora.

Artifact Tokens Matter

All those Blood tokens led me to load up on other token generators as well. It made sense to look at Food tokens in a deck led by a chef. Asmora even lets me sacrifice Food tokens to give a creature -6/-6 so I really want a few cards that care about Food tokens.

Witch's Oven
Tempting Witch
Bog Naughty

I'm already moving away from a strict tribal build, but my chef has to have an oven, and those Food tokens can be used by Asmora. Witch's Oven will give me a sacrifice outlet, Tempting Witch can fill in as our prep cook and Bog Naughty can help deal with problem guests by giving them -3/-3 at the cost of some mana and a single food token.

Tamiyo's Journal
Revel in Riches
Academy Manufactor

I'm also running Tamiyo's Journal, which can give me a steady trickle of Clue tokens and Revel in Riches, which can give me Treasure tokens. Academy Manufactor is going to be fun to have on the field if I can get any of my non-Blood token generators up and running. It will give me one of each if I make a Food, a Clue or a Treasure token.

All those tokens make me think of two things.

The first is that I'm going to make some Dockside Extortionist player VERY happy. I'm somewhat OK with that, but it's something I have to acknowledge. I didn't have a spare Dockside to put in this list, but it's become an auto-include in any deck that includes Red.

The second thing those tokens make me think is that it'd be a sweet excuse to play a couple of sweet cards: Cranial Plating and Nettlecyst.

Cranial Plating

Both of those pieces of equipment care about how many artifacts I control. Cranial Plating has the drawback of not boosting toughness, but it has the advantage that it can be moved at instant speed for two black mana. Nettlecyst pumps both power and toughness and is a "living weapon", making a 0/0 Germ token and attaching to it when it enters the battlefield.

These last two cards had me seriously thinking about adding in an Infect subtheme. There are a handful of flying infect threats that this deck could probably turn into lethal one-shot kills with either of these artifacts and enough artifact tokens. It's a serious consideration, but I decided to put that plan on the back burner and lean into vampires for this first draft.

By Invitation Only

I had a lot of sacrifice outlets in the cards I was assembling as this list came together. I don't always end up with dozens of extra cards and find myself cutting my pile of options down to a neat 100, but that's how this build went. I far prefer to have a clear plan and a neat set of "slots" that all add up to a full commander deck. Sometimes it works out that way, but not today.

I ended up cutting a bunch of sacrifice outlet Vampires that didn't bring in Blood Tokens, but if I end up having too many of those little red vials rolling around, I might add a couple of them back in.

Viscera Seer
Ashnod's Altar
Anje, Maid of Dishonor

Viscera Seer is an old standby and lets me sacrifice a creature to Scry 1. Witch's Oven lets me sacrifice a creature to create a Food token. Ashnod's Altar lets me sacrifice a creature to create 2 colorless mana. Anje, Maid of Dishonor lets me sacrifice another creature or a Blood token to make each opponent lose 2 life and for me to gain 2 life.

I may have ended up cutting too many sacrifice outlets, but there just wasn't enough room to do everything I thought might be fun to do with Asmora. My general theme of having a big party with lots of vampires got me thinking that it would work nicely to run a slot of Act of Treason effects.

I like the idea of sending out invitations to my party in the form of cards that let me gain control of other players' creatures. These "Act of Treason" effects steal a creature until end of turn.

Malevolent Whispers
Bloody Betrayal
Mass Mutiny

Malevolent Whispers has the added benefit of having the Madness keyword, allowing me to cast it if I discard it. I thought about loading up on Madness keywords, but I thought about a lot of things and this draft is built around stealing away my opponents' creatures to come join Asmora's party.

Bloody Betrayal is the Crimson Vow take on Act of Treason, and gives me one of those precious Blood Tokens. In addition to a handful of single target creature theft cards, I'm also running Mob Rule and Mass Mutiny. The former lets me choose between creatures with power 4 or greater or creatures with power 3 or less. If I've got the right sacrifice outlet on board, I can steal a mess of creatures, attack with them and then sacrifice them after combat. Mass Mutiny will let me steal up to one creature from each of my opponents.

If borrowing creatures is "mean", borrowing them and flushing them before they go back to their owner is even meaner. I'm in Rakdos so I'm OK with this deck having a really hefty amount of removal and a strategy that more casual players might not appreciate. Sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes you get invited to the afterparty of a Vampire wedding and you don't make it home again.

An Exquisite Payoff

This deck is built to dig for something. It's loaded up with ways to discard and draw cards. That sort of approach always leads me to think about what I'm digging for. Am I just trying to make sure I hit my land drops or is there a key card or combo this deck is looking for?

As far as cheesy 2-card combos go, these next two cards are pretty high on the list. There isn't anything particularly clever about landing these enchantments and winning the game but I've only done it once or twice in the time I've been playing Commander.

Exquisite Blood
Sanguine Bond

If these cards didn't have words like "Blood" and "Sanguine" in their names I might not have put this combo in, but for a Blood-themed Vampire deck these make all the sense in the world. That said, while the combo is in there, I'm not loaded up on tutors to try to hit it consistently. This deck is mostly "hoping for the best" but I might occasionally combo off to win a game.

I'm definitely more intrigued by the idea of adding lines of play for The Underworld Cookbook than I am interested in trying to hit "Blood Bond" as often as possible.

Cookbook Recursion

The biggest drawback to using The Underworld Cookbook to bring creatures back from the graveyard is that it puts them into my hand, not onto the battlefield. I'm going to have to cast whatever I pull out of the bin, so I'm not inclined to use my new cookbook for Eldrazi Titans or other really huge creatures.

I do have a few recursion targets that might be worth pulling back from the grave.

Rune-Scarred Demon
Gray Merchant of Asphodel
Wandering Archaic

If I wind up discarding any of these creatures I'll be happy later in the game to be able to pull them back out of the bin. Rune-Scarred Demon costs a hefty 7 mana, but will let me tutor for the other half of a combo or for anything else I might need. If I've got enough devotion to black on my board, that might end up being Gray Merchant of Asphodel, which would also be a great recursion target if it finds its way to the graveyard. Another high value target could be Wandering Archaic, which can create problems for opponents trying to cast one-sided boardwipes or who simply lack the mana to pay its two-mana tax.

The other drawback to building around The Underworld Cookbook is that you have to sacrifice it. Black is very good at getting creatures out of the graveyard, and Blue is very good at getting instants and sorcery spells back from the bin. For artifact recursion you really want to be in Green.

I am running Buried Ruin, but I didn't throw in Myr Retriever, Junk Diver, Workshop Assistant or other ways to pull my cookbook out of the trash. For my first draft I wanted to focus on my Blood tokens and creature theft. This isn't driving to be a world-beater of a deck - just a fun Rakdos casual build I can pull out every now and then to see how it does and to think about how I want to tweak it going forward.

I could see building up some cute recursive combo that would loop my Cookbook and pull off some overly elaborate wincon. I love those types of decks and Mark Wischkaemper's column does a good job of exploring that take on Asmora. There's an argument that this deck should be running creature-based 2-card combos like Mikaeus, the Unhallowed and Triskelion rather than an enchantment-based combo that The Underworld Cookbook can't help with. Creature-based combos will probably become more prominent in later versions of this list, but my focus on Blood tokens puts Blood Bond more on theme than any other combo I could think of.

Blood Asmora

As I look through this list, I'm struck by the fact that I probably could have run way more in the way of food themed cards, but I suspect it would have been a weaker list as a result. Footbottom Feast, Feast on the Fallen, Feast of Succession, Soul Feast and Master of the Feast could all have a place in this list but that doesn't mean they should be in there. I could have loaded up on more Vampires, and I still might throw in a few more sacrifice outlets, but all in all I'm happy with this as a janky, fairly casual Rakdos deck that isn't going to blow the doors off of any tables, but might combo off every now and then.

I should note that my Cabal Coffers / Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth combo would set this deck up to run a card like Torment of Hailfire, but I'm more likely to evolve this list in the direction of running more creatures and throwing in Mortal Combat, Patriarch's Bidding and more vampires. A few creature-based combos would make sense. Nim Deathmantle might fit in nicely and that combo does require just the right creatures to be able to set up a loop.

Final Thoughts

If you're a regular reader, you should know that building this deck has been on my mind for weeks, if not months. My odd crusade to paint Muppet alters for my Commander decks is still ongoing, and today's subject was the latest deck in my collection to get the Muppet treatment.

The Swedish Chef is, or at least seems to be, a male Muppet. I had originally been planning to make a Gyome, Master Chef alter with the Swedish Chef, but Gyome is only available in foil and I haven't yet learned how to make a foil alter. I lucked into opening Asmora in a booster pack and when I saw all those Blood tokens generators in my Crimson Vow packs it was an easy decision to switch over to Asmora.

Painting The Underworld Cookbook using the old Jayemdae Tome art as inspiration was actually the stepping stone to painting The Swedish Chef alter. I often have grand plans and bold visions of what I'm going to paint, but when I'm going to do a detailed background or try to recreate a card's setting, I often hesitate to start. Knocking out that Cookbook alter first got me back in the groove, though Asmora was still a lot of work.

I likely won't be sharing alters with you every week, but on the heels of my two alter-themed columns from December I felt I should share this one today.

If you've built Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar and have thoughts on what I'm doing wrong with this list, or what I could do better as I work to improve it, please leave a note. Would you lean into those evasive infect creatures, run more vampires, or dig into creature-based combos?

If you're just here for the Muppets, that's fine too. I'd love to hear what you think of my Swedish Chef! That's all I've got for today. Thanks for reading and I'll see you next week.

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