Greetings! I’m an avid EDH/Commander deckbuilder, and I probably build more decks than I actually have a chance to play with. Any who let’s get to it!
This is my “flagship” deck. I’ve slowly been trying to foil it out, and I think that may have gotten in the way of making it a functioning deck.
In brief, I highly rely on Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker to be in play to make all kinds of silly interactions with a host of decent 1/1s and the like; therefore I’ve packed the deck with things that can protect her. Perhaps this is unwise. There are few win conditions, but it’s mostly a “look at me!” kind of deck so I’m not too interested in winning games, but obtaining some foils are expensive, and some are impossible because foil versions do not exist.
Commander: Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker
Shirei’s Recycling Army of Black Weenies
So there you have it; feel free to butcher away and don’t hold back. I know I’m far from a perfect deckbuilder. I’m going to list a few cards here now that have been in the deck at one point; maybe you can tell me I was crazy for ever taking them out: Deathgreeter; Bile Urchin; Myr Sire; Thrull Retainer; Soldevi Adnate; Devouring Swarm; Festercreep; Necropede; Marsh Flitter; Plague Myr; Pawn of Ulamog; Basal Thrull; Hecatomb; Coffin Queen (this card works great with Shirei, but explaining it to nonbelievers is too blah).
I’ve been toying with this deck since my induction into EDH, so any ideas or changes you’d like to suggest will be more than welcome. Thanks for reading my insanity!!
Jiggs R. Henry
So, this was a hard one for me to take. I wanted to love it, but I didn’t love it enough; I wanted to work on it until I loved it enough to make it better, but that is an obvious Catch-22. I let it sit in my inbox, asking me to look at it again and again, and I never quite got around to it because nothing came to mind when I thought about how to go about improving the deck to help you out.
Then an insidious idea came to mind. Or at least an Insidious Bookworm.
Shirei asks you to take such a strange direction for Commander, and invites you to play cards in the format that have never been played with a straight face before. I’m down for that sort of attitude just in general — I played the SCG Invitational this weekend with Thornscape Apprentice in my Legacy deck, and in at least one game it was Force of Willed. I am for the “Achievement Unlocked — SOMETHING THAT HAS NEVER HAPPENED IN A GAME OF MAGIC BEFORE!” kind of game in Commander, and Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker opens the door for just those sorts of experiences.
The more I thought about it, the more interesting it got to me, but I think most of where the deck can improve is in its choice of sacrifice outlets and protective spells. You are presently relying a lot on Hexproof and Shroud equipment to cover the “keep Shirei in play” part of the game, and that needs to be diversified between equipment, other sorts of spells, repeatable effects, and so on. As it is, a single sweeper that takes out Shirei counteracts your entire plan, and those are not exactly a rarity in Commander.
Mana-bases can always bear improving, and in the case of yours I saw the following changes as advisable:
For this, you are able to add the following lands:
Spawning Pool — A cute little addition to part of your existing defensive theme, in that it is a creature-land that works with Shirei and is a Drudge Skeleton, allowing you to have a little bit of extra blocking power at a surprisingly low cost. This is often viewed as the worst of a very good bunch, but in your deck it is actually just perfect and 100% on-theme.
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth — A little bit spend-y for a basic Swamp, but it aligns very nicely with Cabal Coffers and helps to make your non-swamp lands better alongside the best mana ramper in your deck.
Polluted Mire, Blasted Landscape — You’re a touch light on card drawing and manipulation, so I felt it was appropriate to add a little more manipulation potential to your manabase to help ward against flooding out. It’s not often I reach for the Blasted Landscape, but in your deck it fits nicely, since you have a generally low curve that can appreciate having the ability to cycle a land in the middle of a game but not so low that you can’t make use of the colorless mana.
Winding Canyons — Yes, I like to beat my drum. However, in your deck Winding Canyons can actually provide utility, not just awesomeness; a board-wipe that takes out your entire team sends Shirei to the command zone, and gaining the ability to play your commander as an instant would allow you to successfully return your team to play. Even the threat of this ability can be enough to forestall a sweeper, since it won’t actually wipe your side of the board, and this can’t help but alter play in your favor.
Following from there, the next stop in my quest to improve the house that Shirei stores was the artifacts. My main concern was that mere untargetability was not really much of an improvement at all to Shirei’s abilities, and while that was good there were other options that could be reached for as well. Potentially you’ll have one of these and another to give your commander shroud or hexproof, thus benefiting from doubled protection that multiple instances of hexproof does not provide.
Darksteel Ingot became Expedition Map, because you aren’t really gaining from the colored mana of the Ingot but could benefit from the targeted search for a sacrifice outlet or Cabal Coffers. It can also conveniently turn into â€˜draw a card’ if you just don’t want a land at all.
Nevinyrral’s Disk became Oblivion Stone, to give you the option of being able to protect some or all of your own permanents from your board-wipe effect. Considering how relevant saving just Shirei can be to your plan, this seemed very prudent to make the switch.
Whispersilk Cloak became Darksteel Plate, again following through on the idea that a bit of variation in what types of protection you are affording to your commander will make it more likely that you will be able to get Shirei up and running. Indestructible is a good benefit to gain, and Darksteel Plate is the most effective way to grant it as you can be relatively certain that the equipment will not up and disappear on you at an awkward moment. Return to Dust still happens sometimes, but no mere Akroma’s Vengeance will make it disappear and leave your commander unprotected.
Mask of Avacyn became Nim Deathmantle, as it might be easiest sometimes to just let Shirei die when killed by a sweeper, and rely on the Deathmantle to resurrect your commander (… who brings the rest of the team back from the dead, of course). It happens that the Deathmantle also gives you something that can substitute your commander in effectiveness, and I’ll be making a few such substitutions to try and cover for the fact that a single Hinder can ruin your day quite unpleasantly right now.
Argentum Armor I flat-out disagreed was necessary at all, at least given the sheer difficulty it takes to become effective in the first place — twelve mana is a very high barrier to cross just to kill your first enchantment, especially when you realize that will also lead to anyone who wants to protect their key permanent being able to do so with a single removal effect or even just a tapper after you’ve spent your twelve mana up-front.
Similarly, Blade of the Bloodchief wasn’t interesting or impressive to me; size doesn’t really matter, after all, your creatures start out puny and it is the overall board state that ends up leading to the fortuitous result of winning the game. (Somehow, I know this is still appropriately answered by â€˜that’s what she said!’.)
With a two slots left open and no immediate call for a potential analogue to fit in that role instead, I moved one slot over to another category and then reached for a utility card. Looking at what you’re already playing, I thought you would benefit from the addition of Nihil Spellbomb just as a general defensive spell that interacts nicely with how Commander as a format works. That it also overlaps nicely with your Living Death is not exactly unintentional, either…
Moving on to the next segment of the deck, I wanted to focus still on the support spells, and come to the creature base last of all as that is where my most considerable bunch of changes come in. It seemed most important to me to focus on whether you’d be able to operate at recurring your low-power creatures at all first, then see what bodies we were talking about adding to the storehouse of death. Looking for synergy and at what was just a â€˜support’ spell, I identified six cuts:
Footbottom Feast — Not a hard enough worker at recursion. You can do better if you try, and still at a shockingly low price.
Barter in Blood, Innocent Blood — Defensive spells that don’t cost you position or â€˜card advantage’ in Commander since they trade one-for-one with every opponent, but considering how you can expect to have a large-ish number of creatures in play these are really leaning harder than you have to on your Commander to be worthwhile.
Sadistic Glee, Skeletal Grimace, Soul Channeling — Weak defensive enchantments to provide additional overlapping protection to Shirei. I think you’re a little too overbalanced on directly protecting your Commander, and would benefit from a few less direct means. Winding Canyons was one such indirect means, and these slots would benefit from similarly creative thinking.
With these six slots, I found two more ways to provide sacrifice outlets that you’ll be able to use to your benefit, an older-than-old school sweeper to replace your pinpoint-ish removal spells, and three other ways to potentially help keep your commander around or even operate without Shirei available to you.
Gate to Phyrexia — A cheap sacrifice outlet that is kind of intriguing, since artifact destruction is not something black gets very often or very easily. For you, however, this could just be free, since sacrificing creatures is what you do all day every day. Having the ability to keep problems off the board should help ease some of the need you felt for Argentum Armor; enchantments are still quite difficult for you to kill, but artifacts at least could potentially be a piece of cake.
Infernal Tribute — Part card draw, part sacrifice outlet, it’s a good way to help you get ahead when things are working but not quite going anywhere yet.
Plague Wind — So old-school I almost forgot it existed in the first place, but I thought you wanted â€˜another Hex effect’ and then remembered there used to be this spell we would go to back in the day, when we wanted to kill every creature in the room. A hefty price tag, but you can afford a little top-end at this point since you otherwise have a very low mana curve for commander.
Imp’s Mischief — Part Shirei defense, part Time Stretch defense. Imp’s Mischief can redirect an awkwardly-timed Swords to Plowshares or even defend against Hinder and other such tuck effects that would deprive you Shirei in the first place. It can also provide you the rare ability for mono-black to interact with a spell directly while it is on the stack, which can let you actually voice an opinion during a counter-war if you want it to go a specific way or even hijack a major spell like Time Stretch that might otherwise prove to be game over.
Grim Harvest — Not so much Shirei defense as a way to still get value if Shirei is not online for any reason, and an awesome card in Commander that you can control with surprising precision thanks to your numerous sacrifice outlets.
Corpse Dance — Another bit of overlap here, between “things worth doing without Shirei” and “things that can help make sure Shirei resurrects your team.” In this case, Corpse Dance can let you save your team from mass removal effects by actually letting Shirei die as well and go on top of your graveyard, instead of to the command zone, where this spell will let you access it in time to catch your trigger. It also happens to work with the rest of your deck if Shirei is somehow deprived of you, be it by escalating mana cost due to repeated demise or something even more unfortunate like an awkwardly-timed Spell Crumple.
With these core alterations to how successfully the deck will be able to play its game already worked up, it was time to address the creature base, and look for more ways to provide sacrifice outlets and otherwise profit from the weird axis Shirei takes us off on. In some cases I was able to find direct upgrades, while others were just â€˜I don’t believe that is worth doing’ — sorry, Blood Pet, I mean you.
Bone Shredder Â
Butcher of Malakir
Cadaver Imp Â
Leaden Myr Â
Mindless Automaton Â
Pilgrim’s Eye Â
Reassembling Skeleton Â
Scavenger Drake Â
Most of the â€˜out’ list got cut for being inefficient at the theme, or simply off-theme entirely as is the case with the Shriekmaw, Gatekeeper, and Demon package. Sacrifice outlets that work with Shirei are better than ones that don’t, after all, and thus Vampire Aristocrat would not be as good as a sac outlet that had one power or less. As to closing the game out, well, there are better ways than Demons… ways that work with Shirei, potentially while still putting Demons into play!
With fourteen slots in Shirei’s armed forces to fill, I found the following to stay on-theme while nonetheless filling some or all of the same roles you had wanted in the first place. A more significant discard-based theme is added as well, to potentially help wear down opponents that might otherwise come over the top with big spells and gigantic monsters, and part of what drew me to your submission in the first place you’ll see showing up here: the ability to add cards I would never otherwise actually be able to add to any deck anywhere.
For a discard package, we look to the following creatures:
Chilling Apparition — Still a regenerating blocker, but this little Drudge Skeleton has a bit of bite to it, in that an opponent with no blockers may just lose a card to his icy touch. A slight dash of board-advancing offense, instead of pure defense.
Mindwarper — Use three times, repeat with Shirei. While Mindwarper starts as a 3/3 and thus might pass unseen at the first notice, after two uses your opponent of choice is down two cards and Mindwarper is ready to recur. With the ability to self-destruct effectively on command, Mindwarper works with all of the non-Shirei backup plans as well, triggering recover and disappearing before Corpse Dance thinks to ask it to make an exit.
Thrull Surgeon — Targeted hand destruction for those pesky spells like Insurrection that otherwise might kill you and be so hard to handle. Conveniently recursive in that effort of choice, though limited to your own main phases by the sorcery requirement on the ability, and thus not able to go truly crazy at hacking apart an opponent’s hand.
Insidious Bookworms — The Worms, however, have no such compunction at the speed you use them, meaning that with Shirei online you can cost a player a card at random every pass of the turn cycle. The Bookworms lack the ability to trigger themselves, so you need a sacrifice outlet, but otherwise are not chained to any speed limitations and random discard is surprisingly effective.
Looking at the next element to strengthen, we want to build up your creature-control elements, and I found the following all to be entirely on-theme and able to provide more defense or just potentially make bad things happen to good people.
Triskelion — Two pings to opponents’ creatures, one ping for himself. Rinse and repeat.
Big Game Hunter — Replaces Shriekmaw with much of the same effectiveness, but adds in the ability to work with Shirei as well. Only killing creatures with four power or above is not quite as good as the Terror that you would otherwise be emulating, but let’s face it, this is Commander, that’s still a large subsection of the creatures you are likely to see in play over the course of a game.
Crypt Rats — Boom goes the mousie. Potentially board-clearing, works with Shirei, even plays a little bit of planeswalker control if you want it to.
Wall of Corpses — Blocking with teeth is better than just blocking in general, and Wall of Corpses starts to cost the opponent their most meaningful attacker during each attack for a very low mana investment once Shirei is operational. Unlike regenerating blockers, this doesn’t tap after use, and it actually answers a threat in a meaningful way that will keep opponents from just throwing their best creatures at you without thought.
Keeper of the Dead — Who doesn’t like cute goth chicks? Better yet, this is repeating pinpoint removal stapled to a creature that Shirei protects, which in turn advances your game-plan and keeps you safe. The graveyard limitation sounds meaningful till you add in the Bog, Map for Bog, Spellbomb, and Heap Doll replacement seen below that should keep the opponent’s graveyard at a manageable level as far as getting to use the Keeper of the Dead is concerned.
The last five additions upgraded something you already had into something that was better at the job, or happened to be able to accomplish much the same but stay on-theme while you did it.
Martyr of Bones — Heap Doll replacement; Martyr of Bones asks for a little bit extra, but provides a considerably larger effect for so doing. Especially considering you have cards like Living Death in your deck, Martyr is a pure upgrade in power and effectiveness that makes your other cards better.
Apprentice Necromancer — Another potential layer of Shirei protection as well as a potentially abusable engine with Shirei online, in that the Necromancer will come back immediately afterwards, and even the temporary nature of the resurrection effect hardly matters when Shirei can turn that part permanent as well.
Thoughtpicker Witch — Part sacrifice outlet, part spell control, in that it lets you answer what is on top of the opponent’s deck and have a say in whether they actually get to play with that bonkers spell or not this game. Once you’re established with Shirei online, use of the Thoughtpicker Witch should help prevent the opponents from being able to sneak out of it by controlling their draws to some degree, which is a mean use of this otherwise disrespected piece of cardboard.
Skirsdag High Priest — Demons are good in theory, just not in-theme since they don’t â€˜buy back’ with your commander. Skirsday High Priest, however, is afforded certain protections by Shirei, and is entirely able to churn out multiple big fat flying monsters over the course of a game to provide the game-ender threats you’re actually looking for. Morbid is so easy for you to trigger it’s not even funny, and untapped creatures show up aplenty with Shirei bouncing them back into existence after their suicide run.
Guiltfeeder — Another pure win condition card, this one is able to cut off huge swathes of the opponent’s life total while still meeting Shirei’s low-power requirement. Swinging for “number of cards in your graveyard” is a considerable chunk of life, potentially even single-shot kill-worthy, despite having zero power.
With all of these additions, you have a lot more overlap of protective effects and more say in how you keep Shirei alive, and even a significantly strengthened ability to have a meaningful game-plan even if the worst happens and your commander becomes inaccessible to you. Your defensive measures are significantly stronger, and your theme has been strengthened as well — the only creatures that don’t automatically return with Shirei online are sacrifice outlets or Butcher of Malakir, so almost any creature you draw can meaningfully interact with your commander and thus each card drawn over the course of a game has a snowballing effect on what you’re capable of doing.
Putting it all together, you see this as the final decklist:
- 1 Will-o'-the-Wisp
- 1 Royal Assassin
- 1 Triskelion
- 1 Hell's Caretaker
- 1 Fallen Angel
- 1 Carrion Feeder
- 1 Bottle Gnomes
- 1 Guiltfeeder
- 1 Phyrexian Plaguelord
- 1 Bone Shredder
- 1 Insidious Bookworms
- 1 Leaden Myr
- 1 Wall of Corpses
- 1 Abyssal Gatekeeper
- 1 Crypt Rats
- 1 Mindwarper
- 1 Thrull Surgeon
- 1 Mindless Automaton
- 1 Keeper of the Dead
- 1 Undertaker
- 1 Apprentice Necromancer
- 1 Chilling Apparition
- 1 Stinkweed Imp
- 1 Thoughtpicker Witch
- 1 Martyr of Bones
- 1 Big Game Hunter
- 1 Scavenger Drake
- 1 Giant Scorpion
- 1 Butcher of Malakir
- 1 Pilgrim's Eye
- 1 Bloodthrone Vampire
- 1 Cadaver Imp
- 1 Reassembling Skeleton
- 1 Viscera Seer
- 1 Fume Spitter
- 1 Perilous Myr
- 1 Skirsdag High Priest
- 1 Typhoid Rats
- 1 Living Death
- 1 Corpse Dance
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Grave Pact
- 1 Plague Wind
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Oblivion Stone
- 1 Lightning Greaves
- 1 Phyrexian Arena
- 1 Gate to Phyrexia
- 1 Infernal Tribute
- 1 Dark Privilege
- 1 Attrition
- 1 Malevolent Awakening
- 1 Hex
- 1 Grim Harvest
- 1 Fallen Ideal
- 1 Imp's Mischief
- 1 Expedition Map
- 1 Culling Dais
- 1 Nihil Spellbomb
- 1 Nim Deathmantle
- 1 Darksteel Plate
- 1 Champion's Helm
- 1 Swiftfoot Boots
Thanks to the fairly janky nature of almost every single card I suggested, most of these should still be within reach for foil copies since you said you were trying to foil out your deck, with only the Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth being prohibitively expensive. Not every mission can be accomplished, sad as that may be, and let’s just say it is a good thing you wanted English foil instead of Japanese foil because that’s well over a hundred dollars if you need the fanciest AND shiniest version of the card. Pricing it all out, we had the following:
|Martyr of Bones||$.0.15|
|Wall of Corpses||$.0.15|
|Keeper of the Dead||$0.25|
|Skirsdag High Priest||$0.49|
|Big Game Hunter||$0.99|
|Miren, the Moaning Well||$5.99|
|Gate to Phyrexia||$9.99|
|Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth||$12.99|
Happy as I am to twist my brain around enough to make Insidious Bookworms and Skullclamp into a game-breaking card advantage engine for you, I’m ready for an easier challenge for next week… it’s not every day, after all, you turn some of these pieces of cardboard into diamonds in the rough.
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