I’ve built many different decks over the years, that’s for sure. But I always seem to come back to the white and black color combination. There’s something about it that really appeals to my style as a Magic player: synergy, which is something I often talk about in these articles. To me, a deck should be a well-oiled machine. To get a deck to run as smooth as you want it to, you have to make sure that your card choices are concise to the overall goals of the deck.
White and Black allows me to draw cards, recur creatures, drain life from my opponents, gain life, run an optimal removal package, and perform a lock-down scenario. I had a Teysa, Orzhov Scion a few years back, which I loved. But I get into these modes where I go to a convention and sell of my cards to make some quick cash only to start collecting cards again. In this round of rinse, wash, repeat, I decided to build a deck using Ayli to fill the void in my soul that was the lack of White and Black.
Commander:Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim
Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed
Dawn of the Dead
Demon of Dark Schemes
Magister of Worth
Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
Sheoldred, Whispering One
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
Sac Outlet/Mana Production:
Caves of Koilos
Temple of Silence
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Miren, the Moaning Well
Vault of the Archangel
Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim is the centerpiece of the deck. Why? For starters, she’s a very aggressive card without her activated abilities. Having deathtouch on a body that usually comes out on turn two is pretty nice; it keeps aggro heavy decks from pounding my face into oblivion early in the game.
She also is an incredible sac outlet! I know that life gain in Commander is something that most people will turn their noses up at, but gaining incremental life over the course of the game can be the meaning of life and death. I mean, come on, if you hit zero life points, you lose, right? She also provides the reassurance that your creatures can dodge being exiled by being sacrificed in response. And since this is also a reanimator deck that triggers of the enter the battlefield effects, sacrificing a creature allows us to replay it to get more use out of it.
Her third ability is what I call the “Party Crasher” mode. Ayli is all about having fun, but she doesn’t want my opponents having too much fun. And since her first ability feeds into her second, she’s a removal machine gun!
Having cards like Mikaeus and Living Death allows me to get more use out of the creatures with sweet ETBs that I need to use again… and again… and again… etc.
This deck is also a life-drain deck. There are some creatures in the deck that hit pretty hard, but it’s even better to have them backed up by abilities that hit multiple opponents or hit a single opponent pretty hard. Gray Merchant is one of the best creatures for a life-draining strategy if not the best. His value is far greater than the common rarity attached to him. I would rather see Kokusho (who is also in the deck) on the other side of the table rather than watching a Gary (his nickname) hit the board.
Spells like Debt to the Deathless are the over-the-top finishers that this deck loves to cast to blow my opponents out.
To be honest, I added Aetherflux Reservoir when Khaladesh came out, but I haven’t had a chance to play it since I either am running a Commander tournament at my local shop, playing a show in my band, or building a new deck (something I need to stop doing). In theory, it should be amazing, but I will let you know how it goes!
There are times when there’s an opponent that is just so pesky that I have to pull some janky moves and lock them out of the game. In the times of ultimate annoyance, I will search up Yosei and Nim Deathmantle and begin Lockdown Procedures. It’s not something I enjoy doing to someone because it sucks being locked down, but sometimes it’s a necessary evil.
Since Ayli is all about crashing parties, I figured why not run some iconic removal cards along with her ability? There are times where her second ability is not yet online, so having these removal cards as backup help tremendously! Plus, they are in them with the deck and its colors, so they are pretty boss.
Originally I just had Massacre Wurm in the deck but when Demon of Dark Schemes came out I knew it had to go in the deck. Someone asked me “why do you run both?” Well, they fit the multiple modes of the deck: removal, life-drain, and recursion. Plus, they are some nice beaters when you have to get into the redzone and smash in some face!