Orzhov Payoffs With Teysa Karlov

If you’ve played Commander for a while, you know that Teysa is one of the most beloved leaders around the world! Her new incarnation will continue this tradition, and Bennie Smith shows the way!

Alright, the previews for
Ravnica Allegiance
are in full swing and there are all sorts of goodies for Commander fans! A
couple weeks back I wrote up a deck around the buy-a-box promo card The
Haunt of Hightower. Since then we’ve got a peek at quite a few new
interesting legends to build Commander decks around. I decided to run a
poll on Twitter to see which of four legends people found more exciting or
interesting. Here were the results:

Teysa and Prime Speaker Vannifar were the clear favorites, with Teysa
edging out the Elf Ooze Wizard. I have to say I was secretly happy to see
that Lavinia, Azorius Renegade came so far behind the rest of the choices
because I imagine Commander decks built around Lavinia would be a little
bit oppressive. That said, I’m glad Lavinia is around as a potential check
on some of the more abusive things you can do in Commander.

So, Teysa it is! Teysa immediately calls to mind a card many casual players

So, we’ll want to have plenty of dying triggers in our deck, and lucky for
us Ozhov colors provide plenty of options for that!

But we’ll also want some tokens to make use of the last ability. Vigilance
is a solid gold ability in Commander, and lifelink provides you with a nice
buffer when racing.

Let’s get to it!

Big Tokens

Mirrorpool Thespian's Stage Dark Depths Vampire Hexmage Skirsdag High Priest Flesh Carver Helm of the Host Priest of the Blood Rite Ancient Stone Idol

The first thing I want to do is make some really big creatures we can boost
with Teysa.

Giving vigilance and lifelink to a 20/20 indestructible flier sounds
exactly like the sort of thing I want to be doing in Commander! Barring
that, a 5/5 Demon or 6/12 Construct sounds like a pretty good size token
creature too. The Horror token from Flesh Carver can potentially be quite
large, and with Teysa out you’d get two copies of it when Flesh Carver

Of course, the best thing you can do is equip Teysa with Helm of the Host
and crank out non-legendary token copies. Sure, the lifelink and vigilance
won’t stack, but the death triggers sure will!

Other Tokens

Westvale Abbey Anointer Priest Bitterblossom Monastery Mentor Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet Bloodline Keeper Ghoulcaller Gisa Wurmcoil Engine Regna, the Redeemer

There are plenty of ways to make less impressive but still good tokens too.
Bitterblossom is already decent, but giving the tokens lifelink and
vigilance is a solid way to overcome the life loss. Bloodline Keeper is an
excellent token producer, but it turns out I want to play quite a few
Vampires in this deck so the transform trigger is going to be pretty easy
to achieve. Wurmcoil Engine is fantastic with Teysa since it creates tokens
from a death trigger so you’d get two copies of each.

Regna, the Redeemer is certainly the less powerful partner, but she does
good work here by cranking out tokens. And of course, fetching out her
partner Krav, the Unredeemed… who happens to be a great sacrifice outlet to
leverage death triggers on demand. Speaking of death triggers…

Death Triggers

Skullclamp Blade of the Bloodchief Deathgreeter Hangarback Walker Imperious Oligarch Blood Artist Zulaport Cutthroat Dead Man's Chest Myr Retriever Shadows of the Past Athreos, God of Passage Dutiful Attendant Filigree Familiar Hallowed Spiritkeeper Matter Reshaper Seraph of the Scales Elenda, the Dusk Rose Archon of Justice Open the Graves Kokusho, the Evening Star Yosei, the Morning Star Massacre Wurm Scuttling Doom Engine Ashen Rider

We have a plethora of great options for death triggers, and I tried to pick
most of the very best ones here. Whether it’s small, incremental advantages
from cards like Deathgreeter and Filigree Familiar, on up to back-breaking
triggers from Kokusho, the Morning Star or Ashen Rider. I found room for my
pet card, Dead Man’s Chest, because why wouldn’t I want to double my fun?

Athreos, God of Passage really puts on the pressure with Teysa on the
battlefield, potentially costing someone six life to prevent your dying
creature from returning to your hand.

Sacrifice Outlets

High Market Viscera Seer Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim Bloodthrone Vampire Cartel Aristocrat Pitiless Pontiff Hidden Stockpile Teysa, Orzhov Scion Yahenni, Undying Partisan Blood Bairn Vampire Aristocrat Bloodflow Connoisseur Whisper, Blood Liturgist Krav, the Unredeemed Eldrazi Monument Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter

With so many death triggers in the deck, we definitely want to make sure we
can trigger them at opportune moments with Teysa on the battlefield, so
I’ve included a ton of sacrifice engines. As I mentioned above, many of
them are Vampires so that plays nicely with a few of the Vampire tribal
cards in the deck. I like Whisper, Blood Liturgist here since we can easily
sacrifice a few small creatures to bring back something big. Eldrazi
Monument has a lot of benefits many decks can enjoy, but the drawback is
actually a positive in this deck.

Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim can sacrifice creatures when you want to, but with
all the extra lifelink from Teysa it should be relatively easy to access
her second activated ability.

Mana Ramp

Isolated Watchtower Myriad Landscape Phyrexian Tower Terrain Generator Sol Ring Treasure Map Solemn Simulacrum Golden Guardian Black Market

The mana curve is quite low, but we still want to make sure we have plenty
of mana throughout the game. Teysa is liable to be targeted for removal
quite often, and the Commander tax can add up. I like that Solemn
Simulacrum ramps you but also benefits from doubled death triggers. Golden
Guardian is pretty easy to transform since you can sacrifice it either
before or after the fight happens, providing you two extra mana when
needed, or churning out 4/4 Golem tokens that do great work with Teysa.

Black Market is good in most black decks but is just stellar here with all
the creatures you’re going to be killing off yourself, and of course, the
charge counters are put on the enchantment from death triggers, so Teysa
can double that mana.


Tragic Slip Swords to Plowshares Go for the Throat Anguished Unmaking Damnation Wrath of God Crush Contraband Return to Dust

While we’re having fun killing our own creatures, we want to make sure we
have ways to destroy cards our opponents may be playing. Thankfully, Orzhov
colors provide us with plenty of options, and I’ve included a bunch of them

Card Draw

Mikokoro, Center of the Sea Dawn of Hope Stoneforge Mystic Grim Haruspex Midnight Reaper Corpse Augur

Last but not least, we’ll want some card draw, and of course, the very best
is those that come from death triggers like Grim Haruspex, Midnight Reaper,
and Corpse Augur. With Teysa giving your tokens lifelink, I feel that Dawn
of Hope will be incredibly easy to trigger.

Sweet deck! But wait, there are too many cards. I’ll start by looking at
our mana curve:

1 mana:

2 mana:

3 mana:

4 mana:

5 mana:

6 mana:

7+ mana/X-spells:

74 total cards plus 39 lands equals 13 cards too many, which isn’t too bad!
Let’s see what we can trim, starting with the top of our curve.

These are all great cards in this deck, but we’ve got to cut somewhere. I
feel that there are other cards that do similar things but better so these
get the boot.

Again, I like all of these cards, but I think Elenda and the Seraph are
just slightly worse than other options. Kalitas is a tough one here that
I’m not sure is the right choice; do you see a better cut at four mana?

So many good cards at three mana, but something has to give. Blood Bairn
was relatively easy since so many other cards do basically the exact same

There are a whopping twenty great two-mana cards in this deck, so that’s
where I had to go for the final four cuts. Again, I like all of these, but
feel like I want the other cards more. Losing out on the equipment tutor
aspect of Stoneforge Mystic stings a little bit, but none of our equipment
cards are key to our strategy, though I would love to find Helm of the Host
and put it onto the battlefield for only two mana.

Here’s how the deck ended up:

Teysa Karlov
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 01-07-2019

So, what do you think? What sort of choices do you disagree with? Are there
any cards that I overlooked?

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Deck Database

Below I’ve got links to decks I’ve written about going back to January
2017. If you want to read the associated article, just put “Bennie Smith”
and the commander name into the Google and it should pop right up. I’ve
written a lot about Commander – and Magic in general – so if you want to
explore further the

StarCityGames.com® article archives

have my articles all the way back to January 2000!

Ravnica Allegiance

The Haunt of Hightower

SCGCON Winter 2018 (stay tuned for decklists!)

Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow

, Grothama, All-Devouring; Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis; Feldon of the Third
Path; Ramos, Dragon Engine; Inalla, Archmage Ritualist; Prossh, Skyraider
of Kher; Brago, King Eternal

Ultimate Masters

Garna, the Bloodflame

Guilds of Ravnica

Niv Mizzet, Parun

Emmara, Soul of the Accord


Lazav, the Multifarious (decklist in the comments)


Tajic, Legion’s Edge


Etrata, the Silencer


Izoni, Thousand-Eyed

Commander 2018

Aminatou, the Fateshifter


Xantcha, Sleeper Agent

, Lord Windgrace,
Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer

Core Set 2019

Sai, Master Thopterist


Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma


Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire


Chromium, the Mutable


Grothama, All-Devouring


Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle

, Grand Warlord Radha
, Arvad the Cursed,

Muldrotha, the Grave Tide


Slimefoot, the Stowaway


Yargle, Glutton of Urborg

, Squee, the Immortal

Firesong and Sunspeaker


Jodah, Archmage Eternal

Tiana, Ship’s Caretaker

Masters 25

Hannah, Ship’s Navigator

Rivals of Ixalan

Azor, the Lawbringer

, Etali, Primal Storm

Nezahal, Primal Tide


Zacama, Primal Calamity


Tetzimoc, Primal Death


Zetalpa, Primal Dawn


Ghalta, Primal Hunger


Grusilda, Monster Masher


Dr. Julius Jumblemorph


Vona, Butcher of Magan


Tishana, Voice of Thunder


Admiral Beckett Brass


Gishath, Sun’s Avatar

Commander 2017

Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith


Inalla, Archmage Ritualist


Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist


O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami


Mairsil, the Pretender


Taigam, Ojutai Master

Hour of Devastation

Razaketh, the Foulblooded

, Zur, the Enchanter
(Mummy’s Curse),

Djeru, With Eyes Open

, The Locust God, Karona, False God
(All the Deserts),Nicol Bolas, Neheb, the Eternal


Oketra the True

Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun

, Atogatog
(Cartouches & Trials),

Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons


Samut, Voice of Dissent


Rhonas the Indomitable

, Hazoret the Fervent

Kaladesh Block

Yahenni, Undying Partisan

, Nicol Bolas, Child of Alara (5
Color Energy),

Rishkar, Peema Renegade


Kari Zev, Skyship Raider


Sram, Senior Edificer

Commander 2016

Breya, Etherium Shaper


Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice


Tymna the Weaver // Ravos, Soultender

Other Commander Decks

Anafenza, the Foremost

(shutting down shenanigans),

Momir Vig, Simic Visionary

(no green creatures),

Kytheon, Hero of Akros

(Tribal Gideon),

Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Commander Strategy

Let’s Talk About Lands

Who Should I Attack?

Targeted Removal in Commander