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Obeka, Splitter of Seconds in Commander


When I entered into building today's commander, I was convinced it would be the next big problem for mid-to-high powered EDH metas. One look at this commander's text box and my imagination ran wild about how you could load up a battlefield with cards that had upkeep triggers, and then launch into a ridiculous, game-ending turn where you attack, dealing a boatload of damage, and closing out the game in some wacky, unexpected way.

Obeka, Splitter of Seconds

Obeka, Splitter of Seconds is a four-mana Grixis Ogre Warlock with a really, really neat party trick. When she deals combat damage to a player, you get that many additional upkeep steps after this phase. She has menace for good measure, which means she can only be blocked by two or more creatures.

This deck is not going to spend all of its time in Magical Christmas Land, where you find yourself swinging for 10 or more damage with a half dozen permanents on the field that trigger on your upkeep. A deck's best-case scenario isn't something you can usually rely upon happening that often, but I'm still optimistic that Obeka will give you a lot of really fun and interesting games.

Choosing a Direction

The first thing I did was dig through Scryfall and think about all of the cards I could play that could work with Obeka.

What I found was that a lot of them came with minor or even serious drawbacks. Phyrexian Arena is a great example. That enchantment is a Black staple because it will draw you a card on your upkeep at the paltry cost of one life. You'll think I'm crazy, but I decided to skip over cards that would help but also hurt me. I never want to be in the position where I'm unable to swing Obeka for fear of killing myself with upkeep life loss triggers. I have a sneaking suspicion I'll have my hands full dealing with my opponents trying to drop my life total to zero. They don't need my help.

I soon found myself wondering if the best Obeka deck would be one that would go in a more specific direction. There are all kinds of interesting mechanics and creature types that could work well with extra upkeep triggers. Charge and Energy counters seem like an interesting build path. A deck built around getting and keeping The Initiative might be a viable plan. Anowon, the Ruin Sage briefly had me imagining a Vampire Obeka build, though I'd want to run ways to turn Obeka into a Vampire for that to work.

The craziest idea I came across was to run a series of sorcery spells with the Epic mechanic. An Epic spell, when it resolves, will prevent you from playing spells for the rest of the game, but at the beginning of each of your upkeeps you'll copy that spell. These spells are real bangers, and the idea is weird enough that I should give you a look at the three that could be run in Obeka.

Eternal Dominion
Neverending Torment
Undying Flames

Setting yourself up to cast these a bunch of times would be pretty sweet, but if Obeka got removed you'd be looking at a pretty sad remainder of the game as you wouldn't be able to cast her (or anything else) again. It's a neat concept, and Eternal Dominion would be really interesting if you play against decks with combo wincons, but I didn't end up including any of them.

The Scarab God
Endless Ranks of the Dead
Tombstone Stairwell

The best non-goodstuff build for Obeka, Splitter of Seconds would probably be a Zombie list with cards like The Scarab God, Endless Ranks of the Dead and possibly even Graveborn Muse, though that Zombie Spirit could drop your life total pretty fast with multiple upkeeps. Post-combat upkeeps would make Tombstone Stairwell a really interesting world enchantment, as you could play spells to give you extra combat steps and attack with a huge army of Tombspawn zombie tokens.

I ended up going for a build not focused on any one creature type, though I do have a bit of an artifact theme. My reasoning is simply that any Zombie deck is going to have to devote a large portion of the 99 to Zombies and that would take my attention away from weird cards with upkeep triggers. For a starting point, I want as many weird cards with upkeep triggers as possible.

Upkeep Basics

The basics of any EDH deck are pretty simple, and I'm not talking about basic lands.

Ramp, draw, and removal are the three things you absolutely, positively have to account for if you want your deck to be able to do all the cool stuff you're hoping it will do. For Obeka, my hope was to find cards that would help me cover the basics in ways that work with what she brings to the party.

Ramping in your upkeep isn't something you usually do. I did find a few cards for ramp but only one of them made the final cut. Replicating Ring is a three-mana snow artifact that taps for one mana of any color. Its upkeep trigger is that it gets a night counter and if it has eight or more, I'll remove the counters and create eight tokens named Replicating Ring that can tap for any color. Those token copies won't get night counters, but you might end up "popping" your Replicating Ring more than once in a game if Obeka is giving you enough extra upkeeps.

There were some spicy "rampy" cards that I left out of the list. Herald of Leshrac would have let me steal my tablemates' lands as a cumulative upkeep cost, but that Black Avatar costs 7 and would likely draw me a ton of hate even if I only took a few basics. Braid of Fire would give me a bunch of red mana, but that mana would go away before I made it to my second main phase. Braids, Conjurer Adept would let me play out a bunch of permanents, possibly including lands, but it would also help my tablemates by letting them do the same thing on their upkeep. Of these options, "Blue Braids" was the most tempting, but I figured she might spook my opponents into removing Obeka as quickly as possible.

In contrast to ramp, card draw had so many options that I ended up cutting some of the higher mana cards that could have fit in.

Kumena's Awakening
Midnight Clock
Forgotten Creation

Kumena's Awakening is an enchantment from Rivals of Ixalan that will have everyone draw a card on your upkeep, but if you have the city's blessing only you draw a card. You get the city's blessing when you control ten or more permanents, and you keep it for the rest of the game. Honden of Seeing Winds and Staff of Nin are also in the list. The former is the only Shrine in the deck, so it will draw me one card on each of my upkeeps. Playing more shrines could increase that card draw. The latter is an artifact that can tap to deal 1 damage to target creature or player, and will draw me a card at the beginning of my upkeep.

Drawing a few cards is nice, but replacing my hand with a fresh set of seven cards is great and I've got a card in this list that can do that. Midnight Clock is a mana rock that taps for Blue and will get an hour counter on each upkeep. When it gets 12 hour counters, I'll shuffle my hand and graveyard into my library, draw seven cards and exile it. Also in the list is Forgotten Creation, a Zombie Horror that will let me discard my hand and draw that many cards at the beginning of my upkeep.

I'm also running Inspiring Refrain, a six-mana sorcery with suspend that can draw me two cards. It can be exiled with three-time counters for two and a Blue, and when the last time counter gets removed I'll cast it without paying its mana cost. When Inspiring Refrain resolves, whether I cast it from my hand or from exile, it will exile itself with three time counters. Time counters generally get removed on my upkeep, though some suspend cards provide other ways to add or remove time counters.

Two other cards in today's list have the same repeating effect that you get with Inspiring Refrain. Both Reality Strobe and Rousing Refrain will exile themselves with three time counters upon resolution. The former is a sorcery speed bounce spell and the latter will give me a red mana for each card in target opponent's hand. The mana from Rousing Refrain won't go away when steps and phases end - only when the turn ends, so it's far more versatile than Braid of Fire.

Reality Strobe may be a repeatable removal spell, but I don't want to be stuck having to wait until my upkeep(s) to deal with a problem. The best removal is at instant speed. I generally want to hold back until I know a problem on the battlefield is a problem for me. Players like to be able to play their decks, and it's wise to be careful about where and when you use interaction. For that reason I didn't end up running much in the way of upkeep trigger removal. I generally don't run a boatload of removal anyways, but what I run is almost always well-costed and at instant speed.

The Fun Stuff

Ramp, draw and removal may be good for what ails you, but I don't build Commander deck for the excitement of resolving a Signet.

Bonehoard Dracosaur
Skyline Despot

Bonehoard Dracosaur is a recent card, printed in The Lost Caverns of Ixalan, but it's so good in this deck I had to put a spotlight on it. At the beginning of your upkeep I'll exile the top two cards of my library and I get to play them this turn. If I exiled a land I'll get a 3/1 Red Dinosaur and if I exiled a nonland I'll get a Treasure token.

I've got a few older cards in this deck as well, including Chronozoa. This Illusion from Planar Chaos has vanishing 3, so it enters with three time counters and I'll remove a time counter on my upkeep. When the last time counter is removed, it gets sacrificed. When it is put into the graveyard from play, if it had no time counters on it I'll put two token copies of Chronozoa into play! This 3/3 flyer might not get out of hand quickly, but if I can get enough upkeeps it might become a problem for my tablemates after a few turn cycles.

I've got two ways to create 5/5 Dragon creature tokens in my list. Dragonmaster Outcast is a 1/1 Human Shaman who will trigger on my upkeep if I have six or more lands to give me a Dragon. Skyline Despot is also in the list. It's a seven-mana 5/5 Dragon that makes me the monarch when it enters the battlefield. At the beginning of my upkeep if I'm still the monarch I'll create a 5/5 Dragon creature token with flying. The beauty of Skyline Despot in this list is that if someone hits me to take the monarch token, I'll be able to get it back in combat on my turn and possibly set up a bunch of upkeeps after combat to let me make more Dragons.

Plargg and Nassari
Twilight Prophet
Wildfire Devils

Plargg and Nassari might be my favorite card in this list. This Orc Efreet is another of the series of cards from March of the Machine: The Aftermath that pairs two legendary creatures. This creature gives me an upkeep trigger where each player will exile cards from the top of their library until they exile a nonland card. An opponent will choose a nonland card exiled this way and I'll get to cast up to two spells from among the other cards exiled this way without paying their mana costs.

Twilight Prophet is one of the few Vampires that tempted me to run with that tribe. This flying 2/4 has Ascend, and at the beginning of my upkeep if I've got the city's blessing I'll reveal the top card of my library and put it into my hand. Each opponent will lose X life and I'll gain X life where X is the card's mana value. I'm unlikely to kill a table with this little trick, but this gives me card draw, life gain, and it will help me push everyone else's life totals down.

If you thought things couldn't get any better, Wildfire Devils might surprise you. This 4/2 Devil has an enter the battlefield and upkeep trigger that will have me choose a player at random. That player will exile an instant or sorcery spell from their graveyard and I'll copy it and get to cast the copy without paying its mana cost. If the random player isn't me, there's a chance my tablemate will pick something useless to me, or downright bad to cast at that time, but I can always choose not to cast it.

How We Win

It's not at all uncommon for me to share a lower powered deck with you and not have a good answer to this question. Going to combat can win games, and this deck has the potential to make an army and win in (or flying over) the trenches. I also decided to run a few extra wincons that work nicely with extra upkeeps.

This list includes Dockside Extortionist and a number of other cards that can create Treasure tokens. Revel in Riches only gives me a treasure when a creature an opponent controls dies, but its "win the game" trigger happens on my upkeep.

If I can't win off of Revel in Riches, I might be able to win off of Hellkite Tyrant. When this flying, trampling 6/5 Red Dragon deals combat damage to a player, I'll gain control of all artifacts they control. Then at the beginning of my upkeep if I control twenty or more artifacts, I'll win the game.

Mechanized Production is an aura that can enchant an artifact I control. At the beginning of my upkeep I'll create a token that's a copy of enchanted artifact and then if I control eight or more artifacts with the same name as one another, I'll win the game.

Usually you have to wait a full turn cycle for these kinds of wincons to trigger but with Obeka, I'll get the chance to win in a post combat upkeep. A first main phase Dockside could single handedly set up Revel in Riches. I'll still have to get Obeka to deal combat damage to a player, but that shouldn't be too hard. I'm running a few pieces of equipment that can help with that. If the deck struggles to get Obeka through to deal combat damage to a player I can always tweak it to run more removal, more evasion, or both.

(Up)Keep Ya Head Up

I was torn between referencing "Keep Ya Head Up" and Soul II Soul's "Keep On Moving," but I had to go with Tupac. Like the header says, if you get a lot of hate for what seems like an oppressive and overly powerful commander, keep your head up. Don't let yourself get discouraged, but also don't be afraid to tweak the deck and adapt it to your playstyle and meta.

Some decks need to get played a few times before they break through. If your group overreacts to new cards that seem powerful, you might just need to take a few losses before they ease up on you and you get the breathing room to see this deck do its thing. In EDH you should be winning roughly a quarter of the time, so you'll have your share of good days and your share of losing streaks.

Obeka, Splitter of Seconds | Commander | Stephen Johnson

Card Display

If you wanted to push this deck up in power, you'd load in faster mana, tutors, and a more focused approach to hitting your wincon(s). This list is aiming to have a chaotic, fun time with whatever you happen to draw into. If you're keen to win as many games as possible you'll want to figure out what exactly you're aiming for and you'll want to try to get to it - and protect it - as well as possible.

Dropping this list in both power and budget isn't hard. You'd drop out the pricier cards and aim for lower powered, longer games. You might take a right turn at Albuquerque and drive straight on to Zombie Town to end up with a more budget friendly, but still powerful deck. That might open up room for cards like Mind Unbound, a six-mana Blue enchantment that will give you an increasing amount of card draw as you put lore counters on it in your upkeep. There are interesting cards with upkeep triggers that I dropped out because of their higher mana cost, so tuning this list down for a slower meta could open up all kinds of interesting possibilities.

Early Results

I was able to get in one game with this list and it was an interesting one. The biggest headache of the game was a player on Laughing Jasper Flint who ended up exiling between a quarter and a third of each player's deck. It's not a lot of fun to see your cards get flitted away like that, but I did my best to focus on what I could control.

I ended up with a slow start, and one player was good enough to let me in for an attack just to make sure I got to see Obeka's trigger happen at least once. Tuning this deck up may well involve loading in more early game plays, though it's always a risk to lean too heavily on mana rocks. I was able to launch into a decent midgame off the back of my Dockside.

My least favorite Jhoira - Jhoira of the Ghitu - put in work in the game by letting me suspend a few higher priced cards. After an overloaded Cyclonic Rift I was able to cast a suspended Skyline Despot, Staff of Nin and Honden of Seeing Winds to set me up for a push late in the game. I was able to swing in with Obeka and end up with a small fleet of 5/5 Dragons, but I never saw anything from my deck that would let me pump Obeka up.

We had one player scoop, as they had been drawing a ton of cards and getting targeted a lot by Jasper Flint, to the point where they didn't see much point in continuing with everything that had been exiled. As I said earlier, Jasper Flint didn't seem like it would be much fun to play against, and it sure wasn't. I was lucky to not be a problem for much of the game, dodging the attention of the Jasper player who was regularly exiling 5-8 cards from someone's library each upkeep. They even stole my Obeka at one point to really screw somebody with extra exile triggers.

In the end we were down to three players and the Jasper player declared a truce with our other tablemate, setting me up for a rather uncomfortable 2 v 1. I ended up killing the Jasper Flint player with Dragons and then getting killed by the last player, who was on Titania, Gaea Incarnate. Her game ending turn was the only time she melded her commander, but I was happier to lose to someone who hadn't been screwing around with my board or library much at all. The Jasper player sealed her fate by suggesting that "truce" and at that point I don't think anything would have changed the eventual outcome of the game.

My initial takeaway from the game was that Obeka is a lot of fun, but today's build will definitely need tweaking. Some faster mana, tutors, and a boardwipe would help the list out, but for its first game I really wanted to lean into cards with upkeep triggers. More ways to make Obeka evasive and bigger would also be nice, even at the cost of some of those upkeep triggers.

Final Thoughts

As I start to wrap up this column, I have to pause to mention all of the great cards I didn't even dig into. As Foretold is an enchantment that gets time counters on your upkeep and lets you cast cards for free if they have a mana value equal to or less than the number of time counters it has. I'm also running five of the six "Court" enchantments that have you become the monarch, and give you something cool during your upkeep. They give you something really cool if you're the monarch, and you're very unlikely to lose the monarch between your first main phase and your second main phase if you're set up to deal combat damage with Obeka and get extra upkeeps after combat.

If you like Goblin tokens, I've got Goblin Assault to give me a hasty 1/1 red Goblin on each upkeep. If you like Thopter tokens, I've got Thopter Spy Network to give me a 1/1 Thopter token on each upkeep. If you really like tokens, I've got the aura Followed Footsteps to give me a token copy of enchanted creature on my upkeep. Enchanting Dockside Extortionist with Followed Footsteps ahead of a big Obeka attack would probably give me enough treasures to do whatever I wanted in my second main phase and still have some for later turns.

The biggest issue with this list, and it's not an uncommon problem in EDH, is that this deck revolves around its commander. You'll still have a game if you lose Obeka, but you sure won't be having anywhere near as much fun. I might consider adding Paradox Haze to get an extra upkeep at the beginning of the turn.

My favorite thing about Obeka, Splitter of Seconds is probably that there are a lot of interesting ways to build the deck. I leaned into every upkeep trigger I could get my hands on, but you could easily build a bunch of more focused Obeka decks that had distinctly different flavors. There would be plenty of cards in common, but there is still room for creativity.

That's all I've got for today. Thanks for reading and I'll see you next week!

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