Although at first glance they are complete opposites, black and white color inside Magic: The Gathering they actually have more in common than most players realize. Both are sources of the best unconditional removal and board clearing in the game, and both colors are quite effective at generating tokens.
That’s why Orzhov decks are pretty good at providing consistent draws full of removal and annoying creatures that your opponents will struggle to deal with, whether it’s through life loss abilities or taxing effects. Let’s take a look at some important cards that make this combo great no matter what Orzhov strategy you want to play.
Prevailing themes among Orzhov Commander players include Lifegain, Aristocrats, Party, Token, and Shadowborn Apostle. All these topics are it’s creature based and includes an expansion on your board to achieve certain synergies between your creatures.
These creatures are complemented by some the best removal wipes and boards in Game. Orzhov contains the most versatile types of these two card types in all of Magic and is unmatched by any other color pair when it comes to these tools. In addition, a large number teacher spells allow Oržov to perform combos more easily that other boys can only dream of drawing.
It is surprising that it is Oržov somewhat lacking when it comes to producing extra mana. Of course, the classic Sol Ring and Commander’s Sphere are present, but beyond that you really have little to choose from, including Arcane Seal, Seal of Orzh, Talisman of Hierarchy, Mind Stone, and Fellwar Stone.
There are also some non-traditional ways to reach the ramp Solemn Simulacrum, Altar of Ashnod, Black Market Connections, notorious Smaternal tithe, and Lotho, the corrupt Shirriff.
In terms of mana generation, Orzhov really isn’t an angle he wants to gain an advantage from.
Additional draws come in two primary forms: cards that require you to pay for life and cards that require you to sacrifice a creature in exchange for card advantage. When it comes to paid living, we have some real classics including Phyrexian Arena, Sign in Blood, and Read Bones.
Creature sacrifice is a much more common way to achieve card advantage in Orzhov. This is also part of the reason why all the most popular strategies involve expansion. As long as you have a handful of creatures on the board, it’s hard to run out of fuel thanks to cards like Deadly Dispute, Village Rites, Skullclamp, Viscera Seer, Minas Tirith, Corrupted Conviction, and Dark Haruspex.
It’s important to note that you can sacrifice a creature to one of these draw mechanics in response to an opposing removal, giving you a 2-for-1 gain.
Here is where Orzhov really excels. There is nothing left cost effective and versatile disposal in play as the cards offered by the Orzh color pair, so if you’re tired of losing to opposing creatures, this is a great archetype to consider.
This destroyed removal package includes Swords to Plowshares, Path to Exile, Generous Gift, Damn, Despark, Anguished Unmaking, Fracture, Mortify, Utter End, and Apologize. As you may have noticed, many of these cards are factual banish your targets as opposed to simply destroying them, ensuring that you never have to deal with any threat you encounter again.
You can supplement this ridiculous set of cards with even more powerful removal like Go For the Throat, Doom Blade and other cards, but it’s important to leave room in your list for creature strategies to win the game.
Wipes for records
It might seem counterintuitive to include board wipes in a deck where you want to go far yourself, but in Commander, your board turns to dust quite often. This gives you opportunities to play board wipes as well.
Rather than trying to recover your board after your opponents have already gained the upper hand, it is often better to reset the board again and take the initiative yourself.
In addition to the aforementioned Damn, which can be raised to become a board wipe, we also have access to wipes such as Sunset, farewell, curse, wavering, wrath of God, and Planar Eruption.
The great thing about these board wipes is that they can take care of most creatures regardless of their size. Some may even bypass the indestructible keyword.
Many of our threats revolve around both go wide and ping opponents with life loss via sacrificial means or returning creatures from the graveyard to the battlefield. As you can imagine, these two angles of attack complement each other quite well, as you can sacrifice an important creature only to see it returned to the battlefield on a later turn.
Our universal threats to loss of life include Zulaport Cutthroat / Elas, il-Kor Sadistic Pilgrim / Blood Artist / Cruel Celebrant / and Sewing Priest. Meanwhile, cards that can bring our heavy hitters back from the graveyard include Liesa, Forgotten Archangel / Victim / Sun Titan / and effects such as Reanimate and Animate the dead.
Most of stronger creatures with higher mana value in Orzhov they have something to do with taxing the opponent in some way. This may require opponent pays a life, discards a card, or sacrifice a creature prevent the effect. Examples of these tax threats can be found in cards such as Athreos, God of Passage / Elesh Norn / Esper Sentinel / Thalia, Guardian of Thraben / Twins, Consul of Assignment / and Orc bowmasters.
Giving your opponent a choice is never ideal, but you can often catch them between a rock and a hard place.
Orzhov is particularly good at finding the exact cards he needs from his deck thanks to his access to the best teacher cards in the game. Tutors are cards that allow you to search for a specific card in the library and place it in your hand or on top of your library.
This list of mentor cards includes Vampire Mentor, Imperial Seal, Demonic Mentor, Demonic Consultation, Agent of the Opposition, Idyllic Mentor, Academy Chancellorship, and An enlightened teacher. Having access to such a large number of tutors allows Orzhov decks to easily build combinations of cards that synergize incredibly well. Speaking of . . .
Orzh combinations usually result in both infinite life gain, infinite life loss for opponents, or both. Any of these outcomes can result in you being alone instantly won the game depending on the strategies your opponents play.
Cards included in the most common combinations include Exquisite Blood, Vizkopa Guildmage, Cliffhaven Vampire, Sanguine Bond, and Beacon of Immortality. Another common combination is pairing Leonine-Relic Warded with Animate the dead to create endlessly enter the battlefield and leave the battlefield triggers. This results in an instant win paired with a creature like Zulaport Cutthroat.
It would be foolish to try to name all the combinations that are possible in Orzhov decks, so we will simply leave it at the cards mentioned above, which are all very easily slotted into typical Orzhov themed decks and you can they provide victories seemingly out of nowhere. What better way to beat three other games at the same time than simultaneously with niche interaction?
If comboing is your preferred Commander playstyle, Orzhov runs very deep with combos that many opponents will struggle to recognize. However, card mentoring can definitely be a sign that something is going on.
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