Shadowborn Diva

Every self-respecting diva needs admiring fans who’ll do anything for her. That’s why Bennie Smith has surrounded this week’s commander, Judith, the Scourge Diva, with over two dozen Shadowborn Apostles!

When the Ravnica Allegiance previews started coming out, one of the most exciting cards to be previewed was Judith, the Scourge Diva.

A three mana 2/2 with a few abilities may seem to be a little bit below the curve for a legendary creature, but the abilities weren’t bad. First, you get the front end of an Anthem effect:

The second effect at first glance looks something like this:

But it only works for nontoken creatures. Now wait a minute, there’s a big difference here—it’s not life loss, it’s damage, and you can do it to any target. Not just a player, but a creature, or a planeswalker! That’s quite a bit different, so it’s no wonder people are trying to do some work with Judith in competitive Standard decks. It’s a little tough, though, since there aren’t too many cards where you can sacrifice nontoken creatures for profit efficiently.

Luckily for us, we have a wide variety of options in Commander for setting off Judith’s triggered ability.

While searching through Gatherer, one card in particular jumped out at me.

Judith seems like the perfect commander for a Shadowborn Apostle Commander deck! Shadowborn Apostles have a built-in sacrifice effect for a huge profit, searching up a Demon and putting it onto the battlefield. Their ability doesn’t require tapping, so you can use it right away. And getting six Judith triggers all at once will be some highly flexible damage you can sling around the table.

Let’s dig into it!


Every Judith deck is of course going to use Goblin Bombardment, since the enchantment basically lets you have double the Judith triggers. If your opponent doesn’t let you get up to six Shadowborn Apostles before killing some of your creatures, you can send them hurtling through the air with Bombardment. Westvale Abbey is another way to cash in five creatures if you don’t get a chance to activate six Shadowborn Apostles.

Dies Trigger

If we want our creatures to be dying with regularity, there are other cards that will provide us with additional profit for the trouble. It’s pretty easy to trigger morbid on cards like Skirsdag High Priest. Rotlung Reanimator takes advantage of the fact that Shadowborn Apostles are Clerics so you get a 2/2 Zombie for your trouble each time a Cleric dies, though when Judith is on the battlefield they are 3/2 Zombies. Open the Graves doesn’t care what creature types die; so long as they’re nontoken, you get 2/2 Zombie tokens.

The beauty of having access to red is Vicious Shadows—just imagine sacrificing six Apostles with Judith and Vicious Shadows on the battlefield! That’s some serious damage to spread.


Exchanging six small creatures for a Demon will be fun, but we’ll want to keep the party going for Judith. Thankfully, black provides us with quite a few ways to do just that. Balthor the Defiled, Patriarch’s Bidding, and Twilight’s Call give us a way to reload from our graveyard directly back to the battlefield. No Rest for the Wicked and Garna, the Bloodflame lets us reload our hand.

Boost Judith

Basilisk Collar on Judith is particularly brutal since each trigger is effectively a death sentence for any creature you can target. Plus, you gain some life for your troubles. Giving Judith infect with Glistening Oil means you can permanently shrink indestructible creatures with her triggers, or defeat an opponent with poison counters.

Demon Stuff

When it comes to searching up a Demon with Shadowborn Apostles, the first choice is likely Razaketh, the Foulblooded. He’s a sacrifice engine himself, and you can sacrifice any other creature still lying around to search up a recursion card to bring back all the Apostles. Rune-Scarred Demon and Overseer of the Damned are also good targets. I added some other Demons to the mix for good measure, along with Blood Speaker.


Outside of Basilisk Collar, there will be lots of creatures Judith triggers can’t handle, but luckily for us there is no end to the options for red and black. I like new card Bedevil’s added flexibility for artifact destruction.

Card Draw

It’s certainly possible you don’t draw enough Shadowborn Apostles to get a Demon online, in which case it’s perfectly acceptable to cash them in with Skullclamp for additional cards. And for a slow and steady supply of fuel, old school Phyrexian Arena and new school Theater of Horrors can keep the party going.

Mana Ramp

Even though the mana curve on our deck is really low, we do still have some expensive cards in our deck that can end up in our hand rather being targets for Shadowborn Apostle activations. We’ll want some cards to help us accelerate our mana development. Aether Vial on one charge counter does a good job of getting extra Shadowborn Apostles onto the battlefield, and at instant speed it could raise the number to six as a surprise.

Tribal Stuff

Even though this isn’t a tribal deck per se, the fact that we’re going to run a ton of Shadowborn Apostles means that we have a lot of Humans in the deck, including Judith, so cards like Cavern of Souls, Path of Ancestry, and Mana Echoes can do some good work.

Thrumming Stone isn’t exactly tribal, but it obviously works great with cards like Shadowborn Apostle, potentially triggering a bunch if not all copies of Shadowborn Apostle onto the battlefield.

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




7 + 30 Shadowborn Apostles




7 + commander







7+ / X


75 total cards plus 38 lands equal thirteen cards too many, so we need to make some cuts! Let’s see what we can trim, starting with the top of our curve.

Of the Demons, I think Belzenlok is probably the most expendable, since it’s not really something you’ll sacrifice Shadowborn Apostles to find. Patriarch’s Bidding is a great card in our deck, but given the popularity of tribal decks in Commander these days I can see times when you’d not want to cast the spell due to helping out an opponent more than yourself.

These are all tough choices, but the decklist is already quite lean with 30 copies of Shadowborn Apostle. I went with Deathrender over Mana Echoes since Deathrender can surprise opponents by putting a Demon or Garna, the Bloodflame onto the battlefield as a surprise. Basilisk Collar gives Judith lifelink already, so I think Loxodon Warhammer is a safe cut too.

If I had to rank the cards at two mana from most wanted to least, these three would end up at the bottom. Combing through the rest of the deck, I can’t see anything else I’m willing to cut, so for the last five:

I hate going down to 25 copies of Shadowborn Apostle, but I feel that the deck has enough other things going on that it’s not necessarily critical that we activate Shadowborn Apostles to advance our game plan. 25 is still a quarter of our deck, so we can likely get a fair number of ripple hits with Thrumming Stone.

Okay, so here’s how the deck ended up:

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

Do me a solid and subscribe to my channel too! I’m posting Top 5 cards from many of my Star City Games columns as a preview for each article, but I plan on adding other content too. Also, I’ve gotten some cool video editing software that I’m slowly learning, so the video quality will improve as I learn better techniques.

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 Star City Games article archives have my articles all the way back to January 2000!

Ravnica Allegiance

The Haunt of Hightower, Teysa Karlov, Prime Speaker Vannifar, Rakdos, the Showstopper, Nikya of the Old Ways, Lavinia, Azorius Renegade

SCG CON Winter 2018

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

Hanna, 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