I’m not sure why, but the Orzhov color pairing has always spoken to me. Something about the “death and taxes” aspect of it perhaps, maybe it’s the gothic/religious flavoring that isn’t normally my style. Whatever the case, these colors are great at adding taxing effects to the board, and that’s something I enjoy doing to my table (call me a dick if you like). One of the cards that came out with Theros: Beyond Death caught my attention early on, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it. First, let’s look at the card and then I’ll extrapolate:
Kunoros, Hound of Athreos (another great Orzhov card himself) is a 3/3 for 3 CMC that comes stacked with vigilance, menace and lifelink. That alone is pretty good, but then he also is basically Grafdigger’s Cage on a stick, in that he doesn’t allow cards to enter from graveyards, nor can you cast spells from graveyards. So this hoses flashback, most recursion, and even the new escape mechanic. All for only 3 mana, are you kidding me? Since this commander is the goodest of boys, I started to think about other Orzhov fun stuff I could do, and remembered the extort mechanic, which is absolutely perfect for this deck. Don’t forget to pay your taxes!
So the main thing I want to do with this deck is to extort my opponents to death. Extort is a unique mechanic in that every instance of it on the board can be triggered, and each instance can be paid with hybrid WB, so all of our mana is always available to be spent for extort triggers, so we shouldn’t have much if any left over on our turns. Cast a two drop, then use your last mana to extort. Or extort twice now that you have two instances of it on the board. Each time you do, each opponent will lose a life, and you’ll gain 3 (or an amount equal to the amount of opponents you have). This probably isn’t going to make you friends, but with some of the other gameplans I’ve included, I think it’s going to be fun anyway! So most of these cards are straightforward creatures with extort stapled on them, but there are a couple highlights. Crypt Ghast will also double up the mana your swamps make, and Pontiff of Blight just outright gives all of your creatures extort, so he’s probably the MVP of the deck, but a little expensive. Lastly, we have a single enchantment with the keyword, but it also causes some light stax by forcing your opponent’s creatures and artifacts to come into play tapped. Speaking of stax… yeah, let’s go there.
Staxes and Taxes
So here we have all manner of hate pieces. Some are creature based, others are enchantments or artifacts. This smorgasbord of goodness will have creatures and artifacts coming into play tapped, will tax people for drawing cards by allowing you to draw as well or instead (or damaging them), will stop ETB triggers, will keep graveyards empty or unable to be used as a resource, will prevent more than one spell being cast per turn (good thing we can just extort) and will generally piss off someone at the table. Now that we have your attention, drain away that life and stay safe!
Since our commander has lifelink and comes down early, and we have plenty of ways to extort our opponents means we’re going to be pretty healthy. So we should probably find ways to use that life right? So first, when we have lifegain triggers, we can further damage our opponents with cards like Cliffhaven Vampire and Sanguine Bond, or we have Dawn of Hope to help us draw cards off of the lifegain. I’ve also packed in Phyrexian Arena that will draw us an additional card each turn for a life, but we should be gaining more than that anyway. Finally, if we manage to get Bolas’s Citadel out onto the field we’ll be able to cast the top card of our library for life instead of mana, so as long as we’re always topping off this is just great value. The last card of note is the new Athreos which is particularly important for this deck. Since we have piled on quite a bit of graveyard hate, its not really possible to build in a recursion engine. I did include old Athreos, but he’ll be a dead drop sometimes depending on what other stuff we have on the battlefield. As such, the inclusion of the new one gives us some recursion but it takes time to build up. Once he’s out, each end step you can put counters onto creatures. Then it doesn’t matter if they die OR go to exile, as he will return them to the battlefield regardless. This is great since we have cards like Rest in Peace exiling our graveyards as well.
This deck was created to be resilient in the sense of being able to still do things even while playing heavy stax/tax effects. Most of them are one sided in that they affect our opponents only, but some spill over and that’s okay. Don’t be afraid to play cards that hinder you, challenge yourself to find ways to work around them. The payoff is worth it. I’ve also seen in the wobbly meta on the Discord that the majority of people’s decks do a lot of nothing until they suddenly combo off. This is designed to slow that down and hopefully prevent those combos. I have an answer for every major combo I’ve come across, so this should be a safe (and fairly budget) bet towards slowing games down so you can grind it out. Plus, if all else fails you only need to hit someone in the face 7 times with your commander to eliminate them, but you shouldn’t need to given the amount of drain we’re packing in.