The Kitchen Table #407: Commander Teysa, Standard Style!

Abe shows off the powerful cards that have been printed in the Orzhov colors recently with a Standard-legal Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts Commander deck.

Hello folks! I have never built a Commander deck that is anything other than a normal deck using all of the Vintage-legal sets. No Modern, Extended, or Standard commanders appealed to me—until now. When I saw Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts and the various Orzhov power cards from Return to Ravnica block, all bets were off. I thought a Standard version of this deck would work wonders.

After looking at potential cards from Magic 2013, Return to Ravnica, and Innistrad, I wound up with a deck that is a bit of a bleeder and a bit of a control fiend. I think you’ll enjoy it. So rather than spending time building up to it, today I’m going to switch things up and show you the deck first. Here you go!

Standard Teysa
Abe Sargent
Test deck on 05-19-2013

The reason I love Teysa so much is because the protection from creatures + vigilance is powerful. She can swing through any defense for four damage while also holding off attackers on the ground. She is nuts for multiplayer. Add in her other abilities and she explodes into awesome.

Orzhov can often be of two minds. It can be the bleeder pest who slowly wins after things like extort, or it can be the control monkey with Merciless Eviction and friends. Therefore, this deck went in both directions, with some extort and similar cards as well as a good smattering of control cards.

Before I went that way, I looked for the best beaters we have in the format. Avacyn, Angel of Hope is amazingly awesome, so she went in. Similarly, both Luminate and Sepulchral Primordials are suitably nasty for multiplayer. That cycle has already established itself as a multiplayer classic.

As an Orzhov deck, it can run Obzedat, Ghost Council quite well, and the mana should prove less difficult compared to other decks. It’s a great body attached to a nice bleeding effect. Then we added the Blood Baron of Vizkopa, who has two powerful protection colors and lifelink. Maybe you can live the dream if someone drops to below ten life.

After those obvious inclusions, I went to some string utility creatures next. Fiend Hunter was a solid adjunct to the deck. Both High Priest of Penance and Vampire Nighthawk plug up your red zone. No one wants to attack into the Priest, kill it, and then lose a permanent of your choice. Then the Nighthawk rocks flying and deathtouch, which is a nice combination since people often fear a strong deathtouch creature. Bloodgift Demon’s ability to sub in as a Phyrexian Arena is well-established and warranted inclusion. I love Slum Reaper because of its Fleshbag Marauder impersonation. I also adore Harvester of Souls in a deck that will likely be light in cards drawing.

I felt I needed some more flyers. I looked at a variety of Angels, but many were rejected. Still, I found space for Deathpact Angel since it can come back from mass removal sometimes. Indomitable Angel is suitably beat-tastic to make the cut as well.

Next went in a bunch of extort creatures. The more we have, the better playing a single spell becomes. Draining the whole table of life card after card is nasty. Plus, who wants to waste a Swords to Plowshares on Knight of Obligation? You might run into mass removal, but that’s it. Then I added a few other creatures like Vizkopa Guildmage and Urbis Protector and moved to the next section.

A trio of planeswalkers called my name. Certainly Sorin, Lord of Innistrad is right for this deck. I also think that Gideon, Champion of Justice is a powerful multiplayer body. The +X ability often breaks him in half when timed right. I also enjoy Ajani, Caller of the Pride, and it helps to give me some flyers on the attack if I need it. Plus, if you can get him to ultimate level, that’s a real help.

There are some potent artifacts and enchantments running around for multiplayer in Standard. Take Grave Betrayal for example. When something else dies, I get it right on my side of the battlefield next end step. You can’t deny its power when dialing it up against numerous foes. I knew we would need card drawing, so Staff of Nin joined the team for its auto-draw once a turn. Underworld Connections similarly was added. Jar of Eyeballs works well for card quality overtime. Shoot, I even added Jayemdae Tome. We need cards that badly!

The rest of these cards are utilities such as mana makers (Gilded Lotus) and removal (Oblivion Ring). The only exceptions are Blind Obedience and the potent Witchbane Orb, which gives us useful personal hexproof for protection from a lot of nasty effects.

One thing the Orzhov colors are amazing at is removal. Even with the limited card selection of Standard, many options were added. First of all, we have mass removal: Mass Eviction, Planar Cleansing, and Terminus. Let’s count Barter in Blood here as well. That gives the deck some punch against any board state where more than one person’s battlefield needs scoured.

After that I looked at pinpoint removal. Murder makes the cut in a lot of my decks, so it leaped into this one as well. The last card added to my deck was Tribute to Hunger. I am used to black removal being limited somehow (Rend Flesh, Chill to the Bone, Doom Blade, Terror, Swat, etc.). It’s not an issue for me mentally, but I don’t like forcing someone else to mill in multiplayer with large decks. It usually gives them fuel for whatever evil designs they have. So unless I have a dedicated mill deck, I prefer to stay away from attacking a library and instead stick to hitting other resources. However, I needed an instant removal spell so badly that I had to run it. Sorry!

Similarly, Banishing Stroke is massively expensive, but I needed something I could rock instantly to tuck cards into the library. It’s a keen answer to a commander problem by tucking the legendary creature on the bottom of a library so it cannot be easily brought back out. Exiling is also strong in Commander because you can permanently end a creature without any graveyard shenanigans. Angelic Edict suited me.

One major removal weakness a Standard version of Teysa has is the paucity of artifact removal in white. Historically, I can add a smack-ton of cards that blow out artifacts in white, but we have few options here. I wanted to add Sundering Growth, but Commander rules prohibited it. That’s another reason Banishing Stroke is here—it can handle an artifact.

I had a few graveyard tricks too. Unburial Rites is a nice Zombify card because it can be used twice and thus grants some card advantage. I also enjoy the versatility of Rise from the Grave pulling out a creature from any graveyard and Obzedat’s Aid pulling out any card from mine. Don’t forget Immortal Servitude bringing back a few creatures of the same casting cost as well. It gives the deck another jolt of awesome to the arm of recursion.

These recursion tricks help fight against mass removal because they can bring back creatures that died to a sweeper. Faith’s Reward is a potent mass removal fighter. Simply play it and bring back all of the cards that would have stayed dead. You can reestablish your board position after the rest of the board is wiped—that is a great way to win a game. It also works well with some of your removal too. If someone uses damage-based mass removal, Safe Passage will save your team. So if a Magmaquake was cast, you can make it through. Plus you can always drop it as a Fog variant or to save creatures from death in combat while you slay a few.

Another combat surprise is Divine Deflection, which can save a creature or you from serious damage while also nuking an opposing creature or player. Note that the Deflection can prevent damage from both you and some of your permanents so you can save multiple guys as well, just like Safe Passage.

As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of crazy graveyard tricks in multiplayer. Crypt Incursion can shut down some of them. It’s a cheap instant that will exile all creatures in one player’s yard and give you three life per creature purged. Play it and gain fifteen life while pulling out five creatures. You can use it in response to reanimation to force them to waste their spell. We’ve all seen really stocked graveyards that have a ton of creatures in them, and they can net you 30 or 45 life occasionally. It’s one tool to fight graveyard zaniness at the table.

I fleshed out the deck with a few other spells of significance. In addition to utilities such as Increasing Ambition, I adore the trio of Army of the Damned, Entreat the Angels, and Increasing Devotion as mass army makers. They can swing a battlefield to your favor and are a powerful way to steal the momentum post-sweeper. Having this ability gives the deck some more gas for the red zone when needed.

After the deck was set, I added a handful of Standard lands. Obviously, I added the right mana lands (Orzhov Guildgate et al.). Vault of the Archangel long ago proved its worth to instantly give folks both lifelink and deathtouch. It’s a huge threat when untapped with the right mana as you lead to combat, and people often refuse to attack into you for fear that you will gain life and kill some of their dudes. After that, the final cards I tossed in were minor ones like Reliquary Tower, Rogue’s Passage, and Thespian’s Stage.

Some of the final cuts included Vessel of Endless Rest and Typhoid Rats.

I think you can see the power that Orzhov has for the multiplayer stylings of Commander in just the last two years of Magic. This ignores powerhouses from earlier in Magic, from monocolor bombs like Akroma, Angel of Wrath and Decree of Pain to multicolor houses such as Angel of Despair and Vindicate. The recent injection of awesome has set up Orzhov to be a powerful entry at kitchen tables across the land.

Until later,
Abe Sargent