FABLES FROM KITCHEN TABLES – THE TOP SOLDIERS OF – ORZHOV

Happy New Year, readers! Apologies about the lack of a Christmas article; the holiday season decided to up and make itself ridiculously busy, between plans for family visits for Christmas, a League of Legends tournament I had to run over the weekend, and now being in the possession of both a Nintendo 3DS and Pokemon Y, I’ve been quite the busy fellow over the last week and a half.

That, however, doesn’t mean I’m not going to give you the sixth installment of the Top Soldiers Of series. This series covers my picks for what I feel are the most powerful legendary creatures and non-legendary spells in each multicolor combination.

This week, we begin our cycle of enemy-colored dual combinations with the death and taxes flavor of the combination of white and black known as Orzhov.

Orzhov’s general theme is being able to siphon life from your opponents and sacrifice creatures to achieve great things. As long as you’re able to pay the costs, you can get whatever effect your heart so desires.

White and black are colors that also lend themselves to great removal spells, so you’ll see a lot of stellar removal in the color combination. Another effect both white and black excel at is recursion, so you’ll see a few effects dedicated to that theme in the color combination as well.

There are a few other effects white and black are great at, but rather than explain at length about them, I’ll get right into the cards that I’ve picked as the most powerful in the combination:

#10 – Treasury Thrull

I admit, I was extremely psyched when Thrull was released. For one, I’m a huge fan of Sun Titan; it’s probably my favorite white card ever printed. I’m also, however, a huge fan of Extort as well, and while I’ve tried to jam the Thrull in every deck I could fit it in, I have to admit, the Thrull is a little too slow for my tastes. It doesn’t impact the board immediately when you cast it, which really isn’t great for a 6-drop, and it’s a combat effect on a creature with relatively subpar combat stats. By the time you get to 6, the green player will almost assuredly have cast their Sylvan Primordial, and this is a joke in comparison. However, the effect is strong enough to warrant inclusion, because if you get any more than one attack through with this thing, you’re golden, and it itself plays well with effects that can recur it or other creatures, such as Karmic Guide, Sheoldred, Whispering One and Animate Dead.

#9 – Necrotic Sliver

Necrotic Sliver is, on the surface, a ghetto Vindicate. It’s a Sliver, meaning it’s at home in a Sliver deck, but looking past its applications in a Sliver Overlord shell, Necrotic Sliver is one of two Slivers that can strike out and stand on its own without having to rely on its pals to get any significant work in.

By itself, it can kill anything for 6 mana, which is why it’s here. What gives it one small niche over Vindicate is that it’s a creature, and not only is it a creature, but it’s got a converted mana cost of 3, making it a Sun Titan target, but it’s got 2 power, making it a Reveillark target as well. It shines in recursion shells as a repeatable removal creature, and is one of two (the other being the aforementioned Harmonic Sliver from the last article) Slivers that has the ability to fit in a non-Sliver deck.

#8 – Mortify

Generally, 1-for-1′s are rather poor in EDH, a format where every resource counts and the resource game is swingy at best because board wipes are so common. Regardless, sometimes, you require the disruption that instant-speed removal provides, and when you want 1-for-1′s, you want the best of the best. Mortify definitely fills that niche, as it allows you to destroy enchantments as well as creatures, a much-needed ability in some board states.

#7 – Sorin, Lord of Innistrad

We go from a card featuring Sorin’s name in its flavor text to the man himself, the Orzhov Markov. Usually, Planeswalkers get a bad rep because of how easy they are to destroy, but Sorin here is an exception based on the principle of raw power. You’re getting tokens that are strictly better than Elspeth, Knight-Errant‘s, which by itself tells you how powerful Sorin is. Mind you, whereas Sorin is very much not at Elspeth’s power level, being able to create the emblems your opponent can’t remove can be just what the doctor ordered, and Sorin is strangely enough rather easy to protect and get to that ultimate, making him a very strong rattlesnake, preventing your opponents from making creatures happen when he hits that threshold, and just creating tokens and emblems until then.

#6 – Vindicate

(I had to use the promo art. It’s just better.)

Well, you knew this was coming. Vindicate is the poster boy for flexible spot removal in EDH, and while you and I both know how strong this card is, there really isn’t much to cover. It’s a catch-all, like Beast Within or Chaos Warp, held back only due to its price tag (and sorcery speed). If you can afford it, and you’re playing the colors, you should run it, but really, it’s extremely vanilla in nature, not exciting or thrilling to cast. You destroy anything. Woo hoo.

#5 – Divinity of Pride

Having cast both this and Serra Ascendant on the regular, I’m not going to lie and say I like the Ascendant more. The best-case for Ascendant is extremely easy to make happen, but unlike Ascendant, Divinity of Pride doesn’t really have a worst-case. At worst, it’s a 4/4 flying lifelink creature for 5. Wow, what an amateur. Most of the time you cast this, it’s going to be the largest creature on board, and it’s going to eat all your opponents’ dinky flying blockers while gaining you a ridiculous amount of life.

The biggest issue I find with Divinity of Pride is that it suffers from “pls destroy me” syndrome, and basically makes your opponents want to board wipe or spot remove it. That being said, the more of those types of cards you have, the better off your deck is, and Divinity of Pride is definitely one of the better ones you can cast.

#4 – Ashen Rider

I’m not going to cover both it and Angel of Despair at the same time, but there are a few points I want to make here, the first being how this beat Vindicate. Let’s just say, being a creature is a rather lavish luxury these days. There are few ways in black and white to consistently recur Vindicate, whereas a creature version is getting increasingly easier to make ridiculous in this day and age.

Reanimator decks all over will look to a card like this for not only its ability to completely dominate a board state, but for its ability to end games on its own. Sure, on the surface, 5 power in the air can seem weak in the land of Sylvan Primordials and 40 life, but don’t ever underestimate this thing’s ability to bury you. It’s by far one of the best rattlesnakes around, because nobody will ever want to kill this thing; its trigger will almost always take the best permanent of the player who killed it. There’s also the fact that you can just control a recursion outlet like Sheoldred, Whispering One and a sac outlet, and that’s when things get truly nasty.

Back to Angel of Despair; I feel Ashen Rider is the better card overall, but I understand a lot of people really like to lean on Kaalia of the Vast, and in there, you’ll definitely want the Angel, but in almost every other deck, you’d rather have Ashen Rider.

#3 – Merciless Eviction

I’m a huge fan of Final Judgment, if only because it says, “Hi, Sigarda, Host of Herons. I see you have a Shield of the Oversoul. That’s very nice. Please die now.” Eviction is the lovechild of Final Judgment and Austere Command. (though that raises the question of why Eviction is black…awkward.)

Exiling all creatures has a number of powerful applications; it’s nearly impossible to save yourself from (Ghostway or mass bounce saves you, but both lose you tempo, especially if you control Equipment, Auras or tokens), it gets around a number of extremely annoying abilities like hexproof and indestructible, and it derfs graveyard-based strategies if your opponents have a decent board state.

That’s not to take away from exiling all artifacts or all enchantments, however. Whereas Darksteel Forge and Greater Auramancy strategies are rare, they do still exist, and Eviction is their catch-all answer. Overall, the flexibility of Merciless Eviction makes it an extremely powerful sweeper, limited only by its colors.

#2 – Identity Crisis

Yes, Crisis has “douchebag” written all over it. Yes, Crisis is a biased pick for me. Yes, I’ve hit someone for over 40 cards with this once.

In a format where resource wars are won mainly through sweepers, making recursion and indestructibility extremely strong, Crisis steps in and does all the work for you by stripping your opponent down to their board, meaning that if you have a better board state than them, they just can’t answer you. Crisis can easily be an incredible blowout, getting key roleplayers exiled or just in general removing almost all of your opponent’s ability to fight back.

That being said, I will warn you – use this with caution. It’s a disgustingly unfun card to play against, and it can wind up attracting hate from more than your target (especially if you branch into any other color to gain access to spell recursion). Just be prepared to deal with the political fallout of casting it.

That being said, it’s absurdly powerful, and can sometimes just steal you games out of nowhere.

#1 – Debtors’ Knell

I know I mentioned in the Ashen Rider bit that being a creature is a luxury these days, but there’s one reason this card beats out Sheoldred, Whispering One (not that I’m saying you shouldn’t run both), and that’s because people want Sheolrded dead as soon as it hits the board, and the same goes for Debtors’ Knell. Being able to reanimate a creature every turn is just a stupidly powerful ability, and draws the attention of everyone at a table whether you want it to or not. Being an enchantment, in most cases, is better than being a creature when it comes to an effect you need to untap with to get the most out of, just because it’s statistically more difficult to remove.

What makes Debtors’ Knell unique is that it also can steal creatures from other graveyards, meaning that you have more flexibility if you’re the wayward target of a Tormod’s Crypt trigger or something of the like. Being able to steal Sylvan Primordial on its own makes the effect just gravy; most any ETB is just a juicy steal for you.

Unlike the ally color combinations, the enemy colors have much fewer options for legendary creatures, making the top 3 of each very clear-cut. Return to Ravnica definitely helped this dilemma, but still, the options remain few and far between, especially in Orzhov.

#3 – Triad of Fates

Yes, I’m a little biased on this one. I had to put Triad of Fates here over Obzedat because, while I understand 1v1 is a thing and Obzedat is very strong in that format, Triad of Fates is a breath of fresh air when the players had a mass outcry for “an Orzhov legend that didn’t involve you sacrificing creatures”.

I understand Triad of Fates is an extremely slow creature, but I still very much enjoy what it does. Being able to blink ETBs is generally not going to be as useful as removing whatever threat ails the board, but overall, there’s flexibility in not only flickering Ashen Rider, but exiling tokens to have Triad act as a pseudo-Skullclamp.

#2 – Teysa, Orzhov Scion

The top two are very obvious, but I believe Teysa is inferior to the #1 slot just because I feel Teysa’s much easier to shut down. She lends herself to a strategy where you overcommit tokens to the board, only to get swept and having to start back from square one.

That being said, Teysa’s got a very interesting theme about her, and very much lends herself to a black/white tokens strategy. She can Skullclamp every black little recursion superstar from Reassembling Skeleton to Nether Traitor to Bloodghast, make Spirit tokens, and then start sniping whatever problem creature pops up. Her issue is how much attention she attracts by not only creating several (flying, at that) blockers and Skullclamp food, but how easy it is for her to setup a soft lock on the board if she isn’t dealt with. For that reason, I believe smart players will just remove her on sight, and because of how much the deck relies on her, I feel she has games where if the opponents draw well enough, she falls flat.

#1 – Ghost Council of Orzhova

Ghost Council of Orzhova has been a mainstay in EDH since its printing. It’s very easy to pressure life totals, produce food and actually be a huge threat to the board at the same time while playing Ghost Council, and it does what most people enjoy in a deck – plays low-cost, high-impact goodstuff spells that can bury entire tables.

Ghost Council’s biggest draw is how easy he is to enable, meaning that when you build a list for him, you don’t need to dedicate too much spell slots to the theme of what your general does. This goes a long way in making Ghost Council the #1 pick, as unlike Teysa, who requires the ability to consistently generate and sacrifice both black and white creatures, you simply need to have another creature on board you don’t mind dying, unrestricted by color, meaning you can opt for a token strategy or a reanimator strategy (GCoO pairs very well with Ashen Rider, for example)

Another factor that lends to Ghost Council’s power is how ridiculously difficult it is to shut him down. If played properly and not completely shut out of the game, Ghost Council will never cost more than 4 mana to cast, as you’ll always have a token lying around to sacrifice to it. Also, a lot of non-budget powerhouses in both colors, such as Academy Rector and Bitterblossom, play extremely well with him, making him a great draw for competitive and casual players alike.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

There you have it, everyone; my picks for the top Orzhov cards. Next week, I’ll probably do a Let’s Build, since I missed the Christmas article from last week, and I might just ask the public what they want me to build. If you have a suggestion, please feel free to message me over Facebook or Tumblr to see your deck built here.

Until then!
~L

Check out my previous articles here:

Adapting to EDH Metagames:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1177
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1252
Part 3 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1317
Part 4 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1370
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1454

Building on a Budget:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1522

Choose Your Champion:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1594
Part 2 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1868
Part 3 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2539

Dragon’s Maze Prerelease Weekend:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1810

Guidance:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2548

Hits & Misses of:
Dragon’s Maze -http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1870
Innistrad - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2586

M14 –  http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2295
Theros - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2508

Legen-Wait for It-Dary:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2264

Let’s Build:
Part 1 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1606
Part 2 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1595
Part 3 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2214
Part 4 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2278
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2303
Part 6 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2310
Part 7 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2323
Part 8 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2336
Part 9 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2341
Part 10 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2525
Part 11 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2617

Let’s Talk M14:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2228

Let’s Talk Theros:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2362
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2378

Painting a Target:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2631

Planeswalking and You:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2184 

Resource Management:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2200

Stacking Up Commander 2013:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2561

The Slippery Slope:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2440

The Top Soldiers Of:
Azorius - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2640
Dimir - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2653
Gruul - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2669
Rakdos - 
elesnya - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2677

Trial & Error:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2089

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